STREAM EV­ERY­THING

We ex­plain how to put it all on­line — your games, your me­dia, your desk­top or even your life.

APC Australia - - Contents -

We’ve re­lied on end-to-end stream­ing for longer than we’ve re­lied on com­put­ers. Where would so­ci­ety be with­out the in­flu­ence of ra­dio or cable TV? Would we be quite the same if Ma­jor Gen­eral Ge­orge O Squier hadn’t de­vel­oped Muzak’s ear­li­est tech, a 1930s sys­tem of send­ing in­of­fen­sive mu­sic along elec­tri­cal wires di­rectly to el­e­va­tors and stores? Well, prob­a­bly. We might even be slightly more sane. But that’s not the point: Stream­ing has long been hugely im­por­tant, and the in­ter­net has com­pletely democra­tised it.

You’re now free to send what­ever you want wher­ever you want. You can push data, mak­ing it avail­able to any­one who wants it, or pull streams, just for you, from a pri­vate source. You can work with au­dio, video, live cam­eras, or any other data that suits. You can use stream­ing for en­ter­tain­ment, for profit, or for prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits. And you can do it all, for the most part, for free. All you need is a qual­ity broad­band con­nec­tion on ei­ther end of the stream­ing path. You might not even need that, if your server hard­ware is ro­bust enough to transcode me­dia on the fly, converting it to a lower res­o­lu­tion that re­duces band­width de­mands.

In this fea­ture, we take you through as many dif­fer­ent con­tent stream­ing sit­u­a­tions as pos­si­ble, from games to sounds, and be­yond. It’s all very sit­u­a­tional and per­sonal. Ev­ery­thing you might want to stream has slightly dif­fer­ent method­ol­ogy, unique soft­ware and tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions to take into ac­count. Many of the tools we talk about can be used for more than one thing, and the spe­cific one you use is, at the end of the day, up to you.

We talk pub­lic and pri­vate stream­ing, and give a few sug­ges­tions as to how to take ad­van­tage of the for­mer to in­crease your on­line pro­file. While it’s go­ing to take a lot of work and a spe­cial kind of charisma to top Twitch’s 200,000-viewer record for a sin­gle streamer — and, in­deed, its all-time stream record of over 1,000,000 for a CS:GO tour­na­ment match — there’s noth­ing stop­ping you from try­ing.

ecosys­tem. You could, with a bit of fid­dling with SSH and VPN tun­nel­ing, make a Kodi li­brary avail­able on­line, or use VLC ( vide­olan.org) to stream any kind of me­dia lo­cally. Al­ter­na­tively, PlexBMC ( bit.ly/2gCxAvq) can fun­nel the con­tents of a Plex me­dia server into a Kodi client. Sub­sonic ( sub­sonic.org) was de­signed solely for au­dio stream­ing, but also in­cludes rudi­men­tary video stream­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and works in a very sim­i­lar way to Plex. And, hey, if you’re happy to for­get about con­trol­ling pre­cisely what you can watch, you could al­ways elim­i­nate the worry of com­pil­ing a me­dia li­brary, and sign up for a ded­i­cated stream­ing ser­vice such as Spo­tify, Netflix, Ama­zon Prime, et al.

DESK­TOP STREAM­ING

Now for some­thing more prac­ti­cal: re­mote con­trol­ling your PC. There are sev­eral easy op­tions for tak­ing your desk­top on the road, many of which have been around for a long time. VNC, for in­stance, is a well-sea­soned open­source re­mote desk­top client, highly con­fig­urable, with sev­eral dif­fer­ent (but com­pat­i­ble) spins. Try TightVNC ( tightvnc.com) or RealVNC ( realvnc. com) if you’re lean­ing in this di­rec­tion; run the server app on the ma­chine you want to ac­cess, and set a strong pass­word — VNC’s ports are, given that they of­fer up full ac­cess to your PC, of­ten tar­geted by rogues.

Win­dows has a desk­top stream­ing tool in­cluded in the form of Mi­crosoft Re­mote Desk­top, which can pick out in­di­vid­ual apps from your desk­top and stream them seam­lessly with­out the rest of it, and has client apps for phones and other op­er­at­ing sys­tems. It’s well fea­tured and rather good, but it’s not our top pick. We’re lean­ing to­ward some­thing that, like Plex, does all the hard work for you: TeamViewer ( teamviewer.com). It may be the most at­trac­tive among these tools in terms of the ease of its in­ter­face, and it’s gen­er­ally used for id­iot-proof re­mote sup­port pur­poses, but it’s en­tirely fea­si­ble to set it up for easy ac­cess to your own hard­ware.

When you’ve down­loaded and run its in­staller, se­lect ‘Unat­tended’. Now, when you first run TeamViewer, you’re given a wizard to run through; you don’t need to sign up for an ac­count, you can use it anony­mously if you choose. Note down the ID num­ber you’re given at the end of the process, and you can use it in con­junc­tion with the pass­word you set ear­lier to gain ac­cess to your desk­top at any time, by us­ing a TeamViewer app or through the web­site. The app also shows an­other pass­word; it changes ev­ery boot, and you can give this to folks you want to be able to ac­cess your ma­chine with­out know­ing your lo­gin de­tails.

One thing to note: Stream­ing your

desk­top is gen­er­ally more de­mand­ing, and slower, than stream­ing AV me­dia, be­cause your videos and au­dio have been en­coded to re­duce size and re­quired band­width. TeamViewer and its ilk usu­ally do some work to negate this, such as blank­ing your desk­top back­ground, drop­ping the colour depth, and com­press­ing the stream on the fly, but this in­creases slug­gish­ness. If you’re try­ing to throw the raw con­tents of a 4K desk­top down your in­ter­net con­nec­tion, don’t ex­pect to com­fort­ably run graph­i­cally de­mand­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, or for the ex­pe­ri­ence to be the same as be­ing sat at your desk.

If you want pin­point con­trol over the minu­tiae of your desk­top stream­ing, there’s an­other op­tion: VLC me­dia player. Set up a server by open­ing your desk­top as a cap­ture de­vice and switch from Play mode to Stream mode. Run through the wizard that ap­pears, se­lect the des­ti­na­tion IP ad­dress of your stream and use port 1234. You can now se­lect the ex­act com­pres­sion method you want to pack­age your stream in, from en­cap­su­la­tion to video and au­dio codecs, by click­ing the tool icon. It’s a one-way street, so you can’t take con­trol with VLC it­self, but it’s an op­tion.

GAME STREAM­ING

Games are the gaudy poster child of live stream­ing, and the topic most as­so­ci­ated with the phrase. Given its pro­lif­er­a­tion, there are plenty of tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices as­so­ci­ated with trans­port­ing game­play from one place to an­other. If you’re keep­ing it to your­self, look in the di­rec­tion of Steam’s In-Home Stream­ing ser­vice which, with the min­i­mum of ef­fort, trans­lates ti­tles run­ning on a pow­er­ful gam­ing PC into an h.264 stream, and fires them off to a client ma­chine. As long as it’s run­ning Steam, this client can be equipped with al­most any hard­ware — bring­ing beau­ti­ful games to the wimp­i­est lap­top — though there are caveats to con­sider on the server end.

You need a ma­chine pow­er­ful enough to ren­der your game and quickly com­press a video stream at the same time. Your server res­o­lu­tion is the max­i­mum that is repli­cated on your client, and that server needs to be ac­tively run­ning the game, so it can’t be used for any­thing else while you’re stream­ing. There’s a small amount of lag, nat­u­rally, and while it’s tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble to use VPN trick­ery to run In-Home Stream­ing out-of-home, the ad­di­tional de­lay makes your games all but un­playable. The same things are gen­er­ally true for other stream play­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, such as Nvidia’s Gamestream, which puts your GeForceac­cel­er­ated games on to Nvidia Shield de­vices, and third-party game stream­ers, such as Par­sec and Re­motr.

“Games are the gaudy poster child of live stream­ing, and the topic most as­so­ci­ated with the phrase.”

Game stream­ing comes into its own with one-to-many so­lu­tions, such as Twitch and YouTube Live, which take a stream from a client app — OBS is com­plex but free, XS­plit com­fort­able but sub­scrip­tion-based, and Gameshow the new paid-for pre­tender — and send it on­line for any­one to en­joy. Mi­crosoft is, as Mi­crosoft does, stick­ing its own fin­gers in the pie, with Mixer (for­merly Beam), which has the ad­van­tage of be­ing built into Win­dows 10 from the Cre­ator’s Up­date on­ward, and avail­able from the Game bar, but the dis­ad­van­tage of be­ing, frankly, not very good. It’ll grow,and it’ll get bet­ter, but stick with the big boys for now.

A few tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions: While it’s pos­si­ble to stream to the in­ter­net from the PC you’re play­ing on, that’s of­ten not the best idea. You’re deal­ing with, po­ten­tially, far greater sys­tem over­heads than in-home stream­ing, be­cause you prob­a­bly also want to process a video stream of your we­b­cam and some sort of flashy overlay. Big­ger stream­ers tend to split the load, with one ma­chine man­ag­ing the game­play por­tion, and an­other equipped with an HDMI cap­ture de­vice and run­ning the stream end, putting viewer in­ter­ac­tion front and cen­tre.

PER­SONAL STREAM­ING

While Twitch has long been the home of game stream­ing, it’s re­cently taken a turn to­ward the per­sonal, in the form of Twitch IRL chan­nels. These move the fo­cus away from games and on to the streamer, al­low­ing for per­sonal, of­ten inane, vlog-style live stream­ing. Twitch’s terms of ser­vice re­quire that these in­clude viewer in­ter­ac­tion, fol­low strict guide­lines, and don’t de­vi­ate too far from the streamer as the fo­cus; the ser­vice also runs a talk show cat­e­gory, which caters for more sub­ject-fo­cused con­tent.

YouTube Live, ac­ces­si­ble from its Cre­ator Stu­dio, is more flex­i­ble in terms of sub­ject mat­ter — you’re free to stream what­ever you like, as long as you don’t of­fend any copy­right hold­ers — and in­cludes lots of use­ful tools. Sign up with your Google ac­count, and you are given a livestream­ing perma­link that

“Twitch has a Cre­ative cat­e­gory, which per­mits art, cod­ing, mu­sic, and, oc­ca­sion­ally, clas­sic Bob Ross and Mr Rogers shows.”

you can share with po­ten­tial view­ers, and (with the help of OBS or sim­i­lar) you’ll soon be broad­cast­ing. There’s an in­cluded DVR fea­ture, which lets view­ers who missed the be­gin­ning of your broad­cast jump back up to four hours. You can also stream di­rectly from your phone, as long as you have an ad­e­quate mo­bile con­nec­tion and data plan.

There’s a num­ber of op­tions for those who de­sire a more in­ti­mate au­di­ence. Face­book Live is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, and get­ting up and run­ning is as sim­ple as pen­ning a sta­tus, then hit­ting the live video op­tion. You can, as with any Face­book post, set your pri­vacy to pub­lic, and this is cer­tainly a good op­tion if you’re us­ing the broad­cast func­tion­al­ity to push your brand, but bear in mind that you’ll need to pub­li­cise pub­lic events if you want them to reach be­yond your time­line. Justin. tv-style live­cast­ing net­works still ex­ist, too; Ustream has been swal­lowed up by IBM, and now aims to­ward the cor­po­rate sec­tor, but YouNow is in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, though it can lean to­ward Cha­troulette and Omegle ter­ri­tory at times, and that’s not some­where any civilised per­son wants to be. If you want to share a hobby rather than your per­son­al­ity, there are other niche stream­ing ser­vices. Twitch has a Cre­ative cat­e­gory, which per­mits art, cod­ing, mu­sic and, oc­ca­sion­ally, clas­sic Bob Ross and Mr Rogers shows, although you wouldn’t get away with broad­cast­ing these your­self un­less you’re the rights holder. Pi­carto.tv caters specif­i­cally to artists, and has a long his­tory and large com­mu­nity be­hind it. We should also men­tion Mixlr, which is per­fect for au­dio stream­ers; you can use it to set up a vir­tual ra­dio sta­tion or cre­ate a live pod­cast recorded for later. It’s not free — a full sub­scrip­tion with a per­ma­nent livestream URL will run you a cool US$499 per year — but you can test it out with a trial. Happy stream­ing!

YouNow’s leader­boards take stream­ing nar­cis­sism to new heights.

Plex does all the hard work of com­pil­ing cov­ers and me­dia in­for­ma­tion for you.

Sub­sonic’s cov­er­fo­cused in­ter­face looks a lot like iTunes—but it’s slightly less ir­ri­tat­ing.

Stream­ing your desk­top with TeamViewer is easy—you just need two num­bers.

VLC gives you plenty of op­tions for stream­ing for­mats, so switch it up if one isn’t work­ing.

You need a pack­age such as Te­lestream’s GameShow to en­sure your broad­casts look sharp.

Pick up art tips or show­case your tal­ents for draw­ing scant­i­ly­clad anime girls on Pi­carto.

Mi­crosoft’s Mixer project is a rel­a­tive new­comer, but you need no ad­di­tional soft­ware.

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