CHAPTER TWO (continued)
STREAMING SERVER TECHNOLOGIES
MP3-encoded audio is by far the most popular encoding method used to transfer sound across the Internet. [i] Technically, it is not a format, but a compression technique that allows for a reduction in the amount of data and subsequent transmission rates. Since it actually an encoding method, we will discuss it again in the context of authoring content streams and delivering content to the server. However, the first server technology we will consider is a very popular and free server for the streaming of live and on-demand MP3 encoded files.
SHOUTcast is an MPEG layer 3 technology (MP3) that provides an audio homesteading solution for anyone connected to an IP network. Listeners tune to SHOUTcast broadcasts by using a media player compatible with streaming MP3 audio, such as WINamp. The SHOUTcast system provides the technology to create a Webcast through the SHOUTcast Distributed Network Audio Server (DNAS). This software runs on a server attached to an IP network with lots of bandwidth, and is responsible for receiving audio from a webcaster, updating the SHOUTcast directory about what the webcaster is sending, and sending the Webcast out to the listeners.
Nullsoft’s SHOUTcast server is an application that runs on supported operating systems such as Windows 98, NT, 2000, FreeBSD, Linux, and Solaris.
>> 2012 update: Currently supported operating systems include:
- Windows 2000 sp4, Windows XP sp3, or later
- Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher (for all Online Services features)
Are Windows 7 & Vista supported?
Yes. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions <<
Once a stream has begun, the SHOUTcast server will only accept connections from other copies of WINamp in order to broadcast that source stream to each listener. The server creates a micro-broadcast system that delivers content in any of the formats that WINamp supports.
The SHOUTcast Server accepts connections via a SHOUTcast DSP Plug-In that is part of the WINamp player, which provides a source stream for the Webcast. What this means is that the webcaster simply has to have the WINamp player on his system, then download a plug-in for the media player, allocate MP3 files to be used as content for the Webcast, and then stream the MP3 files to interface with the SHOUTcast server.
Using specialized SHOUTcast Webcasting plug-ins, audio from a microphone as well as any device attached to the Line-In port on the webcasters’ soundcard can also be streamed via SHOUTcast server. The SHOUTcast server is the key to connecting many people to one another via WINamp.
The “streaming server,” in this and most other cases, is a software application run on a PC. This software can be loaded directly onto the broadcaster’s PC where the MP3 authored content is resident, loaded onto a separate PC that is co-located with the authoring computer, or it can be loaded onto a third-party computer that provides the service of operating the server for the broadcaster.
The client media player recommended for Windows users is WINamp, and is discussed within the Media Player section in detail. WINamp supports MP3 audio, SHOUTcast Radio, Windows Media Audio, and offers customization tools for users. WINamp is a free player. One of the advantages of using the SHOUTcast server technology to encode MP3 streams is that a great percentage of streaming players can hear it.
SHOUTcast DNAS server technology can be accessed from a third-party site, which will usually involve fees for the webcaster, or it can be downloaded and installed onto a PC owned by the webcaster. After downloading, there is an installation and configuration process to be followed, but the configuration to get up and running can be minimal. However, if desired, the webcaster can also get involved in configurations that are more complex.
A detailed systematic guide is available on the SHOUTcast web site at http://forums.winamp.com/showthread.php?threadid=35635, and as noted an overview of the SHOUTcast system is provided by http://www.fezguys.com/
[i] Luini, Jon R. Whitman, Allen E. Streaming Audio: The FezGuys’ Guide. 1st ed. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing, 2002. p. 149