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WebRTC and Live Streaming

What is WebRTC and how it applies to live streaming in 2017?
Subtitle – The Rise and Fall of Plugins.

By definition, WebRTC stands for “Web Real Time Communications.” Wikipedia defines it as: a collection of communications protocols and application programming interfaces that enable real-time communication over peer-to-peer connections. That makes a whole lot of sense, right? In practical terms, it means that browsers and mobile devices can talk with each other, hardware on your computer, and other websites in a gee-whiz cool new way. This improves live streaming by making it easier to access your webcam and microphone, and efficiently broadcast crisp clear video and audio across the internet. WebRTC is easier to understand by explaining what it’s not – it is NOT a plugin.

“Howdy, plugin pardner.”
When the wacky web world (www) first started, it was mainly text, with some basic images and logos to make it look pretty. The “browser” was invented to read this text. That’s all it needed to do, browse and display “pages” over the “web.” Hence, the webpage was born. By its very nature, a browser can not – and should not – do anything but read a webpage and display it to the viewer. It could not in anyway have writing capabilities or access anything on your computer. This was a major security feature built into all browsers from day one. A webpage anywhere in the world, presumably even a webpage made by nasty people, could be read. But it could not access your hard-drive and delete everything you owned. Makes sense, right?! That very basic notion of a browser being unable to access any of your hardware, webcams and microphones included, made surfing the internet safe.

In the early days of live streaming, ‘er web-camming, we had to download and install specific software onto our computers to get video to stream. Adobe’s Live Media Encoder (FMLE) was one of the originals. Most of the webcam hardware companies, on the other hand, would also include their own software to get their cams to broadcast. These proprietary bundles usually only worked peer-to-peer with another webcam from the same manufacturer and same software. Sneaky! By the way, this was all before Skype and even the first generation of cam sites. Installing specific software on your computer (remember .exe’s?) was the only way this all worked.

Then along came the brilliant idea of running a mini software program INSIDE a browser and not as stand alone software. We call these gunslingers “plugins.” They still had to be downloaded and installed, but they were a powerful solution that allowed webpages to do more than just display text and images. For us web programmers, the plugin was our hero! We could now make a webpage, and an entire website, act like a real piece of software. We could change an “application” by the next time you returned to our website, without having you to buy or download an entire new version of our software. Oh, the potential we had with the dawn of “Web 2.0.”

Adobe Flash Player was one of the first and most successful plugins for many reasons. The Flash plugin did 99% of all the work we ever wanted to do in a website application. As a programmer, why would you write your own plugin to override the video-card graphics accelerator to smoothly animate a cartoon bird? This was already written and available in Flash, for free! It made our lives much easier. And it made your life better, too. Overnight, websites were no longer static pages, but full fledged software applications. Did Flash do everything we needed for programmers? No. But for the few things we needed extra, we wrote our own tiny plugins. The beauty of it all was that the plugins we created could live side by side with the main Flash plugin that did the heavy lifting.

“This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.”
[Queue the creepy western villain whistling]
As we all enjoyed this web gold-rush of possibilities, the scoundrels out there realized how easy it was to take-over-your-computer with a plugin. After all, a plugin is real software you downloaded from God-knows-where and you gave access to everything holy inside your computer. Yikes. And yes, real exploits existed in this set up. More and more, we learned never to accept a plugin from any website that felt shady. And more and more, Adobe released version updates to make their Flash player – the head-honcho plugin of all plugins – to be safer. To this day, Adobe makes a version update on a regular monthly schedule. It’s remarkable due diligence when you think about it.

The days of the plugin are nearing an end, though. History will recycle them off into the trash heap along with 8-tracks, betamax, and transistor radios. There is a better way, it’s called WebRTC and its brother HTML5. The browser manufacturers have agreed on a common protocol where all browsers, eventually, will be able to access certain hardware on your computer (webcams and microphones in our case) in a safe and secure way. They also will be able to communicate across the internet in a safe and secure way. All this behavior will be built-in and part of the browser itself – nothing to download and install. Plugins are considered so potentially unsafe, that the browser makers agree that they will disable all use of plugins in the very near future. WebRTC has been in the making for a number of years and will replace plugins. WebRTC is currently mature enough to use in a commercial application website …in Chrome.

Wait, what? This only works in Chrome? Not exactly. Firefox and the other main browsers are right up there in implementing WebRTC / HTLM5 with all its features and security. However, the web giant Google makes Chrome. They are the leader and driving force behind this (my opinion). What they create and perfect first in Chrome, like it or not, becomes the de facto standard. StreetJelly is re-writing its broadcasting software with WebRTC first in Chrome. The Firefox configurations and settings are slightly different. We want to make sure all is running smoothly in Chrome, then we’ll tackle Firefox and the rest. In other words, we’ll be broadcasting WebRTC in Firefox, MS Edge, and Safari real soon!

Don’t roll the sunset clip yet…
What about Adobe Flash? How can it go away? Half the web still uses it! That is very true. The browser makers are making concessions to our aging hero. Chrome has already blocked all old-style plugins, but has built in their own version of Flash player internal to Chrome. Whether you refuse to download Flash from Adobe’s website or not, Chrome has its own version already on your computer. Google and Adobe are in a close relationship to make sure it’s safe. Firefox will be cutting all access to old-style plugins by 2017. It, too, will have its own internal version of Flash like Chrome. But eventually, our hero – the Adobe Flash plugin – will fade away forever.

It’s a brave new world …again.

Frank Podlaha
CEO and Founder
…and Chief Propeller-Head

Ok, now queue the sunset…

UPDATE about Firefox: As of today, 1/3/17, Firefox is at Version 50 for the general public. In Version 52, they will turn off the old style plugins (npapi). But you will still be able to turn them back on in the browser settings (type about:config in the address bar). Version 52 is scheduled to be released March 7, 2017. In Version 53, they will turn off old style plugins completely! Version 53 is scheduled for release on April 18, 2017.

Record your Performance while Streaming

Special guest blog by Tom Rule from Macon, GA.
Tom Rule

Tom Rule

StreetJelly is, of course, all about live performances. The user agreement even has a requirement to never use a recorded performance when streaming. But it says nothing about performing live AND recording the live performance! […….and even Frankie said it was OK!]

After getting a few StreetJelly performances under my belt, I began wondering if I could do just that – record a performance at the same time it’s being streamed on StreetJelly. I have a website of my own over at http://www.tomrule.info where things are for sale, and I thought a video might make a useful marketing tool [youtube, anyone?].

My parents would probably like a copy as well! They did pay for all those piano lessons……

This is one of those things that might be useful to know that (A) it CAN be done, and (B) HOW it can be done….at least on a Mac. [If you run Windows, see below!]

So the idea is to have ONE webcam streaming live out to StreetJelly AND have the computer taking the SAME audio and video streams and saving it to a movie on the computer – which you can then ship up to youtube, burn to a disk, email to distant relatives, or use the video to scare off small rodents and annoy your neighbors.

QUICK NOTE ON MY SETUP

I’m a keyboardist AND an audio guy, so it really doesn’t work for me to put up a mic when streaming – I get MUCH better audio running the keyboard into the computer. I’ll use a mic to talk to the audience – it and the keyboard audio feed into a little Mackie mixer, which plugs into the audio interface [an old M-audio Firewire Audiophile]. I’m using an iMac that is a couple of years old…..so it is NOT the “latest greatest”.

I’m using a Logitech webcam, although this would also work with the builtin iSight camera.

HERE’S HOW

You’re going to use your web browser and Quicktime Player.

1. Surf over to StreetJelly and setup your broadcast as normal. You can go ahead and start broadcasting, or just keep it on the test screen for now – it doesn’t matter.

2. Fire up Quicktime Player – it’s in the Applications folder.

3. in QT Player, select File–>New Movie Recording.

4. In my case it automatically selected the webcam. If it doesn’t, then click the triangle in the bottom area of the window and select the correct video and audio sources.

There are some other settings there as well … quality levels, where to save the file, etc. If you don’t know what something does do a test and see what happens.

5. Click record.

That’s it!

6. When done, click the record button again to stop recording, and then stop the broadcast. My version of QT Player will actually upload to youtube from within the application – so the performance can be on Youtube pretty quickly after it is completed!

WINDOWS?

From some cursory research it appears that there are a couple of programs that will allow this same thing to occur on Windows. You can either get a program [ManyCam is one] that creates a “virtual camera”….i.e. you select the “virtual camera” in the settings in Flash and whatever program you are using to record [your webcam probably came with some recording software].

In this scenario Camera talks to Cam Software [i.e. ManyCam] which then splits the video/audio out to StreetJelly AND your recording software.

It is also possible that you have an app like Quicktime Player that will work in a similar fashion as on the Mac – where you just fire it up, select the camera, and it works.

There are waaaaaay too many variations of Windows to even begin writing about it – my suggestion is to try something and see if it works. Just another piece of technology magic that allows us to create in our living rooms/studios/barns/wherever!

Thanks Tom!  Do forget, everyone, put your YouTube channel in your StreetJelly artist profile so we can all get a link to your videos.  ~frankie

Caution: StreetJelly Flies are Biting

JellyflyCaution: You may have been bitten by the StreetJelly Fly?Jellyfly

StreetJelly FlyHow has StreetJelly changed your music listening, daily habits?  I’ll start…

I was listening to music on my headphones, a Grateful Dead ‘tube, and when a song was over…  I reached for my mouse to clap with smileys!  There are no clappy’s on YouTube. LOL  ~frankie

Almost everynight when I say bye on Facebook chat, I keep instictively go looking for a waving smiley to say bye.  ~merv

Musicians I love always come on when I’m cooking dinner.
Frankie gets a lot of burnt meals now. ~martina

Got StreetJelly Syndrome symptoms? Add them below…

Haggis Videos

King HaggisHere are all three videos of Clifton, Frankie, and Merv slopping their way through the Haggis Eating Challenge.  It all started months ago with a dare to eat haggis, a Scottish dish of mushed lamb guts, live on StreetJelly.  It’s quite silly, and a bit gross.  Enjoy.

 

Part One – Clifton (Ode to Haggis)

 

Part Two – Frankie (raw from the can)

 

Part Three – Merv (plus montage)

How to Video – Simple USB Mic and Cam Setup

StreetJelly musicians Merv and Amanda from ImageAndFamily demonstrate the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone and a Microsoft Life Cam for use on StreetJelly. It’s very simple to get a clean sound and clear video with these easy to use products. You don’t have to be a computer geek or sound engineer to get up and running quickly on StreetJelly.

 


Got any questions? We’d be happen to answer them. Add them below…

The First 20 Days on StreetJelly

Grand Opening

StreetJelly.com went live on August 15th, 2012!  Here is a run down how the first twenty days have gone, which have been nothing short of amazing.  First though, we are grateful for all the new artists and viewers on the site.  We really appreciate everyone for helping spread the word, “liking” us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter.

My favorite moment so far?  That has to be LanaEve performing and trying to scroll down her music with her foot.  Lana sings and plays guitar while reading the lyrics and chords she pulls up from Google (incredible!).  So as she’s playing a song, she needs to scroll down the sheet music on her computer to continue – it’s the modern version of the age old page-turning dilemma.  So bless her heart, one night she tried to scroll down the music with her toes while still singing AND playing the guitar.  She almost fell out of her chair!  But she picked right up and kept on performing.  It was so adorable.  You all should add her to your favorites and catch her when she’s back on. www.StreetJelly.com/LanaEve  She has the most beautiful, angelic voice!

We launched the site without much fan fare in August.  It’s what we call a “soft launch” in the business.  We like to make sure everything works well, clean up the bugs, and get feedback from the initial users before we blast our name out to the whole world.  However, we are totally blown away by the fans that have already flocked to the site.  Here are some of the amazing numbers in the first few weeks.

  • 128 performances so far by 25 different artists
  • 2701 minutes of streaming video (45 hours)
  • 889 tokens giving to the artists (worth $142)
  • 785 unique people visited the site (1768 visits total)

We are very pleased, but our work has only begun.  Can we make StreetJelly go viral?  Yes we can!  And we’ll need your help.  So please keep spreading the word, and keep performing, and keep visiting the site.

And again, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for making the launch of StreetJelly.com so successful, exciting, and fun!

Tips for Performing by Webcam

Webcam ManPerforming online in front of a webcam is something probably new to most musicians.  It’s certainly new for us, too.  We noticed some things that will help your performance be visually more appealing.

  1. Sit or Step Back away from your webcam. This is probably the best advice.  Most performers are sitting too close to their webcam and basically it’s just their head filling up the screen.  Being at least 6 to 10 feet away from the cam frames a nice image of the artist, especially when playing an instrument.  Which leads to tip #2.
  2. Show us that you are playing an instrument.  Don’t worry about your fancy finger work, when we can visually see you playing the guitar or whatever – it adds to the experience.  So if you are in tight quarters and can not sit too far back, point your cam down at your instrument.
  3. Don’t over power your computer’s microphone.  If you are performing through your pc’s or laptop’s built in mic, chances are your voice and music will over power the mic at some point causing distortion.  Again, sitting further back will help even out the sound.  Just remember to speak loudly in between songs so the mic can pick up your normal voice.  For a better sound, you can make huge improvements with a just a simple sound-leveling, noise-cancelling pc mic.  These are basically called USB “conference call” mics you find in computer stores (not music stores).  For around $60-$75, these mics make a big difference.
  4. Last, don’t forget the room around you.  You don’t need to be performing on a stage, but make sure the background is not distracting to the performance, i.e. messy, cluttered, dirty laundry, etc.  Remember, you are performing for tips, make every bit count.

Do you have any more ideas?  We’d love to hear them.