Stealthy live video startup RayV recently told us a bit about what it’s doing, and it’s pretty cool: turning PCs into media servers to make high-quality live broadcasting possible directly from a computer. I really like the live video space because it has both hard technology and exciting new production and consumption applications, so I’ll be interested follow this new approach. Hollywood-based RayV is already streaming more than 1 million minutes per day, with 150 customers including leading French broadcaster AB Groupe, leading Chinese broadcaster Shanghai Media Group, and various American megachurches.
What RayV does is give each of its broadcasters software to make their computers into media servers, so they can stream live video straight to another piece of software on their watchers’ computers. The video file transfer is direct, with the RayV only getting involved in the stream so as to give instructions about who’s authorized to receive it.
For RayV and all its competitors, streaming really high-quality video means getting end users to download a special plug-in. But like Joost and other services are starting to do, RayV also offers a more standard, lower-quality feed (in its case Windows Media, with Flash on the way) so new viewers aren’t left with nothing.
RayV’s live streaming is truly live, with no caching or storage of information on the viewer’s computer. RayV calls this “cloud streaming” because information about the files — authentication, geo-blocking, payment, et cetera — is managed on the network level. The video itself is streamed directly from a computer to viewers. Viewers contribute bandwidth back up to the system via their plug-ins, but unlike some P2P resource hogs, they aren’t expected to contribute more than 17 K of upload stream and 2 percent of CPU.
In most cases, viewers come to the service through broadcasters they already know who are introducing an online feed. The app (the iWorshipHere version, pictured above, was a 2.5 MB downlod on my Mac) will be branded for that broadcaster, with RayV just a little logo in the corner. However, should the broadcaster allow it, viewers can toggle between all of RayV’s broadcasters’ streams, like switching channels on a TV.
Unlike the viewer plug-in, the broadcasting software is Windows-only for now. Broadcasters can connect a live camera to broadcast live, and combine recorded footage through a control room interface. There’s no wait to upload files and it works from any normal PC. Broadcasters can choose whatever business model they like, from advertising to subscription to pay-per-view.
One limitation of RayV’s solution is that it’s only as accessible as the upstream bandwidth its broadcasters can access with their PCs. And upstream bandwidth is always hard to come by. RayV recommends 1 MB upload to deliver a consistent, high-quality 800 K stream, but can operate with less than that. Since it’s aiming its product at professional broadcasters, this is less of a problem than it would be for people trying to make a consumer product like Ustream, or especially a mobile product like Qik.