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Thursday
Feb232012

Streams and downloads and codecs, oh my!

In January 2010, I wrote Leo an email complaining about the quality of the TWiT Live streams on iOS. After that, I kept bugging him and Lisa, until I had moved across the country in April to come work at TWiT. Since then, I've been working with the rest of our engineering team to improve the quality of all our video output.

Today we launched an HLS stream to improve the performance on the Roku and on mobile devices like the iPhone and Android. It's hosted at Flosoft.biz, and you already have access to it if you're running TWiTpad or the Roku app. I've let all our developers know about it, so hopefully it will be in your app of choice soon.

We also added another streaming partner to the twit.tv homepage, and that's the beta of Bit Torrent live. BT Live is democratized streaming. Just like a .torrent shares the download across many users, BT Live does the same for streaming. So if you use BT Live, you will be contributing your upstream bandwidth to the stream for other users. This makes TWiT truly not beholden to a single bandwidth provider. If you have concerns about using torrent technology (perhaps an over-zealous ISP) or have a poor upstream cap, you have nothing to worry about--we aren't taking away our other streaming partners. But if you want to contirubte your bandwidth to our pool, you're welcome to do so.

Another addition that will be coming soon is the addition of a stereo AAC+ audio stream, thanks to the Prostream our friends at Telos have lent us.

Over the next few weeks, you may notice some changes to our video as we implement our new encoding and publishing system.

This is what we're hoping to achieve:

  • HD video downloads can be smaller, and higher quality. Once we settle on settings we like, HD video downloads will be rolled out across all TWiT shows.
  • The "SD high" download (soon to be "SD") will also be optimized to be better looking with a minimal impact to file size. The downside is that we may lose backward compatibility with some older devices as we move to higher H.264 profiles and levels. And that brings us to...
  • The "SD low" download (soon to be "Mobile") will be optimized to give the best balance of quality and file size, while maintaining as much backward compatibility as possible with older devices.

We're always looking to add more choices for you to stream from and to improve the quality of your downloads. We hope that all these improvements will be rolled out by this spring, so keep watching.