RTMP, RTMFP and HTTP – The multi-protocol experience with Flash Media Delivery on Flash Player 10.1

Today, Adobe made a numerous announcements around the next version of Flash player (v10.1) and quite a few announcements that will increase the options for interactive media delivery. For this posting, I’ll take you through the Flash Media parts of the announcements to provide some additional context.

Today, the vast majority of video (over 75% worldwide – ComScore – Video Metrix Report (August 2009)) is delivered using Flash technology. People ask us every day to keep innovating , enable higher bitrates, increase capacity and help reduce costs. Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen fundamental changes in not only the quality of the content, but the amount of content online.. We’re happy you chose Flash for your business , and Flash Player 10.1 will increase the options available to deliver high quality media including H.264 and VP6 over many different protocols. Put simply, Flash player 10.1 will allow Flash content to travel many different ways to reach your target audience. You will be able to monetize your media content because you can deliver more of it at higher quality with a variety of business models.

Flash Player 10.1 is another great step forward for real time interactive media experiences. We’ve enhanced the RTMP protocol with new buffer controls that will help keep the flow of audio and video streaming from Flash Media Server. We’ve also added significantly new functionality to RTMFP protocol (Peer Assisted Networking) that enables groups support and will add support for Multicast. Finally, we’ve added support for HTTP streaming with Project Zeri.

Here are some additional details of the Flash Media-related features announced in Flash Player 10.1

Enhancements to RTMP streaming

RTMP remains as one of the most popular protocols to deliver high quality, low latency and protected streaming for both live and on demand. Flash Player 10.1 builds on the success of RTMP streaming with new buffer management that will help reduce interruptions, and provide a better online media experience. The buffer is one of the best advantages of streaming and when you can use the buffer and server techniques – you can create some really compelling experiences.

Here is the list of my favorites:

  • Smart Reconnect –This feature will let the developer re-establish a NetConnection, while video continues to play from the buffer. When the client re-connects, the buffer will begin filling to avoid any disruption in video or audio flow.
  • Smart Seeking – This release will allow developers to create an experience navigating within the video buffer instead of hitting the server each time. Flash Player 10.1 with FMS 3.5.3 (coming Nov 2009) will let you create basic trick modes such as slow motion or fast playback. We’ve also added a dynamically configurable “back buffer” that lets you not only seek forward, but backwards too. For live video, you can create an instant-replay experience for your live stream without going back to the server, or maintaining an archive on the server.
  • Dynamic Streaming enhancements – Flash Player 10.1 will be able to switch between multi-bitrate streams much faster, to ensure that the best stream is delivered to the client.
  • Buffered Stream Catchup – For live media with long durations, this feature will help guarantee that live latency does not build up over long periods of time.

You can get your video players ready later this year with the upcoming service pack for Flash Media Server 3.5.3.

Enhancements to RTMFP (Peer Assisted Networking)

We are also excited to announce that we’ve done a major upgrade to the RTMFP protocol. Flash Player 10.1 will include support for groups technology. RTMFP groups will allow developers to create groups of Peers. This will allow peers to share data like audio, video and ActionScript objects. Today at MAX, Matthew Kaufman introduced attendees to new capabilities of RTMFP groups. Here’s a high level of the updated capabilities (we’ll post his presentation later).

  • Multicast – Application layer multicast with support for native IP Multicast. These broadcast techniques can be fused together to support higher quality of service
  • Directed Routing – The ability to directly address a peer within a group and send an ActionScript messages
  • Posting – The ability to broadcast an ActionScript message.
  • Object Replication – The ability to reliably send ActionScript objects through the peer group.

The RTMFP protocol enables developers to create real time interactive applications that include media. These applications can be used to extend view times, and keep the delivery costs low. RTMFP Groups technology uses an overlay network to help efficiently move data around the peers. We’ll get into more details of RTMFP and groups technology later this year, when Flash player 10.1 is available in Adobe Labs. We will also be updating Stratus, the Adobe labs service that will allow developers to freely create non-commercial applications based on the new functions of RTMFP.

If you are you interested in using RTMFP technology for commercial use, we also today announced Flash Platform Services with the LiveCycle Collaboration Service. This service is a pay-for-use model that lets you develop interactive applications using Peer Assisted Networking. Flash Player 10.1 will also enable Multicast support, to allow more efficient delivery of media over networks both internal and external. Within a firewall, IP Multicast can now be used natively in Flash player 10.1. You will also be able to use RTMFP to deliver multicast experiences using Peer Assisted Networking. Adobe is fusing these technologies together that will allow developers to provide higher quality of service for media delivery regardless where the Flash Player is connecting from. What this means is your neighbor can help fill in segments of video that may have been lost in the IP broadcast.

Introducing Project Zeri: HTTP Streaming for Flash player

We’re excited to introduce project Zeri. The amount of video that is consumed today on the web is staggering. Adobe works closely with our CDN partners to ensure that quality and capacity are available for businesses who need it. As events get larger, and view times get longer, Project Zeri will help increase capacity by leveraging standard HTTP caching infrastructures. It’s our goal with Project Zeri to ensure the quality of media delivery remains high and many of the features that customers expect are available.

Here is a list of some of the goals for Project Zeri

  • Leveraging existing HTTP infrastructure and cache technologies – increase the options for delivery by allow content to be optionally cached by standard HTTP servers to help increase capacity and help reduce delivery costs for large scale publishers
  • Support for all Flash Codecs– including H.264, VP6, H.263, HE-AAC, VP6, MP3 and all metadata that exists within the formats or live stream
  • Playback standardization – Project Zeri will include full support within the Open Source Media Framework, to help provide a standard player that can work across our CDN partners, and help content publishers monetize their valuable content.
  • Adaptive bit‐rate switching support – to ensure that bandwidth and CPU capabilities are maximized without disrupting the video flow.
  • Live & On Demand Streaming over HTTP – Project Zeri will allow you to stream all the same content regardless if it is live or on-demand with no additional encoding or change to your live encoding technology. DVR support – to enable a rich and interactive live media experience
  • Content protection – to ensure your content is protected through encryption, SWF verification & output protection all powered by Flash Access

As you can see we continue to invest in all forms of media delivery that build on standards and help customers be successful to create rich interactive media online today and in the future. Here are some more official Adobe links on the press releases:

Flash Player 10.1 Press release

Flash Player 10.1 Feature summary on Adobe Labs

Adobe Stratus