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Thursday, October 19 2017 @ 12:53 PM CDT

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In The Beginning - Live Wildlife Streaming to the Masses

First in the Live Streaming Wildlife Video Handbook - Next, Preface

An introduction to Live Streaming Wildlife to the world, from which cameras to how to deal with creating power and connecting to the internet from long distances.
25 articles on how to do amateur live wildlife video streaming.

In late 2005, David Hancock, a noted biologist and conservationist in the Vancouver area, phoned me from Hornby Island, B.C. He had just seen some video captured from a camera situated right beside an eagle nest, 100 feet in the air – and wanted to know if there was any chance we could hook this camera up to the internet.

The original Hornby Island Live Streaming Eagle Nest CameraHornby Island is not the remotest place in B.C. by any means – but it is 2 ferry rides from Vancouver Island (3 rides from Vancouver, where I live) and about as out of the way as you can get and still get there by car. The first question I had was “is there internet on the island?” and as it turns out, there is. The B.C. Government paid the local phone company (Telus) copious dollars to ensure that each school in the province was hooked up to the internet, and at the same time, Telus took the opportunity to put in a facility in some of the communities to hook up homes within the local area to the net as well, including those around the school on Hornby Island. It turned out the nest was within the maximum 3.5 Km distance (by phone lines) from the telephone equipment, and soon we had the nest camera streaming live to some selected friends.

Shortly after that, the friends told some of their friends, who told some of their friends, and soon the world was watching this pair of eagles sitting on their eggs, waiting for them to hatch. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a new industry, that of providing live, real-time and long-term streaming video from all manner of subjects. From pet dogs to spiders to fish and of course many different birds and other wild beasts, the world has been watching from their desktop into the bedrooms and maternity wards of Mother Nature.

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Converting Video is a Pain - But...

Unless you've been studying digital video (and audio, and still) technology for some time now, you're probably pretty confused by all the various acronyms, file extensions, terms and "standards" - I know, I certainly was a few years ago when I really started to get into dealing with it in a big way.

Just the fact that there are two different aspects to digital video streaming that seem to have the same names for different things sure didn't help any at all: codecs and containers.

Before you start thinking about changing video files from one format to the other, you need to get the above firmly in your head.

The reason for this is that, for example, two different AVI files of the same material may have video encoded with different video codecs, and audio encoded with different audio codecs, and therefore may not be readable by the same program, even though the file extension ".avi" is the same on both files. Therein lies the major source of confusion. Similarly, other container formats may also contain any of several different codecs for video and/or audio, and in fact may contain several of each in some instances.

That all being said, the reason I want to talk about them is that I finally found (wasn't looking, but somebody pointed it out to me) a graphical front-end to a video transformation tool that I've been using for years now that helps for many of the basic transformations you're likely to come across.

The GUI tool is WinFF and the underlying command-line tool is ffmpeg


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