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 MPEG-DASH: Dynamic Adaptive Streaming Over HTTP Defined
May 24, 2023

MPEG-DASH: Dynamic Adaptive Streaming Over HTTP Defined

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The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted extra display screen time than ever earlier than. And whether or not you’ve been binging content material on Netflix or YouTube, the MPEG-DASH protocol has possible performed a task.

So what’s MPEG-DASH, and the way does it work? On this article, we’ll cowl all of it. 



MPEG-DASH is an adaptive HTTP-based protocol for streaming media over the web. The know-how is used to move segments of reside and on-demand video content material from net servers to viewers’ gadgets. 

It’s helpful to spell out the acronym when defining the MPEG-DASH commonplace:

To begin, the Transferring Footage Skilled Group (MPEG) developed the know-how. As a global authority on digital audio and video requirements, they had been seeking to create an industry-standard various to Apple’s HTTP Stay Streaming (HLS) protocol. And so, they named it DASH, which stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP.

Why was this crucial, and the way do HLS and DASH examine? Buckle up — we’re in for an extended experience. 


Desk of Contents:

  1. MPEG-DASH Snapshot
  2. Adaptive Bitrate Streaming
  3. Historical past
  4. HLS vs. DASH Streaming
  5. Low-Latency CMAF for DASH
  6. Interoperability
    1. Gamers
    2. Servers
    3. CDNs
  7. Adoption and What’s Subsequent


MPEG-DASH Snapshot

  • Audio Codecs: Codec-agnostic
  • Video Codecs: Codec-agnostic
  • Playback Compatibility: Good, not nice
    • HTML5 video gamers allow playback on all Android gadgets; most post-2012 Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, and Sony TVs; Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers
    • iOS and Apple TV don’t help DASH
  • Advantages: Vendor-independent, worldwide commonplace for adaptive bitrate
  • Drawbacks: Not supported by iOS or Apple TV
  • Latency: 6-30 seconds (decrease latency solely doable when tuned or delivered by way of chunked switch encoding)
  • Variant Codecs: MPEG-DASH CENC (Widespread Encryption)


How MPEG-DASH Works: Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

Should you’ve ever seen the present you’re watching regulate from a fuzzy image to sharp focus in a matter of seconds, then you definitely’re acquainted with adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR). This methodology for delivering streaming media allows the content material to dynamically adapt to the viewer’s bandwidth capability by shifting between high- and low-quality video encodings. Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube all depend on the MPEG-DASH format to realize simply that.



Usually with ABR streaming, a media server is used to ingest a single video supply and transcode it right into a dozen or so totally different renditions. The a number of renditions differ in dimension to allow bufferless playback on quite a lot of gadgets and connection speeds. That manner, a high-bitrate, high-frame price, high-resolution stream may be performed for viewers with essentially the most superior setups. And for viewers with small screens and poor service, the identical video is out there in low high quality.

The renditions are delivered as a sequence of sub-ten-second segments moderately than as a steady stream. That manner, the stream can routinely regulate between a menu of decision and bitrate choices because the viewer’s web pace improves or takes a nosedive. 

With ABR streaming, the DASH spec delivers a steady viewing expertise — but additionally causes an preliminary delay as the person segments are downloaded. One methodology for addressing that is to tune latency by reducing the section dimension. An alternative choice entails the Widespread Media Utility Format (CMAF), which we glance into beneath


MPEG-DASH Historical past

For the reason that daybreak of streaming media, competing applied sciences have been duking it out on the streaming protocol entrance. Probably the most recognizable individuals within the rivalry embody Adobe’s Actual-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), Apple’s HTTP Stay Streaming (HLS) protocol, and MPEG-DASH.  


Within the Starting, There Was RTMP

Let’s begin on the flip of the century. To set the stage: Dial-up web was nonetheless a factor, and all of the cool youngsters had been taking part in Snake on their Nokia cell telephones. Streaming video was nascent — with Netflix nonetheless centered on delivering DVDs by mail.

On the time, RTMP reigned supreme. The then-proprietary protocol shortly transported video and audio information throughout the web for playback on the Adobe Flash Participant. The Flash plugin powered 98% of web browsers on the time, making RTMP the dominant supply mechanism for reside streaming till the early 2010s. 

RTMP labored about the way you’d anticipate it to: By sending a steady stream of knowledge to finish customers by way of Adobe know-how. In contrast to at this time’s most typical supply protocols, this required devoted streaming servers and the Flash participant.

As everyone knows, Flash went the best way of the dinosaurs. And Steve Jobs performed an important function within the participant’s extinction. Shortly after introducing the world to the iPhone, he defended Apple’s option to not help Flash by criticizing its proprietary nature. 


The Introduction of HTTP-Based mostly Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

RTMP was quickly displaced by HTML5-based applied sciences. This new class of streaming protocols leveraged content material supply networks (CDNs) made up of plain-old HTTP net servers to distribute chunk-based adaptive bitrate media recordsdata. 

The transfer to adaptive streaming helped fight buffering and enhance caching effectivity in a single fell swoop.  However a slew of recent proprietary protocols had been quickly developed to fill the ability vacuum left by RTMP. Thus, Microsoft launched Easy Streaming in 2008, Apple gave us HLS in 2009, and Adobe joined the celebration with HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) in 2010.



So how precisely did MPEG-DASH enter the image? Alex Zambelli’s summarized it properly for The Guardian years again:

“It was evident early on that one other conflict of proprietary streaming applied sciences would do extra harm than good to an {industry} that was on the verge of maturing into mainstream, so in 2009 efforts started in 3GPP to ascertain an {industry} commonplace for adaptive streaming. Early 3GPP standardization work shifted to ISO/IEC MPEG working teams in 2010, the place it moved shortly from proposals to draft standing to ratification in lower than two years. Greater than 50 firms had been concerned — Microsoft, Netflix and Apple included — and the trouble was coordinated with different {industry} organizations equivalent to 3GPP, DECE, OIPF, and W3C. By April 2012, a brand new commonplace was born — Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, colloquially often known as MPEG-DASH.”

Or, to place it one other manner: the Transferring Footage Skilled Group (MPEG) designed DASH as an alternative choice to HLS and different proprietary applied sciences.


MPEG-DASH Stay Streaming in 2020 and Past

As we speak, MPEG-DASH and HLS are the 2 most typical HTTP-based protocols. However there’s a transparent winner so far as adoption goes (Trace: It’s the one endorsed by Apple). Simply check out the responses to our Streaming Latency Report.

Which video streaming codecs are you presently utilizing?

So… What offers? Will non-proprietary protocols ever climb their option to the highest? Our hope is sure. However solely time will inform. 


HLS vs. DASH Streaming

Each HLS and DASH perform equally from a technical perspective. The primary level of differentiation between the 2 applied sciences stems from possession: HLS is specified by Apple, whereas with DASH you get an open-source possibility. 

By advantage of being an Apple-backed know-how, HLS is healthier supported throughout Apple merchandise. Why? It’s easy. Apple would moderately prioritize its proprietary commonplace than the open-source various. The very factor Steve Jobs selected to criticize about RTMP is what retains HLS within the lead.

Which means that whereas Safari will natively play streaming content material delivered over HLS, you’ll want an HTML5 video participant to view content material streamed utilizing DASH. It’s crucial that the participant used is a DASH shopper.

Likewise, Apple TVs and iPhones will solely settle for HLS streams. The one workaround right here could be to create your individual app.

Just a few closing ways in which HLS and DASH diverge is of their encoding codecs and low-latency supply strategies, which we summarize within the listing beneath.


HLS vs. MPEG-DASH Comparability

  • Proprietary vs. worldwide: HLS is proprietary to Apple, whereas DASH is an open commonplace outlined by MPEG.
  • Playback compatibility: HLS is extra broadly supported than DASH as a result of immense affect that Apple has on the {industry} at massive.
  • Codec necessities: Whereas HLS specifies using sure video codecs (H.265, H.265)and audio codecs (detailed right here), DASH is codec-agnostic. This might allow greater high quality broadcasts at decrease bitrates when extra superior codecs are leveraged.
  • Container format: HLS ha historically used the MPEG-2 transport stream container format, or .ts (MPEG-TS), whereas DASH used the MP4 format, or .mp4.
  • Latency: Each protocols have historically lagged when it comes to supply pace, however new approaches search to vary this. For DASH, this takes the type of the Widespread Media Utility Format (CMAF), whereas Apple now gives the Low-Latency HLS extension.


Low-Latency CMAF for DASH

CMAF stands for the Widespread Media Utility Format.In a nutshell, that’s what it’s: a media format that improves cross-compatibility between HLS and DASH by specifying the identical container format for each protocols — fragmented MPG (fMP4).

By incorporating the spec into a bigger system geared toward decreasing latency, main organizations like Akamai are additionally tackling the inherent latency of movies delivered by way of DASH.

Utilizing chunked encoding and chunked switch encoding, low-latency CMAF can be utilized to interrupt streams into smaller chunks of a set length, which might then be instantly printed upon encoding. Distributors are working so as to add help for this rising know-how, however the emergence of Low-Latency HLS has slowed adoption.

Extra info on low-latency CMAF may be present in this weblog.


DASH Interoperability

Whereas the DASH protocol is inherently versatile, this will current challenges. Particularly, it’s onerous for broadcasters to find out the very best configurations when something goes. 

The DASH-IF acknowledged this impediment and developed the DASH-AVC/264 Implementation Pointers as a option to information adoption. In their very own phrases:

“One of many fundamental challenges dealing with DASH after its standardization was its personal flexibility, expressed via the numerous options and choices allowed by the core specification. Being codec agnostic, for instance, is a plus when supporting new codec choices, however poses a problem for encoder or participant builders — which codec do you help in your DASH participant? What section encapsulation ought to the encoder generate? How ought to DRM be signaled? What closed captioning format do you help? The flexibleness inherent in the usual made it tougher to realize interoperability between numerous preliminary implementations.

Recognizing full interoperability is the important thing for MPEG-DASH fast market adoption, the DASH-IF determined to take the uncooked DASH commonplace, marry it with a codec, apply tight profiles and different restrictions, and create a baseline suggestion that everybody might use to construct interoperable services with out painful integration. Interoperability is the important thing to adoption as a result of if a format ‘works in every single place’ then its development will speed up. The title of this suggestion is ‘DASH-AVC/264 Implementation Pointers’ and you may obtain it from”

DASH Trade Discussion board (DASH-IF)



A number of embeddable HTML5 video gamers help MPEG-DASH playback throughout browsers. The DASH-IF launched sprint.js as a free, open-source participant, and different choices embody:

  • THEOPlayer
  • Video.js
  • Flowplayer
  • Clappr
  • JWplayer
  • Bitmovin
  • VLC Media Participant



Most content material distributors select to encode their on-line video utilizing RTMP, WebRTC, or SRT after which transcode the video for adaptive bitrate supply over DASH as soon as it reaches a video streaming server. The Wowza Streaming Engine media server software program helps DASH playback with DVR and offers DASH Stream Goal publishing to Akamai.

We additionally just lately added DASH help to Wowza Streaming Cloud. A part of this enhancement allows digital rights administration (DRM) throughout a number of platforms, permitting our clients to extra successfully defend their content material from unauthorized viewing. 



That stated, it’s clever to ship video in extra codecs (equivalent to HLS) to make sure that viewers throughout a broad vary of gadgets can view the content material. Once more, a transcoding resolution like Wowza Streaming Engine or Wowza Streaming Cloud is your greatest guess for repackaging the stream into a number of codecs to succeed in the broadest viewers doable.


Content material Supply Networks (CDNs)

DASH is cost-effective as a result of as soon as packaged, it may be transported utilizing conventional community servers and know-how. This makes it straightforward to scale utilizing a CDN.

A few of our favourite CDNs for reside streaming that provide DASH help embody:

  • Akamai
  • Fastly
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • Limelight Networks
  • Wowza CDN


DASH Adoption and What’s Subsequent

The ability battle between vendor-specific applied sciences and open requirements is nothing new within the streaming {industry}. However whereas proprietary protocols like RTMP and HLS stay distinguished, open-source options like DASH could possibly be the best way of the long run. 

Why? MPEG-DASH delivers clear advantages on account of its open nature. For one, it’s being developed via a community-driven effort led by the perfect within the enterprise. This collaborative spirit addresses the fragmentation that has plagued the streaming area — and thereby fosters a dedication to enhancing interoperability and eliminating complexity. 

The DASH-IF elaborates:

“DASH by itself isn’t any magic panacea for the fragmentation issues of media, gadgets, and markets. Nevertheless, the DASH-IF members do share a standard imaginative and prescient that the long-term advantages of convergence outweigh the prices of shorter-term efforts concerned in reaching that purpose. They’re prepared to tackle the work of making suggestions, submitting bugs, and attending plug-fests and interop occasions, with the idea that their enterprise and the Web streaming market in massive will profit an amazing cope with convergence round DASH.”

All this stated, HLS continues to take heart stage, slowing DASH adoption. So regardless of the place you land within the HLS vs. DASH debate, HLS stays your greatest guess when streaming to Apple gadgets. Fortunately, Wowza Streaming Engine makes it straightforward to transmux video into numerous codecs to make sure supply on any gadget.  


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Further Assets

  • The Full Information to Stay Streaming
  • The Way forward for Streaming: 2020 and Past
  • Streaming Protocols
  • Video Codecs and Encoding

About Traci Ruether

As a Colorado-based B2B tech author, Traci Ruether serves as Wowza’s content material advertising supervisor. Her background is in streaming and community infrastructure. Apart from writing, Traci enjoys cooking, gardening, and spending high quality time together with her kith and kin. Comply with her… View extra

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