Q. What is streaming audio or video?
A. Streaming audio or video is sound (as on the radio) or video (as on television) delivered over the Internet via a modem or broadband connection.
Q. Why is it called “streaming”?
A. It’s called “streaming” because the sound and picture data flow in a digital stream from a server computer to your computer, ready to hear or view in real time, without having to download all the content before you can enjoy it. It comes to you in a stream of digital bits… hence the term “streaming.”
Q. What kinds of streaming audio or video are there?
A. There are three main streaming media companies: Real, Media Player (Microsoft) and QuickTime (Apple). All three provide streaming media players for the Mac and Windows platforms. All three also provide “basic” free players and optional “plus” players that offer extra features – at extra cost. The three media player types vary in cross-compatibility. Many Web sites also use Macromedia’s Flash/Shockwave for audio and visual effects. More about players in Part 2 of this FAQ.
Q. What difference does it make if content is streamed, rather than downloaded?
A. Audio and video files can be very large. You would spend many minutes or even hours waiting for them to be downloaded to your computer if they weren’t streamed. Streaming media technology allows you to see or hear the content in just a few seconds, instead of having to wait for it. Your only wait is a few seconds for a “buffer” to be built up that helps avoid interruptions caused by Internet traffic problems.
Q. What special equipment do I need to get streaming audio or video?
A. You only need a modern computer with a Web connection (minimum 28.8 Kbps modem for audio, 56 Kbps for video) plus player software that can receive and process audio/video streams. You may already have such software on your computer, but if not, it is available as a free download from Real.com, Media Player or Quicktime. You can also record streaming audio with third party software. (See Part 2 for more.)
Q. How can I tell if I have everything I need?
A. Most recent computers will have everything needed. If you have speakers/earphones for your computer and you’ve heard them play sound, chances are you’re okay. The faster your online connection (modem, cable, DSL) and computer speed (in megahertz), the higher the quality of the streaming audio or video will be. A 56 Kbps modem is a practical minimum for video.
Q. Can I receive streaming audio via Web TV?
A. Earlier versions of Web TV can’t receive streaming media, but some later versions can. You should check your manual or ask the Web TV folks to see if your model supports streaming audio/video.
Q. What are media players? Do I have one?
A. A media player is a special type of software that recognizes the stream coming into your computer and displays it (video) on your screen or plays it (audio) through your speakers or headphones. There are three different formats of media players that are most commonly used. Your computer may or may not have one of them already installed. (You’ll find download links in Q9 below.) Here are the various types (all with free and pay versions):
Windows Media Player?
Most computers that use the Windows operating system have Windows Media Player installed. If your version is getting old, you may need to download and install a more current one in order to use streaming. (We’ll tell you how to do that below.) The Windows Media Player is also available for Apple computers and the Mac OS.
Real is another popular streaming format. Many computers/browsers come with the RealOne Player installed. Like the Windows Media player, you may need to download a newer version. Real offers the most compact media file format, even smaller than mp3. The RealOne Player comes in both Mac and Windows versions.
Newer Apple computers (G5s, G4s, iMacs, PowerBooks, etc.) and many PCs come with the QuickTime player installed. As with all players, if your version is too old, you may need a new one. QuickTime is used for both audio and video streaming, but has additional capabilities, such as QuickTime VR, a panoramic picture display. QuickTime is also available for Windows.
More and more Web sites are using Macromedia’s Shockwave for audio and visual effects, but it’s not a true streaming media player. It is popular because it can display short audio and video clips quickly (as in ads), without a long waiting period. The Shockwave browser plug-in is available as a short and free download. QuickTime can also display Shockwave.
Q. If I need a player, how do I get one?
A. Just do search and download! Remember, you only need the basic, free version of each player to enjoy streaming content. All of these companies sell upgraded versions with more features, but all supply a basic, free version too. They usually hide the free one, so don’t buy the upgraded or “Pro” version unless you want to. Once you’ve downloaded the player, it will usually install itself. You may need to reset your browser preferences to use a new player.
Q. Is it possible to record streaming audio?
A. Yes. With software such as Total Recorder, it is possible to record most kinds of streaming audio as you listen! See How to Record Streaming Audio – with advice, software, and links from About’s Guide for Radio.
Q. Is there any downside to streaming?
A. There are some potential problems, but we’ll tell you how to avoid or minimize them.
(1) Traffic jams. Streaming requires an Internet connection that’s free of bottlenecks or “traffic jams.” But the Internet isn’t a direct pipeline from the source to you. Streamed content passes through many other computers on its way to your computer via your ISP. If any one of them is carrying too much traffic, the streamed content may be interrupted and pause. Streamed content is “buffered” to help avoid this, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Usually the delay only lasts a few seconds, and the audio picks up where it stopped. Video is more sensitive to such interruptions.
(2) A slow computer. Even with a fast computer, if you have too many applications open, it could slow down your media streaming. If you notice things are sluggish, close all unnecessary applications and windows running on your computer. Just keep your Web browser and your media player open. (If you’re just listening or watching, you can even close your browser.) In any case, speedy computers (at least 400 MHz or higher) are best.
(3) Noisy phone lines. If you have a dial-up connection and a phone line that isn’t free of noise (humming, crackling), that’s not good for streaming (or Web browsing). Disconnect any phones that cause a buzz or hum. Have your phone company check your line to get rid of humming or other line noise. Of course, a cable modem or DSL connection is best for streaming media.
Q. Why is Digital Signage the fastest growing segment of the signage industry?
A. Maximum impact / Minimum effort
80% of all buying decisions are made at the time of purchase
Traditional media (TV, Radio, Print) is watered down because of all the options
Regular Static printed signage becomes ?wallpaper? with little or no impact
The marketplace is constantly changing and only digital signage keeps up
Messages can be changed to reflect time of day, weather, inventory, etc.
Ability to ?Re-Purpose? Traditional print and television messages easily
Q How do I place an image on my new “Digital Sign” product?
A.Using the supplied “USB CARD READER” and any PC, simply move “JPEG” image files to the supplied memory card (or a memory card of your own). Then place the memory card into the Digital Signage System and turn it on. The system will automatically find all of your images and begin displaying them.
Q.How do I add full motion video clips to my new “Digital Sign” product?
A.Using the supplied “USB CARD READER” and any PC, simply move “MPEG” video files to the supplied memory card (or a memory card of your own). Then place the memory card into the Digital Signage System and turn it on. The system will automatically find all of your videos and begin displaying them.
Q. What other equipment or software do I need to use my “Digital Sign” product?
A. No other special equipment is required to use your new “Digital Sign” product. Simply insert a memory card with JPEG and/or MPEG files on it into the Digital Signage System. Then, plug the system into any 110 AC power source and turn it on. In order to add files to the provided memory card, simply use the provided USB card reader with any computer.
Q. Does the “Digital Sign” need to be connected to a phone line or network?
A. Our “Standalone” products do not need to be connected to a phone line or network connection. Everything needed to use our system is built right in. Just insert your memory card and turn it on. We now offer “Network Enabled” products which allow you to add/remove/delete content on your “Digital Sign” over your existing network.
Q. Can I change information on the “Digital Sign” remotely over the internet?
A. You can change information remotely over the internet with our “Network Enabled” products. Our “Standalone” products are not networked, you cannot push image files to them remotely. However, since all our product uses small compact portable memory cards, you could put the files on the internet and have each location download them to their memory card.
Q. How many images/videos can the “Digital Sign” memory card hold?
A. This all depends on the number of images and video files that you want to place on a card. The provided minimum 128MB compact flash card can hold over 100 images and 10 minutes of video at the same time. The more video files you store on the card will reduce the number of image files that you can have.
Q. How long will each image be displayed before advancing to the next?
A. The system has been set to 10 seconds. You can change this setting through the Digital Signage Media Player. See the included “Product Manual” for detail instructions on how to change this setting. Also, if there is an image you want to display longer than the available settings, you can put multiple copies of the image file onto the memory card and name them like this example: slide1a.jpg, slide1b.jpg, slide3.jpg…
Q. How do I display my images in the order that I want?
A. The Digital Signage System displays the images on the memory card in “Alphabetical” order. Therefore, files starting with a number will display first and then files starting with a letter will display second. The system automatically sorts all files (JPEG and MPEG) into alphabetical order allowing you to display images and videos mixed together. Here is an example showing how our system will organize the files (no matter what folder they are in) and the order that they will be displayed:
Filename & File Type
0000 ——— JPEG Image
0020 ——— MPEG Video
afile ———- JPEG Image
pict3 ——— JPEG Image
pict3a ——- JPEG Image
waterfall —- MPEG Video
Q. What programs can I use to create images for my “Digital Sign” product?
A. You can use any image editing (Adobe Photoshop is highly recommended) or paint program (Like Windows Paint) to create your JPEG files. You can also take images directly from your digital camera and display them on our system. One easy to use program for creating images is “PowerPoint”. This program lets you create as many slides in one file and then export all the slides directly to JPEG images. You cannot play a PowerPoint (ppt) file directly onto the Bright board. PowerPoint is merely used to create a static image file without any animations or transitions. It is also important to note that the JPEG export of Microsoft PowerPoint is fixed and is not as high a quality as if you use a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can create MPEG videos using most of the shelf editing software (like Pinnacle Studio) that allows you to output your creation as an MPEG file.
Q. Does my new “Digital Sign” product accept different kinds of memory?
A. Our system allows you to use any Compact Flash and IBM Micro-drive memory cards. Our system has been tested using these formats up to 1G in capacity. High speed cards are recommended for best performance.
Q. Can I run the “Digital Sign” 24/7?
A. Yes. It is fine to run the “Digital Sign” products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These products are completely solid state which means that there are no parts to wear down. Also, we utilize LCD technology in the “Digital Sign” products so there is no chance of things like “image burn-in” like there would be with traditional CRT or Plasma technology products.
Q. Can I schedule the “Digital Sign” to automatically turn on or off at specified times?
A. There is no mechanism currently in the “Digital Sign” product to accomplish this. However, you may purchase a standard appliance/lamp AC timer from a local hardware store. The timer needs to accept the standard 3-prong AC plug. You can then set the “Digital Sign” to turn on and off as needed by using the timer. Once power is restored, the “Digital Sign” is made to come on automatically without any intervention required.
Q. What is the warranty on AMMRG DigiSigndigital signs?
A. AMMRG, Inc. offers a limited warranty on all products that we sell.