Trying to explain video streaming in layman's terms? This video shows you how

Have you ever wondered how we are able to consume so much video online these days without having to deal with crazy load times? Well, the answer is a bit complicated, and there is a lot going on behind the scenes, but compression and bitrate play a pivotal role in making online video viewing possible. So, how does it work, and what is actually happening?

In this fun video from YouTube personality, Tom Scott, he attempts to explain compression and bitrates in layman’s terms – with confetti – in this informative four-minute video. Now, it needs to be said that the technologies being discussed are incredibly simplified, in an effort to keep things short and moving along. Otherwise, it could have been hours long.


Scott demonstrates how an issue arises when there are a ton of moving objects in a frame, be it snow, leaves blowing in the wind, or confetti – too much data, not enough bits to send it all. This is why sometimes a video you are watching seem to degrade in quality while there is a lot of stuff happening in the frame, before going back to normal once the action calms down (not to be confused with YouTube or Netflix purposely changing your bitrate mid-stream to compensate for bandwidth).

To quickly summarize the video, Scott explains that in the days of analog signals (when early TV was broadcast over the air) video information coming from a camera was more or less transferred straight through the air and displayed on a TV. Now that video is primarily a digital format, everything has to be measured in ones and zeros, and there is only so much data that we have the capacity to send from a server to a user quickly enough to support video playback. This is where bitrate comes into the equation, in essence – how much data from the video is being sent from the server to the video player. The more bits there are, the more details that need to be processed, and compression is a method to keep data as small as possible, while maintaining quality that’s visually pleasing.

If you had to explain this to your grandparents, this might be you could describe it, although it’s far more technical. Be sure to have some confetti on hand.

It’s a wonder of technology that this all works, but we sure are glad someone figured this out. The Internet wouldn’t be the same without video streaming.

Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Gaming

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…