by November 1, 2004 0 comments

BBA encoder is a low-bit rate audio encoder that enables streaming audio without the need for installing a player at the client machine. For streaming audio over the Net, the client machine needs the respective player. For instance, you would need Windows Media Player for .wma file, while it will not play Real media files. Nor will it run on Linux. The answer is player-less streaming technologies that use Java. The most famous solution is from Clipstream, which offers video as well as audio streaming without a player (See Free Streaming to Winamp 5, PCQuest, February 2004, ) BBA Encoder is a similar solution meant only for audio. It can be used to encode low-bit rate (not suitable for music and similar high-quality audio) audio streams and play them in a browser. 

The package includes an audio encoder and a server component. You can host encoded files either on your own Web server with the server component installed, or host them on the Indiastreams site.

The BBA encoder is a very basic program that helps you encode the audio for streaming over the Internet. You can simply browse an audio file and encode it by clicking on the Encode button on the interface. This would encode the audio and save it in the ‘codebase’ directory of the BBA Encoder. Unlike Windows Media Encoder, it encodes the audio in three different bit rates, saving each as a different file. When a user plays the audio, the server chooses the file to stream according to available bandwidth. 

For testing, we encoded music as well as a file in both BBA and Windows Media Encoders. With music, BBA Encoder took 2:30 mins to encode a 3.4 MB file while Windows Media Encoder took 2 mins on the same PIII/800 Mhz system. The resultant file size was 3.3 MB for BBA (total of all three files) while it was 3.75 MB for Windows Media Encoder. The quality of the BBA audio was not as good as its Windows Media counterpart for music. But for speech the situation was different. A 1.9 MB MP3 speech file was converted into a 3.5 MB .wma file and a 3 MB BBA set. Quality wise, the BBA set was audibly better, though there was a drop in volume. BBA Encoder can generate the code to be included in the Web page giving the link to the audio. This code, by default, links to the ‘codebase’ directory on your HDD. You need to change the code if you want to host the audio on another Web server.

File encoding and playback can be done from the same interface

The codebase directory not only stores the audio but also the java-based players, as well as the graphics for the frontend of the player. For using the files from the server you copy the ‘codebase’ directory onto the server and change the link in your HTML file to point to the right location. That’s it!

The bottom line: Recommended for streaming voice on the Internet because of smaller file sizes and multiple bit rate streaming capabilities.

Geetaj Channana

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