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Twitch changes/future plans summary.

By: AdamAK on Aug 7th, 2014  |  syntax: None  |  size: 12.67 KB  |  views: 15,748  |  expires: Never
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  1. Summary of information from the earlier call:
  2.  
  3. tl;dr version:
  4. -- Audio flagging is here to stay (Twitch is too big to ignore it)
  5.         -- Will improve drastically.
  6.         -- USE THE APPEAL BUTTON. There are flagging errors.
  7.         -- Flagged segments will be way shorter
  8. -- VODs are improving (transcoding, longer highlights)
  9. -- Hitbox is fun, but it's not a miracle
  10. -- HTML5 isn't an option for stream players yet (Hitbox doesn't have it either)
  11. -- Streaming delay getting shorter over time (more details below)
  12. -- GTA runners have to find a workaround for in-game music. (modification or replacement)
  13.  
  14. Nota bene: If you see "probability = ?" it means something is considered/not a current priority/not confirmed, but may change in the future (as it is a desirable feature)
  15.  
  16. To some extent, the current issues can be summarised by "We should've communicated way better...." on Twitch's end. Note that we do have Romscout as our go-to guy for the speedrunning community, but others are interested in hearing what we have to say as well, so if you have any concerns/suggestions, those are more than welcome. Can message guys like Justin Wong or Programmax, both of whom are very cool guys who want to see the speedrunning scene do well.
  17.  
  18.  
  19. VODS:
  20.  
  21. Twitch has already announced a change in the highlighting system (no longer limited to 2 hours), which is great news. Longer speedruns no longer get messed up by having to be split into numerous segments, and are actually usable for verification purposes (leaderboards) and/or learning references for runners. I want to watch SA any% and 100% runs, for instance, but doing it with 8 VODs would be a pain in the ass. Good thing that's fixed!
  22.  
  23. A system for permanently saving past broadcasts on the basis of view counts is being considered (probability = ?). This would mean that past broadcasts are no longer systematically deleted. Videos that are viewed by nobody (extremely low view counts) would still be removed, since it's a waste of space. A system I was told will be implemented is a 25 hour storage space for past broadcasts that you want to save permanently yourself, without having to use highlights for it. If people decide to highlight everything they do to circumvent the removal of past broadcasts, we'll be back to square 1, where all past videos have to be deleted due to storage issues, so don't be a bum and abuse the system. Avoid the Tragedy of the Commons.
  24.  
  25. More widespread availability of VOD transcoding is planned for the (near?) future. It is currently very limited, due to resource requirements, but will enhance VoD watchability once extended to a larger set of videos.
  26.  
  27.  
  28. HTML5 versus Flash:
  29.  
  30. Hitbox uses HTML5 controls, but flash for the player itself. Twitch uses Flash for both. The issue with HTML5 is that it doesn't work with streaming yet (http://www.jwplayer.com/html5/#html5_adaptivestreaming -- note how HLS works on pretty much no proper browser). For mobile devices, both Twitch and Hitbox can and does make use of HTML5 however. Flash eats up a ton of resources, and Twitch doesn't want to use it, but until HTML5 players for streams becomes widely supported by every browser, switching over would be nonsensical. It's an unfortunate necessity.
  31.  
  32. Twitch streaming delay:
  33.  
  34. The delay has gradually been going down, as engineers manage to optimise current systems. It was downright awful at first, with delays sometimes lasting more than an entire minute, killing any kind of conversation. For me, it's now down to about 30 seconds, which is still kinda bad, but already a lot better than before.
  35.  
  36. RTMP is a really nice way of handling streams when there isn't much content to be sent out, and you don't want to send it to mobile devices or consoles. It sends a constant stream of data in real time, which means that if your connection drops temporarily, you're gonna have dropped frames and skipped footage. Mobile devices and consoles require HLS, which essentially sends a series of short videos that are stitched together. On Twitch, these are 6 seconds long each, and you automatically buffer 3 of such segments. If there's any minor connection drop, you won't see any skipped frames, because the system has a bit of time to catch up again. The content you're seeing is not being downloaded in real time, after all. Including a tiny encoding delay, the minimum stream delay is about 20 seconds. If you live a bit further away (- I live in Hong Kong, far away from any server, for instance-) you're gonna get a bit more of a delay due to the distance to the server. If there's any kind of starvation, the delay can be a bit longer, as you take longer to load those 3 chunks of video. If the total delay goes over 40 seconds, a 6 second chunk is skipped instead of letting it build up even further (so that you don't fall way too far behind). The bigger the difference is between your download speed (when connecting to the twitch server, not your local speedtest server!) and the stream's bitrate, the less likely you are to have to wait for buffering. Twitch has been experimenting with shorter video chunks (such as 4 seconds and 2 seconds, which is the absolute limit), which would allow for shorter delays. They're currently using this on select streams and for random viewers for testing and fine-tuning, but it's simply not ready to be deployed on a wide scale. So far, it works best for NA, but eventually it'll be global and sitewide. If you see the delay drop in the future, shortening of the video chunks is likely what's happening behind the scenes.
  37.  
  38. So sure, it's not as glamorous as the 2 second delay on Hitbox (which uses RTMP), but that's simply not feasible for a streaming service that features transcoding and is available on PC, consoles and mobile devices and has to service a gigantic number of users. Speaking of which....
  39.  
  40.  
  41. Hitbox.tv
  42.  
  43. This is a pretty cool website, reminiscent of the early days of Twitch, when there was little to no delay. I did a test stream there earlier, and the ability to converse with chat in real time was a great experience. However, the system on Hitbox does not scale for a large user base. Suppose streamers like Cosmo, Siglemic, SkeletonBill, ZFG, and so forth would migrate. The website is not really equipped to handle that kind of traffic, and it cannot particularly easily expand to do so. If Hitbox were to miraculously grow and become a big streaming site it would end up suffering from the same unfortunate issues that Twitch has (e.g., longer stream delays). For now, it's a fun platform to do understreams on (and I'll be playing games there sometimes, just for fun), but the idea that Hitbox completely outperforms Twitch is simply not true.
  44.  
  45.  
  46. Content ID:
  47.  
  48. Twitch has grown to a size and received enough media attention that it may become a target for copyright claims from music IP owners. This is an inevitable issue of the website getting larger, hence why an automated system is put in place. Many people (myself included) have very bad memories of AudibleMagic and its Google brother Content ID, but not automating the process on a website with millions of users is wishful thinking. The system is flawed, and mistakes will be made, but it is improvable.
  49.  
  50. The current system was introduced very hastily, and is unfinished and unpolished. Currently, videos with flagged audio have blocks of 30 minutes with no audio. The big chunk of audio being flagged by the system is incorrect (e.g., Zoast's Super Metroid races, Zallard's Mike Tyson, and so forth). The system is designed to prevent people from playing random CDs or Spotify in the background, which could cause issues with those owning the intellectual property. I've been told that if permission is obtained to use specific audio, this audio can be white-listed on a stream-to-stream basis, preventing flagging (e.g., TotalBiscuit being able to use OCRemix and such, or Dreamhack licensing music).
  51.  
  52. If any video has been unjustly flagged (and there seem to be a bunch of them), report it to Twitch and it will be reviewed. Game audio and in-game music is not intended to be flagged, so if you see it happen to your video, just appeal it and it'll be fixed. This is simply a database issue with AudibleMagic (which is overzealous atm). If your video got flagged without you playing any kind of pop music/whatever in the background, just appeal the flagging and the database will be augmented to prevent future issues. This might be a bit cumbersome at first, since a lot of content will be flagged for crappy reasons, but ultimately, it's for the best.
  53.  
  54. Future flagging of actually incorrectly used licensed music will be done in a far more precise manner. No longer will you see 30 minute blocks have no audio. Instead, the individual song will be blocked out. Hopefully, this system will not be as screwed up as Youtube's, where audio gets desynced and such, but I'm gonna give the Twitch engineers the benefit of the doubt here. A related system that is considered (probability, once again, = ??) is the use of multiple audio sources per stream. That is, you could have a separate audio source for commentary and game audio (and perhaps even a third layer on top of that). Any kind of audio filtering would then do minimal damage, as the video doesn't get completely muted. Note that this feature is not confirmed, but it would be pretty damned good.
  55.  
  56. In general, Twitch's stance is against archaic copyright laws, as they are in desperate need of updating. The US has a completely screwed up lobbying system, however, which means that it's difficult to circumvent the issue. The bigger Twitch becomes, the more feasibly counter-lobbying is. The company is already cooperating with publishers and developers to ensure legality of streaming game content on its website, but tackling (international) law is a lot harder; especially when it's as rusty as (international) copyright law.
  57.  
  58. The audio flagging system will never be extended to real time broadcasts. The technology for it is not available yet, and even if it were to become available, Twitch has no intention of making use of it. Live content with no rewinding option is a bit of a grey area legally when it comes to copyrighted audio, and a stance is being taken not to affect any live content on the basis of ambiguous laws. VODs, but not live content, featuring licensed music, such as for Guitar Hero or (possibly) Audiosurf have to be muted where applicable unless a specific license permitting the free availability thereof is obtained. These licenses are apparently absurdly expensive, but publishers/developers are investing in them more in recent days, which is beneficial for streamers of modern games. To find out what games this may apply to, you probably have to contact the developers/publishers.
  59.  
  60. Grand Theft Auto and its music:
  61.  
  62. Unfortunately, older GTAs will automatically be flagged for their music, as the license enabling one to freely make use and 'publish' this music is not being used. This means that songs like Billy Jean, or Gold (in Vice City) will result in audio being flagged. Note, however, that this can be circumvented through modification of the original audio files. A simple pitch shift probably isn't enough for such purposes, but if additional means are employed to make the music sufficiently derivative relative to the original, so that it is not tagged by AudibleMagic, then you should be fine (unless some IP holder is completely, utterly anally devastated by this and decides to file a complaint with Twitch, but this is  unlikely given the required procedures for modified works). Alternatively, one can replace the game's music with one's own royalty free tracks (as long as it has no effect on the speedrun (loading times)?? -- ![needs more discussion]!). I'm pretty sure the #GTA community will come up with a solution for this soon, which will hopefully also be useful for  other series (such as the Tony Hawk games, though it would be harder for those when not played on PC).
  63.  
  64.  
  65. One of the biggest issues I've had with the recent "features" is that they came very unexpectedly. I woke up, got out of bed, [dragged a comb across my head], and saw my videos being muted en masse and highlights being screwed up. This is not a nice surprise to see. If Twitch were to announce these kinds of policies/features, I would at least be able to expect it and provide feedback on it ex ante. What I want to say here is that I think everyone likes to be informed of what's coming. Here's to hoping that future changes to Twitch will be announced a lot earlier, so that we can avoid the cycle of
  66.  
  67. "Twitch changes stuff --> People yell at twitch --> Drama ensues --> Twitch changes things back --> Repeat"
  68.  
  69. If I remember more things that need to be added to this pastebin, I will do so. I hope it's clarified some of the current issues.
  70.  
  71. Have a lovely day!
  72.  
  73. -- Adam (with help from Justin Wong and Romscout)
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