For online video to become a serious business, watching content needs to be a reliable, high-quality experience. In recent years, picture quality, accessibility across platforms and devices, player functionality and content availability have dramatically improved. Today, it's (thankfully) a very rare occasion when you come across a video that asks you to stop and install RealPlayer. But frequently updating plug-ins, buffering, jerkiness, and low-quality pictures continue to be a few unhappy aspects of watching online video — especially as an increasing number of content providers roll out expanding high-definition offerings. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to clean up all these problems, especially because many of them result from complications and hang-ups on the video watcher's computer or Internet connection. That's why many companies are turning towards adaptive bitrate streaming, a technique of detecting a watcher's bandwidth and CPU capabilities in real time and then adjusting the quality of a video stream. That requires encoding a single video at multiple bitrates and switching to the most appropriate one on a moment-by-moment basis. The result: very little buffering, fast start time and a good experience for both high-end and low-end connections.
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