In the age of social media and cord-cutting, live streaming has evolved into a crucial tool for entertainment, education, and communication. Viewers demand real-time connection and involvement in everything from riveting esports events to live product debuts and helpful conferences.

Whether you're a streamer new to live broadcasting or a curious viewer looking to learn more about the technical components. In this article, VideoSDK gives a simple yet in-depth explanation of RTMP, as well as a quick overview of how to get started with this important live-streaming technology.

What is RTMP Streaming?

RTMP stands for Real-Time Messaging Protocol. It is a specialized communication protocol that allows for the low-latency transmission of live video and audio data across the Internet. Unlike traditional web protocols like HTTP, which focus on providing entire files, RTMP promotes real-time data packet transmission, allowing for seamless playing without buffering.

History of RTMP

RTMP was developed by Macromedia (later bought by Adobe) and was designed to interact with Adobe Flash Player, the dominant multimedia platform in the early days of the Internet. Flash Player's ability to handle audio, video, and interaction made it an ideal choice for live streaming, and RTMP became the de facto standard for sending live video content.

While Flash Player's popularity has dropped, RTMP remains a viable and extensively used protocol for live streaming due to its primary qualities of low latency and stability. Nowadays, it serves as a link between encoder software (which collects and processes video) and streaming platforms or media servers. Encoders employ RTMP to transfer encoded video data to the platform for distribution and playing on viewers' devices.

Understanding RTMP In and RTMP Out

The words RTMP In and RTMP Out relate to the video stream's direction relative to a particular device or platform.

RTMP In (or Ingest)

This is the video stream's receiving end. When a platform, such as YouTube or Facebook Live, accepts an RTMP stream, it operates as an RTMP In destination. These systems often include an RTMP server address and a stream key, which you may enter into your encoder software to create the connection. These platforms' servers are particularly built to receive and handle incoming RTMP streams, eventually making the video available to users.

RTMP Out (or Output)

This refers to the video stream's transmitting end. RTMP Out refers to an encoder program that collects video from a camera or other source and sends it to a streaming platform over RTMP. Popular encoder tools such as OBS Studio and XSplit enable RTMP output, allowing users to seamlessly broadcast live material to several devices.


Imagine a live sports event being aired. The video feed is captured by the stadium's outdoor broadcast van and sent via satellite. This vehicle serves as the RTMP Outsource, transmitting the video feed. The satellite uplink facility receives the signal and sends it via satellite to broadcasters. This facility serves as the RTMP IN destination.

How does RTMP streaming work?

Here's an overview of the standard RTMP streaming workflow:


A live video source (camera or gameplay capture) is loaded into an encoder program. The encoder converts the video and audio data into a streaming-compatible format (for example, H.264 for video and AAC for music).


The encoded data stream is transferred from the encoder to a streaming platform or server that accepts RTMP ingestion. This technique is known as RTMP Out. Popular streaming networks, such as YouTube Live and Facebook Live, have RTMP ingest options, allowing you to push your live feed directly.

Server Processing

The streaming platform receives the RTMP stream and does numerous operations. It may also convert the video into multiple bitrates to appeal to users with differing internet connections. It may also include other elements like subtitles or overlays before distribution.

Delivery and playback

The processed stream is sent to viewers using more popular protocols such as HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) or Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), allowing for playing on a variety of devices and browsers that do not require RTMP capability.

Benefits of Using RTMP Streaming

There are several advantages to using RTMP for live streaming:

Low Latency

One of the biggest strengths of RTMP is its focus on low latency. Latency refers to the delay between a live event happening and viewers seeing it on their screens. Unlike protocols like HTTP that prioritize data integrity over speed, RTMP prioritizes real-time delivery, minimizing the delay between what's happening live and what viewers see on their screens.


RTMP prioritizes reliable data transmission. It uses techniques like error correction and congestion control to employ a persistent connection between the encoder and the server. This reduces the risk of dropped frames or buffering issues, leading to a smoother and uninterrupted viewing experience.


As an open standard, RTMP is widely supported by various encoder applications, streaming platforms, and media servers. This flexibility allows streamers to choose the tools and platforms that best suit their needs without worrying about compatibility issues.


While not inherently the most secure protocol, RTMP can be configured with authentication and encryption to protect live streams from unauthorized access. This is important for sensitive content or private events.

The Future of RTMP

While other protocols such as HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) are gaining popularity, RTMP is expected to stay important in the live streaming space. Its simplicity, dependability, and low-latency capabilities continue to make it an valuable alternative for a variety of streaming applications. As live streaming technology advances, we should expect RTMP to adapt and interact with newer protocols to ensure the seamless and efficient delivery of live video content.

Getting Started with RTMP

To begin using RTMP streaming, you will require the following equipment and software:

  • Encoder
  • Streaming Platform.

The encoder, whether software or hardware, collects video and audio and transforms them into a streaming format. The streaming platform accepts and distributes your stream to viewers; notable examples include YouTube Live, Twitch, and Facebook Live. To configure your encoder, input the RTMP server URL and streaming key provided by your platform into the encoder's settings. Once set up, you can start the stream, and the encoder will send it to the RTMP server for distribution to viewers.

For more thorough instructions, see the resources below.



RTMP is a foundational technology that continues to support a large percentage of live streaming today. Its low latency, dependability, and interoperability make it an invaluable resource for broadcasters, gamers, educators, and anybody else wishing to share live video experiences.

Whether you're an experienced streamer or just getting started, knowing RTMP In and RTMP Out will provide you with a good basis for exploring the world of live streaming. As technology advances, RTMP will most certainly continue to play a role alongside newer protocols, delivering seamless and compelling live video experiences for viewers globally.