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Real Time Streaming Protocol

(also RTSP)

Real Time Streaming Protocol definition

Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is a network protocol used to control streaming media servers. It allows a client to play, pause, rewind, fast forward, or stop the stream, much like a remote control works with a VCR.

See also: client-server network, client, application client

How Real Time Streaming Protocol works

RTSP operates on a client-server model. The client (like a media player) sends control requests, and the server (where the media is stored) responds and streams the media. RTSP uses the Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) for the actual streaming, while RTSP itself manages the control sequence.

  • The client initiates a session by sending a SETUP request to the server. This request specifies the media stream to be controlled.
  • The server responds with session details, such as a session identifier.
  • The client can then send control commands such as:
    • PLAY to start the stream
    • PAUSE to pause it
    • TEARDOWN to end the session
    • RECORD (in some applications) to record the stream
    • Other commands for seeking, fast-forwarding, or rewinding within the media stream
  • Upon receiving a control command, the server responds accordingly. For a PLAY command, for example, the server starts streaming media to the client using RTP.
  • Throughout the session, the client and server maintain communication. The server sends media data as per client requests, and the client may send further control commands as needed.
  • When the media playback is complete or the user ends it, the client sends a TEARDOWN command to close the session.

Uses of Real Time Streaming Protocol

  • Streaming applications. RTSP is used for live video and audio streaming in applications like video conferencing and live broadcasts.
  • Media player control. Media players and clients used it for controlling playback with actions such as play, pause, and seek.
  • Surveillance systems. Security systems use RTSP for live streaming from cameras and other surveillance equipment.