FAQs
I have a query, who do I contact? [View]

There are three ways you can raise any questions with us or report any incidents with our services. You can raise a ticket through our support page, If you haven't created an account you can open one for free here.


When you are logged in you can create a new ticket by clicking "+ New Support Ticket", this allows you to add a ticket topic to better direct your query for a faster response.


Alternatively, emailing support@sharp-stream.com with your issue will create a new ticket automatically and notify one of our helpdesk team.


If your issue is more pressing, feel free to call us on 0800 999 2468. our office hours are 9am to 5pm GMT Monday - Friday. Please ensure that your number is not withheld.


All of our plans come with office hours support as standard. We also offer a number of 24/7 support options. If this is something you are interested in setting up, speak to a member of our sales team who will be happy to answer any of your questions.


Current time in Br


Where can I monitor my streams and statistics? [View]

Portal is our site for monitoring live streams, live and historic statistics and can provide email and SMS alerts when your stream is unstable. It comes available as part of all our streaming plans. 


If you haven't been introduced, let us know! We can arrange your account setup and a full walkthrough of Portal's features with one of our Support Agents.







Glossary
AAC Encoding [View]

Advanced Audio Coding AAC is a audio coding standard introduced in the late 90s. Like MP3, it is a "lossy" standard, meaning that some audio data (that is perceived by the algorithm to be irrelevant) is removed in the compression process. AAC utilises more advanced compression algorithms than MP3. As such, the quality of AAC-compressed audio for low-bit-rate streams is significantly better than the MP3 counterpart. We recommend using AAC streams for mobile applications. For example, a 48K AAC stream makes a great addition to your streaming array for mobile-based web players as the lower bandwidth is much easier to stream over patchy connections and the audio quality fares well under these circumstances. The relative quality of the audio tapers off as you increase the bit rate therefore we still recommend using MP3 for streams 94Kbps and above as at this stage the audio quality difference is essentially negligible.


AAC comes in a number of different codecs the primary categories are AAC-LC (Low Complexity) and AAC-HE (High Efficiency, commonly referred to as AAC+). LC, as the name suggests, is the more rudimentary version of AAC compression. As such, the perceived audio quality at a low bit rate is noticeably poorer than its HE counterpart. Should you wish to stream a higher bit rate AAC however we would always recommend using the LC codec as the audio differences are less noticeable at high bit rates and not worth the bandwidth trade-off.


HE/AAC+ formats predominantly encapsulates two popular usage profiles: AAC-HE v1 and AAC-HE v2.


HEv1 utilised the baseline AAC LC compression algorithms alongside an enhancement process called SBR (Spectral Band Replication), commonly used to enhance speech-based audio. HEv2 takes this one step further by also adding some PS (Parametric Stereo) compression to the mix which virtually recreates the stereo field of an audio signal to recreate a stereo file at a fraction of the size. These technologies in conjunction make AAC-HE codecs a high quality option for low bitrate streams.


With that said, for those wishing to integrate programmatic monetisation into their stream using AdsWizz inaudible tone markers, AAC-HE may not be a good option. Part of the compression algorithms remove frequencies below 20hz, further more, the PS processing on the v2 usage profile will render the stereo inversion AdsWizz apply to the tones (to make them appear silent on mono sound sources) as silence and AIS will not be able to detect the tones to insert the file. As standard we suggest using AAC-LC for low bitrate monetised streams.


In terms of behaviour, we have found that the different usage profiles play differently in Chrome browser when streamed directly. Some will progressively download, others play in an html5 player in-browser. As such we recommend using a dedicated network player like VLC to monitor streams. All AAC stream types will be compatible with major web players and referrers (Tune-In, RadioPlayer, JPlayer, etc.).




Audio File Formats [View]

For audio to be understood by a computer it must be 'encoded' into an audio file. This process involves taking an analog audio signal and converting it into a string of code that can be understood (digital).

This process converts continuous signals into discrete values. 'Snapshots' of the audio signal are taken at set frequency, these are called samples and the frequency is called the 'sample rate'. The standard sample rate for high quality audio is either 48000 or 44100 samples per second. the 'accuracy' of these samples is determined by the bit depth (usually 16, 24 or 32) the higher the number, the higher the quality of the audio. this then has a knock-on effect of increasing the file size.

PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) is the name given to the uncompressed process, as a file format you will see PCM files under the wrapper of .WAV or .AIFF/aif (optimised for Apple computers)

PCM is the truest representation of audio you can find in the digital realm. However, as it is uncompressed the file sizes are often very large. For streaming purposes, Uncompressed audio would be unfeasible because of the bandwidth required to send and receive it.

For this reason, compressed audio files are preferable for streaming. Compression (not to be confused with the audio process of compression) reduces a the size of an audio file and can be either a lossy or lossless process. lossy processes mean some data is lost in the process and lossless compression can reduce file sizes without compromising the data sizes. For streaming however, lossy formats are most often used because they are the smallest files and generally sound good enough to use.

The most common forms of lossy compression are .MP3 and .AAC. The main goal of MP3 is three-fold: 1) to drop all the sound data that exists beyond the hearing range of normal people, and 2) to reduce the quality of sounds that aren’t easy to hear, then 3) to compress all other audio data as efficiently as possible.*

The compression algorithm used by AAC is much more advanced and technical than MP3, so when you compare the same recording in MP3 and AAC formats at the same bitrates, the AAC one will generally have better sound quality.* You will often see that high quality streams use aac audio and low quality audio streams use mp3... although there are ranges of bit depths available in both aac and mp3 formats which have an effect on audio quality.


Platform exclusively uses mp3 audio, ensure your audio files are in this format when uploading content.


*Source quoted: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/audio-file-format-right-needs/


Concurrent Listeners [View]

The amount of simultaneous connections to your live stream that you have at any one time. This can be viewed for your station in Portal in the blue "Listeners" box at the top of your station page.


Edge [View]

Edge servers provide your stream to your listeners and act as a way of load-balancing your stream. When a listener connects to your stream via our listen links we will redirect them to one of our Edge Servers. This takes the strain off the server that receives your stream to ensure your live content is delivered stably.


Encoder [View]

For audio to be sent digitally, it needs to be encoded first. This process happens within your encoder, a piece of software or hardware that takes in an audio feed, converts it into digital data (usually in the form of an mp3 or aac stream) and sends it to your mountpoint. This data is then decoded back into audio by whatever device connects to your stream (provided the device can read the data type).


An encoder requires a stable internet connection and audio feed to successfully send a stream. 


If you're setting up a stream on a budget, there are a number of free software encoders that are great for getting you started, including B.U.T.T. and Altacast


If looking for a premium software option, we recommend Omnia's Z/IPstream X/2 which is capable of streaming multiple audio sources to multiple mountpoints and gives you audio-processing options such as compression and EQ. SharpStream is an authorised reseller of Omnia software. If you are interested in purchasing a license, enquire with a member of our sales team on 0800 999 2468 (ext. 1).


Remember, using software encoders will require a means of inputting stereo audio into your computer. A soundcard (or audio interface) is the best way of ensuring this. Entry-level external soundcards are available for as little as £20.


Alternatively, you could stream from a standalone hardware encoder. These come at a more premium price-point but are particularly handy for events or mobile streaming rigs and professional radio studios. 



Ingest/Ingress [View]

An Ingest (sometimes referred to as an Ingress) is where we receive your audio stream. We have a number of servers that handle all the incoming connections from our clients. When you set up your encoder with the stream details we provide you, you're directing your stream to a port on our ingest server. 

This stream is distributed to your listeners via multiple edge servers, which are load-balanced (i.e. the servers work together to handle hundreds of listener connections) for extra stability, security and reliability.


You can monitor your Ingress feed in your Portal account (located in your stream page under Stream Information).


Items and Item Properties [View]

*This definition is in specific reference to our on-demand content manager, Platform*


Item is the term used in Platform for content that can contains a media file (audio), an image, title, description, tags and publishing information. This bundle of information is what gets consumed by your listeners when they access your on-demand content.


Below is an example of an item and its constituent parts as it appears in the Platform items list.



Property NameDefinition
Show IDA six-digit, unique identifier that is referenced in the URL for any given Item as the show_id query - clicking this number will direct you to the listener-facing Item URL. (http://platform.sharp-stream.com/client.php?client_id=176&show_id=549041)
Item TypeThis is indicates the nature of the item's creation. If you load a file from your disk to a Platform item, this would be marked as an "Upload" If it is an item is recorded from a scheduled recording instance in "Scheduler" this will be marked as a "Recording".
ImageImage asset associated with the Item.
TitleThe Item title equates to the <name> field for an item in an RSS Feed.


Media FileThe associated audio file to the item (either uploaded from your local disk or generated recording from your stream).
Chapter IDIdentifier relating to the timestamped chapter markers within the content.
Publish/Unpublish Date
Publishing dictates the timeframe when your item is publicly visible. Unless your item has been manually unpublished, if the current date is within the publish and unpublish date, your item will be publicly accessible.
Publish StatusThis is a glanceable indicator depicting the visibility of the item. An eye indicates that the item is published/publicly accessible. A crossed-out eye indicates that the item is unpublished (publicly inaccessible). A clock indicates that the item is unpublished but scheduled for publishing in future and a warning indicator denotes that the item has been manually published/unpublished, overriding the pre-established publish dates.
Upload DateThe date/time the Item was first created.
Last UpdatedThe date/time of the last update to any of the item properties.





Metadata [View]

Along with audio, your encoder/on-demand content is also able to deliver/contain metadata. This simply means "data about the data". You will come across this term in regard to both live streams and on-demand content.


Metadata in Live Streams


In regards to live streams. Metadata could be information (sent alongside your audio) about the music playing on your station, the show that is broadcasting, or could just show your station's web address or social media handles. Metadata can be displayed by a number of Internet Radio players and can be retrieved manually to display on your station's website. 


[2020-01-07 09:21:16] INFO admin/command_metadata Metadata song on /yourmount.mp3 set to "Fangclub - Viva Violent"


SharpStream live player displaying song Metadata.

  "Metadata song" field as it appears in Ingest Log (top) and SharpStream Live Player (below).


Metadata can also be used to trigger mid-roll ads for online advertising. This requires an account with AdsWizz. If you are interested in monetisation, speak to a member of our sales team.


You can programme metadata in your playout system or your encoder itself. To check metadata is being received by us, head to Portal and look at your ingest log or see the metadata that is currently being sent listed alongside 'Metadata on Ingress' on your Stream Page.


Metadata in On-Demand Content


Metadata can also be found in on-demand items in Platform. In this context, "metadata" refers to the title, description and tags that accompany the audio content.







Caster Help Guides
Caster Setup Guide [View]

Package Contents: 


1x Caster Unit

1x Wifi Card (Do Not Remove)

1x 5.0V/3.0A Power adaptor


You will need: 

2x audio input cables with Male XLR connectors

Network access via Wifi


Optional:

1x Ethernet Cable (for Wired Internet connections)

1x USB Flash Drive (MS-DOS (FAT32) - Preferably USB 3.0)

2x Audio output cables with Female XLR connectors


Getting Started


  1. Plug your audio input cables into the respective L-R sockets on the front face of the unit. (Consult Diagrams at the bottom of this document)


  1. If you are planning on using an ethernet connection to connect your Caster, run an ethernet cable from an active ethernet port on your network into the front face of the unit. (If you plan to connect your Caster via wi-fi, you can skip this step)


  1. Plug the Power supply into the front face of the unit. The red light on the rear face of the Caster will glow.


  1. Caster’s stream controls and settings are all managed via a web browser on either a desktop or mobile device. Head to your device’s WiFi settings and select the Picaster Network from the available networks (Picaster_ XXXXXX) 


Connect using the Password 1love4streaming


  1. In a browser window/app, visit picaster.ss while connected to the Caster network. You will arrive on the Login Page. Use the default login:  


Username: admin 

Password: p1c8st3r

  1. If you have not established an ethernet connection, you will be automatically directed to the network settings page where you can set up a wifi connection. Select your wireless network from the available list and input the network password.


If you are using an ethernet connection then you will automatically be connected to your network via DHCP


Profiles


To start streaming with Caster you will need to set up at least one Profile.


Profiles allow you to set the target mounts to direct your contribution stream. Multiple different profiles can be stored on the Caster to recall for future use. 


You can preload any available profile before streaming to configure the active target mount. (Caster can only stream to one target mount at any one time).


     1) Go to Profiles and select “Create a new profile”.

    

    2) Input the mount details for the target stream you wish to contribute to. 

Tip: If you are a SharpStream Portal user, you can find this information for any of your streams on the stream information page.


    3) Select the desired encoding format and bitrate of the stream you wish to send. 


    4) Select the reconnect setting of the profile. This configures the behaviour of Caster when the power is disconnected and reconnected.


If the reconnect setting is set to “recall last value”, Caster will startup with whichever stream status was set upon disconnection of the power supply. “Always On” will mean that the stream automatically connects upon reconnection of the power supply and “Always Off” will mean that the stream will always require manually reactivating upon power reconnection.


    5) Select your USB Recording preference to on or off (see Local Recording via USB for more information).


    6) Save your Profile. Once saved click “Activate” on the profiles page to apply the profile settings. You can have multiple profiles listed on this page but only one can be activated at any one time.


Streaming


Once you have activated your profile, you are ready to stream. Head to the Dashboard and click “Start” to connect.


The latency chart will give a live update of the delay-to-stream and the dB meter will indicate the volume of your audio output. These tools can help you diagnose any network or audio issues if they arise.


Local Recording via USB


Caster allows you to record your stream output directly to a USB flash drive, giving you a great quality recording of your session right away, wherever you are without the need for a secondary recording device. To do this, make sure you have a good quality USB drive. We recommend using a USB 3.0 drive to ensure the bounce down of your recording to the drive is speedy.


  1. Before streaming, plug your drive into the unused USB port on the front face of the unit. Ensure your Drive is formatted as MS-DOS (FAT32) Do not attempt to remove the card in the top port.

  2. Load a profile on Caster which has USB Recording enabled.

  3. Ensure the interface has indicated that the flash drive has been recognised before commencing your stream.

  4. Once the drive is recognised you are ready to begin streaming.

  5. Start your stream as usual. Caster will begin recording the stream output.

  6. When your streaming session has finished, stop the encoding instance and wait until prompted before removing the flash drive.

  7. Your recorded session file(s) will be saved to your drive under a folder named “recordings”


Login


To keep your encoder settings safe, PiCaster requires a login to access the configuration interface. On the first login, use the default login provided. We recommend changing your login to something memorable and making a note of it securely for future logins. To do this, go to logins and input your desired username and password. 


Unit Diagram: