What Is a Video API? (Update)


For anyone looking to build video functionality into their products or services, a video API is a great place to start. As an essential tool in any developer’s toolkit, APIs deliver the flexibility required to develop advanced applications. Video APIs also hide the complexity of content processing and distribution — making it easy to get started streaming without extensive video expertise.

Watch the video above or keep reading to learn more.


What Is an API?

An API, or an application programming interface, is a set of methods for performing tasks within a service or system using code. APIs accomplish these tasks by interacting with other software.

By doing so programmatically rather than through a graphical user interface (UI), APIs give unparalleled control and flexibility when building applications. This makes it easy to customize the products you’re building and integrate external services.  


What Is a Video API?

A video streaming API is one that’s specifically designed to access a video streaming platform like Wowza. Video APIs support a wide range of functionality for creating, customizing, and controlling workflows from encode through playback. This allows developers to get video into the system, process it, configure security options, deliver content to end users, manage recorded assets, and view analytics across the workflow.

While many video platforms also provide management capabilities via a UI, this doesn’t provide the same level of control and customization as an API. That’s because user interfaces often constrain developers to predefined tools and vendors, thus limiting access to more advanced configurations.

For instance, your video content management system (CMS) might come with simple analytics, but what if you’d prefer to gain more advanced insight? With an API, you’re able to pick and choose external services and functionality to integrate into your application — meaning that you aren’t tied to the specific analytics tool offered. API access to the raw data would also allow you to customize how the analytics is presented.


How Does a Video API Work?

Part of the beauty of an API lies in the fact that you don’t need to understand how it works.

A lot goes on in the background when streaming live and video on demand (VOD) assets. The data must be encodedpackaged, and often transcoded for delivery to a variety of endpoints. With a video API, you’re able to accomplish all of these tasks and more without getting into the weeds.

That’s because a well-designed video API hides the intricacies of streaming media, while allowing you to quickly build applications with as much oversight as you’d like.

Think of an API like a menu in a restaurant. The menu provides a list of items you can order and a brief description of each item. When you specify what menu items you want, the kitchen prepares your order and provides you with your dish. You don’t know exactly how the kitchen prepares that food, but you don’t need to know that to enjoy it. 

By obscuring the complexity behind the scenes, video APIs take care of the technical heavy lifting. That way, developers are able to focus on the product they’re building — without doing everything from scratch.


Types of Video APIs


By Workflow or Task

Video APIs are often organized into categories such as live streaming, content management, and analytics, with distinct functions for each area. This allows developers to navigate documentation and examples more easily, while still allowing the use of all categories in their application as needed.

 At Wowza, we provide API examples for the following workflows and tasks, with more to come:


By Architectural Style or Language

APIs can also be differentiated by architecture style or language. One common style is REST. A REST or RESTful API conforms to the constraints of the Representational State Transfer architectural style. This describes an architectural structure that is resource-based, allowing interoperability between computer systems on the internet.

In its simplest form, REST dictates that the server only act on requests currently being made — without maintaining a ‘session’ or knowledge of previous requests. Although a REST service can be delivered over any protocol, the majority are delivered over HTTP. This makes implementation much simpler, as most developers have a general knowledge of the tools available to manage HTTP connections. REST APIs thus use standard HTTP request methods to create (PUT, POST), read (GET), update (PATCH), and delete (DELETE) resources. 


What to Look For in a Video API 

When choosing a video API, you should look for a solution that meets the needs of your workflow first and foremost. You’ll also want to make sure the API has complete documentation that updates with any API changes, and a good set of examples to walk you through simple workflows, ideally written in several languages.

Specifically, you’ll want to find a video API that offers:

  • Comprehensive functionality across the entire video streaming workflow, including live streaming, VOD, playback, and more. For this, your best bet is going with an integrated video platform.
  • Informational resources, including documentation, forums, and video tutorials for getting started quickly.
  • Developer tools, such as sample code, GitHub repositories, custom modules, and testing tools for streamlining the process.

What the Wowza Video API Makes Possible

With Wowza Video, we’ve integrated all the functionality you need to build the video applications your business needs into a single, robust platform. The cloud-based solution delivers powerful features at every stage — with API coverage across the workflow.  

Curious about what the Wowza Video API is capable of and want to try it for yourself? Our video API is publicly available on GitHub and Postman so you can experiment and come up with ideas of what you want your video platform to look like in the process.  

Check out these tutorials to get started using our video API features: 

Wowza Video API Session 1: Live Streaming Basics 

Learn how to start and end a live stream, how to find important information about your stream (such as stream health, metadata, analytics, and more), and understand Wowza Video’s token-based system.  

Wowza Video API Session 2: Recording, VOD Streams, and Custom Stream Targets 

Want to record your live streams so you can repurpose them later as VOD content? Find out how in this tutorial, as well as how to set custom stream targets and understand the difference between a recorder ID and a transcoder ID.  

Wowza Video API Session 3: Advanced Workflows 

Once you’ve watched sessions one and two, session three will teach you about making more complicated changes to your stream with the Wowza Video platform API, scheduling, looping, and how to minimize both latency and risk of buffering.  

Wowza Video API Session 4: WebRTC Real-Time Streaming at Scale 

WebRTC isn’t just a protocol; it’s also a collection of JavaScript video APIs and other standards that make it the lowest-latency streaming framework out there. Unfortunately, one of WebRTC’s disadvantages is that it doesn’t scale very well — unless you use a streaming service with a custom CDN like Wowza Video to reach a million viewers instead of only a few dozen. Watch this tutorial to see how you can use WebRTC for both first and last-mile delivery alongside Wowza’s Real-Time Streaming at Scale feature.  

Wowza Video API Session 5: Asset Management 

If you produce a lot of streams and turn them into VOD content, this tutorial will teach you how to manage all your video assets, organize and search through your library, add tags, and retrieve essential file details without hassle.  

Wowza Video API Session 6: Analytics  

Now that your streams are up and going, dive into everything you can learn from their technical and social performances to make them better. How many people are watching, and where are they located? What are your stream health metrics? When is it necessary to adjust the bitrate? You can answer all of these questions with Wowza’s powerful API for video.


Ready to get started using the most robust video API around? You can sign up for a free trial and check out the full instructions for using the Wowza Video API in our reference documentation.  


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About Barry Owen

Barry Owen is Wowza’s resident video streaming expert and vice president of solutions engineering. In this role, he leads a team dedicated to helping customers succeed. From architecting custom applications to solving complex problems, Barry leverages more than 25 years of experience developing software-as-a-service, cloud-based, and live streaming platforms to create innovative solutions that empower organizations across every use case.