Streaming a video file to an html5 video player with Node.js so that the video controls continue to work?

Tl;Dr - The Question:

What is the right way to handle streaming a video file to an html5 video player with Node.js so that the video controls continue to work?

I think it has to do with the way that the headers are handled. Anyway, here's the background information. The code is a little lengthy, however, it's pretty straightforward.

Streaming small video files to HTML5 video with Node is easy

I learned how to stream small video files to an HTML5 video player very easily. With this setup, the controls work without any work on my part, and the video streams flawlessly. A working copy of the fully working code with sample video is here, for download on Google Docs.

Client:

<html>
  <title>Welcome</title>
    <body>
      <video controls>
        <source src="movie.mp4" type="video/mp4"/>
        <source src="movie.webm" type="video/webm"/>
        <source src="movie.ogg" type="video/ogg"/>
        <!-- fallback -->
        Your browser does not support the <code>video</code> element.
    </video>
  </body>
</html>

Server:

// Declare Vars & Read Files

var fs = require('fs'),
    http = require('http'),
    url = require('url'),
    path = require('path');
var movie_webm, movie_mp4, movie_ogg;
// ... [snip] ... (Read index page)
fs.readFile(path.resolve(__dirname,"movie.mp4"), function (err, data) {
    if (err) {
        throw err;
    }
    movie_mp4 = data;
});
// ... [snip] ... (Read two other formats for the video)

// Serve & Stream Video

http.createServer(function (req, res) {
    // ... [snip] ... (Serve client files)
    var total;
    if (reqResource == "/movie.mp4") {
        total = movie_mp4.length;
    }
    // ... [snip] ... handle two other formats for the video
    var range = req.headers.range;
    var positions = range.replace(/bytes=/, "").split("-");
    var start = parseInt(positions[0], 10);
    var end = positions[1] ? parseInt(positions[1], 10) : total - 1;
    var chunksize = (end - start) + 1;
    if (reqResource == "/movie.mp4") {
        res.writeHead(206, {
            "Content-Range": "bytes " + start + "-" + end + "/" + total,
                "Accept-Ranges": "bytes",
                "Content-Length": chunksize,
                "Content-Type": "video/mp4"
        });
        res.end(movie_mp4.slice(start, end + 1), "binary");
    }
    // ... [snip] ... handle two other formats for the video
}).listen(8888);

But this method is limited to files < 1GB in size.

Streaming (any size) video files with fs.createReadStream

By utilizing fs.createReadStream(), the server can read the file in a stream rather than reading it all into memory at once. This sounds like the right way to do things, and the syntax is extremely simple:

Server Snippet:

movieStream = fs.createReadStream(pathToFile);
movieStream.on('open', function () {
    res.writeHead(206, {
        "Content-Range": "bytes " + start + "-" + end + "/" + total,
            "Accept-Ranges": "bytes",
            "Content-Length": chunksize,
            "Content-Type": "video/mp4"
    });
    // This just pipes the read stream to the response object (which goes 
    //to the client)
    movieStream.pipe(res);
});

movieStream.on('error', function (err) {
    res.end(err);
});

This streams the video just fine! But the video controls no longer work.

Answers:

Answer

The Accept Ranges header (the bit in writeHead()) is required for the HTML5 video controls to work.

I think instead of just blindly send the full file, you should first check the Accept Ranges header in the REQUEST, then read in and send just that bit. fs.createReadStream support start, and end option for that.

So I tried an example and it works. The code is not pretty but it is easy to understand. First we process the range header to get the start/end position. Then we use fs.stat to get the size of the file without reading the whole file into memory. Finally, use fs.createReadStream to send the requested part to the client.

var fs = require("fs"),
    http = require("http"),
    url = require("url"),
    path = require("path");

http.createServer(function (req, res) {
  if (req.url != "/movie.mp4") {
    res.writeHead(200, { "Content-Type": "text/html" });
    res.end('<video src="http://localhost:8888/movie.mp4" controls></video>');
  } else {
    var file = path.resolve(__dirname,"movie.mp4");
    fs.stat(file, function(err, stats) {
      if (err) {
        if (err.code === 'ENOENT') {
          // 404 Error if file not found
          return res.sendStatus(404);
        }
      res.end(err);
      }
      var range = req.headers.range;
      if (!range) {
       // 416 Wrong range
       return res.sendStatus(416);
      }
      var positions = range.replace(/bytes=/, "").split("-");
      var start = parseInt(positions[0], 10);
      var total = stats.size;
      var end = positions[1] ? parseInt(positions[1], 10) : total - 1;
      var chunksize = (end - start) + 1;

      res.writeHead(206, {
        "Content-Range": "bytes " + start + "-" + end + "/" + total,
        "Accept-Ranges": "bytes",
        "Content-Length": chunksize,
        "Content-Type": "video/mp4"
      });

      var stream = fs.createReadStream(file, { start: start, end: end })
        .on("open", function() {
          stream.pipe(res);
        }).on("error", function(err) {
          res.end(err);
        });
    });
  }
}).listen(8888);
Answer

The accepted answer to this question is awesome and should remain the accepted answer. However I ran into an issue with the code where the read stream was not always being ended/closed. Part of the solution was to send autoClose: true along with start:start, end:end in the second createReadStream arg.

The other part of the solution was to limit the max chunksize being sent in the response. The other answer set end like so:

var end = positions[1] ? parseInt(positions[1], 10) : total - 1;

...which has the effect of sending the rest of the file from the requested start position through its last byte, no matter how many bytes that may be. However the client browser has the option to only read a portion of that stream, and will, if it doesn't need all of the bytes yet. This will cause the stream read to get blocked until the browser decides it's time to get more data (for example a user action like seek/scrub, or just by playing the stream).

I needed this stream to be closed because I was displaying the <video> element on a page that allowed the user to delete the video file. However the file was not being removed from the filesystem until the client (or server) closed the connection, because that is the only way the stream was getting ended/closed.

My solution was just to set a maxChunk configuration variable, set it to 1MB, and never pipe a read a stream of more than 1MB at a time to the response.

// same code as accepted answer
var end = positions[1] ? parseInt(positions[1], 10) : total - 1;
var chunksize = (end - start) + 1;

// poor hack to send smaller chunks to the browser
var maxChunk = 1024 * 1024; // 1MB at a time
if (chunksize > maxChunk) {
  end = start + maxChunk - 1;
  chunksize = (end - start) + 1;
}

This has the effect of making sure that the read stream is ended/closed after each request, and not kept alive by the browser.

I also wrote a separate StackOverflow question and answer covering this issue.

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