Live Broadcasting – Best Encoder Settings

Live streaming is exploding in popularity and as it explodes businesses like yours can take advantage of increasing their brand awareness and engaging with audiences around the globe. However if your video does not look good then your company does not look good. This is why its is important to understand the best encoding settings and practices. In fact there was a study that shows 62 percent of viewers will have a more negative opinion of a company if the video is poor quality (https://tech.co/rise-live-streaming-impacts-digital-marketing-2017-10).

This makes it extremely important that you learn to utilize the best encoding settings and practices. IN this article we will focus more on improving the video quality through encoding.

Broadcasting Live is Critical to Businesses

Today businesses are broadcasting live for quite an array of different uses. A great example is how Over The Top broadcasting is replacing traditional cable TV with online Video content. This content is accessible anywhere to viewers with laptops, tablets and phones. Today broadcasters are no longer confined to geographical limitations set by cable and satellite companies that can not reach outside certain geographical limitations. Many broadcasters are now monetizing their content through charging subscriptions or inserting digital advertising.

Businesses use live streaming for marketing, training, product launches, concerts, live events as well as schools, universities and many education facilities world wide. The sector is experiencing a growth rate of more than 20 percent per year and in 2017 more people watched video content online than satellite and cable TV combined.

So now that we understand the many uses of live broadcasting lets proceed to understanding some tof the best encoding settings.

Video Quality is Determined by your Encoding Settings

First we have to understand the job of an encoder which is really in all reality to compress video. The video stream coming out the back of your camera may be 25 Mbps or higher. However your internet connection upload speed may be only 5 Mbps. So you have to compress the video or it wont fit through the internet. It will simple skip and buffer with horrible results. However the more you “compress” a streaming video the worse it will look. So the encoding dance is trying to maximize bandwidth while at the same time not destroying its quality.

Your bitrate controls the quality. The higher the bit rate the better the quality. Bitrate is usually measure id Kbps or Mbps. Although bitrate and resolution are not the same settings they are intertwined. That is because the higher the resolution the more bitrate it requires to display it correctly with out distortion. So if you choose a high resolution but a low bitrate then your video quality will suffer.

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Below is some bitrate and resolutions that should help your live broadcast.

3840 x 2160 — 4K, recommended bitrate = 25 Mbps (not recomended for live streaming)
1920 x 1080 — 1080p, recommended bitrate = 4-6 Mbps
1280 x 720 — 720p, recommended bitrate = 3 – 5 Mbps
854 x 480 — 480p, recommended bitrate = 1.5 – 3 Mbps
640 x 360 — AKA 360p, recommended bitrate = 500Kbps – 1 Mbps
426 x 240 pixels — Also known as 240p, recommended bitrate = 256 Kbps

Please also understand that even if your upload speed is high and that you can accommodate those broadcast (upload) speeds does not mean your viewers internet speed can view it. So take into consideration your audience. If your audience is mostly in developed countries then you should be fine. However if your broadcasting to say African countries then you should take into account their lower speeds.

Multi-Bitrate vs Single

Multi bitrate can adjust to a viewers connection speed. This is done by encoding two different versions of the stream, a lower quality and a higher quality. Your encoder then sends both the streams to your video streaming platform (CDN) simultaneously. The video player will adjust accordingly by detecting the internet speed of the viewer and giving them the best quality stream for their connection speed.

To use this your encoder software must be able to encode different versions of your stream. These different versions of the stream are sent to the video streaming platform at the same time.

When the viewer is viewing the stream the video player (if it is a adaptive bitrate video player) the player will select the stream that best suites the viewers internet speed.

Miscellaneous Video and Audio Settings for Encoding

Several other settings you need to know about will help give you a smooth broadcast.

Video Codec

Your Video codec should be H.264 and it can also be labeled as X264.

Audio should be the AAC codec. This may not seem as familiar as MP3 but it gives better quality at lower bitrates.

Your sample rate should be 44100Khz and the audio bitrate should match the video resolution:

360p or lower 64Kbp mono

480p and 720p 128 kbps stereo.

1080p and better 256 Kbps stereo

Your keyframes interval should be 2 seconds.

How Fast of a Internet Upload Speed do I need for Live Broadcast?

Internet speed also known as “Bandwidth” is both determined by the download speed and the upload speed. Obviously the more multi bitrate or adaptive streams you have the more bandwidth you need. As you should know most upload speed are slower than download. Also the “advertised” upload speed is usually much faster than the “average” upload speed that you will experience. So keep this in mind.

To figure out how fast your upload speed should be use this formula:

Total required bandwidth = (The total of your video bitrates) + (The total of all your audio bitrates)

For example lets say you have:

854 x 480 resolution running at 500 Kbps and the audio at 64Kbps

1280 x 720 at 3 Mbps and audio at 128Kbps

1980 x 1080 at 5 Mbps and audio at 128 Kbps

So for this you r total bitrate is 8.5 Mbps and your sum of audio is 320 Kbps. When we add these numbers together means we have a total bitrate of 8.83 Mbps. You will want your upload speed to be at-least double this.

In conclusion you should be able to take this information and stream efficiently and effectively and give your company name the reputation it deserves.

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