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Choosing The Best Settings For Your Broadcast (FPS, Bitrate, Resolution)

September 16, 2019

One important aspect of online live streaming is the perceived overall quality of your video feed. This refers to providing viewers with a stable stream of high quality video that looks crisp, and does not stutter or pause. In this article we’ll take a look at how you should set up your bitrate, resolution and FPS to provide the best possible quality with little or no buffering for your viewers. As a rule of thumb, you should always strive to provide a stable stream, instead of focusing on video quality which might cause frame rate drop.

Check Your Internet Connection

The first thing you will have to do is check your internet connection. Keep in mind that you will not use the max capacity of your connection, but only half of it – this will ensure that your stream is reliable and not subjected to buffering.

Visit SpeedTest.net and run the internet speed test. Also keep in mind that this test will focus on the closest server to your position. Your result should look something like this:

Only the upload speed interests us at this point. This is the total bandwidth available for uploading your live stream. You also might want to manually change your test-server to the location where you will upload your stream – eg: The location of your website.

Setting Your Framerate

The frame rate or FPS represents the rate or frequency at which images are displayed on a screen. The term can also apply to cameras, films or games. Most commonly you’d want to capture your content at 25 or 30 FPS, while high-end streaming setups such as UHD gaming or HDR sports will run at either 50 or 60 FPS. Video stuttering is noticeable by users at under 20 frames per second. Most consoles and older PCs will run at around 30 FPS but professional gaming rigs can steadily deliver 60 FPS with no issues. Keep in mind that this is the stream FPS, not the FPS of your PC.

Setting Your Resolution

Your resolution represents the number of pixels captured by the video device (i.e camera). These pixels, in turn, make up the video that is being displayed on your screen. The most common resolutions for streaming include 720p (1280×720 pixels), 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) and 4K (3840×2160 pixels). 

Setting Your Bitrate

Bitrate refers to the amount of data you send over to your website when you stream. Higher bitrates use up more of your internet bandwidth but at the same time, increasing bitrate can also improve your video quality. You shouldn’t overdo it though, as the increase in video quality is only beneficial up to a certain point. As a rule of thumb, your bitrate should be less than half of your total upload speed, in order to have a stable stream. Streaming at a 1080p resolution needs a higher bitrate than streaming at 720p. Most bitrates will range from 1000 kbps to 6000 kbps.

From our test we got the 15.94 Mbps (15940 kbps) upload speed, which means we can easily set our bitrate to 6000 kbps

For guidance, you can check the following table to see what options to set:

Upload SpeedResolutionBitrate
Under 1 Mbps360p300-800 kbps
1.5 Mbps to 5 Mbps480p500-1500 kbps
Over 5 Mbps720p1000-3000 kbps
10-20 Mbps1080p2000-8000 kbps
30-40 Mbps4K5000-15000 kbps

Testing your upload speed can be done at:  http://www.speedtest.net/

Please note that these are guideline figures for normal FPS settings (25 or 30 FPS). For higher frame rates such as 50 or 60 FPS you should multiply your figures by 1.5.

Each content is unique and the “perceived” quality of encoding at a particular bitrate depends a lot on what the picture is made of. Particularly, video with a lot of motion will require higher bitrates to look good. Subsequently, you will find that a “talking head” news feed looks much better than sports broadcasts, given the same bitrate, fps and resolution. You should experiment with your particular video and choose the lowest bitrate that offers good quality output.

Setting up OBS Studio

Start off by opening OBS Studio, and then going to “Settings”.

This will open your stream settings. Go to “Output” and here you will have the option to set your Video Bitrate. We set it to 2500 kbps.

Now go over to Video and you can set your desired resolution.

Once you added your settings, don’t forget to save your changes.

During a broadcast, OBS offers a handful of clues related to the quality of your feed:

1. Dropped frames, the actual uploaded bitrate (as opposed to your set bitrate) and the green/orange/red indicator; together these show how much the encoder is actually capable to upload against your connection:

  • Dropped frames should be zero or very small
  • Light should always be green
  • Actual bitrate should be very close to the set bitrate (Audio + Video)

In case of any issues, reduce bitrate or attempt the broadcast against a different connection.

2. The FPS, CPU, and encoding overloaded indicators; any of these may indicate that your computer is “overwhelmed” and is not capable to encode your content at the given settings:

Rules of thumb:

  • Your CPU reading should always be well below 80%.
  • Do not run any CPU-intensive apps on the computer while streaming; preferably, do not run anything else.
  • The display FPS should be the same that you defined in settings.
  • The “Encoding Overloaded!” message should never appear.

In case of any issues, consider broadcasting at a lower resolution or attempt to stream with the same settings on a different computer.

 Conclusion

One last thing you need to remember about picking the best settings for your stream is to always test beforehand. For example, if you want to start streaming in a few days, you can ask some friends to tune in into your channel running at different quality settings. Also, try not to get carried away with going for the best video quality. It’s the overall quality of your channel that matters – and that includes latency and buffering as well. As such, feel free to check our other article on low latency live video.

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