So, you’ve just become a Twitch streamer and you’re hearing the word ‘bitrate’ being thrown around. It’s not something that’s immediately obvious, but you know it’s important – and that means it’s important for your stream. If you’re not technical by nature, you may be worried that you’re going to miss out on a key piece of information. What is video bitrate? Don’t worry – with this guide, we’ll break it down, telling you all you need to know about the best video bitrate for streaming.
It’s not a massively complicated concept, and in this guide, we’ll explain in non-technical language, so even the most novice streamer can understand the idea. If you’re eager to know how does bitrate affect video quality, then read on – we’ve got the complete guide, just for you.
What Does Bitrate Mean?
What is video bitrate? It’s a fair question, and even the most veteran, accomplished streamers will have difficulty explaining exactly what bitrate is. There are many guides out there that’ll see video bitrate explained, but many of them are full of technical jargon and complicated graphics and flows. With this guide in your hand, you’ll learn how to calculate video bitrate, you’ll learn the best video bitrate for streaming, and you’ll walk away feeling warm and knowledgeable inside.
What does bitrate mean?
To put it simply, ‘bitrate’ is the ‘rate’ of the delivery of ‘bits’. It’s the speed at which data is transferred from point A to point B in a certain timeframe, and the higher it gets, the more data can be delivered within that window. If you’re learning how to be a Twitch streamer, for example, you’ll be primarily uploading video content, streaming it to the platform through your home internet connection.
With ‘bitrate’, if you were to have it set at 6000 kbps, that’s effectively six million bits per second being uploaded. This is effectively a high enough bitrate to stream 1080 60 FPS content to Twitch.
Therefore, you can look at it like this:
If you have a very poor internet connection and are attempting to stream, your maximum bitrate capabilities will be limited, resulting in a patchy, blurry stream. If you have ultra-fast internet, you can maximise your bitrate and ensure a consistent transmission, meaning your stream will be much clearer.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that – such as building the best streaming setup – but that’s the most fundamental way of explaining it. If you were wondering, ‘how does bitrate affect video quality’, then that’s how.
Can You Calculate Video Bitrate?
Yes, you can!
If you’re trying to figure out, ‘what bitrate should I stream at’, then you can make use of a tool that allows you to calculate video bitrate. According to Twitch, if you’re streaming at 1080p and pushing for 60 FPS, you’ll need to stream at a bitrate of at least 6000 kbps. However, if you’re opting for a 720p stream at 60 FPS, you can drop this down to 4500 kbps. At the minimum, Twitch recommends a stream of 720p at 30 FPS, which needs a bitrate of at least 3000 kbps.
Let’s say you want to get into the specifics a little more – we’ll assume you’re more technical-minded.
With a tool like castr.io in your hand, you can enter your own unique internet information, calculating the best video bitrate for streaming that’s tailored to you. Don’t worry, this isn’t personal data as such, but it’ll need five pieces of information:
- Home internet speed
- Percent of upload speed used by your stream (it guides you on how to find this out)
- Frames per second
- Video resolution
- Resolution of your ‘stream window’ on a live streaming app like OBS
So, if I had a home internet speed of 200 Mbps, I was allowing 60% of my connection to be used by streaming, and I was pushing out a stream at 1080p with 60 FPS, then ideally, I’d be aiming for a bitrate of somewhere between 9800 kbps and 18,000 kbps. At the highest level, I’d be looking to accommodate a bitrate measuring up to 120,000 kbps. That might seem high, but remember – the higher the bitrate, the better quality the stream, essentially.
What Bitrate Should You Stream At?
So, you’ve answered the question, ‘what is video bitrate’, but you’re not done yet. It’s now understood what it is, how it works, and what kind of science drives it forward. We’ve also covered how a higher bitrate can impact a Twitch stream, but that’s not all you need to know. As part of our series of guides to streaming, we’ll give you the top tips for video bitrate on Twitch.
Firstly, it’s important to bear in mind that Twitch will ‘throttle’ bitrate by default. This is because there are millions of people streaming at any one time, and that’s a drastically enormous amount of data for Twitch to process and host. So, if you’re only a small streamer getting started or even a Twitch Affiliate, you’ll be throttled when it comes to bitrate. It doesn’t matter what your settings are, Twitch will reportedly throttle your accepted bitrate at around 6000 kbps.
Don’t worry – this won’t have too much of a noticeable impact on your stream. However, if you’re looking at the most subbed Twitch streamers and wondering why their content is so clean, it’s because Twitch Partners typically receive fewer restrictions on their bitrate.
If you’re using Streamlabs or OBS as your live streaming software, you’ll have the option to set something called a variable bitrate. This is a dynamic feature that allows your bitrate to ebb and flow with your stream, which allows for your stream to adapt on the fly to your personal network conditions. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that, if you’re trying to learn how to stream on YouTube, all the same rules apply!
It’s a diverse and technical world out there, but we hope this guide has made things a little easier.