How Does Bitrate Affect Streaming Quality?

2022.06.08

You may already know that bitrate is one of the primary factors that determine the video quality of the content that you stream, but you may not understand what bitrate actually is, how it works, or the connection between bitrate and streaming quality. Worry not! This article will explain everything you need to know about bitrate and how it affects streaming. 

What is bitrate?

Bitrate is the amount of data that gets transferred from one location to another in a given amount of time. It’s measured in megabits per second (mbps). For example, if you’re streaming your favorite movie at 1mbps, that means it will take one minute to download one megabyte of information. 

The average length of an HD movie these days is two hours, so if you plan on watching this offline file straight through without pausing or stopping at all, then it would need to download twice as fast as its average bitrate (two hours divided by one megabit equals 200MB).

Higher bitrates equal clearer videos

The higher the bitrate, the clearer the video will be. This is because more data is transferred in a given amount of time, which means you see more detail on your screen. A Higher bitrate usually means that your video will have better clarity and more vibrant colors as well. 

The problem with higher bitrates is that they take longer to process than lower ones do, and if you don’t have enough bandwidth or processing power, then this can even affect your video playback quality as well.

There is a limit to how high you can raise your bitrate 

It is important to understand that there is a limit to how high you can raise your bitrate before internet issues get in the way. The amount of bandwidth you need depends on the quality of your internet connection and the speed with which the streaming service streams content to users. 

If your connection speeds are slow, then raising the bitrate may help alleviate problems caused by buffering and stuttering playback. However, if you have a fast connection already but still experience streaming issues during peak hours or when multiple devices are connected at once (such as gaming consoles), then lowering the bitrate may be necessary for smooth playback.

The lower the bitrate, the more your video will be compressed

The lower your video bitrate, the more aggressively your video will be compressed. As you might guess from this logic, a lower quality stream will have more compression applied than one with a higher bitrate.

As an example: let’s say you’re watching an HD movie on Netflix at home and decide to hit pause for a minute; when you hit Play again and resume watching, Netflix starts playing from where it left off because it has cached some of the content in RAM (random access memory). 

This is another way of saying that Netflix has pre-buffered some of the next portions of video so that when someone pauses their stream or skips forward or backward through it while they’re watching live TV, which is always buffering up ahead, they don’t need to wait for playback catchup when resuming viewing later on. 

In fact, they can even jump back into playing (and perhaps even rewinding) at any point during their current session without causing any loss in quality whatsoever because Netflix already “knows” what happens next based on having pre-cached some previous sections during other sessions.

Video bitrate also depends on several other factors

Video bitrate depends on several other factors besides internet speed. It’s important to note that the video resolution, frame rate, and encoding method you choose will affect your bitrate as well.

The bitrate you choose is affected by the resolution of your video file. If you have a lower resolution video file (720p instead of 1080p), then you can stream at a higher bitrate or use less bandwidth without sacrificing image quality in most cases.

The same goes for frame rate: if your source content has 30 fps shots instead of 60 fps, then it makes sense to choose a lower bitrate so that those frames are distributed more evenly throughout the stream session (allowing users with slower connections to enjoy smoother playback).

Hardware encoding is another factor that affects overall quality since it reduces CPU usage and helps render videos faster than software encoding does. However, hardware encoders are expensive, and their total cost may exceed what most companies consider reasonable for their budgets, which means software encoders are more commonly used today by streaming platforms across all industries.

Most viewers need a lower bitrate than they might think

Most viewers don’t need the highest bitrate available, and the reason is simple: bitrate isn’t the only factor that affects streaming quality. If you’ve ever tried to stream directly from your smartphone or laptop, you know how frustrating it can be when there’s not enough bandwidth, and this happens even if your connection is theoretically fast enough for a high-quality stream.

Higher bitrates aren’t always necessary. For example, if all you care about is having a good picture (like when watching TV), then choosing a lower bitrate will actually improve your overall experience by allowing for faster load times and minimal buffering. In fact, many viewers prefer lower-resolution videos because of these benefits.

Finally, there’s no such thing as “the best” or “perfect” bitrate setting; some have more bandwidth than others but are willing to pay more per GB downloaded; some have less bandwidth but prefer higher quality over other factors; you get the idea!

Summary

Bitrate is a measurement of how much data is transferred per second. The higher the bitrate, the better quality your stream will be. You can think of it as how many pixels you can fit on each screen at one time. It’s also easy to change in most encoders; you just have to decide what kind of experience you want to have!

KKStream provides best-in-class video encoding service that delivers high image quality with low bandwidth. You can always reach out to know more about how video encoding works and affect your video business.

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