There are several aspects that set professional broadcasting apart from amateur productions. The presentation of your content is more important than the content itself. Two major aspects are audio quality and streaming video resolution.
Today, we’re going to focus on the latter.
Video resolution is an essential feature of any video-watching experience. Live-streamed video content is no exception. High-definition live streaming is a common goal for anyone who wants to broadcast live.
However, the nature of streaming live makes achieving this goal a bit more complex than with pre-recorded video files. This article offers some basic tips and advice for achieving quality HD live streaming. Before we get started, we’re going to discuss what constitutes as high-definition content in the first place.
Table of Contents
- What is High-Definition (HD) Video?
- How Does High-Definition Equate to “Professional”?
- How to Live Stream in HD
- Connection Speed Requirements for HD Live Streaming
- Consider the Viewers’ Bandwidth
- Live Broadcasting in HD: The Takeaways
What is High-Definition (HD) Video?
Most simply put, high-definition video is of a higher quality and resolution than Standard-definition video.
More technically speaking, the industry generally considers a video image HD if it has considerably more than 480 television lines (North America) or 576 television lines (Europe). In reality, the majority of systems actually far surpass 480 television lines.
Both prerecorded and broadcast live video stream in HD tend to be defined by three factors:
- The number of lines in the vertical display resolution (generally 720 lines for HDTV)
- The type scanning system (progressive or interlaced)
- The number of frames or fields per second (usually 60 Hz in North America and 50 Hz in Europe).
HDTV is now the current standard video format for almost all broadcasts. There are several distinct formats through which to transmit HDTV, including:
- 720p (HD Ready): 1280×720p: 923,600 pixels (~0.92 MP) per frame
- 1080i (Full HD, “interlaced”): 1920×1080i: 1,036,800 pixels (~1.04 MP) per field, or 2,073,600 pixels (~2.07 MP) per frame
- 1080p (Full HD, “progressive”): 1920×1080p: 2,073,600 pixels (~2.07 megapixels) per frame
At its core, this all means that HD videos cover each image with 720 lines of a pixel on the screen from top to bottom. More pixel lines mean more detailed images on the screen.
The number of pixel lines can increase up to 1080 in some cases. This will deliver rich, detailed video, assuming viewers have enough bandwidth to support it.
How Does High-Definition Equate to “Professional”?
Imagine tuning into the Super Bowl and the video looks like it was filmed on an older cell phone. The video is grainy or lagging. Your friend texts you about a crazy play, but you haven’t seen it yet.
You tune into live events like this expecting a professional-grade presentation. Poor video quality and high latency can be absolutely frustrating for viewers.
While it is possible for broadcasters to get their message across with poor quality, the viewers’ experience just isn’t the same.
In fact, 67% of viewers report that video quality is the absolute most important aspect when watching a live video stream.
With two-thirds of viewers stating this preference, it would be foolish not to invest the time, energy, and resources into improving live video streaming quality. Luckily, simple changes make a huge difference when it comes to the quality of your stream.
How to Live Stream in HD
Improved technology and faster internet speeds mean that broadcasting HD live streaming is easier to achieve than ever before. However, there are several factors that affect the delivery of HD live streaming to your viewers.
The two main factors that contribute to the picture clarity of your live stream are your upload speeds and your viewers’ internet speed.
Let’s talk about how each of these individually contributes to a High-definition stream and what you can do to keep these parts moving.
Connection Speed Requirements for HD Live Streaming
Video delivery depends on a few factors, spanning the broadcasting to the viewing side of the equation. Two main factors that yield a “laggy” or “choppy” video include the viewer’s bandwidth and the broadcaster’s internet speed.
To get the best quality stream, video broadcasters must pay attention to their own upload speeds. In general, you want the upload speed of your connection to be at least double that of the anticipated stream. In theory, you can raise this speed up to 80% of the internet’s connection speed.
However, at those levels, you’ll need to test the stream first to make sure it’s successful.
Factors like shared connections and streaming from a wireless network also have a negative impact on your overall upload speed. If you are streaming at more than half of your internet connection speed, do not try to watch your own feed at the same time. If you do, it will quickly exceed your internet capabilities.
Not sure of your upload speed? You can do a quick test at testmy.net.
Consider the Viewers’ Bandwidth
In order for your viewers to watch your stream in HD, they need a strong download bandwidth. According to an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) study, 80% of broadband internet users didn’t know their own speeds.
The FCC provides a broadband speed guide for average US households.
This guide suggests that standard streaming videos require rates of 0.7 Mbps. It is important to note that this rate is valid only if streaming that video is the only activity happening.
Generally, we recommend an internet connection of over 2Mb/s for standard video watching. Your viewers will often require even higher speeds for watching HD video.
What’s the take-away here? While HD live streaming is optimal, you need to account for potential viewers without the connection speed to support HD.
If viewers have low bandwidth, the image may buffer constantly. Alternatively, the stream will become degraded in terms of quality.
Multi-Bitrate Streaming: How it Enhances Video Quality
Of course, you’re not going to have a record of each individual viewer’s internet speed. That’s where multi-bitrate streaming comes into play.
Multi-bitrate streaming allows viewers to access the video format their systems can support. With multi-bitrate streaming, viewers with fast connection speeds can watch HD live streaming. At the same time, viewers with lower connection speeds can enjoy the same content at a lower quality.
With an adaptive streaming video player, the internet speed is automatically detected, and the optimal video quality is played.
Some broadcasting platforms, including Dacast’s video and audio streaming service, offer multi-bitrate streaming for video broadcasting. This is relevant for both on demand and live-streamed content.
We strongly encourage you to invest in a streaming service with multi-bitrate streaming and adaptive media video players. These two tools can make a world of difference.
Live Broadcasting in HD: The Takeaways
All the factors described above are infinitely important when it comes to live streaming.
Live streaming content doesn’t have a pause or buffer feature as with VOD content since it is happening in real-time. For this reason, it’s especially important to provide the best quality video before you live stream it. It’s also a good idea to have a ready-to-implement backup plan for those viewers with slower connections.
If the internet connection is not a constant factor on the viewer’s end, we recommend multi-bitrate HD live streaming. If you as a broadcaster don’t have a fast enough upload speed, however, you have two options. You can get a faster internet connection or lower your streaming quality.
Finally, keep in mind that a broadcaster’s encoding preferences can also impact the experience of viewers. We recommend reading up on the best encoding software settings to help ensure successful HD live streaming for all your viewers.
In a world that now includes 4K and Ultra HD resolutions, keeping up with the times is more important than ever. Except for news streaming, we know that the average US viewers watch HD content for about three times as long as SD content. This is just one of the many benefits of HD streaming.
Now that we’ve walked you through some of the factors that enhance or detract from HD live streaming for you and your viewers, we hope you better understand the basics of HD live streaming.
For more tips and updates on live streaming, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group.
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