Watching videos of games has become very popular in the last few years, and websites like Twitch and YouTube Gaming allow individual people to share their gaming experiences. While video game walk-throughs and demos have long been in demand, live-streaming of events like tournaments has also become popular. Live-streaming allows watchers to feel like they are sharing the experience with the individual doing the streaming, and it creates a more interactive feeling that pre-recorded videos lack.
However, if you’re going to stream through either Twitch or YouTube Gaming, you’re going to need a computer with tons of RAM and a formidable CPU as well as enough bandwidth to ensure that your videos won’t end up being a choppy or pixelated mess. This is especially important with Twitch because if your video stream doesn’t meet their quality standards, they won’t show the video.
How Much Bandwidth Do You Need To Stream Video?
Some people say that you can stream properly with just one Mbps of upload bandwidth, but others swear that you need three Mbps or more to be able to stream properly. The most accurate answer is: it depends. There are a variety of factors that go into creating a quality stream, especially if you want to stream at 720p or higher. We’re going to discuss what bandwidth is, how it affects the quality of the video you stream and what you can do if you’re running into problems.
Upload and Download Bandwidth
When most people think of bandwidth, what normally comes to mind is the top speed that they can download at based on the type of Internet service they have. This is likely due to the fact that many high speed Internet service providers are in the habit of only displaying download speeds when listing Internet service packages. Additionally, the majority of what you do online involves downloading data, not uploading it.
Upload bandwidth is the maximum speed that you can send files over the internet. Sending an email, sharing an image to Facebook and streaming a video are all uploads. Just like with bandwidth caps for download, the amount of upload bandwidth you have can affect how long it takes for these processes to complete.
With email or image uploads, upload caps only affect how long it will take to complete these actions. It’s different if you’re trying to stream video. Bandwidth, and to a certain extent the software you’re using to stream, determines the quality of what the streaming service receives. Having a slow connection may make it impossible for you to stream video because, for the most part, the lower the upload speed, the lower the video quality.
The way these systems work is that you stream your video, which is to say upload it as you’re recording it, to whatever service you’re using. The service then uses its own bandwidth to share your streamed video to people who want to watch it. If you’re uploading standard video that won’t be available in real-time, a low upload speed won’t affect the video’s quality.
However, live-streaming requires a solid upload speed so that the video a streaming service is receiving is clear and high quality. Just like you need a fast and steady download speed to watch streaming video without stuttering and a blocky image, you need a fast and steady upload to be able to transmit streaming video.
Upload Bandwidth and Video Quality
The software that you choose and the codec it uses can have a pretty significant impact on how well your video stream can adjust to low bandwidth or variations in upload speed. However, even with the best software, you’re still going to need enough bandwidth to send the data through. The lower limit for decent quality higher resolution streaming is generally around 700 Kbps, or .7 Mbps. Anything lower and you’re likely to see freezing, pixelization or choppy video, which tends to look like stop motion video.
The general consensus is that for truly high-quality and high resolution streaming, such as at 1080p, you need to have at least three Mbps of bandwidth for upload. Some say that five Mbps or higher is required, but numerous people have been able to stream with around half of that speed. In many areas, services with five Mbps of upload speed aren’t available. Most ISPs offer upload bandwidth that is 10 percent of your download; for your upload speed to be five Mbps, you’ll probably need a download of at least 50 Mbps.
If you do not live in an area with an ISP that offers fast enough Internet speeds, you may have to make some adjustments. This usually means reducing the quality of the video that you are streaming. Instead of 1080p or 720p, you may have to go with 480p.
Tips and Tricks
In many cases, your upload limit isn’t just determined by the maximum amount of bandwidth that your ISP will provide you. Things like the distance to your closest hub, the quality of the lines in your home and even the type of networking card you have can have an effect on your upload speed. Further, depending on the ISP you have, you may get different download and upload speeds at different times of day. For example, your Internet may slow down around 6 p.m. and be fast late at night.
Doing an upload speed test can help you figure out how fast you are actually able to upload. There are a variety of free tests available, and they can help you determine if your problem is a lack of upload bandwidth or something else. It’s also important to note that just because your ISP says your upload cap is three Mbps, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to maintain that speed. Speeds can fluctuate significantly, which is why a good streaming program may be necessary to help smooth out the ups and downs of your connection.
If you find that you’re getting an upload speed below what your ISP offers as your upload cap, you should have your ISP make sure the problem isn’t on their side. Additionally, you may want to make some of your own adjustments. If possible, you should hook your computer up directly to your modem or router. WiFi can be convenient, but interference from cordless phones and other wireless networks can slow or interrupt your data transfer.
Routers and firewalls can also limit your download and upload speed. In an effort to protect your computer and network from attacks, certain services and ports may be blocked. You may need to adjust settings to ensure that you are not limiting your upload speed.
If your upload speed seems to be adequate and consistent, it may be that your CPU isn’t up to the task or that you need to use different streaming software. Your computer needs to be able to play your game, render video and send it on to either Twitch or YouTube Gaming, whichever service you’re using. Insufficient RAM, a subpar video card or a computer without enough processing power can create problems that appear similar to those of insufficient upload speeds.
You may also want to try different software to see how they work for you. Twitch and YouTube Gaming both allow you to see the quality of video you’re streaming, so you can compare the performance of different software and determine which is best for you. Some streaming programs are better for slower connections and others are better for unsteady connections, so you may need to try a few to find one that works best with your connection and setup.