Twitch is all about visual engagement. So, your streaming quality is crucial in attracting new viewers and retaining old followers. And among other things, your bitrate is a core factor that determines how your streams come through to viewers. Today, we’ll take you through what it is, how it works, and the best bitrate for Twitch (and other major streaming platforms).
Bitrate is, essentially, the amount of data (measured in bits) that gets processed in a specified time. So, it’s expressed in terms of bits per second (bps).
When it comes to streaming or other multimedia actions, the data being processed is more. So, you’ll see prefixes such as ‘kilo’ or ‘mega’ that precede the ‘bps’ unit.
If more data gets processed, does it mean better quality streaming? In a way, yes, but that doesn’t always mean the highest bitrate is the best.
Will the highest speeds give me the best bitrate for Twitch?
As already mentioned, it’s not that simple. That’s because many other factors come into play. For instance, the best bitrate for your stream will also depend on your hardware specs, your internet connection, and the video quality of your streams.
So, going for the highest bitrate doesn’t necessarily imply better streaming quality. Instead, it may even negatively affect your output if your bandwidth and connection cannot keep up with the chosen bitrate. At the same time, bitrates that are too low will mean poorer video and audio quality.
Fortunately, there are existing best practices as well as Twitch’s own recommendations on how to get the optimum bitrate for your situation. We’ll break it down below for easy understanding.
How to choose the best bitrate for Twitch
The right rate will depend on the visual quality of your streams. Other factors aside, your visual quality depends on your internet connection, the resolution of your video, and the frame rate.
Other factors like your encoder (hardware) and the viewer’s own internet connection affect the final quality. But as far as your efforts go, finding the right balance between these three factors will set you off in the right direction.
Minimum upload speed
To start off, you’ll need a basic speed requirement in your internet connection. After all, it’s the main service that will allow the exchange of data you need to browse or stream.
The recommended rate for Twitch is an upload speed of at least 3-6 Mbps as a minimum speed. Fortunately, most connections today have upload speeds way beyond these basic requirements. Unless you’re running on data in a remote location with poor reception, your connection should clear this requirement easily.
However, there are fluctuations that can occur in your connection too. So, your ISP may declare a specific bandwidth as part of your package, but in reality, it may run slightly below the advertised figures. So, it’s a good idea to check your speeds regularly to stay updated.
Ultimately, your optimum bitrate comes down to the resolution your stream in and the video’s framerate.
So, there are different resolutions you can pick. Ideally, most streamers would want to run in 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) at 60 fps. But often, either one or both of these values need to be tweaked to suit your situation.
1080p streams will not have that graphic punch if your viewers mostly use smaller screens to view your streams. In those cases, a 720p stream will give you the same delivery with a smaller load on your connection and hardware. But if you’re streaming something like a panel discussion, for instance, the 1080p will look better for the viewer.
Choosing the right framerate is the next vital factor in getting your bitrate right. Streaming visually-intensive content like racing games or fast-paced shooter games is best done on 60 fps. So, many games will display well with a resolution of 720p as long as the fps value is consistent. If you’re streaming a game that requires clear rendering of small objects, you may still want a resolution of 1080p along with 60 fps.
However, if your internet connection cannot keep up the required bitrate, you may have to decrease the streaming frame rate to 30fps, for instance. Many gamers stick to the 720p resolution and 60 fps as a safe starting point. Also, for content that doesn’t have a lot of fast-paced movements, a 720p with 30 fps usually handles the job easily.
Finding the optimum bitrate
So, once you know what your internet speed can handle, you can find the best bitrate that will go with your chosen resolution and fps.
Fortunately, Twitch gives standard recommendations on which resolutions and fps best go with which bitrate.
For streams that run on 1080p with 60 fps, Twitch requires a bitrate of 6000kbps. If your 1080p streaming runs on 30 fps, on the other hand, the bitrate requirement will decrease to about 4500kbps.
If you’re streaming 720p content at 60 fps, the bitrate requirement will remain at 4500kbps. However, if you stream the same 720p content on 30fps, your bitrate can be at 3000kbps.
Most of the time, these recommended bitrates are minimum requirements. For instance, a heavy graphics stream on 1080p with 60 fps can touch bitrate requirements of 10,000kpbs or more sometimes. Also, even if you’re running 720p on 30 fps, the bitrate of 3000kbps is a constant requirement. So, your connection will have to churn out 3000kbps or more consistently (not less).
Paying attention to these values and figures will allow you to upgrade, tweak, and make changes wherever necessary.
The best bitrate for Twitch streaming is not a fixed number in every case. The recommended bitrate can change depending on other variables (hardware, connectivity, output specs, etc.). If you’re a novice streamer, it’s better to start with video quality that your existing connection and hardware can easily handle. If you’ve already got some experience, you can choose the required specs based on the content you’re streaming.
Either way, it’s a learn-as-you-go process. With the right information, you can continue optimizing your stream for the best results. Keep checking back on this space for the latest resources on how to improve your online streaming.