Bitrate vs. Resolution for Professional Broadcasting

Bitrate and resolution for professionall broadcasting can be confusing. Since every aspiring successful broadcaster wants the best video quality for their productions, understanding video bitrate and video resolution and how they work together is paramount.

In essence, the resolution and bitrate directly affect video quality. Thankfully, your bitrate and resolution settings can be optimized to increase the quality of your video content and live streams. And while it’s usually assumed that bigger is better. However, when it comes to bitrate vs. resolution, this isn’t true.

  • Table of Contents
  • What is Video Encoding?
  • What is Video Bitrate?
  • What is Video Resolution?
  • What Does “FPS” Mean?
  • Comparing Bitrate vs. Resolution
  • Popular Bitrate and Resolution Setting Combinations
  • Other Required Encoding Settings for Dacast
  • Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ll break down and explain some topics directly related to live encoding. We’ll define what it is along with bitrate and resolution. Then, we’ll dive into the specifics of encoder settings. By the end, you’ll be confident in choosing the best  bitrate and resolution settings for your set up.

What is Video Encoding?

video encoding

Video encoding is very important in professional broadcasting. 

Before we dive into bitrates and resolution, it is important to understand the core process of encoding.

Encoding is an extremely important part of . It is the process that converts the RAW video files captured by the camera and converts them to streamable digital video files.

The process of encoding can be carried out by either a hardware or software encoder. Beginner, intermediate and even some professional broadcasters stick with encoding software because of their reasonable price point.

Each type of encoder comes with unique pros and cons.

As we mentioned, software encoders are typically affordable. Since you operate them on your computer, you don’t need to worry about lugging around extra equipment if you’re streaming outside of a studio. They are also nice because they can be updated as new versions come out.

The benefit of using a hardware encoder is that it is a dedicated device. This means that since encoding is its primary function, it is typically a little faster and more effective. On the flip side, hardware encoders can be super bulky and expensive. They can also be a bit tricky to set up for inexperienced broadcasters.

If you are not sure where to start with encoders, we recommend testing out a free one like OBS Studio. From there, you can determine whether or not you need the advanced features of a paid one.

What is Video Bitrate?

Video bitrate is a measure of the speed of transfer over the internet and how much bandwidth it will consume. Essentially, video bitrates describe the quality of a video.

The most technical way to define bitrate is the “amount of data required to encode a single second of video.” The unit of measurement used here is megabits per second (Mbps).

A higher bitrate is often related to high video quality. On the flip side, a low bitrate is indicative of lower quality.

There are two types of bitrate encoding: constant bitrate (CBR) encoding and variable bitrate (VBR) encoding. Each of these come with their own pros and cons.

1. Constant Bitrate Encoding

As the name suggests, CBR encoding creates consistently sized files. These are typical of greater size and higher quality. In order to be viewed at this size, the viewer must have a strong internet connection.

Encoding with a constant bitrate is a quicker and more efficient process than the variable alternative. Another perk is that it typically maintains audio quality and is well suited for multimedia streaming

However, there are a couple of notable drawbacks of CBR encoding. It offers limitations to viewers without a strong internet connection since the file sizes are typically large. It also has very little flexibility.

2. Variable Bitrate Encoding

VBR encoding segments files into sizes that are easier to transmit. Since the video is broken into segments that are unequal, the bitrate of the video is calculated by averaging the size of the segments.

Much like the constant alternative, VBR encoding has a few pros and cons. One of the biggest perks of this type of encoding is that it offers both efficiency and flexibility. Due to the smaller size of the files, videos that have been encoded with VBR are easier to store, send, and upload.

Some say that VBR encoding compromises the quality of a video, which is true but it is not usually something to worry about. The downgrades are minimal yet entirely worth the sacrifice.

Streaming with the smaller files allows users with weaker internet to watch the video with limited lagging and buffering, which enhances the viewing experience.

There are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. Variable bitrate encoding is less widely supported than constant bitrate encoding. The actual encoding process also takes a bit longer to carry out.

3. Multi-Bitrate Streaming

As a broadcaster, you should choose a bitrate based on the type of device(s) your audience will use to view the content.

Many broadcasters have diverse audiences from different locations with different internet speeds, so they use multi-bitrate streaming with an adaptive video player. This automatically streams the optimal file size according to the internet speed of each unique viewer.

This type of streaming recognizes that bitrates are not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal. If you are looking to provide the best quality streams for all of your viewers, you should choose an online video host that is capable of multi-bitrate streaming

What is Video Resolution?

video resolution

Video resolution measures the video in pixels.

Simply put, video resolution measures the width by the height of a video. Pixels are the unit of measurement used here.

For example, a video that is 1920×1080 would be 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall. The resolution is often referred to by only the height, so somebody might say that the resolution of a video with these dimensions is 1080p.

In a perfect world scenario, higher resolution equates to higher quality. However, this is not the optimal quality. As we discussed before, when viewers have slow internet, lagging and buffering become an issue.

If your viewers do not have consistently strong wifi, streaming in a lower resolution may be necessary for an optimal viewing experience.

What Does “FPS” Mean?

what is frame rate fps

FPS is not directly related to bitrate or resolutions, but it’s important to be familiar with the term since it pops up often in conversations about encoding settings.

While it is not as important as bitrate or resolution, the frame rate is another notable tenet of video aspect ratios for live video streaming. Frame rate is measured in FPS, which stands for “frames per second.”

Frame rate is relevant to live streaming in situations where broadcasters want to effectively capture motion and quick movements. This is extremely important for sports live streams or live broadcasted concerts.

Live broadcasting mediums that use WEBRTC technology such as Zoom live streamswebinar software providersvideo training programs, and other live and hybrid event solutions where the subjects are more still don’t require crazy high frame rates.

If you are creating content to upload for on-demand consumption, you’ll want to use high frame rates if you use slow motion and other cinematic effects.

Comparing Bitrate vs. Resolution

When it comes to and , it is not an either/or situation. The two go hand-in-hand. From the definitions alone, you can see that bitrate and resolution are two totally different measures. Comparing one to the other in terms of importance is impossible.

The two measure different aspects of video files. Bitrate refers to speed and file size, and resolution refers to width and height in pixels.

Bitrate and resolution can be set in different combinations to yield different qualities of video.

When it comes to bitrate and resolution, it is not an either/or situation. The two go hand-in-hand. From the definitions alone, you can see that bitrate and resolution are two totally different measures. Comparing one to the other in terms of importance is impossible.

The two measure different aspects of video files. Bitrate refers to speed and file size, and resolution refers to width and height in pixels.

Bitrate and resolution can be set in different combinations to yield different qualities of video. 

Popular Bitrate and Resolution Setting Combinations

There are five popular video qualities to consider when configuring your bitrate and resolutions settings. They range from ultra-low definition to full high definition.

Here are the suggested video bitrates, resolutions, and H.264 profiles we recommend for achieving these various video qualities.

NameUltra-Low DefinitionLow DefinitionStandard DefinitionHigh DefinitionFull High Definition
Video Bitrate (kbps)350350 – 800800 – 12001200 – 19001900 – 4500
Resolution Width (px)42664085412801920
Resolution Height (px)2403604807201080
H.264 ProfileMainMainHighHighHigh

Other Required Encoding Settings for Dacast

In order to achieve the optimal bitrate and resolution, it is important to properly configure your encoder.

The following live encoder settings are required for live streaming with Dacast, regardless of your selected resolution and bitrate:

VIDEO CODECH.264 (x264 may work)
FRAME RATE25 or 30
KEYFRAME INTERVAL3 secs (or 3x frame rate)
AUDIO SAMPLE RATE48 kHz (48,000 Hz

Please note that there are two settings that Dacast does not support. They will break your system. These include Baseline H.264 Profile and Interlaced Scanning.

Final Thoughts

Bitrate and resolution are two important measures which go together in live streaming. In essence, the bitrate measures the speed of transfer based on the video file size while resolution measures the width by height of an image in pixels.

Combined, these two settings make a huge difference to your video quality. Better optimized bitrates and resolutions result in a higher video quality. They’re settings which you must pay attention to while configuring your encoder settings for live streaming so that you achieve the higher quality video that you desire. Additionally, it’s important to understand  encoder settings and methods. Once you grasp this side of streaming, your live stream video quality will be much more professional and you’ll maintain consistent quality. You’ll be prepared to both conduct professional live streams and upload high-quality  on-demand video content.

Want to see quality video streamed through a professional-grade live streaming platform? Access Dacast’s plethora of powerful features by signing up today. You’ll have 14-days of complete access with our risk-free trial.

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For additional broadcasting tips and updates in the world of live streaming, please feel free to join Dacast’s community LinkedIn group. This group is a great place for Dacast users to connect with experts in the live streaming industry.

Emily Krings

Emily is a strategic content writer and story teller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.