HD Live Streaming: How to Broadcast Video in High Definition

HD Live Streaming_ How to Broadcast Video in High Definition Image

Several aspects 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.

In this post, we will cover the basics of HD live streaming. We’ll cover how to live stream in HD and compare broadcasting in different resolutions, such as 720p vs. 1080p streaming. Before we get started, we’re going to discuss what constitutes 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

Optimizing Your Stream for Different Viewers

Multi-Bitrate Streaming: How it Enhances Video Quality

Advanced Considerations for Professional-Looking Streams

HD Live Streaming: The Takeaways

Frequently Asked Questions


What is High-Definition (HD) Video?

High-definition video
High-definition is defined by the resolution of your video.

Most simply put, high-definition (HD) video is of a higher quality and resolution than standard-definition (SD) video. Anything from a 720p stream to a 1080p stream is considered HD streaming. Streams with a resolution above that range are called “Ultra HD.”

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 streams 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 of 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.

It is also important to point out that higher resolution helps to create a higher quality video stream. However, higher resolution streaming does not ensure increased video quality unless all circumstances are ideal. We will discuss the relationship between resolution and quality in greater detail further along in this post, but this is something to keep in mind as you read on.

How Does High-Definition Equate to “Professional”?

hd video streaming
Professional grade HD resolution video solutions are essential for the highest quality streaming quality.

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 broadcasters can 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.

To live stream in HD, you need to ensure that every component of your live streaming setup or multistreaming setup supports HD streaming. This includes your online video platform, recording equipment, and any additional streaming software that you use.

Two other factors that contribute to the picture clarity of your live stream are your upload speeds and your viewers’ internet speed.

Upload Speed Requirements for HD Live Streaming

hd live stream
You can improve your video quality to an HD live stream with just a few extra measures.

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 HD live 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.

Typically, an upload speed from 672 kbps to 61.5 Mbps is sufficient for HD streaming.

However, you’ll need to test the live stream at those levels first to make sure it’s successful.

Factors like shared connections and streaming from a wireless network also harm 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 by searching “internet speed test” on Google. Click the blue button on the first result that says “Run Speed Test,” and you’ll have your results in seconds.

Download Speed Requirements for HD Streaming

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 internet speed.

The FCC provides a broadband speed guide for average US households. The upload requirements for streaming videos of different qualities are as follows:

  • SD: 3 to 4 Mbps
  • HD: 5 to 8 Mbps
  • Ultra HD (4K): 25 Mbps

Luckily, today’s average internet speeds in the United States far exceed these requirements, so there is little concern about streaming in HD or ultra HD like there was in the past.

In the recent past, online streaming technology wasn’t capable of streaming at the level we see today. At that point, viewers could get away with download speeds of less than 1 Mbps. 

Consumers also had significantly slower WiFi, so even when broadcasters could stream in HD, they were hesitant to do so. They were afraid that their viewers’ slow internet would butcher the quality of the viewing experience with lagging and buffering.

Freeing Up Storage for HD Streaming

Streaming in HD will require more storage space than standard definition. For one, you’ll need to accommodate the pre-recorded videos which will be larger files. Then, you’ll need storage for your software that supports HD streaming.

So besides your internet speed, you’ll need to ensure you have enough storage in your computer. If your device has limited hard drive space, you can consider cloud storage solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Running out of storage space can interrupt your broadcast mid-stream. It’s important to keep tabs on your storage space regularly when streaming in HD so you’re always safe from lagging.

Live Streaming Platform Settings

The best live streaming platforms have custom settings for bitrate, frames per second, and video resolution. To ensure quality live HD streaming, you’ll need to set up a bitrate that matches your internet connection. 

This is important to avoid cases of lagging and dropped frames, which can interrupt streaming on your viewer’s end. You’ll also need to select a resolution that your bandwidth can handle.

Optimizing Your Stream for Different Viewers

Ensuring a smooth viewing experience for a global audience goes beyond the upload speed. Here’s how to optimize your stream for the best possible viewing experience, regardless of location:

  • Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): Imagine your stream originates from a single server leading to viewers far away experience lag due to the distance the data travels. Doesn’t sound good, right? CDNs solve this by replicating your steam across multiple edge servers around the world. When viewers connect, they’re automatically directed to the closest server, significantly reducing latency and buffering issues
  • Geo-Targeting: Some platforms allow you to tailor your stream for specific regions. If you know a large portion of your viewers are in an area with potentially lower bandwidth, you can set lower bitrates or offer a lower resolution version of your stream specifically for those viewers. This ensures they can still enjoy your content without buffering interruptions.
  • Optimal Hardware: While not directly related to viewer optimization, having the right hardware is crucial for producing a high-quality stream that can be effectively distributed. Aim for a computer with a recent multi-core processor, at least 16GB of RAM, a 7200 RPM hard drive (SSD recommended), and a dedicated graphics card. This setup will help you maintain a stable, high-quality stream that can be effectively optimized for various viewer conditions.


Multi-Bitrate Streaming: How it Enhances Video Quality

hd video streaming service with different video resolution

Multi-bitrate streaming allows viewers to choose the highest quality stream that their devices and connection can handle without buffering or lag.

Although the average internet speed in the US is sufficient for HD streaming, it does not guarantee that every viewers’ speed is up to par. Naturally, you’re going to viewers whose internet speed is insufficient for streaming such high-resolution video. That’s where multi-bitrate streaming support 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 bitrate streaming solution, the internet speed is automatically detected, and the optimal video quality is played.

Some live streaming 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.

Controlling Resolution via Bitrate Settings

Broadcasters can control their video resolution by adjusting their bitrate settings at the encoder level. The most common encoder settings for achieving different resolutions are as follows:

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

720p vs. 1080p Streaming: Is One Better?

When it comes to choosing between HD, SD, or even Ultra HD, broadcasters have a lot to consider. Since high resolution does not always translate to high quality, broadcasters must take a look at the bigger picture.

It is difficult to make a definitive statement and say that 1080p streaming is always better than a 720p stream. However, saying that a 1080p stream is usually better than a 720p stream is a fair assessment. 

That’s because most viewers have an adequate internet speed for streaming a 1080p stream without any buffering or lagging. 

Interestingly enough, some professionals suggest opting for a lower resolution for high-action live streams. This is because the fluid appearance of high-action video can seem less fluid when the resolution is very high.

Advanced Considerations for Professional-Looking Streams

Apart from basic high definition video resolution, several elements contribute to a polished and professional stream:

  • Audio Quality: Invest in an external microphone, such as a USB condenser mic or a dynamic mic with an audio interface for clear & crisp audio. For more complex setups, consider a mixer to balance multiple audio sources. 
  • Lighting: Utilize basic lighting setups like three-point lighting, which includes a key light (main light source), fill light (softens shadows), and back light (separates you from the background). Affordable softboxes can provide diffused, flattering light. 
  • Presentation: Incorporate professional on-screen elements like custom graphics, overlays, and calls-to-action. These visual enhancements not only improve aesthetics but also boost engagement and brand recognition.

For the truly tech-savvy streaming, consider these advanced options:

  • External Capture Devices: Capture cards or HDMI injectors ensure high-quality capture of external sources like game consoles or cameras, improving overall stream quality.
  • Chroma Key (Green Screen) & Overlays: Green screens allow you to replace the background with graphics or other video, opening creative possibilities. Overlays like lower thirds with your name or social media handles add a professional touch.
  • Picture-in-Picture (PIP) & Multi-Source Streaming: Show multiple video sources simultaneously, like your gameplay alongside a webcam feed, for a more dynamic stream.
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) Streaming: If your platform and equipment support it, HDR offers superior color and contrast for a truly stunning visual experience.

HD Live Streaming: The Takeaways

internet speed for live streaming
Internet speed plays a huge part in the quality of your HD live video.

All the factors described above are infinitely important when it comes to live streaming.

For this reason, it’s especially important to ensure that your streaming setup is capable of streaming high-quality, official HD video content. We also recommend using multi-video bitrate streaming to accommodate your viewers with different internet speeds.

Live streaming content doesn’t have a pause or buffer feature as with VOD streaming 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-video bitrate HD streaming. If you as a broadcaster don’t have a fast enough upload speed, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is HD video quality?

HD is short for high-definition and it refers to video qualities of a higher resolution than standard definition. Typically, HD quality refers to video qualities of 720p and 1080p. Most videos streamed online are currently in HD quality.

2. Can you stream in HD?

You can stream both live and pre-recorded videos in HD. However, you’ll need to make sure that all the components of your live-streaming setup can support HD quality. This includes your recording equipment, your online video platform, and any other software you use. You’ll also need superior upload speeds to be able to broadcast your video consistently to avoid lag.

3. What is multi-bitrate streaming?

Multi-bitrate streaming is a method by which video broadcasters offer different bitrates to users so they can choose the quality of their stream depending on their internet speed. This way, users with a high enough internet speed can stream their videos in HD video quality, while those with poorer internet speeds can pick a lower quality to avoid buffering.

4. Is it better to have a higher bitrate for streaming?

Bitrate affects your video’s resolution which, in turn, impacts your streaming quality. The higher your bitrate, the higher your resolution will be. However, high-bitrate streaming requires more internet bandwidth. 

If your bandwidth is low, high bitrate streaming may cause a lag. So while it’s great to have a higher bitrate for better resolution, it will all depend on your internet bandwidth and storage capacity.

5. What is the best bitrate for streaming?

The best streaming bitrate depends on your internet upload speed. Once you know what your bandwidth is, you’ll be able to select the bitrate that aligns with your bandwidth, whether for 720p or 1080p. 

A recommended bitrate for streaming in 1080p HD is between 4,000 to 6,000 kbps at an upload speed of at least 6 Mbps.


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 stream video.

Looking for an online video platform for support for HD streaming? Try out Dacast with our 14-day risk-free trial? It includes access to all features included with the streaming packages we offer. Sign up today to get started. No credit card is required.

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Harmonie Duhamel

Harmonie is a Senior digital marketer with over 6 years in the Tech Industry. She has a strong marketing and sales background and loves to work in multilingual environments.