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HD Live Streaming: How to Broadcast Video in High Definition
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 streaming 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
- Connection Speed Requirements for HD Live Streaming
- Consider the Viewers’ Bandwidth
- Multi-Birate Streaming: How it Enhances Video Quality
- HD Live Streaming: The Takeaways
What is High-Definition (HD) 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 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”?
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
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 buttering.
Multi-Bitrate Streaming: How it Enhances Video Quality
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:
|Name||Ultra-Low Definition||Low Definition||Standard Definition||High Definition||Full High Definition|
|Video Bitrate (kbps)||350||350 – 800||800 – 1200||1200 – 1900||1900 – 4500|
|Resolution Width (px)||426||640||854||1280||1920|
|Resolution Height (px)||240||360||480||720||1080|
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.
Live Broadcasting in HD: The Takeaways
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, 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.
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.
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In the meantime, check out the Knowledgebase area on our website. It features a wide variety of documentation on live streaming, video bandwidth, HD live stream configurations, and Dacast specific platform features. Browse topics or search for keywords. Either way, you’ll find a ton of useful broadcasting information.