Let’s say you’re broadcasting live streaming video and you start to get negative technical feedback from your viewers. It’s freezing up. It’s buffering. It’s choppy on the screen. Fix it, please! (Or, more commonly, a less polite way to say the same thing.)
What do you do? While the fault might lie with your video streaming services or your upload speed, most likely it’s not. Check that out first, though. If your upload bandwidth isn’t at least twice your broadcast bitrate, you may indeed be causing the problem. You also need to make sure that your connection is not only fast enough, but also reliable. If your Internet connection fails you at a crucial moment in the broadcast, obviously it’s going to interrupt your video stream. Your viewers are certainly going to notice that!
In general, if all of your viewers are experiencing problems, most likely the culprit is on your end.
More commonly, though, your viewers’ problem lies on their end. You’ll know this is the case if problems arise only with some viewers rather than all of them. What you need to do in that case is help your viewers understand how to improve their own video streaming quality. For the broadcaster, in other words, this is a customer service issue.
Here are some tips you can pass on to that unhappy viewer on how to improve video streaming quality (and use yourself if you, as a viewer, run into similar problems).
Improve the Internet Connection
By far the majority of problems viewing streaming video stem from a poor Internet connection. Is your viewer using a wireless connection? Suggest switching to an Ethernet connection (wired). If the viewer is connecting at home, most likely there’s a router involved, and the router will have a port to plug in an Ethernet cable. That will almost always improve download speed.
Using a wired connection isn’t always feasible, though (smart phones rarely come with that capacity), so your viewer may instead need to make optimum use of the wireless link. A way to make a wireless connection work faster is to move the device closer to the router. Radio signals are governed by the inverse square law (their strength is diminished by the square of distance from the source), so moving the device twice as close to the router will make the signal four times as strong.
The third thing your viewer can do is to switch browsers. Some web browsers are better than others when it comes to download speed. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have a better reputation in that regard than Microsoft browsers (Edge or Internet Explorer).
Close Other Windows and Tabs
Browsers can be opened in multiple windows and tabs, and it’s easy to forget that all those open windows and tabs use some performance capability of a computer. The processor only pretends to multi-task. In reality, it switches from one task to another rapidly, never doing more than one of them at any instant. This can make it seem like it’s doing several things at once, but that’s only because it switches very fast. The more things one is asking a computer to do at once, the slower it will do any one of them.
For most purposes, that loss of speed doesn’t matter much; it’s still going to do its thing faster than a person can respond to it. For very processor-demanding purposes like streaming video, though (or high-end graphic applications of any sort, such as demanding computer games), it can make a difference. If your viewer is experiencing video quality problems like choppiness or frequent buffering, suggest closing all open windows and tabs except the one displaying the video.
Performance can also sometimes be improved by clearing the browser’s cache. That uses memory and processor capacity, too.
Close Other Programs and Processes
Other programs and processes that are running at the same time as the video stream can have the same effect as open windows and tabs in the browser. Most computers and other devices these days run a host of programs all the time. Go into the application manager and turn them off, or just go into the programs themselves and close them. (For information on using Task Manager to close processes on a Windows machine, go here.
Remove Other Devices From the Network
Every device that’s connected to the same network being used to stream the video draws on its capability. If you’ve ever used a public wi-fi, such as the one at a cafe or the public library, during peak user times you see this happening. Everything downloads more slowly when there are multiple users on the system. If your user has other devices using the network, and is having video streaming issues, suggest disconnecting all devices except the one they’re using to stream.
Update Graphics Drivers
The latest graphic devices update their drivers automatically, but your viewer may want to double check to make sure they’re using the latest version. Improved drivers improve video efficiency.
Scan For Viruses
If your viewer has a malicious virus in the system, it’s likely using a lot of the computer’s processing power serving whatever purpose the virus creator wanted to steal the system for. One should, of course, always have virus protection installed and up to date on any machine that’s ever on line. Such programs usually have manual virus scan features. Running a scan may find a virus that’s causing the problems and eliminate it.
When All Else Fails, Reboot
This is an IT management joke, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Rebooting the computer will automatically shut down everything and re-initiate only those programs and processes that are set up to run at start. It’s a clear-the-system technique that solves a whole host of computer problems without a lot of time-consuming troubleshooting.
These are only a few of the suggested methods for dealing with the most common user-end video problems. ‘There are also ways to improve performance through router settings, by upgrading graphics hardware or using a more advanced computer, or by upgrading the ISP package or switching to a better ISP. For more detailed information about fixing streaming problems, check out this article.
As a broadcaster, you need to know at least the most common of the reasons why your viewers may be experiencing problems and how to help them fix those problems. Any problem your viewers have is a problem you have, even if you aren’t the cause of them. When you can help your viewers, they’ll remember that and approve.
By Elise Lagarde.