How to Troubleshoot Live Streaming Issues

troubleshoot live streaming

When it comes to live streaming, there are a lot of moving parts. Broadcasters need a workflow for filming the live event, encoding or transcoding the files, delivering the video to users, and allowing playback by viewers. While a modern video streaming platform makes it simple to get started, issues can still pop up along the way. 

Even though only 2.6% of live streams fail to start—the biggest problem with live video right now—businesses can still lose out on viewers when streams have issues. If something goes wrong, therefore, it’s crucial that broadcasters respond with error handling best practices for streaming. 

That’s why we’ll take a deep dive into how to troubleshoot video streaming issues immediately. Our suggestions generally follow a typical streaming workflow from video encoding through to delivering and playback. Let’s get right into it.

Table of Contents:

  • Check Encoder Settings
  • Confirm Bandwidth Availability
  • Compare Upload Speed & Bitrate 
  • Turn Live Channel On
  • Open Streaming Ports & Firewall
  • Review CDN Status
  • Verify Embed Code For Video Player
  • Ensure Video Player Compatibility
  • Inspect Viewer Restrictions
  • Switch Streams
  • Conclusion

1. Check Encoder Settings

video encoder and transcoding settings

Most live streams require a hardware or software encoder to convert RAW video files into a format suitable for streaming. Modern encoders, however, have a lot of settings to choose from, and an improper configuration could cause issues.

That’s why at Dacast, we recommend the following settings.

VIDEO CODEC H.264 (x264 may work)
FRAME RATE 25 or 30
KEYFRAME INTERVAL 2 secs (or 2x frame rate)
SCANNING Progressive
ENCODING BITRATE Constant (CBR)
AUDIO CODEC AAC
AUDIO BITRATE 128 kbps
AUDIO CHANNELS 2 (Stereo)
AUDIO SAMPLE RATE 48 kHz (48,000 Hz)

These settings are a baseline requirement for live streaming with Dacast. That’s because they’re ideal for ensuring compatibility with the Dacast platform and a wide range of user devices.

If you don’t see a message that indicates the encoding hardware or software is streaming to primary, there could be an issue with your encoder settings.

First, you’ll want to ensure your encoder is pointed at your streaming server, which delivers the stream to end-users. The encoder’s “Stream Name” and Stream URL” should match the values provided by your Online Video Platform (OVP). If the encoder only has a single URL field, you’ll need to use the ‘Backup URL’ under the ‘Other RTMP encoders’ section of Dacast’s encoder setup page.

If you’re using an encoder that’s not integrated with Dacast, you may need to enter a login and password during configuration as well. This information—which is different from your Dacast account—will also appear in the Dacast encoder setup page.

When multi-bitrate streaming, some encoders require certain names for each stream. The requirements may be different, however, depending on which encoder you’re using. If there still seems to be an issue with your encoder, we recommend trying another option like OBS Studio.

2. Confirm Bandwidth Availability

Bandwidth measures the rate of data transfer, which varies depending on streaming quality, viewers, and more. That means some streams will use more traffic than others, and you’ll need to analyze your bandwidth usage and availability.

Every Dacast plan has a limited amount of bandwidth available for streaming. Once you’ve hit the limit, your stream will stop unless you’ve set up overage protection. You can also upgrade your bandwidth at any time, but it won’t go into effect mid-stream.

You can check if you’ve hit the limit by viewing the “Upgrade my plan” option within your Dacast account. You can also use our calculator to determine which plan matches your bandwidth requirements based on broadcast frequency, viewers, stream length, and quality.

3. Compare Upload Speed & Bitrate

upload speed bitrates
There needs to be the right ratio between upload speed and bitrate

The bitrate of a stream is a measurement of the number of bits required to be transmitted per second. The speed of transferring the stream to your OVP needs to be at least as fast as the video stream’s bitrate. Streams with bitrates that exceed bandwidth could suffer from lags, buffering, or outages.

If you’re using adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming, your total bitrate is the sum of every bitrate you’re streaming simultaneously. We recommend keeping this amount at less than half of your upload speed because network conditions often fluctuate throughout the day.

You can test your upload speed using https://testmy.net/upload. If your stream is having performance issues, compare your upload speed to the total bitrate. Then, make adjustments to the bitrates included in your streaming profile to see if it helps.

You can also improve your upload speed itself by using a wired connection, increasing your internet plan, moving your encoder closer to the router, or limiting WiFi usage of other devices on the network.

You should make adjustments to your total bitrate and upload speed until you find a balance that offers high-quality streams without issues.

4. Turn Live Channel On

When broadcasting with Dacast, you’ll need a live channel turned on and configured properly. The channel settings determine which features are enabled, any viewer restrictions, the video player’s branding, and more.

For example, you may want to set up a channel to stream to an HTML5 video player, a low-latency live channel, or a playlist channel for a continuous series of videos. Channels give broadcasters full control over how their video content reaches end-users.

You’ll need to create a live channel within the Dacast dashboard to deliver your encoded video stream to users. Live channels are set to off by default, so a simple mistake is forgetting to enable them before the stream starts.

If the encoder is running, but the video preview is black, make sure you’ve turned the correct live channel on within the Dacast dashboard.

5. Open Streaming Ports & Firewall

video streaming ports and firewall
Make sure your ports and firewall aren’t blocking the stream.

While most broadcasters can begin streaming immediately, sometimes certain ports are closed by their IT team or a firewall. In some cases, your network or computer may have an integrated firewall that blocks the required ports automatically. 

If there are issues, you should first check if port 1935 is open. This is the default port for RTMP and necessary for your encoder to transfer the stream to Dacast. In addition, the platform will attempt to use port 80 or 443 as a backup as well. That’s why it’s a good idea to ensure all three ports remain open.

For Mac users, you can check which ports are open by opening the Network Utility. From there, enter your IP address and click scan. After a few moments, you’ll see a list of open TCP ports.

Windows users can check their open ports using the Command Prompt. Type in the command ‘netstart -a’ and press enter. Any ports that appear with the LISTENING state are open already.

If you see that one or more of the necessary ports are closed, you’ll likely need to contact your IT team to get them opened manually.

6. Review CDN Status

CDN for live streaming
CDNs have servers that deliver content closer to end-users.

A content delivery network (CDN) is a set of worldwide servers used to distribute content. These servers cache the video content (or other data) close to users to shorten the transfer distance or last-mile delivery. This can greatly reduce the latency of streaming video.

While content delivery networks (CDNs) are meant to improve the performance of streaming video, they can still have issues. In fact, some CDNs like Cloudflare have experienced outages in the past

Once video content is sent to the Dacast platform, it’s transferred to a CDN and distributed amongst its servers automatically. That means Dacast users have little to worry about when it comes to managing the CDN.

You can check downdetector or a similar site if your viewers in certain regions are experiencing issues, as there could be CDN servers down. If you do believe the CDN is down or it’s not functioning correctly, contact us and we can investigate the issue.

7. Verify Embed Code For Video Player

When using an OVP like Dacast, it’s usually straightforward to embed videos across the Internet on websites or within social media posts. For most broadcasters, copying and pasting the embed code provided within the Dacast dashboard is all it takes to share video content.

There are two types of embed codes available: iFrame and JavaScript. Either of these can be inserted into HTML to integrate live streaming nearly anywhere around the web.

You can verify that the embed code was copied correctly by checking the page source code. Right-click on the page and choose ‘View Page Source’, then search for ‘Dacast’ within the markup. Compare this to the embed code within the Dacast dashboard and recopy it if necessary.

8. Ensure Video Player Compatibility

html5 video player streaming profile
Make sure your streaming profile is compatible with the user’s video player.

Today’s viewers watch live streams across a wide array of devices with different video player implementations. That means you need to use a streaming protocol that is compatible with a wide range of video players and devices.

For most broadcasters, that means using HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), which is compatible with any HTML5 or Video.js-based video player. This includes Dacast’s own video player that’s ready for nearly any device as well.

In addition, most browsers are deprecating Flash Player, so if you’re streaming over RTMP some users may not be able to watch. If you’re getting user complaints, check which browser and device they’re using to access your stream.

Ensure your streaming profile is compatible with the video players that your viewers use so that you’re capable of reaching your entire audience.

9. Inspect Viewer Restrictions

Geographical or domain-specific restrictions are critical for preventing privacy and complying with regulations in a particular region. Broadcasters can limit where the stream is viewed from and which websites the video can be embedded.

If viewers can’t see your live stream that should be able to, however, you should ensure your restrictions are configured properly. You may be inadvertently preventing your audience from accessing the stream.

Within Dacast, all countries can access a stream unless you create a list of particular countries that you want to receive the broadcast. Make sure you haven’t left off any country your target audience may be viewing from.

Similarly, you’ll want to confirm that any sites you want to display the live stream are included on the list of allowed referrers within Dacast. It’s also important to note that these restrictions only work with JavaScript players and not with iFrame embeds.

10. Switch Streams

Enterprise Video Streaming Solutions
Switching between current and backup streaming channels is an ideal way to troubleshoot your professional-grade broadcast.

If none of the previous solutions fix your live broadcast, we recommend trying a backup stream or creating a new one from scratch.

Dacast provides a backup stream URL that’s nearly identical to the primary URL, but there’s ‘b’ at the beginning instead of ‘p’. Replace this in your embed codes and test the backup stream’s playback again.

If the backup stream doesn’t work, we suggest creating a new stream from scratch. In some cases, you may notice settings you misconfigured the first time around. 

Finally, feel free to contact technical support, which is available to Dacast users 24/7. The Starter Plan includes chat support, while the Pro and Premium Plans provide phone support as well.

Conclusion

Brands should implement a robust and resilient live streaming workflow they can rely on in the future. The last thing a broadcaster wants is issues during a live stream that impact the user experience. That said, knowing how to troubleshoot live streams is critical for companies.

Luckily, Dacast’s platform makes setting up and managing live streams as easy as possible. That’s why the video streaming solution was nominated as the Best Small/Medium Business Platform in the 2019 Streaming Media Readers’ Choice Awards.

Dacast is an end-to-end video streaming solution that gives broadcasters everything they need to deliver high-quality live streaming events to their audiences. It’s compatible with most encoders and provides a powerful video player that’s built to deliver live streams around the web.

If you think Dacast may be a fit for your organization, try our 30-day free trial now (no credit card required). Find out for yourself how straightforward hosting live events can be.

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Thanks for reading, and good luck with your troubleshooting efforts!

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