Video Bitrate: What Is It & How Do You Choose?

By Harmonie Duhamel

10 Min Read

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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.

    In today’s fast-evolving consumer landscapes, video has emerged as a popular medium to resonate with most audiences. Video can be used to deliver exciting and informative messages, where you can capture everything you need to draw the attention of and communicate with the viewer.

    Let’s set the scene: You’ve devised a video content strategy, gathered your steaming equipment, and elected to use a video hosting platform that best suits your ambitions.

    What’s next?

    You’ll probably be excited by the prospect of planning content for each of your videos and executing your ideas to perfection. However, it’s also important to consider how you’re presenting content to optimise your audience’s viewing experience.

    Video quality is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of any successful video strategy. According to research, 62% of people are more likely to have a negative perception of a brand after watching its low-quality video. With this being said, creating a breathtaking viewing experience can make a vast difference in captivating prospective customers.

    One way to ensure you’re serving the crispest, highest-quality content to your audience is to choose the optimal video bitrate for your streaming needs. But what is bitrate and how exactly can it alter the success of your project? Before we look at optimal video bitrate and how it differs from video resolution, let’s start with a baseline definition: 

    Table of Contents

    • What is Video Bitrate?
    • What is Video Resolution?
    • A Guide to Video Bitrates
      • Bitrates, Encoding & Frame Rates
    • Mobile Bitrates
    • What is the Best Video Bitrate for Streaming?
      • Optimal Bitrates for 20 Popular Streaming Platforms
    • Conclusion

    What is Video Bitrate?

    what is video bitrate
    Video bitrate refers to how much data you are transferring via the internet at any given time.

    Every piece of digital content you produce will be made up of bits. Video bitrate refers to how many units of data a video can process or transfer. Once you’ve finished a video and it’s ready to process, if you choose a low bitrate it might get compressed regardless of how high the resolution and frame rate were at the start. With this being said, it’s essential to choose a high bitrate to maintain a high-quality, seamless streaming experience with fluid viewing.

    By implementing a bitrate that’s high enough to move your data over the internet, your viewers will benefit from a smooth, reliable stream. Benefiting from clear information and visuals, your viewers will be more likely to act favourably if they have a positive impression of your business.

    In essence, bitrate is the speed at which your video content uploads to the internet from your camera or server. It is also the speed at which your viewers can download your video. Bitrate is usually measured in Megabits per second (Mbps), a figure that represents the volume of bits uploaded to and downloaded from the internet each second.

    What is Video Resolution?

    what is video resolution
    Video resolution is a measure of the number of pixels that form your video’s frame.

    Video resolution and video bitrate are interconnected but are not the same thing. It’s important for both factors to be aligned for a successful outcome.

    Video resolution refers to the number of pixels that form a video frame to create an image on a screen. The more pixels a video has, the higher its overall quality will be. However, If you only think about video quality in terms of resolution, you’ll be missing half the picture.

    Videos with high resolution require a high bitrate because they’ll require more data to move more pixels. Therefore, with a high resolution that matches your high bitrate, you can reach your viewer more effectively and with greater reliability.

    A Guide to Video Bitrates

    You’ll be encouraged to produce high-resolution videos for your target viewers that require a high bitrate to stream successfully.

    You should also consider the differences in internet speeds between consumers.

    The bitrate you choose will largely depend on the internet connections of your end users. Though releasing videos with high bitrates can be extremely valuable, it’s important to account for those who might have to contend with lagging videos and constant buffering.

    You should always tailor the bitrate of your videos to the demands/expectations of your target audience. A great way to meet differing demands is by releasing videos in different bitrates so that those with slower internet connections can digest content accordingly.

    Bitrates, Encoding & Frame Rates

    frame rate fps
    Frame rate measures how quickly individual frames of your video appear in succession to one another.

    You should select an applicable bitrate after you’ve completed your video and reached the encoding process. Upon doing so, your video encoder will ensure your file is compressed correctly.

    You can release multiple versions of your video with different bitrates. This will increase the availability of your video to various users and you won’t need to transcode multiple versions of your video at different bitrates either.

    Multi-bitrate streaming is a great way to make multiple copies of your video at different bitrates. Viewers can then select a viewing quality that’s suitable for their device. Alternatively, with adaptive bitrate streaming, they’ll receive the highest-quality version of your video based on their internet speed at that moment.

    You should also ensure your video’s frame rate is high enough to prevent jerky, slow videos that fail to meet their intended purpose. Though there’s no optimal frame rate, if you’re shooting moving shots you should focus on a higher-frame rate to keep your audience engaged.

    Mobile Bitrates

    In today’s mobile-driven consumer landscapes, it’s vital to consider the bitrate of videos streamed on mobile devices. Live streaming from mobile devices can be unpredictable, but you can accommodate this by providing video files at bitrates that stream well on mobile devices.

    You can utilise multi-bitrate streaming to provide a wide range of bitrates in your videos and reach considerably more people. Viewers can then choose the best quality video available to their device at a given time.

    What is the Best Video Bitrate for Streaming?

    Finding the right bitrate for your content can be a challenge.

    Here are some highly recommended bitrates based on the planned resolution of your video:

    NameDescriptionMax Video BitrateMax Audio Bitrate
    4K – 2160pUHD (Ultra High Definition)20 Mbps128
    2K – 1440pQHD (Quad High Definition)15 Mbps128
    FHD – 1080pFHD (Full HD)7 Mbps128
    HD – 720pSHD (Standard HD)5 Mbps128
    SD – 480pFWGVA (Full Wide Video Graphics Array)2 Mbps128
    LD – 360pnHD (Ninth of High Definition)1.5 Mbps128
    ULD – 240pWQVGA (Wide Quarter Video Graphics Array)0.5 Mbps128

    Optimal Bitrates for 20 Popular Streaming Platforms

    If you’re looking to stream your content, here are the optimal bitrates for 20 of the most popular streaming platforms:

    Platform NameOptimal Video BitrateOptimal Audio Bitrate
    Facebook Live4 Mbps128 Kbps
    DacastUp to 4.5 Mbps128 Kbps
    WirecastUp to 6 Mbps128 Kbps
    IBM Cloud VideoUp to 8 Mbps128 Kbps
    WistiaUp to 10 Mbps128 Kbps
    Vimeo LivestreamUp to 5 Mbps128 Kbps
    Kaltura2 Mbps128 Kbps
    Brightcove10 Mbps128 Kbps
    JW PlayerUp to 9 Mbps128 Kbps
    FlowplayerUp to 10 Mbps128 Kbps
    VidyardUp to 12 Mbps128 Kbps
    WowzaUp to 12 Mbps128 Kbps
    Youtube1.5 to 4 Mbps128 Kbps
    Twitch2.5 to 4 Mbps128 Kbps
    DailymotionUp to 4 Mbps192 Kbps
    TikTokUnknownUnknown
    Instagram3.5 Mbps128 Kbps
    vMixUp to 25 Mbps128 Kbps
    Periscope2.5 Mbps128 Kbps
    MuviUp to 6 Mbps128 Kbps

    Conclusion

    Video bitrate is a highly influential factor for any video production efforts. It can greatly promote the quality of your video and how quickly it can be uploaded and downloaded from the internet.

    A high-quality picture requires a high bitrate to transmit your video data with as little interruption to the viewer as possible.

    Dacast promotes multi-bitrate streaming capabilities. You can transcode your videos using a few intuitive settings so that multiple users can stream your content from various devices. Dacast’s adaptive bitrate streaming allows you to create videos that are automatically presented to users with the optimal bitrate for their device.

    If you’re ready to promote the best video-watching experience, you can try Dacast free for 14 days and produce the best VOD and live streaming content imaginable.

    Get started for free

    If you have any questions or feedback about video bitrates, send us a question or comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you. For regular tips and exclusive offers why not join our Linkedin Group?

    author avatar

    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.

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