10 Ways to Minimize Video Buffering Issues While Streaming
Video streaming has gained massive popularity in various industries, especially post-COVID. Recent research found that people spent 482.5 billion hours worldwide on live-streaming apps. This makes sluggish video buffering an enemy to the progress of live stream broadcasters.
So how do you minimize video buffering and ensure a great customer experience as a broadcaster? Poor internet connection, not using a CDN, and live broadcasting software overload are some causes you may be looking at.
Whether you’re in the media entertainment space or want to deliver a smooth e-learning experience, this post is for you.
You’ll learn how to fix video buffering issues to make your video broadcasts more effective, keep your audience engaged, and attract more viewers.
But first, let’s understand what video buffering is and what causes it.
What is Video Buffering?
Video buffering refers to when your video hosting software preloads data segments into a reserved memory called a buffer. Your audience can then watch video and audio content as more data downloads in the background to ensure consistent video playback.
In an ideal situation, video buffering is hardly noticeable if everything loads at optimum speed. However, more often than not, it gets slow, causing an unpleasant streaming experience for your audience.
When a video buffers, it looks something like what’s shown in the image below:
Although buffering technically refers to the preloading process, this delay is commonly referred to as buffering – often with a negative connotation.
So what this post discusses from here on out is the delay in the preloading process and how you can fix it for a better streaming experience.
What Causes Video Buffering?
The causes of video buffering can either be on your user’s side or your side. While you may not fix all the problems on the user’s side, here are possible ones you could look out for:
1. Internet Connectivity Problems
Your internet bandwidth needs to be able to support your live stream. Every network has a bandwidth cap, which is determined by your internet service provider and your connectivity plan. This is especially the case for wireless connectivity.
Your bandwidth cap will determine how much data you can transmit at once. If this is lower than the data needed to stream your video, it means that your internet will not be able to upload your video and keep up with playback at the same time. This causes video buffering issues. You’ll need to be aware of your internet speed before streaming video to allocate buffer conveniently.
Allocating 50% of your internet bandwidth to buffering is usually enough. For instance, if you’re streaming at 5Mbps, your connection should be at least 10Mbps for consistent playback.
2. Heavy Video/Audio Files
Large video files that are bulky and have high resolution could bring video buffering troubles to the user. For instance, a 4K video file is significantly larger than a 720p one.
Users who need higher live streaming quality are more likely to encounter video buffering problems.
For this reason, you may need to upload your video files and compress them into many forms. This way, depending on your user’s device or connectivity, they’ll be able to stream videos in the resolution that their internet bandwidth and the device can handle.
The same goes for HD as opposed to SD content. Streaming high-definition videos can also mess with your network’s bandwidth. HD content contains more data per frame, therefore would need more data packets to download. This makes them more prone to slow buffering.
3. Device Issues
Sometimes, neither your internet speed nor file size is an issue. The issue may be your streaming device. Video buffering can happen if your device’s model is older and cannot handle the current internet speed requirements.
The problem could also be the browser you’re using to stream your videos. Some browsers may have a higher capacity to stream content than others, and this may lead to consistent or inconsistent buffering.
4. Issues with Your Streaming Provider
The platform that hosts your broadcasting could have issues that affect your streaming. Such issues include:
- Network Overload: If your streaming provider receives numerous requests for content worldwide, it may cause a network strain. This overload will slow down their server, causing video buffering across some of their platforms.
- Streaming Latency: This refers to the time gap between a user request and the software’s response. Higher streaming latency slows down streaming, causing delays. It is mostly caused by the distance between the server and the user requesting content. Luckily, this can be fixed if you or your video hosting software provider use effective CDNs.
- TCP Connection: The Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol are streaming protocols that ensure data packets are sent in the correct order from the server to the client. Therefore, when a TCP connection is lost, the user may not be able to access the server’s content, which may result in slow buffering.
10 Ways to Stop Your Video From Buffering When Live Streaming
Now that you know the possible causes of video buffering, here are suggestions on how you can fix them to provide a great experience to your viewers.
1. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
CDNs are essential to live video streaming as they ensure users get low latency and quicker stream startup times. CDNs do this by making data accessible to the user from a server closest to them, instead of a central server.
When you stream a live video, most CDN networks cache the most recent HTTP live streaming bits on their numerous servers around the globe. This content is sent to the nearest server once a viewer accesses the stream.
Here’s what happens when you don’t use a CDN:
Let’s say you’re broadcasting from the US using a San Francisco-based server. If a user in London requests for a stream or some other online video content, they’ll be doing so from your server, which is located very far away from them.
As a result, this will create video buffering, which will, in turn, interfere with your live stream.
Instead, if you deliver this stream through a CDN, the user would request your content from their closest server in London.
This is how CDNs reduce latency, avoid video buffering, and ensure smoother streaming.
2. Consider VPS Hosting
If your business relies on video marketing, you may want to consider this option. Using a virtual private server for hosting enables you to distribute your data without dividing the host’s resources among users.
It lets you host your network on a dedicated operating system and hardware. This translates to full performance, which means no video buffering when streaming.
The alternative to this would be shared hosting, which could get slow, or dedicated hosting, which is expensive.
A virtual private server will suffice if you’re just starting out. Depending on your hosting service of choice, you can even scale your business on a VPS.
3. Embed Videos on Existing Streaming Platforms
If getting a CDN or a VPS is costly, then you can embed live stream videos on your websites within streaming platforms to prevent video buffering.
For instance, popular streaming sites like YouTube let public content creators embed videos on their websites for free.
This is especially convenient for businesses that want to use videos as part of their content marketing strategy. It’s easy to have such videos on your site because, besides being free, you’ll do very little of the encoding as most of it is already done for you.
For instance, YouTube auto-adjusts your video size depending on a user’s internet speed, which mitigates part of your video streaming buffering problems.
4. Choose the Right Web Hosting Service
Your video hosting platform also contributes to how well your streaming experience will be. Here are factors to look out for when choosing a video streaming platform for minimal video buffering.
- Cloud Infrastructure: The bare minimum in infrastructure is an AWS or Google-driven server to transcode, encode and distribute content through CDN providers, and storage to guarantee seamless playback worldwide.
The platform should also provide feasible ways to upload data from desktop, mobile devices, Dropbox, etc.
- Secure Video Hosting: Another important thing to consider would be if your platform uses Digital Rights Management/ DRM encryption. Your video security needs to be safe prior to and during streaming, hence the need for DRM-encrypted streaming technology.
- Customer Support: How supportive is your streaming software customer service when you’re encountering broadcasting issues on their platform? Every enterprise customer expects great customer support from their video hosting platform, and so should you.
You’ll need better communication channels set in place and, if possible, a dedicated team to handle your specific business streaming needs.
- Plugins, Embedding, and Integrations: Ensure your platform of choice can easily integrate with your existing website, for instance, having APIs and plugins.
Your video broadcasting software should also enable you to embed videos on your websites and on social media platforms.
5. Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) Streaming
Using adaptive bitrate transcoding also helps fix video buffering mishaps. Adaptive bitrate streaming is a video streaming process that automatically detects and changes a user’s video quality settings based on their internet speed and bandwidth.
Here’s how adaptive bitrate streaming works:
When videos get uploaded, they’re not stored in one fixed bitrate. Rather, they’re compressed in different bitrate streams ranging between 50 and 4,000kbps.
If a user’s internet bandwidth doesn’t support 4,000kbps, they’ll be able to view it at a lower rate – one that their connectivity allows.
Consequently, there will be minimal video buffering. The quality of the video may become hazy or clear depending on internet connectivity.
ABS functions are, however, not only limited to internet bandwidth. The technology can also auto-select appropriate bitrates based on the device’s screen size and appropriate resolution.
Adaptive Bitrate was designed to operate over massively distributed HTTP networks and relies solely on HTTP.
6. Make Your Streaming Mobile Friendly
Mobile devices have become the primary internet access device, and this includes media consumption as well.
Therefore, making online streaming mobile-friendly is critical for businesses looking to reach a larger audience. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Keep your bandwidth below 1Mbps: Keeping your bandwidth low helps you minimize video buffering – making your live broadcast better for people using their mobile devices.
If your bandwidth is greater than 1Mbps, the chances of your live broadcast having buffering issues on mobile devices become higher.
Your encoder will have the option to customize your bandwidth before broadcasting. This way, you can set the default to under 1mbs for a smoother live stream.
- Create a mobile-responsive website: This involves having a responsive website design that will make your content adaptable for mobile live streaming. Your website should be able to detect your user’s device and orientation to display the right size on every mobile phone.
Making your lives stream mobile-friendly will help you deliver a great customer experience and increase live viewership.
7. Avoid Overloading Your Encoder
An encoder is responsible for transmitting video from your camera, storage, phone, etc., to the internet. Your encoder handles major tasks, and overloading it can lead to video buffering, which affects your stream.
For instance, having your encoder record while it streams can overload it and cause problems. This depends on the encoder you choose and how powerful your computer is.
Be sure to pick a video hosting solution that can handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
8. Have a High Upload Speed
You’ll need to maintain a high upload speed as this directly impacts live stream video buffering. Buffering occurs when your preload speed decreases and can’t keep up with your playback speed.
Your stream then gets delayed or reaches users in dispersed segments. Your upload speed should be at least twice your bitrate to prevent this.
This means your internet bandwidth needs to be higher as well. The next point explains how you can raise your internet bandwidth if it’s low.
9. Use Wired Over Wireless Connectivity
Wi-Fi and 4G networks are great, but their speed is nothing compared to dedicated wired networks. Since broadcasting can be heavy on the internet bandwidth, wired connectivity, such as Ethernet, is more convenient.
An ethernet cable keeps the router’s capacity and speed at a constant rate. It’s a different case with Wi-Fi connectivity, as it can be affected by physical obstructions.
Also, it’s easier for your Wi-Fi network to have a user overload. Your streaming may get interrupted when other devices are connected to your network, etc.
10. Choose the Right Video Format
Using the right video format on your platform also helps you fix video buffering issues. Two of the best formats for streaming video content are the MP4 and WebM formats.
The WebM format works with most web browsers and has full format capabilities for HTML 5 video streaming. It’s also smaller in size than the MP4 format.
Conversely, the MP4 format has better live streaming quality without buffering. It’s versatile, with a variety of compression options based on the codec of your choice. Most large social media platforms like YouTube prefer the mp4 format.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is video buffering?
Video buffering refers to when your video hosting software preloads segments of data into memories, called buffers, for the viewer to stream. This process can get slow, causing delays in the streaming process.
What causes video buffering?
Video buffering can be caused by several inadequacies in:
- Internet connectivity or bandwidth
- The size of the uploaded video file
- Your device
- Your streaming provider
How do I fix a video buffer problem?
Here are the top ways to fix video buffering on your streaming platform as a broadcaster:
- Avoid overloading your transcoder
- Use Adaptive Bitrate streaming
- Choose the right web hosting service
- Embed videos on existing streaming platforms
- Use content delivery networks
- Consider VPS hosting
What is the difference between buffering and streaming?
Buffering refers to the process of preloading segments of data when streaming. Streaming is when a server continuously transmits video and audio files to a client’s device, making it possible for them to watch the video online.
Will increasing Internet speed stop buffering?
Internet connectivity can be a cause of video buffering in some cases. One way to increase your internet speed and mitigate buffering issues is to use wired ethernet connectivity over wireless connectivity. This ensures consistency in the router’s speed and capacity.
Time to Put an End to Your Video Buffering Issues
Videos are crucial to content marketing, which makes video optimization a key component of your marketing success.
One way of optimizing your viewers’ streaming experience is to minimize video buffering, and this post has listed the best techniques to achieve that.
An effective live streaming and video hosting platform like Dacast makes this even easier. It will help you increase your viewership and grow your business. What’s more, you can get started for free!