Resolution Rumination: What Resolution to Stream At?

By January 31, 2017 No Comments

Resolution is Important

Many amateur streamers jump into the streaming foray without understanding the impact that resolution has on their stream. Getting a happy bitrate and then streaming 1080p at 60 FPS isn’t just “the way” to do it. If you set up your stream incorrectly, it will resemble a garbled transmission from Mars. If you’re streaming high quality video, your computer, the server you stream to, and your viewers need to be able to support that. Often times it’s a matter of all three things. So what resolution should you stream at?

A vast majority of streamers keep their video resolution at 720p. Why? It isn’t that noticeable from 1080p, it’s easier on your system, and the transmission will appear nicer to viewers. Remember, 2500k is a medium-high bitrate that functions well for 720p. Some streamers hit 60 FPS–ensure you’re able to meet the demands of the framerate if you want to go that route. Playing a game and streaming at the same time is demanding. It’s more demanding to play and stream the feed both at 60 FPS. To be clear, there’s no sense in playing a game at a lower framerate and streaming at a higher framerate.

To add, plenty of professional streamers play on one computer and stream on another. This setup dedicates hardware to encoding video streams so the gaming PC can use all available resources for game time. But that leaves the question–how do you increase the stream quality by limiting the resolution and keeping bitrate low enough for everyone to view?

By utilizing the CPU encoding preset. Here’s a shot of the preset in XSplit.

CPU Encoding Preset

Resolution won't matter much if you keep the stream preset high.

Resolution won’t matter much if you keep the stream preset high.

The encoder preset tells your CPU how hard to “work” to get better quality video. It’s a little counter-intuitive. “Fast” in this sense equates to “poor quality” stream. The “veryfast” default is sufficient for a lot of modern computers. Just be aware that the “slower” your CPU preset, the harder it will work to encode video. It won’t have enough resources to play video games. The “slow” setting for the preset will likely max your CPU out. Be mindful of this setting. The slow setting is generally reserved for extremely high-end processors.