Our streaming bitrate calculator will help you find the optimum bitrate and the required upload speed for live streaming on any platform. If you are new to streaming or want to learn more about the software you're using, you probably have a couple (a lot) of questions. Such as: 'Do I have enough upload speed for streaming?', 'What bitrate should I stream at?', 'What is the bitrate for 1080p?', and the most frequent 'What is bitrate on Twitch or YouTube?'

We will briefly answer those questions and more below, or if you are already familiar with the concepts, feel free to experiment with our streaming bitrate calculator! We have listed several bitrate-resolution pairs to find what works best for you, or use the advanced mode to input your own and test different combinations.

What is bitrate on Twitch?

Bitrate is the number of bits transferred or processed in a set amount of time (usually seconds) by a video encoder. Its unit is often kbps or Mbps, kilobits, and megabits per second, respectively.

Whenever a video file is compressed, some data is lost, while the remainder is kept. More data kept = more quality. The bitrate determines how much information is kept/lost in the compression. Therefore, bitrate affects video quality.

This concept is really useful in live streaming since we're usually trying to send a large file through the internet, and we need a metric of how much speed we need to produce an enjoyable experience.

Bitrate and resolution

Another parameter we need to consider when estimating bitrates is the source video's resolution. A 1080p video will produce a 1920×1080 px1920\times 1080\ \text{px} image each frame. If the video is recorded at 60 fps60\ \text{fps} this means each second 1.24×108 px1.24\times 10^{8}\ \text{px} are rendered (resolution in px×fps\text{resolution in px} \times \text{fps}).

Bits per pixel

As we said before, this video file needs to be compressed, so each frame is represented by a certain number of bits of information. The relation between the number of pixels each frame contains and the number of bits we will use to represent it is the bpp or bits per pixel value.

bpp=no. of bits usedno. of pixels\quad bpp = \frac{\text{no. of bits used}}{\text{no. of pixels}}

This value acts as a parameter for video quality and, in most cases, we should aim for, and never exceed, a 0.10.1 value. Any increases after that produce diminishing returns in video quality regarding file size (unless you're working with low resolutions).

So, for example, let's say we use a 0.05 bpp0.05 \ bpp value for this particular video. That means each bit will represent 20 pixels20 \ \text{pixels} (from the formula above). If we multiply that by the number of pixels in each second of video, we'll need:
6.22×106 bits6.22 \times 10^{6} \ \text{bits} or 6221 kb6221 \ \text{kb} to represent each second of video.

That means working with this video will represent 6221 kbps6221 \ \text{kbps} of data to be processed.

⚠️ This doesn't mean a 6221 kbps upload speed can support a 6221 kbps bitrate live stream (your upload speed should be greater than the bitrate). Keep reading to learn how to obtain an acceptable internet speed for streaming on Twitch or other platforms.

Bitrate formula used within the streaming bitrate calculator

Here is the formula we used for calculating the bitrate in the previous example:

bitrate=w⋅h⋅fps⋅bpp1000\quad \text{bitrate} = \frac{w\cdot h\cdot fps\cdot bpp}{1000}

where:

  • ww and hh – Video's resolution's width and height (in px\text{px});
  • fpsfps – Number of frames per second in the video;
  • bppbpp – Bits per pixel value; and
  • We divide by 10001000 to express the result in kbps\text{kbps}.

This calculation is just an approximation since it assumes every pixel changes between each frame, and this is almost never the case (thanks to video codecs), but it serves its purpose as a starting point.

Upload speed for streaming live content

Now, we previously saw that a 1080p 60fps video will need to process about 6221 kbps6221 \ \text{kbps} of information (estimated bitrate for 1080p using our approximation). We could have a 6221 kbps6221 \ \text{kbps} connection, and, theoretically, it would be enough for live streaming this content to any platform. However, in a real-life case, the connection won't be stable at all, and the stream will stutter a lot or completely freeze since we're using all our resources to maintain the stream.

So, to avoid that, we'll need to allocate more bandwidth to account for fluctuations with our internet provider's speed, allow other programs/devices to use said bandwidth, etc. That's why it is wise to add about 50% of the bitrate number to obtain an upload speed that keeps the stream stable (our streaming bitrate calculator already includes it 😉).

💡 We have a calculator to figure out how much data you will need to host a live stream for a specific time length if you're on mobile.

What bitrate should I stream at? What's a good bitrate for streaming?

We already explained what bitrate is on Twitch and other platforms, but we have yet to use our streaming bitrate calculator to obtain it. Let's do that!

Our streaming bitrate calculator allows you to select whether you will host your stream on a streaming platform or by yourself. We'll start with the former.

Live streaming on platforms

First, we need to know the type of content we'll be streaming. Is it an FPS (first-person shooter) game? A card game? Painting? Self-recording?

The content type will determine our resolution since, for example, a fast-paced action game will require 60 fps60 \ \text{fps} to produce a smooth transition with rapid camera movements. On the other hand, a card game doesn't benefit as much with an fps increase as it does with a resolution increase (720p from 540p).

🙋 That means we could have the same 3000 kbps3000\ \text{kbps} bitrate for a 720p 30fps stream, and it will look completely different depending on the game.

Different resolutions will work the best in different scenarios, so there's no definitive answer for the question 'What bitrate should I stream at?', but obtaining the bitrate for a 720p stream is a great starting point to work your way up (or down).

The streaming bitrate calculator already has a list of bitrates preloaded based on guidelines from different streaming platforms. Just select your desired resolution, and the calculator will output a bitrate and the recommended upload speed for that value (you can check the bppbpp value used for the selected resolution within the advanced mode).

The last section will discuss an example of achieving a good-quality stream by testing with the streaming bitrate calculator.

Self-hosted live stream

This type of streaming is the least recommended, and you should avoid it unless you're experimenting or trying to build something on your own. The reason is that by self-hosting, you introduce the need to serve each viewer at the same time, which is extremely demanding on your bandwidth (unless you use a good quality CDN – content delivery network).

But if you're good with that, just switch the 'Platform' dropdown in our streaming bitrate calculator to 'Self-hosted', and a 'Viewers' input will now appear where you will need to type in the number of viewers you expect to stream for (this number multiplies your required bandwidth).

Bitrate for a 720p stream example

So far, we've already answered the following questions:

  • What is bitrate on Twitch?
  • What bitrate should I stream at?
  • What's a good internet speed for streaming on Twitch?

To finish our explanation, let's say we want to stream an adventure game at 720p resolution with our 5000 kbps5000 \ \text{kbps} connection (upload speed), so we do that, we select the 720p 60fps option on the calculator and check the result. Turns out we need a ∼4500 kbps∼4500\ \text{kbps} bitrate paired with a ∼6700 kbps∼6700 \ \text{kbps} connection to maintain an stable stream.

The required upload speed is way more than what we currently have, and the recommended bitrate is close to that value, too, so we won't have much bandwidth to spare if we choose this bitrate, so let's lower it.

We need to choose something to sacrifice:

  • The resolution (lowering it, reducing video quality);
  • The fps value (lowering it to 30, making the gameplay less smooth);
  • The bppbpp value (smaller values reduce video quality); or
  • The desire to stream our top-quality gameplay.

If you've read this far, the last item is out of the question. Hence, as a rule of thumb, aim to reduce the fps value first (unless it is a fast-paced game), then resolution, and lastly, if the stream doesn't look good on lower resolutions, the bppbpp value (remember to keep as close to 0.10.1 as possible).

FAQ

Does bitrate affect video quality?

Yes, bitrate affects video quality. Generally, a higher bitrate means more bits processed per second and, therefore, a higher video quality. However, there may be a point where increasing the bitrate won't yield better results, in which case the resolution should be increased instead.

How do I increase bitrate?

Input your desired bitrate in your broadcasting software settings. Generally, this is found in the 'Output' section along with the resolution and video encoder. These applications usually have an integrated testing method to check if your bandwidth supports the new bitrate.

What's a good bitrate for streaming?

  • 6000 - 12000 kbps bitrate for 1440p;
  • 4500 - 6000 kbps bitrate for 1080p;
  • 2500 - 4500 kbps bitrate for 720p;
  • 1500 - 2500 kbps bitrate for 540p; and
  • 800 - 1500 kbps bitrate for 480p;

Do I need a high bitrate?

No, you don't need a high bitrate. While your live stream will benefit from the increased video quality, a high bitrate means nothing if your upload speed can't support it. Your bitrate should be high enough to produce a smooth video without using your entire upload speed.

Luciano Mino
Platform
Twitch/YouTube/Other
Video resolution
1080p 60fps
Width in px
px
Height in px
px
Frames per second
fps
Bitrate
kbit
/s
Some platforms won't allow receiving bitrates higher than 6000, check with their documentation first.
Required upload speed
8,958
kbit
/s
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