Understanding Video Bitrate and Why it Matters

By The Zype Team on April 26, 2023

When you’re producing video content for streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or your own dedicated platform, understanding how to make efficient, streamable videos while maintaining high quality is crucial to success. After all, you want crisp, great-looking content, but you don’t want that beautiful content to go ignored because of constant buffering.

The key to that endeavor is understanding bitrate. Once you understand video bitrate and why it matters, choosing the right bitrate settings when you encode video will be straightforward and easy.

What is Bitrate in Video?

Raw video files are large — too large for successful streaming. So, videos need to be compressed when they’re encoded for streaming. The amount of compression is expressed as bitrate; meaning bitrate tells you how compressed a video file is. Expressed in megabits per second (Mbps), the bitrate number, say 4 Mbps, is actually the number of megabits of data per second of video. The higher the number, the bigger the video file, and the higher the quality.

Why Does Video Bitrate Matter?

The more a video file is compressed, the lower its quality. Compress too much, and a video no longer looks sharp. It could look grainy, blocky, or just oddly digital. Compress too little, and a file may be too big to stream properly, resulting in jerky motion or buffering. So, setting the right bitrate is a matter of finding the balance between quality and the ability to stream.

Set the right bitrate for your audience

A low video bitrate results in lower quality files, but the payoff is quicker encoding and more reliable streaming, so it’s not always necessary to use a high bitrate. Let’s say your content will only ever be viewed on small screens like smartphones. Setting a lower bitrate for those videos will make streaming work on a wider variety of internet connections. Since they’ll never be blown up too big, they’ll still look great at lower bitrates. However, if you know your videos might be viewed on larger screens such as TVs, you’ll have no choice but to encode at a high enough bitrate to look good big.

What is a good video bitrate?

For small screen video, bitrates of 2-3 Mbps work fine. For video intended for larger screens, think at least 4-6 Mbps. Different platforms have their own recommendations, so it’s always good to find out and stick to your platform’s specs. For example, YouTube recommends a variety of bitrates depending on resolutions and frame rates. For 720p video at standard frame rates, YouTube recommends a 6.5 Mbps bit rate, and for 1080p, 10 Mbps.

Offer multiple bitrates for the best possible performance

When you don’t know which devices users will watch on, it helps to encode multiple copies and a few different bitrates. To take advantage of this strategy, some platforms utilize a strategy called adaptive bitrate streaming. Zype is one such platform, allowing videos to render at the optimal bitrate based on the user’s connection.

Make the Most of Your Streaming Content

Setting the right bitrate is one crucial factor in making sure your content is not only viewable but makes a lasting impression. But that’s not the end of the story. As you grow, you also need the right tools to engage your audience and keep providing content on a regular basis, always at a high level of quality.

Once you’re ready, putting together a bespoke streaming solution including your own dedicated platform and all the tools you need to succeed can take you from ground zero to streaming guru. To really get the most out of your streaming content, check out what Zype can do for you – like reliable, fast multi-CDN supported content delivery, video CRM, and multi-output encoding. Request a free Zype Demo today.




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