How to Pick the Best Bitrate, Resolution, & FPS for Twitch Streaming
At the core of any good product is quality delivery. For streaming, that means making sure your bitrate, resolution, and frames-per-second is set up correctly. Asking other streamers what they’re running will only get you so far. You need to dial in your settings based on your streaming setup and source.
Understanding Your Speeds
The first thing we have to do is get a good understanding of what’s possible with your connection and system.
Note that this does not mean we’re going to max out our stream based on these properties. Instead, we’re going to use them to set the right quality vs. performance settings.
Head over to SpeedTest.net and run an initial speed test. The first test you’re going to do is just to your recommended server. This will be a test site that’s geographically close to where you live.
The results will be similar to this.
What you care about is the upload speed. However, like I mentioned, this is your upload speed to a location that’s geographically close to your home. This is a good baseline because it lets you know how much bandwidth you have to play with for things like multiplayer gaming and voice comms that you may be running while streaming.
Next, you’ll want to select a test server manually based on the Twitch ingest server you’re going to be streaming to. You can find a full list of Twitch’s ingest servers (grabbed from the API) on TwitchStatus.com. This will mirror what’s available in OBS or XSplit.
Choose one that’s closest to you and then select a SpeedTest server that’s closest to that ingest server by zooming the widget out and navigating around the map.
Boom. Now you should have your maximum local upload speed as well as your upload speed to the nearest Twitch ingest server.
Understanding Your Source Video
The next thing we’re going to tackle is the source video (usually that’s your gameplay) coming into your streaming software and ultimately being compressed and sent to the Twitch ingest server.
If you’re using something like an Elgato Game Capture HD60, it mostly handles all this for you. You simply select your bitrate and it scales the video appropriately to match.
Most people will be using either OBS or XSplit though, so you’ll need a little more information to really dial in your settings.
Reference the charts below and find your CPU first. Based on your SpeedTest results to the close-to-Twitch ingest server, choose the bitrate for that resolution and frames-per-second.
If you’re streaming from a last-gen console (and unfortunately, some games in the current gen), you’re probably going to be working in 720p.
Most full-screen PC gaming and most current gen consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) will hopefully be 1080p source video.
Don’t Go Nuts!
Unless you’re a partner, Twitch isn’t going to automatically transcode your video stream. That means whatever you send up is what your viewers are going to get down. If their machines or modems can’t handle it, they’re going to have a bad experience regardless of the awesome quality you’re pushing to them.
For our Team Strats streamers, we recommend sticking with 720p@30fps. Once you start going beyond that, you start sacrificing broad viewability for the experience of a few.
What are you streaming at? Let us know!