Livestreaming through Twitch should start to look a lot cleaner.
Amazon’s broadcasting site revealed today that it is boosting its video quality to support the 1080p resolution at a full 60 frames per second. This is something it has enabled certain channels to do before, but it is rolling out new transcoding options that will permit anyone to take advantage of crisper image. To power such detailed images at such a high framerate, Twitch is also lifting it’s previous bitrate barrier. These updates will hit every Twitch channel over the next couple of weeks, and it is something that should improve the experience of using and viewing live videos on the site for the audience as a whole, not just viewers of esports events.
“We’re no longer limiting our ingest bitrate to 3.5 megabits,” Twitch product manager Noreen McInnis wrote in a blog. “We officially recommend 3-to-6 megabits for most streams, skewing toward the higher end for 1080p broadcasts or faster, more demanding games.”
At 3.5 megabits, quick games would typically have a lot of ugly artifacts and visual noise. The car-soccer game Rocket League looks particularly ugly. But bumping up the bitrate all the way to 6 megabits could solve that by enabling each frame to contain significantly more information.
Of course, streaming at higher resolutions and a higher framerate will require a faster connection on your end. If you can still only upload at 3.5 megabits per second, then you should probably stick to 720p or lower. This is especially true for a livestreaming site like Twitch because most people don’t watch that content in a full screen mode. Instead, they are watching at a lower resolution and using chat and other services at the same time.
“Just because you can stream at 1080p and higher bitrates doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” McInnis wrote. “It’s better to have a stable stream at a lower resolution or bitrate than a higher quality stream that makes you drop frames.”
But giving 1080p/60 support on Twitch is going to grow more important over the next couple of years as people continue to adopt larger 4K monitors. On a screen with a 2160p resolution, a 1080p stream would only take up a quarter of the screen. This means I can get relatively nice quality while still using chat. And I could even go into fullscreen without broadcasts looking awful, which is a problem with lower-resolution and lower-bitrate livestreams.