Video quality is an important part of a viewer’s live streaming experience. blurry images, pixelated faces or objects can detract from the video’s message. Therefore, for new streamers learning the ins and outs of how to go live, it helps to know about video resolution, specifically SD vs HD, and how it affects the quality of a stream.
In the early days of television broadcasting (you know, in the days of antennas and radio waves), the resolution was set to a 480i video format. this “standard definition” format was often displayed in the 4:3 aspect ratio and was intended to be displayed with the same box-format television screens of the time.
As we move forward in terms of television and streaming content, we embrace wider screens and new “high definition” video formats of 720p or 1080p. These are set to the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and are ideal for HDTV screens. We’ll dive deeper into what all these details mean later, but rest assured, HD has become the norm for TV and video content.
but what about online content and live streaming? Let’s dive into the world of video resolutions, SD vs HD, and review some terms you’ll want to know.
the basics of video resolution
what is video resolution? it’s all in the pixels.
pixels are individual units of color information. thousands or even millions of pixels can be combined to form a visual image. Generally speaking, the more pixels there are per given amount of screen space, the sharper and more detailed the image will appear. the number of pixels displayed on a screen is commonly expressed as resolution. resolution is presented as (number of pixels in a row) x (number of rows). Common screen resolutions, and therefore video resolutions, are 720 x 480 (SD), 1280 x 720 (HD), 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), and 3480 x 2160 (4K).
Another important measure of video quality, frame rate, refers to how quickly individual frames or images in a video change. frame rate is commonly measured in the unit of frames per second (fps). In general, the faster the frame rate, the smoother the video will appear. the two most common frame rates are 30fps and 60fps. 30fps is at the low end of the range where the human eye can detect the pause between individual frames. 60fps is on the high end. therefore videos viewed at 60fps will generally look better.
Occasionally you may notice a resolution followed by a “p” or an “i”. Without going too deep, these simply represent how the video is scanned. the “p” stands for “progressive”, which is a more faithful representation of each pixel display as it should be. the “i” stands for “interlaced”, which is an alternative technique that uses shortcuts to display each line of an image. progressive will look better, while interlaced will often not look as good but can be streamed more easily.
what is sd?
sd stands for standard definition. And while we’ve progressed from the days of broadcasting and viewing 4:3 television, SD still comes in handy when it comes to the world of live streaming. sd represents what is often considered the base level resolution for streaming and streaming. and while you could technically stream in lower resolutions like 144p, 240p, and 360p, you probably won’t want to go any lower than sd at 480p.
however, sd at 480p has its advantages. Its small size also means less bandwidth, which could help with your live streaming when you’re in less-than-optimal internet or load situations.
Resolution is also relevant to screen size, so watching a live stream on a smaller smartphone screen compared to a larger digital TV makes all the difference. In the right circumstances, like streaming live from your phone, SD can be a good option, but most of the time you’ll want to stream live in HD.
what is hd?
hd stands for high definition. For live streaming, HD can refer to a resolution of 720 or 1080 pixels. 720p hd is often referred to as “standard hd” and is one of the most basic resolution formats for most internet video and streaming. and in many cases it could be the best option when you are broadcasting live to social media channels. 1080p hd is often referred to as “full hd” and is most often used for higher quality video and streaming.
When looking to stream in HD, you’ll always want to make sure you consider your internet bandwidth. To stream at 720p resolution, you’ll want to have upload speeds of at least 2.5 Mbps. and to stream at 1080p you’ll want to have at least double that.
what is the difference between sd and hd live streaming?
I hope you have come to a better understanding of the sd vs hd conversation. The main differences between SD and HD live streaming is the quality of the video and the bandwidth required to stream. hd offers higher video quality, but requires more bandwidth.
so what resolution is right for your live stream? In most cases, the decision between SD and HD live streaming will be based on the amount of bandwidth available to you. problems with internet and loading speed, views and network availability will be important factors.
Taking from vimeo’s list of live streaming tips, here are some technical questions to ask before setting up your next live stream:
- Do I have a dedicated ethernet connection?
- What is my upload speed?
- How many people will tune in?
- is your content private or public?
- how stressed will your networks be?
Generally speaking, if you can test your upload speeds, internet connection, and meet Vimeo’s recommendation of at least 2.2 mbps, then HD is definitely the preferred option. HD streaming will always be clearer, sharper and higher quality. Regardless of your content, the added detail and sharpness will put you and your subjects in the best possible light.
Fortunately, if the technical side of video resolution is giving you pause, Vimeo offers a live streaming platform that automatically optimizes video resolution for each viewer based on available bandwidth and users’ local computing resources. . furthermore, users have the option to override and choose their preferred video resolution.
So, if this is your first time streaming and you’re looking for an easy way to go live, consider platforms that can automatically adjust your stream quality so you can focus on the content of your stream.