The quality of the video is an important aspect of live streaming. Video quality can be degraded by blurry images, pixelated faces and objects. For new streamers, it is important to understand the differences between SD and HD video resolution and how they affect the quality of their stream.
In the early days of television broadcasting, resolution was set at 480i. This format, known as “standard definition”, was displayed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. It was intended to be displayed with the same television screens that used the box format at the time.
We’ve adopted larger screens and the newer 1080p and 720p “high-definition video” formats as we have advanced in television and streaming content. These formats are perfect for HDTV screens and have a 16:9 aspect ratio. These details will be discussed in more detail later, but HDTV has quickly become the standard for video and television content.
What about live streaming and online content? Let’s take a look at the world of video resolutions (SD vs HD) and discuss some terms that you might be interested in.
Video resolution basics
What is video resolution? It all boils down to pixels.
A pixel is a unit of color information. An image can contain thousands of pixels or millions. A larger number of pixels will make the image appear sharper and more detailed. The resolution is the number pixels on a screen. The ratio of the number of pixels per row to the number of rows is called resolution. Common resolutions for video and screens are 720×480, 1280×720 (HD), 1920×1080(FullHD), 3480×2160 (4k).
Another important indicator of quality video is frame rate. This refers to how fast individual frames (or images), change. Frame rate is usually measured in frames per second (fps). The smoother the video, the more it will run. 60 frames per second and 30 frames per second are the most popular. The lowest frame rate at the which the human eye can detect pauses between frames is 30 frames per second. 60 frames per second is the highest. Videos viewed at 60 frames per seconds will look better.
Sometimes, you may notice a resolution followed either by a “p”, or an “i”. These are simply how the video was scanned without going into too much detail. The “p” is for “progressive”, which shows each pixel in the best possible way. Interlaced is an alternative technique that uses shortcuts to display every line in an image. Interlaced is more appealing, but will not look as good as progressive. However, interlaced can be broadcast much faster and will look better.
What is SD?
SD stands for standard definition. While we have come a long way since the days when 4:3 TV broadcast and display was available, SD still has its place in the world of live streaming. SD is the standard resolution for streaming and broadcast. While you can stream at lower resolutions such as 144p or 240p, it is unlikely that you will want to stream lower than SD at 48p.
SD at 480p has its benefits. Because it is smaller, you have less bandwidth which can help with live streaming in low-speed upload or internet conditions.
Display size is also important. For example, a live stream can be viewed on a smaller screen than a bigger digital TV. If you have the right circumstances (e.g live streaming via your smartphone), SD may be an option. However, most people will prefer HD live streaming.
HD is high definition. HD refers to high definition. HD, also known as Standard HD, is the simplest resolution format for streaming and internet video. It might even be the best choice if you are streaming to social media channels. 1080p HD is commonly referred to as “Full HD”, and is used more frequently for better quality streams and video.
What’s the difference between HD and SD streaming?
HD streaming requires more bandwidth but is of higher quality. HD streaming is lower quality, but requires less bandwidth.
Streaming in HD requires that you have sufficient internet bandwidth. Upload speeds should be at least 2.5 Mb/s for streaming at 720p resolution. You’ll need at least twice that speed for streaming 1080p.
Do I stream 1080p or720p?
In most cases, 720p is fine. However, if you want to stream better quality content, 1080p will be more suitable.
How does SD live streaming differ from HD?
We hope you have gained a better understanding of the SD and HD debate. There are two main differences between SD live streaming and HD streaming: video quality and bandwidth. HD streaming offers better video quality but requires more bandwidth.
Which resolution is best for your live streaming? The bandwidth you have available will most likely determine which resolution is best for your live stream. All factors such as internet speed, upload speed, view quality and availability of the network will be taken into consideration.
Here are some technical questions you should ask before setting up your next live streaming.
Do I need an Ethernet connection?
What is my upload speed
How many people will tune-in?
Is your content public or private?
How stressed will your network be?
HD streaming is recommended if your upload speed and internet connection meet the Vimeo recommendation of at least 2.2Mbps. HD streaming will always deliver clearer, crisper and better quality. No matter what content you have, the extra detail and sharpness will make your subject shine.
Vimeo has a live streaming service that optimizes video resolution for viewers based on their bandwidth and computing resources. Users can also choose to have Vimeo adjust the video resolution according to their preference.
If you are a new streamer and want to stream live, you should consider platforms that automatically adjust streaming quality. This will allow you to focus on what you stream.