3 Reasons Why Your Twitch Stream Is Choppy or Laggy


For many new streamers getting everything set up correctly can be a big challenge. Many people who try streaming for the first time might not have the best understanding of the settings needed or even the hardware required to produce a quality stream.

One of the most common problems people run into early on in streaming is a choppy / stuttering / laggy video when they view their own stream.

There are a variety of different reasons why this choppy video could be happening so here is a breakdown along with potential solutions to get you back on track.

Insufficient Bandwidth

Transmitting high-quality video from your PC to Twitch can be quite resource-intensive. Therefore, you are going to need to make sure you have enough bandwidth to upload the video content.

What is Bandwidth?

“Bandwidth is the capacity of a wired or wireless network communications link to transmit the maximum amount of data from one point to another over a computer network or internet connection in a given amount of time.”

This basically means the maximum amount of data that can be transferred in a single second, often measured in Mbps (megabits per second)

To check whether or not you have insufficient bandwidth you should check your internet upload speeds.

Check Your Upload Speed

If you’re unsure as to what upload speeds you are receiving from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you should run an online speed test to check.

To stream in 720p at 30FPS you should have at least 3Mbps. If you have lower than 3Mbps, then this may be causing you to have issues streaming.

Increasing your upload speed will be done through your ISP so make sure you are getting the speeds that you pay for.

Check your bitrate

Setting up your streaming software so that it performs well can be a complicated topic, especially when it comes to bitrates. When bitrates are mentioned, most people don’t understand what it means or what it does but they just understand what kind of bitrate they need.

What is bitrate

Bitrate is simply, the rate of transfer of bits. However, for streaming, this means how much video data is transferred to the server per second.

A higher bitrate offers higher quality video but it also requires more resources to make it happen. Lower bitrate, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily mean a lower quality video.

Bitrate is important when it comes to lots of things moving on the screen at one time, for example, a video of confetti cannons would need an incredibly high bitrate to look good. Whereas a still video like an interview, or card game could still look good at a lower bitrate.

What should my bitrate be

When it comes to streaming on Twitch, they have a maximum bitrate allowed of 6000kbps, which is way too high for the average streamer anyway.

You should be aiming to have between 2000-3000kbps for good quality, better performance and less lag for viewers.

Try lowering your bitrate right down to 1500kbps if you are still struggling with jittering issues, however, you are likely to see a notable decrease in quality.

If you have a good PC setup and a stable internet connection, you should raise bitrate to around 3500kbps. This will provide high-quality video that viewers can still stream with little problems.

Insufficient CPU resources:

Streaming can be very resource-intensive when you have multiple high-priority applications, broadcasting software, overlays, game and more open at one time.

Having all of these applications and software open means they are fighting for the attention of your CPU which can cause bottlenecks in performance and things will start to slow down.

This could be the cause of the choppy video and lag that often occurs when people are viewing the stream in their browser.

Firstly you need to check if the CPU is the issue. You can do this by following these steps.

How to check CPU usage

Finding out if you have insufficient CPU resources is pretty easy and can be done from within Windows Task Manager.

  1. Right Click Your Taskbar
  2. Click On Open Task Manager
  3. Switch To Processes
  4. Check The Total CPU Usage.

If when you check your total CPU usage it is showing at 99-100% this could be an indicator that you are being bottlenecked by your hardware. Heres a list of things that could be eating up your CPU and how you can reduce it.

Running a game

Having a game running on its own can sometimes be resource-heavy. Oftentimes using a lot of CPU and GPU. You can try to minimize the settings on the game to reduce the resources needed. Doing this could lighten the load on the CPU and free up resources to be used elsewhere.

Streaming Software

OBS and other streaming software consume resources while open in the background. Unfortunately, this CPU usage will increase as more elements are added as overlays and streaming components.

If you have a complex overlay, browser sources, gifs and more in your broadcasting software, strip it all down to the bare minimum and see if problems persist.

Encoding

Encoding on most streaming software is completed by the CPU as a default option. This option might not be the best if you have a low performing chipset and have other applications that need the processing power more.

To work around this issue most graphics cards allow for GPU encoding which can be found in your streaming platform. This will redirect and encoding work to be done through a chip on the GPU and should free up resources from the CPU without bringing performance down on your game.

Browsers and other Applications

Google Chrome is notorious for using incredibly large amounts of CPU when idling or doing a whole lot of nothing. This could often be the root of a few problems so try closing un-needed windows or switch browsers to something more lightweight.

If you need to have a browser open to view or stream or read your chat, you can open your chat in a single pop-out window that will reduce CPU usage. Alternatively, you can open your stream on your phone to check the quality and read chat without impacting CPU.

Next, you can find applications that may be pulling a lot of resources that don’t need to be open. For example, hard-drive backups running, anti-virus scans and more things to sink CPU into.

Begin by opening up your Task Manager and sort the processes by CPU usage. Go through the list from top to bottom and end the processes that are high in resource consumption but not needed for streaming.

Improve your hardware

If you’re still having issues after checking all of your settings, having a good internet connection and lowering your CPU usage. It’s possible that you may need to improve your hardware.

When you’re looking to upgrade it’s probably better for you and your wallet to build a PC yourself. Doing it this way, you can control what you get and how much you spend. Plus its great fun!

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