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Video buffering : what causes it and how to prevent it

Playback of videos requires loading them into backing memory, known as a "buffer". Once that is done, the content can be viewed. As soon as you click “Play” in the video player in your browser, a background process starts downloading the data for the video. This ensures continuous playback.

Ideally, buffering will not be noticeable if the download is at the appropriate speed. However, if the speed is low, you will see pauses in the playback and a download icon that indicates progress.

Reasons for buffering

A problem with the playback may be caused by your service or come from the user’s side. Let's see what you can do on your end.

  1. Unstable internet connection

This is the most common reason. To ensure a smooth live broadcast, you should first verify that your broadband connection can handle the load.

You can check with your ISP which plan is best for you for live streaming. Streaming using wireless communication requires special attention when selecting a plan.

Test your Internet speed to see if you can upload and playback at the same time.

Medium range from 672 kbps to 61.5 Mbps. Within this range, you will need to find your speed based on video bandwidth, bitrate, and video resolution.

Try dedicating 50% of your traffic bandwidth to the background download process first.

For a 5 Mbps broadcast, the connection speed cannot be less than 10 Mbps.

  1. File size

If you are uploading a video in 4K, users with poorer internet connection may experience buffering. In order to ensure the stream adapts to the available internet channel of the device from which the user is viewing the video, you should compress your files differently when uploading. Keep this in mind if you are going to broadcast content in HD quality.

Since there are many frames per second in HD video, many packets of information are downloaded. Therefore, slow buffering is also likely here.

You can read more about formats and frame rates in the article “What is frame rate (fps) for live streaming”.

  1. Streaming device compatibility

Make sure your device has the latest model and specifications for streaming.

Pay attention to the browser you are using. It must have high throughput.

  1. Streaming platform 

There may be problems with your streaming provider. There are three most common issues that cause buffering: network congestion, streaming delay (if a user is far from the server streaming content) and TCP connection failure.

How to stop buffering - different methods to try for the user

If buffering problems are on the user's side, suggest that they do everything as in this instruction:

  • Pause the video for a few minutes. While the video is paused, the streaming video will be buffered. This may not solve the problem completely, but as a workaround it might work.
  • Close background programs. Games, applications that drain your computer's resources, etc.
  • Turn off all other devices connected to the network. The more devices using one network, the less its bandwidth.
  • Turn off the router for 10 seconds. After restarting the router, restart the streaming application or browser.
  • Change the location of the router. The closer the router is to the streaming device, the better the signal gets through. If that doesn't solve the problem, consider connecting a second wireless router or connecting to a Wi-Fi mesh system. This will expand the range of the network.
  • Switch to wired Internet connection. This type of connection is more reliable, as the signal goes directly through the cable, unlike a wireless network, where walls, furniture, or other features of the room can block the signal.
  • Change video quality. If you change the video quality in the settings, the bandwidth will be better.
  • Internet speed. Perhaps the problem will be solved by updating the tariff with a higher speed or replacing the router with your ISP.
  • Delete cookies and clear the browser cache.
  • Avoid peak hours of network usage. In the evening, the network load is higher, use a different, less popular time.
  • Check your device for viruses, malware and crypto mining programs. If your device is infected, processes slow down. Scan your computer.
  • Update the streaming app. Applications frequently release updates to improve performance and security. Therefore, they must be regularly updated automatically or manually.
  • Update operating system. Install the latest video card drivers. For safety, it is better to do this from the manufacturer's website.

How to prevent video buffering during your live stream

Once you know the reasons, you can fix them. We counted 10 solutions:

1.Use a CDN

Content delivery networks offer low latency, fast video start, and smooth playback to users. It happens because the server from which the signal comes is closer to the user than the central server.

In the absence of the CDN, it will take the networks longer to carry the signal. When you stream from London and your user requests video from the US, there will be buffering caused by the distance.

Callaba is available on the Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure, which has 99 Availability Zones in 31 regions around the world. You can optimally configure video delivery based on a specific region or world by choosing from a wide selection of available servers.

  1. Consider a VPS Hosting

By using a Virtual Private Server, your network will be stable as you will have dedicated hardware and bandwidth. You can, of course, try virtual hosting, but it is generally slower.

  1. Embed video on your website

A more budget-friendly option than a CDN and VPS is to embed streaming on your website.

You can use a free platform like YouTube. This is convenient because the video size is automatically adjusted to match the connection speed, which can solve the buffering problem.

You can read about how to set up a live broadcast on YouTube in our guide “How to live stream 24/7 on Youtube?”.

If you have technical difficulties during a stream on a free platform, the content might be lost, and you'll have to fix the problem yourself.

With Callaba Cloud, you can also embed a live stream on your site - no code required. If unforeseen difficulties arise, technical support will quickly figure it out.

  1. Web hosting is important

When choosing a video streaming platform, pay attention to the infrastructure. If you are just starting out, a server run by AWS or Google will suffice.

  • The infrastructure must provide the ability to transcode, encode and distribute content via content delivery networks with as little delay as possible, anywhere in the world where your audience is.
  • You also shouldn't have any problems if you decide to upload information from any source, from a personal device to the cloud in Dropbox.
  • Be sure to check the information about video protection and find out if the video hosting supports DRM encryption.
  • Ideally it should have a responsive helpdesk that can save your stream and keep the audience from leaving if buffering or another problem occurs at the most inopportune moment. It is especially important if you don't have someone on staff who understands technical details.

Don't forget about API and plugin integration options. Without this, your broadcasting capabilities will be limited.

  1. ABR

The adaptive bitrate does not only change the quality of the video, but also corrects buffering errors.

Here's how it works :

  1. When a video is uploaded, it gets compressed with different bitrates ranging from 50 to 4000 kbps. 
  2. Users with slower Internet connections can watch videos at the speed at which their network passes.

Another feature of ABR is the ability to select the bitrate based on the user's resolution and screen size.

  1. Adapt your broadcast to mobile devices

Now more and more content is consumed through mobile devices, including streams. If you're aiming for a wide reach, make it easy for as many users as possible to be comfortable with you.

Start with two things - below 1 Mbps bandwidth and mobile friendly website.

Try adjusting the default bandwidth for smooth stream playback.

To improve your site, adapt the design, and “teach” the site to see what device the user is accessing from and what screen orientation they have. In this case, the user will not have problems with the display format of your broadcast.

  1. Don't overload your encoder

To prevent this problem, make sure that your computer has enough power to solve tasks, and the selected video hosting is capable of multitasking.

  1. Maintain high upload speeds

Buffering starts if the preload speed drops and can't keep up with playback. To avoid this, make sure that the upload speed exceeds the bitrate twice.

  1. Internet connection

To do this, set up a dedicated wired Ethernet connection. So the speed will be stable.

  1. Be sure to pay attention to the video format

Optimal - MP4 and WebM.

WebM is smaller than MP4 and supports common browsers and can stream HTML 5 video.

MP4 produces a higher quality image and it is convenient to compress files with it. Social networks also support him.

You can learn more about codecs in the article “What is video encoding?

Optimize your video content to make sure it’s effective and user friendly. One of the first steps is minimal buffering.

You can trust Callaba Cloud for quality streaming.

We will take care of all the technical issues, you will only have to generate high-quality content.

Grow your business with a complete set of video streaming technologies within a single product and API.

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