Real-Time Video Resolution – Problems Decoded and Resolved

Video resolution is among the most important metrics for real-time streaming. It is responsible for the quality of a video stream and determines the user experience. Familiarity with encoders and their various settings can give desired streaming resolution to broadcasters. Encoders consist of resolution quality setting, frame rate, audio bitrate, bitrate encoding type, pixel ratio, etc. 

What is the best streaming resolution? Is the highest resolution the best? These are common questions asked by most.  No, the highest resolution is not always the right choice. App usage, targeted users, devices, environment, etc. are some of many factors that weigh in. The answer to the right resolution depends on the use case. A good set of voice and video APIs can build flexible application code logic to cater to changing conditions.

High video resolution is not always the best option 

Just look back at how video streaming and broadcasting evolved before real-time streaming happened. There was a standard definition (SD) having a resolution of 720 × 576 pixels. All TVs were SD. Then TV manufacturers started to push high-definition HD (1280 x 720), Full HD (1920 x 1080), 4K (4096 × 2160), and so on. 

As the video quality of devices improved, it encouraged similar service providers to improve any and every parallel technology to support higher resolutions. For instance, the Internet. Without high-speed internet, there won’t be better video concentration regardless of how good the PC or TV is. 

1080P/4K/8K are common when delivering great video-on-demand (VOD) experiences – Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, etc. But the same is not necessarily true for real-time, interactive video chat and streaming.

Interactive videos are fundamentally different from on-demand videos

The highest resolution makes sense for VOD streaming because on-demand video can load in advance and it is pre-recorded. It can be cached through a content delivery network (CDN) for faster loading.

Viewers wait for a short time for initial buffering when they select a 4k resolution when watching a video and the content continues to load in the background. Viewers are sometimes willing to allow some buffering time to watch with the best quality in the case of VOD.

Real-time video is different as it’s happening live. There is no time for buffering. It can’t be cached by a CDN. In communication between two or more people, glitches can happen at any end, and delays in the transmission will be noticeable to all. Long delays can make real-time conversation between parties impossible.

Live streaming/conferencing is complicated

VOD is one stream, one-screen experience. Interactive video chat and streaming are multiple streams, multiple screens. This changes everything in regards to the UI and the underlying technology needs. 

Here are some factors that you should consider while deciding on the video resolution of your application. 

  • Preferred device – desktop/laptop or mobile

Desktops are more powerful. The machines have bigger screens and access to stronger networks, such as LAN or WiFi. Mobile devices, on the other hand, are less powerful, with smaller screens and more challenging network connections. If target users are primarily using mobile, a lower resolution is a better choice.

  • Number of video streams on UI display

Application layout is a big factor in app performance. For instance, downloading and rendering four 1080P streams in the same-size layout will impact performance, network demand, and device more compared to one 1080P and three 360P streams.

  • User location

Countries, regions have unique telecom infrastructure. This certainly affects your app performance. Consider the mobile network performance, Internet service providers (ISPs), etc. that will be used by your customers. Quality LTE/5G networks with powerful devices and unlimited data plans of 3g/4g will help you make important decisions about app implementations and video resolution.

  • Necessary technical tradeoffs

Higher video resolution requires more computing power and bandwidth. This means increasing CPU and network usage and shortening the battery life, causing the device to heat up, video freezing, audio breakup, and more.

Real-time streaming video is complicated, not difficult?

Building a WebRTC powered video application is complicated but not hard. Talk to us at for any questions you may have regarding RTC video applications. We house an experienced team of WebRTC technology experts. We can effectively guide you on how to properly design and implement real-time chat applications and what resolution to go for.