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Why Do Live Stream Videos Lag?

Have you ever been on a live stream that you were really interested in and found yourself so incredibly annoyed at the lag time that you just couldn’t stand to stick around any longer? The majority of consumers will not wait more than about 30-60 seconds for a live stream to pick up before they leave. But why do live stream videos lag so much anyway?

At Beverly Boy Productions, we approach this question frequently with new clients. They come to us saying that they tried to produce a live stream of their own, had everything planned and ready, but then to their surprise, the live stream lagged when they hopped on. What did they do wrong?

The truth is, sometimes live stream lag is simply part of the technology and nothing to worry about. However, there are instances where a lag can be detrimental to your audience and it’s important to know how to prepare for this ahead of time so that you don’t face any unnecessary loss of live stream audience for your production.

We’re breaking it all down below:

Live Streaming is Not Live Conferencing!

First, it’s important for us to note that live streaming and live conferencing are not the same. Many clients see a 5-10 second or more lag in their live stream that is actually harmless to their event, and think it’s a problem. It’s not!

Live streaming is not the same as live conferencing through FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or similar platforms. A slight lag with a live stream is common, and it’s okay!

Live stream platforms typically are designed differently than two-way collaboration platforms like those listed previously for conferencing. As a result, live streams may lag, but just a little bit.

Live Stream Lag Isn’t Always Bad

So, back to the fact that not all lag is bad. Many times, when clients ask us, “Why do live stream videos lag?” They’re not thinking about all of the important elements that are going into producing the live video broadcast.

In order for teams to collaborate, production engineers often create a very slight lag in the live stream to allow for quick collaboration and adjustments such as graphics or other techniques to be used in the production of the stream.

In this case, a lag is not a problem, but actually a practice.

In live stream production we refer to the time between the real-time recording of the event, and the time that it is delivered on the screen for the viewer, latency.

Latency varies based on the live stream production and may span between 30 and 120 seconds on average for low latency streaming. 

During this time, a lot is happening in the background. The live stream video is being compressed, transcoded, and translated for the viewer. Latency isn’t always a big deal.

If your audience is not viewing the live stream immediately, a latency of more than 2 minutes would be fine. However, if your audience is expected to be sitting in their seat waiting for your response and interaction in the live stream, lower latency delivery is important. 

quarantine livestream

Latency is caused by:

  • Image capture time.
  • Encoding
  • Video transmission
  • Jitter Buffer
  • Transcoding and Translating
  • Transmission to audience
  • Decoding and display

When Live Stream Lag is Bad

Sometimes, live stream lag is a bad thing, especially if your audience is waiting for your stream or they’re interacting in the past-time. This is especially problematic if some of your audience is experiencing a longer lag than others, things can get confusing and messy.

To improve the overall value of your live stream and reduce lag, the following steps can be taken:

  • Make sure that you’re streaming from a hard-wired internet connection.
  • Avoid WiFi or Wireless streaming if possible.
  • Check the connection and make sure that you have an upload speed of at least 4Mbps
  • Use a lower output setting if streaming in HD is creating too much of a lag.
  • Lower your video bitrate to reduce the amount of data being sent over the stream.