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Choosing the Right Video Bitrate for Streaming HLS and DASH

Video Bitrates for Streaming

Choosing an appropriate streaming bitrate for a specific resolution, while maintaining an acceptable visual quality is not always that easy. The decision depends heavily on the content, e.g., motion, resolution, video bitrate, frame-rate etc. In adaptive streaming systems like MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) and Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) the first decision that needs to made is: What is the minimum and maximum bitrate/resolution that the system should serve to the users? This depends of course on the resolution and bitrate of the input content and on the network conditions that most of your users are facing, e.g., mobile networks (3G, 4G) with bandwidth fluctuations from x to y and fixed networks with the same variances but in another range.

Video bitrates for streaming

As a rule of thumb, the Bitmovin team recommends minimum, average and maximum bitrates for common resolutions visualized through the following graph. The horizontal axis of the graph shows the pixels per second, on a logarithmic scale, that are needed for the resolutions with 24 frames per second and the vertical axis shows the encoding bitrate in Kbps.

Resolution and Bitrate Recommendation

The minimum, average and maximum functions of the previous graph are also visualized in the following table view. This view also contains the bits spend per pixel when encoded with the recommended bitrate. It can be seen that the bits per pixel are decreasing with increasing resolutions due to the fact that H.264/AVC is more efficient for higher resolutions.

Minimum Video Bitrate


Resolution FPS Bitrate (Kbps) Bits per Pixel
426×240 24 250 0.10
640×360 24 500 0.09
854×480 24 750 0.08
1280×720 24 1500 0.07
1920×1080 24 3000 0.06
4096×2160 24 10000 0.05


Average Video Bitrate


Resolution FPS Bitrate (Kbps) Bits per Pixel
426×240 24 400 0.17
640×360 24 800 0.15
854×480 24 1200 0.12
1280×720 24 2400 0.11
1920×1080 24 4800 0.10
4096×2160 24 16000 0.08


Maximum Video Bitrate


Resolution FPS Bitrate (Kbps) Bits per Pixel
426×240 24 700 0.29
640×360 24 1400 0.26
854×480 24 2100 0.22
1280×720 24 4200 0.19
1920×1080 24 8400 0.17
4096×2160 24 28000 0.14


  • Did you hear of Per-Scene Adaptation? It helps reducing the bandwidth consumption by adjusting the bitrate stream to the minimum bitrate required to maintain perfect visual quality for every segment within your video. Read more about it here.
  • Per-Title Ladder Benchmarking Tool: Test your Content and see a comparison of your existing bitrate ladder (or a standard default ladder) against the optimized Per-Title ladder.
  • Video Developer Report 2019: Key insights into the evolving technology trends of the digital video industry

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Daniel Weinberger is a Principal Solutions Architect at Bitmovin. After years of developing the Bitmovin Player and leading the player engineering department, he's now enabling customers to integrate and optimize the Bitmovin Player and Analytics into their applications.

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