How to Reduce Lag While Streaming

Experiencing lag when you’re streaming is one of the most frustrating things you can encounter during your broadcast.

It can be seriously rage-inducing to find that your stream isn’t broadcasting as it should and your viewers aren’t getting the quality they tuned in for. Poor quality streams will also limit your ability to engage your followers and turn them into fans.

Fans will be less likely to donate to streamers that don’t give them something good to watch. Streams that cut in and out or are streamed with the graphics out of sync aren’t what most people would think of as “good to watch.”

However, the good news is that it can be fixed.

Our guide to reducing lag while streaming covers network lag and graphics lag, addressing the causes and the solutions for the latency.

What is Network Lag in Streaming?

Network lag (or “network latency”) is the type of problem that most people think of when they hear the word “lag.” So, we’ll take a look at it first.

Network lag is when there is a large delay between data being transmitted between your computer and the server of a game or other, online platform. It’s what people mean when they talk about “ping.”

Network latency diagram via KeyCDN.

Network latency diagram via KeyCDN.

The lower your “ping,” the quicker your computer is transmitting data between it and an Internet server. For most online games, you want to aim for a ping of 150 ms (milliseconds) or lower. Any higher than that and you may experience lag.

Network lag in streaming means that there may not be enough bandwidth for you to stream smoothly. Your connection may drop, causing your stream to go offline, or you may be unable to stream in a high quality.

For streamers who want their viewers to see how they are playing or performing in real-time, reducing lag is important.

What is Graphics Lag?

While network lag is the most common form of lag that most people have heard about, it’s not the only kind of lag that can affect the quality of your stream. Some streamers also experience graphics lag.

Graphics lag is the latency of what’s being displayed on your screen. If network lag is a slow connection between your computer and the server, think of graphics lag as a slow connection between your controller and the game.

With graphics lag, it can take longer for your inputs to be registered. When you hit the “weapon fire” button on your controller or keyboard, it may take a second for your character to fire their weapon, because of the lag.

This can ruin the experience of playing any game. In multiplayer games like League of Legends and Apex Legends, where fast reaction times are a requirement for being the best player, it can mean the difference between a triumphant win and a major defeat.

In streaming, graphics lag can mean that you aren’t able to impress your viewers with your gaming skills. It also means that you won’t be having as much fun - and if you aren’t having fun, your viewers probably won’t be having a lot of fun!

How to Fix Network Lag

Positively, network lag is a fixable problem.

The first change you’ll want to make is to use a wired connection. If possible, connect your computer or laptop to your wireless Internet router using an Ethernet cable. Ethernet cables often come packaged with routers so just find the box it came in if you don’t want to make a trip to the hardware store.

You’ll also want to close down bandwidth-intensive programs to ensure you have enough bandwidth to stream smoothly. Pause downloads (such as game updates) that may be running in the background and turn off background updating programs like Dropbox.

If you live in a house with lots of other people, you’ll also want to ask if anyone else is using the Internet. If your mom is watching Netflix, your dad is streaming sports, and your little brother is downloading Minecraft, that’s all going to hog the bandwidth. (Politely) ask them to pause what they’re doing or wait until they’re done before you start streaming.

How to Fix Graphics Lag

Graphics lag is also a solvable problem.

The first thing you can do is to lower the in-game settings. Your computer may not be capable of displaying a game at the highest frame-rate or resolution, which causes graphics lag.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is known for being a graphics intensive game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is known for being a graphics intensive game.

You’ll also want to update your drivers to ensure that your graphics card is best optimized for running that game. Sometimes, an outdated driver is the only reason why a game’s graphics aren’t being displayed as they should.

Other than your game, you may be running some graphics intensive programs in the background. Some graphics intensive programs are image editor Adobe Photoshop and software that uses large and complex spreadsheets. CD Projekt RED’s fantasy RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Ubisoft’s open world sandbox game Far Cry 5, and action adventure game Rise of the Tomb Raider are all known for being graphics intensive and if you have these games running in the background, close them down and go back to them later.

Finally, you’ll want to switch to OBS.Live for your stream management. According to a test run by Speedbre4ker, an independent tech YouTube, the free OBS Studio add-on uses less FPS than other stream management tools. By adding Activity Feed and Chat to OBS Studio, it also declutters your desktop and frees up some computing power, letting your computer put its all into your stream.

Happy streaming!

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Jasmine HenryComment