Are you tired of constant video buffering while streaming videos online? Tried everything to stop video buffering? Slow internet connection, device issues, and network congestion are common causes of buffering, and there are some effective ways to combat video buffering.
- End-users or video streamers can check their internet speed, use wired connections, close other apps, and lower video quality to reduce buffering.
- Service providers can implement content delivery networks, adaptive bit-rate streaming, caching, optimized encoding, and quality of service for a better streaming experience.
Whether you’re a video streamer or service provider, this article has something for everyone. We’ll explore the solutions to buffering from the end-user and service provider’s perspectives.
Read on to learn how to overcome the buffering problem and enhance your streaming experience!
Table of Contents
What is Buffering in Video Streaming?
Before understanding why the buffering problem occurs, let us first learn about buffering and see why it is important for a video to playback smoothly.
Definition: Buffering in video streaming is the process of temporarily storing a segment of video content on the device before it is played back. In other words, the player fetches or pre-loads the next few segments of the video before they are played back at the appropriate time.
Buffering or pre-loading video segments ensure a smooth playback experience by compensating for any fluctuations in network connectivity or data transfer speeds. The video player retrieves data from the buffer and plays it back continuously, seamlessly switching to the next segment in the buffer as it becomes available.
The size and duration of the buffer can vary depending on the video streaming platform and the device used for playback. Still, it is generally designed to be large enough to accommodate any temporary interruptions in data transfer and minimize the occurrence of buffering or stuttering during playback.
However, there are limitations to the size and design of a video buffer. When faced with poor network conditions (and other problems), the video starts “buffering,” or stuttering or stalling.
Why does the Video Buffering Problem occur?
When a player encounters difficulty fetching the next segment of video content from the server, it may pause playback to allow more data to load into the buffer. This pause in video playback is called Video Buffering and stalls the video playback.
The buffering problem can disrupt the viewing experience and cause frustration to the user, particularly in cases where the buffering occurs frequently or for extended periods.
Buffering usually occurs due to
- fluctuating network connectivity/conditions,
- slow data transfer rates,
- the limited processing power of the device,
- Or problems in delivering the video from the service provider (CDN misses, failures at the origin server, authentication servers, etc.)
Now that we know why buffering occurs during video playback, let us look at how to stop buffering. It is important to look at buffering from two perspectives – an end-user and a video service provider. Both can take steps to prevent buffering and ensure a great viewing experience.
How can a User/Streamer Stop Video Buffering?
There are several ways to prevent video buffering problems during video streaming. Here are five potential solutions:
- Increase Your Internet Speed: Slow internet speeds are one of the leading causes of video buffering problems.
- Try to upgrade to a better or faster internet connection to solve your buffering issues.
- In many situations, adding a wireless repeater or improving the placement of your router can also solve your internet problems.
- Or, Use a Wired Connection: Wireless connections are susceptible to interference, signal drops, and other network issues. A wired connection, such as an ethernet cable, will ensure a stable and reliable connection, preventing video buffering problems.
- Reduce the Quality in your Video Settings: Video buffering problems can often be resolved by lowering the quality of the video being streamed.
- Most video players have the option to reduce the video quality, which can prevent buffering problems by reducing the amount of data that needs to be transferred.
- Choose the lowest setting that allows buffer-free streaming and work your way up.
- Close Background Applications: Other applications running on the device can consume bandwidth and processing power, causing the video to buffer. By closing all unnecessary applications before streaming video, you can prevent video buffering problems.
- Update your Apps, Devices, or Drivers: sometimes, your video content provider might have solved issues in the app and reduced buffering. The same goes for your devices and hardware video/GPU drivers.
Implementing one or more of these solutions can significantly reduce or prevent video buffering problems during video streaming, providing a smooth and uninterrupted viewing experience.
How can a Video Service Provider Stop Video Buffering?
As a video service provider, here are five solutions to prevent video buffering problems for end-users:
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Though this is quite rare today, if a content provider is not using a CDN, this is the first thing they should do! A CDN distributes the video content across multiple servers closer to the end users. This reduces the distance the data needs to travel, reducing the time it takes to load the video and reducing the likelihood of buffering. For more advantages of using a CDN, go here and here.
- Use Adaptive Bitrate Streaming: Adaptive bitrate streaming technology adjusts the video quality in real-time based on the available bandwidth.
- ABR ensures that the user receives a video stream that matches their network speed, reducing the likelihood of buffering.
- ABR also allows users to switch to a lower bitrate/quality if they experience buffering.
- Improve Video Encoding Settings: Use efficient video encoding techniques or more advanced codecs (like AV1 or VP9) that compress the video while retaining quality, reducing the amount of data that needs to be transferred, and preventing buffering. In other words, the videos are smaller and can travel through poorer network conditions.
- Check Your Platform’s Performance: Optimize the performance of the video platform by monitoring server loads, ensuring server capacity is sufficient, and fixing any potential issues that may cause the video to buffer. A common problem is with servers responsible for returning the video manifest/playlist, user authentication, or DRM authentication.
- Improved Buffering and Pre-Fetching Algorithms: video streaming services can do two things here –
- Implement appropriate error recovery techniques that enable the video player to recover from errors quickly and resume playback without buffering.
- Research and develop advanced techniques for prefetching data, buffering ahead of the video stream, and reducing the wait time between segments.
By implementing these solutions, video service providers can prevent video buffering problems and provide their end-users with a seamless and uninterrupted viewing experience.
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Krishna Rao Vijayanagar
Krishna Rao Vijayanagar, Ph.D., is the Editor-in-Chief of OTTVerse, a news portal covering tech and business news in the OTT industry.
With extensive experience in video encoding, streaming, analytics, monetization, end-to-end streaming, and more, Krishna has held multiple leadership roles in R&D, Engineering, and Product at companies such as Harmonic Inc., MediaMelon, and Airtel Digital. Krishna has published numerous articles and research papers and speaks at industry events to share his insights and perspectives on the fundamentals and the future of OTT streaming.