Video streaming is the real-time transmission of audio and video files from a server to a client’s player–it allows us to watch video and listen to audio in an online format. This requires video buffering–which is both a bane of streaming/watching online video, as well as an unsung hero.
If you’re unfamiliar with what video buffering is, what issues it can cause, and what exactly it does for better or for worse, this post is for you. Keep going below for a more in-depth view.
- What is video buffering
- How do I stop videos from buffering
- What are the main causes of video buffering
- How Kaltura helps minimize video buffering
What is Video Buffering?
Video buffering is pre-loading data segments for streaming video content. The data is preloaded into a reserved section of memory, i.e., the “buffer.” Your streaming app will download a certain amount of the video data before starting to play. This is a core component of video streaming.
When we mentioned video buffering as both a “bane” and an “unsung hero”, we meant that buffering is a net positive as long as you don’t notice it happening.
In theory, the buffer exists to give you an uninterrupted streaming experience by preloading the content. Once the data loads and the video begins playing, the software continues operating in the background, quietly continuing to load the rest of the content while you progress through the portion that was first loaded.
What many people mean when they say “buffering”, however, is when the video is buffering slowly enough to interrupt streaming. In this way, “buffering” is also used as a generic term to describe video content playback delays.
How Do I Stop Videos from Buffering?
In understanding video buffering as a key part of the process–you don’t actually want to stop your videos from buffering!
However, if the buffering is happening in a noticeably slow way, or you’re experiencing content delays in general, there are several possible causes as well as numerous possible solutions.
Generally speaking, video buffering, and therefore, bandwidth problems, can occur at user level (that’s “you”) or at network level, that’s your ISP or company network.
Most likely you won’t be able to address an outage or service interruption at network level–unless you happen to be a high-level network tech who is also working for your provider! You should report it to the ISP or network technicians so they can diagnose if and when a problem is on their side. Also, most providers and/or company networks maintain a service update webpage, social media account, or internal company website which can provide network status updates.
On the other hand, there are several potential causes, and fixes, you can investigate on the individual level. You might just find you’ll be able to solve your problem and improve your device’s media playback. Read on in the next section!
What Are the Main Causes of Video Buffering?
Reason 1 – Low bandwidth
The key reason for video buffering is almost always low bandwidth. However, there are several types of situations that could result in a lack of available bandwidth:
It might seem obvious, but, number one, ISPs offer different service levels, so make sure you’ve got a bit rate suitable for the content and up-to-date equipment (more about that below) for handling the workload. This article about broadband speed requirements for HD streaming on Netflix, etc., was written in 2019–and then demand spiked even more during stay-at-home orders. You can also run a speed test (including via user-friendly web apps like speedtest.net) to check and make sure your connection speed is everything it’s cracked up to be.
If your internet connection should be technically adequate for streaming but is still not giving you the correct upload/download speeds, then it might fall under a “network level” problem. But especially if you’re on a home connection, make sure your ISP doesn’t tend to throttle user bandwidth when they’re putting a lot of traffic on the connection–such as streaming a bunch of HD video!
Related to the “Internet Speed” bullet–if you don’t have the bandwidth to easily stream in super HD (or even regular HD!)) that will create video buffering problems. Think about it like trying to flow too much water through too small a pipe; there is bound to be a backup. Try reducing the quality of your video: sometimes 720p resolution or lower will do the trick without resorting to the bandwidth strain of streaming 4K.
Prime Your Stream
It can be frustrating in our era of constant convenience, but occasionally the best thing to do is just take a break and let your movie load! Allow it to sit for a few minutes and build up a bigger buffer. This also might be the quickest solution you’ll have at that moment (note: not “best long-term solution”), because allowing for more time can compensate for large files moving along a slower connection. We could all probably afford to cultivate a little more patience. Hopefully waiting will at least minimize further interruption. However, if it is not AT ALL, then best to move on to other solutions.
We’ve previously put together guides reviewing more technical aspects of streaming, so for additional technical information about internet connection speed and streaming bitrate as well as what expectations to have for your ISP, internet connection, and related hardware, definitely take a deeper dive!
Reason 2 – WiFi connection
WiFi has gotten very fast. But while many people tend to set up a WiFi router or access point and then forget about it, WiFi devices require care and maintenance. Make sure there aren’t firmware updates from the manufacturer, and every so often make sure to do a reset: turn off the router/access point, pull the power cord for ten seconds, and then plug it back in and start it back up.
Here’s another tip: even though modern WiFi is very fast, if you know any live streamers, folks like video creatives who move around large video files for work, or even very serious-minded gamers, many will say that wired connections (via Ethernet) are much more dependable and less subject to interruptions than WiFi!
Reason 3 – Devices on the network
Did you know that many WiFi devices are still constantly pinging your router even when you don’t use them? If there are many devices on the network (multiple laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices) it can lead to a traffic jam and slow down your streaming speed. You can turn off the WiFi connection on most networked devices so they’re not just “hanging out” on the network while idle. Give it a try and remove them!
And, if there is someone in the next room downloading 100 GB of files or streaming a movie in 5K, that will eat into your bandwidth capacity! Make sure everyone isn’t doing big jobs over the network all at once, if it’s at all possible.
Reason 4 – Other applications and programs running
Either obvious, or oft-forgotten: if you are running a bunch of programs, performing multiple tasks, or sometimes even have an excessive number of browser tabs open, these will eat into your computer’s ability to stream video without flaws or interruption. Much like idle devices sitting on your network, applications running in the background will consume system resources.
Downloading files in the background, for instance, will add to the overall strain on your bandwidth even if you don’t notice it happening. Video games and multiple browser tabs are especially culprits. Make sure you close out anything you’re not using. If possible, use a system tool like Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac) to watch out for apps or processes that quietly eat up data or other resources.
Reason 5 – Drivers and settings
Streaming video is very demanding on your system and hardware: make sure you do periodic system and device updates, including and especially graphics drivers.
You’ve probably heard someone say “clear out your cache and cookies” to improve browser performance. This goes double for video streaming–your browser has a local cache for sites you’ve visited, checking if local content is current to avoid downloading it. But that temporary and cached data can eventually overload your browser and slow it down significantly. Do a clean-up from time to time to streamline your browser.
Lastly, as we mentioned above modems and routers require some attention and maintenance. In addition to doing a reboot from time to time, you can try other things like setting wireless to the 5GHz band for less interference or changing DNS servers (which look up websites by name for their IP addresses) as your default DNS server could be slow.
How Kaltura Helps Minimize Video Buffering
Kaltura takes our streaming very seriously, and our unique value proposition is providing smooth streaming and video playback anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Any of our video-based solutions offer the same high-quality streaming free of video buffering, however for enterprise users looking to produce and broadcast content Kaltura Video Portal will be a real stand-out platform. It’s a home to all your videos, kind of like a YouTube just for your brand, company, or organization, that comes equipped with our lightweight video player and adaptive bitrate streaming. In other words, it can handle live and on-demand HD streaming and video conferencing that will intuitively be best adapted for whatever device it plays on. We even have a native app that will provide the same beautiful playback on any mobile device.
In short, whether you’re streaming or publishing content or watching videos within your organization, Kaltura can make video buffering issues a thing of the past!
While video buffering can be an annoying interruption, it is a necessary part of the video streaming process behind the scenes. If your video streaming is being slowed down by buffering, it’s also not an impossible problem to fix.
Most importantly, make sure your internet service is up to the task. Especially in business situations, you need a strong, fully featured, variable bitrate streaming platform that will give you the most flawless stream possible.
The capabilities of WiFi and streaming players have come a long way in recent years–but by the same token, HD resolution and camera and screen capabilities have also increased, as has the appetite for video streaming and conferencing, so video buffering issues (or at least proofing against them) will remain a concern for the immediate future.
Give your audience the smooth high-quality video experience they deserve… With Kaltura Video Portal!