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Video: How To Build Your Encoding Ladder, Part 1: Bitrates

Encoding has never been a one-size-fits-all undertaking, whether you're scaling your output to requirements set by your client or gauging what your end-users can handle. Your encoding parameters should cover a range, or ladder, of settings for adaptive encoding, from lowest-common denominator to the highest bitrate and resolution your clients desire or your end-users will be able to play. In this two-part series from his Streaming Media East 2016 presentation, "How To: Fine-Tuning Your Adaptive Encoding Groups With Objective Quality Metrics," Jan Ozer offers recommendations for adaptive bitrate encoding settings, taking into account not only the high and low end but the key points to hit in between. He also touches on the cost/benefit of budgeting for higher bitrates. 

This installment focuses on data rates; part 2 will focus on resolution options and how to map them to data rates.

Read the full transcript of Jan Ozer's remarks in this clip:

Jan Ozer: For building your encoding ladder, these are the steps that I take.

Step 1, I choose the lowest rate for mobile. Clients can say, "We want to do 300Kbps, or 200Kbps."

They're also going to have an opinion about that. They're going to have an opinion about the highest supported data rate. That's a cost decision. "How much do you want to spend at the high end?"

You're going to choose a data rate around 3Mbps. You just want one around that neighborhood because that's the highest sustainable rate, according to the output or the statistics that Netflix distributes. You're going to want to fill in the blanks between using steps between 150 to 200%.

You might see a ladder started at 200Kbps. You might see at 4600Kbps at the high end. That's what the customer says the most they can spend for their stream. You want your 3mb per second data rate because that's the highest data rate most people can sustain. Then you fill in the gaps. You go down 50% or some measure like that and you fill in the gaps that way.

This is not set in stone. If you ask 10 people what the ideal ladder was, they'd show you 10 different answers. The client may have a fixed opinion about what they want to do at the low end and a fixed opinion at the high end. The 3Mbps number is an important one because of what Netflix says. The rest, you just don't want to be too far, you don't want to be too close. You don't want to strand somebody at a low data rate by not providing one that they can access that's just a little bit higher, but you don't want to have too many in there so that they're constantly switching from one to the other.

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