YouTube Launches AV1 Live Stream Beta to Improve Video Quality

Why is it important: As more hardware and software support AV1 encoding, the video codec is set to replace H.264 as the preferred standard. Another step in the transition is coming as YouTube prepares to support AV1 for live streaming. A well-known youtuber recently offered first impressions after accessing the latest OBS beta.

On Monday, streamer EposVox shared early information on how YouTube will soon allow AV1 encoding for live streaming, allowing 4K 60fps streams to be streamed. The rundown includes suggestions for a good bitrate for each resolution and frame rate.

Since its introduction in 2018, the AV1 codec has steadily gained support due to its improved performance over H.264 or VP9 and the lack of licensing requirements. Most modern hardware can decode AV1, and last year’s new generation graphics cards from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia support AV1 encoding.

The main barrier to AV1 adoption is getting software support from various popular services. Twitch isn’t there yet, HandBrake added support late last year, Discord currently allows Nitro subscribers with RTX 40-series GPUs to stream in AV1, and YouTube has allowed pre-recorded AV1 video for a while.

YouTube recently added support for RTMP+ (extended RTMP), allowing you to stream live in AV1, VP9 and HEVC formats. In addition, the upcoming OBS 29.1 allows for AV1 live streaming, and EpoxVox has acquired a pre-build.

The difference in efficiency with AV1 is striking. In H.264, a 1080p 60 fps stream requires a bit rate of at least 8 Mbps for good image quality. EposVox stated that 8Mbps is the best place for AV1 for 1440p 60fps streams, and that streamers can get by with as little as 4-6Mbps. It offers just 4Mbps for 1080p 60fps and 10-15Mbps for 4K 60fps streams.

These numbers are not absolute. This is just one streamer’s recommendation for balancing image quality with bandwidth usage. The right balance will likely depend on the amount of speed and movement in each game. Some users may want to go even lower, as EposVox has achieved a decent image when streaming Halo Infinite in 1440p 60fps at just 500kbps.

When OBS 29.1 launches publicly, users can switch to AV1 by going to Settings > Stream and selecting “YouTube – RTMPS” from the drop-down menu. Then go to Output > Encoder and select QuickSync AV1 from the drop down list.

Unfortunately, OBS hasn’t set a release date for the new build, but EposVox says one is imminent. He plans to test the streaming capabilities of AV1 Discord in a future video.

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