How do you test if your stream is working?

Streaming on twitch is quite straightforward, but there can be a few technical difficulties that can botch your stream, especially for someone that is just starting out. So it’s important to run test streams first to see if the broadcast is fully optimized and suited for you and the content that you will be creating. 

The best way to ensure that your stream will be in perfect condition before broadcasting is to run a test stream using Twitch’s Inspector Tool. It will allow you to assess the stream quality and certify that the stream will run properly. Running a test stream prior to the actual broadcast will allow for the streamer to focus more on the content instead of worrying about technical issues such as connection and bit rate issues.. 

Generally, Twitch’s Inspector Tool shows how your video data is being transmitted into Twitch servers and it shows if your stream has periods of instability. It also allows you to detect some of the common errors and problems through the Bitrate Graph in the tool which shows the bitrates out of the broadcast and how it will look once it arrives in the server.

We list down the steps on how to test your Twitch stream here, and offer you insight on the things to keep in mind.

Step by Step Guide on how to Test Your Twitch Stream

  1. Log into Twitch.
  2. On a second tab, go to Twitch’s Inspector Tool, and click “Run a Stream Test”.
  3. Navigate to your Twitch Dashboard.
  4. Copy your “Primary Stream Key”
  5. Open your preferred streaming software, like OBS, and go to settings.
  6. Go to the stream tab located on the left in the settings tab, and then click “Use Stream Key.”
  7. Paste the stream key then add the code “?bandwidthtest=true” to the end of it. Hit “apply”, then “ok”.
  8. Click “Start Streaming” on OBS and the live green box should appear showing that you are live. 
  9. Go back to the Twitch’s Inspector Tool tab, check if everything looks good.
  10. Observe the stream’s performance and try playing for a few minutes just to be sure that there will be no problems once you actually start broadcasting. 

Factors that Affect A Stream

There are main factors that make up the Inspector Tool’s graphs and they are: bitrate, bandwidth, RTT, and the ingest server. Here, we briefly explain what these are and how they affect the stream:

  • Bitrate – Bits of video transferred per second. Twitch has specified a maximum of 6000 kbps of bitrate. A lot of Twitch streams use less. A higher bitrate can result in a higher quality video, however, it may reduce the number of potential viewers because some computers or internet connections could not handle higher bitrate. Also, a higher bitrate does not directly translate to a higher video quality.
  • Bandwidth – This doesn’t necessarily show the bandwidth of your internet, but more on the bandwidth that the inspector tool was able to sustain on the server. Twitch recommends a minimum bandwidth of 4-6mbps while streaming, and anything above 6mbps means that your stream is doing well. 
  • RTT – Round Trip Time measures how long it takes to establish a connection with the server. Servers that are farther away will have a higher number due to greater physical distances.
  • Ingest Server – Streams are delivered from twitch through an “ingest server”, where the stream is processed, registered, then prepared for the viewers. Make sure to select a Twitch server that you can get the lowest ping. This changes based on how your internet provider routes your traffic, so always do a test stream before broadcasting from a different location or internet service provider (ISP). 

Note: If in doubt, use the ingest server physically closest to you.

Common Issues and How to Fix Them

LOCAL NETWORK PROBLEMS

If connection instability persists after lowering the bitrate, it could be a local network problem. This can be caused by a spotty wifi, broken cable, local internet issue, or some other processes in your system that is consuming internet bandwidth. 

Make sure that no other devices are taking up internet bandwidth and the physical hardware such as the router, modem, and cables are fine, and that there are no network interruptions in your area.

HARDWARE PROBLEMS

Sometimes the computer could not handle the load of all the processes in the system and it causes issues for the stream. Make sure that your computer will be optimized for streaming and is capable of handling the multiple processes that you will be using. Do not overload your computer with background processes while streaming and use only what is necessary.

EXCESSIVELY HIGH BITRATE

Streaming at 14,000 kbps bitrate certainly won’t help your bandwidth or your broadcast . Simply having a higher bitrate does not necessarily mean better quality. Excessively high bitrate can cause stability issues in the stream. Remember to follow the maximum of 6000 bitrate, Twitch made that a standard for a reason. In many cases, high bandwidth causes stream instability throughout a broadcast.

BITRATE INCONSISTENCIES

A stream that uses a variable bitrate or if the streaming encoder is not accurately limiting the bitrate may cause buffering inconsistencies for the viewers. The average bitrate is normally 3500 kbps, and if it suddenly spikes to 4500 kbps, the stream will experience issues and will cause the stream to buffer to those watching the broadcast. To avoid interruptions and buffers, either set a constant bitrate or lower the bitrate.

Sometimes, when the encoding tries to optimize the bitrate too much, it can cause bitrate dips, and once the bitrate goes back up, the broadcast will buffer from trying to load too much video data. Try a different encoder that fits your bandwidth, and be aware that dips may happen if your computer does not have enough CPU power for the encoder to compress the data of the stream.

The issues listed above are the most common issues that your stream can experience, and there may be some other isolated issues that are not addressed in this article. For those, you can refer to Twitch’s Guide to Broadcast Health.

We have more articles and guides to help you get your streaming and esports journey started! Check them out here!

Can I test my stream without going live?

Using the "bandwidthtest" flag allows you to broadcast without appearing online to viewers or sending notifications. This helps test new settings or stability before a broadcast.

How do I test stream sound?

Step 3: Test your settings The easiest way to test your settings pre-stream (without asking a friend to log in and sound-check you) is to record a preview of your stream and play it back before you go live. To do this, simply click Start Recording in OBS, run your game, and talk into the microphone for a few minutes.