Understand Stream Diagnostics

Use diagnostics on the Dashboard to help understand and troubleshoot quality issues with your stream.

Mindy Worley avatar
Written by Mindy Worley
Updated over a week ago

BoxCast provides diagnostics on the dashboard to help you understand and troubleshoot quality issues with your stream. Our service continually monitors your stream, collecting data and generating alerts in real-time. After the broadcast ends, a summary report is available to help improve your broadcast quality.

What is Monitored?

Depending on your encoder option, the service will monitor and alert on different conditions. When using a BoxCaster Pro, BoxCaster or the Broadcaster app, monitoring is focused on incoming bitrates and packet loss. For RTMP broadcasts, additional server-side monitoring analyzes frame rates and possible transcode delays due to improper encoder settings.

"Packet loss" is generally a bad thing, although sometimes it can occur in small amounts without a noticeable side effect - it is measured and reported by the BoxCaster when the BoxCast Flow protocol is unable to get data through to the origin server due to something on the network preventing its data from flowing. See the section below to find tips for reducing packet loss.

Graphs are provided in the diagnostics section of the dashboard to allow you to see the entire history of the broadcast bitrates, frame rates, packet loss, and simulcast outputs. You can view the last 60 minutes of data at a fine granularity, or the entire broadcast graphs at a slightly coarser granularity.

If you are using RTMP, you will also see an "Ingestion Latency" graph. This represents the difference between the timestamps of video and audio content that the BoxCast origin is receiving and the "clock" in the origin server. It can be positive or negative but should remain small and constant for optimal stream health. If it grows positive, it means that their encoder or network connection can't keep up, and viewer buffering will occur. If it grows negative, it means that their encoder is sending data too fast (this is rare but possible).

Alert Explanations

You might notice a status indicator (as shown above) next to your Diagnostics tab which, when live, will be green (good), orange (warning), or red (critical). The specific alerting conditions are based on which encoder you are using and other factors such as your target streaming resolution (e.g. you don't need as high of a bitrate for a 720p stream as you do for a 1080p60). Below is a quick explanation of what the alerts mean:

  • Waiting to receive data: Our origin servers have not yet processed any data from your BoxCaster or encoder. Make sure everything is plugged in and ready to go.

  • Bitrate too low: Some data is being received, but it is not at a high enough of a bitrate for your selected profile. BoxCasters will automatically adjust this, but if you are using RTMP, you may need to update your encoder settings.

  • Frame rate too low: The frame rate of the broadcast has fallen too low. This may often accompany a "bitrate too low" message if your Internet is experiencing packet loss.

  • Frame rate too high: The frame rate of your broadcast is too high. If you are trying to stream at 60fps, you must have purchased the PRO Feature Bundle with high frame rate support, otherwise it will drop frames to bring it down to 30fps.

  • Bitrate too high: The detected broadcast bitrate is too high for the selected profile. This can lead to other issues such as transcode delays, so please refer to the RTMP Encoder Settings on the dashboard for the proper bitrate.

  • Transcode delayed: We have detected that the cloud transcoding is falling behind. This is often caused by misconfigured RTMP encoders and can lead to viewer buffering. Please refer to the RTMP Encoder Settings on the dashboard for proper bitrates and profiles. Depending on a particular encoder, testing may be required to find the ideal settings for a quality stream.

  • Discontinuity detected: A "discontinuity" in the stream was detected. This is most often in combination with a streaming interruption, but might also be triggered if your encoding parameters or audio/video timestamps change.

  • Streaming interrupted: No data is being received by our servers, and viewers are likely to experience buffering. Ensure you have a sufficient internet connection to stream (and some extra buffer) to prevent this from happening in the future.

  • Poor network health: The server has detected that the stream is not a high enough quality for the selected video resolution. This can be due to too low of upload bandwidth, packet loss, or other network characteristics that keep the bitrate lower than desired.

  • Ingest latency too high: Your encoder isn't sending data fast enough, either because of low upload bandwidth or because the encoder cannot process fast enough (for example, high CPU or memory usage).

  • Ingest latency too low: This means that your encoder is sending data too fast. It needs to send video and audio data in real-time. This usually happens with software encoders, and can be fixed by syncing your computer's clock with an NTP server. Here are some instructions for how to do that on a Mac or a PC.

Broadcast Quality Star Ratings

After a broadcast ends, a star rating (5 star scale) is assigned, based on several factors. Here is a guide to the ratings:

  • 5 stars: The broadcast quality was great! The bitrates and frame rates matched what we expected, and there were no alerts generated during the entire broadcast.

  • 4.5 stars: Good job! No critical alerts were generated.

  • 4 stars: There may have been some alerts, but the overall average bitrates and frame rates were good.

  • 1, 2, or 3 stars: The detected average bitrates and/or frame rates were lower than preferred for the target video resolution in your stream. You might need to work with your Internet Service Provider to improve your Internet connection if this continues to be a problem.

Additional tips and recommendations may be given directly in the dashboard to help you understand how to resolve certain detected alert conditions.

Tips for Reducing Packet Loss

Good internet connectivity is a must-have for streaming. Specifically, you must have good upload bandwidth (often download bandwidth is the advertised amount and a higher number, but be careful to look closely at the upload bandwidth). Learn more about what speeds are required for streaming.

Even if your Internet Service Provider is advertising a high upload bandwidth, lots of things can cause issues that manifest as packet loss. The Diagnostics feature on the dashboard shows a graph of packet loss to help you monitor and troubleshoot your internet connection.

Common causes of packet loss:

  • Poor upload speed: The general rule of thumb is that you need 2x the bandwidth of what the video will be streaming at (e.g. if streaming at 1mbps then they need AT LEAST 2MB of upload).

  • Bad ethernet cable: Ethernet cables can go bad. Trying switching out cables to see if that makes a difference.

  • Bad router: Many organizations use the original router that their Internet Service Provider gave them, and over time it just isn't up to the task of handling the large amounts of data for streaming. Sometimes switching the old router out for a new one from the ISP will clear up the issue.

  • Bad Ethernet switch: Sometimes there might be a bad ethernet switch somewhere between the router and the ethernet jack you are using. Eliminate switches from the equation as much as possible.

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