One of the bigger trends in this generation is sharing. It's easy to share video and screenshots from our favorite games. People post screenshots to Facebook and Twitter right from their Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Streaming to Twitch or YouTube is simple.
With the PlayStation 4 Pro here and the Xbox Scorpio on the horizon, we're starting to see a movement towards 4K resolution. The problem is sharing that shiny 4K is somewhat difficult: many streaming services don't support it, 4K video eats up bandwidth, and the screenshots are huge. There's no consumer-level game recorder that handles 4K, and even the PlayStation 4 Pro's internal video recorder tops out at 1080p. Basically, we have the car, but no roads to drive it on.
Today, YouTube has announced support for 4K livestreaming, up to 60 fps. The video service has been on par with the technology curve on this one. 4K video support was added a few years ago, with high dynamic range (HDR) color support added earlier this month. The first major 4K video stream will be The Game Awards tomorrow at 9pm EST/6pm PST on YouTube.
"Today, we're proud to say that we're taking 4K video one step further with the launch of 4K live streaming for both 360-degree videos and standard videos," wrote Youtube senior product manager Kurt Wilms. "Supporting this new format will let creators and partners stream incredibly high-resolution video, and let viewers enjoy the clearest picture possible when watching a live stream on 4K-supported devices. The image quality is just mind-blowing on screens that support it, and in 360 degrees... the clarity can truly transport you."
4K video streaming will require a hefty bitrate for streaming purposes. 4K at 30 fps requires a bitrate range of 13,000 - 34,000 Kbps, while 60 fps needs 20,000 - 51,000 Kbps. YouTube also notes that there's no low latency optimizations available, with all streams "optimized for less viewer buffering." Twitch maximizes its streams at a bandwidth of 3.5 Mbps, and 4K streams will likely be double that. That means it's unlikely that the average person will be streaming in 4K, but it's a start.