Configuring Video Streams for Seeking Performance

Some playback applications perform a lot of seeking on individual streams. Seeking is an area where performance can vary greatly depending upon the settings of the stream. If you know your content needs to be optimized for quick seeking, you can tailor your stream configuration to improve performance.

The biggest factor affecting the speed of seeking operations in video is the spacing of the key frames. Because every frame between key frames needs to be reconstructed based on the frames that come before it, widely spaced key frames result longer seek times. For example, if a video stream with 30 frames per second has a maximum key-frame spacing of 10 seconds, there are potentially 300 frames between key frames. If you seek to the last delta frame, 299 frames have to be reconstructed for the frame to be decompressed. If each frame reconstruction took .01 second, the seek would take almost 3 seconds. If you want to increase the efficiency of seeking, lowering the key-frame spacing can help. However, if you set the key frames too close together, you can lose quality.

You can set the maximum key-frame spacing by calling IWMVideoMediaProps::SetMaxKeyFrameSpacing. The recommended values, based on the bit rate of the stream, are listed in the following table. These values provide a good balance of seeking performance and quality. The SDK does not enforce any limit on the time between key frames. In general, times longer than 30 seconds can adversely affect seek times both when the content is streamed over a network, and when it is played back locally.

Bit rate Suggested maximum key-frame spacing
22 Kbps to 300 Kbps 8 seconds
300 Kbps to 600 Kbps 6 seconds
600 Kbps to 2 Mbps 4 seconds
2 Mbps and higher 3 seconds


For more information about getting the best performance when seeking video files, see Getting the Best Video Seeking Performance.

Configuring Streams