Video Adaptation

Video adaptation is a mechanism which reduces the bandwidth or CPU consumption by reducing encoded video quality.


Adaptation occurs when a Resource signals that it is currently underused or overused. When overused, the video quality is decreased and when underused, the video quality is increased. There are currently two dimensions in which the quality can be adapted: frame-rate and resolution. The dimension that is adapted is based on the degradation preference for the video track.


Resources monitor metrics from the system or the video stream. For example, a resource could monitor system temperature or the bandwidth usage of the video stream. A resource implements the Resource interface. When a resource detects that it is overused, it calls SetUsageState(kOveruse). When the resource is no longer overused, it can signal this using SetUsageState(kUnderuse).

There are two resources that are used by default on all video tracks: Quality scaler resource and encode overuse resource.

QP Scaler Resource

The quality scaler resource monitors the quantization parameter (QP) of the encoded video frames for video send stream and ensures that the quality of the stream is acceptable for the current resolution. After each frame is encoded the QualityScaler is given the QP of the encoded frame. Overuse or underuse is signalled when the average QP is outside of the QP thresholds. If the average QP is above the high threshold, the QP scaler signals overuse, and when below the low threshold the QP scaler signals underuse.

The thresholds are set by the video encoder in the scaling_settings property of the EncoderInfo.

Note: that the QP scaler is only enabled when the degradation preference is MAINTAIN_FRAMERATE or BALANCED.

Encode Usage Resource

The encoder usage resource monitors how long it takes to encode a video frame. This works as a good proxy measurement for CPU usage as contention increases when CPU usage is high, increasing the encode times of the video frames.

The time is tracked from when frame encoding starts to when it is completed. If the average encoder usage exceeds the thresholds set, overuse is triggered.

Injecting other Resources

A custom resource can be injected into the call using the Call::AddAdaptationResource method.


When a a resource signals the it is over or underused, this signal reaches the ResourceAdaptationProcessor who requests an Adaptation proposal from the VideoStreamAdapter. This proposal is based on the degradation preference of the video stream. ResourceAdaptationProcessor will determine if the Adaptation should be applied based on the current adaptation status and the Adaptation proposal.

Degradation Preference

There are 3 degradation preferences, described in the RtpParameters header. These are

  • MAINTIAIN_FRAMERATE: Adapt video resolution
  • MAINTIAIN_RESOLUTION: Adapt video frame-rate.
  • BALANCED: Adapt video frame-rate or resolution.

The degradation preference is set for a video track using the degradation_preference property in the RtpParameters.

VideoSinkWants and video stream adaptation

Once an adaptation is applied it notifies the video stream. The video stream converts this adaptation to a VideoSinkWants. These sink wants indicate to the video stream that some restrictions should be applied to the stream before it is sent to encoding. It has a few properties, but for adaptation the properties that might be set are:

  • target_pixel_count: The desired number of pixels for each video frame. The actual pixel count should be close to this but does not have to be exact so that aspect ratio can be maintained.
  • max_pixel_count: The maximum number of pixels in each video frame. This value can not be exceeded if set.
  • max_framerate_fps: The maximum frame-rate for the video source. The source is expected to drop frames that cause this threshold to be exceeded.

The VideoSinkWants can be applied by any video source, or one may use the AdaptedVideoTraceSource which is a base class for sources that need video adaptation.