I'm just curious what the physical limitation is now-a-days that connectors like USB-C and thunderbolt exist. In the past I thought the issue was that the encodings that video cameras put out (probably mostly some variant of h.264 or h.265) required more throughput than USB could offer but now that doesn't really seem to be the case. What's the issue?

  • You mean stream from camera directly to internet without a laptop or whatever? My guess is lack of demand. Average joe types will just use a cell phone. Professionals will either connect to a dedicated box via hdmi/sdi or use something like this: livestream.com/broadcaster . But I'll admit, I'm not really up to date with what's available in the prosumer arena lately. Aug 30, 2016 at 17:21
  • @JasonConrad No, I mean take an arbitrary video camera, plug it in via USB-C or thunderbolt to a PC and use it like a webcam. Aug 30, 2016 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


It's theoretically possible, so there is no longer a physical limitation owing to bandwidth as you mentioned. However, it is costly and time consuming for the camera manufacturer.

It would require them to choose from one of a few options for delivering video live and on-demand which would impact quality, cost and user experience. One method is to use the standard USB camera device protocols that webcams typically use. A very different technique would be to encode H264 into an Internet based streaming protocol and send that through USB. Yet another is to use WiFi with a proprietary app which some cameras use. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

There are products that span all of these options and others that have HDMI or SDI outputs. It seems like output method is more of a question of use case and product specialization than it is a physical limitation anymore.

  • The image out of the camera is already being encoded to h.264. I'm curious why that can't be shipped over some protocol to a PC. Maybe it simply requires more hardware which would make cameras more expensive, and larger like you suggest. Sep 6, 2016 at 15:42
  • Yeah definitely possible since it's already H264, there is simply the additional components hardware cost and then support and testing of those components. There is an interesting effort underway to standardize video delivery over IP so someday this could be as simple as plug-n-play just using an ethernet cable for everything: newtek.com/ndi.html
    – Kieran F.
    Sep 6, 2016 at 16:20

I am not 100% sure but I think that there is a need for a minimal system managing the Internet Protocol in order to enable streaming. So it means there would be a need for a CPU, an OS, and a interface to setup all the related settings to the camera too.

I think the computing power needed for video compression would be possible thanks to a recent processor like the one embedded in smartphone. And of course the rate is no longer a problem for new connections. USB-C would even be able to stream raw video 4K 60fps = 12Gbps. Which is fine for be DisplayPort 1.2a available on USB-C

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