Video quality of streaming services

Hi there!

Is anyone as underwhelmed by the current quality of video services? While they advertise high resolutions, I find that most streams only deliver a particularly clear image in the very best of conditions (e.g. bright face close ups with much detail like facial hair or relatively fast moving scenes, etc.). But in many cases, dark scenes and scenes with only subtle gradients of the same colour lead to horrendous blocking artefacts. Current codecs simply seem to deliver hit and miss results.

The same goes for audio: if there’s a calm passage in a film, there seems to be a filter that simply fades out all audio and fades it back it once someone speaks. This leads to a jarring roller coaster ride of an audio experience. Especially if there is some meaningful atmospheric sound carpet in the background.

Watching Dune the other day turned into quite the block-and-fade-fest… :confused: What are your experiences? Given that people are pretty attentive to nuances of image reproduction in hardware: does it really matter in light of how compressed everything reaches that hardware? Or are many of you actually buying bluerays?

1 Like

I don’t pay for any video service, but when a friend has come over and we’ve used his Netflix it has been fine. The thing is I have cable, 75Mbps/10Mbps, and use a wired ethernet connection for any streaming. Are you using wireless maybe? That can certain cause the service to downscale the bitrates it offers. If you are using wireless, try a wired connection if possible and see if that improves your experience.

2 Likes

Hmm. Luck has it that my Apple TV is somewhere close to a network cable. I will try it.

However, I don’t really see bandwidth as the problem on my end. We have 250 Mbit/s down, 40 Mbit/s up to the internet (VDSL) and Wifi 6 in our apartment which has been shown to perform around 600 Mbit/s net. The place is not that large so even distances at home may not be an issue. I have this problem on all my devices.

Did you by any chance see Dune? There are a few scenes about 2/3rds through which are pretty dark and the blocking artefacts just completely drew me out of the story.

1 Like

Netflix looks better than Amazon or Peacock for me. Hands down. It’s clear and has beautiful color and audio on my old home theater in a box system. Lol! I also have 1Gb down and wireless.

1 Like

Yes, but your wireless will certainly not be offering that kind of throughput to the device. The best you can expect depends on what protocol you’re using (a/b/g/n/ac/ax) and how crowded the band is. This article has some useful theoretical limits and actual expectations. How Fast Is a Wi-Fi Network? It’d also depend on what else was using the available bandwidth (someone else streaming at the same time? or someone playing a video game or downloading?) They say you need at least 6Mbps for 1080p and 25-32Mbps for 2K/4K. Bandwidth Required For HD FHD 4K Video Streaming

The blocking you see is because of the compression applied by the encoder. It was encoded at least twice, once by the production company that published the movie, and then again by the company streaming the video to you. If this encoding is not done carefully, it will most definitely cause effects that annoy certain people (as yourself and myself appear to be.) On the other hand, uncompressed 4K video is insanely high bandwidth, so it pretty much has to be compressed to be delivered to you at all (even the compression on a Bluray is still pretty significant compared to the raw uncompressed data.)

Some delivery platforms, if not all, have the movie compressed at a number of possible bandwidths. They’ll have the original (let’s say it would be 60Mbps) and then various down sampled versions and several smaller sizes as well. They will attempt to choose the right starting bandwidth for your situation and then run up or down the ladder of choices until they get a “good enough” streaming experience. You may or may not notice it rebuffer if they’re really clever, because they are trying to buffer enough ahead so you won’t notice, but if they find they’re not getting data fast enough, they may switch to a different quality silently to ensure the video keeps playing without noticeable pauses.

1 Like

Indeed, it does - I mentioned that above. However, your post made me rethink and actually test our Wifi exactly at the spot of the 4th gen Apple TV. 5Ghz speed is at a measured 550 Mbit/s with another laptop being used for Teams in the room. 2Ghz is only around 70Mbit/s. So there’s definitely one thing to check later: does the Apple TV connect via 5 Ghz or 2Ghz?

Ever since the platforms decreased the streaming quality in early Covid times, I wonder if they ever brought back the quality. But that might just be my ever-so-pessimistic and -weary way of thinking. Most of our streams, however, don’t really look like I should invest into a better beamer. That’s, by the way, the true source of this post: I was looking at black friday sales and thought that our beamer is closing in on eight years and that there must be something newer, brighter, quieter, shinier. But then I though: if the image quality coming through the pipes periodically looks like SD potato prints, why invest into a new beamer? Which, I suppose, is the right answer from a responsible consumer standpoint, anyhow.

Thanks for your thoughts, in any case! :slight_smile:

Indeed, I saw Dune on Amazon Prime and that’s where things got pretty blocky. I do get the feeling that Netflix has a better image quality, too.

1 Like

We use Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ and I have a 4K HDR Sony TV.

The quality on Apple TV+ (streamed over my Amazon FireTV 4K) is excellent, especially with Foundation, just the opening credits are breathtakingly sharp!

Likewise, ARD, ZDF and Prime itself, the quality is generally good HD or 4K, the latter being very sharp.

I did invest in a soundbar, as the built-in speakers on the TV can’t separate the audio channel. But, again, @Leo was moaning about the audio quality of Foundation with Steve on SN. I watch it in German and, with the Atmos soundbar, the voices are very clear and not overrun by background noise or music.

2 Likes

I get this, and have always put it down to using my WiFi rather than wired. Sounds like that’s an easy change you can do. I’d need a little switch and run some cable, so haven’t bothered.

I also get weird effects with the local dimming on my TV. It uses shutters, but sometimes with dark backgrounds, you can see the area it has dimmed.

2 Likes

That’s one of rezones why I like that this has happened “LUS Fiber | Internet, Television & Phone Service” the 1st step to getting the internet we what pass our landlord.

Count me in the Bluray camp. It all comes down to the bitrate, which streaming services won’t be matching any time soon. You can offer 4k resolution but if you’re capping your content at 6 mbps what’s the point?

1 Like

Any time I have looked at the bandwidth utilisation from my Nvidia shield watching a Netflix 4k stream it uses a constant 15-20 Mbps.

Even 2.4Ghz WiFi should be able to handle that if you have a strong enough signal.

2 Likes

That’s a good idea. I should be testing how much data I actually get delivered when streaming.

Yeah its possible that the video codec downgraded itself if it didn’t think your throughput was capable for handling the full 4k

Another easy to do benchmark is to look at youtube’s stats for nerds on the same device with a 4k stream. It gives an estimation of what it thinks your network is capable of and you can see whether its had to downgrade you to a lower res stream.

Will check that - thanks for mentioning it!

It’s good to hear that most people don’t really have that big problems with their video quality. So I can pack away my doubts about the streaming services delivery quality for a bit. Still, it’s good that our beamer can probably go another 6 years before it really needs a replacement. I do have 1080p eyes anyways. Mediocre vision can be a blessing when it comes to purchasing video equipment.

1 Like