Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Netflix offering bandwidth tools to Canadian users

By Ray Nicolini

If you’re a Canadian resident struggling with the newly imposed broadband data quotas, you’re definitely going to appreciate this. Netflix has announced a new set of tools available to Canadian users that can curb the amount of data used while streaming movies by up to 66%, “with minimal impact to video quality.”
“In the past, viewing 30 hours of Netflix could consume as much as 70 GBytes, if it was all in HD, and typically about 30 GBytes,” writes Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer at Netflix. “If any member wants to change back to higher data usage and video quality, they can do so on the Manage Video Quality page, found under Your Account.”
Using the new settings, that same 30 hours of video can be viewed with just 9GB of data flying over the wire. If you’re interested to know exactly how Netflix has managed to slice and dice its data usage, there is some technical information waiting for you after the break.
We’ve created three settings:
  1. “Good” – The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GBytes/hour)
  2. “Better” – Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GBytes/hour)
  3. “Best” – Best picture quality and highest date use per hour (generally about 1.0 GBytes/hour – or up to 2.3 GBytes/hour when streaming HD content)
Any member can adjust the settings anytime by visiting the Manage Video Quality page, found under Your Account.
At all settings, Netflix adaptive streaming may choose a lower data rate stream if your connection is lower speed or, in the case of congestion, in order to minimize interruptions.
Also, at all settings, Netflix streams a little bit of additional data as a buffer each time you start a movie or TV show. Frequent starts and stops, or rewind/seek activity, will slightly increase the amount of data Netflix streams to you per hour. In most cases this will amount to less than a few minutes’ worth.
The “Good” setting limits video/audio to 625 kbps/64 kbps. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be up to 9 GBytes per month.
The “Better” setting limits video/audio to a maximum of 1300 kbps/192 kpbs. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be less than 20 GBytes per month.
The “Best” setting will use any of the video/audio rates available. Our highest quality files are 4800 kbps (for 1080p HD video) and 384 kbps audio (for 5.1 audio). 30 hours of this highest quality streaming would be less than 67 GBytes. However, only a selection of movies and TV shows are available at these rates, and in many cases, the effective video/audio upper limit for non-HD content is 2200 kbps/192 kbps. At that rate, 30 hours of streaming is less than 31 GBytes.
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