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imagic 04-08-2014 06:17 PM

Netflix has delivered on its promise to provide UHD/4K streaming content this year. Season two of the provider's popular show House of Cards is now available as a 15 Mbps 2160p stream that utilizes H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression. Netflix says it will also offer "some nature documentaries" in UHD/4K.

 

Unless you've bought a UHDTV that includes a Netflix app and HEVC decoding, you won't be able to watch the new streams. That said, initial reports indicate that the new UHD/4K streams do not quite rise to Blu-ray quality. Vincent Teoh from HDTVtest took a close look at some screenshots and posted an article about his findings.

 

 

Photo from HDTVtest

 

Quote:
"So how does it look? You can’t cheat the physics of compression, especially given Netflix’s 4K streaming bitrate of 15.6 Mbps which is lower than that of well-transferred Blu-rays, albeit using the more efficient HEVC/H.265 codec." Vincent Teoh - HDTVtest

 

When Netflix announced its plans to stream in UHD, I had thought that the result would match Blu-ray. It only makes sense; HEVC is supposed to be twice as efficient as H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) compression, and Blu-ray has about twice the bandwidth available when compared to Netflix's newest offering. I wish that Netflix would provide similar bandwidth for 1080p streams.

 

Quote:

"We still think that reference-level 1080p Blu-ray transfers like Oblivion look cleaner especially during busier sequences, but Netflix has done a decent job within the shackles of manageable internet streaming bandwidth." Vincent Teoh - HDTVtest

 

It's nice to see Netflix take the plunge and roll out UHD/4K. Nevertheless, I'm skeptical about what it might mean for viewers. I wish Netflix had tried to beat Blu-ray quality with its new UHD/4K streaming content, instead of just matching it. What do you think, are you happy to see 4K/UHD streaming come to Netflix, or should the company work to further improve its 1080p offerings?

 


 

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saprano 04-08-2014 06:41 PM

I knew this still wouldn't match a 1080p bluray. Internet streaming can only do so much. And using only 15 mbps doesn't help either.

I really, really hope when a 4KBD standard is set they use 100GB disc and more than the max bluray video bitate of 40 mbps.

Masterbrew2 04-09-2014 12:56 AM

Well at least it should be easy for Netflix to increase the bitrate down the line. 


JustABrah 04-09-2014 01:17 AM

Time for Netflix to start focusing on bringing better audio, this is its biggest down fall, picture quality is already pretty good but no LFE and audio is much lesser than blu ray. I won't take online movie streaming seriously until the audio catches up cause its been left way behind, sorry Netflix and iTunes and others blu ray is still king by a very far distance and 4K is useless, I'd put up a plasma from Panny up against these 4K TVs and bet the plasma will be the nicer picture. Would be great if these online stream could figure out bringing the better audio.

Phrehdd 04-09-2014 04:11 AM

I would like to see the H265 used for 1080p rather than H264. This would allow for the same bandwidth better quality data stream. As for UHD/4k etc., that is all good and dandy that they are getting their start given that there are not many TVs out there to support it (let alone devices).

kluken 04-09-2014 04:40 AM

All this marketing hype is driving me nuts, so 4K at lower quality than BD, makes my head spin. Netflix needs to deliver BD quality before they worry about 4K and as others said, offer lossless audio. I have 45/5 internet for a reason I want better content. So Netflix gets to check the marketing check box that they offer 4K streaming, whoopdie freakin doo!

TorTorden 04-09-2014 05:18 AM

And another question is how long until these streams starts dropping bandwidth, 3 minutes of 4k viewing and 40 minutes of jumping from 480p-720p isn't really comparable to BD no matter how myopic you are.

Thxtheater 04-09-2014 06:57 AM

1 Attachment(s)
A few things are at play here in my opinion. First is I think Netflix is doing a compromise so it doesn't feel the wrath of ISPs for bandwidth usage. Could they stream at higher adaptive streaming bandwidth? Yes.

Personally I would like to see better quality streams of 1080p.

Right now I think Netflix just tried to draw a line in the sand and make a differentiation between themselves and other services.

My only other question: what about AUDIO! Audio is the other 50% of the experience.

imagic 04-09-2014 07:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thxtheater View Post

A few things are at play here in my opinion. First is I think Netflix is doing a compromise so it doesn't feel the wrath of ISPs for bandwidth usage. Could they stream at higher adaptive streaming bandwidth? Yes.

Personally I would like to see better quality streams of 1080p.

Right now I think Netflix just tried to draw a line in the sand and make a differentiation between themselves and other services.

My only other question: what about AUDIO! Audio is the other 50% of the experience.

 

That's probably not an issue—at least for now—considering how few people can actually play back a 4K/UHD stream.


HockeyoAJB 04-09-2014 07:11 AM

Does he give specific info on how the picture looks worse than Blu-ray?  If we assume that the resolution is truly 4K from camera to your living room then the detail ought to be finer than Blu-ray quality (even upscaled Blu-ray quality).  On the other hand, if the workflow for House of Cards is not 4K all the way through then this would be expected.  Is it the color/contrast that seems inferior?  Is it compression artifacts?  Softness, grain, motion blur?

 

Is he certain that the Netflix app wasn't reducing image quality in order to deal with a bandwidth bottleneck?

 

Also, is it really fair to compare a TV series to Oblivion (one of the best blu-ray films ever in terms of PQ)?  Something tells me that Oblivion's budget for camera equipment, color grading, video editing, etc. was a bit higher and would therefore give you a better result.  Wouldn't it make more sense to compare the 4K stream PQ to a blu-ray copy of the same episode.  I'm sure that the studio could downscale their 4K master to 2K and burn it to a disc to play in a blu-ray player for comparison.  Failing that, what about comparing it to another TV series, such as Game of Thrones on blu-ray?


FMW 04-09-2014 07:12 AM

I wish I had enough bandwidth to stream 720.

JaremyP 04-09-2014 07:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

I would like to see the H265 used for 1080p rather than H264. This would allow for the same bandwidth better quality data stream.

Yes! I was hoping Amazon would announce something like this with the Fire TV. Alas, no. Maybe Apple will with the next Apple TV.

HockeyoAJB 04-09-2014 07:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

I would like to see the H265 used for 1080p rather than H264. This would allow for the same bandwidth better quality data stream. As for UHD/4k etc., that is all good and dandy that they are getting their start given that there are not many TVs out there to support it (let alone devices).

 

Your second sentence pretty much gives the reason for the fact that they aren't encoding 1080p films in H.265/HEVC.  In order to be able to decode an H.265 stream, you need an H.265 decoder.  Currently, the only devices that have them are a select number of 4K UHD displays.  Even if they did make a streaming device that supported H.265/HEVC decoding, the chances of Netflix using H.265/HVEC encoding on 1080p content is slim to none due to the fact that most people would still be using devices that don't support it.  Therefore, in order to provide the same content for those who do and don't have H.265/HEVC decoding devices in their homes, Netflix would have to have two copies of said content: one encoded in H.264 and the other in H.265.  This would mean increasing their storage capacity by at least 50% (assuming the H.265 copy is actually half the size of the H.264 copy).  The other alternative would be to keep an uncompressed copy of each film and encode it on-the-fly in either H.264 or H.265 for each and every customer streaming it.  Obviously, they have neither the storage nor the incredible processing power on their end to do this.

 

For these reasons, it makes sense that use of H.265 encoding would be limited to 4K and higher content for the time being.  In the future, once more people have devices that can decode it, it might make sense to start keeping both H.264 and H.265 encodings of 1080p content.  Then, 20 years down the road, they could dump their H.264 copies.


imagic 04-09-2014 07:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by saprano View Post

I knew this still wouldn't match a 1080p bluray. Internet streaming can only do so much. And using only 15 mbps doesn't help either.

I really, really hope when a 4KBD standard is set they use 100GB disc and more than the max bluray video bitate of 40 mbps.

 

I agree—Blu-ray has enough bandwidth to handle high motion. I think the claim that HEVC is twice as efficient fails to account for what happens in action scenes where there simply isn't enough similarity from frame-to-frame to get away with low bit rates. Those scenes simply fall apart with aggressive compression. Relatively static brightly-lit shots look great. It sounds no different than what I've seen happen with iTunes HD and Vudu HDX, IMO.


wattheF 04-09-2014 09:05 AM

6 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post

Does he give specific info on how the picture looks worse than Blu-ray?  If we assume that the resolution is truly 4K from camera to your living room then the detail ought to be finer than Blu-ray quality (even upscaled Blu-ray quality).  On the other hand, if the workflow for House of Cards is not 4K all the way through then this would be expected.  Is it the color/contrast that seems inferior?  Is it compression artifacts?  Softness, grain, motion blur?

Is he certain that the Netflix app wasn't reducing image quality in order to deal with a bandwidth bottleneck?

Also, is it really fair to compare a TV series to Oblivion (one of the best blu-ray films ever in terms of PQ)?  Something tells me that Oblivion's budget for camera equipment, color grading, video editing, etc. was a bit higher and would therefore give you a better result.  Wouldn't it make more sense to compare the 4K stream PQ to a blu-ray copy of the same episode.  I'm sure that the studio could downscale their 4K master to 2K and burn it to a disc to play in a blu-ray player for comparison.  Failing that, what about comparing it to another TV series, such as Game of Thrones on blu-ray?
AMEN!

imagic 04-09-2014 09:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
 

Does he give specific info on how the picture looks worse than Blu-ray?  If we assume that the resolution is truly 4K from camera to your living room then the detail ought to be finer than Blu-ray quality (even upscaled Blu-ray quality).  On the other hand, if the workflow for House of Cards is not 4K all the way through then this would be expected.  Is it the color/contrast that seems inferior?  Is it compression artifacts?  Softness, grain, motion blur?

 

Is he certain that the Netflix app wasn't reducing image quality in order to deal with a bandwidth bottleneck?

 

Also, is it really fair to compare a TV series to Oblivion (one of the best blu-ray films ever in terms of PQ)?  Something tells me that Oblivion's budget for camera equipment, color grading, video editing, etc. was a bit higher and would therefore give you a better result.  Wouldn't it make more sense to compare the 4K stream PQ to a blu-ray copy of the same episode.  I'm sure that the studio could downscale their 4K master to 2K and burn it to a disc to play in a blu-ray player for comparison.  Failing that, what about comparing it to another TV series, such as Game of Thrones on blu-ray?

 

All excellent points! I'm looking forward to 4K/UHD on my PC, so that I can start making proper comparisons. Until then it does seem like a bunch of guesswork. 

 

It should come as no surprise that Netflix UHD/4K at 15Mbps doesn't look perfect. Scott Wilkinson just emailed me from NAB and he said the Netflix UHD/4K demo he saw there didn't look all that spectacular, either.

Everything about the cinematography in House of Cards is top-notch. Red Epic vs. Sony F65? The debate rages on but the Sony is not definitively better. netflix spent $100 million on the first two seasons of House of Cards and David Fincher put it all together for them. Oblivion is great but it's not in some exalted league above house of Cards, at least not in terms of video quality.


Mark12547 04-09-2014 09:18 AM

Having seen some terrible colors on blu-ray and in one season of one show seen atrocious color correction that looked like moiré pattern, I agree that it is best to compare movie to same movie, or episode to same episode.


hidefpaul 04-09-2014 09:20 AM

"That said, initial reports indicate that the new UHD/4K streams do not quite rise to Blu-ray quality.".......

Thanks Mark, I just wanted to say that based on the initial reports, it looks like we still have a long way to go before we see anything decent in 4k.
I really do not understand this, most cable/sat providers can barely get you a decent 1080i or 720p signal as is. Others (Roku, ATV, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu) are OK at best, provided you have the speed and bandwith required for a decent feed.
Really, nothing will ever beat a disc (BD) in the player, or maybe a USB stick in the future, for the FULL A/V experience.
I applaude Netflix for their effort, but please perfect your 1080p stream first, than worry about the 4K.

Just because one can do it, doesn't mean they should..... at least not until you can get it right. IMHO

Paul

KidHorn 04-09-2014 10:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustABrah View Post

Time for Netflix to start focusing on bringing better audio, this is its biggest down fall, picture quality is already pretty good but no LFE and audio is much lesser than blu ray. I won't take online movie streaming seriously until the audio catches up cause its been left way behind, sorry Netflix and iTunes and others blu ray is still king by a very far distance and 4K is useless, I'd put up a plasma from Panny up against these 4K TVs and bet the plasma will be the nicer picture. Would be great if these online stream could figure out bringing the better audio.

I have two Panny plasmas and thought there's no way an LCD will ever look better than a plasma and then I saw this in Best Buy playing native 4K content. I was wrong. Way wrong. The image this TV produces blows my plasma's away.
http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-UN65F9000-65-Inch-Ultra-120Hz/dp/B00DV51DYS

dabotsonline 04-09-2014 10:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

I would like to see the H265 used for 1080p rather than H264. This would allow for the same bandwidth better quality data stream. As for UHD/4k etc., that is all good and dandy that they are getting their start given that there are not many TVs out there to support it (let alone devices).
Indeed. Surely there is no technical reason why they cannot stream their 1080p content in H.265 at 15.6Mbps? That would give the highest number of bits per pixel. As HockeyoAJB said, there aren't many devices that are currently capable of hardware-decoding H.265 / HEVC, but could it not be a user-selectable 'Ultra High Quality' option where it encodes from the uncompressed original on-the-fly? The relatively small number of people manually initiating this quality tier would mean that the processing load on Netflix's end that HockeyoAJB fears would not become excessive.

Lethean 04-09-2014 10:58 AM

No point getting excited yet about their streaming 4K when it doesn't look 4k.

mfs6278 04-09-2014 11:09 AM

http://www.amazon.com/Seiki-Digital-SE65UY04-65-Inch-Ultra/dp/B00FJPO5O8/ref=sr_1_3?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1397063199&sr=1-3&keywords=seiki+4k

Save your self some money this one is great!!! I LOVE IT! even better with the cable

http://www.amazon.com/Seiki-Digital-SU4KC1-U-Vision-Converting/product-reviews/B00IE5C6LO/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

smile.gif

rabident 04-09-2014 11:22 AM

http://www.multichannel.com/news/tv-apps/netflix-starts-stream-4k/373677/URL]

Quote:
For now, access is limited to TVs with Netflix and HEVC/H.265 decoding capabilities built in, Netflix spokesman Joris Evers said via email.

1080p brought DVD quality to Netflix. But 4k won't bring better 1080p without having a 4k TV. I assume that means no support for projectors at the moment either.

TorTorden 04-09-2014 11:42 AM


Netflix doesn't bring better 1080p feeds to 4k TV's, they get the same as anyone else does.
Projectors doesn't have native decoders or any such smart hardware as the TV's do for playback, they require a separate unit to feed them their video and this is precisely how I want it.

I would also be very surprised that down the line once we are getting 4k blueray players they will also come with Netflix and have support Netflix 4k.

HockeyoAJB 04-09-2014 11:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by dabotsonline View Post


Indeed. Surely there is no technical reason why they cannot stream their 1080p content in H.265 at 15.6Mbps? That would give the highest number of bits per pixel. As HockeyoAJB said, there aren't many devices that are currently capable of hardware-decoding H.265 / HEVC, but could it not be a user-selectable 'Ultra High Quality' option where it encodes from the uncompressed original on-the-fly? The relatively small number of people manually initiating this quality tier would mean that the processing load on Netflix's end that HockeyoAJB fears would not become excessive.

 

After thinking about it some more, there might be a better solution.  Instead of looking at the higher bit-rate H.265 1080p stream as a "High Quality" version of the 1080p stream, what if we look at it as a "Low Quality" version of the 4K stream.  The 4K H.265 stream is already a separate version from the HD H.264 stream.  You could buy a new streaming device with H.265 hardware-decoding and 4K support, but still hook it up to your old 1080p set.  Let's say that selecting the "Very High Quality" setting for playing the movie would mean streaming the 4K H.265 version from Netflix's server to your streaming device.  At that point the streaming device decodes it and tosses out the extra pixel information in order to produce an uncompressed 1080p signal, which is then sent to your TV over HDMI.  Only two downsides to this...

 

1) As far as Netflix and your ISP are concerned, you are streaming the 4K H.265 version, but you are only actually seeing 1/4 of that information.  So, if the 4K H.265 signal has a bitrate of 15.6Mbps then the quality of 1080p you see on the screen would be similar to that of a 7.8Mbps 1080p H.264 stream, which isn't much better than Super HD is now.  Of coarse, in the long run, I don't think 15.6Mbps is going to fly for 4K H.265, not unless they can make further significant improvements in the efficiency of H.265.  My guess is that they will have to up that to at least 20-25 Mbps, if not higher to get the quality of the stream to stand out in comparison to 1080p Blu-ray.  And, doing that would also improve the quality of 1080p you get from that same stream when downscaled.

 

2) The availability of this higher bit-rate 1080p content would be tied to the availability of the 4K content.

 

P.S. This of coarse hinges on whether or not Netflix uses HDCP 2.2 copy protection on their 4K stream.  If so, then your display would have to support it for this to work, so older TV's wouldn't work.


SMHarman 04-09-2014 12:03 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thxtheater View Post

My only other question: what about AUDIO! Audio is the other 50% of the experience.

What audio are you not getting?  I am getting DD5.1 on my Roku3

 

I noticed the LFE impact on the Frozen rental I got from Amazon Instant Video this weekend.

 

http://www.roku.com/products/roku-3

 

"Digital over HDMI (7.1 and 5.1 surround pass through)"

 

Passed through to my AVR perfectly.


repete66211 04-09-2014 12:04 PM

Netflix can't do 1080p properly, why would I expect them to deliver on 4k? And then there's the whole bandwidth thing. And what about throttling? Every move Netflix makes is aimed specifically to increase the price of Netflix stock. Customers are an afterthought. I was a long time Netflix fanboy, but they can go the way of the dodo for all I care.

Phrehdd 04-09-2014 12:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post

Your second sentence pretty much gives the reason for the fact that they aren't encoding 1080p films in H.265/HEVC.  In order to be able to decode an H.265 stream, you need an H.265 decoder.  Currently, the only devices that have them are a select number of 4K UHD displays.  Even if they did make a streaming device that supported H.265/HEVC decoding, the chances of Netflix using H.265/HVEC encoding on 1080p content is slim to none due to the fact that most people would still be using devices that don't support it.  Therefore, in order to provide the same content for those who do and don't have H.265/HEVC decoding devices in their homes, Netflix would have to have two copies of said content: one encoded in H.264 and the other in H.265.  This would mean increasing their storage capacity by at least 50% (assuming the H.265 copy is actually half the size of the H.264 copy).  The other alternative would be to keep an uncompressed copy of each film and encode it on-the-fly in either H.264 or H.265 for each and every customer streaming it.  Obviously, they have neither the storage nor the incredible processing power on their end to do this.

For these reasons, it makes sense that use of H.265 encoding would be limited to 4K and higher content for the time being.  In the future, once more people have devices that can decode it, it might make sense to start keeping both H.264 and H.265 encodings of 1080p content.  Then, 20 years down the road, they could dump their H.264 copies.

Thanks for the thoughtful response to my post. As someone else pointed out, one would have hoped items like the Amazon Fire might have been able to handle H.265. While your logic is spot on about storage requirements (Netflix as example) it seems they already in the works to do the 4K streaming suggesting they are increasing their storage capacity of available (format of) film to stream. Maybe this is like Apple in its decision to offer up Thunderbolt before there were any real devices out there to take advantage of it. Hopefully, we'll all see some goodness of quality streaming for 1080p and of course 4K.

eclipsegt 04-09-2014 12:27 PM

This is why the Blu-ray association needs to get their crap together and make an official 4K bluray (with room for wide color and possibly HDR). Between the low internet speeds for most of America and compression quality, it's obvious that streaming will not be the ideal meathod for 4K content.

Its possible that the 4K bluray standards will be finished later this year so keep your fingers crossed. There are a lot of great 4K TVs starting to come out, it would be nice for the owners to see what their TV can really do.

HockeyoAJB 04-09-2014 12:34 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post


Thanks for the thoughtful response to my post. As someone else pointed out, one would have hoped items like the Amazon Fire might have been able to handle H.265. While your logic is spot on about storage requirements (Netflix as example) it seems they already in the works to do the 4K streaming suggesting they are increasing their storage capacity of available (format of) film to stream. Maybe this is like Apple in its decision to offer up Thunderbolt before there were any real devices out there to take advantage of it. Hopefully, we'll all see some goodness of quality streaming for 1080p and of course 4K.

 

I was thinking that the successor to the Roku 3 would naturally be called the Roku 4, right?  Why not build in H.265 decoding and 4K support and then call it the Roku 4K?  Has i nice ring to it, eh?



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