Monday, January 23, 2012

Force low quality in Netflix

Netflix offers an option in your account preferences to permanently set a lower bitrate:  https://account.netflix.com/HdToggle

Unfortunately, this applies to all of your streaming devices.  If you'd like to throttle back the bandwidth for just once device, read  on...

If you have an old computer you'd like to use to watch Netflix Streaming (Watch Now), but the graphics adapter and processor cannot keep up with the HD video, try this using Netflix Silverlight Stream Manager:

  1. Make sure the video is not maximized. Hit "ESC" if it is.
  2. Click the video once (to make sure it has focus)
  3. Simultaneously press:  "CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + S" 
  4. A pop-up should appear. Click "Manual Selection"
  5. Pick a lower buffer bit rate (the lowest -- 235 -- is still fairly watchable for TV shows, etc)
  6. Click "Apply"
  7. Close out Stream Manager by clicking the X in the top corner.
  8. Seek to a new place in the move that hasn't yet been streamed to active the new bit rate.
This was discovered on an old Gateway I own with a NVIDIA FX 5600 graphics controller, which is incapable of keeping up with the highest value -- 3600.

This process is also helpful for reducing the amount of bandwidth your connection uses, which may be helpful for 3G hotspots, Cable, DSL or Satellite with certain monthly GB cap, or a service provider.   Note that on a Macintosh the shortcut is "CTRL + OPTION + SHIFT + S".

Unfortunately, Netflix does not make this setting persistent (if you close out the movie it will reset), so it doesn't work for Windows Media Center, only for the web browser (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc).

Dynamically streaming content based on bit rate is fairly unique to Netflix, so likewise, this seems to be a Netflix only setting, so don't expect other Flash or Silverlight plugins to support this any time soon.

Difference in quality (click to enlarge):



Best Quality
Worst Quality











-Tres

1 comment:

stimpy77 said...

"Dynamically streaming content based on bit rate is fairly unique to Netflix, so likewise, this seems to be a Netflix only setting, so don't expect other Flash or Silverlight plugins to support this any time soon."

Not true. Dynamically streaming content based on bit rate has been around since multimedia streaming started off back in the days of RealAudio in 1996; actually, setting the bit rate manually is far more trivial than what existing services and players already do. Streaming media services will often monitor the "receipt rate" of packets sent to clients and self-tune the quality of the service at runtime for slower browsers. This technology seems to have become unpopular over the last few years, perhaps because such services don't always stream over HTTP but rather over proprietary network protocols. At any rate, Silverlight supports such dynamically-tuning media broadcasts via Windows Media Services, and Flash supports it via Flash Media Server.