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Netflix in 1080p and 5.1 Surround Sound - Not so Fast!

by February 09, 2010
Netflix Goes 1080p... someday.

Netflix Goes 1080p... someday.

A flurry of activity went on today as Cnet broke a story about Netflix adding 1080p and 5.1 audio to its entire streaming library later this year. Since all of the three major game consoles - Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii support Netflix, the Wii's addition of this feature would alone be crippled by the lack of support for HD and surround sound. Existing televisions, DVD players and other media streaming devices (like Roku) would fare just perfectly with an update.

Of course, not everything was rosy in the world of tech. Even as tech sites everywhere scrambled to report the breakthrough news - I mean, who doesn't want 1080p streaming Netflix?) Netflix now claims that it incorrectly acknowledged 1080p streaming in the company's 2010 development road map (which was the basis for Cnet's revelation). A Netflix representative further clarified that the company plans to bring 5.1 surround and closed captioning to its streaming HD videos later this year, though 1080p Watch Instantly is not on the books for 2010.

5.1 audio is nothing to slouch at - and I for one will welcome surround sound with open arms. It's the elephant in the living room as far as missing features for this technology that seems to be proliferating faster than nuclear rockets during the 80s. Netflix's current requirements (based on observation) for streaming 720p high-definition content on an HD-compatible box such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Roku set-top box are 5Mbps or higher. It would be a good guess that 1080p, which transmits almost twice the data of 720p (or 1080i), will require more speed.

Personally, I think 5.1 would be a much more exciting and better addition than 1080p. In fact, here is the order of excitement for Netflix innovation in my opinion:

  1. Content, Content, Content...
    Stream it all for goodness sakes. Why spend all that money on shipping out DVDs when you are just about at critical mass in terms of streaming Netflix to every home in the country? By all means provide DRM or limitations (3 at a time, 3 per day, whatever) on newer releases if you must, but bring this content to our homes instantly, so we don't have to wait for the discs.
  2. Surround Sound
    Bring it to us in surround. It is unacceptable that we have the hardware to support it and someone doesn't flip the switch back at headquarters to make this happen. We want to hear the gunfire and ricochets behind our ears, people!
  3. Better Encoding
    Somebody please fire the monkey that manages the encoding process for Netflix. I shouldn't have to get an email every other week asking me if I liked the quality of the movie I just streamed. You're only asking because you know it sucked and you want to see if you got away with it. You're a professional now - this isn't new. Develop a system and stop letting the content providers send you the encoded material. Don't even give them the specs. Once you have it on paper that you have the rights - take over. It's your system. Take responsibility and pride in how everything is encoded. In short, develop some excellent standards and get rid of the willy nilly quality-uncontrol you have now.
  4. More HD Content
    This ties back to #1, but I don't care if its 1080p. 720p or 1080i is just fine, but get all of your content into HD so we can enjoy using our new flat panel displays and projectors. We didn't buy them to watch poorly encoded 4:3 aspect ratio versions of old movies - we want it to look nice. Old content in HD is fresh. People will love to watch older film in high resolution. You want to up the value of what you have? Make it look good and bring everything into the HD limelight.
  5. Hollywood Content Rights People are Morons - Exploit That and Win
    Convince Hollywood that 1080p is so incredibly awesome that it's light years ahead of 720p. Convince them that 1080p is so wonderful that people will look to Blu-ray to fill that gap. That they will still go to theaters to see "true" HD content and that streaming 720p will leave them deficient and wanting - having not experienced the true high definition bliss that is 1080p. Their lives will be unfulfilled and they will yearn to spend money on the real-deal. Tell them that... and then get them to let you have affordable access to more 720p content. They are absolute morons - trust us, they will buy it. Just appeal to their greed and sense of entitlement. Do whatever it takes. Do it now. We'll wait...

You may have noticed that 1080p wasn't even on my list except as a tool to convince Hollywood to get Netflix more content. It's cause I don't care about streaming 1080p just now. I am more concerned with accurate streaming of 720p and surround sound than waiting for a 1080p movie to fully cache out before it begins playing. I'm also not excited about having all the Netflix streaming subscribers streaming that level of data at the same time - things are liable to bog down. 720p HD is fine - just get us some more content!


Patrick_Wolf posts on February 10, 2010 21:39
Thanks Google

High quality 1080p and uncompressed 5.1 would be more obtainable if the US would get it's act together.

At least google seems to be making waves for faster broadband.

Google to Offer Fast Broadband as Trial to Spur Providers
Patrick_Wolf posts on February 10, 2010 13:16
Some people (and many of us) spend a pretty penny on their displays and surround sound systems; Highly compressed video w/ 2 ch audio is just a waste. So if it takes a day or two to get the best source that's readily available then so be it.
BoredSysAdmin posts on February 09, 2010 15:54
krzywica, post: 684507

Where's my freakin medal?
x264 is open source implementation of h.264
but i'm being :

scott911 posts on February 09, 2010 14:18
THat looks perfect, especially if if plays my Aac files in iTunes without slot if trouble.
krzywica posts on February 09, 2010 13:48
scott911, post: 684512
I think the first bit of Article says that roku boxes could handle 1080; but the roku site shows the top spec us 720… What'd the scoop?

Btw, I was planning on getting a blu-Ray with netfix streaming, but you guys sold me on the new Oppo unit, so I'll be needing some commintary and advise on an alternative box to handle future steaming! Thx

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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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