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BBC iPlayers Goes HD


BBC iPlayer Goes HD

It's been promised for a while but finally the BBC has announced the roll-out of high definition content on the iPlayer - for Windows, Linux and Macs.

Initially such programmes as Dragons' Den, Kerwhizz and Doctor Who will be making the jump to high definition. HD video is encoded at around 3.5Mbps at - oddly enough - a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. It's not exactly Blu-ray, but it should be a definite improvement over the standard definition video currently available.

The iPlayer is also introducing dynamic stream switching. Based on the bandwidth available, the iPlayer will vary the quality of the streamed video. The streaming player will also be getting resizable windows - which have been in testing in the iPlayer Labs for a while.

HD video will also be made available for Virgin Media and the PlayStation 3 at some point, but there's no specific timescale.




April 17, 2009, 3:43 pm

In their statement they never actually say HD!!!


April 17, 2009, 4:02 pm

Good point.


April 17, 2009, 4:05 pm

Will this improve the quality of downloads, or does it only affect streaming video?

Hamish Campbell

April 17, 2009, 4:42 pm

Wish they'd do a pay version for those outside the UK. This is just rubbing it in.


April 17, 2009, 5:19 pm

The quality of the downloads has been great recently. When they started it was blocky as hell, now they are almost as good as freeview.


April 17, 2009, 5:30 pm

At the moment you can't download the new HD streams though. At least the quality is good, but it's still not as good as BBC HD.


April 17, 2009, 6:09 pm

Is iPlayer on PS3 yet? i am not sure that it is.


April 17, 2009, 8:17 pm

I'm still struggling to understand the excitement about this - BBC repeats & chewing your own bandwith for BBC repeats makes no sense to me.


April 17, 2009, 8:25 pm

Sure, just browse to the iPlayer site on your PS3 and you'll be greeted by a purpose designed interface for it.


April 17, 2009, 9:04 pm

@hank You've never missed a TV program you wanted to watch in you life then? Having the option to stream a show whenever it's convenient for you.. negates the need for BBC to repeat shows as much. Bandwidth is cheap, broadcasting is very expensive.


April 17, 2009, 10:39 pm

@jopey Yes you're right, bandwith is more affordable and the overall costs are less to the BBC, i'm fortunate that anything I do want to watch is timed, encoded and stored if need be. I have used IPlayer once and I cannot see any circumstance to use it again.

The output of the BBC is my point. Making the unwatchable watchable LOL


April 18, 2009, 1:47 am

@GK, you can if you use get_iplayer http://linuxcentre.net/getipla... . I managed to download Doctor Whoyesterday and it was fantastic quality when played back in mplayer on Linux. I tried the same programme on the flash iplayer and it looked bad (i.e. blame flash player for the poor quality not the Beeb) - The BBC HD channel AFAIK transmits 1080i and the iplayer is 720p so it wouldn't be fair to compare them. Either way the iplayer HD certainly surpasses the quality of broadcast freeview IMHO as long as it isn't played back in Adobe Flash or AIR.


April 18, 2009, 2:37 am

@westhej, yes they do mention HD see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/tec... The format is 720p @3200kbps H.264.

Ben 3

April 18, 2009, 2:40 am

I don't think the HD stuff is actually up yet. That news article isn't linked ANYWHERE on the BBC News website that I can find, if you look at the iPlayer Desktop install page it still says it's version 0.8 - even though it will actually install version 1.0.2302.

In the release notes for 1.0.232 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/d... it says:

"Added support for High Definition (HD) content. Selected HD content is available to be downloaded to the BBC iPlayer Desktop from the BBC iPlayer website"

So it is going to be proper HD rather than the 1,500Kbps streams they are running at the moment

@GK The downloads if you are signed up to the labs are at the 1500Kbps bitrate. The file sizes for a 60min show are double what they were - around 600Mbyte


April 18, 2009, 3:21 am

It cant be HD coz everything iv watched on iplayer has been at the high quality mode, full screen. And i dont think they cud put everything at HD, so obviously the HD stuff isnt up yet. I checked the stuff they sed was in HD (dr who etc..) Still, its a gd upgrade.


April 18, 2009, 5:15 am

@ranjitfarwah. My one hour programme of Doctor Who was 1.4GB in size and mplayer reported it as 1280x720 h264. The metadata also showed the bitrate as 3200kbps. It's up there but maybe not accessible unless the flash player determines that your connection is fast enough for it.


April 18, 2009, 5:17 am

@ben - go try it on get_iplayer utility that dumps the rtmp flash stream to disk - it definitely is 3200kbps 720p - you should specify the --vmode=flashhd option to force it to use that HD stream. Only very few progs have HD streams so far - the Dr Who special does.

Tony Walker

April 19, 2009, 1:42 am

Looks like the 720p version got pulled. If you use the "--streaminfo" switch on get_iplayer then it isn't listed; only the 1500kbps 832x468 file.


April 20, 2009, 1:09 am

It'd be yet more network congestion for the rest of us and further increases in broadband prices. Also whats the chance that those requesting this especially the dr who nerds here would be watching this on a standard pc monitor


April 20, 2009, 1:37 am

@Tony, or just use the --info option and it lists all the available modes there in a concise form.

Ben 3

April 20, 2009, 7:08 pm


Even if they are watching on a 'standard pc monitor' so what? As long you have a screen resolution of 1024*768 or above you can watch HD!

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