Current technology demands fast internet connection to deliver decent quality video content over the web, but Netflix is hoping to change that. Shortly after making Super HD streaming – 1080p resolution, in other words – accessible to most of its subscribers, the world’s biggest on-demand internet streaming provider has already set its sights on giving viewers an even bigger boost in picture quality – testing video streams in glorious 4K ultra high-definition (UHD) resolution, with the goal of launching an Ultra HD TV service sometime next year.
Netflix quietly added a handful of 4K video clips to its streaming service in the past week, according to an exclusive by technology blog GigaOM. The website reports that Netflix’s bid to become one of the first major providers of 4K Ultra HD content will include a wealth of its own original content, such as its immensely popular House of Cards series.
Currently there are seven sample videos available to watch in 4K via Netflix. All seven of the videos are called “El Fuente“, depicting travel footage from Mexico, and can be seen at various frame rates ranging from 24fps to 59.94 fps.
Can Netflix deliver the goods?
It’s all well and good that Netflix is attempting this, but one has to wonder if it’ll be able to overcome some of the major technological challenges that stand in the way of streaming 4K. The biggest and most pressing problem to overcome is the speed of most user’s internet connections – quite simply, most people’s internet is just too damn slow.
To overcome this challenge, Netflix is streaming the 4K videos at a paltry bitrate of 3Mbps (verified by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Alt+S in the Silverlight player client), indicating that the company is employing some serious compression techniques which inevitably introduce obvious encoding artefacts. By way of comparison, Sony’s F55 4K camera records footage at a minimum of 2Gb per second, so for Netflix to compress 4K to be streamed at just 3Mbps – well, that’s a huge amount of compression it’s applying to make this possible, and will surely detract from the overall quality of the 4K resolution image. Hats off to Netflix for trying, but in our view physical media like 4K Blu-ray probably remains the best hope – in the near term at least – for getting your hands on high-quality 4K content.