Mar 17 2009

It would appear that the BBC have started to serve the new High(er) Definition iPlayer streams with the following stream quality:

  • Resolution: 720 x 404 pixels
  • Video Codec: H.264
  • Audio Codec: AAC
  • Bitrate: 1500 kbps

I’ve managed to watch some of the content and the quality looks excellent and a marked improvement over the existing 640 x 360 / 800kbps content.

So, to stop all the speculation, yes, it does seem that this new BBC iPlayer HD (well not quite 720p) will be served via the web based flash player.

Also, please update to the newest get_iplayer because flashhigh support has now been fixed after the BBC changed it today.

Update: For BBC HD content please use get_iplayer –vmode=flashvhigh … with get_iplayer v1.47 and rtmpdump v1.4. The fedora, ubuntu, MacOSX and Windows binaries on this site are already at v1.4.
For the programmes that have this new mode available this seems to work mostly reliably now.
Another Update (16/04/2009): You probably already noticed my newer post and that the BBC have released 1280×720 3.2Mbps HD streams now – and that the SD stream is now 832×468 (no longer 720×404) but still 1.5Mbps

52 Comments

  • On March 18th, 2009, Alex Houlton said:

    Nice. You can see the difference most if you watch the HD one first, and then switch to the lowest quality.

    This would be better if my internet connection could take it. I’ll try it tommorow morning when I’m not being throttled.

    • On March 18th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

      See my update to this post. May also be the the beeb are tweaking.

      • On March 18th, 2009, AndrewM said:

        The new higher-quality streams do indeed look great, but they are not actually HD quality. HD is defined as 720p or higher, and these are 404p (although that’s not actually a standard). I remember reading somewhere that the BBC is planning to launch HD-quality iPlayer content with a bitrate of 4 Mbps, although as not many Internet connections can support streaming at that rate, I am assuming that it will be for downloads only (in the iPlayer Desktop, currently in beta).

        • On March 19th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

          Yes, well pointed out. This is probably just an incremental High(er) Definition Flash BBC iPlayer. I gues we’re still going to have to wait for the proper HD iPlayer….

        • On March 19th, 2009, Jonty said:

          Well, sites like Youtube and Vimeo offer 720p streaming video now and it just about works on my 6/8mbps connection – so I daresay it will be download-only for now. I don’t know what bitrate the Youtube videos are but they seem very high quality! In contrast, the iPlayer flash videos often end up buffering in my browser and don’t look as high quality.

          • On March 20th, 2009, AndrewM said:

            Also remember that YouTube and Vimeo use progressive download rather than RTMP streaming, so even if you have a slow connection, if you’re patient you can pause the video and wait for it to download. So you can still watch HD videos on those sites even on a slow-ish connection (although you would have to be quite patient ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), whereas you can’t watch higher-quality video on iPlayer unless you have a fast enough connection (and even if you have a fast enough connection, at peak usage periods you might not be able to watch).

          • On March 21st, 2009, AndrewM said:

            (posting this again because it didn’t seem to get through the first time, apologies if there are duplicate comments)

            When I’m downloading a programme using flashvhigh (and sometimes when using flashhigh), I find that I never can download it completely without getting “disconnected” and rtmpdump being unable to resume. Using the trick that you mentioned in another comment, of adding the .partial and trying again, often does it, but it’s a bit of a pain to have to rename the file several times.

            So could you consider adding a switch in a future version (maybe –keeppartial) that when used, would not rename the file? This would be a great help. Thanks for this fantastic programme and for being so helpful in answering comments and questions ๐Ÿ™‚

            • On March 21st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

              1) make sure you use get_iplayer v1.47+ – it has some fixes for retrying failed rtmpdump downloads.
              2) Try the –raw option to skip the ffmpeg conversion.
              3) v1.48 has a fix for the Win32 version which stops deleting the file when ffmpeg fails. (works around a perl bug)

              • On March 23rd, 2009, AndrewM said:

                Thanks for those tips; I’ve upgraded to 1.49 and I am using –raw, but I still get loads of “disconnections”, especially when trying to download a programme using flashvhigh but sometimes when using flashhigh as well. In fact I have only been able to download one programme so far using flashvhigh (flashhigh seems to work a lot better).

                Looking through all the output, I noticed that it always seems to be this error that occurs:

                ERROR: ReadN, RTMP recv error 10060
                ERROR: ReadPacket, failed to read RTMP packet body. len: 36709
                DEBUG: zero read!
                WARNING: Download may be incomplete, try –resume!
                Closing connection… done!

                Googling “rtmp 10060” gave me an error code for an Adobe product, but it didn’t seem anything to do with video streaming. Any ideas?

                • On March 23rd, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                  Does things work for you when using the flash player? flashvhigh/Flash high seems very reliable for me. How much download speed can yuo get with your bradband connection?

                  • On March 23rd, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                    Just a thought.. Are you using rtmpdump v1.4 (see the download page) ? That works better than earlier versions.

                    • On March 30th, 2009, AndrewM said:

                      Yes, things do generally seem to work for me when using the Flash player, except sometimes at peak times, although I’m not sure whether that’s my Internet connection (which generally tops out at 1.7/1.8 Mbps) or just that the BBC’s servers are very busy. And I am using rtmpdump v1.4.

                      Also, I’ve noticed a small glitch in the filenames that are given automatically (I’m not using any extra parameters to change them from the default). For example, for b0089hhd it gives:

                      Live_at_the_Apollo_Series_3_-_Series_3_Episode_1_b0089hhd_default

                      and for b00jj523 I get:

                      Timewatch_2008_-_2009_-_2008_-_2009_WWI_Aces_Falling_b00jj523_default

                      so it looks like the series field is being duplicated somehow.

                      • On March 30th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                        The duplicate episode name is because of the dumb way the metadata is presented in the feed. It’s colon separated – the colon is also present in the name of the series and this confuses the parser. I doubt it’s the BBC servers that are busy – they use a rather well connected CDN with many tens of Gbps of aggregate bandwidth. Maybe your connections are being aggressively throttled by your ISP? BT do use DPI.

            • On March 23rd, 2009, AndrewM said:

              Also, I found an article on the availability of HD programmes on iPlayer, apparently it’s supposed to happen this month:

              http://crave.cnet.co.uk/software/0,39029471,49301433,00.htm

              • On March 23rd, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                That’s the same article the BBC put out a few weeks ago. Nothing new as far as I can see.

              • On March 24th, 2009, AudioBear said:

                The ‘nearly’ HD stuff is very nice ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you! In addition to the normal streams I noticed some other streams:
                flashvhigh1
                type: Flash RTMP H.264 HD quality stream (akamai)
                and
                stream: flashvhigh2
                type: Flash RTMP H.264 HD quality stream (limelight)

                Could anyone tell me what these are?

                • On March 24th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                  They are just the same nearly-HD streams but served from different CDNs (content delivery networks). The akamai one works but not as reliably as the default one, the limelight one is just not working properly yet. All progs seem to use the default one so you shouldn’t really ever need to use the others.

                • On March 30th, 2009, BillD said:

                  Just tried some nearly-HD streams (Doctor Who) which look better than the old streams. As they were better I think I will delete the old copies of Doctor Who. When I played them in VLC I noticed that it had subtitles available. This may have been because I had the .srt file in the same directory. Or do these new files have subtitles embedded in them?

                  • On March 30th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                    vlc will automatically display the srt file with the same prefix as the video file.

                  • On March 31st, 2009, ufufgnaf said:

                    flashhigh mode doesn’t seem to work anymore. you can only download flashnormal for most of the content. is anybody else experiencing the same problem?

                    • On March 31st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                      WOrks for me – downloading Coast Shorts now.

                    • On April 1st, 2009, AndrewM said:

                      Danielle Nagler, head of BBC HD, has posted to the BBC Internet blog that iPlayer HD will be launching “very soon” and in the comments, Andy Quested confirmed that HD will only be available by downloading to iPlayer Desktop:

                      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/03/bbc_hd_all_new_website_and_ide.html

                      • On April 1st, 2009, AndrewM said:

                        I just tried downloading something but it was reporting ‘no flashvhigh versions available’ when I knew there was a version available, so I looked at the mediaselector file and it looks like the BBC have increased the resolution to 832 x 468 (for some programmes at least):

                        http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/4/mtis/stream/b00jf3dc

                        I changed all the references to the resolution I could find in get_iplayer.pl to the new resolution and it seems to work.

                        • On April 1st, 2009, AndrewM said:

                          Forget what I said before, it now seems to have switched back to 720 x 404. They must have just been testing it briefly.

                          (Also I noticed that the times on posts seem to still be on GMT, and one other thing I’ve been meaning to mention is that in Firefox 3.0.7 on Vista, the comment box disappears off to the right so you can’t see everything that you typed.)

                          • On April 1st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                            The server is supposed to be in UTC – it’s not a UK based service.
                            I’ll try to fix the comment box – Irritating isn’t it!

                            • On April 1st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                              Comment box fixed now ๐Ÿ™‚

                              • On April 1st, 2009, AndrewM said:

                                Thanks for fixing the comment box, that’s much better ๐Ÿ™‚

                                Also, I was looking into the higher resolution thing, and it looks like they’ve been testing the higher resolution video occasionally for a couple of weeks at least, as this Boxee user found out:

                                http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?p=41560#post41560

                                I hope they do move to the higher resolution, in fact they could even go the whole hog and up the resolution of the highest-quality non-HD stream to 480p (854×480), like Hulu uses (although they use 1Mbps according to a post on a blog I came across).

                                • On April 1st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                                  Thanks Andrew. I’ve released get_iplayer v1.51 to get these if they exist as flashvhigh vmode.

                                  • On April 7th, 2009, colonel32 said:

                                    What resolutions do the flashvhigh1-5 vmodes correspond to?

                                    Or what I’m really after is, is it possible to ask for an explicit resolution? I’m finding 832×468 a little TOO big for comfort – at least resolutions that large aren’t not supported on standalone DVD players when converted to xvid. And I’d rather not do a resize during the conversion unless I have to.

                                    What’s the mode for 720×404 at the moment (and is it likely to change in the future?)

                                    Cheers, Robin

                        • On April 7th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                          @Robin / colonel32,
                          flashvhigh modes are all pointing to the same data just on different content delivery networks. Same goes for flashhigh, flashnormal and so on. If you want to find a resolution try using –streaminfo for a particular programme.

                          • On April 7th, 2009, colonel32 said:

                            ah, makes sense now. Thanks for the –streaminfo tip, very useful.

                          • On April 13th, 2009, Bob Danish said:

                            Thanks for writing this fantastic program.

                            The only problem I have encountered is downloading Dr Who episodes in flashvhigh mode. They crash after a few seconds when you play them (or the sound cuts out).

                            They are find in flashhigh, and shorter programmes (eg: kids shows I record for my daughters) are fine in flashvhigh.

                            Any ideas?

                            • On April 14th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                              Maybe it is a CDN problem in level3. If you do a –info on the programme index number you will see a list of modes. If you see ‘flashvhigh1’ and ‘flashvhigh2’ etc then you can specify these modes directly. e.g. get_iplayer [index no] –vmode=flashvhigh2 –get
                              This will force get_iplayer into using a different CDN and it may work better. If you specify just ‘flashvhigh’ then get_iplayer will try the modes in numerical order.

                              • On April 14th, 2009, Bob Danish said:

                                Sorry – posted my reply in the wrong box!

                                See below:

                                Info listed multiple versions, including falshvhigh1 and 2. Tried it on flashvhigh1 with the same result, but flashvhigh2 worked fine.

                                Iโ€™m going to use flashvhigh2, flashvhigh1 now as my default for PVR downloads instead of just flashvhigh – is this a wise move?

                            • On April 14th, 2009, Bob Danish said:

                              That did the trick!

                              Info listed multiple versions, including falshvhigh1 and 2. Tried it on flashvhigh1 with the same result, but flashvhigh2 worked fine.

                              I’m going to use flashvhigh2, flashvhigh1 now as my default for PVR downloads instead of just flashvhigh – is this a wise move?

                              • On April 14th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                                Well if it works…! They are the same actual streams just served up by different providers. The only problem being that some progs might not have flashvhigh2. I suggest you use flashvhigh2,flashvhigh3,flashvhigh4 so that at least you try the other ones all in order should they exist instead.

                                • On April 14th, 2009, Bob Danish said:

                                  (Oh, good grief! When I get the security code on this site wrong the next post ends up as a new thread – and my eyesight is not what it was!)

                                  That worked great! Thanks.

                              • On April 14th, 2009, Bob Danish said:

                                Thanks, that seems to work great!

                                • On April 16th, 2009, Andrew said:

                                  iPlayer HD has supposedly launched, according to this BBC News article:

                                  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8000556.stm

                                  And from that article it seems that I was wrong, you will indeed be able to stream as well as download in HD. For the moment, however, the iPlayer website still looks the same to me and I can’t see any option to stream or download the Doctor Who special in HD, for instance:

                                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00jz2t4/Doctor_Who_Planet_of_the_Dead/

                                  However, looking at the mediaselector file, I can see a 3200 kbps file, which I presume is the HD version:

                                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/4/mtis/stream/b00jz2mx

                                  • On April 16th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                                    Thanks Andrew!, v1.61 with initial download support will be released in a few minutes!!

                                  • On April 20th, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                    Hello. First time poster here.

                                    I’ve been using get_iplayer for a few weeks now. I recently upgraded to 1.59 and started noticing many downloads were skipping because a flashvhigh version wasn’t found.

                                    I upgraded to 1.65 this evening and everything I try to download now gets cut off. The download does restart, but they all eventually fail. I’ve tried using the new flashhd mode, but that fails point blank. Same deal with flashvhigh2,flashvhigh3 and flashvhigh4. It’s giving me exactly the same error messages as AndrewM above. Namely:

                                    ERROR: ReadN, RTMP recv error 10060
                                    ERROR: ReadPacket, failed to read RTMP packet body. len: 36709
                                    DEBUG: zero read!
                                    WARNING: Download may be incomplete, try –resume!
                                    Closing connectionโ€ฆ done!

                                    Has anyone any idea what’s going on? This has been working wonderfully up until my first upgrade. Is it on the BBC server?

                                    Oh, by the way, I’m using the Windows version (sorry)

                                    • On April 20th, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                                      Ensure you are using the Windows latest rtmpdump (v1.4) that I have linked on my download page. It hasn’t changes for 2-3 weeks though.

                                      It *could* be taht too many are using HD mode – but I doubt it. Could also be a problem with your broadband connection.

                                      I just downloaded Top_Gear_Series_12_-_Episode_6 with vmode-flashvhigh and it worked no probs. Could eb connection dependant.

                                      I haven’t changed the code that calls rtmpdump at all since 1.59 either ….

                                      • On April 20th, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                        oops sory. should have replied like this sorry… response below.

                                        I guess IO will wait until tomorrow night to see if anything changes with my connection.

                                    • On April 20th, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                      That was quick!

                                      Yes I’m using rtmpdump v1.4.

                                      I just tried to download the same file. It went through all the usual motions but ended with this:

                                      ERROR: ReadN, RTMP recv error 10060
                                      ERROR: ReadPacket, failed to read RTMP packet header
                                      Closing connection… done!

                                      WARNING: Failed to download file f:\tv/Top_Gear_Series_12_-_Episode_6_b00g2gml_d
                                      efault.partial.flv via RTMP
                                      INFO: skipping flashvhigh2 mode
                                      INFO: Trying flashvhigh3 mode to download tv: Top Gear: Series 12 – Episode 6
                                      INFO: Checking existence of default version
                                      Getting iplayer download URL
                                      WARNING: No flashvhigh3 versions available
                                      INFO: skipping flashvhigh3 mode
                                      INFO: Trying flashvhigh4 mode to download tv: Top Gear: Series 12 – Episode 6
                                      INFO: Checking existence of default version
                                      Getting iplayer download URL
                                      WARNING: No flashvhigh4 versions available
                                      INFO: skipping flashvhigh4 mode
                                      ERROR: Failed to download ‘Top Gear: Series 12 – Episode 6 (b00g2gml)’

                                      • On April 21st, 2009, AndrewM said:

                                        Hi David, I can only speak from personal experience as I have no idea what’s actually causing the error 10060 (which according to the author of rtmpdump is a ‘socket timeout error’: http://sourceforge.net/forum/forum.php?thread_id=3161605&forum_id=900998 ) but the only thing that I’ve found that works is to set get_iplayer to download overnight.

                                        It doesn’t always work perfectly and sometimes I have to rename the file to .partial and try again (hence I always use –raw when downloading over RTMP) but generally it works OK. Downloading in the evening (like trying to watch a flashvhigh programme on the iPlayer website in the evening) just doesn’t work over my connection.

                                        • On April 21st, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                          Hi Andrew,

                                          It’s just weird. I only discovered get_iplayer a couple of weeks ago and I love it (mainly because I’m a command line / batch file geek!) and it’s been working wonderfully up until this week.

                                          I’ve been writing the programme listing to file through STDOUT which used to only take a few seconds and now takes several minutes and actually sometimes never finishes. I find it really weird because my 8Mbit broadband connection is not limited in any way, nothing has changed on my PC. I don’t even use the conversion apps as I’m quite happy to view in the raw FLV (I use –raw).

                                          Is there any way I can hold of a version previous to 1.59 so I can test? I tried uninstalling, but the windows installer i originally installed from always seems to get the latest version.

                                          • On April 21st, 2009, linuxcentre said:

                                            You can get all versions at //linuxcentre.net/get_iplayer/archive/ (older) or //linuxcentre.net/get_iplayer/

                                            Have you tried without redirecting STDOUT so that you can see exactly what is so slow? Maybe try with the –verbose option. I’m curious what it might be – nothing much in the feed parsing code has changed for a while.

                                            • On April 21st, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                              Actually I did a plain “get_plyaer” earlier this afternoon and then got called away. 5 hours later it’s STILL getting the TV index.

                                              I restarted in a new window with the –verbose option. The first time was very slow, but subsequent tries have been faster. But each time I get the following line:

                                              WARNING: Cannot read C:\Documents and Settings\Dave/.get_iplayer/download_history

                                              Never seen that one before. I can’t see where the file might be created.

                                              WARNING: Cannot read C:\Documents and Settings\Dave/.get_iplayer/download_histor
                                              y

                                              • On April 21st, 2009, David Richardson said:

                                                And suddenly it’s working again!

                                                Just downloaded nigella in flashvhigh. Very curious.

                                        • On April 23rd, 2009, Ian said:

                                          Okay, this program is totally awesome. I’ve had a few problems with the 10060 error, and rerunning the script continually until it works seems to do the trick. I get hundreds of lines of no-name with a random number when trying to get the thing to run mind.

                                          Anyways, keep up the wonderful work ๐Ÿ™‚

                                          • 2 old comments are not displayed. Click to display all comments

                                          WordPress Themes