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Adventures in Netflix (ingebrigtsen.no)
290 points by deng on Nov 30, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 74 comments

I was somewhat disappointed this went from promising an evaluation of Netflix originals to detailing his 4K streaming setup.

I care much more about the content than how it looks. I've watched films off bootleg DVDs and been happier than watching comic book movies on IMAX screens.

> According to Wikipedia, there were about 70? 80s? of these movies in 2018, so presumably there’ll be a similar amount this year.

I'm curious if anything Netflix is pumping out is worth the time investment.

I literally just finished watching The Irishman on my desktop and realized 3 hours in that I hadn't even full screened it. Don't need 4k.

I saw Speed Racer a year ago on an IMAX and it was glorious. Watched it this year at home and it was meh.

I don't think anyone can claim they flat out do or do not need a certain fidelity. It's content specific.

There are a bunch of reviews of the netflix movies on that blog, just look at https://lars.ingebrigtsen.no/category/netflix/

He links to it at the end of his post.

> I was somewhat disappointed this went from promising an evaluation of Netflix originals to detailing his 4K streaming setup.

Aren't there enough movie review sites that also have lists of Netflix Originals with their reviews / votes?

Yes, but it was promising to be more than a review. Author was going down the path of a whacky binge watching adventure, probably comparing 1940s cinema to 2019 Netflix Originals on the way, before detouring off to a story about gaming the resolution.

For people like GP and I, who care more about content than format, the first premise was more enticing.

I don't care much how the content looks either, but I found the details of the OP's setup very interesting, more so than I would have an actual movie review.

I can't help but groan a little at the fact that this entire voyage of dongles and hardware and head-scratching is based on the ridiculous axiom that letting your smart TV access the net would be "insane".

Guess what, the smart TV will stream 4k, and the app allows you to display the current bitrate and resolution to verify it (complaint in the article).

When you're done consuming online stuff on your TV, why not just cut the power? Or hook it up via ethernet to a port you can easily disable? Or both?

Sure, these types of articles can be interesting but this comes off as navel gazing and unnecessary complexity of what the actual issue is.

But he wants to take screenshots, which I assume the smart TV won't let him do for HDCP-protected content? And then he overengineered it to the fullest extent, which was fun to read.

Agreed on the smart TV - better to assume your home network is already compromised, plan accordingly.

The smart TV will also record what you watch and send that to the manufacturer and sell that information, at least if you have a Vizio. I disabled the smart TV stuff because I trust the TV manufacturer less than my dongle's manufacturer.

Or just configure your router to block everything coming from your TV except whatever you want, like Netflix. Everyone should have a firewall at their gateway.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who ends up with a baby-smooth yak like this. And it's much more fun to read somebody else's narrative of it than to do it myself!

> Apparently, there’s no way to make the Netflix app say what resolution it’s streaming in, or what the bitrate is.

There is, search for "test patterns" on Netflix: https://i.imgur.com/nOb7BX4.png

Nope, "Test patterns" doesn't show this real bitrate and other info on my devices. There is no yellow text like on the screenshot, at least in my case. There was a real test in Netflix which did show this, I used it when testing my phone a few years ago, when I learned that it doesn't support Widevine L1. It was called "Example Short 23.976" but it looks like it was deleted since. This year I changed phone to model that supports Widevine L1 and I wanted to test it, but it looks like currently there is no way to do it.

For me it’s shown when using Chrome/Safari on macOS but not when using the app on iOS

It might show info only in some modes. E.g. I only got bitrate tests with the 60FPS test screen, but not any other.

This Chrome extension (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/super-netflix/iakp...) adds a button to the video overlay that will show some things:


Ok, I sheepishly deleted the image because it had some PII.

It showed how the extension presents info like resolution, both a/v bitrate, total throughput, and more.

I used to use this extension to force a bitrate, but Netflix removed the ability. Was super useful when you were stuck watching 144p and Netflix refused to serve you anything better despite your connection improving.

The xbox and Wii apps both also let you do this by pressing a specific controller key on any video content (I've accidentally turned it on a few times)

Same with a Roku, if you press the asterisk before playing content

My TV (Vizio Smartcast) has an diagnostics panel that tells you your input resolution.

So -- assuming the input device isn't compressing and then upscaling, which a Chromecast wouldn't -- it's easy to see the resolution, for Chromecast, XBox, whatever.

That will tell the screen resolution, but not the resolution/bitrate of the video the Chromecast is decoding.

You can watch Netflix in 1080p on macOS by using Safari. Chrome and Firefox don’t support the drm used by Netflix.

As for 4k on macOS:

>The DRM Netflix uses for 4K content is the new HDCP 2.2 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which macOS does not support as of Mojave. https://www.howtogeek.com/412033/how-to-watch-netflix-in-4k-...

On Windows you need to use Microsoft Edge (not the new one, the one that ships in-box) and it will render in 4K

Using the netflix microsoft store app also does this

The Netflix app has additional benefits such as higher bitrate audio and multichannel 5.1 sound.

Also supports downloads and offline viewing.

I have a 100-minute subway commute and a Windows 10 laptop. The ability to download is nice. If I wanted to, I could watch two movies a day in 4k.

>Chrome and Firefox don’t support the drm used by Netflix.

They do support Widevine (at the lowest security level). When I last looked, with some hackery it was possible to force 1080p playback: https://github.com/vladikoff/netflix-1080p-firefox/pull/34

  (/ (* 4000 2000) (* 1400 720))
  => 7

So here's what to remember about resolutions.

All the common resolutions these days are multiples of 360p.

720 is 2x2

1080 is 3x3

1440 is 4x4

4k is 6x6

So you can fit a grid of 3x3 720p screens into a 4k screen. 9x the pixels.

And the actual resolutions are 1280x720 and 3840x2160.

I stopped reading when he said calling it 720p was quaint, then got the horizontal pixel width wrong.

That's pretty judgemental for a 10% difference.

So the reason this person had to go through all of this trouble--the reason why it didn't "just work" to plug his laptop into his TV and watch movies in 4K, something that clearly should "just work"--is because if Netflix allowed arbitrary devices, like general purpose computers that work for the user (as opposed to being effectively owned by content studios and licensed to you), to have access to 4K video, then people could pirate movies and watch them in high quality, something we all know is currently impossible, which is why the hardware for pulling off this impossible feat wasn't something that he was able to just buy off of Amazon for $65 or anything... oh. (The logic of DRM pisses me off :/.)

How many people would even care about pirating this sort of content? A 4K movie can easily take up 50-100GB in its native format - even the cost of storing this on durable media is quite non-trivial. I suspect that there's nothing of substance behind this renewed "protective" push besides content studios' artificial paranoia, the point of which is mostly to cling onto a delusion that their content is somehow uniquely valuable.

The cost and hassle of storing 1080p back when it first became common is about on-part with the cost of handling 4K content today. Lots of folks have 100-1000Mbit connections, and storage capacities have increased to keep pace.

Although, anecdotally, after setting everything up for 4K I've been underwhelmed by the content - Modern film CGI at 4k looks garbage, the kind of fidelity leap we saw with HD isn't nearly as ubiquitous. On tbat basis, 4k's not 'must have'.

For me the point of 4k isn't actually 4k, it's HDR.

A 2 hour movie at Netflix's 4K bitrate (17Mbps) would be 15GB.

    >>> 2.0*60*60*(17*1000*1000)/8/1000/1000/1000

HEVC can compress it to about 4GB. At 10Mbps cable internet (typical in urban Comcast), it would take ~1hr to download 4K 2hr movie at this compression. This is what makes realtime 4K streaming possible.

HEVC isn't 4x better. 4-5Mbps 4k HEVC is going to look bad under a whole lot of conditions.

And 17Mbps 4k h.264 wasn't a great place to start in.

Doesn't Netflix already stream 4K content using HEVC?

This is the same reasoning against why anyone would ever listen to music or watch a movie on a computer.

Bandwidth will improve, storage will get cheaper, and compression will get better.

I have cheap gigabit internet. Bandwidth already is not a problem. What matters the most for me is convenience. This is the proper way to stop pirating.

Given the devices he uses to try and bypass the DRM don't result in any 4K captures and appear to repeatedly break his ability to watch in the right dynamic range and colour space, it seems like the DRM works perfectly at doing what it's supposed to do.

So technically it sounds like he was getting 2k screenshots, which apparently was fine for what he was going for.

There have been in the past devices that have removed HDCP on 1080p content, that could be picked up off Amazon/Aliexpress for like US$20-$30. Sure the bitrate for raw HDMI content isn't something you'd want to store raw, but if you're willing to recompress it, you can have something manageable, while still getting 99% of the quality of the original.

I haven't seen anything yet that will strip 4k HDCP yet. (Maybe the HDFury? But that seems like a lot of money when you could just have a netflix subscription)

"I haven't seen anything yet that will strip 4k HDCP yet."

It sounds like they exist.


Yeah, that's the HDFury. They're about $300 though. Many of the HDMI 1080p switchers/strippers left out a chip or circuitry to re-enable HDCP on the output.

No the logic's easy, DRM exists to inconvenience honest consumers.

DRM is old news and will never make any logical sense :). I’m pretty sure Netflix has no choice as DRM is likely required as part of licensing deals. Although Apple managed to famously drop DRM...

> So the reason this person had to go through all of this trouble

Was because he didn't want to use his built in netflix app

This post made me laugh because it seems to be about movies but it's about something else entirely. I guess what he really enjoys are not the movies, but the process of watching them.

On recent LGs with WebOS it's quite easy to get that type of information with the native Netflix app.

So if you happen to watch on one of those, just make sure you have that info button[1] on your app or real remote.

When pressed, you get the basic bitrate and resolution information for the video stream: https://twitter.com/mxfh/status/1081721617741430785

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP040UKE69w&feature=youtu.be...

On the authors Sony too. At least it works fine on my lower end model. Can’t remember whether it shows Bitrate, but resolution is certainly there. And no color format issues. I think they made their life voluntarily complicated.

> I think they made their life voluntarily complicated.

Giving your TV access to the internet might make some things easier, but you’re giving a quite a lot away if you care about privacy.

Refer to this to toggle the playback info for multiple devices/platforms https://www.cnet.com/forums/discussions/script-on-top-left-h...

Same for Netflix app on Samsung TVs, I can see when I'm streaming 4k directly.

I am delighted to see that Lars Ingebrigtsen has not changed a bit since I subscribed to the Gnus mailing list.

The Roku app has a secret mode for displaying streaming details in the corner without all this hassle by pressing * on the show/movie selection screen.

Articles like this make me resent my kids (/s) and all the money and time I cannot dedicate to important life endeavors like this guy does...

Related to "watching every new netflix release", this podcast tries to do just that: https://player.fm/series/recently-added

OT: anybody know a way to use widevine on aarch64? Can't use spotify or netflix on my nvidia jetson nano.. boo drm

On PS4 Netflix app you can check "live stats for nerds" like resolution and bitrate pressing a single button ("option" AFAIR). It's not much fun but doesn't cost as much time and $$$ No screenshot thou :-(

The best line (toward the end) is: "Well, that went well! See how easy it is to watch 4K content from Netflix?"

I mean, it is. He has a TV with a perfectly good Netflix app that plays back in UHD without having to touch anything.

He just didn't want to turn it on due to paranoia, and ended up using a bunch of extremely dodgy devices that seem to have broken his viewing chain and created lots of problems instead. Well... yeah?

Definition of a hobbyist?

All of the complexities were because he wanted to capture screenshots, not for streaming netflix

Almost makes me glad to be getting older and my vision isn’t going to notice anything better than 2K no matter what.

On anything short of a monster TV at a too-short viewing distance I can’t tell the difference between 4K and 1080p. And for a high percentage of the content I watch there’s no benefit to anything over 720p. If I could get HDR on a 1080p tv and save some money I’d do that.

I'll be happy if I can get a PinePhone next year. After that, I'll call it victory and just watch other people's TV. This streaming fiasco is too crazy to entertain.

I stopped reading here: "My TV is “smart”, but I’m not insane enough to ever let it go on the interwebs." Anyone can give me a TLDR?

TVs that connect to the internet often send data about what you're watching back to their manufacturers.

Can't believe no one pointed it out:

> Meanwhile, there’s another output on the splitter (that can either be 4K or 2K (some people quaintly call this “1080p”))

Nope. 1080 is the horizontal resolution as is 4K. So 1080p is not 2K. 1080p is 2 MP, and 4K is 8MP.

4K is 2160p, exactly double 1080p in the vertical. In the horizontal, it’s 1920 for 1080p vs 3840 for 2160p (colloquially known as 4K). The industry naming convention is not consistent.

Your both wrong, conflating standards from the world of cinema and broadcast.

4k (a cinema format): 4096x2160

2k (a cinema format): 2048x1080

UHD (a broadcast format): 3840x2160

HD (a broadcast format): 1920x1080

UHD also includes 7680x4320 *HD also includes 1280x720

You are wrong; look it up.

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