Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

A few months ago there was blog post posted here from a guy making movie reviews. In the blog post he described how he managed to get 4k Netflix screenshots on his Chromecast. The effort he made was enormous and involved reverse engineering the Netflix data protocol (I probably worded this wrong).

When doing that he found out that Netflix streaming in 4k isn't actually 4k.

Again not exactly sure how this worked but that was the result. And he put some kind of device between the Chromecast and the TV. And at the end of the post he shared his top movies of the year or in the previous post.

Does anyone know what I am talking about? I've thought about this pist several times in the past weeks.

On a related note, if you watch Netflix in Chrome or Firefox then you're only getting a resolution of 720p.

    Google Chrome
        Up to 720p on Windows, Mac, and Linux
        Up to 1080p on Chrome OS
    Internet Explorer up to 1080p
    Microsoft Edge up to 4K*
    Mozilla Firefox up to 720p
    Opera up to 720p
    Safari up to 1080p on Mac OS X 10.10.3 or later

    *Streaming in 4K requires an HDCP 2.2 compliant connection to a 4K capable display, 
    Intel's 7th generation Core CPU, and the latest Windows updates.    
    Check with the manufacturer of your system to verify specifications.
From: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/23742

I really wish they'd just allow up to 4K streaming on all main browsers. The Windows 10 app is awful and very buggy for multi-monitor setups. The two main issues I run into with it are:

1. The video will stutter unless I set both my monitors to the same refresh rate. As you can imagine, it's somewhat annoying to have to lower the refresh rate of my main monitor from 144Hz to 60Hz whenever I want to watch Netflix.

2. When playing in fullscreen on one monitor, the video will randomly minimize if I interact with any applications on my second monitor! So if I want to look something up online or whatever as I'm watching, I have to switch to windowed mode or I risk having the video just minimize and mute itself.

Note that if you pirate 1080p or 4k content you'll always get the full resolution you asked for.

Not always at a great bitrate though.

I haven't really torrented anything in a while but I doubt there are many 20GB+ Blu-ray quality rips out there that you can download in a reasonable amount of time.

EDIT: after reading the replies I stand corrected; it seems like there are some better quality uploads out there than I thought.

There are plenty, 30-40GB uncompressed BluRay remux rips are very common. Will download in under 15 minutes.

You can also find uncompressed 60-70GB UHD rips.

> reasonable amount of time

Depends very much on your own bandwidth. For someone with 400Mbps, 20GB+ doesn't take that long time to download in the end, especially popular torrents.

But then again, not many have that kind of bandwidth available.

At least it will be the same bitrate every time :)

The keyword you should be searching for is "remux", as in identical video/audio streams to a BD but in a new container (probably MKV).

Using Sonarr you can specify minimum bitrates to download. It fetches content automatically in the background for you.

You can specify, but you can't guarantee that what you want is out there at that bitrate.

You'd be very surprised.

Very common.

Availability aside (bluray rips are a thing), most people can’t tell the difference between FullHD and 4K at all, at least in moving pictures[1]. I doubt bitrate will make much difference on top of that, as long as you start from some reasonable value.

I seriously can’t tell the difference between a very low quality YIFY rip and a proper Bluray. If you freeze frame they both look bad, and when they’re moving they both look great. I’ve done this as an experiment multiple times and it’s like judging wine... There’s a threshold you need to pass but beyond that you quickly run into diminishing returns.

[1] BTW most movies are still mastered or partially mastered (SFX) at 1080p still, and even if they’re true 4K you get high quality downscale to 1080p for free. But really most 4K movies are still upscaled from 1080p.

I’d rather see 60-144hz before any increases in resolution above 1080p and maybeeee 4K.

I think lower quality rips show themselves a bit more on high quality playback devices, but I generally don’t hit low quality releases purely for Snob factors so I could be wrong.

Are movies actually made in 144 FPS?

Not that I'm aware of. The only high FPS movie I know of is Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ang Lee, it is shot at 120fps. The Hobbit is shot at 48fps.

No, and that’s my point. 144hz is probably overkill, but 60hz is a noticeable difference.

Movies look like garbage in >30fps.

That's why moviemakers beg audiences not to do frame interpolation.

Interpolation and frame rate are two different things.

Care to give an argument more than ‘looks garbage’? I think people reported that the hobbit looked weird, but that’s likely because were used to 30fps in a subconscious level.

I don't know how much films you watch, but the only thing I'm used to on a subconscious level is what the world looks like IRL.

What a joke. We're punished for being paying customers.

It's like the oppressive DRM that hurts actual paying customers of games rather than the pirates who circumvent it.

This is generally how the media industry works. Paying for content (online at least) is almost always more complex, less flexible and lower quality.

Add to that the various geographical restrictions (have the audacity to live outside of the US? No content for you!) and piracy becomes quite attractive.

Not with music though.

Unless you want to non-English artists. Korean music for example used to be a nightmare on all streaming platforms when I last tried them.

When people say everything is on Spotify, they really mean that everything they know which is Spotify, is on Spotify.

Half the stuff I recommend to people is not on Spotify or Youtube. Thank goodness I had the "entitlement" to build a giant mp3 collection because I have no idea where I'd find it otherwise.

I decided to do that as well, and the fact that artists get literal pennies from Spotify made me completely apathetic towards piracy. I support artists I like through merch and concerts, which is where they make money nowadays.

This started with DVDs that had unskippable anti piracy messages that piracy tools would either bypass or automatically enable skippability.

And shoplifting is also easier than waiting in line at checkout.

That's true as a quip, but what's also true is that piracy flourishes if and only if there are no comfortable means of obtaining content legally. Music piracy was a big thing until it basically dropped dead from one day to the other when music streaming services like Spotify packed all music into one easy subscription. I would also say that movie piracy also dropped significantly when Netflix subscriptions became mainstream (not necessarily in terms of number of available movies, but certainly in terms of market share).

"all music", not by a stretch

more like redefining what people think is "all music"

Also sharing mp3s was sharing our full fucking musical culture with each other. We had WHAT.CD. You could make mixtapes. Copyright vultures destroyed ALL of this and put shit like Spotify in the middle of it, making it the arbiter of what is and is not part of this shared culture. Controlling HOW it is shared, what you can do with it and preventing it from being shared with people not in the paying Spotify club.

The things they did to our shared culture, in the name of "stopping privacy" has cost us SO fucking much.

If you pirate it originally yourself, sure.

Pirated content from other people that lies about what it is isn't unheard of, though.

Not unheard of, but uncommon. Typically the uploader will list the particulars of his precious file in extreme detail. Video resolution down to the pixel, framerate, mean bitrate and the exact settings and version of the libx264 codec software used...

Unlike streaming services, there is a vibrant competitive landscape in the piracy scene with strong competition incentives on technical quality, with reputation being the commodity.

Depends on your sources!

This is really driving me nuts... Netflix is consistently giving me subpar resolution in firefox. It's quite rare that I even get 720p. Yet switching to microsoft edge, boom suddenly it's great.

There used to be some extensions to switch the resolution up on chrome and firefox, but I do believe they're not working anymore.

Another case for piracy I guess.

> Another case for piracy I guess.

The notion here is, because of these annoying steps and gotchas, there will not be 4k rips of their content floating around. I don't keep up on the piracy scene these days but I have to imagine that it can still be done, as with the setup from the blog. So goes the story of DRM, it is a painful step that doesn't quite prevent piracy - but if you're netflix or other streaming services, you're working closely with the implementors of the DRM tech (microsoft, widevine, others) and you're not going to just throw in the towel given that it's always a work in progress.

Sometimes there are also licensing requirements around having DRM attached, probably applies to Netflix in certain cases (although less and less these days).

This is because of DRM integrations. If any part of the chain between netflix and secure memory in your display cannot be verified, or does not meet some standard, you get the degraded experience.

Change user-agent to impersonate Edge.

This is why I won't pay for premium resolution upgrades. It's too much of a hassle to ensure the entire video chain is providing what I paid for.

It's more than that, Edge has far more DRM in it.

I believe this is because Edge is capable of decrypting and displaying DRM-protected 4K streams. I don't think it's just Netflix being difficult.

Requiring draconian DRM that doesn’t work everywhere with confusing and arbitrary restrictions for paying customers IS Netflix being difficult.

If they removed the DRM, they'd get a lot of resistance licensing shows. As long as content-producers insist on DRM, Netflix has to use DRM.

I believe their licence terms are also the reason you can download some Netflix videos to your phone/Windows 10 machine, but not others.

There are also some that can only be downloaded limited number of times (a year). Example - Gotham, at least in my country.

Uhh ... what? What does the word "download" mean in that context?

I mean if you download it once, you have it.

The content Netflix produces itself is also DRM-infested, isn't it? That excuse doesn't work anymore.

Also, for 5.1 surround sound, no browser will do, you must use the Windows 10 app. (That's if you're playing from a PC, of course.)


> I really wish they'd just allow up to 4K streaming on all main browsers

Do all the major browsers support this?

> Also, for 5.1 surround sound, no browser will do, you must use the Windows 10 app.

Yep, and when you have done that don‘t forget to manually guess and set your video output refresh rate because the Netflix can‘t be bothered to switch and match the output to the frame rate of the content. For movies it’s very likely 24p and you don‘t want to have that interpolated to 60 Hz.

Wow, they should really make that clearer, especially since IIRC they charge for 4K streaming...

This is probably how they get away with providing 4K without destroying their network: by making people think they are getting 4K when most are really are just watching 720p

If you don’t realise it’s not 4K, maybe it’s not worth the extra cost

Yeah, that's why they should say something. I was not aware I was getting lower quality, I thought the movies look awful.

Why are you paying for it?

Exactly, I am not anymore. I wouldn't be at all if I knew it. I'm not watching much and most of the time it's Star Trek TNG or similarly aged stuff, so I didn't realize this might be the case. The girlfriend watches (way) more.

Most people don't watch it on computer monitors, so most people actually are getting 4k. None of this applies to streaming boxes or smart TVs.

You know what Smart TVs do, right?

(I'm just saying, because apparently there were people unaware they are paying to get screwed from all sides at once)


They have only been lying about this since the beginning and never stopped. So has Spotify.

Were you also paying for gold-plated HDMI with built-in virus scanner?

I thought people were voluntarily buying in to this bullshit, because they feel the obligation to financially support the content industry. I mean that's what everybody who thinks this is important is going on about all the time. None of them are seriously arguing you actually get a good deal out of it.

This is a joke. They charge me for "Full HD" and don't deliver it? I just downgraded to the cheaper plan with lower definition. If that's what I'm getting, anyway...

I mean how is this even legal?

I'm not a lawyer, but this sounds like valid grounds for a class-action lawsuit.

Their advertising touts their 4K streaming and HDR quality, but then in practice they silently downgrade most non-television devices to HD resolutions and SDR. There's a footnote in some tech support article if you know where to look, that's it.

Under Australian consumer protection law, for example, this kind of deceptive or false advertising is flat-out illegal, and comes with eye-watering fines. Telecommunications companies have had huge fines for saying their Internet is "broadband" when it wasn't qualifying, for example.

If it wasn't such an enormous pain in the arse, I would love to get the ball rolling on a lawsuit, because flagrantly anti-consumer behaviour like this needs to stop.

Look at this this way: If you ask NetFlix about why they insist on DRM, particularly when most of their content is available in glorious 4K on certain pirate-themed bays, they mumble some excuse about contracts with their content providers. However, a huge chunk of their content is made by Netflix!

That's like a self-employed person saying "Sorry, this is company policy. My boss told me I have to do this nonsensical bad thing."

It's just absurd.

There's a pandemic overwhelming the world right now.

You're going to sue Netflix for maybe $1 in damages per user?

Netflix gets to do whatever because there's a pandemic??

Do you watch netflix on a computer in a web browser? If not, this isn't an issue.

Yes, that's why I'm downgrading. I'm on FF.

After diligent conditioning by Netflix, I've come to enjoy 720p, apparently. On the plus side it means I can pay them less.

These numbers seem to roughly map DRM "security levels" and allowed resolution levels. Basically, on platforms that support hardware Widevine (or some other DRM product) ie. "strongest security", 1080p+ is allowed, as there is a low risk of the warez Scene™ being able to tap the decrypted media – HDMI splitters that can strip HDCP 2.2 are hard to come by.

On platforms with only software DRM (tl;dr an obfuscated binary blob distributed along your browser that does some form of AES decryption), only low resolution streams are available because there is a good chance some folks somewhere have tooling to intercept the decrypted media.

> HDMI splitters that can strip HDCP 2.2 are hard to come by.

Ask B&H folks. They always have them.

Microsoft really wants users signed in to a Microsoft account on Windows. One of their main leverages for this is encouraging people to use the app store in Windows, which doesn't fully work if you're just logged in to a local account

It doesn't? Seems to work fine for me...

That sounds awful.

I'm on MacOS Mojave and the main issue I have with Netflix is that every few minutes there is a white flash for a few ms. In Safari and Chrome if i remember correctly. But I never investigated that as I don't stream a lot.

> The video will stutter unless I set both my monitors to the same refresh rate. As you can imagine, it's somewhat annoying to have to lower the refresh rate of my main monitor from 144Hz to 60Hz whenever I want to watch Netflix.

This is a Windows 10 bug. Even things like mouse movement in the 60Hz will make the 144Hz stutter. It's especially noticeable in games.

I think this is the one you need. Interesting, thanks for the suggestion to search for it!


I did not read the whole thing, but could it simply be that Netflix detects whatever technique the author is trying to use and that something is up, so it defaults to non-4K streaming?


It looks like he didn't reverse-engineer the Netflix data protocol. What he did is use a HDCP-stripper box to get access to a raw decoded HDMI signal. The HDCP-stripper also had a screenshot function which he used to get snapshots of the video he was playing.

He also monitored how much network traffic was being used while playing Netflix videos to get an estimate of the bitrate that was being played. The 4K videos were consistently around 18Mbps, which is reasonable.

FWIW, you can (normally) get a HDCP stripper from AliExpress for $10. This isn't particularly exotic hardware.

There's nothing in there about 4K not being 4K, just some griping about low bitrates.

On computers you can access some debug stats https://www.reddit.com/r/netflix/comments/2fkylx/hidden_netf... and Roku also has it https://community.roku.com/t5/Channel-Issues-Questions/Someh...

I think in the end the author's only complaint was that it was difficult to figure out what bitrate the Chromecast was streaming at, is a pretty minor problem. It reads like a complaint post, but that seems to just be the author's writing style.

You're technially right but conceptually he did show that the bitrate isn't in the normal 4k ballpark.

There's likely little or no benefit on using a 4k resolution at this bitrate.

In his experiment the Chroomecast on wifi gets a ~6 Mbps stream for 4k, which is about 20% of an average quality Handbrake encoded 4k stream. The surprise was that in his experiment Apple TV got so much higher bitrate. Market segmentation?

It's possible to capture the output and analyze the detail so I don't want to hear about what's "likely".

Exactly! I also just found it. Don't know how I didn't manage to find it before. The comments were quite critical.


The resolution on Netflix is not a useful indicator of anything (other than an upper bound on image quality). The "1080" Netflix for me usually looks nothing like the average FHD encode of a movie through other channels. A Netflix "4k" stream downscaled to 1080p would probably be closer to normal FHD encode quality.

This is not really surprising as most of the audience is very insensitive to quality.

I think you're talking about this article https://lars.ingebrigtsen.no/2019/02/14/adventures-in-netfli...

> When doing that he found out that Netflix streaming in 4k isn't actually 4k.

Well, after so many people praising streaming i wanted to check what this means. According to wikipedia the server adapts to the clients bandwidth. So you can get UHD with the quality of mpeg1.

> Does anyone know what I am talking about? I've thought about this pist several times in the past weeks.

Yes. That's why i decided that streaming is not really a solution.

It is really amazing how they are selling crap claiming that they have better quality. Damn, even an AM transmission sounds better.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact