Friday, March 10, 2017

Streaming Video: This Should Be Standard

Inside my Netflix account, there's a screen where I can select/limit video quality:

Sling has similar controls. And in Amazon Video I can choose between HD and standard video resolution when I stream video to my computer desktop.

But when I stream Amazon Video to my television via the Amazon Fire TV Stick device or whatever, there's no such control. When I asked Amazon about that, the reply was that for devices other than computer desktop/web interface, the video will stream at, as detected by Amazon, the highest quality the device can handle. Most other streaming services also seem to lack user-accessible bandwidth/quality controls.

As far as device/hardware settings to handle this go, The Amazon Fire TV stick officially only lets the user choose between 720p and 1080p video, but there is a hidden menu where standard video resolution (480p) can be selected. Whether that works or not -- that is, whether it actually limits what Amazon sends through the pipe to my device, or whether it just sends HD no matter what and the device downgrades it -- I don't know yet (I just set it to that late yesterday; I had lost the setting in a system update). I messed with a Roku Express a few days ago and couldn't find any video quality settings.

Yesterday, before figuring out where that hidden Fire TV stick menu was, I started binge-watching a series (Justified -- quite good so far, by the way) on Amazon Video. Eleven episodes at about 40 minutes each came to about 7 hours and 20 minutes of streaming ... and just about busted my 34Gb per day average (1,024Gb per month) bandwidth cap.

I generally don't like to say what the market "should" offer, but in my opinion this is dumb from every angle. It's like selling cars (device) that run on nitrous oxide (the services), have no gas pedal and will only go at one speed, that being the fastest speed they can go.

Both the device makers and the services "should," in my opinion, give their customers the tools needed to reduce video definition and bandwidth consumption should they so desire. It might also improve their relations with ISPs who complain about congestion caused by so much streaming. I mean, if your customers can, and if many of them will, use 90% less bandwidth on your services, everyone wins, right?

In my case, I'm just fine with standard definition video and in a household of four where streaming video consumption does sometimes rise to binge-watching levels, we prefer SD so that we're not coming up on our (ample for everything except constant HD video watching) bandwidth cap.

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