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BBC iPlayer goes HD, adds higher quality streams, releases iPlayer Desktop out of Labs

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 16:10 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

N.B. Editors note: As Chris Cornwall noticed last week there was a premature announcement of BBC iPlayer going HD. But now it's ready, and Anthony has the full details.

Internet video used to be, and for the most part still is, a grainy, lower quality version of the video that you're used to seeing on your TV, and subject to stops and starts that you wouldn't expect or tolerate from broadcast television.

The good news is that today BBC iPlayer takes a major step to address that quality gap, with some programmes now available in HD, and all programmes now also available in a new SD-quality stream that's pretty close to TV quality. As of today, iPlayer's standard definition video quality should be as good as most Freeview channels, plus you'll now be able to stream or download BBC programmes in high definition without need for a set top box.

Along with the introduction of these new higher quality formats, we're also adding a new larger video playback window, adding adaptive bitrate technology to automatically deliver the best quality video that your internet bandwidth can support, and adding a diagnostics page that lets you easily test your internet connection speed.

Finally, we're taking our cross-platform iPlayer Desktop download application out of Labs and ending our use of peer-to-peer technology.

It's a major release, the most significant since the current iPlayer site went live in July last year. Much of the new technology in this release sits 'beneath the hood', so let's take a look at the new features in more detail:

iPlayer goes HD

Good news for those with fast computers and fast internet connections: BBC iPlayer now delivers some of your favourite BBC programmes in HD. The HD proposition in iPlayer follows the HD content availability on the BBC HD channel, so we're starting with about 40 hours of HD content per week, which will grow over time.

HD has been a long time coming to iPlayer, so you might be interested in the back story:

We first began investigating HD in iPlayer over a year ago. The BBC HD Channel quality controllers have high standards and insisted that for us to label content as "HD" it had to be true HD - i.e. 720p or above with no obvious encoding artefacts. No cheating (as some other video sites do) labelling anything upwards of 800x600 as HD - our HD needed to be at least 1280x720.

That meant using H.264 and an encoding bitrate of 3Mbps or greater (we actually settled on 3.2Mbps as our preferred HD bitrate). However, since many people won't have an internet connection that can stream 3.2Mbps reliably, we wanted to make HD available for download as well. Trouble is, a year ago our download manager was Windows-only, and we were determined to only release HD when we had a solution that allowed our Mac and Linux users to download them as well. Additionally, a year ago too few people had a version of Adobe Flash that could play H.264, which meant many users would need to install a software update in order to access our content - something we're keen to avoid.

The good news is that as of today the various pieces are in place for going live with HD: Our new cross-platform download manager allows Windows, Mac and Linux users to download HD, everyone has a version of Flash that can stream HD, and our HD channel now has more content available.

It should be noted that glitch-free HD playback requires a fairly recent computer with a decent graphics card - older computers won't be able to handle the CPU-intensive decompression & rendering and may drop frames, leading to jerky playback. To get the best HD experience always play back in full-screen mode, and if you don't have enough bandwidth to stream try downloading instead.

So, look for the new BBC HD Channel in iPlayer, then go full-screen to enjoy the HD quality. Or, why not take this opportunity to connect your computer to your (HD-capable) TV set and enjoy HD on a nice big screen.

Note that HD programmes are about 1.5 gigabytes per hour of video, so you might want to check your internet package, particularly if you're on a 3G connection, to see if you're on a bandwidth-capped plan and, if so, how many hours of HD content you can stream or download before you reach the monthly limit for that plan.

New resizable media player

Back in December we introduced in iPlayer Labs (the testing ground for new iPlayer ideas and features) the ability to change the size of the video playback window.

iPlayer Labs users told us via their feedback (which we hugely value and which influences our product design decisions) that they loved the idea, asking overwhelmingly for this feature to graduate from Labs. In Labs we tested three video player sizes - you told us that the smallest and largest sizes hit the spot.

So today the ability to resize the video player window graduates from Labs and is available to all iPlayer users.

New high quality 1500Kbps video format

Finally, BBC programmes should look as good on your computer as they do on your TV, even if you don't choose the HD option.

If you select the new large video window size, iPlayer will automatically switch to using our new 1500Kbps 832x468 video format. When you switch to full-screen mode, iPlayer will continue to use the 1500Kbps stream for a playback experience that's close to TV quality.

Programmes that you download using iPlayer Desktop will now also use this new 1500Kbps format, making downloads now close to TV quality as well.

Regular video streams get a boost too

In addition to introducing a new 1500Kbps SD quality format, we've also shifted our default video quality up a notch, so that our existing High Quality (800Kbps H.264) format now becomes the default used in the smaller video playback window size. For programmes without fast movement played back on a small computer screen the quality of that 800Kbps format is pretty good, which means that as of today our baseline video quality takes a big step up.

Adaptive bitrate, phase one

You might be thinking... the baseline stream has changed from 500Kbps to 800Kbps... what if I don't have enough bandwidth to stream 800Kbps (or for that matter our new 1500Kbps streams)?

The good news is that this iPlayer release also includes the first phase of our adaptive-bitrate technology, such that iPlayer will now automatically switch to a lower bitrate stream if it detects that you don't have enough bandwidth to play the preferred version. For example, if you're happily playing the 1500Kbps stream when your partner at home also decides to watch an iPlayer programme on their computer and you don't have enough bandwidth to support both streams, then iPlayer will automatically drop down to 800Kbps, and then down to 500Kbps, as needed.

In this first phase of our adaptive bitrate system, once iPlayer has dropped down to a lower bandwidth stream it will stay with that lower bandwidth version for the rest of the programme you're watching. Over the coming months we'll enhance that behaviour to allow iPlayer to automatically ramp up and down between available versions every few seconds to match your available bandwidth.

For users on bandwidth-capped internet connections or who otherwise might want to override the adaptive bitrate system and use only our lowest bandwidth (500Kbps) stream, we've provided an option to do so (right).

New internet speed diagnostics page

With the availability of our new 1500Kbps and HD streams we thought it a good time to add a diagnostics page to help you see what bandwidth you're getting from your ISP, and also help us better understand average bandwidths that our users are getting, including allowing us to analyse the bandwidth available from different ISPs by time of day, etc.

Our new diagnostics page - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/diagnostics - looks at first glance similar to others you may have seen at speedtest.net and elsewhere, but it's significantly more sophisticated than other speed test sites we've seen.

Most speed test sites measure the speed taken to download a small file over HTTP. That's a good number to know if you're trying to measure your HTTP download speed, but what we and our users are more interested in is the ability to stream an iPlayer programme - and that means measuring RTMP streaming protocol speed, and from the specific locations where our servers are located. Accordingly, our diagnostics page performs a total of four tests: The first tests the download speed from our BBC web site servers, the next three tests measure the Flash RTMP streaming speed from each of three major content distribution networks (Akamai, Level3, Limelight), giving us excellent visibility into overall network throughput and allowing us to shape future design decisions accordingly.

iPlayer Desktop out of Labs

Three months ago we released iPlayer Desktop, our new Adobe AIR-based cross-platform download manager. Initially we made iPlayer Desktop available to Labs users only, allowing early adopters to try it out and give us feedback.

Many thanks to all those Labs users who sent us valuable feedback - we read them all - you'll find many of the bugs you mentioned have been fixed, and many of the ideas and suggestions have either been incorporated into the latest version or are on the to-do list for future release.

Today iPlayer Desktop graduates out of Labs, replacing our existing download manager as our new cross-platform download platform. Windows, Mac and Linux users can now download iPlayer programmes, including in HD, for offline playback.

As of today, we're no longer using P2P to distribute our content, or use your upload bandwidth- all content is now either streaming or direct HTTP download from our servers. If you're a user of our existing BBC iPlayer Download Manager, you can continue to use it to play back files that you've previously downloaded, but all new downloads will be via iPlayer Desktop, so feel free to go ahead and uninstall BBC iPlayer Download Manager (look for that entry in Add/Remove Programmes). Note that Sky Player and 4OD use the same Kontiki technology as our existing BBC iPlayer Download Manager, so if you've installed their download managers you may find that some shared Kontiki components remain after uninstalling ours.

Download to view on your TV

Although they've not yet caught on in a big way, Windows Media Extender devices provide a way to play back downloaded movies and songs on your TV set. Made by companies including Linksys, D-Link, NetGear and Zyxel, plug one end of these devices into your home network (or connect via wi-fi) and the other end into your TV set and/or audio system, and you can then browse and play files shared on your home network by any PCs running Windows Media Centre. Many of these devices have HDMI outputs,1080p upscaling and SP-DIF audio output to your 5.1 system, providing a high-quality way to play back downloaded programmes on your TV.

User feedback told us that a popular use case for downloading iPlayer programmes was to play them back in Windows Media Centre or via these Windows Media Extender devices. We have good news for these users: We're now making those same WMV files available for direct download, with no need to install any software - just look for the More Downloads option (right), then download the file, save it to your desktop or Windows Media Centre library, and play it out as you wish, including moving it around your home network, playing it back on other devices in the house, etc.

Now working on... iPlayer 3.0

Over the next couple of months we'll have a few more iPlayer releases with additional features, but the iPlayer team is now focussing on the next-generation of the iPlayer site - we call it the iPlayer 3.0 release - coming this summer - though it's early days it's looking really exciting - stay tuned for more info as development progresses.

Anthony Rose is Controller, Online Media Group and Vision, Future Media & Technology.


  • Comment number 1.

    Congratulations on all of this, though the diagnostics page is 404ing for me right now. The HD video certainly looks pretty sweet.

    As a FYI, Flash performs really *really* badly if it's having to downscale the video (QuickTime can do this just fine). I take it us plebs will have to wait for Project Canvas (if it gets the go-ahead) before we'll see something like an open protocol that a sane video player can use (and by "sane" I mean "doesn't consume over one and a half CPU cores trying to perform a pretty trivial scaling transform")?

    Either way, keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 2.

    Will you guys ever allow this great website/application available to those outside of the UK? I would gladly pay!

  • Comment number 3.

    Which programmes are downloadable in Windows Media Video? Only a few? I guess this uses built-in Windows Media DRM?

  • Comment number 4.

    The download buttons are broken on the BBC HD programmes I have tried. The HD shows load in the Flash player on the site, but when you try to download BBC iPlayer Desktop goes for the SD option instead.

  • Comment number 5.

    Will you be able to use Apple TV (or similar) to watch content on your TV or is it just Windows Media Extender?

  • Comment number 6.


    no Apple TV (or anything else which only plays standards-compliant content). the download option relies on Windows Media DRM.

    In order to support the aTV or similar, the BBC would have to offer downloads of unencumbered H.264+AAC files, or do a deal with Apple to do "rentals" using the iTunes Store infrastructure.

    Your only real choice (without resorting to illicit downloads of exactly the same content) is to invest in a DVB capture device or a PVR that can have files pulled from it across a network.

  • Comment number 7.

    [I]"Will you be able to use Apple TV (or similar) to watch content on your TV or is it just Windows Media Extender?"[/I]

    Nope. Apple TV doesn't allow any DRM except for Apple's and Apple won't allow their DRM to be used on a free service they're not getting a cut of, so there won't ever be any BBC video on Apple TV unless Apple change their minds.

    Good news about keeping the Windows Media encodes as direct downloads. Very good news. Will HD versions of these also be done for the HD channel programmes?

    Just a shame the Xbox won't allow me to stick them on it's hard drive. An Xbox and a PC in the living room on at the same time make a lot of fan noise...


  • Comment number 8.


    “Apple won't allow their DRM to be used on a free service they're not getting a cut of”

    Do you have a source for that (genuinely curious)? I've seen a few people say that anecdotally in blog comments and the like, but I've never seen anything from the horse's mouth (or, indeed, any evidence that anybody's tried to actually do such a deal with Apple, only that they won't license their DRM for third parties to implement directly, which is different from using the iTS infrastructure as a distribution point).

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations on (finally ;)) launching iPlayer HD! One request: could you please re-add the HD version of the Doctor Who Easter special; it expired over the weekend (in HD, the non-HD versions are available until Friday). It would be a fantastic to have Doctor Who in HD for the launch week of iPlayer HD.


    Could you consider providing higher-resolution programme images (for when you arrive at an iPlayer programme page but you haven't started playing it yet)? If you have it set to the large video size, the images look very jagged.

    Also, I'm curious as to why you picked 832x468 as the resolution for the 1500 kbps streams, isn't 480p (854x480) much more common? Not that it really matters of course...

    And lastly, there is a typo in BBC iPlayer Desktop v.1.0.2302 in the Downloads pane (when you have nothing downloaded): it says "Parental Guildance Lock".

  • Comment number 10.

    One other suggestion, if the HD version of a programme has expired but the SD one hasn't, or the other way around, it should link to the unexpired listing.

    Example: Doctor Who in HD has expired:


    but it would be good if the page said "SD version available" and linked to:


    (btw, I see that the br / bug has struck again, this same link which I posted in the previous post is broken)

  • Comment number 11.

    One issue (so far), lip sync, is there a problem with the HD streams?

  • Comment number 12.

    Great stuff - one comment about the new iPlayer Desktop though - can you prompt for the folder you want to store downloaded content in when first installing the application? I started to download something, it correctly required the new app to install, and everything went swimmingly. I then went to change the folder (to move it to a different disk, rather than my system 'C' drive) (after working out that I had to untick 'allow iPlayer desktop to manage...' before being able to browse to a new location). Again, everything going well. Except the programme that I had already downloaded 500 odd meg for refused to download any additional data (all of its files had been moved automatically to the new location). When iPlayer was telling me that it was another 9+ hours to download the rest, I killed it, deleted the content from my drive, restarted iPlayer, and it's all downloading great now. Shame about 1/2 a gig of data in the bin though.

    Anyway, now to test if TVersity will stream it...

  • Comment number 13.

    Are there any plans to make iPlayer available for the Blackberry??


  • Comment number 14.

    A few comments:

    Windows Media downloads don't seem to work from Google Chrome (this is an annoyance rather than a problem TBH)

    Windows Media downloads only seem to be available for SD programmes and not HD. Any plans to allow for HD versions to be downloaded in Windows Media format for sharing across home networks to be watched on TV?

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry - another comment - could you also make the HQ stream available for (is it) Big Screen? I'm trying it directly on a PS3 and it seems to be the same LQ stream as before.

  • Comment number 16.

    and again - where I thought it was moving the data folder causing the download to 'stick', it now appears as thought it may be the particular programme I am trying to download - Louis Theroux. Downloaded 420mb and back again to 9.5 hours left...

  • Comment number 17.

    Can I ask what frame rate these HD streams are?

    I set my htpc to 50hz so I can enjoy most UK tv from my tuner card, but the first couple of iplayer HD streams I have played with so far seem to be smoother at 60hz...?

    Any help on the best refresh rate for iplayer HD much appreciated :-)

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks to you and your colleagues for putting this altogether. The HD content far surpasses what I thought would be offered. One small point is that perhaps the saturation is a little dialed up on some or all of the shows, in particular I tried the Kirsty Wark quiz show (Question of Genius?), and on my TV which is calibrated the colours were far over-saturated.

    Secondly, one thing I've always noticed with the iPlayer in general is that if you have loaded up the player page on one display, then switched to another (ie a TV) at another resolution, the played content will 'stick' to the original resolution (ie, it will be pillared and letterboxed), unless you refresh the page.

    I guess this is because the page grabs your resolution when you load it, but it would be nice if the player itself could check the resolution when you click Play.


  • Comment number 19.

    For the first time I am watching HD television on my PC which has come down my phone line and over the power lines inside my house (It is an older house which blocks wireless signals, so I have to use Devolo HomePlug adapters to get it around). How weird is that! Thanks to the BBC for now providing the finest viewing experience anywhere on the Internet. Quality at 3.5mbps is excellent on my computer monitor and I can't wait to try it out on my 40" LCD. I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised at the direction in which TV is heading, especially as broadband speeds and reliability increase. As always the BBC is there at the forefront of these new technologies.

  • Comment number 20.

    The most capable device in my house of decoding and playing a HD video would be my Playstation 3, but I have found it rather hit-and-miss in getting BBC iPlayer working via the PS3.
    What I will probably end up doing is download the HD programme onto the computer, then "side load" it on the PS3 hard-drive and play it locally. I haven't tried it yet, but hopefully the downloads will be a format that is compatible, and free of any DRM restrictions.

  • Comment number 21.

    "I haven't tried it yet, but hopefully the downloads will be a format that is compatible, and free of any DRM restrictions."

    They have DRM and it won't work.


  • Comment number 22.

    Hi, so when will paying users in Rep. of Ireland be able to use this?

  • Comment number 23.


    I wasn't aware the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation had any obligations to offer non-licence fee paying residents of other countries their licence fee 'paid for' services ;-)

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi, Great work guys.

    Are the new higher quality stream also available via the bigscreen interface? I think the HD content would look great on my TV but my laptop isn't up to the job and so my PS3 will have to do the work.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is there a way to force choose bitrate? Even just as a hidden option for advanced users. I've never had a problem with the 1500kbps streams when in Labs, but with the auto-selecting, now when I've been watching stuff it works its way down to the 512kbps stream, despite the diagnostic tool showing that I have the capability of HD.

    Download speed: 5754 kbps
    Streaming speed 1: 754 kbps
    Streaming speed 2: 4409 kbps
    Streaming speed 3: 4415 kbps

    (I know technically this gives a result of 3191 kbps, actually too low for HD, but obviously due to volume of other users this can fluctuate, up to 4000+ on previous testing occasions)

  • Comment number 26.

    Ironically, I go back to the video I stopped after doing the speed test, and it's running 1500kbps. Is the selection of service provider used when watching a video random?

  • Comment number 27.

    I used to like watching iPlayer, now it doesn't work at all, I just get sound and the occasional picture refresh. I suspect this has been tested by a panel of self-selected experts who have the fastest computers around. Try selecting some people with older computers next time you test things :(

  • Comment number 28.

    Could a scheduler be incorporated into the iPlayer, so that we could download programmes outside of STM periods !!

    For VirginMedia, this is after midnight.

  • Comment number 29.

    This is all very well but what about those of us who prefer radio and pay our licence fee?

    BBC Radio online quality is still not up to scratch and BBC local radio at 44kbits via real player is absoloutely shocking!!! I dont want real player on my PC either!!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    ***iPlayer's new adaptive bitrate technology***

    This feature could have been better addressed. Firstly, it wasn't broken in the first place. It was simple, the user could manually select between a normal quality stream and a high quality stream. Now I am interrupted each time I play a new video as the stream gradually downgrades itself for "my benefit".

    The iPlayer team need to incorporate an option for advanced users where they can switch on/off the auto-stream speed detection and provide a method to manually select the stream speed (either 500-800-1500kbps) themselves. Once manually set the speed will remain for all streams viewed (of course if the user wishes he/she can change this). Can't this be introduced somehow?

    Sometimes I have enough bandwidth to use the 800kbps, other times there is only enough for the 500kbps stream due to other users on my bandwidth. If you are able to place a button for lower quality streams at the bottom of the screen then I'm sure it can't be asking for much to add buttons for medium (800kbps) and high (1500kbps) streams.


  • Comment number 31.

    The search function in iPlayer still seems a bit flaky. I was told about the Manic Street Preachers being featured on Radio 4 Front Row last Tuesday. I went to iPlayer homepage and typed "front row" into the search box. The only hit was the Bahrain Grand Prix. But if I navigated to Radio 4 then clicked through the schedules, there it is at 7:15pm

    There are numerous other similar examples.

  • Comment number 32.

    Pity it doesn't work. When I click on the link I just disappear to the never land. Especially frustrating as I had managed to download a couple of programs but now I can't access them!

  • Comment number 33.

    Impressed with the resolution of the HD stuff - however the frame rate is nowhere near as good as the original HD broadcasts. When watching entertainment (and I'm guessing sport) stuff shot in interlaced 1080/50i (i.e. 50 images per second) like "Tonight's the Night" - the iPlayer HD version is definitely not delivering 50 images per second, so has jerky "film effect" motion. Is stuff being de-interlaced to 25 frames progressive prior to encoding, rather than 50 frames?

    It's a pity - as the iPlayer does this to all interlaced content (SD as well) - reducing the picture quality as a result. It's the biggest obvious quality limitation of the iPlayer as it stands.

  • Comment number 34.

    In my experience the frame-rate is silky smooth. Make sure you're watching it fullscreen because otherwise the player will do a bad job of downscaling it and it *will* be jerky.

    Also, when will the BBC provide HD at its proper 24fps. I don't want legacy 25fps, anyone with a computer or HDTV capable of displaying HD will be wanting to watch it at 24fps or 30i.

  • Comment number 35.

    I have my PC set-up properly for 50Hz progressive output at 1920x1080 and run full-screen. However comparing stuff shot 50Hz interlaced replayed from Sky+ HD and the iPlayer equivalent - there is a clear drop in temporal resolution. It does look as if iPlayer is running at 25Hz not 50Hz. (Not a problem for HD drama or documentary shot 1080/25p, but noticable on anything shot 50i)

    As for the iPlayer running at 24p - I doubt it will happen anytime soon. AIUI the BBC commission for delivery on 1080/50i HDCam SR tape - so the sources will be 50Hz interlaced (often sourced from 25Hz progressive origination). Whilst motion pictures are shot 24Hz, all UK drama will be shot 25Hz (either 25fps film or 25p HD video) - so if you had it delivered via iPlayer at 24Hz it would probably have been slowed down... (This is why many BBC Drama Blu-rays are 1080/60i converts from 1080/50i masters rather than 1080p releases I believe)

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear nogin72

    You are correct in saying the frame rate is 25fps progressive only. I have asked no interlace programmes are made available on iPlayer HD until we can get the motion sorted. Fortunately over 90% of the programmes on the BBC HD Channel are 1080p25 not 1080i25 so not much will be missing.

    Dear cinephiliac - here we have the dilemma! All European programmes are made at 25fps (576i25, 576p25, 1080i25 and 1080p25) Well when I say p I really mean psf as we use an interlace carrier to transport both p and i programmes! We will never show programmes at 24 or 30 fps. Not many programmes from 30fps countries are available on iPlayer anyway and we show all 24fps material 4% faster!


  • Comment number 37.

    Whilst I am happy that with the new iPlayer I have the choice of not using IE to download, what about the screen aspect ratio? I do object to watching short fat people when they should be long and thin!
    Seriously, as I watch iPlayer solely on my PC, which does not have an easy switchover (unlike some TVs) it does appear that I and others who dislike 16:9 appearance will have been disadvantaged. I don't mind letterboxes or pillars, but can we have our proper screen ratios back please.

  • Comment number 38.

    I know there are very few HD downloads available right now but I notice the few that are can only be played on the desktop player.

    Could you please also make available downloads in a format that can be played in Media Center as you do with the SD downloads?

    In the meantime does anyone know what codecs are needed to play these particular mp4 files in Windows? I can usually get other mp4 files to play - including the little HD intro where the boys catch the fish - but not the main HD downloads.

  • Comment number 39.

    Can you not make the HD programmes downloadable for mobile devices, or at least the NORMAL version but in 16:9 please ??

    Normal version on my Archos TV+ plays 4:3 whereas the MOBILE version plays 16:9 but is of inferior quality.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi , I was forwarded here from another BBC HD blog.

    What plans are there to implement a 1080i and AC-3 steam for the Cable iPlayer service and for the freesat/sky iPlayer service when they are launched?

    Also with Virgin Media looking at offering a minimum 10 meg service for its lowest tier users within the next several months will it also be offered online?


  • Comment number 41.

    It should read AC-3 stream. And if launched soon will the iPlayer for freesat/sky will be a download to the hard disc service to take into account variable download rates throughout the country?


  • Comment number 42.

    "and also help us better understand average bandwidths that our users are getting, including allowing us to analyse the bandwidth available from different ISPs by time of day, etc."

    Will you be giving any results of the bandwidths obtained.
    Reading the iPlayer message boards you seem to have some unhappy users complaining that the new iPlayer Desktop is slower than the original version in respect of times taken to download TV programs.

  • Comment number 43.

    Test looks great. Why don't you get people to submit their results by ISP and location? I know how well my ISP performs but it would be good to find out whether I'm likely to get a better speed by moving to a different ISP. That way everyone would be able to see which was the best ISP for using iPlayer as well as for downloads.

  • Comment number 44.

    Just a heads up, the speedtest on the diagnostics page is displaying a message saying the license will expire in 15 days unless someone pays the bill ;)

  • Comment number 45.

    Is anyone having problems with small subtitles when going into full screen format? I'm getting small subs ever since I download the BBC iPlayer Desktop software.

  • Comment number 46.

    You mention the use of Windows Media Center Extenders, including the Linksys. I have a Linksys 2200. I works perfectly except that for HD it responds: "Video can not be displayed. The format is not supported on this extender." The Linksys specifications includes:

    The following Video Codecs are supported:

    * Video from Vista PC:
    o MPEG-1 - Upto 352x240(NTSC),352x288(PAL) - Upto 1.856Mb/s - 23.976 & 24F/s, 25F/s(PAL), 29.97 & 30 F/s(NTSC)
    o MPEG-2 - (Main Profile @ High Level - Upto 1920x1080x30F/s & 1920x1152x25F/s - CBR & VBR upto 19.39Mb/s- 23.976 & 24F/s
    o WMV9 (VC-1 Main profile) - @ High Level - Upto 1920x1080x30F/s - CBR & VBR upto 20Mb/s - 24,25,30F/S
    o VC-1 Advanced profile - @ Level 2 - 720x480x30 & 1280x720x30 F/S - CBR & VBR upto 20Mb/s - 24,25,30F/S -
    o H.264 - High Profile 4.0 - Upto 1920x1080 - Upto 20Mb/s - 30 & 25 F/s - Audio: MPEG-1 Layers I & II, MPEG-2 Layer I & II, AC-3 (No divx support)
    o HTTP AV Streaming - MPEG-1 & MPEG-2 - play, pause, stop, seek forward 30s (+/- 3s), seek backwards 7s (+/- 1s).

    H.264 is supposedly supported, so what is the problem?

  • Comment number 47.

    Help - I've download 20 or so programmes and watched several - playback is a little sluggish - slow PC, odl video card probably to blame.

    The thing is they all played, switched to wmv ie lower quality and it plays fine.

    Now the problem, in general I can't play any of the higher quality files that a 3-4 weeks old - nothing happens just a blank in the "now playing" screen.

    Not expecting a answer or fix here, but is there some chance that you could get the Help line/ Message Board monitors to address some of the issues.

    Perhaps a daily post letting us now what is going on.
    There seems to be no official poster on the boards, so it ends up with us all trying to help each other out - often to no avail

  • Comment number 48.

    Have you reduced the bitrates of the WMV downloads ?

    On all of the videos ive seen on bbc iplayer, the WMV downloads are now under half the size of the adobe ones.

  • Comment number 49.

    There's the line above:
    "For users on bandwidth-capped internet connections or who otherwise might want to override the adaptive bitrate system and use only our lowest bandwidth (500Kbps) stream, we've provided an option to do so (right)."

    - not sure if I'm missing something, but I can't see any explanation as to how to set the bandwidth capping. If I don't find this soon, I'll have to block my daughter's access to iPlayer completely, as she managed to use 20% of my 25gb/month in a morning last week. Anyone seen how to do this?

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi technicalboy,

    Once you click on "Use lower bandwidth version" as Anthony suggests, BBC iPlayer will remember this and you'll only be offered the 500kbps version. The link is at the bottom of every programme page.

    See this FAQ for more information on how to do this https://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/streaming_programmes/quality_change

    Don't forget that downloading programmes and playing HD programmes will use more of your 25GB monthly allowance than playing the lower quality streams.


  • Comment number 51.

    I'm hoping someone may still read this but I can't find a better way to post this at the moment.

    Downloading and playing iPlayer "Who do you think you are?" in HD. Really does make the computer go wild, recent computer with media capabilities but a laptop with an AMD chip.

    The TV is only 768p, but the broadcast is 1080i, so I have to download bigger than I need, and then the computer has to reprocess it on the fly into 768, which is presumably part of the reason for the computer activity, and the constant fan noise to try and calm it down.

    There would be significant advantages of reduced bandwidth and processing and significant environmental benefits in having 1080 and 768 HD versions. This could be set in the preferences once, and then iPlayer Desktop would automatically choose the right version.

  • Comment number 52.

    Dear VeniVediVocali

    iPlayer HD is actually only 720p25 so the images have been reduced in size (but still qualify as HD). We are looking at ways to improve the quality and keep the file sizes small enough to download and stream.


  • Comment number 53.

    I get choppy playback from HD downloaded files; full screen or otherwise. Playing the short cached file 20090416.mp4 plays perfectly smoothly in VLC player.

    On the-scream.co.uk website it is mentioned that the later versions of Flash plug-ins has problems and recommends rolling back to an earlier version of version 9 etc.

    Can you confirm this is a problem?

  • Comment number 54.

    Can anyone help? I have downloaded The Great Salmon Run in HD, I am using vista media center but when I try to play back I get the message that media center cannot open the file. I have downloaded iplayer desktop,on which this file will play fine,unfortunatly my monitor is not hd but my tv is (connected to media center) I have uninstalled and reinstalled codecs,I have uninstalled iplayer desktop, all with no luck,I can play SD downloads in media center on my tv and in media player on my monitor but not HD downloads, am I being "daft" and missing something? I only have a few days left to watch this file, please help.

    many thanks Marion

  • Comment number 55.

    Marion - try the iPlayer message boards.

  • Comment number 56.

    Can anyone help? I have downloaded a programme onto iPlayer Desktop but I am unable to play it. I click on play but nothing happens. Any ideas?

  • Comment number 57.

    there is no need for iplayer to be HD
    it means a bunch of us poor people on low bandwith can't watch stuff.
    at least give us the choice in all programs not just the few that have dual quality
    i've been stopped from watching things because they are only in HD
    i think you'll find that contravenes bbc policy of access for all

  • Comment number 58.

    Dear rigbyLUFC

    There shouldn't be any programmes on the iPlayer you cannot watch in SD quality. Can you let me have a couple of titles and I will pass the problem on to the iPlayer team - the only thin I can think is they are from repeats that are only the HD Channel but I would hope lower resolution versions would be available.


  • Comment number 59.

    hector51 - try iPlayer help or iPlayer message board.

  • Comment number 60.

    Andy wrote "You are correct in saying the frame rate is 25fps progressive only. I have asked no interlace programmes are made available on iPlayer HD until we can get the motion sorted. Fortunately over 90% of the programmes on the BBC HD Channel are 1080p25 not 1080i25 so not much will be missing."

    Could the BBC make the iPlayer capable of playing back 1080p50? Even at low bitrates. Until there is a lot of native 1080p50 content, couldn't 1080i25 content be de-interlaced to 1080p50 and made available at 1080p50 on the iplayer? But ideally native 1080p50 content would be better.

  • Comment number 61.

    Andy wrote "You are correct in saying the frame rate is 25fps progressive only. I have asked no interlace programmes are made available on iPlayer HD until we can get the motion sorted. Fortunately over 90% of the programmes on the BBC HD Channel are 1080p25 not 1080i25 so not much will be missing."

    So can I ask what is the best setting for desktop to get smoothest playback? 60hz or 50hz? Neither seems 100% smooth for me.

  • Comment number 62.

    Is it possible to view a downloaded HD programme at it's correct size on my PC?
    I don't want to introduce any resizing or upscaling and pixel interpolation and would like to watch it in a 1280x720 window for optimum quality and lowest processing

    Currently there is only a choice of 832x440, arbitrary by dragging the window or full-screen, none of which is exactly 100%

  • Comment number 63.

    Please can you tell me when the Playstation 3 will have HD available on IPlayer.

  • Comment number 64.

    "So can I ask what is the best setting for desktop to get smoothest playback? 60hz or 50hz? Neither seems 100% smooth for me."

    I'd guess 50hz would be better (though the native refresh rate of many LCD monitors is 60hz so it might not be the case for those). But neither will be smooth because the clips are only at 25p and 25p is not a high enough frame rate to be smooth, which is why they should use 50i or, preferably 50p too.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi we have just added the iplayer to our wii and then to the ps3 as read that HD channels were available on ps3. Unfortunately the HD channels are not showing on the ps3 either, our TV is an HD tv can anyone give me a clue where I am going wrong?
    Many thanks

  • Comment number 66.

    At Post #65 Claire at the moment, the HD programmes are not available to PS3. I'm not sure why, I have asked this many times but no dates. The PS3 is one of the best platforms(because of the hardware) for HD.

  • Comment number 67.

    Oh what a shame! Thanks for that I must have misread something I thought it was available.


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