Netflix is trying to get better mileage out of its video streaming operation, the largest on the Web. If it works, the result should be better-looking video for everyone and a reduction in bandwidth usage of 20% or so. That's important, since Netflix uses about one-third of all data on the Internet during peak times.
Basically, the change will tailor video encoding partly to content instead of to users' reception capabilities.
Netflix, like everyone else, has always encoded several versions of each piece of video -- super high-quality for those with ultra-fast connections, low-res versions for those with super-slow connections, and so forth.
But, as Variety tells it, someone at Netflix came to the realization that it would make more sense to encode videos based on their content.
“You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers,’” explained Netflix video algorithms manager Anne Aaron in the Variety report. That's because animated shows require much less data than complex productions originally meant for the big screen.
Reviewers and reporters who have seen side-by-side tests of the traditional encoding methods and the new one say it's impossible to tell them apart. If that holds true for everyone, Netflix will have saved itself and its customers a lot of bandwidth. Those with slow-speed and mobile connections should also see improved quality on at least some titles.