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Streaming Video Quality inferior to AirVideo and StreamToMe


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#1 mpmchugh

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 07:06 PM

So, I was very excited to see the Plex Channel for Roku, but I was quickly dismayed by how poor some videos looked compared to how the same videos looked via AirPlay from AirVideo and StreamToMe on my Apple TV.

I also tested all three on my iPad, and again, the Plex video quality was VERY noticeably worse, even when I had all the settings could find set for the highest quality.

The Plex streams of the same content were obviously more compressed and very pixelated compared to the other two.

Granted this was most obvious on poorer quality original AVI files, as higher quality MKVs looked pretty good.

I'm guessing all three are doing essentially the same thing, and wondering why the other two are able to do it so much better. I realize the Roku channel is still beta, but the iPad app comparisons don't bode well, and the problem seems to be with the Media Server's transcoding process.

-mpm

#2 Jonny Wray

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 08:04 PM

I'm not familiar with AirPlay or StreamToMe but do they do any transcoding or just play the files originally? On the Roku the AVI files are certainly transcoded. The mkv files may or may not be depending on their properties.

That said, there's some improvements that can be made with the Roku client to allow higher bit rate streaming and that should help.

Either way, as your surmise, this could be an issue with the media server and affects other clients also, but I'll pass your concerns on to the server developers.

Jonny

#3 Grim107

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:01 PM

Although I have my settings at 720p, all videos I stream are very poor quality. I have a large collection of AVI movies, and an even larger collection of h.264 MOV/MP4 files, but no matter what, the results are unwatchable. When I stream these same h.264 encoded videos with MyMedia Server, I get descent quality. Can anyone offer any advice or info?

#4 Jonny Wray

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:07 PM

Are you going over a wireless connection at a low bit rate (e.g. 2Mbps)?

Although I have my settings at 720p, all videos I stream are very poor quality. I have a large collection of AVI movies, and an even larger collection of h.264 MOV/MP4 files, but no matter what, the results are unwatchable. When I stream these same h.264 encoded videos with MyMedia Server, I get descent quality. Can anyone offer any advice or info?



#5 Grim107

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:09 PM

Are you going over a wireless connection at a low bit rate (e.g. 2Mbps)?


I'm using wireless. I couldn't tell you if I'm at 2Mbps. Do you know how I can check?

#6 mpmchugh

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:17 PM

I'm not familiar with AirPlay or StreamToMe but do they do any transcoding or just play the files originally? On the Roku the AVI files are certainly transcoded. The mkv files may or may not be depending on their properties.

Yes, they are both transcoding servers for the purpose of streaming all video media to their iPad/iPhone apps.

http://www.inmethod.com/air-video/

http://projectswithl...com/streamtome/

That said, there's some improvements that can be made with the Roku client to allow higher bit rate streaming and that should help.

Either way, as your surmise, this could be an issue with the media server and affects other clients also, but I'll pass your concerns on to the server developers.


Oh, and by the way, I've got the Roku and AppleTV on a gigbit Ethernet network, and the iPad on wireless, but in both cases the video looks about the same — better on the other two and worse on Plex.

Thanks!

-mpm

#7 Jonny Wray

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:17 PM

There are a list of quality settings in the preferences menu.

Bottom line is people are seeing issues with quality over wireless and I need to track down the cause. Could be codec specific, and could also be particular to people's wireless set up, but there's certainly room for improvement.

I'm using wireless. I couldn't tell you if I'm at 2Mbps. Do you know how I can check?



#8 Grim107

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:28 PM

There are a list of quality settings in the preferences menu.

Bottom line is people are seeing issues with quality over wireless and I need to track down the cause. Could be codec specific, and could also be particular to people's wireless set up, but there's certainly room for improvement.


I'm aware of the quality settings. They all give me crap (except for some of the higher ones, which won't even load.) I'll try not to get too upset, as I'm aware that this channel is in extreme alpha stage (at least when it's run via Windows.) I just hope everything's fixed up soon.

By the way, I have absolutely no background or knowledge of coding, but assuming it's not too difficult, I may try an create a plug-in or two over the summer. I am very grateful for what you guys are doing.

#9 Jonny Wray

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:35 PM

It's not really a windows vs mac difference, that major bug was fixed. The big issue now is wireless - the reason the higher quality settings fail is the Roku won't even attempt to play them. They play just fine over wired. Something is messing up the Roku's ability to determine what your network can handle. I need to figure out how to fix that. Same issue on both Mac and Windows PMS boxes.

Plex plugin (I assume that's what you mean) is relatively straightforward. The plugin framework handles most of the hairy stuff for you. Still, some knowledge of general programing is probably needed (what a variable is etc). If you jump in there's always plenty of help in the plugin forum.

Jonny

I'm aware of the quality settings. They all give me crap (except for some of the higher ones, which won't even load.) I'll try not to get too upset, as I'm aware that this channel is in extreme alpha stage (at least when it's run via Windows.) I just hope everything's fixed up soon.

By the way, I have absolutely no background or knowledge of coding, but assuming it's not too difficult, I may try an create a plug-in or two over the summer. I am very grateful for what you guys are doing.



#10 Adam850114

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 11:12 PM

New here and if this is already answered somewhere, I'm sorry.

Is it possible to have Plex stream the original video files directly to the Roku? All of my files are encoded to run natively on Roku and work great through a direct streamer (Roksbox), but I love that Plex grabs all of the metadata for me.

It seems like my quality issues (really poor quality even on wired) may be related to it trying to transcode every file, even if Roku can already play them. So this might fix the quality issues.

Thanks everyone.

#11 Jonny Wray

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 11:55 PM

Right now, no. I honestly developed this in a pretty selfish manner and dealt with the content I have and use, which is not Roku compatible. So, I didn't implement what Plex calls direct play.

But, given the response, it seems like this capability would be welcomed. So, I had a conversation with Elan, the lead Plex developer last night, about exactly what I need to do to get direct play supported. It's certainly feasible, and based on initial user reaction seems worth investing the time in. So, I'm adding it to the list and you can expect it to be supported in a future version.

Jonny

New here and if this is already answered somewhere, I'm sorry.

Is it possible to have Plex stream the original video files directly to the Roku? All of my files are encoded to run natively on Roku and work great through a direct streamer (Roksbox), but I love that Plex grabs all of the metadata for me.

It seems like my quality issues (really poor quality even on wired) may be related to it trying to transcode every file, even if Roku can already play them. So this might fix the quality issues.

Thanks everyone.



#12 mpmchugh

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 06:56 PM

The big issue now is wireless - the reason the higher quality settings fail is the Roku won't even attempt to play them. They play just fine over wired. Something is messing up the Roku's ability to determine what your network can handle. I need to figure out how to fix that. Same issue on both Mac and Windows PMS boxes.


I'm not sure if I made it clear in my earlier postings, but the quality for me is equally bad, whether it be wired or wireless — in fact I'd say it's exactly the same, as much as I can tell between my iPad and large screen HDTV. In both cases I have the available quality settings maxed out.

My Roku is using Gigabit Ethernet, while my iPad is obviously using wireless.

For both the quality is obviously worse than the AirVideo and StreamToMe solutions I mentioned. I'd encourage you to have a look at them for comparison purposes. I primarily use StreamToMe's ServeToMe server on my Mac.

Thanks,
Michael

#13 unblowupable5

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 12:03 PM

I am trying to set up Plex at my inlaws and am having the same issue with video quality. Here is the setup I'm putting together for them:

PMS running on Windows 7 desktop
MacBook (OS X 10.6) running Plex Client (no PMS configured)
Roku XD|S client

The Windows box is hardwired to their router. The MacBook connects wirelessly. Movies play back perfectly. No issues whatsoever with this portion of the setup.

I've tried the Roku box both wirelessly and wired with the same results. When I set the quality to anything from Auto to 2.0 MBPS, the video is extremely compressed. It seems like something is telling PMS to transcode it to the lowest possible bit rate. When I set the quality to 3.0 or 4.0 Mbps, I get the black retrieving screen, then it dumps me back out to the movie's information screen without explaination. I've tried resetting the Roku after changing the quality seting with no change. The files I'm trying to play are standard definition m4v files.

Beond that, thanks for supporting the Roku boxes! I realize this is an extremely early release and look forward to future updates!

#14 Jonny Wray

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 03:41 PM

I must have missed you mentioned wired was equally bad. Fact that you see the same thing on the iPad points to a server side issue with your specific media (avi right?). I'll talk to the server side guys about it and see if they have any thoughts.

Go illustration about why this is tricky - multiple compounding variables causing the same phenotype.

I'll certainly check out the other products to compare against.

Jonny

I'm not sure if I made it clear in my earlier postings, but the quality for me is equally bad, whether it be wired or wireless — in fact I'd say it's exactly the same, as much as I can tell between my iPad and large screen HDTV. In both cases I have the available quality settings maxed out.

My Roku is using Gigabit Ethernet, while my iPad is obviously using wireless.

For both the quality is obviously worse than the AirVideo and StreamToMe solutions I mentioned. I'd encourage you to have a look at them for comparison purposes. I primarily use StreamToMe's ServeToMe server on my Mac.

Thanks,
Michael



#15 Jonny Wray

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 03:42 PM

Yep, known issue that wireless only supports lower resolutions. I'll work on it.

Jonny

I am trying to set up Plex at my inlaws and am having the same issue with video quality. Here is the setup I'm putting together for them:

PMS running on Windows 7 desktop
MacBook (OS X 10.6) running Plex Client (no PMS configured)
Roku XD|S client

The Windows box is hardwired to their router. The MacBook connects wirelessly. Movies play back perfectly. No issues whatsoever with this portion of the setup.

I've tried the Roku box both wirelessly and wired with the same results. When I set the quality to anything from Auto to 2.0 MBPS, the video is extremely compressed. It seems like something is telling PMS to transcode it to the lowest possible bit rate. When I set the quality to 3.0 or 4.0 Mbps, I get the black retrieving screen, then it dumps me back out to the movie's information screen without explaination. I've tried resetting the Roku after changing the quality seting with no change. The files I'm trying to play are standard definition m4v files.

Beond that, thanks for supporting the Roku boxes! I realize this is an extremely early release and look forward to future updates!



#16 unblowupable5

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 04:11 PM

Thanks for confirming! My inlaws were excited when I told them I could install Plex on their Roku boxes. They are always inpressed with it running on our Mac Mini HTPC, Apple TVs, iPhones and Android phones when they visit our house. (Yes, I put Plex everywhere I can. I'm waiting to buy a new washing machine until I can find one that can run a Plex client! It's only a matter of time, right!?!?)

#17 ritalin

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 11:35 PM

I just wanted to let you know that I too am having issues with quality on wired and wireless connections. At present I am being forced to use 3mbps or lower, if I do not, the majority of my videos fail to start.
With that said the quality even at 3mbps is still not correct. As a user of plex on my Android Nexus S and Xoom I can tell you for sure that there is something out of wack with the Roku Plex client. The quality is NO WHERE near the same. I can hook my Xoom up to my TV over wifi and get better quality on plex through it then through the Roku box.

I have a few other suggestions, but I do not want to take this post off topic.

#18 Wormhole

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:15 PM

Jonny,
I can also report that wired video quality is, i would say, less good than for example the ATV Plex plugin. I'm not sure why or if the implementation is different given the different hardware, but I am running a Roku XR on a wired network (ATV is wireless) and again, the video is noticeably, less good Posted Image than the ATV implementation. Its still watchable, however. Thanks again for doing this.

#19 jdavis83

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:23 PM

Jonny,

I'm loving the client for Roku so far!
I'm on a Roku XD. Wireless. Roku Plex Client set to 2.0mbps
I've tested the 3 different formats of video I have and here's what I've found:

avatar.mkv, H.264, 1280 x 720, 23.98fps, 5.1 audio downmixed to stereo 48k
looks AMAZING! I can barely notice any quality difference from playing directly on the Mac. Only issue is that it stops playing after about 30 minutes.

monsters-inc.m4v, H.264, 704 x 400, 23.98fps, stereo 48k audio
looks exactly like it's being played on the Mac. Only issue with this type of file is that it stops playing after 10-15min

smallville.avi, generic MPEG-4, 624 x 352, 23.98fps, stereo 48k
these are the ones that get super compressed (probably due to the transcoding) This type of file also stops playing after about 10 minutes.
I am going to try re-encoding this as .mkv and .m4v and see how quality is.

I love plex and I am glad this client is here! (great alternative to spending $500+ on a media streamer for each room)
I'd be happy to do any testing you need or think of.


-jd

#20 Jonny Wray

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 03:44 PM

Thanks, that's very useful information.

Jonny

Jonny,

I'm loving the client for Roku so far!
I'm on a Roku XD. Wireless. Roku Plex Client set to 2.0mbps
I've tested the 3 different formats of video I have and here's what I've found:

avatar.mkv, H.264, 1280 x 720, 23.98fps, 5.1 audio downmixed to stereo 48k
looks AMAZING! I can barely notice any quality difference from playing directly on the Mac. Only issue is that it stops playing after about 30 minutes.

monsters-inc.m4v, H.264, 704 x 400, 23.98fps, stereo 48k audio
looks exactly like it's being played on the Mac. Only issue with this type of file is that it stops playing after 10-15min

smallville.avi, generic MPEG-4, 624 x 352, 23.98fps, stereo 48k
these are the ones that get super compressed (probably due to the transcoding) This type of file also stops playing after about 10 minutes.
I am going to try re-encoding this as .mkv and .m4v and see how quality is.

I love plex and I am glad this client is here! (great alternative to spending $500+ on a media streamer for each room)
I'd be happy to do any testing you need or think of.


-jd






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