Check Your Netflix Streaming Speed with Example Short 23.976

If you’re a Netflix user, and you have problems with the quality of what you’re watching, you may want to find out exactly how fast your internet connection is. You can do speed tests on various websites, but they don’t show the actual speed you get from Netflix, which may be less if your ISP is throttling the service.

There’s a little-known film you can watch on Netflix called Example Short 23.976. It’s a cinema verité short – just 11 minutes long – that explores the relationship between man and his TV screen. Netflix’s description of the film gives little insight into the existential depth of this work:

“An example of 23.976 frames per second. An example of 23.976 frames per second. An example of 23.976 frames per second.”

What’s useful about this film is that it shows you exactly how fast you’re getting data from Netflix, and at what resolution. Here’s a screenshot. (It’s a bit hard to see, but at the time I took the screenshot, I was getting 3000 kbps, at 1280×720.)

Screen

When you start watching this movie, the bitrate and resolution will be low, and they’ll increase as Netflix figures out how much bandwidth you have. You may need to leave it running for a few minutes to get an accurate reading for your usable bandwidth. But this, combined with speed tests from other websites, can tell you if problems streaming Netflix are related to your overall speed or specific bottlenecks affecting Netflix traffic.

18 thoughts on “Check Your Netflix Streaming Speed with Example Short 23.976

  1. I tried this on my Maverick’d Macbook Pro 7,1 using the house U-verse wireless. The download speed stabilized at 3000kbps after the first half minute. It hadn’t buffered or stalled. I stopped it at a bit more than a minute and a half.

    Having added it to my Netflix list I tried it on my HDTV, where the bitrate stabilized at 5800kbps/RES: 1920×1080 after 45 seconds.

    The results were totally different from all the speed test sites I’ve visited in the past.

  2. I tried this on my Maverick’d Macbook Pro 7,1 using the house U-verse wireless. The download speed stabilized at 3000kbps after the first half minute. It hadn’t buffered or stalled. I stopped it at a bit more than a minute and a half.

    Having added it to my Netflix list I tried it on my HDTV, where the bitrate stabilized at 5800kbps/RES: 1920×1080 after 45 seconds.

    The results were totally different from all the speed test sites I’ve visited in the past.

  3. “When you start watching this movie, the bitrate and resolution will be low, and they’ll increase as Netflix figures out how much bandwidth you have.”

    I think this an incorrect explanation, and is one of the (several) reasons I avoid Netlfix if I can find a video elsewhere.

    For example, Amazon streaming does not have the initial low bandwidth issue, and though I don’t use it, I strongly imagine Apple streaming doesn’t either. I also use HBO Go streaming, and yet again, it doesn’t suffer from initial low bandwidth. In other words, that minute or two of lousy PQ is not technically necessary.

    So what explains the difference? The other streaming services obviously need to figure out the customer’s bandwidth, yet they don’t have heavily degraded performance for the first minute or two after you start a stream, FF or RW a stream, or just pause a stream for a bit.

    The answer is money. Netflix tries to save pennies by acting in this manner, while the other service foot the bill to provide full bandwidth immediately. I don’t know if the cost has to do with peering connection fees that Netflix doesn’t want to pay, though that’s what I strongly suspect, or if it’s some other penny pinching reason, but again, other streaming providers simply just don’t suffer from this omnipresent minute or two of lousy PQ.

    And while it may not seem like the biggest deal in the world on first glance, given that movies and teevee, (especially movies), often open with a bang, losing that minute or two of decent PQ often ends up being a big deal. The whole RW / FF / pause issue that results in the same minute or two of lousy PQ is often a big deal too.

    With the noticeably lower bit-rate Netflix ships compared to the other streaming services, along with this above issue I tend to refer to as “massive latency” are the reasons why I’ve occasionally paid a-la-carte for things available on Netflix for free. The whole thing is a real drag, and I’d happily pay a buck more a month to eliminate the “latency”. (Hell, I’d pay even more than a buck extra a month for a higher bit-rate stream. Amazon has me spoiled by their excellent PQ and lack of “latency”.)

    —–

    As a side note, I kinda love the content of that short. Between the guy running around with Netflix disc envelopes, and moonwalking with the computer, some grunt put in actual effort on making the thing entertaining. Kudos for that.

    • I actually find that Netflix is better, because I have a slow internet connection. I hardly ever had Netflix buffering; they lower the quality if bandwidth is low. With Amazon, it stops and buffers a lot, more on the iPad than on my Amazon Fire TV box. With Apple, they don’t have any adaptive streaming; so they just buffer until you have enough to watch the entire movie or show without any problem. Different approaches. Of the two, I like that Netflix always works, and I like that Apple always has the best quality. For the latter, I start the stream well before I want to watch something, then pause it while it downloads. I’m not sure it’s all about money.

  4. “When you start watching this movie, the bitrate and resolution will be low, and they’ll increase as Netflix figures out how much bandwidth you have.”

    I think this an incorrect explanation, and is one of the (several) reasons I avoid Netlfix if I can find a video elsewhere.

    For example, Amazon streaming does not have the initial low bandwidth issue, and though I don’t use it, I strongly imagine Apple streaming doesn’t either. I also use HBO Go streaming, and yet again, it doesn’t suffer from initial low bandwidth. In other words, that minute or two of lousy PQ is not technically necessary.

    So what explains the difference? The other streaming services obviously need to figure out the customer’s bandwidth, yet they don’t have heavily degraded performance for the first minute or two after you start a stream, FF or RW a stream, or just pause a stream for a bit.

    The answer is money. Netflix tries to save pennies by acting in this manner, while the other service foot the bill to provide full bandwidth immediately. I don’t know if the cost has to do with peering connection fees that Netflix doesn’t want to pay, though that’s what I strongly suspect, or if it’s some other penny pinching reason, but again, other streaming providers simply just don’t suffer from this omnipresent minute or two of lousy PQ.

    And while it may not seem like the biggest deal in the world on first glance, given that movies and teevee, (especially movies), often open with a bang, losing that minute or two of decent PQ often ends up being a big deal. The whole RW / FF / pause issue that results in the same minute or two of lousy PQ is often a big deal too.

    With the noticeably lower bit-rate Netflix ships compared to the other streaming services, along with this above issue I tend to refer to as “massive latency” are the reasons why I’ve occasionally paid a-la-carte for things available on Netflix for free. The whole thing is a real drag, and I’d happily pay a buck more a month to eliminate the “latency”. (Hell, I’d pay even more than a buck extra a month for a higher bit-rate stream. Amazon has me spoiled by their excellent PQ and lack of “latency”.)

    —–

    As a side note, I kinda love the content of that short. Between the guy running around with Netflix disc envelopes, and moonwalking with the computer, some grunt put in actual effort on making the thing entertaining. Kudos for that.

    • I actually find that Netflix is better, because I have a slow internet connection. I hardly ever had Netflix buffering; they lower the quality if bandwidth is low. With Amazon, it stops and buffers a lot, more on the iPad than on my Amazon Fire TV box. With Apple, they don’t have any adaptive streaming; so they just buffer until you have enough to watch the entire movie or show without any problem. Different approaches. Of the two, I like that Netflix always works, and I like that Apple always has the best quality. For the latter, I start the stream well before I want to watch something, then pause it while it downloads. I’m not sure it’s all about money.

  5. “I actually find that Netflix is better, because I have a slow internet connection.”

    Yeah. I figured that.

    “I’m not sure it’s all about money.”

    While I do understand that Netflix caters to folks with non-broadband connections, it really is all about money.

    Netflix certainly could implement a method to deal with non-broadband connections, while still eliminating the massive latency for folks with broadband, but it really would cost them more money. For example, HBO Go ships full bit-rate streams immediately, and then, if it discovers the customer can’t support that bit-rate, it adaptively reduces the bit-rate. Such a method works quite well, but it really would cost Netflix more pennies on every stream.

    (Similarly, I’m always amazed that no one seems to have implemented a scheme where the streaming service notes the speed a customer last had on a specific IP address, and also notes if the playback device is for mobile or the lean-back. Such a scheme would be create the best of all possible worlds in the lean-back, but again, starting streams at maximum bit-rate when indicated really would cost Netflix more pennies on every stream.)

    It’s the same reason Netflix ships a significantly lower bit-rate to folks with broadband connections than the others: money.

    Netflix has a wonderful catalog, but they ruin things for folks with broadband by their decision that PQ doesn’t matter for those customers. (Again, I’d happily pay them more under a two-tier price structure for better fulfillment, but they are so addicted to their one-tier pricing structure that I can’t see that ever happening.)

    —–

    “With Apple, they don’t have any adaptive streaming; so they just buffer until you have enough to watch the entire movie or show without any problem.”

    Off my real topic, but that’s only for freakish customers like you who download to a hard drive on an OS X machine via iTunes, right? If you just had an Apple TV standing alone, that buffering scheme wouldn’t work, right?

    (And assuming I’m correct about that, FWIW, Amazon has a similar service for customers with TiVo’s and a slow internet connection. Download to the TiVo hard drive, which achieves the buffering.)

    • The buffering also works on an Apple TV. Have you never tried it with a rental? Or is your Internet connection fast enough? The Apple TV shows you about how many minutes you have to wait before you’ve downloaded enough to start watching. But you can just pause, and let it finish downloading before you start if you want.

  6. “I actually find that Netflix is better, because I have a slow internet connection.”

    Yeah. I figured that.

    “I’m not sure it’s all about money.”

    While I do understand that Netflix caters to folks with non-broadband connections, it really is all about money.

    Netflix certainly could implement a method to deal with non-broadband connections, while still eliminating the massive latency for folks with broadband, but it really would cost them more money. For example, HBO Go ships full bit-rate streams immediately, and then, if it discovers the customer can’t support that bit-rate, it adaptively reduces the bit-rate. Such a method works quite well, but it really would cost Netflix more pennies on every stream.

    (Similarly, I’m always amazed that no one seems to have implemented a scheme where the streaming service notes the speed a customer last had on a specific IP address, and also notes if the playback device is for mobile or the lean-back. Such a scheme would be create the best of all possible worlds in the lean-back, but again, starting streams at maximum bit-rate when indicated really would cost Netflix more pennies on every stream.)

    It’s the same reason Netflix ships a significantly lower bit-rate to folks with broadband connections than the others: money.

    Netflix has a wonderful catalog, but they ruin things for folks with broadband by their decision that PQ doesn’t matter for those customers. (Again, I’d happily pay them more under a two-tier price structure for better fulfillment, but they are so addicted to their one-tier pricing structure that I can’t see that ever happening.)

    —–

    “With Apple, they don’t have any adaptive streaming; so they just buffer until you have enough to watch the entire movie or show without any problem.”

    Off my real topic, but that’s only for freakish customers like you who download to a hard drive on an OS X machine via iTunes, right? If you just had an Apple TV standing alone, that buffering scheme wouldn’t work, right?

    (And assuming I’m correct about that, FWIW, Amazon has a similar service for customers with TiVo’s and a slow internet connection. Download to the TiVo hard drive, which achieves the buffering.)

    • The buffering also works on an Apple TV. Have you never tried it with a rental? Or is your Internet connection fast enough? The Apple TV shows you about how many minutes you have to wait before you’ve downloaded enough to start watching. But you can just pause, and let it finish downloading before you start if you want.

  7. “The buffering also works on an Apple TV. Have you never tried it with a rental?”

    Why on Earth would I possibly want to possess an Apple TV?

    The Roku is a notably superior device, and Amazon is a notably superior service provider. Plus, I generally like to keep my devices and service providers separate, even if the previous sentence weren’t true. (Hence why I don’t enable iCloud, even if it were to actually work.)

    I’m also proud to not own any Apple routers, Time Capsules, or any such other devices. OS X machines are keen, as are iOS devices and iPod Classics. But that’s as far as I go.

    (Was unaware until I just did the research that the Apple TV has 8GB of NAND, which explains how it can buffer…)

    ——

    And, yes, not living in rural Idaho or the Shetland Islands like you, I’ve got plenty of bandwidth to stream to my heart’s content at very high speed.

    Fibre-to-the-home FTW!

    • The Apple TV is a conduit to my iTunes library. For that reason alone – aside from any rentals or purchases – it’s worth having.

      Yes, 8 GB, but probably 1/2 GB for the OS, give or take.

  8. “The buffering also works on an Apple TV. Have you never tried it with a rental?”

    Why on Earth would I possibly want to possess an Apple TV?

    The Roku is a notably superior device, and Amazon is a notably superior service provider. Plus, I generally like to keep my devices and service providers separate, even if the previous sentence weren’t true. (Hence why I don’t enable iCloud, even if it were to actually work.)

    I’m also proud to not own any Apple routers, Time Capsules, or any such other devices. OS X machines are keen, as are iOS devices and iPod Classics. But that’s as far as I go.

    (Was unaware until I just did the research that the Apple TV has 8GB of NAND, which explains how it can buffer…)

    ——

    And, yes, not living in rural Idaho or the Shetland Islands like you, I’ve got plenty of bandwidth to stream to my heart’s content at very high speed.

    Fibre-to-the-home FTW!

    • The Apple TV is a conduit to my iTunes library. For that reason alone – aside from any rentals or purchases – it’s worth having.

      Yes, 8 GB, but probably 1/2 GB for the OS, give or take.

  9. “The Apple TV is a conduit to my iTunes library.”

    That’s why god invented the Mac Mini. Study your theology.

  10. “The Apple TV is a conduit to my iTunes library.”

    That’s why god invented the Mac Mini. Study your theology.

  11. Look, I’m perfectly willing to accept that for folks living in North Korea, with North Korean sub-broadband standards, the Apple TV may well be the best streamer box.

    Between the hefty caching hardware of the Apple TV itself, and the additional caching hardware of an OS X box running iTunes, that may be a killer app for sub-broadband customers.

    (For those of us in the US, due to algore and the wondrous telecommunications act of 1996, we have access to retail DVR’s. Talk about wanting to keep your devices and service providers separate, well, the retail TiVo is pretty amazing. CableCARD lets you operate with any wireline multicast provider. And Amazon a-la-carte downloads are best of breed for those with North Korean sub-broadband connections. But, I digress.)

    —–

    I bought a bigass HDTV panel at closeout prices, and the only downside is that I only have 3 HDMI inputs. (I’m waiting for OLED big panels to hit mass-market prices to upgrade.) If I had 5 HDMI inputs, I’d probably buy an Apple TV simply for the proprietary AirPlay.

    But with only 3 HDMI inputs, it’s a simple choice. The wondrous retail TiVo on input 1. The best streamer I can find on input 2. And a Mac Mini on input 3.

    The best streamer, (at least in the US), is easily the Roku. There is broad consensus.

    And for an iTunes client, the Mac Mini is best in breed by far. (Plus, I can mimic AirPlay via software on the Mini. Plus I can interface with the TiVo and have Plex playback options with the Mini.) Sure, I need to mess with some AppleScript and Sofa Control. Sure I need to serve up a few simple PHP pages to finely control iTunes from devices on the LAN. And sure, I need to fix the Mini on Snowy and iTunes 10 for stability and functionality. But if one is willing to make such compromises, it’s simply a best of breed iTunes front-end…

  12. Look, I’m perfectly willing to accept that for folks living in North Korea, with North Korean sub-broadband standards, the Apple TV may well be the best streamer box.

    Between the hefty caching hardware of the Apple TV itself, and the additional caching hardware of an OS X box running iTunes, that may be a killer app for sub-broadband customers.

    (For those of us in the US, due to algore and the wondrous telecommunications act of 1996, we have access to retail DVR’s. Talk about wanting to keep your devices and service providers separate, well, the retail TiVo is pretty amazing. CableCARD lets you operate with any wireline multicast provider. And Amazon a-la-carte downloads are best of breed for those with North Korean sub-broadband connections. But, I digress.)

    —–

    I bought a bigass HDTV panel at closeout prices, and the only downside is that I only have 3 HDMI inputs. (I’m waiting for OLED big panels to hit mass-market prices to upgrade.) If I had 5 HDMI inputs, I’d probably buy an Apple TV simply for the proprietary AirPlay.

    But with only 3 HDMI inputs, it’s a simple choice. The wondrous retail TiVo on input 1. The best streamer I can find on input 2. And a Mac Mini on input 3.

    The best streamer, (at least in the US), is easily the Roku. There is broad consensus.

    And for an iTunes client, the Mac Mini is best in breed by far. (Plus, I can mimic AirPlay via software on the Mini. Plus I can interface with the TiVo and have Plex playback options with the Mini.) Sure, I need to mess with some AppleScript and Sofa Control. Sure I need to serve up a few simple PHP pages to finely control iTunes from devices on the LAN. And sure, I need to fix the Mini on Snowy and iTunes 10 for stability and functionality. But if one is willing to make such compromises, it’s simply a best of breed iTunes front-end…

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