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Understanding Video Streaming

Posted on 2014-11-04
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Last Modified: 2014-11-05
I've invested a fair amount of money to date to setup a NAS system (Synology DS 1513+) so I can share videos with my family. My daughter, who lives only 5 houses away frequently complains of buffering issues when they are watching a movie, which makes me wonder if I really understand this subject as well as I need to.

For example, all of my movies are 1080p, mp4 H.264. According to MediaInfo, a typical file is about 7.5 mbps. My internet upload speed is 10 mbps and her download speed is 30 mbps. Shouldn't that be adequate to play a movie without buffering? If my understanding is flawed Experts, please jump in and educate me.

I'm using the Plex Media Server on my Synology and we both use the Roku device with the Plex player on it. I've monitored my CPU usage on my NAS while she's having buffering issues and it's next to zero so there's no transcoding going on.

Any ideas anyone?  In addition - if the above model, simplistic as it is, change/how does it change if 2 people with entirely different Ip addresses are connected at the same time?
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Question by:SpaceCoastLife
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Expert Comment

by:akahan
ID: 40422805
You're looking at this too simplistically.
Your upload speed and her download speed are only the beginning of the story.

The packets, on their way from you to her, are going through any number of intermediate routers over which you have no control.  If any of them are congested, or if any of the connections between any of them are congested, you'll get buffering.

You can verify that the problem is out of your control by putting her computer on your local network, and letting her stream while on your local network.  If that works fine, then the problem is not within your network, or your server, or her machine.

It's not realistic to expect to be able to consistently stream at such a rate over the internet, regardless of how fast your upload speed and her download speed are.

If you want your daughter to be able to play movies at that kind of resolution, you should have her DOWNLOAD the movie from your server to her own system, and play it from there, rather than streaming it.
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by:SpaceCoastLife
ID: 40422933
That "reality" is something I've given a lot of time thinking about and I understand potential routing delays but what keeps me up nights is how the big guys do it. VUDU, Amazon, Netflix even has 4k.

Of course they have the money to invest in higher end equipment but using your explanation, isn't it also out of their control? I download HD from these folks all the time and almost never see buffering. Just wondering ...
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by:akahan
ID: 40423009
They are using all manner of techniques to compress the video stream.   If you monitor your bandwidth usage while streaming from Netflix, you'll see it's nowhere even close to 7.5mbps.   Netflix also dynamically adjusts the resolution based on the throughput you're getting to avoid buffering.
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by:SpaceCoastLife
ID: 40423051
That's a good point. Just how do you "monitor" bandwidth?
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by:akahan
ID: 40423065
It depends on your setup, who is your ISP, whether you're willing to dedicate a machine to doing just that, what router you have, etc.   Some ideas here:  http://lifehacker.com/5917367/how-can-i-find-out-how-much-bandwidth-im-using-at-home
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Author Comment

by:SpaceCoastLife
ID: 40423640
you wouldn't happen to know how to implement any of those  techniques would you?
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akahan earned 500 total points
ID: 40423972
That's well beyond the scope of the original question.  But the instructions on that page are pretty thorough.  If there is a particular technique that you're having trouble implementing, I'd suggest posting the inquiry as a new topic.
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