BBC announces higher-quality iPlayer

The BBC has announced that iPlayer will soon be offering higher quality video and audio with the deployment of new codecs.

BBC announces higher-quality iPlayer

The corporation is adopting the H.264 standard for video compression, and AAC+, an extension to the AAC standard, for audio. Compared to the On2 VP6 video codec that iPlayer currently uses, H.264 delivers sharper video quality at a lower data rate.

The BBC says the decision to begin the switch over was determined by the technology available to users, as the new codecs not only require more processing power but also the latest version of Flash. When iPlayer first launched relatively few people had installed the Flash player needed to play H.264 content, whereas now almost 80% of BBC iPlayer users have it, while more machines have graphics cards with H.264 hardware acceleration.

The conversion process will begin this week, with the On2 VP6 standard continuing to be the default for users on slower internet connections. If your internet connection speed is 1Mb/sec or higher, there is a button to select “Play high quality”.

Erik Huggers, the BBC’s head of Future Media and Technology, said that the adoption of the new codecs reflects the commitment of the BBC to industry standards.

“Without these standards, TV and radio broadcasting would simply not function,” he says. “I believe that the time has come for the BBC to start adopting open standards such as H.264 and AAC for our audio and video services on the web.”

iPlayer is just the first service that will switch, followed by other AV services on the BBC website.

“The advantage for the audience will be a noticeable improvement in audio and video quality. Furthermore, it should become easier for the media to simply work across a broader range of devices. While it’s not a magic bullet, it certainly is a significant step in the right direction.”

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