Streaming Playback of 720p Media to PS3 Stutters or is Jerky

Update #6 from Aaron Lambers confirms the PS3′s microscopic buffer to be the problem

TIP: This post has garnered a lot of discussion, tips and workarounds. I tried to compile the most successful ones down in Update #3 and #4 below.

If you are like me, you probably use your PS3 to stream media from a NAS at home or something; either from the NAS directly or via a computer using TVersity.

If you have begun to dabble with streaming HD content, either 720p or 1080p, you may have noticed that the PS3′s playback of that video can get really jerky and stutters. You might think it’s a network bandwidth issue, but after reading through some support forums that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Laurence Hartje points out there seems to be a change that came in the PS3′s Firmware around versions 2.2 or so (currently 2.36) that caused the jerkiness to begin (Thread 1, Thread 2, Thread 3, Search Results) and since then HD streaming users have just had to complain and live with it.

One hope at this point is that the huge update coming with Firmware 2.4 will improve the streaming situation again for folks, but there are of course no guarantees that it will be fixed and we might have to live with the stuttering.

If you are a big streamer, the only fix at this point seems to be putting the media directly on the PS3 and playing it from there; even playing high-quality 1080p media in that fashion works fine, it’s just the goofiness with the streaming that will hopefully get a kick in the pants.

The behavior seems to indicate bad buffering behavior, but you would have figured that Sony could fix that rather easily if that were the case.

Fingers crossed that it gets fixed; we’ll keep you posted with any findings and if you find out any great tricks, let us know.

NOTE: I am experiencing this right now with 720p/x264/6mbps media when playing it back, I don’t notice it with standard-def material however.

Update #1: A reader, Kulmanister, did some very detailed digging and found the poor streaming performance over WiFi could somehow be connected to the uPnP implementation the PS3 uses (Post 1, 2, 3)

Update #2: Another reader, Lennos, took the healm of investigation using Kulmanister’s tips and did some further investigation and found that during MPEG4 playback, for some reason, the PS3 saturates a 100 mbit wired connection at almost 60% worth of data (with no CPU usage from the streaming PC to account for potential transcoding of the media) — given that level of data saturation, the entire video itself should be transfers to the PS3 in under a minute (800mb DVD rip) — unfortunately there are still occasional stutters experienced and that level of wired network utilization stays that high the entire time during playback. (Post 1, 2, 3)

Oddly enough, this doesn’t seem to occur with DivX media, just MPEG4. Something seems seriously broken with PS3 playback of MPEG4 media.

Update #3: After posting this issue a while ago and seeing quite a few comments on it over time, the following seem to be the case:

  • The PS3, for whatever reason (RAM? software implementation, etc) doesn’t seem to buffer much video at all – if any. This causes stuttering and or pauses during playback of any media that cannot be streamed unusually fast.
  • Most folks on Wireless-G setups seem unable to playback any medium-high or higher quality video (DVD resolution, 2048KB/sec) without stuttering even though they have the bandwidth to copy the entire video file to the PS3 remotely without issue relatively quickly.
  • Moving to a wired Gig-E setup resolves most stuttering issues reported – but it is not an option for everyone (including me).
  • In most cases changing the media-streaming software being used (PS3 Media Server, Nero Media Server, TVersity) didn’t have any impact on reducing stuttering during playback.
  • PERSONALLY: Moving to a Wireless-N configuration did remove stutter for me when playing back DVD-rips. I doubt this will work for HD-quality media though.

One tip I have for folks that cannot change their hardware infrastructure and need to get PS3 streaming working is to try and use a media-streaming “transcoding” server that can down-grade the video on-the-fly for you. So if you are trying to playback a very high quality file and don’t have the bandwidth to keep the PS3 fed, try and tell your transcoding media server to downsample the video to something more management until it plays smoothly.

If you do use transcoding, be sure to check your CPU load to ensure your computer can handle the issue — transcoding a 1080p HD file smoothly and on-the-fly requires a decent computer. Make sure you aren’t pegged at 100% CPU or one of your cores pegged (total CPU stuck at 50%) — that could indicate that your CPU cannot keep up with the decoding/reencoding cycle and you may still get stuttering.

Update #4: There have been a few data points of folks with “PS3 Slim” models unable to get streaming working smoothly no matter what they try. The slim does have quite a few hardware changes from the original “fat” launch model, but it looks like a possible change in it causes streaming to jitter and we don’t know of a workaround. No more details at this time.

Update #5: Aaron Lambers spent a serious amount of time sniffing traffic on his local network to find out that during playback of a MPEG-2 transcoded stream, the PS3 seems to flood the wireless network with spurious ”ACK” packets. After changing the transcoding format to MPEG-4, the spurious packets dropped and the playback resumed smoothly.

You can read through Aaron’s thread of discovery here.

Update #6: Aaron Lambers has possibly confirmed what a lot of us thought: The PS3′s buffered is extremely small. He gave a very detailed post describing the behavior he saw of the PS3 on his network, most interestingly:

When I select a movie to watch the media server sends the PS3 2MB of data as fast as it can.
The PS3 says “Hold up a minute, my buffers are full! (TCP Window Full)”  It takes ~4s for the PS3 to give the “All clear! (TCP Window Update)”
The servers sends another 3MB before filling the tcp window and waits for another ~4s before the PS3 sends another tcp window update.
After that it’s a cycle of the server sending 1MB and filling the tcp window and waiting for the PS3 to send a window update.  The delay between a window full and window update seems to depend on the bitrate of the portion of video+audio being played.

At best it seems that the PS3 only has a 4-5MB buffer, probably less.  This seems to be OK on a fast network where sending a 1MB chunk of data takes a fraction of a second and can be repeated very quickly.  Unfortunately, on a slower 802.11g link you’d be lucky to push more than 2MB/s.  The combination of a small buffer and poor throughput means the PS3 has no hope of smoothly playing through high bitrate scenes.

Update #7: Reader Melloware provides instructions on how to report this bug to Sony so they can investigate the issue and hopefully fix it in a future firmware update:

You can report the bug here: http://us.playstation.com/support/ask/

I selected PS3 -> Features -> DLNA

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About Riyad Kalla

Software development, video games, writing, reading and anything shiny. I ultimately just want to provide a resource that helps people and if I can't do that, then at least make them laugh.

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284 Responses to “Streaming Playback of 720p Media to PS3 Stutters or is Jerky”

  1. Trevor February 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Stumbled across this PS3 Media Server forum http://community.us.playstation.com/message/901570 which seems quite interesting and I just wondered if anyone has tried out the app they are discussing?
    As it runs on the desktop device I can’t see it helping our situation but who knows.
    Presumably to replace the native media server on the PS3 you would need to hack it but not so keen on that myself. Any thoughts about how we might be able to use something else on the PS3 itself?

  2. syd February 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    If you haven’t used this app, then you should download it and try it. I use this one and the PlayOn software to stream. The only reason I bought the playon software is because the ps3 media center could not stream the video format from my little vado hd camcorder.

    Back to the matter, this software is fantastic and gives much higher rates (not to mention 5.1 audio) when compared to the playon software.

    • Trevor February 26, 2011 at 12:58 am #

      Gave the Java PS3 Media Server app a go but I’ve still got the stuttering video even with this software unfortunately so I’ll go back to waiting for Sony to actually do something or I will eventually buy some new hardware to replace it as my media hub.

  3. googliamoog March 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    what i have done is because wires are not an option between devices.

    main network setup through linksys router which is connected to the isp.
    computer with media files being shared in next room over wirelessly connected to that router.
    ps3 is located with entertainment center in 3rd room. previously had standard wireless connection router above.
    i have taken another linksys wireless router, and flashed a new firmware onto it (DD-WRT). this process is pretty well documented and is fairly simple for people with decent IT knowledge. NOOBS need not apply. once that was done, i now have a wired connection from the flashed router to the ps3. the wireless routers can talk to each other better than the ps3 wireless card can. media playback through the share has been GREATLY improved. files i could not hope to play back before now play with no problems.

    this did not completely rid my ps3 of the stutters, but dam near. the super large video files with lots of scenes that kick up the bitrate will probly still see some, but it’s largely been taken care of with this. it might get even better if i put another flashed router next to the computer with shared files. don’t know. may try it FSAG one day.

    short of wired connections everywhere, doing this has been the only thing to improve ps3 playback of video files via media share.

  4. Simon Williams March 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Hell Guys. Ive got rid of my PS3.!! Now got a std PC in its place… (Hidden behind PC with Wireless Keyboard with integrated mouse)

    Best solution in my eyes…!

    No stutter. FANTASTIC,

    Si

  5. Trevor March 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Nice job Googli and Simon ….. I’m now heavily into Android devices but they don’t seem to have enough codecs supported to offer much hope of helping to resolve this issue but at least it is an open system so things may develop faster than from the Sony camp. Hope you enjoy your new set-ups ;)

  6. Melloware April 22, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    I don’t know about anyeone else but with the latest PS3 update my stuttering issues seem to have gone away with video’s that definitely skipped and paused before. Anyone else?

    • Trevor April 22, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Hi Mellow,

      Can’t say I’ve noticed that 3.60 has made a difference but not sure if I tried recently. Is the Playstation Network still down cos maybe that has had an effect??

      • Riyad Kalla April 24, 2011 at 5:40 am #

        Trevor,

        Yes PSN is still down; Sony admitted yesterday that it was due to external intrusion, Anonymous released an announcement saying it wasn’t them and that Sony is likely trying to cover up their own incompetence.

        This outage represents a catastrophic failure of operations by a multi-national corporation… I think it will have long-lived repercussions as far as people’s faith in “cloud” platforms… for example, an online-only PS4 or some other such device is likely off the table (assuming it was ever on the table) and depending on the degree of failure (lost achievement progress, lost digital purchase rights, etc.) there could be some mind-numbing fallout.

        Assuming no data was lost and Sony comes out with a mea-culpa the size of a small truck (free games, free PSN Plus, etc.) then we will all forget this pretty quickly… internet-memory is like 2 months.

        If data was lost… uggg… I’ll just feel bad for Sony with the PR nightmare this will be for a generation to come.

        • Trevor April 24, 2011 at 5:54 am #

          You’re absolutely correct. I’ve never been happy about putting any personal data onto the cloud as you are so reliant on the security measures the supplier decides are adequate.

          Unfortunately for Sony they had just signed up deals with key players in the UK such as LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer, etc to provide the backbone of their pay for view and subscriber services so all that has been stopped as a result of this as well.

          Microsoft and Apple are going to have field day!

          Anyway it does give us the opportunity to see if the removal of PSN does have any effect on the PS3 streaming our videos but alas the HD content I was testing before still stutters so I assume PSN was not grabbing buffer space at the cost of local network traffic.

          Back to the drawing board for us and Sony then :(

          • Riyad Kalla April 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

            I’m sure you have seen it already (it’s all over the web), Sony released an official statement saying that ALL personal information (including “we have to assume” credit card information) was compromised. So all the personal data and credit card information for 75 million accounts on PSN was stolen or at the least, accessible to the hackers (we have to assume it was stolen to be safe).

            Their announcement includes links to credit monitoring and identity-theft detection… this is major.

            • Brian Gideon April 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

              What I find more alarming than a possible breach of credit card information is the acknowledged breach of passwords. That is potentially more severe since people tend to reuse usernames and passwords for other online accounts. Plus, I cannot even begin to understand why they were even storing passwords in plain text to begin with. The normal protocol is to store the hashed value only and use that for authentication.

              • Riyad Kalla April 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

                Brian did they confirm the passwords were stolen in plain-text? I saw “passwords” but didn’t know if that meant plaintext or hashes… after Gawker I want to stab everyone in the face that think, unsalted MD5 hashes are sufficient for password security.

                • Brian Gideon April 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

                  No, that was an assumption; possibly premature on my part. However, a lot of the articles implied that the password was in a usable form (I took that mean plain text). Of course, I doubt computer security is a skillset most journalists have so the distinction could be lost on them. Obviously, if the hashed form were compromised then it would not be as severe. I would actually like confirmation of this one way or another myself.

                • Riyad Kalla April 27, 2011 at 6:54 am #

                  Brian, I had only seen the announcement and frankly given Sony’s delay of a week before telling us credit cards could have likely been compromised as well, I think your assumption is probably a more accurate one and the one we should operate under. I don’t even remember my PSN password though, so I don’t know which PW was compromised frustratingly enough. I wonder if I can search a Russian database for a reminder :)

                • Brian Gideon April 27, 2011 at 6:17 am #

                  Well, I read the official statement by Sony and it all but explicitly confirms that actual passwords (in plain text) were compromised. The statement recommends that the PSN password be changed and all other 3rd party services in which the same password was used be changed as well. This is a mind boggling mistake. Even the most novice IT professional knows that storing passwords in plain text is the most negligent violation of standard security practices. I would say the probability is high that these passwords were compromised long before this particular incident.

                • Riyad Kalla April 27, 2011 at 7:02 am #

                  Damn… well thanks for the clarification Brian. This has left me in a decidedly anti-Sony slump at the moment.

                • Brian Gideon April 27, 2011 at 8:37 am #

                  So now that we know that usernames and passwords have been compromised I wonder how Sony is going to turn bring PSN online. Think about that. If they turn it on without changes then all 77 million accounts are wide open. So what do you do? Automatically resetting the account passwords doesn’t seem reasonable either since Sony has no way of verifying identities because the security questions/responses were also compromised. The safest option is to delete all accounts and make people recreate them. Thoughts?

                • Riyad Kalla April 27, 2011 at 11:26 am #

                  Brian, really good points. My gut said “the right thing to do is reset all passwords”, but I forgot what you said right after that: all the security question data or verifiable data on-record that would be used to vet the users was all compromised, so that does nothing except inconvenience the users.

                  Given that, and Sony’s history of disrespect to privacy (this and root kits a decade earlier, blah blah) I would imagine they have to go that route anyway. I assume as soon as PSN comes back up, none of us will be able to sign in until we pull the latest PS3 firmware update which will probably have a specific flow for this?

                  But like you said, that isn’t keeping us safe, it’s just getting us all back online.

                  I don’t think they would risk the profit-loss of auto-clearing all CC numbers and asking people to re-enter them, effectively re-confirming their belief in PSN… so that stuff will all probably stay put and just re-activate as soon as you get back online.

                  What are your thoughts?

                • Riyad Kalla April 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

                  This seemed pertinent:
                  Sony DRM Security Fail

  7. Wil April 27, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Maybe they will be able to authenticate users logging in from their ps3s by the serial numbers of the hardware as they should have a record of that (hopefully!). That way they can prompt for a new password straight away

    • Riyad Kalla April 27, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      Wil, now that is an interesting point… I wonder if the serial nums were accessible as well, identifying the unique PS3s belonging to each person… then nothing would be sacred and I have no idea how to get anyone back on “securely”; I imagine some security compromises will need to be made in order to get people back online at all.

      Man, the PS3 got *jacked* this year.

      I have a friend who manages 3rd party dev teams at Sony and he was saying that this snow-ball-of-doom started rolling as soon as Sony removed the “Install Other OS” support from the console; before that, the hardware was flexible and people were doing what they wanted with it.

      As soon as they removed that feature, the hardware hackers got mad, and dug out the master keys (geohot). After that, it suddenly made the PS3 a hugely interesting platform to try and hack apart to the less trustworthy folks out there and they suddenly had the ability to since the keys were out.

      It’s been a mudslide since :(

    • Brian Gideon April 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      I asked a coworker the same question and this was his idea as well. There are still some caveats here though. The hacker could use his PS3 to login to your account (since he knows your username and password) and when prompted to immediately change the password he’ll already know any vetting information that might be thrown at him. He’ll just change the password to whatever he likes.

      The only way this works is if the next login attempt is made from the same PS3 hardware as the last attempt before the outage. That way you can at least ensure that the person changing the password had (at one time) physical access to the hardware that was used to authenticate successfully in the past. Again, this assumes that Sony does have a list of hardware IDs tied to your account. There would still be plenty of edge case scenarios including the transfer of ownership of the hardware, friends logging in on your hardware, etc. With 77 million accounts there are bound to plenty of these edge cases to deal with.

      Good idea though. I wonder if all of this is what is delaying their progress on getting PSN online…pure speculation on my part.

  8. Trevor September 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Hi folks … been a while since I posted here and I guess Sony have been busy trying to regain their reputation again. Anyway, I think I may well ditch using the PS3 for video streaming HD content in favour of one of these devices

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/31/netgear-announces-universal-push2tv-hd-dual-band-wifi-adapter-f/

    As I’m in lil’ ole Europe we won’t get it until next year but I’d be interested to hear from someone in USA who decides to try it out in the meantime. Just a shame I have to cough up for yet another box.

  9. Harry October 14, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Try the Wireless Media Stick by HSTi
    It is a hardware solution that makes the Playstation 3 PS3 by plugging it into the USB port.

  10. Trevor October 14, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    Hmmm interesting device there Harry and I’d love to know how well it performs streaming video to the PS3 from anyone who’s actually tried it out. I would have to upgrade my router as well though because my ‘b’ wi-fi speed is too slow for it to work properly according to its spec so I will probably hold off for now.

  11. B November 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I reported this issue (DLNA streaming) again to Sony and was told that
    A) its your internet that is too slow
    B) you should not experience any issues using a PS3
    C) you should test it at other peoples houses
    D) Contact your ISP as the issue could be with them

    The absurdity of the responses leads me to believe there is no intention or desire to correct flaws in the PS3.

  12. Trevor November 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Hi B, I came to that conclusion months ago so the PS3 will never become the my home multimedia hub so will have to keep looking. Good luck.

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