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 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 #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/