Wimbledon in HD: BBC talks iPlayer streaming

Wimbledon - new BBC tech being used
Wimbledon - new BBC tech being used

It has been widely publicised that the BBC is streaming Wimbledon on the iPlayer in HD this year.

While this may sound like a far-off dream for many who have web connections slower than a marathon runner in a deep sea diving costume, the BBC has revealed just how it has streamlined the process of bringing an HD stream to a computer screen.

"Important sporting events like Wimbledon are great opportunities for us to test new technologies. This year we're testing a number of things including high definition HTTP adaptive bit rate video streaming," said the BBC in a blog.

"It works by splitting a video into short chunks (typically between 4 and 10 seconds long). Each chunk is available in a range of bit rates and hence qualities. For each chunk the player decides which bit rate to request based on its estimate of how much bandwidth your internet connection has."

Smooth and unabtruce

The BBC is using Wimbledon as a test bed for Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming, which supports bitrates from 416k to 1280x720 (720p HD).

So, if your bandwidth is good enough, then you will get Wimbledon in HD through the iPlayer. If it's not, then the service will cleverly adapt the stream to the space available.

"All this should happen smoothly and unobtrusively," said the BBC.

"Buffering times should be greatly reduced. The fact that the player adapts to the available bandwidth is particularly helpful for live events such as Wimbledon; it allows the player to display the highest possible quality video without lagging too far behind the live action as it struggles to buffer downloaded video."

This is new technology so the BBC isn't expecting it to be perfect but it's great to see something that tempers bitrates and keeps a stream running, no matter what your internet connection is like.

The service will be trialled over selected Wimbledon matches, so check the BBC Sports site to find out more.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.