Category Archives: UltraFlix

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Reducing Startup Latency and Increasing Streaming Performance

Category : 4K Studios , NTEK , UltraFlix

In an effort to further increase our network performance, reduce our startup times, and provide overall network efficiency in the upcoming release of UltraFlix 3.0 I’ve been doing a lot of research into alternative network protocols.  UltraFlix 2.x currently uses https calls for it’s streaming, and while secure and stable, it can be improved upon.  Given the scale we are now seeing closing in on a half million users, small improvements can yield big impacts especially on origin to edge performance which directly impacts startup times.  For 3.0 we are testing the Quick UDP Internet Connect (QUIC)  protocol.

QUIC supports a set multiplexed connections over UDP, and provides security protection on par with TLS/SSL.  QUIC also provides reduced connection and transport latency by using a variable frame/packet size.  QUIC uses bandwidth estimation in each direction providing congestion avoidance.  It also times packet transmissions evenly to help reduce packet loss. The use of packet-level error correction codes also helps reduce the need to retransmit lost packet data, further improving performance.  Finally, QUIC aligns cryptographic block boundaries with packet boundaries.  This means that the impact of packet loss impact is mitigated.

With the goal of decreasing the buffering and setup time we are relying on some of the benefits found in QUIC, specfically the fact that QUIC handshakes typcially require zero roundtrips before sending payload, as compared to 1-3 roundtrips for TCP+TLS calls.  In addition, we have crafted some proprietary techniques to the video stream that optimize the ability to quickly start the stream while buffering is still taking place, further reducing startup time on any bitrates, including the new UHD Blu-ray quality option that can be enabled on homes with > 50mbit internet connections.


Surround Sound Beta Testers Needed for Dolby & DTS

I’m looking for some UltraFlix users that have a surround sound setup connected to their 4K TV willing to test some videos with various embedded surround sound streams.  I’ll provide the movies at no charge for feedback on the sound delivery.  email david@ntek.com if you would like to participate


Encoding Engine Version 18

Final testing this evening on a new update to the encoding engine, version 18.0 which includes updates for HLS/DASH fragmentation, multiple audio streams (2ch HyperAudio/Dolby/DTS), HDR10 color space.  Adding a bunch of quality enhancements researched over the past two years including much better 360p, 480p, 720p and 1080p videos for mobile devices, AppleTV and Roku 3 boxes.

Also need to release for performance enhancements as it’s got over 1,400 movies in the queue to run through it once released.


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Updating Network for New Features

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Category : Swig , UltraFlix

Thanks to our new partners at SWIG we are implementing some of the Instant On technology into UltraFlix this evening which makes for much quicker loading of movies.  Due to some unforeseen caching issues, the updates are taking longer than we had hoped to propagate through the internet and clear out cached old DNS entries.

If your app isn’t loading, try exiting and reloading.  So far we’ve confirmed updates of 2.0.14E up and running on Vizio, LG, Roku, iOS (iPad and iPhone).  We are working to verify others.  If you see an issue, email support@ntek.com and let them know what device you are on and the exact message you get, and if possible include a picture of the error so they can track down your specific issue.


HDR10 & DolbyVsision

HDR Technology – Beta vs VHS all over again

As we prepare for the next generation of 4K Ultra HD content updates to the UltraFlix network we find ourselves amidst another format war.  Remember when there was Beta and VHS.  Beta was better and VHS still won out.  We appear to be on the brink of a similar battle for the next generation of 4K TVs.  While DolbyVision has superior color gamut (rec 2020 versus DCI P3) and is spec’d to a maximum of 10,000 nits versus 4,000 in HDR10, it currently appears that HDR10 is winning out with the TV manufacturers.  One of the biggest issues on the content side is that you still have to go through Dolby to get your color work done, which can be a hindrance. Fortunately we’ve always started with a 16 bit color HDR master for everything we work on, so as it’s brought down through the process, and finally delivered over the internet to your TV it’s source material can always be revisited as the 4K Ultra HD space matures.

With HDR tv’s now becoming standard fare in the consumer space, remastering everything we have into HDR capable is the next task for the studio team.  Exciting times as the home movie experience is now surpassing that of the movie theaters in terms of quality visuals.

 

 


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Social Points Scoring

A new feature that I’ve designed for UltraFlix is Social Points Scoring.  Much like Waze and other apps, getting user engagement is a key element to becoming invested in the App beyond just the primary function of watching movies.  By creating a reward system for social engagement I believe we can increase users sharing of information through their social network.  Users will be offered the ability to link their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to their UltraFlix account.  Each time they watch a movie the system will automatically add an informational posting to their social spaces such as:

Hey, I just watched The Godfather in stunning 4K Ultra HD on #UltraFlix, check it out at www.UltraFlix.com

Godfather Poster

Godfather Poster

For each post, they will receive points.  Points can be accumulated and redeemed for free rentals, invites to theatrical releases, and merchandise.


Quality is Important when sourcing 4K Content

I’ve had a lot of people ask us about our 4K content, and given the fact that all 4K TV’s have built in scaling hardware, who cares what the source is, that they can save money by renting a Blu-ray or watching a movie for free on Netflix or Amazon and it will be just as good.  Fortunately for us, that is simply not true.  We’ve put a lot of effort into taking what the studio delivers to us, and making sure that we provide the best version of that film to the consumer’s end viewing device, whether it be the greatest OLED TV from LG or an Android phone from T-Mobile.  You must start with the greatest quality source material, and then work your way down to the pixels that arrive to the screen, trying to do as little damage as possible along the way to recreate a cinematic like experience.  With UltraFlix we’ve been able to surpass the quality offered in many of the second tier cinemas, and we certainly far exceed the quality of content delivery from our streaming competitors.

What is even cooler for me is last night I was able to get a small peak into the future of Film restoration and remastering technology and it is really cool.  I can’t wait to be part of the next generation of digital delivery of Movies and TV shows as it’s getting better and better every year.

I’ve included a couple of comparisons of movies that we have worked on at 4K Studios and Deliver through the UltraFlix network so you can see that the source of where you get your 4K does matter, and that simple scaling by a TV does not result in the same quality experience.

 

4K Studios Robocop

Robocop Comparison UltraFlix, HBO Go, Amazon

 

4K Studios Charade

Charade UltraFlix remastered by 4K Studios vs Netflix  

My Way 4K Studios

My Way remastered by 4K Studios and delivered by UltraFlix compared to Amazon


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New Channel Layout

The channel layout for the Smart TV’s has been updated for optimized user experience.  Working on other platforms to integrate a common layout theme among all platforms.


UltraDestinations Channel

Category : UltraFlix

The free UltraDestinations channel will be published next week and will have new episodes added over the next month.  It’s a series of 15 minute travel videos from around the world.


View Later Queue

Category : UltraFlix

A customer had a good request today, being able to tag movies that you like into a custom channel so that you can find them all in a single location for viewing later on.