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How to get BBC iPlayer in HD

Posted on 28th Apr 2009 at 09:58 by Alex Watson with 18 comments

Alex Watson
The BBC recently released a big update to iPlayer, replacing the original, Windows only Download Manager with iPlayer Desktop. As it’s built on Adobe Air, it’s now compatible with Linux and Mac OS X as well as XP and Vista.

This new update also coincides with the introduction of 720p HD content. The easiest way to find HD content on iPlayer at the moment is to browse by channel, and go to the BBC HD channel.

If you want more details, PC Pro has a full review of the new software, but from a quick play around with it over the weekend, my three word verdict would be:

Cleaner, faster, prettygoodallroundifnotamazing.

I never had much of a complaint with the previous iPlayer application though - but I was keen to see some HD programmes. Quality is definitely improved over SD programmes, albeit not dramatically. You also get a widescreen picture, so there’s slightly more of the image compared to the SD version, too.

Only certain programmes are available in HD so far, and it seems a fairly random selection – does anyone really need to watch Last of the Summer Wine in eye-popping, wrinkle-picking 720p?

That said, it’s good to see the BBC is following YouTube and starting to embrace HD video on the web. Those who usually get TV through a set-top box (for example, Virgin cable or Sky) will also benefit as you can now watch HD content without needing to upgrade your set-top box.

Have you tried iPlayer in HD yet? Any thoughts on the service? Let me know in the comments.
Tags bbc, hd, iplayer

18 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Spiny 28th April 2009, 11:12 Quote
It's good, but crying out for an official media centre interface that lets you browse & download HD content.

If you're happy with streaming SD, then check out TunerFreeMCE. But I find the frame rate abit low for my tastes.
mezz 28th April 2009, 11:26 Quote
Hmmm, doesn't seem to support KDE 4 in Linux. Only gnome and KDE 3 :(
Hugo 28th April 2009, 11:31 Quote
Since when was the non-HD iPlayer not in widescreen?
Sifter3000 28th April 2009, 11:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by HugoB
Since when was the non-HD iPlayer not in widescreen?

It might have been widescreen, but the HD stuff is definitely wider - I compared the SD and HD versions of the Jonathan Ross show, and there's more picture at each edge on the HD one than the SD one.
Paradigm Shifter 28th April 2009, 11:40 Quote
Quote:
does anyone really need to watch Last of the Summer Wine in eye-popping, wrinkle-picking 720p?
I dunno about that, but I like Last of the Summer Wine. Then again, I like pretty much all the old BBC comedy stuff - it's the modern junk I can't stand.
uncle_fungus 28th April 2009, 12:05 Quote
The H264 flash streams are as follows:
SD (i.e. their HQ streams): 832x468 @ ~1500Kb/s
True HD streams: 1280x720 @ ~3200Kb/s

And there is a marked difference between the quality, I just wish they broadcast the F1 in HD too.

And for those using Linux (or Windows for that matter), I recommend using get_iplayer rather than the BBC's iplayer downloader. You don't need Adobe Air or any of that junk, and you can download the flash streams straight to an h264 video file DRM free (the flash streams don't have DRM).
Hugo 28th April 2009, 12:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
It might have been widescreen, but the HD stuff is definitely wider - I compared the SD and HD versions of the Jonathan Ross show, and there's more picture at each edge on the HD one than the SD one.

Ooh! Awesome stuff. I'll definitely have to give LOTSW a watch :D
Sifter3000 28th April 2009, 12:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_fungus
And there is a marked difference between the quality, I just wish they broadcast the F1 in HD too.

Absolutely - I know you can F1 in HD in other countries, seems so unfair we don't get it in the UK... Still, at least F1 is free to air in this country, and the catch up videos on the BBC F1 website are very good.
steveo_mcg 28th April 2009, 12:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_fungus

And for those using Linux (or Windows for that matter), I recommend using get_iplayer rather than the BBC's iplayer downloader. You don't need Adobe Air or any of that junk, and you can download the flash streams straight to an h264 video file DRM free (the flash streams don't have DRM).

mint i've been faffing with wget and mplayer to get realplayer streams for the radio this looks a much better solution.
uncle_fungus 28th April 2009, 13:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
mint i've been faffing with wget and mplayer to get realplayer streams for the radio this looks a much better solution.

Yeah its very easy to use and can download TV, radio and podcasts. You can either stream direct into mplayer or dump to disk.
kenco_uk 28th April 2009, 13:38 Quote
You'rejustmakingitupasyougoalong :)
Fod 28th April 2009, 13:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiny
It's good, but crying out for an official media centre interface that lets you browse & download HD content.

If you're happy with streaming SD, then check out TunerFreeMCE. But I find the frame rate abit low for my tastes.

as far as i can see, tunerfree pulls the HD content automatically now. i noticed by accident. update your plugin.
Jordan Wise 28th April 2009, 13:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenco_uk
You'rejustmakingitupasyougoalong :)

lmao
phuzz 28th April 2009, 15:35 Quote
My flatmate recently splashed out on a massive telly (well, 40"), and SKy+HD to go with it, and there's nothing like the BBC-HD channel to show it off.
BBC natural history unit films in HD == bloody stunning

Also I will be trying this on my little Aspire One to see how it goes tonight, could be good for something to watch on the train...
badders 28th April 2009, 17:36 Quote
I don't have the bandwidth. :( *Cries*
Kylevdm 28th April 2009, 19:48 Quote
No HD for me *sob* 3.5Mb/s is insane!
uncle_fungus 29th April 2009, 00:17 Quote
You don't have to stream it, just download and watch later.
BLC 29th April 2009, 07:58 Quote
I've got quite a few iPlayer tools: my phone (HTC Touch Diamond) has a streaming/downloading app (included with the custom ROM I installed); my modded xbox (original) has a streaming plugin; and I have a downloader app for the PC... Will have to update all of these and see if they support HD - I know my xbox won't however, as it can't handle the h.264 codec even in standard def...
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