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bjkeefe 02-12-2008 06:10 AM

Problems with video playback
I am starting this thread as a place for people to note problems with the video streaming. ogieogie and BlogginNoggin registered some complaints in one of the diavlog threads which I share, and I thought it might be more helpful gather them here.

My own observations:

I would estimate that during the past couple of weeks or so, the diavlog has just flat-out stopped partway through, as though the end had been reached, on at least three occasions. In one diavlog, IIRC, it happened several times. (I am not counting the diavlog that was noted by a site admin as a known problem.) That is, I'm not talking about just stalling (which I also experience); the slider goes back to the start, indicating that the player has lost track of the current position. The diavlog in question will start again (from the beginning) if I click Play or reload the page.

As BN notes, I don't think it's a problem with the Flash plug-in that I'm using, since video streams fine on other sites. To be fair, though, I don't watch very many other hour-long streams apart from those on this site.

Bloggin' Noggin 02-12-2008 10:56 AM

Re: Problems with video playback
Thanks for starting this thread, Brendan!
Ever since the Flash Player started, I've had many more problems watching the diavlogs. I like to watch on fast speed, and that speed seems to have more problems with stalling -- and I'm not talking about once in a while -- I'm talking about several seconds of stalling for about the same number of seconds of play. Now, the problem seems to affect normal speed as well.

I notice that this problem of stalling can happen no matter what, but if I should try to advance to a later point in the diavlog, it's just sure to start this stalling routine.

If length is part of the problem, I'd be very happy if the diavlogs were split into sections WITH A FEW SECONDS OVERLAP, so that you don't miss anything by going section by section. In fact, I suggested this anyway before I had problems with the player. I would like the first segment to start at the beginning, the last segment to end with the goodbyes and have every segment overlap a little with the one before and the one after. I guess the problem here is that it won't work well with the Times excerpts? If there's no conflict, this would really help me situate myself within the larger discussion if I want to stop in the middle.

Another problem I notice is that if you leave the diavlog paused for more than a minute or two, the player loses track of where it is. This wouldn't be so bad if I could just advance to where I think I left off without screwing up the player.

bjkeefe 02-12-2008 11:12 AM

Re: Problems with video playback
I never use the fast speed, so clearly, the problems aren't solely caused by that. But it's probably one place to look, since I suspect a lot of people do use the fast feature.

I generally don't have trouble advancing. I have noticed that clicking on a spot on the progress bar, rather than sliding the button, seems to work better. (I forget whether sliding caused me problems or just did not do what it seemed like it should have.)

I have not noticed any problems associated with pausing for more than a minute or two. I'd say I probably regularly pause for at least a couple of minutes, at least once every two or three diavlogs, as other aspects of life intrude.

Maddening that we don't display the same symptoms, isn't it?

Tao Jones 02-12-2008 12:07 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
I don't use the x1.4 playback feature, and I watch BHTV on the latest Firefox for OS X. The issue I have been having it that the videos sometimes have to stop and load and occasionally will just completely stop as if I'd watched the whole diavlog.

Bloggin' Noggin 02-12-2008 01:12 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
PS. I just realized that my problem with pausing is actually worse than I said initially. If I pause for very long (a few minutes), I can't restart the viewer at all, but have to get completely out and completely back in again from the main page.

bjkeefe 02-12-2008 02:55 PM

Check your version of Flash
One potential problem for some might be an outdated Flash player.

To check your version (and install a later one, if necessary), visit this page.

That won't fix everything, but it might help with some things.

Wonderment 02-12-2008 03:16 PM

Re: Check your version of Flash
Also, the 4.1 version, which I usually prefer, seems to have tracking problems.

It often cuts off portions of the dialogue at the beginning and end.

To be clear, I'm not hearing the whole dialogue, and often have to go back to the slower version to check what parts I've missed.

This may only occur when I listen in section. If I hit "PLAY WHOLE", I think it may disappear, but in any case it needs a fix.

Tao Jones 02-12-2008 10:56 PM

Re: Problems with video playback

Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin (Post 70194)
PS. I just realized that my problem with pausing is actually worse than I said initially. If I pause for very long (a few minutes), I can't restart the viewer at all, but have to get completely out and completely back in again from the main page.

Ditto. But I did just install the latest flash plug-in, so I'll see if that helps.

Eastwest 02-20-2008 02:51 AM

Re: Problems with video playback
Exact same problems, but with latest version of IE, latest version of Flash, a very new quad-core, 2gig Ram PC, and great broadband hardwire throughput which experiences no problems anywhere else on the web aside from BHTV.

I don't know if folks are just trying to economize on bandwidth and thus choke the pipe rather than anty up for more, or what, but what they don't realize is this:

If you guys don't fix this pronto, your site is as good as dead. People just don't have time to tap their toes and drum their fingers waiting for the playback to occur.

BHTV was nice when it worked. BHTV R.I.P. (predicted death: spring, '08).


graz 02-21-2008 01:52 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
I wonder about the value of chiming in, who is listening?... My system is more than current and worked fine previously. I can no longer wait for the reloading and restarts. My only current option is downloading as mp3 and listening. This option is better than nothing, but -
I really miss seeing Bob's eye-rolls to Mickey's inane sex innuendos (baseless as usual) etc...

bjkeefe 02-21-2008 02:23 PM

Re: Problems with video playback

I'm listening. (Pause while you to gather yourself ;^) )

Why not download the WMV file, if you want the video? Too big for your connection?

graz 02-21-2008 02:27 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
Thanks Brendan, I'll give that a try. I have a Mac with flip4mac, so I guess it is possible...

bjkeefe 02-21-2008 03:02 PM

Re: Problems with video playback

You might also have a look at the VLC Media Player, aka VideoLAN. This is a free and open-source project.

Don't be put off by the version number (0.8.6d): while there are some tiny rough edges with the appearance of the GUI, all the functionality is solid. I forget who recommended it to me -- it was someone on these forums, maybe BlogginNoggin -- but I have been using it for months now, without any problem at all. It is my default player for all audio and video files (including .MOV files!). It's small to download and fast to launch, and less of a target for blackhats. This makes it far superior to Windows Media Player and Quicktime, right there.

One caveat: I am running it on a PC, not a Mac. However, the site does say it's multi-platform, so as long as you're running some version of OS X, as opposed to an earlier Mac OS, you should be fine.

Anyway, you might give it a try. Good luck.

bjkeefe 02-22-2008 10:22 AM

Re: Problems with video playback
Both of yesterday's diavlogs, Bob/Mickey and David/Alex, refused to stream properly. Both suffered frequent stalls, to the point where I gave up and downloaded the WMV file. I'm glad the latter option exists, but it really does seem to me that the streaming issue should be addressed.

I had thought yesterday that the Bob/Mickey diavlog's stalling might be understandable -- I started to watch it shortly after it was posted, and I guessed there might have been a lot of people doing the same thing. Even if true, this hypothesis of peak load doesn't seem to apply to the David/Alex diavlog, since that has been up for half a day before I started watching. (Maybe it has something to do with time of day?)

In any case, I am guessing that the site serving up the video stream is not up to the demands being placed upon it. I am quite sure that the problem is not with my connection or system, since I was not running other apps while attempting to stream the video, I have a 6 Mbps connection, and watching long videos on other sites (e.g., Google Talks and TED) presents no problem.

As I say, I am happy enough to download the WMV file. But if is going to offer streaming video, it deliver what it promises.

If it's just a matter of money to make things work more smoothly, then perhaps we should talk about a grass-roots fund-raising effort. I would be willing to kick in some money toward bandwidth and/or hiring more tech staff. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to be an angel investor. I can only participate as one of many small contributors. Anyone have any ideas how we could pool resources?

Baltimoron 02-25-2008 09:39 PM

Problems with Video Downloading and Playback
I'm having download problems with the Frum v. Judis .wmv file. The mp3 downloads, though.

Seriously, I started downloading because of streaming problems, and now I'm reduced to radio! I have the right flash player, too! For some reason, I have a .wmv file about a few hundred kb!

bjkeefe 02-25-2008 11:18 PM

Re: Problems with Video Downloading and Playback
I haven't seen a problem with WMV downloads, and I hope I don't. The past couple of diavlogs, when streamed, have just stopped in the middle, as though finished. Nothing else happening on my system while watching.

I was able to reload the page and jump to the approximate place where the failure happened, but still, kinda annoying.

Bloggin' Noggin 02-27-2008 09:59 AM

Please label segments with in and out times!
On one recent diavlog, the segments were labeled with in and out times: "(09:27 -- 15:34)", for instance.
I'd really like that practice to continue, since it allows one to move back and forth between the whole diavlog- and segment-views.
And this seems especially important while the flash player is acting up for a significant number of us.
My big problem is that I often can't restart a diavlog from where I paused it without getting into a lot of problems. The other problem is that, even without stops and starts, diavlogs often stall every few seconds for a space of about half a minute.
However, the last few haven't done this, so maybe things are getting better.

uncle ebeneezer 02-28-2008 04:07 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
I'm 1:01 into this diavlog (Corn & Continetti) and it has already sputtered to a standstill about a dozen times. Bob, please, for the love of Darwin can you get this thing fixed (the flash player, the site, whatever)?? You're killing me. Almost every other Vlog is borderline unwatchable at some point or another, often for vast stretches of the most interesting parts. Let your divine hand guide the cyber-evolution of this site to a higher state of functionality. Use some "non-zero" cooperative spirit with your tech staff. Something.

OK enough whining for one day. (At least until after I finish the diavlog and find something in it to whine about.)

Wonderment 02-28-2008 04:38 PM

Re: Problems with video playback

One caveat: I am running it on a PC, not a Mac. However, the site does say it's multi-platform, so as long as you're running some version of OS X, as opposed to an earlier Mac OS, you should be fine.
Downloading works fine on my Mac. Seems to resolve all the sticking-skipping problems.

bjkeefe 02-29-2008 01:48 PM

Farrell/Sunstein diavlog
My connection was dropped about 40 minutes into the diavlog -- the player behaved as though the counter had been set to 0. I was able to reload the page and pick up about where the connection was dropped.

This is far from the first time that this has happened recently, but I am going to make an effort to note specifics from now on, or at least until I hear something from admin that the problem has been noted and is being looked into.

bjkeefe 03-01-2008 12:07 PM

3/1 Science Saturday diavlog probs
Not counting the glitches during recording process, of course.

This one stalled momentarily several times during first attempt to view, then straightened itself out. Dropped connection around 40 min mark. Attempt to reload took forever (~1 min), then reloaded, played for a few seconds, and dropped connection again.

Next reload faster. Advanced to drop off point, played fine until about 64 min mark, whereupon connection dropped again. Reloaded pretty quickly, but trying to advance to previous drop off point took a long time (~15-30 secs).

bjkeefe 03-03-2008 05:34 PM

McDiavlog problems
Beginning at about 23 minutes, diavlog began stalling repeatedly.

Reloaded page, took about 30-45 seconds for diavlog to restart. So far, seems to be playing okay, after manually advancing to the approximate bad part.

TwinSwords 03-03-2008 08:44 PM

Re: Farrell/Sunstein diavlog

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 71003)
I am going to make an effort to note specifics from now on...

Good idea. It might be worth also noting the time of day. Upthread you speculated that the number of concurrent users might be part of the problem. Providing times might help them track that down.

I have also experienced the problems described by other people.

bjkeefe 03-03-2008 08:56 PM

Re: Farrell/Sunstein diavlog


It might be worth also noting the time of day.
That thought occurred to me, but then I decided the timestamp on my comment would serve.

TwinSwords 03-03-2008 11:19 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
Another problem I see frequently -- in fact, more frequently than any of the other problems described in this thread -- is the freezing of the picture. The audio continues to work correctly, but the picture gets stuck. Annoying!

Windows media always worked so well. What are the alleged advantages of FLA that make this transition worthwhile? Have we actually gained anything by the transition?

Maybe the video files compress better, or stream with less bandwidth. Flash has always been known for remarkably good compression...

bjkeefe 03-05-2008 11:32 AM

Bob/Mickey 3/5
Connection dropped around 49 minutes. No stalls or other early warnings. Reloading page worked right away, as did manual movement to approximate point of drop.

ADDED: Also dropped connection at about 1:30 from the end. Reloaded okay, advanced okay. NB: Different from diavlog itself, which seemed to end a bit prematurely.

joelopines 03-05-2008 03:41 PM

Re: Bob/Mickey 3/5
I had given up on Flash long ago and have downloaded WMV files instead. But the last two diavlogs downloaded as a paltry 18MB, don't show total or elapsed length, and are of course incomplete. I managed to get through the Mc-Mc online, but haven't tried Bob & Mickey's yet.


bjkeefe 03-06-2008 03:41 PM

Ladowsky/Long diavlog
Connection dropped about two minutes from the end. Clicked play button, restarted fine, was able to advance to approx. cutoff point and play the rest without problem.

bjkeefe 03-07-2008 08:59 AM

Corn/Sklar diavlog
Again, connection dropped within a minute or two of end (replayed okay).

Interesting to note because this diavlog is considerably shorter than some of the others that also dropped the connection near the end. I had been toying with the idea that there could be a caching problem on my end, but now it seems that isn't the case.

Baltimoron 03-07-2008 10:14 PM

Re: Corn/Sklar diavlog
I never got that far, because Sklar's mic was turned way down or something. It was too dificult to understand her. And, this was on .wmv download.

bjkeefe 03-09-2008 04:38 PM

Goldberg/Lee Sun 3/9
Connection dropped about 1:30 from end. Reloaded okay.

bjkeefe 03-10-2008 03:28 PM

Yglesias/Chait 3/10
Connection dropped about 3 minutes from the end. Reload okay, and then connection dropped about 20 seconds from the end. Re-reload okay.

bjkeefe 03-10-2008 11:24 PM

Wright/Gorenberg 3/10
Stall for about 10 secs around 9:40. Dropped connection at about two-thirds through, second dropped connection at about one minute before end.

The frequency of drops right before the end of recent diavlogs suggests some kind of buffering problem, as though my browser sent the signal "Got it all" and the server then stopped streaming as it thought it was supposed to.

bjkeefe 03-12-2008 12:53 PM

Hayes/Salam 3/12 (final entry)
Same thing as with most -- connection dropped about a minute from the end.

I'm going to stop reporting video glitches at this point, unless some interest is shown by other users and/or site admins.

Bloggin' Noggin 03-13-2008 12:28 PM

Re: Hayes/Salam 3/12 (final entry)
Sorry Brendan, I've been having problems too -- apparently much more severe ones. The Hayes Salam diavlog was unwatchable for me on the evening it went up. It seems like most diavlogs are pretty bad, but this one was horrible.
What always happens is that some way in, the diavlog stops and starts every few seconds.
I occasionally have the same problem you mention where the diavlog stops and resets itself to the beginning. At this point, even pushing "play" won't start the diavlog over again either. I have to go reopen the diavlog from the beginning (from the little side-bar on the left).
Normally I can download the WMV file, but in this case, even that stopped after about the first segment. I prefer to watch the Flash player if possible of course, because I can use the 1.4 speed option and get dingalinks etc.
I still feel that BHtv has gotten a lot more frustrating since the Flash Player came online. I still soldier through the diavlogs, but that's habit. If I were just starting with BHtv now, I'd probably just give up.

They did fix that problem with the half-black screen -- I've never seen that again.

Milton 03-16-2008 03:19 PM

Re: Hayes/Salam 3/12 (final entry)
I just wanted to thank everyone for reporting these issues; we're working on improving the Flash performance; several of these are known issues but the details help. We'll let you know more details once the situation is clearer.

Globalcop 03-29-2008 01:43 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
I experience every single problem described here pretty much with every BHTV I watch. I still give it a try, but always end up just downloading the wmv.

It takes me about 20 seconds to download the wmv over my high speed cable, so I don't think my connection is a problem (if I can download an hour video in 20 seconds, I should be able to stream it over an hour).

This has all started after flash, I never had any problems streaming the wmv before the "upgrade."

I'm glad MAC users can watch the flash video now, while the rest of us are having nothing but problems. Great upgrade.

AemJeff 03-29-2008 01:48 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
I definitely see a relationship between time of day and the quality of playback. My assumption is that many of the problems, particularly those having to do with smooth playback are server load problems at the source.

TwinSwords 04-03-2008 01:58 PM

Re: Problems with video playback

Originally Posted by Globalcop (Post 72849)
I'm glad MAC users can watch the flash video now, while the rest of us are having nothing but problems. Great upgrade.

Is that why we "upgraded" to Flash? For the Mac users?

I've often wondered what the big "advantage" is to Flash, given all the problems it has created.

Because the problems are constant and unremitting on every diavlog.

The most common problem I encounter is the picture freezing while the audio continues.

Maybe WMV should be the default player with Flash as an alternative. Or maybe they should just figure out what's wrong with their implementation of Flash. I imagine they are losing a lot of traffic and visitors because of these problems.

I'm glad Milton dropped by to let us know that they are working on improving the performance.

trond 04-06-2008 04:02 PM

Re: Problems with video playback
Does the flash player support buffering? Normally you'd expect the player to buffer the video while pausing the playback, but that doesn't seem to be the case with this player, since playback can be choppy after pausing (for example 15sec and more). Maybe some checking with the buffering in the flash player can solve the problem?
update: typo.

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