No one likes blurry videos. They leave you squinting and cause you to miss subtle details. Sometimes, if the distortion gets bad enough, it can spoil your enjoyment entirely. Videos usually get blurry for one of two reasons. The most common explanation is that, if you're streaming video over the Internet, bandwidth or hardware limitations are probably to blame. Otherwise, the video itself is inherently blurry. In either case, there are some techniques you can try that may help you to either fix the blurriness or work around it.
Blurry Streaming Videos Explained
Even more annoying than a blurry video, is one that stops to buffer every few seconds. That's why Web developers design most video streaming services to avoid buffering when at all possible, even if it means more blurriness. If the video server notices that your computer isn't receiving the video stream fast enough, it will automatically reduce the quality of the video in order to decrease the amount of data streaming. This gives your computer a chance to catch up and stay caught up.
Solutions for Streaming Videos on Limited Bandwidth
If limited bandwidth, also known as a slow connection, is causing the problem, take steps to conserve and optimize what you've got. Shut down other applications running on your computer or tablet that connect to the Internet. If you're someplace with several people using the Internet at the same time, wait for the crunch to ease up. If you're on a wireless connection, make sure the signal strength is strong and move closer to the modem and router if necessary, or try connecting with an Ethernet cable. If you're connecting on a mobile network, these can be especially slow, so wait to watch the video until you can access a local, broadband Internet connection like those at home or work. And as a last resort, for problems at home, consider upgrading your Internet service to a plan with faster speeds.
Manually Changing Quality Levels on Streaming Video
Video websites typically set their default resolution quality levels somewhere in the middle, which means that you might be seeing videos at a lower resolution than your connection can handle. Check the video settings to see if a higher quality is available. For example, on YouTube you can control the quality settings from the gear icon. On Dailymotion, a quality button appears at the top of the screen when you hover your mouse over it. Most other sites use similar conventions.
It's Not You, It's Me
Bandwidth isn't the only limiting factor when it comes to how much streaming data your computer can handle. Your CPU, graphics card and RAM can all create a bottleneck too. Use the Windows Task Manager to see how your CPU and RAM are doing. If the RAM is maxed out, shut down any unnecessary applications and browser tabs on your machine. Also try watching the video using the "in-window" mode rather than "full screen" mode. If the CPU is maxed out, you're probably either using an older machine or trying to run 3D video on a system without sufficient graphics power. As with the RAM, try shutting down anything on the computer that doesn't need to be running and try exiting full screen mode. You can also try turning off hardware acceleration on your computer. However, these solutions may not be as effective with CPU limitations and, in the long run, upgrading your hardware or switching to another machine may be your only option.
Maybe It's Not You After All
Maybe the problem isn't on your end at all. If you're streaming video from a small-scale website, they may not have enough bandwidth on their side. Or, if you're watching a live event or visiting a website when its traffic is very high, there may be a rush of users and the website's servers may not be able to handle the load properly. The same can happen with your Internet service provider during high-traffic times. There's nothing you can do in these cases except be patient or try alternate sources.
Solutions for Inherently Blurry Video
Sometimes a video is just inherently blurry -- it was recorded that way, or it was subjected to a low-quality conversion at some point. The best trick for improving videos like this is to exit full screen mode and, if necessary, to shrink the video window even more. By watching the video in a smaller box, you may be surprised at just how much of the blurriness goes away.
As an alternative, if you have access to the video on your hard drive, and if you have video editing software, you can try running the video through a noise-reducing filter or a sharpening filter. If you're not familiar with this kind of technology, it's probably not worth investigating, since it entails a lot of work, but if you're up to the challenge then it is a possibility. This method can't restore lost video quality; it can only make what's left look better.