Archives For HDTV

QOTD: Record From HDMI?

Dave Zatz —  November 2, 2010 — 4 Comments

Today’s question of the day comes to us via Rick in the comments:

Do you know of a way to get an HDMI signal into a TiVo like device? I would like to record my own stuff and watch it with instant replay etc. Do you know of a solution?

This is an interesting topic that we’ve touched on before. There’s nothing that technically prevents recording data or a signal transmitted over HDMI. However, HDMI licensing specifically prohibits DVR-esque recording. At least that was the case when I last examined the spec, back during my Slingbox days. Interestingly, Gefen put out a “HD Personal Video Recorder” ($999) a few years back that either intentionally or accidentally ignored the HDMI recording restriction, as I had no problem whatsoever grabbing Comcast’s 1080i HBO feed. But that’s since been corrected and, generally speaking, Rick’s probably not going to find a reputable, mainstream DVR product to meet his requirements. He’ll need to record from existing component connectivity or pick up something like the HDFury that converts a digital HDMI signal to analog (in addition to spoofing a HDCP handshake) if his source box has limited HD outputs.

Well, this is unexpected. When Vudu dramatically shifted course to de-emphasize their own hardware in favor of a licenseable software platform, I figured their original set-top would wither and die. As it turns out, the companies did right by their customers and have ported the newer appilicious Vudu experience in its entirety to the early adopters that (barely) kept Vudu – afloat before being acquired by Walmart.

In addition to the app platform, Vudu’s original P2P movie queuing has been replaced by the CDN-powered HDX 1080p streaming. Plus, the new experience is web-based – so Vudu hardware should mirror Vudu-enabled HDTV and Blu-ray players going forward.

Lastly, as you can see from the pics, I dug my Vudu out of the closet to verify the update. And I had forgotten how heavy it is – several pounds, compared to the several ounce (new) Apple TV. My, how times have changed. (via Engadget)

Click to enlarge:

FCC Orders CableCARD Reform

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2010 — 26 Comments

tivo-cablecard

As expected, the FCC met yesterday and ordered some short-term CableCARD adjustments in the name of reform. But, while I’m glad to see these issues in the forefront, I’m doubtful this moves the needle in any significant way. We’re still left with flakey SDV tuning adapters, a generation of hobbled S-Card HDTVs, and non-”cable” television providers, including DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, who will continue to operate closed networks.

Ben Drawbaugh (EngadgetHD) suggests I’m a pessimist. Although, I’d say mine is a fairly realistic view based on past performance. I do believe, at the end of the day, industry will have to collectively decide what’s best for their business to move us beyond this quagmire. As I’m uncertain of the FCC’s legal scope and backbone. So television providers voluntarily opening up their platforms, or at least working business deals, is the most realistic way forward for folks left unsatisfied with the generic STB and walled gardens.

On a practical level, the most obvious change will be the FCC requirement that cable providers permit CableCARD self installs (within 9-12 months) if they allow self installs of their own equipment. Why most MSOs haven’t gone down this path on their own is beyond me, as it’d be more efficient and economical for everyone — all it generally requires is a phone call (or web UI!) to provide numbers for pairing. When moving to my current Cox Communications neighborhood a year ago, the first installer skipped his appointment and the second who actually showed up prepared to work still had me billed me $30 per TiVo/TV — ultimately costing me $60, plus 4 hours of waiting around followed by 2 hours of monitoring the technician. For reference, I believe their own hardware installs were freely provided (maybe promotional) or you could just pick up the gear at the office yourself. So it’ll be nice to see a little parity instead of additional CableCARD roadblocks.

For additional (less pessimistic?) coverage, check out GeekTonic, Engadget, and the Washington Post. Or just review the entire 59 page FCC order below — download it or send it fullscreen for more comfortable reading.

Since Dave quoted me in his last post, I figured I’d better weigh in officially on the Google TV debate. First, I’m surprised everyone is so taken aback by the price. Given the amount people are willing to spend on new iPads, smartphones, and game consoles, $300 (Logitech Revue) doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for an entertainment gadget. That said, you do have to know what you’re getting… and what you’re not getting for the money.

Several people have asked me if they can buy Google TV to replace their existing pay-TV subscription service. That’s not what Google TV is for. Yes, you can make it work that way if you want. Use OTA broadcasts plus content from Internet video services and the web at large, and you can cobble together your own TV package. But you won’t get ESPN, or access to the same amount of cable network content that you can get with a cable subscription. TV on the Internet is still hit or miss. Adding a Google box to your set-up doesn’t change that.

What Google TV does do is organize all your viewing options in one place on the big HDTV in your living room. The apps look entertaining, and Google has even gotten content providers to design their web-based content to make it more HDTV-friendly. If you like to bring up videos on the web and share them with people in the room, Google TV is also good because it builds in a full Internet browser. You can even access personal content off your home network and play it through the Google interface. Cool stuff.

Google TV looks like a lot of fun. But, bottom line, it’s probably overkill as an add-on to your cable subscription. Personally, I already have a DVR, VOD, and a Roku for watching Netflix. Not to mention the netbook usually in my lap. Do I need a Google TV on top of all that? Not really. Someone’s going to have to convince me that I want it enough to make up for the fact that it’s mostly superfluous. Fun, but not really useful.

Online rabble-rouser and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced back in May that several new Comcast markets would start carrying the HDNET channel this year. Now, reports on several user forums suggest the launch is likely to happen this week in Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. (The Chicago area reportedly started seeing rollouts earlier this month.) Although I’ve seen no official word of the launch date on either the Comcast or HDNET site, the number of details leaking out across the web suggest this rumor’s for real.

If you’re not familiar with HDNET, the content is primarily guy territory: MMA fights, scantily clad women, etc. However, the channel also carries some in-depth news programming, including Dan Rather Reports, and the HDNET Concert Series. In addition to the main HDNET network, there’s also HDNET Movies. No word yet on when that channel might get additional Comcast carriage.

Retransmission negotiations continue to be a major battleground for content and service providers. But when you’ve got a popular network, it seems the content provider is the one likely to win out in the end.

I’m not sure either of the recent TiVo (pre)announcements warrant an independent post, given the company’s typical long lead between partnership revelations and tangible products. However, given the pings and forum chatter, they’re probably worth touching on briefly as part of a larger ‘week in TiVo’ post.

First, at IBC TiVo and Samsung announced that they’ll be working together on an “advanced PVR solution” — the initial implementation intended to port the TiVo experience to European Samsung DVB DVR hardware. And presumably leveraging Samsung’s existing cable and satellite relationships overseas. Assuming all goes well, the companies “may add non-PVR devices and additional platforms worldwide.” As you’ll recall, TiVo has previously indicated a foray into non-DVR television solutions with an upcoming Internet-connected Best Buy Insignia HDTV.

In the other bit of news, TiVo has joined the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA). Which comes as no surprise to me, given their previous allusions to a modernized whole home solution for partners and DirecTV’s current multiroom MoCA solution. MoCA networking is an elegant solution that’s generally transparent to the end-user, requiring no new wired or wireless networks as data is transmitted over existing coaxial cable. But don’t take it from me, here’s TiVo’s justification: “Integrating MoCA into our products will enable service providers to offer a simple home networking solution that offers unrivalled Quality of Service.” However, I doubt we’ll see MoCA embedded into retail TiVo hardware anytime soon. Fortunately, with the Premiere’s seriously beefed up network throughput, MRV could still be re-worked into a streaming versus downloading solution.

I’ve never been much of a college football fan, preferring to wait for the NFL season to start. But for those NCAA football lovers, you can now get 3D coverage of select games from ESPN. The sports network kicks off 3D college football tonight at 8 ET with the game between Boise State and Virginia Tech. If you have the requisite hardware (TV set and glasses), you can catch the match-up in 3D at 720p60 resolution. In contrast, the World Cup, which ESPN distributed but didn’t produce, ran at 1080i60. I don’t have access to tonight’s 3D game myself, but I do wonder if ESPN’s production will prove more adept than FIFA’s. Unlike the broadcast of The Masters, which I enjoyed briefly at my local Sony Style store, the 3D snippet I caught of the World Cup was underwhelming. Hard to know if the reasons were related to the production or just the sport itself.

Speaking of different sports in 3D, ESPN’s SVP of Technology Kevin Stolworthy says he expects that broadcasters will produce 2D and 3D content at the same time for certain events in the future. Football doesn’t lend itself to such efficiency, but Stolworthy says he could see boxing events, for example, where studios could run production once to create both a 2D and a 3D feed.