Archives For Video

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TVHarmony AutoPilot (free!) has always offered leading edge TiVoToGo desktop software, being the first with scheduled downloads and commercial skip functionality. I traded several emails with Will of TVHarmony, and I’m impressed with what he’s accomplished (and what he has planned). AutoPilot Beta 2 converts to and from a much greater variety of devices and services. Taking a page from Galleon, AutoPilot utilizes HME to optionally schedule downloads and conversions directly from TiVo. While we’ve always been able to remotely download TiVoToGo content, AutoPilot has added some rudimentary place-shifting of previously converted content (think Orb). Will tells me the web streaming is still a work in progress, but he has a cocktail napkin of design notes to build on-the-fly PC conversion to stream content directly from the TiVo. How cool would that be?

Summary of new features:

  • Converts videos for many new devices including Creative Zen, Cell Phones, GP2X, Archos, and Neuros video players.
  • Downloads and converts video from Youtube.com, Video.Google.com, Archive.org, and other video sharing sites.
  • Access AutoPilot from your Tivo via HME so you can schedule downloads and conversions from your living room.
  • Logon to AutoPilot from the web including watching downloaded content from your web browser.
  • Transfer your TiVo shows using your PSP web browser to watch video from the road.
  • Multi-threaded for faster downloads and conversions.

Both TiVo and Netflix posted interesting job openings this week…

First up is Netflix, who’s looking to hire an interface engineer. Based on the description it seems they’re interested in exploring Vista’s GUI functionality to possibly produce a front-end for on-line movie distribution. Keep in mind Vista will bundle Media Center Edition features… which currently include Xbox 360 streaming.

This research team will be investigating new ten-foot user interface models for browsing a huge catalog of movies on a on a TV. Rich interactivity will be key to collecting user tastes and preferences and helping the user find the right content easily. We will be exploring various technologies such as Windows Presentation Foundation, which means we are looking for someone able to pick up a new tools and execute quickly and effectively. (via Hacking Netflix)

And speaking of Windows, TiVo’s job opening prominently mentions Windows Media Video 9 (VC-1/WMV9) which both Blu-ray and HD-DVD support… and what a variety of current movie download services (Movielink, CinemaNow) utilize in conjunction with Microsoft DRM. MPEG-4 is also mentioned, a format many consider compressed enough for the possibility of wide-scale TiVo video downloads.

TiVo is seeking a manager for the Media Architecture team. This team is responsible for the real-time streaming functionality that drives the TiVo digital video recorder features: real-time record and playback of synchronized audio/video data.

  • This person will have knowledge in at least one of the following areas: MPEG-2 video and systems, MPEG-1 audio (including MP3), or MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) video
  • In addition, this person will have working experience in 3 of the following areas: VC-1, WMV9 and WMA, Dolby Digital (AC-3), network streaming audio and video, DVD playback and recording, digital right management (DRM) technologies

Never enough time… in Canada!

  • Newly manufactured 25″+ TVs must contain ATSC digital tuners starting today. (HD Beat)
  • Ready for TV pop-up advertising? (Tampa Tribune)
  • Catch the Shuttle launch in HD today. (HDNet)
  • Toshiba still wants unified DVD format. (eWeek)
  • MobiTV now available for Windows Mobile 5.0. (Engadget Mobile)

Dave’s Mobile Multimedia

Dave Zatz —  June 30, 2006 — 2 Comments
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I no longer ride the subway to work, so now my commute is far less interesting and far less productive. However, I still have a fond place in my heart for portable multimedia. The two media apps I find myself using most frequently (which can’t be accessed on a subway) are the portable Slingbox player (it does go full screen) and MiniXM (as shown above on my Sprint 6700). I’m obviously on XM, but Sirius subscribers can stream stations via SiriuCE. TiVoToGo converted shows are played back via the included Windows Media Player and ripped DVDs through TCPMP. Orb could stream my home music collection, video, pictures, and television if I wanted — the TV component isn’t nearly as slick as Sling’s box and custom app, but it is free if you have a PC with tuner card. Down the road, I’d really like to see Windows Mobile support PMP services such as Vongo’s all-you-can-eat movie rentals.

Akimbo’s Still Got Life

Dave Zatz —  June 27, 2006 — 1 Comment
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The Akimbo story isn’t over yet… As Om Malik reported yesterday, Akimbo has picked up $15 million dollars from a variety of investors including Cisco and AT&T. Not so coincidentally, Akimbo will be providing content downloads for AT&T’s upcoming Homezone service. While Akimbo’s hardware revision has been pushed to the fall, PC Magazine just published details on the updated hardware and service. Given Akimbo’s intended partnership with Movielink, it’s no surprise they’re moving to a Microsoft platform that supports Windows Media Video (and DRM). As announced at CES, RCA will manufacture the box. They estimate it’ll cost $200 – $300 and include basic content downloads at the current $10/mo price point, while prime content and movies will incur additional fees. Movielink’s fairly large library (much larger than MovieBeam’s 100 flicks) is compelling, but paying monthly service fees plus rental fees on top of a hardware expense doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t think the market will support this model… We’ll see how things play out in the fall and learn if this is indeed their final pricing scheme.

Never enough time…

  • ReplayTV recruits for PC DVR software beta testing. (ReplayTV)
  • Hollywood, retailers eye movie download kiosks. (Reuters)
  • Cablevision begs for network DVR mercy. (Reuters)
  • Sony’s eReader delayed until late summer. (Sony)
  • Yet another home media extender, though this one touts Viiv and HDMI. (eHomeUpgrade)

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If you recall, MovieBeam is the movie rental device and service spun off from Disney and backed by Cisco. Unlike Akimbo’s internet downloads, MovieBeam contracts local broadcasters to distribute films over the air. The box supposedly holds 100 movie rentals at any given time, including several offered in HD.

A few weeks ago, MovieBeam lowered the hardware fee to $200, soon followed by a $50 blogosphere deal. At $200, I felt the device was still too expensive given per movie rental expenses ($1.99 – $4.99). However, $50 seemed reasonable and I decided to join in (though they ultimately gave me the box). I figured in the worst case scenario I could cannibalize MovieBeam for the 160GB hard drive.

Overall, I’ve been relatively pleased with MovieBeam. While I have no control over the movies in the library, the selection is quite broad covering a variety of genres with both recent and classic films. Movies do not appear on the box until they’ve been downloaded; therefore, rental playback is immediate. Rented flicks remain available for 24 hours and typical in-movie VCR controls are offered. I found standard definition films upscaled from 480p (using a HDMI cable) to look and sound very good. Those without a cable/satellite box offering PPV or not conveniently located near a Blockbuster will appreciate MovieBeam for spontaneous movie rentals.

So how does MovieBeam perform with true HD? I have no idea — my box only has a few HD films in stock, the most recent being Bubble followed by Kill Bill, Volume 2. Because of a poor selection and being connected to a 30″ HDTV (not large enough to perform a reasonable analysis of HD picture quality), I chose to pass. Though others whom I respect have chimed in… Ben feels HD quality is poor and Jeremy opined while it isn’t Comcast HD, it is better than DVD-quality. The good news is that MovieBeam can most likely improve HD quality in the future by simply using less compression.

Two minor annoyances to consider before purchase: 1. MovieBeam needs a landline to periodically dial in for billing purposes. I have it working through my Vonage box, which is inconveniently located in another room. 2. Service is not offered in all regions. Even in my supported area, the flat antenna needed to be precisely placed on a window sill with good visibility for download reception.

And now for something entirely different (and hopefully useful) on ZNF… I present a MovieBeam video overview.