Archive for March, 2012

There is no “Blu-ray industry”

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

So I ran across this article on AmandTech by Ganesh T S that was one of the best I’ve seen in regards to a technical explanation of the DRM used on Blu-ray — especially around the new Cinavia audio watermark. But it’s also a perfect example of a highly technical geek writing an article without understanding the business driving the technology. He speaks of the “Blu-ray industry” which just doesn’t exist. Blu-ray is part of the Home Media business, which also includes Vudu, Netflix and every other video on demand service. The players in the Home Media industry couldn’t care less about any one particular part of their business, instead worrying about the bottom line. There goal is to get consumers to spend more money this year then they did last year on enjoying content at home, and at the same time drive costs down in order to generate more profit. It’s no different from most’s personal goals, which is to get a raise every year. How long would you stay at a job that decreased your salary year after year?

The total revenue number in Home Media has been going down year over year as long as I’ve been watching it (according to the Digital Entertainment Group), and Blu-ray was just one of many attempts to stop the bleeding (down 2% in 2011 compared to 2010). The reality is  the total spending on digital in 2011 was about a third of that spent on buying discs. The bottom line is that Hollywood doesn’t care if you prefer Blu-ray or anything else, just so long as you spend more money (which means it prefers you buy a movie for $20 vs. rent one for $1) watching movies at home.

How to watch 1080p MKVs on the new Apple TV

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

I’m going to assume that if you have a file with an mkv extension, you know what for. The container is the Swiss Army Knife of containers, but most of the ones I run across have very high quality video and DTS audio. According to Apple, the new Apple TV will only play 1080p encoded with H.264 High Profile 4.0, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I was able to easily play a few High Profile 5.1 sample clips without converting them. You do have to change the container from mkv to m4v, but thanks to MKVTools (nagware until you pay $5), it takes about as long as a file copy. The other great thing about MKVTools is that it will convert the 5.1 DTS audio track to AC3 at the same time — required since the ATV doesn’t support DTS.

It really couldn’t be easier. Download MKVTools (I used 2.4.7), open your mkv file, select the streams you want (typically one video and one audio) go to the MP4 tab, choose AC3 and set the device to Apple TV and then hit convert. I’ve only tried samples so far, but they all came out perfect. Drag and drop them to iTunes and then go to Computers on the Apple TV and then to your movies.

Multi-Room Viewing vs a Multi-Room DVR

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Don’t be confused by the title, a Multi-Room DVR is not the same as Multi-Room viewing. The ability to view a recording in any room of the house is just one of many features of a Multi-Room DVR. If you can’t schedule recordings, check on your Todo list and manage seasons passes in more than one room, you can not honestly call your system a Multi-Room DVR — multiple DVRs are not a Multi-room DVR either. Of course the meaning of words never stopped marketing people from using them, but don’t be fooled, the Dish Network Hopper and Joey are the very first provider Multi-Room DVR ever available widespread. And it’s a big deal.

The DirecTV HR34 is the core of a Multi-Room DVR, but with the C30 RVU clients being MIA and the first gen Samsung RVU HDTVs being so limited, it is hardly ready for prime time — I tried it at CES and the TV’s RVU client made the first build of the TiVo Premiere software feel fast. This is all assuming you can get DirecTV to even enable the feature for you, which seems unlikely given the feedback at Many cable companies, including Verizon, have Multi-Room viewing that they call a Multi-Room DVR, but charging people for a DVR in every room and making them walk between rooms to resolve conflicts can hardly be called a true Multi-Room DVR, in good faith.

I think this is a big deal, because I believe that everyone expects the exact same TV experience in every room of the house, and in the next few years all the providers will provide what Microsoft’s Media Center has been doing for over five years, but in a mainstream way. I can’t wait to try them all out for myself.

Why HD streaming isn’t ready for primetime

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I wanted to watch a movie tonight but instead I’m writing this post. You see I only have the one disc at a time Netflix plan and I sent The Town back this morning, which left me without a movie on a Friday night. Sometimes I hit up a Redbox, but the bridge down the street is closed (for three months!) and it has really messed up my routine. So I figured I’d try to get the most out of my three month Xbox Live Gold Membership before it expires, only to be reminded that HDX titles aren’t available on the Xbox. No problem, I’ll switch to my Sony Blu-ray player and watch it there. So I spend the time to enter my Vudu username and password using the remote — who ever thought that was a good idea — and pick out a movie only to be greeted with an “Insufficient Network Speed” error. That’s odd, so I try it a few more times. Same result.

You might be thinking, but Ben HDX requires a lot of throughput and don’t blame Vudu because your internet sucks. But you’d be wrong. Unlike some I have FiOS Internet, which is crazy fast, but every service has a bad day, right? So I fire up to see what it might be and what do I find? 25Mbps download. You’d think that would be enough.

And this test was ran on my laptop connected via WiFi and my Blu-ray player is connected via a wired Gig connection, which I typically get Gig speeds on. So if someone with all the  pieces you’d think would be needed to enjoy high quality HD video via the Internet can’t, then who can? I suspect no one. I guess I’ll just have to watch a different Blu-ray Disc or something on my Media Center, but it won’t be because I didn’t try. We’ll see if Apple’s cloud is more reliable than Vudu’s next week.

Why the new iPad will be named the iPad HD

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

This might  come as a shock to you but Apple doesn’t like to put numbers after its device names. There is no MacBook 20, or an iPhone 2. In fact besides the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, you’d have a hard time finding an Apple device with a number behind it that meant its generation — Microsoft is also like this, especially considering Windows 7 isn’t the 7th version of Windows.

Enough about why the new iPad won’t be called the iPad 3, why am I so sure why the new name will be the iPad HD? One reason “1080p.” Some might argue that the first two iPads had HD displays, and while this is actually debatable (the lack of solid definition for HD has already bothered me) when it comes to modern TV shows and movies, HD means at least 720 lines and 16×9 (at least). This means that the highest resolution you could watch 16×9 content on the older iPads is 1024×578 — not HD by almost any definition. A 2,048×1,536 display on the other hand? It can easily display 16×9 content in 1080p (with pixels to spare all around, wonder if there will be a dot by dot mode). Of course these means that along side the new iPad HD will be the new Apple TV HD and 1080p content in the iTunes Store, which as far as I’m concerned is about time (lets hope for Dolby Digital Plus too). Or in other words, an all around great day for an HD fan.

Of course this Retina Display iPad HD will also be good for many other things. Reading a book without being able to see the pixels, as well as any other reading, and video games should be a great improvement — when the developers get around to updating their apps. And , 264ppi is enough to be considered a Retina Display by Apple definition since the average viewing distance of an iPad is further than that of the 330 ppi iPhone.

Oh, and I’ve been saying this long before the leaked accessory names.