TV – My Schedule’s Better than “Live”

The TWIM guys, when they say that “[Internet-delivered] video rises above novelty” repeatedly say that TV doesn’t have to be live “except for sports and news.” I’d put forth that more and more of us every day aren’t even watching sports and news “live.”

Sure, I may start watching a game – like today’s Seahawks/Bears game – when it’s broadcast begins (and there’s no guarantee that it’s really “live” anyway, there’s at least a few second delay due to network latency and FCC regulations). Once we’re through the first few commercial sets, though, it’s a different tory. The commercials begin, I hit ‘pause’ on the DVR and go get a drink. I return, skip past the commercials and continue watching the game, but I may be behind the broadcast by at least a few minutes. I don’t care – I get the game and all it’s excitement as though it’s live, because it is live for me. My “live” just doesn’t correspond with the rest of the nation’s.

As for news, heck there’s nothing really live there anyway. (Nothing worth watching either, but that’s another story.) “Action News at 5” or 6, 10 or 11 certainly isn’t; the closest you can get is CNN Headline news or the copies by MSNBC and FOX, and even those are mostly repeats of the same stories, rehashed every half hour.

What they’re really talking about anyway is the flexibility and freedom that are available to us now.

One of the comments left at the TWIM site says “how many people do you know that get excited on Monday because the next new episode of HEROS [sic] is that night?… If it’s not live, it loses a LOT of that excitement.”

I disagree – if my family wants to watch Heroes, we can be just as excited about watching it together as a regular family evening event. We just don’t have to have our lives scheduled by some unknown person at NBC. We can plan to watch it when we want. We might even “schedule” it for the same night it’s broadcast, but that’s our choice. We can stay at a school event or dinner with friends without having to check our watches and rush to get home by 9pm.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about TiVo or my cable company’s poor excuse for a DVR, the iTunes Store or Xbox Live Video Marketplace or some other solution. What matters is the option to select the shows I want to watch, have them delivered and waiting for me when I’m ready.

It’s all about the freedom and flexibility to watch what I want, when I want, and optimally where I want. Design an easy-to-understand, easy-to-use system to deliver that and you’ll have earned my business.

The Cost of Viewing

Ignoring the almost-religious-fervor format war for a moment, Sean does the math involved in buying into either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray.

[Y]ou can buy the average BD player and zero movies, or get an HD DVD player and over four and a half years of NetFlix HD rentals at the same price.

If I were getting a new player this season, I’d certainly want something to watch.

Widescreen, Letterbox, etc.

It’s all about square pegs and round – whoops, I mean rectangular holes.The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. If you’ve got a friend or relative who still just doens’t get the whole widescreen / letterbox / pan-and-scan thing, despite you waving your hands and drawing pictures on napkins, here’s a great resource: Stop by VideoGrunt and have them watch episodes 2, 3 and especially 4. These folks are good at showing exactly what’s what and why’s why.

If they still don’t get it, it’s time to give up.

GooTube

Yesterday on TWIT:

Vista ship dates, Windows Genuine disadvantage, and why Google will never buy YouTube.

[emphasis mine]

Today’s press release, from google.com: Google buys YouTube. John C. Dvorak has a cow, Film at 11 (or earlier if you check the website, of course) a silly smiley-face

Purely by coincidence, as they were posting their press release, I was uploading my most recent videos for the school’s jumbotron – you can watch them online before they’re shown at this Friday’s game.

A Few Short Videos

The principal of the local high school, where my son’s in the marching band, is working with various groups — the teams, cheerleaders, and marching band — to try to make the fan experience at sporting events a more enjoyable and exciting one.

screenshot of a videoThe band’s got a new pre-game show, working in conjunction with the cheerleaders (instead of the almost-competition that seems to be the norm), and he asked the scoreboard folks if they could create some sort of hilight video to play on the big screen before that gets going. Something to entertain and get the crowed “pumped up” for the game.

They turned to me, as one of the primary photographers who bring images for them, so I said I’d see what I could come up with. A hand-held camcorder at a couple of games and an afternoon of editing don’t make me the next George Lucas, but I’ve got four videos ready* for tomorrow night’s game and I think the crowds will enjoy them. I’ve got plenty of ideas and ways to improve in the future; this is just a start.

* btw, they do look much better on the computer and jumbotron than youtube would lead you to believe. One of my first changes for future videos will be to change my workflow a bit. These were rendered as QuickTime DV/DVCPro files and put on DVD, which works great for the scoreboard but are much too large fr youtube. I had to convert them to AVI files, then youtube converts those to Flash. All that conversion and re-compression leaves us with a less-than-optimal experience for you the web viewer.

Why Buy Last Decade’s Tech?

Over on Blather de la semaine, Geren’s writing about buying a new TV. He writes all about the various formats of HD, but then finally ends with this recommendation:

…look for sets that are SDTV with an ATSC tuner, and know that you’ll have a set that will continue to work for years to come.

70's TV with rabbit earsGood God, why would anyone want to buy an SD display these days? What’s next, telling ’em they should to buy a VCR to watch movies? On a 12 black & white with rabbit ears?

I’m only partly joking, G., but I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone to buy anything but an HD display these days unless only ever watching PBS news and old comedies from the BBC.

Here’s just one example: for the same $379 he’s suggesting to spend, if you don’t mind a little lesser-known (though, I’m told, still good quality) brand, BestBuy’s got an Insignia 27″ Flat-Tube HDTV. It’s not an untra-cool slim LCD or plasma (or even 16:9, which is kindof odd), but you won’t be kicking yourself when you come home from your friends’ house next week, realizing how crappy your DVDs and games look on SD. Or as you realize that more of your favorite shows are becoming available in HD each month, for just a few bucks more to the cable company.

but hey, that’s from a tech geek’s perspective, I may be just a bit biased toward the future.

iPhoto and iDVD for Slideshows

One of the local high schools’ lacrosse program had their annual post-season banquet last night, and it included some of my photography. I’d stopped by one game back in February at the request of one of their coaches, my friend Peter. I took and edited some pictures, posted them on my photography site, and was quickly asked to come back to more of their games.

As the season came to a close, I met with a few of the team parents; they selected pictures and I built some slideshows – one each for the JV and Varsity teams and one just covering the graduating seniors – and provided them with a DVD to show and distribute to the families.

I used iPhoto to gather the images into a slideshow and set the beginning and ending points for the “Ken Burns effect” for each picture. That moves the image slowly across the screen, with an optional zoom, to make them more interesting.

(if you’re not seeing a sample in your browser or feed eader, here’s a link to a quicktime movie.*)

For several of my pictures I had to go back to the original images and re-crop. I had cropped them tightly, so that parents would get good close-up pictures of their kids, but that meant that there wasn’t enough room to pan nicely. If you’re a photographer and are planning on making slideshows, that’s something to remember as you’re shooting and editing. Also remember that portrait-oriented images don’t fit on a landscape-oriented screen as well.

iPhoto has the option to export a slideshow directly to a quicktime movie, which I thought I’d then just bring into iDVD. What I found was that it only has a few options on size, and though the slideshows can be defined as “widescreen” all of the export options create a “standard” aspect ratio movie. Bummer.

There is another option, which worked well. With a slideshow selected in iPhoto, choose “Send to iDVD” from the Share menu. It seems to take about the same amount of time as exporting did, but preserved the “widescreen” settings.

I then was able to use iDVD’s templates to build a very nice menu (to choose between the three videos) and burn the DVDs.

I could have used other tools with much more power, but the combination of iPhoto and iDVD worked very well for a small project like this.


* Thanks for helping get the small, fast-moving, sample go to my buddy Drew at TPI and, of course, to QuickTime Pro.