Monday, May 25, 2009

Media package vs. Streaming



Last year I wrote about the fact that my perfect home movie delivery mechanism would be HD on demand for a fixed price such as the NetFlix model. Well, since that time, NetFlix has started a service to implement just that.

I own an xBox 360. NetFlix first partnered with Microsoft to provide delivery of content via the internet to the xBox. When this was announced, I jumped all over this... I had to update my xBox account to a paid online account. This was done by buying an account card from a local video game store.

Once this was done and I had setup the account, I had access to a new que in NetFlix for on-demand content. I qued up some HD movies and some SD movies and set about watching them.

The upside:

It's great being able to jump onto the NetFlix web site and add a film to my que and watch it immediately. For example, Nancy's sister is visiting us right now for her last week in the U.S. before she moves to southern India. As we were discussing India, the topic of Ghandi came up and she said she had never seen the film. I was able to jump onto Netflix and add it, go into the family room and immediately watch it with her.

Nice...

The Downside:

This is new technology. As such, it still needs to mature a bit. Rewinding or fast forwarding can be a bit painful as it has to re-que the video before it plays it and this can take up to 20 seconds to do. Moreover, when you start a film, the system guages your connection speed and scales the quality of the video to match it.

Many times, it has decided on a very high bitrate only to encounter a connection slowing at which point it stops the film, resets the sample rate and rebuffers the video at the reduced quality. This can be disruptive and annoying.

Overall, the feel of this system is clunky. But, I suppose, this is to be expected with a new system like this. Additionally, they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of converting titles to their streaming system. So you have a significantly reduced set of titles to choose from vs. the DVD library offered by NetFlix.

Conclusion:

We're close. This system needs finessing but it's damn close. They need to add the extras that DVDs offer and clean up the video buffering model that they are using so that the viewer's experience is uninterupted. As it is right now, I use it and I am mostly happy with it.

I think this is the future. No more buying DVDs. Why would you? If a film has repeat viewing value, just add it to your que again. The addition of NetFlix's excellent web site for adding and managing titles as well as tracking your preferences is an added bonus.

And, finally, NetFlix has also added this to TiVo. The TiVo interface is a LOT more rudimetary than the xBox incarnation. However, if you have a NetFlix account and a TiVo with lifetime subscription support, there is no added cost unlike the xBox where I had to spend $40 on an anual account upgrade. Still, $40 is not the end of the world.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gearhead Revisited

Back in June of 08, I was pining for a low cost gear head for the indie crowd (original post HERE). Almost exactly one year later, there is an answer from a company called GearNex. They demoed this at NAB 09 and the folks that I talked to that got to see it were very very impressed. Multi-speed transmission for both tilt and pan providing adjustable turn ratios.

The unit is priced at $4995 pre-order and expected first units to be shipped in June. They are saying they have a 6 to 8 week delivery time due to back orders now. Now, while $4995 is not a drop in the bucket for most indie folks, it IS a huge difference between the cost of an ArriHead or Mitchell gear head. And, rental is always an option as well.

If I get my greasy paws on a unit, I will post a detailed review here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Back to the grindstone

Dateline: May 2009, Moorpark, CA:

Well after an insanely busy few months, I am FINALLY back to doing a bit of blogging here. And, there is a LOT to blog about! First off, what have I had going on in my life?

Well, I went through the joy of a kidney stone and I have another on the way. Not fun...
I lost a friend of mine in a motorcycle accident about 2 months ago. Danny Mourning, who played the tough guy in our film "The Aquarium".

Nancy has been re-editing a feature film "Surviving in LA". It's an independent feature that was shot on 35mm. Some of the original edit was "interesting". One sequence in particular I looked at and my initial response was that it was so bad it should just be cut entirely but Nancy re-cut it and it's stunning now.

I finished the conversion of the main web site of my employer from classic ASP to ASP.net. This was an insanely time consuming and difficult task. The web site is one of the most complex systems I have ever worked on. 16 hour days, 7 days a week but we finally got it done and it is 99% good to go. Still a few glitches here and there.

Nancy got her SteadiCam certification completed and then had to have surgery so she has not been able to do any vigorous physical activity but she is almost 100% and should be back in the rig soon enough.

The Aquarium has an IMDB page after all these years LOL. After the folks at IMDB are done updating it, I will post a link in the blog.

After about 20 drafts, Thicker Than Blood is finally complete and we are starting pre-production on it. I have started storyboarding it in Lightwave. I will be blogging the progress of the film as we move through the process.

So that pretty much catches us up, dear reader.

Media Updates:

And speaking of Steadicam shots, this was pointed out to me recently: A Steadicam operator using a Segway. Amazing stuff. Check it out on the ProVideo Coalition site HERE.

Recently, someone pointed out this Spanish commercial on YouTube to me:



Just a STUNNING masterwork of storytelling. In about 48 seconds, we are introduced to a character that we are immediately invested in, watch her as she goes through the creation of her gift and finally come to see her selflessness in the end. No dialog.

Nice.

OK, I have a list of topics that I have piled up here to blog on, so I will leave you this this for tonight. More this week.

Mike