Multimedia, AV Archive

Rdio: Unlimited, On-Demand, Music Streaming

Earlier today I bought a $10 album from iTumes, which I wish I hadn't. The reviews were glorious, and the previews not indicative. Listening to the album all I could hear was hipster drivel. Obviously, I wanted my money back. Well, bad luck. iTunes won't give refunds. I tweeted about it, and a friend suggested Rdio. Rdio, a brand new streaming service, currently offers a 3-day free trial -- without the need for a credit card. For $5 let's you stream their huge library on your desktop via an Adobe AIR app or browser, and for $10 let's you also stream from Android/BBerry/iOS, plus be able to sync your music with you offline on these devices. Unlike Last.fm and Pandora, Rdio let's you stream on-demand.

NAB, RIAA: Congress Should Mandate FM Radio in Portable Devices

You know, I really like America and its citizens. Beautiful country, lovely people, nothing but good experiences on my end. However, like everyone else, the US has its problems, and one particular annoying one is the power of lobby and interests groups. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that the RIAA and NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) are asking Congress to mandate FM chips in all portable devices - cell phones, mp3 players, PDAs, everything. Wait, what?

Adobe Releases Flash for Mac with Hardware Acceleration

Not too long ago, Apple added the Video Decode Acceleration framework to Mac OS X, allowing developers to get low-level access to hardware H264 acceleration. Adobe was quite thrilled about this, because they claimed this was needed for Flash video to become hardware accelerated on the Mac. This feature's been in beta for a while now, but yesterday they finally released it as part of a regular Flash Player update. Caveat: Apple's support for this framework can be a bit sketchy.

The Next Big Tech Battleground: the TV

I'm a couch potato. There, I've said it. I love sitting down and watching sci-fi movies, like any good geek would. And this is an (almost religious) action that hasn't changed for many, many, years. But I feel that we're in for a surprise soon. The way we watch TV and access content is about to change. TV watching will at last arrive into the 21st Century, and the technology giants will be there to duke it out for the reins of this new industry.

hdBaseT: the New HDMI Competitor

It's really more than an HDMI competitor, it's a cable specification that "converges full uncompressed HD video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, high power over cable and various control signals through a single 100m/328ft CAT5e/6 LAN cable." That's an idea that I can really get behind. No new proprietary connectors, no expensive cables needed, consolidation of all necessary signals into one cable. The founding companies include LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

What’s Your AV Setup?

Let's do some blatant copy/paste from Ars Technica. A few days ago they ran a story called "What's in your home theatre system?". This poll wasn't so much about listing specific speaker types or amplifier models as it was about a number of more recognisable devices you could vote for. Let's copy their idea, but make it more open: what's in your home theatre setup - and list everything, from CD player to DVR to the type of cabling used. Be as anal about is as you want. Read on for my setup.

Deep Analysis of the VP8 Codec by H.264 Experts

After Google announced the open sourcing of the VP8 codec and provided it free-of-charge, there was a lot of discussion around the quality of the codec. However, the few studies that tried to back up the discussion with hard data didn't base their investigations on large amounts of data. None tried the comparison with multiple input files and provided results according to the numerous standard quality metrics. Every year, the MP4-Tech experts group compare every h.264 implementation in order to track performance and quality improvements. Yesterday, The Graphics and Media Lab of Moscow State University published a new, deep study of the performance of VP8, x264 and XviD implementations.

Adobe Premiere Pro & After Effects CS5

With the explosion of (mostly Canon's) video HD dSLRs in the last few months, purchase decisions for video editors have shifted, depending on which editor can deal with h.264 the best way. Until recently, users had to either use "proxy" files, or transcode to an intermediate format. Then, Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5 came in to change this by being the first video editor to fully utilize nVidia's CUDA technology and achieve real-time playback for Quicktime dSLR, and AVCHD footage.

The In-depth Technical Analysis of VP8; Counterpoints

There's an incredible amount of momentum behind Google's WebM Project. Opera, Mozilla, and of course Google will all include it in their browsers by default, meaning about 35% of web users will be able to use it with a minimal amount of fuss. On top of that, Microsoft has changed its previously announced plans to make HTML5 video in Internet Explorer 9 H264-only to include VP8 as well. Only Apple's opinion was unclear - until now.

10 Questions for MPEG-LA on H264

"Prior to Google's announcement of its open sourcing the VP8 video codec, a spokesperson for MPEG LA - the licensing agent that manages the patent portfolio for multimedia technologies relating to the H.264 codec, among others - agreed to answer ten questions submitted to the agency in advance. Those questions regard how it licenses the codec that Microsoft and Apple consider the best solution for HTML 5, the next markup language for the Web." Ten questions, ten answers, and the H264 licensing and royalties mess has managed to become even less clear. Let's compare this to WebM: "You can do whatever you want with the WebM code without owing money to anybody." Now you again, MPEG-LA.

Xiph.Org Announces Support for WebM Open Media Project

Monty from Xiph.org Foundation, the people behind Theora and Vorbis, have announced their support for Google's WebM container format. "The Xiph.Org Foundation is pleased to announce its support of the WebM open media project as a project launch partner. As announced earlier today at the Google I/O Developer Conference, the WebM format combines the VP8 video codec, the Matroska container, and the Vorbis audio codec developed by Xiph into a high-quality, open, unencumbered format for video delivery on the Web. Xiph will continue to contribute to WebM as a whole and collaborate in its further development and deployment." Remember, people, without the hard work from the boys and girls at Xiph, Google would not have been able to do this.

BREAKING: Google Opens VP8 Codec, Enables it on YouTube

Yes, I broke my own rules and used a "breaking" modifier for this story (let me have my fun for once). Here we have it, as the rumour mill suggested, Google has released the On2 VP8 video codec as open source (royalty free, BSD-style), while also launching the WebM container format which combines a VP8 video stream with Vorbis audio. Support for WebM has been enabled on YouTube's HTML5 beta, and you can download patches against ffmpeg as well as DirectShow filters for Windows (Gstreamer plugins are labelled as "coming soon"). Mac users are out of luck for now; no QuickTime plugins have been announced yet. Update: The WebM blog is now open - and the list of partners is pretty decent already. It includes ARM, NVIDIA, AMD, Qualcomm, and many others. Update II: VP8 will be baked into Flash. Update III: The Opera labs version with WebM support has been released too, for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Hulu: HTML5 Not Ready for Us

According to Hulu, HTML5 is not yet ready for its needs. "We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn't yet meet all of our customers' needs," Hulu writes, "Our player doesn't just simply stream video, it must also secure the content, handle reporting for our advertisers, render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality, communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream, and dozens of other things that aren't necessarily visible to the end user."

The Music Experience: MPD vs AppleTV

For over 9 months now we use our Apple TV as our music entertainment system in our home. And when I mean "music entertainment system", I mean just that. We don't use our Apple TV for anything else, not even video (our much more video-capable Sony PS3 bears that task). We used to use CDs, in a 250 CD-changer device, but the experience was not nearly as good as when dealing with files that have metadata. So we got ourselves an Apple TV. On the other side of the country, a friend of ours uses the open source MPD solution. In this article I'll try to figure out which one of the two is the best solution for my household's usage pattern.

Adobe’s New Flash DRM Comes with Selective Output Control

"Adobe has rejiggered its DRM software for the Flash platform, combining a number of access control features under the rubric of Flash Access 2.0. The new platform can give content providers all sorts of ways to offer media content securely, including controlling what type of output devices can display the content - in effect, Adobe is enabling HDCP and broadcast control flags for Flash content."