BBC's HD Test Card

Calibrating your HD TV is never straightforward. Lot’s more settings than a standard SD set and if you use an amp for your surround sound you will potentially get lip-sync issues too. You can pick up a calibration disk – Digital Video Essentials on Blu Ray for example which will step you through calibrating your TV. You can also use any THX DVD’s as they will include a THX Calibration tool that helps you tweak your setting (Wall-E also has a nice calibration tool as well). Another way of calibrating is to use the newly added BBC HD Test Card which broadcasts a number of times per day on the BBC HD channel.

Andy Quested has posted up a great tutorial on the BBC Internet blog that takes you through how to use test card to not only calibrate your screen settings but also adjust audio settings to fix any sync issues. It looks like the trickiest part of the process is recording the 2 tests. Directly from Andy’s blog post – the HD test card is just over 1 hour into the promo and the AV sync signal is 50 minutes later. To record both signals, check the time the last programme finishes and add 1 hour. So if the last programme ends at 01:30 set your PVR to record from 02:25 to 02:45 for the test card and 03:15 to 03:35 for the AV sync signal. The promo referred to is the rolling HD promo that is broadcast on BBC HD when there is no actual programming being broadcast. It would be far easier if these two tests were broadcast as individual programmes with actual time slots – would make recording far easier. However that’s a small niggle as these two tests are a nice addition from the BBC. I know I’ll be using them to set-up a new TV over Christmas.

War Over?

It’s taken long enough but it finally looks like next gen HD disk format has been chosen – Blu-Ray has won. Ever since Warner went Blu-Ray only the writing has been on the wall. Most people seemed to give HD-DVD until the end of the year. That looks to have been optimistic.

Reuters are now reporting that Toshiba are giving up on the format. RIP HD-DVD. This comes in the same week that many large retailers moved to either Blu-Ray exclusive or to promoting Blu-Ray as the first choice format. I couldn’t give a toss about what format was the best from a technology standpoint. I just wanted one to succeed and for the HD market to grow with a sole format like CD’s and DVD’s. Hopefully thats what will happen now even if the HD-DVD fanboys think that Blu-Ray is a bad choice or that downloads will now take over.

The downloading options are starting to get interesting though. Apple TV Take 2 launched last week offering HD video rentals. I’d dismissed these as although they are HD in terms of resolution there bitrate is usually low to reduce bandwidth, so making them not much better than DVD, especially a good upscaled DVD. However the reviews have so far shown the rentals to be very good, in between Blu-Ray and US cable broadcasts. With start times rumoured to be under a minute it’s starting to look good for HD, especially with Apple TV. However why spend £200 on Apple TV when a PS3 costs £280, can play Blu-Ray disks, is a very capable media playback device (for Mac users try MediaLink) and when Play TV is released will be a Freeview player including HD and also act as a PVR. Even more impressively, the PS3 allows you to browse the internet and again with Play TV can do a slingbox and broadcast TV to the PSP. All very impressive. Almost forgot – it plays games too.

If someone asked me today to recommend one media player it would easily be the PS3. That’s something I didn’t expect to say even a year ago.

Updates

A few program updates…

  • There’s a new 360 dash out. It works a bit quicker than the old one and has been slightly reorganised, for the better in my view. It’s caused a bit of a problem for EA games though which i don’t think are fully resolved yet. DivX & XVid playback now fully supported which is nice as well as a slew of small changes throughout the system. Video Marketplace launches Dec 11th in UK – will be interested in comparing HD quality with Sky & BluRay. With these updates the 360 is finally rivalling XBMC for functionality, while blowing it out of the water for HD. Shame about the noise. And the DVD upscaling – so poor!
  • For Mac users wanting to stream the new video formats to the 360 Nullsoft have updated Connect 360. fast work from the devs to get this out the day after the dash update.
  • Yojimbo has finally been updated with a few new features while hopefully addressing a couple of Leopard bugs. Even though Together has been upgraded I still prefer the features in Yojimbo – and .Mac syncing seems to be working again. Woo!

More HD

After a quite spell there have been some significant HD announcements for the UK. ITV HD channel will launch next spring, BBC HD has been recommended to start as a full time channel as soon as possible, MTV HD is due to land next year and Channel 4 have announced a C4 HD to launch from December. Great news and about time that there is more commitment from providers other than Sky and BBC.

iTunes UK - TV Content at last

I think it’s around two years since TV shows were first available on iTunes in the USA. Finally some content was made available to purchase in the UK this week. First thing you notice is how little there is – it’s all American and there’s not much off it. There’s rumours of BBC and Channel 4 content to come later but there’s nothing at the moment.

Then you notice the price. It’s high. £1.89 per episode. That would be £43.47 for Lost series 3 which sounds a lot but the whole series can be bought on iTunes for a reduced price of £32.99. Currently the box set is available on Amazon for £44.98 so there are savings to be made however it’s almost double the American price, like most things here in the UK. While I’m saying there are savings to be made on DVD’s, that’s for latest box sets only. Earlier box sets are available for much less than the iTunes price, and would you really want to pay more for lesser quality?

I’ve just spent £1.89 to test just how good the iTunes TV shows look. Continue reading “iTunes UK – TV Content at last”

Style

Bit of a lazy weekend has been had although there’s a few things worth noting. Firstly, Casino Royale on Blu-Ray looks fantastic. If you’ve got a PS3 or a Blu-Ray player (all 10 of you in the UK) then this is a must own title. I’m enjoying the PS3 for movie playback so I’ll be picking up the remote which will get a lor more use than the 360 equivalent. Only annoyance is the remote is Bluetooth rather than Infra-red so I can’t program it into the Pronto.

The new Bond has moved to the Bourne style of movies and low and behold if there isn’t a Bourne Ultimatum trailer available. Really looking forward to this and hope it meets the same high standard of the last two.

More style can be found in the new trailer for Forza 2 (cheers Graham). Around one month to go for this must have 360 title that can’t fail to be good – can it? There hasn’t been a decent racing game on the 360 since PGR3 (Test Drive unlimited is a sims game rather than proper racing – harsh but true) so i can’t wait!

I also decided that I would start hand crafting my own site style a good while ago but that stalled after a couple of days so I finally got round to putting some time into it this weekend. A new app from Panic may help (Coda) but it isn’t even revealed until tomorrow so that will have to wait. I’m finding it all a bit frustrating at the moment but I’m getting there…slowly. I’m guessing at my pace it will be a few weeks before I have something to show for my efforts. At the moment I’m aiming for white, minimal and little or no graphics or ajax. It’s time to get simple.

Trialling .Mac at the moment and it’s great for keeping the two Macs and their apps in sync (calendars, address book, iGTD, Transmit and Yojimbo). The trial lasts for another couple of months before I have to hand over any cash but it’s likely thats another £70 to the Apple temple which is a tad annoying as .Mac doesn’t offer much disk space – this is an area Apple could address for not much money. It would be great if the £70 bought 40Gb of disk space to back up to and share.

Packaging and other rambles

I’ve always had a thing for nice packaging. The Apple packaging is hard to beat and gives you a great impression of the product you’ve bought before you’ve even switched it on. Likewise a great CD case (Thom Yorke, Lemon Jelly) has always given the CD a greater worth. All in the head as it doesn’t change the music, but there you go. My first Blu-Ray movies have now arrived and again the packaging is interesting. The cases are smaller than DVD, nicely rounded, slightly transparent and just feel better quality than a DVD. Which ties in with the fact it should be of better quality. All in the head but I like it.

Thats why I’ve always liked Japanese game packaging. Far smaller than western equivalents and to be honest far better. I look at my DVD collection – it could take up a quarter of the room that it currently does. Nevermind.

Speaking of room, I’m still tempted to ditch all my cd’s as I have them all digitally available. I would probably re-encode some of the disks at a higher rate but apart from that I have no need for the physical disks. Apart from the nice packaging that in my head adds value. Doh. So do I dump the disks and save room or not?

Finally, a quick bit on the Blu-Ray disks. I imported them from the states using DVDWorldUSA. They delivered within 7 days and there was no import duties to pay. They also guarantee to pay import duties if you do have the misfortune to get caught. It’s a long time since I imported and I was a bit worried about region playback issues. However this site lists the region free or restricted titles released so far. Very handy. Just need the player now.

Blu-Ray

Shopping

Just back from Braehead – what a miserable day it is out there. Amongst the Mothers Day shopping I couldn’t help notice that the PS3 isn’t sold out. Anywhere. HMV and Game are still taking pre-orders. In fact HMV were sure that you could stroll in next Friday and pick up a PS3 without pre-ordering as demand is pretty slow. Coupled with the Game announcement that only 2/3’s of their pre-order allocation has been bought should hopefully put a stop to any hopes of the eBay sellers hoping to ‘double their money’. Makes you wonder how many will actually sell as no doubt there are many that have bought two or more just to sell one on eBay.

In preparation for the PS3 I’ve ordered a couple of Blu-Ray titles – MI3 and The Departed. Both films have reportedly excellent video quality and I’m looking forward to watching them on the PS3. Thats as long as they work as they are American imports. I’ve also picked up a Bluetooth headset for the PS3 as it doesn’t come with one as standard and I don’t want a wired one plugged into the PS3.

Final bit of shopping news is regarding my Edge subscription. With all the money hassle recently there was a direct debit problem. One phone call later and it was all sorted…or so I thought. This months hasn’t appeared and on calling the subscription team the next direct debit isn’t until May. SO no issues this month or next month. Doh! They could have at least explained that at the time. I’ve now had to make do with a shop soiled copy. Nevermind…only one week until PS3 arrives.

Sky Trilogy

Sky announced a brand new service today – Trilogy. Surprisingly there are three main features to this service:

1) Sky will take pre-orders for the service months before it comes out and take your money the day you pre-order the service, not the day you start using the service (although this is probably to avoid confusion as they have no clue when you will start using their service).

2) They will move the start date of the service to…whenever they please.

3) When the engineer finally shows up to install the service he’ll struggle to fit a dish and/or deliver a box that doesn’t work. That last part is for special customers only.

Of course there is no such thing as Trilogy. There is however such a thing as another delay to my HD install. The engineer couldn’t fit the dish – requires high install team. God damn sons of bitches. So I’ve got the choice of fitting the dish to my garage or the shared chimney with my neighbour. I’ll plump for the garage as it’s probably easier in the long run. I learned last year with fences that seemingly innocuous things turn difficult when your neighbour is involved. Main worry was that the high install team are in high demand and it could be weeks. Thankfully I’ve got a booking for Saturday 10th June. So I’ll miss the first game of the World Cup but hopefully that is all.

So from pre-ordering at the end of March I’ve had install dates of 23rd May, 27th May, 30th May and now 10th June. I just hope that when I do eventually get a box it works. They’ve had everyone’s £300 who pre-ordered since end of March – that’s £12 million. If you do end up cancelling they have problems refunding credit cards so it will take 6-8 weeks to issue a cheque. Rupert Murdoch – genius or cunt.