Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Speaking Freely

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  • Russell Brown,

    Just noticed that someone from Freeview answered a lot of questions for Geekzone readers this month.

    It's a useful read.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Tom quotes Sky CEO John Fellet as saying that recessions typically cause consumers to rationalise that they can invest in Sky as an aid to staying home and not spending money. Which is true, but it's hard to see why the same doesn't apply to Freeview.

    Premium New Zealand sport. English sport. European sport. North American sport. Recent release movies. 24 hour news. Well, maybe not the last one.

    Freeview is like watching TV only better, whereas SKY is TV only better plus poor mans' versions of watching a sports match in person or going to the movies. The products aren't equivalent (Yet - with some decent investment, I'm sure Freeview can build viable movie and sport channels).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 273 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Freeview is like watching TV only better, whereas SKY is TV only better plus poor mans' versions of watching a sports match in person or going to the movies. The products aren't equivalent (Yet - with some decent investment, I'm sure Freeview can build viable movie and sport channels).

    Fair enough. Pay TV will always have the premium content. But for basic sports and movies (ie, not Rialto, Rugby Channel, etc) you're looking at nearly $90 per month, and more than $100 a month for HD. That's quite a lot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I recently picked up an integrated-tuner HD TV (exactly the Sony one you link to) after running my beautiful Loewe CRT into the ground. Buying an LCD or plasma set without an HD tranmission was always pointless to me - they look markedly worst on SD content - so once I could get HD broadcast TV (I include source-upscaled material in that) I was in there.
    And it's mint - movies, seem to be coming off a close-to-HD source, and I've even sat through Bones simply because of the picture quality...

    But a note of caution for those in apartment buildings - there are apparently lots of issues with building distribution systems. Lots of installers are sending satellite signals, CCTV signals etc along the same cable and it's blocking the UHF band that FreeviewHD comes in on. I've had to go to a seperate indoor UHF aerial to get all the channels.

    Oh, and someone get Sky to play ball and put Prime on there. And Russell, you and Wallace need to pitch for much improved picture quality on Backbenches and Media7. I'm not sure if it's a capture issue, broadcast quality issue or what but Backbenches is almost painful to watch with it's artifacts and "crawling"...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've even sat through Bones simply because of the picture quality...

    I've been entranced all over again by the bright new pictures on TV. Although I'm not sure if "entranced" is quite the right word for a Bones autopsy in HD ...

    But a note of caution for those in apartment buildings - there are apparently lots of issues with building distribution systems.

    As you've discovered, the indoor aerials generally work rather well.

    And Russell, you and Wallace need to pitch for much improved picture quality on Backbenches and Media7. I'm not sure if it's a capture issue, broadcast quality issue or what but Backbenches is almost painful to watch with it's artifacts and "crawling"...

    We're not being broadcast at HD bandwidth, so we're never going to look like the main channels do. And little low-budget shows don't get to pick the nicest gear ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    sadly still no technical specs on the Freeview web site (at least none that I can see).

    Come on guys it's 'free' - publish your specs, point to the DVB specs you support, what format is the guide data in? how do you structure your channels? (mpeg 4 rather than 2 for OTA)

    There are lots of video hackers out there, with great free tools available - enable them, it's free and not like anyonewill steal anything - open up and let a thousand flowers bloom

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I should add - Freeview's grid guide (as described on their web site) is covered by a patent (owned by a litigious assignee what's more) that makes it a barrier to implementation - encouraging many different sorts of guides (and UIs) is a good thing

    (disclaimer: I work for a non-NZ settop manufacturer that makes a box with different UI and a non-grid guide)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    sadly still no technical specs on the Freeview web site (at least none that I can see).

    I thought there was a year moratorium on competition on set-top boxes. An exclusive contract for the first year or something. Is that over yet?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But for basic sports and movies (ie, not Rialto, Rugby Channel, etc) you're looking at nearly $90 per month, and more than $100 a month for HD. That's quite a lot.

    Long Live the Rialto Channel, but is there really somebody who still subscribes to Sky Movies? In the age of cheap DVD rentals it's got to be one of the great ripoffs on the market - shockingly bad choice and always so late at releasing stuff. That Sky Box Office is pay per view is just shocking.

    I don't have an aerial on my house, and an old analogue TV cable feed via Telstra that is very handy in terms of keeping the price WAY down and getting the Sky TV packages that I want, when I want them (very easy to switch off Sky Sports when it ain't cricket season, for instance). I have an old but very functional USB PVR that records everything through my laptop, where I can convert programmes into DivX for burning, sharing with friends, but if anybody knows of a similar device that might also allow me to get onto Freeview (some work with bunny ears aerials, apparently) I'd be interested to hear about their experience.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    As you've discovered, the indoor aerials generally work rather well.

    Well in my case, only just. Very frustrating because the aerial on the roof has line of sight out to the mast on the Waitaks, and the Sky Tower the other way for infill - but my lounge is down behind a building on both directions so the aerial has to be juuuuuuust right. Is apparently a big issue in the UK and is actually delyaing their analogue switch off.
    Still, very impressed - I worked in the home theatre bizzo for a few years and HATED plasma/LCD because of the awfulness of the image. They were just a bit too far ahead of the content I think. Planet Earth on BluRay for example is absolutely unbelievable.

    And yes, I realise you guys are the "minnows" but you know we want to see every bead of nervous sweat... ;)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Long Live the Rialto Channel, but is there really somebody who still subscribes to Sky Movies? In the age of cheap DVD rentals it's got to be one of the great ripoffs on the market - shockingly bad choice and always so late at releasing stuff. That Sky Box Office is pay per view is just shocking.

    We only picked up Sky Movies when we got Sky HDi, and it unquestionably improves the experience. A good HD transfer is better than DVD. And a lot better than those grody pictures they send out on Telstra.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • jeremy gray,

    I run Freeview off an $80 PCI tuner card, and it seems to work pretty well. I have a few gripes about the codecs used though, as H.264 is non-free and you need to spend about $100 to buy software to obtain the codec to use. I would be surprised if including this codec is not a major factor in the cost of set top boxes.

    The fact that TV3 uses 1080i makes it use much more CPU/GPU than should be necessary, I doubt there are many HD CRT tvs around.

    point chev • Since Apr 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    We only picked up Sky Movies when we got Sky HDi, and it unquestionably improves the experience. A good HD transfer is better than DVD. And a lot better than those grody pictures they send out on Telstra.

    Fair enough if the films are in HD, although every time I happen to look at the lineup it seems downright awful. Ah, and I'm adding "grody" to my vocabulary. For instance, my middle child seems unwell today. She looks posivitely grody.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan Ibell,

    Re comments on Sony's Play TV not having HD capability - see the post from another forum. Can't comment on the accuracy, but a different story to what you report:

    "No PlayTV DOES record in HD, the reason why it does not in Europe is Freeview in Europe is not in HD. A number of people are importing the European PlayTV into Australia (Australia uses a simular MPEG-2 format but in HD) and they are working fine in HD and record in HD (uses aprox 4gb per 40min with 1080i) the only issues they have is the EPG clock is wrong (can't be corrected) and one of the ABC channels and SBN have problems. The PlayTV delay here in NZ has been a number of things including getting it Freeview certified (freeview will NOT allow HD 720p or 1080i out on component out only HD on HDMI) this posed a problem with the PS3 and disabling that function while PlayTV is running. The MPEG-4 AAC AC3 software had to also be written as the European software is MPEG-2 only."

    From: http://www.audioenz.co.nz/forums/showthread.php?t=7007&highlight=play&page=2

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    It is just a hunch, but I sense that Sky may have reached its saturation point for the New Zealand pay-TV market--unless they can provide some great new incentive for new subscribers. If times do get tougher, the churn rate is likely to increase ($120+ per month is rather a lot if you are not getting much that is new).

    We may have such discussions at the SPADA conference this Thursday/Friday, as I see Russell is on the programme. I have a proposal accepted for the South Pacific Pictures The Big Pitch competition on Friday but I don't know what my chances might be.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Re comments on Sony's Play TV not having HD capability - see the post from another forum. Can't comment on the accuracy, but a different story to what you report:

    Ah, thanks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    We have the technology; now what about the content?

    I watched TV (in the sense of sitting in front of a television set, watching a scheduled programme) for the first time in ages. I saw a really good Artsville Doco about Alun Bollinger: locally made, high quality television. This is what we want (at least those of us who think television is more than a medium for pandering to advertisers and their target demographics). How do we get more of it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    We have the technology; now what about the content?

    Yes, that's the issue for me too. I have zero interest in upgrading to HD with the current TV lineup: same old crap, but at a higher resolution is not my idea of appealing. The Freeview content on the other hand seems genuinely interesting.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    For PCI-based FreeView cards, these are a good start:

    Hauppauge HVR3000 (Analogue/DVB-S/DVB-T) - $185
    Hauppauge HVR1100 (Analogue/DVB-T) - $125

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5445 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I saw a really good Artsville Doco about Alun Bollinger: locally made, high quality television.

    Wasn't it great? I found it enjoyable and illuminating.

    How do we get more of it?

    Public funding. If National keeps to its policy, the Charter money will be removed from TVNZ control and dished out on a contestable via NZ On Air. Then it's up to the broadcasters to want to make quality television.

    Although, there is some scope for commercial exploitation. Nick Dwyer's NZ On Air-funded Making Tracks has been picked up for a National Geographic channel music strand.

    TVNZ 6 and 7 won't have the audience reach to qualify for NZ On Air funding for a while yet, so that original $80 million will have to go a long way. Part of their problem in acquiring gold-standard programming is that BBC Worldwide, the Beeb's commercial licensing arm, is very difficult and expensive to deal with. As a result, most of those brilliant BBC4 docos go unsenn by anyone here, ever -- even on pay TV, which can license them on a different basis. Tell me why I should not download them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Nick Dwyer's NZ On Air-funded Making Tracks

    Wasn't that a great little show. I missed a bunch of them but the ones I saw were excellent...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Tell me why I should not download them.

    Because the wait for the DVD usually isn't that long (assuming we get it). And if it's a documentary about history (Simon Schama, Niall Fergusson - heard good things but only read, not seen) you shouldn't be in too much of a hurry :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Ah, and I'm adding "grody" to my vocabulary.

    Welcome to the club. I can recommend "grodiness" also, as in "Grodiness, gracious me".

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    TVNZ 6 and 7 won't have the audience reach to qualify for NZ On Air funding for a while yet, so that original $80 million will have to go a long way.

    Which is a pity, since they are ideal platforms for high quality, high definition television.

    Tell me why I should not download them.

    Er, um, ah...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville,

    I have one of those little Pinnacle TV USB sticks that does Freeview HD in my laptop. It works fine given an external aerial - the Olympics was great - but the little toy stick-on aerial they include in the box is useless.

    On Windows the software is a complete PITA, it's fairly unreliable, requires registration that locks it to the PC and all that proprietary malarkey. Stephen Judd reports that the latest version of Ubuntu shows TV perfectly well in VLC Player though, so that's cool.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

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