Monthly Archives: February 2008

Apple TV, take 2

Some pleasant surprises came with the Apple TV 2.0 update, which arrived yesterday…

  1. You can use the Apple TV as an AirTunes device.
  2. 1080p output is supported.
  3. Closed caption support is available (though, sadly, content with CC is currently quite limited).
  4. Though you have 24 hours to finish watching an iTunes rental from the time you start, I was able to successfully start a movie with 45 minutes left on the clock and still watch through to the end – even though this took me nearly 45 minutes over the limit. (Kudos to Apple for allowing this.)
  5. There are (optional) parental controls on all content downloaded from the Internet: movie and TV show previews, podcasts, photos, etc.

My kids and I picked out and started watching a movie within 15 minutes after running the new software. Given the fact that I wanted to keep the cost of our experiment down – in case it didn’t go so well – we chose a standard definition* (SD) movie. While not nearly as good as the network broadcast 720p content we’ve become accustomed to it did compare pretty favorably with a standard DVD. I’d still give the edge to upconverted DVD video; however, there were no glaring deficiencies in the downloaded video.

I’ll be exploring more in the next few weeks. I wonder, what other surprises await?

*Don’t confuse SD with standard (i.e. non-widescreen) picture. The movie was presented in a widescreen format just as in the theater; it just wasn’t encoded as HD.

Content for the Apple TV (and, well… you)

As promised, here’s a selection of what I’ve been watching my Apple TV.

First up, the Hidden Universe HD podcast. Focusing primarily on images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hidden Universe brings some fantastic visuals from the depths of space. With reasonably well-written, 2-6 minute pieces, you can get breathtaking views of objects both (relatively) near and far. The longer, and typically more interesting episodes are hosted by Dr. Robert Hurt. Two versions of this podcast are available, so make sure you get the HD version.

Next on the list is another space telescope podcast: Hubblecast HD. The images are no less breathtaking from Hubble, and the Hubblecast crew has a few video tricks up their sleeve, too. This “vodcast” (or video podcast) is hosted by one Doctor J, aka Dr. Joe Liske, who expertly guides the viewer into the wild and beautiful reaches of deep space. Note: there are three versions of this podcast on iTunes, so be sure to get the HD version, not Full HD. You’ll notice that the first 5 episodes are missing, unfortunately, but you can fetch these from the standard Hubblecast feed or get them online. (The HD version first appeared in episode #6.)

Several television news organizations have at least attempted made an attempt to put together video content. NBC Nightly News is noteworthy as being the first full-length newscast available; FOX for short, generally upbeat clips, updated at least a couple of times each weekday; and CBS Evening News. Unfortunately, none of these are available with enough resolution to look decent on the Apple TV. (Since I started to write this, CNN and ABC have added news-related videocasts as well. I don’t normally watch these networks but you might want to check them out.)

Even if you don’t use an Apple computer, you may find it well worth your while to check out MacBreak in any of the several formats available. Hosted and produced by a variety of folks associated with TWiT, you’ll find a variety interesting short videocasts on topics including image editors, video production, and the cool gadgets. Make sure you get the Apple TV version, not the HD version.

A couple of other videocasts I’m currently subscribed to are Beautiful Places In HD and Finding America HD. They’re not high-end productions but they are certainly enjoyable for what they are. Beautiful Places is currently on hiatus, but hopefully returning this spring; Finding America is updated every week or two.

If you find any of this helpful – even if you don’t have an Apple TV – would you leave a comment or drop me an email and let me know, please?