Posts Tagged ‘VOD/Streaming’

Weekly News Roundup (September 1, 2019)

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

And we’re back! Quite a few things have happened since the last WNR, and I know I promised to keep this thing regular, but sometimes everything else seems to just get in the way. No more promises though, but I will try my best in the future.

High Definition

If you’re an Aussie and you like the sort of things I like, then you would have been ecstatic about the news of Disney+ coming down under, and for the really good price of $8.99 (that translates to less than the US pricing of $6.99).

What’s more, with Disney’s fan event, the D23 Expo, happening just a short while after the pricing announcement, Disney used the event to give fans even more information about the service.

We got trailers for the new Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian (and the trailer looked fantastic – if the show if half as good, it will be epic), original films Lady and the Tramp and Noelle. There was also a bunch of announcement for new Marvel shows, and a big one, Ewan McGregor coming back as Obi-Wan in a new TV series.

From a technical standpoint, there was also some exciting news that all Disney+ accounts will have access to 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. This makes Disney+ by far the cheapest streaming plan to included these advanced features, $9 per month cheaper than the Netflix plan with the equivalent feature.

Those in the U.S. can also bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for only $12.99 per month, saving almost $5.

A screenshot showing the Disney+ Interface
Disney+ will be worth having

With so much enticing content, a great price and unexpected feature-set, it looks like Disney is very very serious about going head to head with Netflix. All the talk about Disney+ not being a competitor for Netflix (and most of that talk is coming from Disney, which is telling) is technically correct, but with Hulu under its wings, there’s no reason, from a content point of view, that Disney can’t take on Netflix.

It will be good news for us consumers, not so much Netflix shareholders, I think.


And in the near future, when you’re watching a 4K Disney+ stream on your new TV, you might notice that there might be a new mode on your TV called ‘Filmmaker Mode’. If you see it, you should enable it.

Announced this week by the UHD Alliance, along with CE partners Panasonic, LG and VIZIO and along with the Directors Guild of America and The Film Foundation, Filmmaker Mode will be a shortcut that turns off all the post-processing features on the TV that distracts from the film-watching experience. You know the ones – motion smoothing, the over-sharpening and unnatural colour corrections, and when combined, makes movies look more like daytime soap operas.

The logo for Filmmaker Mode
Filmmaker Mode will make it easy to see films the way they are supposed to be seen

But now, with just one setting, you can watch the film as the filmmakers intended, with the right colour reproduction, and more importantly, the right framerate.

The new mode seems to be made for UHD Blu-ray discs, but there’s no reason why it can’t be used for streaming as well. So there won’t be any more excuses for films to be played back with the soap opera effect turned on. No excuses!!


That’s it for the week. Back to making trailers for me. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (August 11, 2019)

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

Welcome back to the WNR. Sorry for the long break, but we finally have some worthy news stories to talk about, and so here we are.

High Definition

Regular readers will know how we big up streaming here, and not just because we also run an Australian news site that’s dedicated to the topic of streaming.

But you have to be living under a rock to not notice that streaming is taking over everything, but sometimes some solid stats go a long way to paint a full picture of what’s happening.

That data has been recently provided by analytics firm Conviva, and it shows that streaming media consumption has double over the last year in the United States.

The consumption was led by Roku users, who helped to drive up the adoption of Internet-connected TVs by 143% and accounted for 43% of all connected TV viewing measured by Conviva. Roku themselves are seeing a period of strong growth, with the service now having more than 30 million subscribers.

Photo of Roku Streaming Stick
Roku is the most popular streaming device, according to new data

Adoption of Amazon Fire TV devices also growing strongly over the last year, up 145% and now accounting for 18% of connected viewing.

Here in Australia, our one and only cable TV operator has finally embraced streaming and have started to bundle Netflix with their subscriptions (despite the fact that it tried to launch its own streaming platform). And with broadband speeds increasing and bandwidth costs decreasing all the time, streaming just make more and more sense.

With that said, and this is from my first-hand experience with uploading 4K trailers, we are still dealing with huge files and that it’s going to take a while before we reach mainstream adoption. For one, YouTube’s bitrate of choice for 4K content is only around 13 Mbps (and that’s using the not so efficient VP9 codec, instead of HEVC), and that’s not really enough. But any higher, the number of people able to watch 4K quickly drops from an already small pool of users actively looking for 4K content. So until people can comfortably stream a 30+ Mbps stream and still be able to use their connections for other things, 4K adoption (despite the huge number of 4K or at least 1440p capable devices, including most phones and tablets and TVs sold these days) will be bottlenecked. Let’s not even think about 8K for now.


Disney’s acquisition of Fox is a bold and potentially profitable move for the Mickey Mouse company. But not right now though, because Disney has been surprised at just how much Fox Studios is underperforming right now, with projected profits turning into losses for the last quarter.

Screenshot from Ford v Ferrari
Disney/Fox has high hopes for Ford v Ferrari

The box office for Dark Phoenix was much less than expected, and none of Fox’s other movies also did well enough. The rest of 2019 looks a bit brighter with Ford v Ferrari and Ad Astra, but these are hardly locked in winners.

So if anything, the sale of Fox to Disney came at the right time for the former News Corp studio. Maybe at the right time for Disney as well. Not so much for Fox’s release slate, since Disney is already doing pretty well this year with over $8 billion in box office takings, but as a way to acquire a great back catalogue of titles to fill their Disney+ and Hulu content libraries.


That’s all I have for you this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (June 16, 2019)

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And we’re back, and this time, it hasn’t taken more than a month since the last WNR.

And that’s largely thanks to the fact that we have news, and that was at least partially thanks to the gaming expo, E3.

Copyright

But before we get to that, we have a piracy blunder to talk about, this time committed by the Swiss arm of broadcaster Sky.

In releasing the final episode of the hit show Chernobyl, Sky Switzerland used not the official subtitles provided by HBO, but the fan-made version released by a subtitle download site often used by pirates. This error was revealed because whoever decided to use the inappropriate subtitle file forgot to reveal the credits that were added to the subtitles by its creator, which also referenced subtitle download site Addic7ed.

Screenshot of Sky Switzerland's incorrect use of subtitles
Good of Sky Switzerland to keep the credits for the fan-made subtitles

The closing credits were removed, and the subtitle was re-synced with the official Sky stream, suggesting the person or persons responsible for this blunder had intended to use the downloaded subtitles, and it wasn’t just a simple case of uploading the wrong file to the server.

As expected, the folks at Addic7ed were a bit bemused by the whole situation, giving Sky a thumbs up for keeping the credits intact. Sky themselves weren’t laughing though, having described this whole affair as “totally unacceptable”.

Just out of interest, the Addic7ed site is blocked here in Australia by several ISPs due to its association with piracy.

Gaming

There were lots of things being unveiled at E3, but the piece of news that probably has the greatest impact on the next few years of gaming would be Microsoft’s reveal of their next game console, currently only known as Project Scarlett.

I once read an article that suggested Sony and Microsoft should join forces and just release a single game console. The reasoning was that as consoles advance, the so-called “competing” hardware will become more and more similar, that there really isn’t much of a point to having separate consoles.

That prediction seems to have come true. No, not the part about a joint Sony/Microsoft console (the “Xbox Station 720”?), but the part about the two consoles become more and more similar is spot on.

Sony’s PS5 announcement pointed to an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

And Project Scarlett will be an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

Screenshot from Microsoft's Project Scarlett launch video
Project Scarlett and Sony’s PS5 – virtually identical in announced specs

Oh, and both console launches stressed the inclusion of backwards compatibility. Microsoft does have an advantage here due to its head start in this department – it has run a backwards compatibility program for the Xbox One since 2015, and so it has promised backwards compatibility with all Xbox generations for Project Scarlett, not just for Xbox One games.

And if I have to guess, the pricing for both consoles will be similar, if not the same. Microsoft does have a solid-ish launch date of holidays 2020, as Sony has not yet confirmed a release date (but probably holidays 2020).

As for the prediction about a joint console – I don’t think that will ever happen. As similar as the next consoles will be from both companies, and as unprofitable the hardware will be (at least initially), there is still a “need” for separate consoles in order for both companies to have a chance to earn that lucrative licensing money. Puff Daddy was right.

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So we come to the end of this roundup. Have a great one until the next one!

Weekly News Roundup (June 9, 2019)

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Well, that was a longer break than expected. A nice vacation was then followed by the need of a vacation for the vacation, and then a couple of slow news weeks, and here we are!

Even without much news, we’ve been busy adding new trailers to our YouTube channel. Now while we use real 4K content whenever possible, we’re still at the stage of 4K where most trailers are not released in the format. So we have a “special sauce” that we use to upscale it to make it look (and sound) great, unlike other channels that upload 4K trailers that look/sound no better (and often worse) than the original HD version.

Comparison between our "special sauce" upscaled 4K versus basic 4K upscaling
Our 4K quality (left) compared to your standard 4K upscaled trailer – click to enlarge

Of course, your output is only as good as your input, which is why we almost always use ProRes high bitrate (150 Mbps+) sources (not quite uncompressed quality, but close enough) for our trailers. So while we won’t be the first to upload a trailer, we’ll always try to upload the best quality version.

With this promo out of the way, let’s get to the news.

High Definition

So the big news this week, according to many in the press, is that Apple has shut down iTunes. But for those that read articles beyond the headline, you will have realised that Apple didn’t really shut down iTunes. For one, those of us who haven’t yet drunk the Apple kool-aid and still opting to use Windows will be stuck with the frustrating iTunes software to do everything from music downloads to software updates to backups (the fact that the software did so much, too much in fact, is one of the key complaints against the much-maligned software).

A screenshot of the iTunes software
iTunes 2001 – 2019: Will not be missed

Secondly, the iTunes store will remain the way it is, still allowing you to download and store your content locally if you still don’t trust the cloud. So the stories of “the end of downloads” are a bit exaggerated, which was never going to happen while Apple is still making money from them (about a billion a year – down a lot from its peak and a fraction of streaming these days, but hey, who says no to a billion dollars, right).

So what exactly are the changes? For one, on iDevices, the iTunes app will be replaced with three different apps: Music, Podcasts and Television. By splitting the bloated iTunes app into three separate apps, it allows each app to be better customized for the user’s needs, and to have an interface that’s better suited for the content in question. You got to remember that iTunes started out as a media player before it morphed into software that attempted to do everything. So it’s a great idea for the three iTunes sub-apps to go back to their roots.

As for how will Mac people do updates, backups and restores? They will find the same functionality that used to be in iTunes as part of the Finder app, which should have been the way from the get-go. I don’t know about you, but I think using a media player to do OS updates and system backups makes zero sense, and it’s something even the worst Windows versions (Me, Vista, in no particular order) didn’t force users to do. So it’s ironic that Windows people are still stuck having to use iTunes to do everything.

Moving quickly away from the beginnings of a Mac vs Windows flame war, and to the upcoming Netflix vs Disney+ flame war, it appears many in the U.S. are already aware of Disney+ despite almost zero promotional stuff so far.

And the awareness to sign-up ratio is actually pretty good, with 22% of U.S. households appear willing to sign up. And a great sign for Disney is that the group with the highest potential sign-up rate is households with kids, which surely has to be the Mickey Mouse company’s main demographic.

A screenshot of the Disney+ interface
Disney+: There’s something there for everyone, but probably not enough to seriously harm Netflix

Also interesting was seeing what kind of content each age group were most drawn to when deciding whether to sign up or not. 35 and older people (me!) were most drawn to the Star Wars stuff on Disney+ (that’s true for me!). 25 to 35-year olds, the group most likely to have young children and most likely to have grown up with Disney animated hits like The Lion King and Aladdin were most interested in Disney’s animated hits. And 18 to 24-year olds wanted to watch the Marvel stuff the most, the studio that has produced the biggest hits for Disney in recent times. It all makes sense!

But Disney+ is still no Netflix killer. For one, Netflix will have content from Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, while Disney+ will obviously be limited to only Disney branded content. Disney has also said that Disney+ will be more family oriented, and so don’t expect to see series like Sex Education and You, or even the fantastic When They See Us. These would most likely end up on Disney’s other streaming platform, Hulu, if they ever get made. And that’s a big if because Disney’s original production budget is minuscule compared to Netflix’s ($500 million versus $15 billion). If anything, Hulu has a better chance of competing with Netflix than Disney+, especially if Disney decides to throw more content into the platform.

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Well, that’s all we have this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (May 12, 2019)

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day!

Not a mum/mom myself, so I have to work today. Which is just as good, as we do have some news to cover, and as I’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks, this will serve as the last WNR for a bit.

I’m still having a lot of fun with my new broadband connection (especially the much faster uploads), so have uploaded many more trailers to our YouTube channel.

I’m putting my knowledge to good use upscaling some of them to 4K (with 5.1ch audio upmix as well), optimizing them for clarity, without making them look (or sound) too artificial. All using free tools that you can download from Digital Digest as well, tools like MeGUI, AviSynth and filters like Nnedi3/nnedi3 rpow2 and SpecWeb.

Anyway, onto the news.

Copyright

There’s a new way to stream pirated movies online, and you don’t have to go to a dodgy site to do so (unless you consider Facebook dodgy, which is a fair point these days). Pirates are using Facebook Watch Parties to stream popular pirated content, such as new episodes of Game of Thrones, and Facebook can’t always get to them as quickly as they should.

Game of Thrones being streamed illegally on Facebook

What Facebook is going through it pretty normal though for a new video platform, which Facebook’s Watch platform/section qualifies as. Pirates will always find a way to exploit a new video platform to host their stuff, and it’s up to the platform to figure out a way to stop them. YouTube has had to deal with it, and Vimeo and Dailymotion are still dealing with it (and not doing as good a job as YouTube). When Twitch first launched, pirated content was everywhere on it, and it’s still there if you look for it, especially for big TV events like the last season of Game of Thrones.

But for all the problems with Facebook these days, this one is probably the least serious. Unless you’re a content owner, of course.

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It may end up being the biggest movie ever, but ‘Avengers: Endgame’ will be “free” to watch for anyone who’s signed up to Disney+.

Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream Avengers: Endgame on December 11

Disney has announced the mega-blockbuster will be available for unlimited streaming on Disney+ in December, one month after the streaming service launches. This follows the previous announcement that ‘Captain Marvel’ will be one of the “launch” titles for the platform, which will cost $6.99 per month.

If the release schedule of the previous ‘Avengers’ movie is any indication, December will be roughly 3 months after ‘Endgame’ launches on home video, suggesting that “three months” will be the typical delay between Blu-ray and Disney+ releases.

Disney is also trying to buy the part of Hulu that they don’t own from Comcast, suggesting the company still have big plans for the streaming platform, even after Disney+ launches.

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That’s all for this week, and for the next couple of weeks. Until then, have a (few) great one(s).