Tag Archives: streaming

Is Netflix Worth It Anymore?

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber from damn near day one.

I’ve certainly appreciated having the service there as an entertainment alternative long before video streaming was a remote possibility. I’d have three DVDs out at a time and often forget I was holding onto them for months on end. You could say that I’ve wasted a lot of money on Netflix – far more than I would have spent at a local video rental store.

So, last year, I decided to drop the 3-disc option and go with the 1-disc plan plus the on-demand streaming – even though the streaming selection was seemingly stunted (though nowhere as bad as Hulu’s lackluster movie library). For the most part, that’s worked out well – but I still feel like I’m overpaying for media that I’m not remembering to digest.

This morning, news came down the pike (yes, pike – not pipe) that Netflix is staging new subscription plans for us. Yippee? Nope.

There are now 2 DVD-Only plans:

  • $8 a month for one disc at a time
  • $12 a month for two discs at a time

Now there’s a separate option:

  • Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $8 a month

They think that this change “is a terrific value.” I think it’s a load of shit. This is “forcing” me to drop their disc-only plan altogether (based on my patterns). When I want to rent a DVD, I’ll simply make an online reservation for my local Redbox station. I’d be tempted to drop the Netflix streaming plan if there were a viable alternative elsewhere – but judging by how many documentaries my girlfriend loves to watch, that’s not practical.

I guess at the end of the day, I’m going to be spending less money with Netflix (by $2). Thanks?

Five Things to Avoid When Producing Web Video

There are a million guides out there that will tell you what frame rate, bit rate, codec, and editing software to use. These tips are excellent and should be followed to create as professional a broadcast or podcast as possible. Unfortunately, there are some common traits among amateur web video that find their way in to otherwise perfect productions. Here are five things to avoid when producing web video:

If you’ve got a camera on you, it’s also on everything behind you. As a rule of thumb, everything the camera is or might be pointed at should be treated like a movie or television set. If you film out of your bedroom, take five minutes prior to hitting the record button to make the bed and arrange things around the room to look as open and uncluttered as possible. What may be a typical room to you will look like a terrible mess on camera. Viewers have a tendency to imagine the whole room based on the little section they see. If that little piece isn’t right, the whole space may as well be a cluttered mess.

Constant Movement
Video made for the web is compressed and compression does funny things to video. If you have a habit of holding the video camera with your hand and pointing it at yourself or your subject, break it. Invest in a tripod or mount that keeps the background as still as possible. This will not only improve the way your video looks after compression, but it will also improve your subject’s appearance. Each frame is given a certain allotment in terms of bits to generate the image. If little has changed from the frame before it, those bits can be used to make what is moving in the shot look smoother.

Bad Lighting
Lighting is essential to good web video. If you use a low-watt table lamp that looks alright in person, you can bet the video will prove otherwise. It’s better to have lighting that is a bit too bright than a bit too dark. Artifacts, which appear as colored specks or scattered snow, show up much more in a dark shooting environment. Give your subject some light, and if you want to make things look dark and dreary, you can do it in post using a video editing program.

Low or Inconsistent Audio
Most decent video editing programs out there will include audio controls. If you can’t actually affix a virtual audio processor and/or compressor to the audio track, take the time to normalize the audio to a reasonable volume. Audio normalization is one of the fastest and most effective ways to turn mediocre video in to something more professional. If you have the means, work out a system to mic your subject to get the best audio possible. Built-in microphones on smartphones and camcorders can work, but you are far more likely to get good results with an external mic. Because many viewers actually listen more than watch web programs, poor audio may be one of the most important things to avoid when producing web video.

Bad Camera Placement
The subject you are filming should be front and center on screen. If your web video has someone’s head at the bottom of the frame with a large space between the top of their head and the ceiling of the video, you should consider repositioning either the subject or the camera. As a rule of thumb, allow no more than 10% of the total height of the video to show space over the head of your host. If you film at a wide angle from across the room, make sure that it’s clear the person doing the majority of the speaking is the focus of the shot. No mater how cool your set is, your production will suffer if it doesn’t revolve around the subject.

Netflix is Changing the Game and No One is Happy

Netflix Director of Product Management Jamie O’Dell announced today that the company will no longer allow customers to add physical DVDs to their queue from streaming devices such as the PS3 and iPhone. The claim is that they are trying to “concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly.” The powers-that-be at Netflix apparently feel that “providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality.”

The problem with this thought process is that many subscribers feel this is a huge step backwards. The desktop computer is becoming more obsolete in the days of mobile devices. Why, then, is Netflix only wanting to allow you to add movies to your queue when logged into the website itself? According to the comments being left on the announcement, people aren’t very happy – to say the least.

What are your thoughts? Is Netflix making the right move here, or have they gone a bit off the deep end?

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People Want iTunes in the Cloud

Today, market research company NPD released their findings after surveying millions of iTunes users: we want to see iTunes moved to the cloud. About 25% of iTunes customers would be very interested in a paid-for streaming service that will allow them to access their content on any device. The number of those interested was nearly double when dangling a free service.

Between seven million and eight million iTunes users in the U.S. would have strong interest in one of the paid subscription options, according to the report. These consumers indicated a willingness to pay a minimum monthly fee of $10 — either for streaming music or access to their personal music libraries on multiple devices. NPD estimates that there are 50 million iTunes users in the U.S. According to NPD’s music industry research, a model that offers iTunes users free access to their own music libraries would attract in the range of 13 to 15 million subscribers.

If such a model supported multiple devices, NPD estimated that approximately 8 million iTunes supporters would be willing to pony up around ten bucks per month. As the firm points out, that’s a billion dollar market just in the first year alone. The market would explode growth-wise as more and more people begin to understand what “the Cloud” is.

At 25% of their userbase, Apple is looking at about 15 million people in the U.S. alone. Were they to capitalize on this, they could easily be raking in $80 million per month in revenue. The question is… will they jump at the chance any time soon? What are your thoughts?

What Free Video Software Do You Use?

I came across two new pieces of software today that are both classified as “must-have”. They’re also both classified as being free. Both programs come from Miro, and are completely open-source. Developers are welcome to submit ideas for improvement to help enhance the video experience the Miro team is bringing to the table.

Miro Video Converter has presets that will convert video to the correct sizes and formats for popular phones, iPods, and other media players, including Android and Apple devices, as well as the PSP! It also can convert virtually any video file to MP4, Theora, or MP3!

The Miro Video Player is so much more than a simple video viewing tool. It can play almost any video file and offers over 6,000 free internet TV shows and video podcasts. It has a gorgeous and intuitive interface that is actually a joy to use. You can even use it to download torrents and podcasts, in addition to watching your media.

You have to love software that is easy to use, powerful, does what it says it will, is nice to look at and won’t cost you a penny!

Ustream for Live Video Feed Broadcasting

The Ustream gang has been working ’round the clock to fix any kind of showstoppers – and I’m happy to report that their hard work has paid off. The new Ustream.com is available for anybody to use. There have been quite a few changes:

  • Twitter integration on show pages – AWESOME!
  • Live, site-wide notification text feed at the top of all pages.
  • New front page promotion widget for featured shows.
  • Every show gets a http://ustre.am/8V styled short URL.
  • Recommended shows appear automatically on show pages.
  • The community can create highlights from recorded videos.
  • Status updates, though not integrated with ping.fm yet.
  • Elimination of WyldRyde IRC support.
  • It’s now Ustream.com, not Ustream.tv.

They tell me they’re working on squishing bugs, and I know I’ve sent them a few bits of feedback on what I’d like to see ’em address in the near future. You can (of course) still find me on my live page – complete with classic chat.

I think what’s most interesting is the addition of Twitter on the live page. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, as I can see it getting abused (and incessant public tweets annoying to disinterested followers).

As a side note, over 10,714,196 people have watched me live at some point – racking up a total of about 5,000,000 viewer hours. That’s insane…

How Do You Watch Videos With Friends?

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Some of you have been aware of the YouTube feature called ‘Streaming’. It’s where you can create a room, a play list of videos, and gather your friends together for a live interactive experience. That’s nice if all the videos you want to see are on YouTube. But what do you do when they aren’t? That’s when you go over to View2Gether.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could watch a video from YouTube, MySpaceTV, or other online videos at the same time with friends who are watching on their computers? We thought so too, and that’s how View2gether was born.

View2gether lets you watch videos in synchronized viewing with your friends, participate in real-time chat and search for videos that you can add to the list that everyone in the lounge sees, plus more.

Sure there’s webcam streaming, but View2gether is the only site on the web that lets you take content that you didn’t publish and watch it in synchronized view. When you enter an established lounge, the broadcast is already underway. Depending on your connection speed, and it usually takes only a few seconds, you’ll be synchronized with the rest of the lounge and everyone is seeing exactly the same thing at the same time.

Why not get some friends together and sign up for a free account? You can all get together in one place and easily watch all the videos you want. Add some pictures to your profile, create your own private watch lounge, and meet new people who have the same taste in videos as you.


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How to Stream Video Online for Free

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Many services charge money to help or allow you to stream content live over the Internet. Why pay for them, when you can use what I do. Ustream.tv is absolutely free!

Broadcasting live yourself is easy. Here’s all you need to do:

  • Go to Ustream.tv and sign up for a free account.
  • Once you’re signed up, click on the My Shows tab.
  • Click Start a New Show.
  • Click on Broadcast.

As long as you have a webcam and a microphone… you’re now broadcasting live… on the Internet… for FREE! It really is that easy.

If you have something interesting to say, or even new and different… why are you not already streaming? You should be.

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Streaming Live from the Podcast Hotel

I just sent this out a few minutes ago to my email subscribers. Since I’m streaming “behind the scenes” at the Podcast Hotel tomorrow and Saturday, I figured you should know to tune in. As today’s exerpiences and conversations with Eric Rice, dotBen, and Justin.tv illustrate – you never know what you’re going to get.

I’ve literally had no time to do much of anything over this past week. I’ve been throwing myself into helping people (yes, tech support – as in the TechTV days) in live video and audio chat, going on ’round the clock. When I’m asleep, someone’s usually awake.

Granted, it’s not always exciting – but there’s always someone there, and you never know where I’m going to be or who is going to be with me. We had quite engaging conversations over the past couple of days (as well as some downtime). I don’t think many of you have stopped by yet?

And if it doesn’t sound interesting at all to you, consider that there’s virtually no other way to have a dynamic conversation with someone who can’t see you (though you can see him). It’s been great fun to do.

I mention it again tonight specifically because I’ll be on location once more (you probably missed me shooting live in front of an audience of hundreds at Web 2.0 a couple of days ago). Today, I’m streaming conversations from San Francisco’s Podcast Hotel – and your commentary is very much a part of the ongoing “show.” I’m begging you: participate.

It’s kind of like Picks, only the community (you!) decide what gets picked throughout the day. You don’t have to turn on your webcam for this – it’s just me and whoever happens to be with me at the time (sometimes, that’s Ponzi – who really can’t wait to teach geeks how to cook, apparently).

So, with that – I should be back online within a few hours (gotta sleep now). All of my picks tomorrow will be going out live in chat. With video and audio, hopefully, streaming all the while. If you’d like to connect with your own IRC client for chat, you can log onto irc.wyldryde.org and join channel #Chris (The wonderful gang from #lockergnome are keeping everybody in line here, too). Don’t worry – all you have to do is watch and listen.

I’d much rather have you participate, though.

Podcasting? Time-shifted media? Live blows them away because you have a chance to shape what happens. Barring any unforseen technical difficulties, we should be good to go.