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HD Report | June 22, 2017

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Netflix adds hundreds of streaming indie titles

February 1, 2010 |

wendy-and-lucy-330x186Netflix has announced the addition of 300 titles from several independent film distributers including The Criterion Collection, Gravitas Ventures, Kino Lorber, Music Box Films, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Regent Releasing. If the titles aren’t available for streaming now, Netflix says they will be available early next year. (Next year? Your guess is as good as mine.) However, some deals with the distributors include new releases as they become available while under contract. Read More

Boxee following suit on paid content

January 22, 2010 | 3

boxee-box-dlink-lrgThe big news this week comes in the form of announcements from online services to require subscriptions or fees for certain content. YouTube and Hulu have been part of the talk, although Hulu’s fees are still rumored. Both follow the Wednesday news that The New York Times is planning a subscription program in which a limited amount of content would be offered free, but additional content would have to be paid for. Read More

Wiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Nintendo Fans To Get Netflix

January 13, 2010 | 1

wii_netflix_330x186Nintendo Wii owners will be able to access unlimited streaming media from Netflix this spring. Users will access video-on-demand content (aka, Netflix’s ever-expanding library) the same way that PlayStation 3 owners currently do: by disc. The big caveat for Wii owners is that, though they access the service via a broadband connection much like PS3 and Xbox owners, the Wii itself does not support high-definition video, topping out at 480 scanlines for a good ol’ standard-def experience. Wii owners will not be able to play back the HD content from Netflix, but they will have access to it for the bare minimum subscription that Netflix requires with no extra charge, unlike Xbox 360 owners who pay a hefty $50-a-year to access what PS3 users generally get for free.  Read More

VUDU expands service to HDTVs and BD players

January 12, 2010 |

vudu_logo_400pxVUDU announced it will expand its streaming services this year to select HDTVs and Blu-ray players from LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, SANYO, Sharp, Toshiba and VIZIO. LG was the first to offer VUDU on HDTVs last year, and this year 32 models from the company will be VUDU ready. Read More

28 Days Later… or, How Netflix Made Nice With Warner Bros.

January 6, 2010 |

warner-_bros_home_video1Yes it’s CES time for just about every major newspaper and tech-journal, but one announcement of importance this week hasn’t come from there, but directly from Warner Bros., which has announced it’s no longer going to immediately provide new releases to Netflix on their rental-ready street date.  Instead, Warners is hoping to set a trend for other studios and content producers to follow by creating a sell-through only window for these new disc releases. Read More

Could Hulu find itself without content?

December 1, 2009 | 2

hulu-logoVia the news wires this morning… Vivendi S.A. is now poised to give their blessing to one of the biggest media deals this decade: a merger of Comcast with NBC/Universal that would create a joint venture largely controlled by Comcast.  What could this mean for VOD fans of online content that is now free for the viewing? Read More

Indy Tolkien film ‘Born of Hope’ to debut online

November 30, 2009 | 4

born_of_hope_trollIndependent film “Born of Hope” is a 70-minute independent film inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. The film pre-dates Lord of the Rings and tells the story of Aragorn’s parents, Arathorn and Gilraen. Dailymotion will broadcast the film in HD starting Dec. 1. Read More

Netflix on Playstation 3 – extended review

November 18, 2009 | 8
The PlayStation 3 presents itself as many things… a highly advanced gaming device, a top-notch (reference quality) Blu-ray player, and an Internet enabled pathway to a world of downloadable games, movies, television and BD-Live enabled content.  Most everything I’ve tapped into thus far has either met or exceeded my expectations for the PS3 Slim; however, there’s always those items that aren’t so great (the PS3’s web-browser is terrible, with limited access to some of the most popular sites… yes, you can get your web-enabled email, but what about access to Hulu?  No dice!  Might as well be living behind a firewall in China).  With the announcement that the PlayStation 3 would be able to stream Netflix Instant Watch content in HD, it remained a mystery how that might work without a major system software or firmware update. Netflix and Sony soon announced the solution: A special Netflix-enabled Blu-ray disc that would access BD-Live via the Internet in order to stream content from Netflix’s growing Instant Watch library.  Depending on which tech forum you read, this required disc will probably disappear sometime in 2010 when Sony will release either a software or firmware upgrade that will make access to a user’s Netflix account more seamless. The fact that this isn’t yet a reality either stems from Sony not wanting to do an immediate upgrade or, more likely, due to a contract issue that Netflix has with Microsoft for the Xbox 360 regarding exclusivity.  Whatever… the disc solution is a viable alternative.  It works, and is relatively painless to set up and run while presenting no barrier to enjoying streaming movies and TV from your Netflix account.  For Netflix users and cinema geeks, it’s yet another dream come true.
The service is, of course, limited to those who already have a Netflix subscription, but for the second lowest subscription price (2-disc delivery plan) the door is open to a wide-ranging catalog of titles available for streaming. Users have a choice of loading up their Instant Watch queue via computer, or by choosing from various genre and title categories found directly in the onscreen Instant Watch menu.  First things first… there’s the little issue of procuring that special Netflix disc.  Users to either the Sony or Netflix site are usually directed to: HYPERLINK “http://www.netflix.com/NRD/PS3” \t “_blank” http://www.netflix.com/NRD/PS3.  The disc usually arrives within a few days of requesting it, and comes to your mailbox in a typical Netflix snail mail red envelope.  Be aware of this envelope because it (and the red disc sleeve) contains instructions on what to do next… not that it’s incredibly hard to figure out, mind you.  You’ll want to keep that protective disc sleeve handy, as this is one disc you won’t be returning to Netflix… and, yes— if lost, broken, etc. it can be replaced. The disc is required to access Netflix via the PS3 through the BD-Live network that most Blu-ray discs still have yet to fully exploit. Once you receive the disc, you’ll need to activate it via your Netflix account, but otherwise you’ll just load the disc as you would any DVD/BD disc. Users can access the Netflix icon that will appear under Video in the PlayStation’s XMB menu if the disc doesn’t start-up the moment it’s slipped into the PS3, but that’s about it for set-up. The disc will spin, access BD-Live through your PS3’s Internet capability and show a bright red Netflix splash screen before the Instant Watch menu comes up. The menu, you’ll note, is in HD, but the selections from Netflix vary and can be either SD or HD quality. Menu selections can include Recently Watched, New Arrivals, Drama, Horror, Romance, Television— the usual gamut of categories— but users will notice that these selections will change depending on what you add to your queue, watch and rate and are updated frequently.
I was able to access my Instant Watch queue immediately after loading the disc… well, most of it anyway. The queue seems clipped to a manageable amount of titles that the streaming onscreen menu can show. Similar to the Roku and the Xbox, the PS3’s Netflix menu offers a horizontal scroll back and forth through the titles available in your queue or by category in the tabbed header menu. It’s all accessed via the directional arrow buttons on the PS3’s controller or other type of remote recognized by the PS3 or an HDMI link. I’ll give higher marks to the Xbox (and Roku) for a more elegant look and easier navigational feel, but the PS3’s menu is just fine. By using the directional arrow button of the controller you’ll be able to get a more in-depth look at the title, be able to add it to your queue, watch it immediately and even rate it. Movie selection is limited to Instant Watch titles only and it’s easy to add them to the main queue via the onscreen navigation or by way of a computer logged into a Netflix account. In fact, that latter mode of operation still might be the preferred way to load up your own queue. As with the version of Instant Watch via computer, Netflix’s library is limited by licensing issues and the iron-fist of the studios and other distributors of content all looking to make a buck and get you to buy the newest, most popular films and television episodes rather than rent them. You can find a ton of cut-out Z-grade titles as well as older movies (the classics and not-so-classic). There’s a fine selection of BBC shows and a variety of quickie documentaries and biographies, but don’t despair… Netflix does manage to sneak in more popular fare and newer titles when it can, and its relationship with the Starz channel allows them to show a lot of great titles that premium cable generally carries. I’ve got Mystery Science Theater 3K episodes loaded as well as a Pixies concert, a documentary on the old, magnificent Z-Channel and The Visitor starring Richard Jenkins, who snagged a best actor nomination for the role a year back. Dexter, Weeds and other premium cable shows are available, but though you’ll find complete seasons of such stuff, you won’t find every season.
Once you’ve made a selection for viewing, the title will load and buffer, but from there operating the Instant Watch system is much like operating a DVR… you can pause, fast-forward and reverse through the selection as it plays, with an onscreen scene breakdown and timeline making it easy to navigate to and fro. As for image quality, well… that’s where Netflix on your HDTV leaves a lot of room for improvement. Standard-def content is the Instant Watch norm for now, but as HD titles begin to come online, they are added to replace the SD versions. SD movies and TV content varies between VHS-quality and the quality of early DVD releases before studios figured out that re-mastering their titles added value to them. Viewers will find an SD image that often lacks definition with soft edges and muddy colors that tend to bleed into one another. The soft image quality tends to affect everything from the weave on clothing to hair and film grain, making the details of some content hard to distinguish. In some cases, and depending on the strength of the network signal used, images can appear blocky and pixilated with some digital noise apparent during fast-moving scenes and scene transitions. However, that’s not the case for every title or viewing experience. If you have a solid and speedy Internet connection (especially over wi-fi) the image quality of most SD titles can be pretty darned good, though it won’t make you stop renting traditional DVD discs anytime soon… but, again, this is something that will evolve as Netflix continues to improve the compression and buffering of content while broadband networks also improve. For most folks, the image quality won’t be any worse than connecting a laptop showcasing Netflix Instant Watch to an HDTV via DVI-to-HDMI connectivity. HD content, of which there is an increasing amount, is of much better quality though it still suffers from some digital issues during scene transitions. The quality is generally up to 720p, and it helps to set your PS3 to a comparable resolution for playback. Adjust the picture setting of an HDTV display and the image quality of Instant Watch HD titles is very good though, again, it won’t make anyone with a true love of cinema stop renting or buying discs. The quality of Netflix’s HD content will almost certainly get better with time, but for now it’s more than serviceable and worth the cost for instant gratification rather than waiting for downloads (of negligible quality) from other on-demand services.
Netflix for the PS3 is perfect for those that can’t get enough content or have ditched their cable or satellite service, and most users will be very happy with the service even if they are new to the Netflix experience. The Netflix/PS3 disc may become superfluous within the next year, but for now it works wonderfully and does everything that was promised when the service was announced. As Netflix irons out licensing issues and other legal bugaboos, expect the service to evolve to include newer titles, though I love being able to find a lot of truly quirky and indie stuff via the Instant Watch service, and never tire of having access to the variety of content provided. I’ve repeatedly sat up to the wee hours since getting the Netflix/PS3 disc, watching more Instant Watch titles than I thought I’d dare to in one sitting. Much like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet (“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man whose had ALL he could eat?”) I don’t regret a moment of it… yet.

netflix-ps3-streaming-disc5The PlayStation 3 presents itself as many things… a highly advanced gaming device, a top-notch (reference quality) Blu-ray player, and an Internet enabled pathway to a world of downloadable games, movies, television and BD-Live enabled content.  Most everything I’ve tapped into thus far has either met or exceeded my expectations for the PS3 Slim; however, there’s always those items that aren’t so great (the PS3’s web-browser is terrible, with limited access to some of the most popular sites… yes, you can get your web-enabled email, but what about access to Hulu?  No dice!  Might as well be living behind a firewall in China). Read More

Netflix now streaming on Sony Bravia HDTVs

November 17, 2009 |
Good news for Netflix customers and Sony Bravia HDTV owners. Netflix will now stream to Sony BRAVIA Internet Video-capable HDTVs, previous BRAVIA models compatible with Sony’s BRAVIA Internet video link module, and the Sony Network Blu-ray Disc Player.
The Sony BRAVIA HDTVs now able to instantly stream content from Netflix include the W5100, Z5100, XBR9, and XBR10 series in 40-inch, 46-inch and 52-inch screen sizes.
As well as the HDTVs, the Sony N460 Network Blu-ray Disc player is also now able to stream content from the Netflix library. The N460, which is normally priced at $250, is now on sale for $213.
The Sony Electronics/Netflix partnership was forged back in July, while a separate partnership was made between Sony Computer Entertainment and Netflix to deliver streaming content on the Playstation 3.

sony_bravia_logo_300pxGood news for Netflix customers and Sony Bravia HDTV owners. Netflix will now stream to Sony BRAVIA Internet Video-capable HDTVs, previous BRAVIA models compatible with Sony’s BRAVIA Internet video link module, and the Sony Network Blu-ray Disc Player. Read More

Review: PS3 streaming Netflix disc

November 15, 2009 |

netflix_streaming_disc_330x186Just this week Netflix made available a special disc that allows its streaming movie service on Playstation 3 consoles. Once you get the disc (and it arrives usually next day after ordering), you insert the disc into the Playstation 3 to get an activation code. You then log-in to your Netflix account online and enter the code. Read More

Netflix ready for PS3, free trial and streaming disc offered

November 11, 2009 | 2

netflix_ps3_groupNetflix is officially ready to roll on Playstation 3 systems, and the partners are offering a free two-week trial which includes both home delivery and streaming services. But two weeks seems a bit stingy don’t you think? I guess you don’t gain any advantage being a PSN member, as this is the same offer any new Netflix member gets. Read More

Apple adds more HD titles to iTunes store

November 11, 2009 |

apple_itunes_hd_moviesApple’s iTunes has added a bunch of new HD content including Disney hit titles Bolt, Hannah Montana: The Movie, and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. With the HD movie purchase you also get smaller iPhone and iPod versions in standard definition. Read More

Best Buy dips into digital content delivery

November 9, 2009 | 3

bestbuy_store_330x186The L.A. Times this morning reports that Best Buy will be going the pure digital route, and offer content direct to the consumer with possible music and video-on-demand services.  As the market for DVD’s continues to shrink, it seems the new Blu-ray format doesn’t even seem to be getting a fighting chance amid consumer interest in getting content via broadband rather than through physical discs.  Read More

Apple redesigns Apple TV interface, adds features

October 29, 2009 |

apple tv hdApple has redesigned its Apple TV user interface, launching Apple TV 3.0 which is designed to make navigation quicker and easier. Purchased and rented content can now be accessed on the main menu, and additional features have been added. The software update download is free to Apple TV owners. Read More

EPIX HD to launch on FiOS TV

October 28, 2009 | 1

epix-websiteEpix HD and Epix standard-definition will launch on Verizon’s FiOS TV network this Friday, Oct. 30. The Verizon-exclusive service (a deal reached in July ’09) will also launch online, providing FiOS TV/Internet subscribers with 150 movies per month. This weekend, the network will offer a free preview and feature a two-hour Madonna concert “Sticky & Sweet: Live from Buenos Aires.” Read More

Hollywood and Netflix: You might have to wait a bit for that favorite new title

October 23, 2009 |

netflix_logo_newLove the ability of Netflix and other DVD rental services to have that new flick available from the moment it’s released for sale?  Well, those days might be over, very soon.  As the Los Angeles Times reports this morning, the major studios, suffering from a cratering of DVD sales due to the format’s saturation as well as the success of rental delivery services like Netflix, new threats from DVD-kiosk upstarts Redbox, and the lingering recession, are now fighting back against consumer disinterest by threatening to withhold new releases from the rental market.  Read More

Apple, Win7 Products Come To Market: No Blu-ray for you!!

October 21, 2009 | 1

windows-media-centerApple and PC manufacturers are set to release upgraded hardware technology this week in anticipation of Microsoft’s Windows 7 release.  Apple’s upgrades are simply shots across the Win7 bow, but PC manufacturers are gearing up for Win7 by utilizing high-definition screens as well as touch-screens compliant with the updated OS. Read More

Hulu may begin charging to view TV on web

October 5, 2009 | 3

Free Video on Demand service via the web (Web-VOD) may take a huge popularity hit should Comcast Corp. move forward in a possible merger of assets that includes NBC-Universal’s Bravo, SyFy (formerly SciFi) and Hulu.com properties.  Read More

Time Warner Cable delivers 50 Mbps in NYC

September 25, 2009 |

Time Warner Cable NYC launched Time Warner Cable Wideband Internet and Business Class Wideband Internet, delivering internet speeds up to 50 Mbps download, and 5 Mbps upload. Residential customers can have up to five devices simultaneously using the network. Read More

LG BD390 BD player adds VUDU HD

September 10, 2009 | 2

The LG BD390 Blu-ray Disc player will add streaming HD service from VUDU later this month, via a free automatic upgrade. The new service allows BD390 owners to buy or rent movies and TV shows from VUDU’s HD library. Read More