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Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Anytime on Volt – New Aussie VOD Service (+MCE Addin)

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A new VOD (Video On Demand) service + website was launched today from Fairfax media called Anytime on Volt. Anytime joins the growing number of companies in the Australian Marketplace launching Movies on demand services.

Before I mention the MediaCenter stuff – this service seems to be a ‘little bit’ better value for money then the other offerings here (Bigpond Movies, Reeltime, the soon to be arriving IceTV) – and most of their movies are ~AUD$3.50 each (for unlimited watching on the pc it was downloaded to). Many of the other services are charging a LOT more (with some downloads from Reeltime costing in excess of $30) – so this makes it quite a bit more attractive. 

The actual content however seems to be mainly the sort of movies that are either already weeklies (or close to being that) at your local dvd store (and hence borrowable for $1 each/week) – so this doesn’t raise much excitement for me at all.

From viewing the trailers and test videos – the video quality also leaves a lot to be desired (although not much worse than the other companies) – and although it’s encoded at DVD 720×576 res – the bitrate is very low (160k/s). One trailer I watched for the ‘Ant Bully’ looked pretty crap due to the large amount of very noticable compression artifacts. (not something you want to see in a cg film). Another was amorphic aspect ratio – but they delivered a 16:9 aspect ratio video file with really crappy black borders (which had lots of light gray artifacts appearing – really making you notice it was there).

Like Reeltime – they have a deal in place with iiNet so that you don’t pay for your downloads if you use that ISP (which could otherwise double or quadruple the cost of the download).  Bigpond movies also provides unmetered movie downloading – however if you are using BigPond ISP you are almost certainly being robbed blind for your internet access (so there’s not much point trying to make out you are saving on bandwidth). iiNet on the other hand has not half bad ADSL2+ plans (if you have one of their DSLAM’s in your local exchange). 


The Media Center Addin

While I was browsing their site – I stumbled accross a Media Center addin for their service. I use the word stumbled – because there is pretty much no mention of it anywhere on the site (or in the media) – and only found it after clicking on a link titled ‘TV View’ buried in their website. This button was actually unclickable until I had gone into the ‘test video’ screen – which had in turn installed a series of DLL’s (ie. Download Manager, Some Codecs for whatever DRM system they are using etc). The strange thing is that it is promoted as being for WinXP/IE6+ – so it’s odd that they assume people will have media center for that button to work.

The MediaCenter addin is unfortunately a <groan> HTML Addin (remotely hosted) – and hence reeks of 6 yr old technology. It also uses some ActiveX – so it won’t work on x64 Vista at all (dies after a couple of screens) – even though all their web based stuff works fine (including the video playback and download manager).

The addin looks quite nice graphically (when your screen ‘eventually’ loads) – but there’s an absolutely agonizing delay between screens (5-10 seconds) while you wait for each page to be downloaded – making it quite an unusable product. Given that they install so much stuff to the local drive for DRM etc (and a resident download manager service) – I really don’t understand why they didn’t put all the Addin content locally as well (and update it from the site as needed). The navigation was also a little screwy – with some very unlikely buttons acting as back buttons (and given the long wait between screens this wasn’t appreciated at all).

Weirdly enough – I don’t think there’s any subsequent way to launch the media center addin without loading up their website and clicking on that button. (although I’m sure they could get a downloadable version together without too much effort). No icons were installed in either Program Library or the Online Spotlight sections. When testing the addin however – they did mention ‘Online Spotlight’ (when I got some error) – so this is maybe its intended home.

Anyhow – I don’t think I’ll be jumping to use this one just at the moment. Maybe if they do a Vista addin that might make it a whole lot more attractive an option.

Anyhow here’s some screenshots of it running on my Vistax32 machine. Looks nice – performs, well… er  not so nice..





Written by mobilewares

April 17, 2007 at 8:57 am

Posted in Vista MediaCenter

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