Big Screen Blog

Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Work-In-Progress (and not in progress): Codename “Gaza” and Codename “FatLady”

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There’s a new (exciting? killer? lemon?) Big Screen product that’s been in development these past few weeks (inbetween everything else) – something which I briefly mentioned on my Work In Progress page (on the new updated mobilewares site) – "Big Screen Movies". I also opened my big mouth on a couple of forums about this product (and even posted a screenshot) – which resulted in a flurry of ‘will it do feature x + y’ and ‘can I beta test it’ type emails.

So this post is all about this product – and also update everyone on whats up with Big Screen TV Series as well  – as it’s somewhat related (and is also the product I get the most emails/comments about).

Here’s a couple of teaser pics of Big Screen Movies (don’t try to read to much into these yet – they might completely change between now and release) – the main browsing screen (with some 3d covers – note the edges/shadowcasting effects) – and below this – the details screen for a movie.

 

I thought I’d take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book (and others) – and give some awe inspiring(?) (or just plain odd/silly) codenames to my products. Although I won’t be the first on that count either (odd/silly that is) – as we already have codename ‘Fiji’ from Microsoft  – and I think there was possibly 2 (or even 3?) military coups in Fiji since Microsoft’s product started development (are they just trying to tell us something here).

 

So anyhow – here’s the wrap :

  • Big Screen TV Series – CodeName "Gaza". As you saw from screenshots posted back in early dec ’06 – this product has been working/running for some time now – but not released to the public yet. Apart from it not being bulletproof enough for release yet – the main showstopper has been the uncertianty regarding the data it uses/downloads – and I basically don’t have a team of lawyers handy to make sure I’m not going to get into any legal trouble. I won’t go into all the details here – but it’s a case of ‘who really owns the data’  – as it’s really unclear where the IP lies in the episode data etc. There’s also a legal battle raging over a very similar topic in Australia (NineMSN vs IceTV) which is somewhat testing the ‘ownership’ factor of this kind of information.  

    So anyhow given the arguments/disagreements and numerous people claiming to own the same data – I thought ‘Gaza’ was a good choice of code name. (although ‘Beijing’ was a second choice here)

    One approach I was taking on this product to try to avoid this issue is to make a really comprehensive Desktop based editor/manager which allowed users to edit all the data from their own materials (and remove the auto-import features). The problem there though is that there aren’t any ‘other’ programs around (that I know of) – that will edit/manage this data for you – so it would require quite a significant effort by the end user to add all the info in the first place.

    So anyhow – codename ‘Gaza’ remains in copyright limbo still – and doesn’t have any release date as such… (so sorry to disappoint everyone that is waiting).   If anyone knows of a completely legal/easy way for this all to work – or you for example work at MSN TV/Movies or TV.com and you want to supply a good clean/legal feed then please contact me.  A user has also come forward and expressed interest in writing a 3rd party tool that would download the data and ‘talk’ to Big Screen TV Series – so this may also be a potential way forward if it eventuates. If I have any updates on this – I’ll post about it – otherwise in limbo it will remain.

  • Big Screen Movies – CodeName "FatLady". You probably haven’t visited ‘FatLady’ before – and no it isn’t a place – but just a reminder that this product will be out ‘when the fat lady sings’…  (so please don’t all send me ‘can we have it – is it ready’ style emails as per BSTV).  What I will say – is that it’s going to happen a lot sooner though then codename Gaza – as there’s no showstoppers with data preventing it’s release.

    In a nutshell – Big Screen Movies is essentially a replacement for DVD Library/Gallery feature found in Vista Media Center. Although DVD Library is very cool – there’s a bunch of limitations imposed on what types and formats of movies you can browse/view, what metadata and imagery is available (if you’re not in the US the DvD info is a real problem) – and also doesn’t catalog your offline movies (ie DVD’s sitting on the shelf don’t appear until they are inserted in a drive).

    Big Screen Movies essentially removes these limitations by treating all types of Movies (online/offline, other formats etc) as equal citizens (ie the same sort of metadata etc can be provided regardless of location/format) – and then ups the ante by supporting a brand new XML metadata file and allowing all manner of imagery and media to be displayed (ie. back covers, gallery images, movie preview etc). 

    To save you having to enter all this new Metadata (and also to save me having to worry about copyrighted data issues) – Big Screen Movies Management program (Windows Desktop App) provides both it’s own movie editor – and also allows importing/synchronization of information/imagery from DVD Profiler and other Metadata sources. (which provide very rich multi region metadata for DVD movies – well beyond that coming from AMG).

    I’m going to go into a little more detail about this product below (and try to set some expectations right on what this product will and wont do) – but in summary – in the same way Gaza aims to be a replacement/enhancement to the inbuilt ‘Recorded TV’ section –  FatLady (Big Screen Movies) is a replacement/enhanced version of the ‘DVD Library’ found in Vista Media Center.

    I should also mention that FatLady is a reference to a female opera singer that sings the closing number – and in no way discriminating or villifying people with weight problems.

 

What is (and isn’t) Big Screen Movies – CodeName "FatLady"?

As mentioned above – FatLady aims to be the ‘DVD Library’ but on steroids.. so in more detail – here’s a comparisson of what ‘DVD Library’ offers vs what FatLady provides (note this is NOT a final list – just a snapshot based on the current dev version).

 Feature

Vista Media Center DVD Library

Big Screen Movies Codename Fatlady

 Disc Media

DVD, HD-DVD, BluRay (also playable from local harddrive) 

DVD, HD-DVD, BluRay (also playable from local harddrive) 

 Offline Media

No Offline Media Support – Information/Item Not Available for Movie unless Actual Movie is residing on HD, DVD Drive or Changer.

Allows you to catalog/browse Movies that aren’t online – such as Movies sitting in your own DVD Library on the shelf. (you will be prompted to insert Correct Disc if you try to playback an offline/shelf title).

Also supports ‘other’ locations of movies such as Wishlist, OnLoan, Rental, ToOwn, OnlineDownload, At Theatres, Coming Soon – which in turn allows FatLady to be used for a lot more than just viewing locally available files/media.

 Video Files

DVR-MS Files (Must be marked ‘IsMovie’ and available via RecordedTV directories)

Any CODEC/FORMAT MediaCenter can normally play (ie dvr-ms, wmv, divx, avi, mpg, mov etc) – subject to appropriate codec being installed. Transcode 360 support (or other) is also being looked at for Extender usage.

 Image Support

Small/Large Image Covers supplied by AMG /or/ single Folder/File.JPG (for dvd’s using Folder.JPG will disable AMG Metadata info).

Supports All Options from DVD Library (Folder.JPG, AMG URL’s etc) – however they don’t exclude availability of MetaData.
Also supports
– Unlimited number of images
– Front + Back Covers
– Small/Medium/Large Versions of Covers
– Movie Posters
– Any other Images you want can also be associated with a movie for viewing in UI (ie Cast, Scene’s etc).

 MetaData Sources

DVDID.XML/AMG MetaData (for DVDs/BR/HDDVD)
DVR-MS File MetaData (For Movies from TV – data originally sourced from EPG).

Everything as supported by DVD Library.
Supports new Big Screen Movies Movie XML File Format (.bsdvd.xml and .bsvideo.xml).
Supports Importing from Other DVD Management software such as DVD Profiler.

 Management Software

N/A. Movies are autoscanned via DVDID or DVR-MS Metadata auto scanned.

Big Screen Movies Manager Software provided. Gives comprehensive editing/importing/management capabilities for your collection.
Collection is persisted via temporary Movie Index – plus portable .xml/.jpg files that can reside with your Video/Media files. (similar to how the .dvdid.xml file is created along with your online DVD in Media Center).

 Startup Time/Caching

Recorded TV Movies available immediately – other content such as Online/Changer/Drive based DVD’s may take 10-30+ seconds (or more) to appear as information is scanned each time it’s loaded. (on systems with a large amount of titles on the harddrive).

Instant Load ~2 seconds – (subject to Addin DLL being cached) – otherwise some additional o/head on very first load.
Movie ‘Index’ is created/managed by management software (and can be rescanned in UI) – so already available when you load Addin (no scanning required). 
When you go to view Movie Details – then some additional checks may be performed to verify existence of required files (if applicable).

MetaData Viewable in UI

Single Page of Information displayed when Movie is Selected.
Data Provided by DVDID Providor or DVR-MS Metadata.
Title/RunTime/Studio/Credits/Overview/Image/Year/Ratings.

Comprehensive ‘Movie Details’ Section when Movie is Clicked. Displays/Visualizes all data supplied by BSDVD.xml/BSVIDEO.xml file – including these extra things you don’t see in DVD Library :
– Comprehensive Movie Details (inc Extended Overviews, Genre Support, Easter Eggs, Notes, Reviews, User Ratings and much more.)
– Imagery – supports bigger larger cover sizes, back covers, posters, and gallery pictures per each movie
– Comprehensive DVD Feature/Format information. (ie. Extras offered, types of Media – and other information normally on dvd back cover)
– Viewable Chapter/Scene List.
– Comprehensive Actor/Production Crew listings (including Parts played, VoiceOver info and roles performed).
– Detailed Video Track information (ie Aspect Ratio’s, Angles)
– Detailed AudioTrack information (with logos/details of all languages and types of streams offered)

 Box Set + Additional Disc support.

N/A. All Discs treated as seperate titles (but share same metadata)

Support for grouping Discs/Files/Offline titles into Boxsets. (user is prompted for appropriate Media if not available locally).

 TV Series Boxset Support

Very Basic – As above (for boxsets)

User can associate Recorded TV Files and other Video files to a TV Series ‘BoxSet’ – hence provides a partial solution to those wanting to catalog TV Shows (where a tv series has been released on Boxset).

Changer Support/DISCID Scanning

Supported

Not going to be supported initially …

Just to also point out – you’ll note above that Big Screen Movies won’t initially support changers (don’t have one to test with) or scanning of DISCID’s – however these may be added in future (so it won’t quite do all the tricks of DVD Library yet).

I’m about to write a follow up post on Big Screen Movies with a diagram (of how/where data can come from) and some screenshots of the Manager program. So please read the next (imminent) post for even more information.

However just before I do that – I thought I’d include a mini faq (and have a stab at what questions people are going to ask) –

Q.   Is Big Screen Movies Bigger/Louder/Funnier then Brian Binnerups My Movie’s plugin – and which one should I install?

A.   ‘No’ – Big Screen Movies aims to replace DVD Library (well – almost all of it’s features) and will directly target these existing DVD Library users. If you are using My Movies – its likely you have specific needs that My Movies solves (and My Movies does a really nice job in many areas such as supporting MCE2005, external players and a bunch of other cool things) – and Big Screen Movies is NOT aiming to add these sort of features. (however may add transcode360 support – or something else for Xbox’s)

Also more pertinently – today – you can also only install My Movies (Big Screen Movies isn’t ready yet!) – so I think that answers this question too.

 

Q. Will Big Screen Movies provide feature X, Y or  Z. Will it (or can you make it) take your dog for a walk or make you breakfast?

What I’ve written here (and in the next post) is what it does (and is currently intending to do). I’m first focusing on getting all of the abovementioned functionality bulletproof and releasable – as I think all of it is essential for the base product. When I’m ready for some feature requests / and to let others try it I’ll make an announcement – otherwise please read this as a ‘vision’ statement of where it’s currently heading (but may not necessarily end up).

 

Q. You’re graphics and UI’s suck (and I can’t stand different UI’s) – can you make it look EXACTLY like Vista Media Center DVD Library?

The above screenshot is preliminary prototype of what it looks like right now (and some things are just there for experimentation purposes) – so don’t try to get too much out of it (there’s a lot more to see as well). I know people are going to want a similar experience to Vista – so I’m still looking at options (and may in fact just have support UI theme’s to make everyone happy). 

I’m also in two (or three) minds as to whether the Movie browsing should be a vertical scrolling list (ie as in  MCE2005) – a Horizontal one (as in Vista) or a 4xway menu (similar to VMC main menu but lists scroll continuously left/right and up/down changes categories).  I’m currently finding the Vertical style (as per screenshot) actually maximizes the browsing area for widescreen (so you can essentially see more covers at once) – and allows the side buttons to be hidden/retracted when not focused.

 

Q. When can I beta test it? How much will it cost?

As mentioned above – when I’m ready to let others try it I’ll make an announcement…  I’m currently estimating a public beta may be available by August (as I have a lot on my plate right now getting the other products ready for commercial release – and am going on holidays end of July).  As far as cost etc – I’m making some announcements soon on commercial release of some of the Big Screen Products (and the incredibly cheap prices I’m going to sell them for) – and as Big Screen Movies will eventually be a commerical product (after an extensive beta) – it’s not going to break the bank (and will set you back a few beers at most).

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Written by mobilewares

June 8, 2007 at 3:12 pm

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