First Experience with iTunes TV Show

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Hello all,



I haven't heard a lot of first hand experience with this, so I thought I'd post on it.



I downloaded 6 episodes of Lost Season 3. I watched Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD after a friend of mine got me into it. Season 3 is of course not out yet, but I wanted to catch up so I could start watching the second half of Season 3 in real-time, one now.



Purchase Experience: Easy and fairly quick on a cable connection, Macbook C2D. It took a little over an hour to download 6 episodes.



I noticed that the default playback on the Macbook was 4:3. I have a Plasma display, and I planned to transfer the files to my iPod and playback through that. After transferring the files, I hooked up the iPod with a standard A/V out cable (if not using Apple's stupid proprietary cable, you have to connet the colors differently, but whatever).



Viewing: The quality was OK, and it did display in widescreen. It's nowhere near DVD quality in terms of sharpness, and blacks are not nearly as deep. They look grey by comparision. I would say it's slightly worse than non HD broadcast TV...probably like analog cable at best. Bright scenes are fine...dark scenes are not. There is pixelation in dark scenes that is noticeable. It was still enjoyable to watch, and played back with no skipping or other problems. I've finished 4 of 6 episodes.



Verdict: For my situation, it was a good option for $2.00 an episode. I wouldn't buy a season for viewing on a regular TV. Watching on an iPod is another matter. For me to consider an Apple TV in the future, I would have to see at least DVD quality. I also have a PS3, so DVD's may be on their way out for me too in terms of purchase. I can't imagine I'd be excited to download sub-DVD quality (and sub-digital cable SDTV) quality content when I could buy HD quality on disc.



Your thoughts an experiences? One question I have is, in your opinion...did displaying the video through the iPod reduce the quality?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    The quality of the video isn't as good as broadcast TV, but if I watch it on a 20-26" or so TV it looks surprisingly good. The dark scenes don't look as good because of the video compression, light scenes usually look really great.



    Crazy season eh? Have you seen the Desmond episode yet ( ep. 8 ) ??!!?!!?

    Lost def came back to it's original glory after the hiatus...
  • Reply 2 of 27
    guarthoguartho Posts: 1,208member
    I get my BSG via iTunes and watch via my iPod on a 19" CRT standard def TV. The quality is better than broadcast (of course I grew up with shitty reception) and better than my parent's sattelite. However when I was watching on my computer before I had an iPod I noticed that it looked like shit on my LCD but great on my CRT.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by psychobass213 View Post


    ...Crazy season eh? Have you seen the Desmond episode yet ( ep. 8 ) ??!!?!!?

    Lost def came back to it's original glory after the hiatus...



    I'm about to hit up ep.8 in the next few days. Ep 7 definitely kickstarted something equivalent to the "original glory".



    Given that they're going to close out the season - Yup, Season 3 is the last for Lost... I think they'll put a bit more effort into delivering...... (see below)









    ****SOME SPOILER WARNINGS DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE WATCHED UNTIL AND INCLUDING LOST SEASON 3 EPISODE 7****



















    ....................



    Yeah, as I was saying, Lost Season 3, I think they are going to close it out as a sort of... you know Season 1 was like it seemed that they were all "dead" and because of previous unsettled matters here was a space (purgatory) to continue their spiritual evolution.



    Season 2 put in a lot of weirdness and started losing the plot a bit. The flashbacks were starting to get hackneyed and somewhat irrelevant.



    Season 3 started off with that weirdness, but I think the rest of the season they're gonna pull it back and round it off with, yes, it could be this is all some sort of after-life imagining, but also there's the sci-fi element of the big conspiracy that is the Dharma project and all that. Who will make it back to their normal lives? Were their lives ever normal? What next for the Others held captive by Ben? Who is Ben?



    Hmmmmmmmmmm

    .......................
  • Reply 4 of 27
    A lot of randomness though in Lost, but at least the drama can be riveting, even if the plot is chaotic.

    Good to see Matthew Fox have a bit of time in the sun after Party Of Five. He's got movie potential, I think he wants to move on to that next.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by psychobass213 View Post


    ....Crazy season eh? Have you seen the Desmond episode yet ( ep. 8 ) ??!!?!!?

    Lost def came back to it's original glory after the hiatus...



    Heh. Just watched it. 8)
  • Reply 6 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post


    Viewing: The quality was OK, and it did display in widescreen. It's nowhere near DVD quality in terms of sharpness, and blacks are not nearly as deep. They look grey by comparision. I would say it's slightly worse than non HD broadcast TV...probably like analog cable at best. Bright scenes are fine...dark scenes are not. There is pixelation in dark scenes that is noticeable. It was still enjoyable to watch, and played back with no skipping or other problems. I've finished 4 of 6 episodes......Your thoughts an experiences? One question I have is, in your opinion...did displaying the video through the iPod reduce the quality?



    Hi, I don't have a video iPod, so I can't comment. I have however done some encoding research.



    Firstly, the contrast issue. CRT has very strong contrast. LCD screens and modern computers have evolved to have a much wider range of contrast. You take a high-res wallpaper, you can see some very fine and subtle details that would be "washed out" on a low-res CRT.



    Secondly, MPEG-4 (xvid, divx, h.264) has a nasty side effect. It is an exemplary codec. But at low bitrates, it suffers from blockiness in low-contrast, particularly shadow areas. Precisely what you mention.



    Bright, high-contrast film scenes look fantastic. Shadow/ Night scenes are "splotchy".



    At this stage, let's just say I am thankful that I can keep up with the latest shows. I am drawn into the drama, and occasionally I notice artifacts, or my own reflection (glossy LCD screens), but you know, things are OK.



    It's a classic story of "remediation" -- One new technology does not necessarily replace the other, but instead adds to the mix and evolves "older" media in various ways.

    http://www.amazon.com/Remediation-Un...e=UTF8&s=books



    Along this evolution is human perception as well. A CRT standard-def is displaying much less detail, yet an MPEG4 looks blocky and unclear despite having MORE detail. Just because we get so used to watching TV on a TV, and using a computer on a computer (now LCD) screen.



    If you take computer games, a 1280x1024 or 1600x1200 latest PC game looks excellent on a decent 17" or 19" wide LCD. Put that on a CRT computer screen even, and things start to look "blurred", quite a bit of graphic details (light effects, explosions, 3D textures and shadows) are lost



    MPEG4, H.264, etc for high bitrate (like 8000kbit/sec +++) 720p and 1080p though looks superb on, IMO, high-spec'ed plasma screens. DVDs upscaled look superb.



    Plasmas have deeper, richer, velvety blacks, a natural "smoothness" to things.



    Big LCD TVs or screens, when displaying low-res material (anything lower than DVD-quality) that is also highly compressed (for ease of download) like Apple iTunes Video and Movies and Xvids and Divx's... do look somewhat nasty.



    But obviously, they are popular. In terms of official legal sales and downloads, and P2P. People are willing to trade aesthetics (which they may or may not appreciate to various degrees) for ease of obtaining and watching the latest material.



    YouTube videos are pretty horrendous, aesthetically. But they're a quick, there's a sense of intrigue and community, and work with the younger generation's attention span.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Guartho View Post


    I get my BSG via iTunes and watch via my iPod on a 19" CRT standard def TV. The quality is better than broadcast (of course I grew up with shitty reception) and better than my parent's sattelite...



    I used to watch a bit of Apprentice on a 19" or so CRT standard def TV. Hooked up the iBook to the TV, 'coz my mum wanted to watch the series too. It ended up to be about similar quality or just under the MPEG2-coded material off our standard def satellite PayTV.



    Like I said before though, I'm used to the blocky stuff. I got some nice encodes, h.264 704x288, off TheMatrix(1999) DVD - such as the Lobby Fight and Morpheus vs Neo. Nice to fire that up in FrontRow every now and then. Hella lot more convenient that finding DVD, putting in DVD, going through menu to get to that particular chapter, etc. etc.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sunilraman View Post


    I'm about to hit up ep.8 in the next few days. Ep 7 definitely kickstarted something equivalent to the "original glory".



    Given that they're going to close out the season - Yup, Season 3 is the last for Lost... I think they'll put a bit more effort into delivering...... (see below)



    Season 3 is not the last, they said 5 at most but this is def not the last season.



    The producers did promise that if they went into a 6th season they would reveal that all the characters are zombies....



    but yeah...there's at least another season and almost definitely 2. I say bring it on as long as they can tie it all up and not turn it into the x-files...



    see you in another life brotha
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by psychobass213 View Post


    ...see you in another life brotha



    Heh. Awesome

    You'll have to excuse me now, I've got to go pour myself a McCutcheon....
  • Reply 10 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by psychobass213 View Post


    ...and not turn it into the x-files...



    I thought by the time the XFiles Movie came out that was enough of the whole "mythology" revealed, because prior to that the season on TV had a lot of the "Alien black oil" stuff happening and this and that...... Krycek: Best TV Villain of the 90s !! That and the Borg, perhaps...



    I think I stopped really watching XFiles after the XFiles Movie... Got more into Deep Space Nine, and ST:NextGen (which I thought was alright at the time but I certainly couldn't tolerate it now).



    Ah, yes, melgross, this is "classic" TV SciFi - Stuff from the 90's. Don't you dredge up LostInSpace or something ... though I will accept original Dr. Who, of course.



    Pfft... What are kids today watching? Rubbish like The OC?
  • Reply 11 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post


    ...I also have a PS3, so DVD's may be on their way out for me too in terms of purchase. I can't imagine I'd be excited to download sub-DVD quality (and sub-digital cable SDTV) quality content when I could buy HD quality on disc....



    You might have to wait a year or two for a good solid BluRay catalogue to be built up, true 720p or 1080p material.



    For those interested in MPEG4 | H.264 encoding, Doom9 is the best resource, but it is hella confusing to get into but baby steps and one will know what the heck they're on about with "quantisation matrixes" and in-loop deblocking and all that kind of stuff.

    http://www.doom9.org



    <rambling>Side point for anyone interested. I have noted that in the case of MPEG2, it worked out very well that compression artifacts have melded nicely into the "film grain" that is naturally present in movies. That's why I still love a good DVD widescreen "print". On a CRT it is crispy and on reasonable LCD computer/TV screen and Plasma it's got good contrast and natural "film grain"/ colouration aesthetic qualities.



    MPEG2 was closely developed with the studios and filmmakers, I feel, because after the LaserDisc debacle they wanted a good solid, no-messing around, no competing-format-bullsh1t standard.



    The MPEG4 spec on the other hand IMHO was designed to be more technology-centric for very high bitrate to very low bitrate delivery platforms. The movie studios are kept happy because there is plenty of "overhead" in the spec for 1080p and 720p "prints" to look solid. Shadow areas should not show the blockiness and contrast issues at those resolutions and appropriately-adjusted high bitrates for BluRay and HD-DVD.



    MPEG4 is a bit concerning because of it's current implementations that show sub-DVD quality. But remember, the bitrates are like 1/2 to 1/4 of MPEG2. Also, I believe solid hardware encoders for MPEG2 are very very mature, while H.264 MPEG4 hardware encoders are just really coming into the picture now.



    I strongly feel Apple, the x264 project ( http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html ), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libavcodec and other parties need to focus on refining the H.264 encoding|decoding software to be somehow smarter with the shadow and low-contrast areas. In MeGUI/AviSynth (PC H.264 encoding stuff) you can define "zones" (eg. scenes in the Matrix Lobby Fight which have tons of smoke) to pump up the bitrates or reduce the "quantizer", but some other workarounds for shadow and low-contrast blockiness also need to be developed while staying in spec.



    Well, a lot of smart people around the world are at it, but I guess consumer demands will be ever higher, or aesthetic perceptions will adjust accordingly. </rambling>
  • Reply 12 of 27
    idaveidave Posts: 1,283member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post


    Viewing: The quality was OK, and it did display in widescreen. It's nowhere near DVD quality in terms of sharpness, and blacks are not nearly as deep.



    You must have been stretching or cropping the image to view widescreen. Lost episodes purchased from iTS are unfortunately 4:3 format. (I suppose they're intended for iPods.)



    I concur that Lost episodes I've purchased are nowhere near DVD quality. I purchased a couple episodes of "The Office" which is sold in wide screen format. I thought they were much closer to DVD quality than what I saw of Lost. Do you think it's the studios who are doing the compression? If so, there may be wide discrepancies when it comes to quality; some do it well and some do it poorly.



    BTW, I've heard the Lost producers haven't yet decided when to end the series but that they're leaning toward ending it after four seasons.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    I've both converted DVDs of TV shows to ITunes and purchased them directly from iTunes. I store them on an iMac and then often access them wirelessly from a laptop, so it's not too different from how AppleTV will work I suppose.



    There's really no comparison: Purchasing them from iTunes is a much, much better experience. I'm not speaking in terms of quality, I just mean that it's much more of a pain to import and encode the DVD into h.264 (which takes hours), and copy them into iTunes with the proper tagging and album art. It just all works when you buy it directly from iTunes. I've also found that purchasing them from iTunes is generally cheaper than buying the DVDs.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iDave View Post


    You must have been stretching or cropping the image to view widescreen. Lost episodes purchased from iTS are unfortunately 4:3 format. (I suppose they're intended for iPods.)



    I concur that Lost episodes I've purchased are nowhere near DVD quality. I purchased a couple episodes of "The Office" which is sold in wide screen format. I thought they were much closer to DVD quality than what I saw of Lost. Do you think it's the studios who are doing the compression? If so, there may be wide discrepancies when it comes to quality; some do it well and some do it poorly.



    BTW, I've heard the Lost producers haven't yet decided when to end the series but that they're leaning toward ending it after four seasons.



    I don't think so. If that happened, the TV did it automatically, which is possible I suppose. I didn't even have to select an option to stretch it or anything...
  • Reply 15 of 27
    idaveidave Posts: 1,283member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post


    I don't think so. If that happened, the TV did it automatically, which is possible I suppose. I didn't even have to select an option to stretch it or anything...



    Hmm, strange because when I preview an episode of Lost at the iTunes Store, it's 4x3. When I purchase one and view it, it's 4x3. When I do the same things with The Office, it's 16x9. My guess is that the top and bottom were cropped off and you didn't notice, but it's only a guess.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iDave View Post


    Hmm, strange because when I preview an episode of Lost at the iTunes Store, it's 4x3. When I purchase one and view it, it's 4x3. When I do the same things with The Office, it's 16x9. My guess is that the top and bottom were cropped off and you didn't notice, but it's only a guess.



    It was 4:3 on my computer, but automatically went to widescreen on my TV. It could have been cropped I guess...but I don't think so.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    idaveidave Posts: 1,283member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post


    It was 4:3 on my computer, but automatically went to widescreen on my TV. It could have been cropped I guess...but I don't think so.



    It's easy enough to tell, if you just compare a scene from both. If my TV is set to crop (zoom) a 4x3 show, the first thing I notice is that the top of the actor's heads are frequently cut off. With some shows I'll tolerate it because it's nice to fill up the whole screen.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iDave View Post


    It's easy enough to tell, if you just compare a scene from both. If my TV is set to crop (zoom) a 4x3 show, the first thing I notice is that the top of the actor's heads are frequently cut off. With some shows I'll tolerate it because it's nice to fill up the whole screen.



    No cutting off of heads that I could tell. I was going to mention that.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by psychobass213 View Post


    Season 3 is not the last, they said 5 at most but this is def not the last season.



    The producers did promise that if they went into a 6th season they would reveal that all the characters are zombies....



    but yeah...there's at least another season and almost definitely 2. I say bring it on as long as they can tie it all up and not turn it into the x-files...



    see you in another life brotha



    Yeah, I don't think it's going to be it either. I would say at least one more season. I hope so anyway...I just got into it a few months ago!
  • Reply 20 of 27
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sunilraman View Post


    You might have to wait a year or two for a good solid BluRay catalogue to be built up, true 720p or 1080p material.



    For those interested in MPEG4 | H.264 encoding, Doom9 is the best resource, but it is hella confusing to get into but baby steps and one will know what the heck they're on about with "quantisation matrixes" and in-loop deblocking and all that kind of stuff.

    http://www.doom9.org



    <rambling>Side point for anyone interested. I have noted that in the case of MPEG2, it worked out very well that compression artifacts have melded nicely into the "film grain" that is naturally present in movies. That's why I still love a good DVD widescreen "print". On a CRT it is crispy and on reasonable LCD computer/TV screen and Plasma it's got good contrast and natural "film grain"/ colouration aesthetic qualities.



    MPEG2 was closely developed with the studios and filmmakers, I feel, because after the LaserDisc debacle they wanted a good solid, no-messing around, no competing-format-bullsh1t standard.



    The MPEG4 spec on the other hand IMHO was designed to be more technology-centric for very high bitrate to very low bitrate delivery platforms. The movie studios are kept happy because there is plenty of "overhead" in the spec for 1080p and 720p "prints" to look solid. Shadow areas should not show the blockiness and contrast issues at those resolutions and appropriately-adjusted high bitrates for BluRay and HD-DVD.



    MPEG4 is a bit concerning because of it's current implementations that show sub-DVD quality. But remember, the bitrates are like 1/2 to 1/4 of MPEG2. Also, I believe solid hardware encoders for MPEG2 are very very mature, while H.264 MPEG4 hardware encoders are just really coming into the picture now.



    I strongly feel Apple, the x264 project ( http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html ), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libavcodec and other parties need to focus on refining the H.264 encoding|decoding software to be somehow smarter with the shadow and low-contrast areas. In MeGUI/AviSynth (PC H.264 encoding stuff) you can define "zones" (eg. scenes in the Matrix Lobby Fight which have tons of smoke) to pump up the bitrates or reduce the "quantizer", but some other workarounds for shadow and low-contrast blockiness also need to be developed while staying in spec.



    Well, a lot of smart people around the world are at it, but I guess consumer demands will be ever higher, or aesthetic perceptions will adjust accordingly. </rambling>



    Well, you're borderline over my head here. But, that's good because it leads me to my next point:



    None of the specs and techno-jargon matter to the consumer. What matters, even to someone like me (kind of prosumer, I'd guess) is the best quality and the best convenience at the best price. For my situation with Lost, downloading was a nice option (I could watch online I suppose, but that wasn't exactly appealing).



    However, and as I've explained, the better option for me is DVD and Blu-Ray. I'm seriously considering joining Netflix for my movie needs. And really...I don't purchase a lot of movies anyway. When I do plunk down the moola, I want excellent quality. I didn't buy a $2000 TV to sit there and watch pixelation, uneven shading, etc.
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