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I’ve always been a fan of the movie marathon.
Used to be, you stacked a pile of DVDs next to the couch and hunkered down. Now with streaming on demand, digital distribution and handfuls of screens and streaming devices to choose from, digital entertainment has gotten way more interesting.
I started out just wanting to entertain myself over a busy six-week period of work and vacation and travel. Eighty-six episodes of this near genius series seemed the proper candidate.
It turned into an immersive experiment in how much streaming media has changed entertainment, trying out a bunch of devices, and whether socialization for time-shifted entertainment had made much headway in the last year.
The media acquisition part was simple. I had a bunch of episodes on DVD, some ripped media on my hard drive, and some shared files from friends but most of the series from the iTunes store. ITunes, the easiest access is a deal…$1.99 per episode. $2 dollars for an hour of The Sopranos is a bargain any way you look at it!
Watching whatever you want whenever is no longer a dream. A huge step forward and a meaningful stride towards the end of the cable company’s autocratic stranglehold over our evenings.
Watching wherever was a pleasant surprise. Choosing an Apple ecosystem makes this simple. Buy anywhere you have WiFi. Sync seamlessly back to your media hub and the hub remembers where you stopped watching.
Watching on my Macbook at the coffee shop, on the plane or propped up on a bunch of pillows in the hotel room worked as it should. If this is a two-person marathon, get yourself an audio splitter to drive two sets of earphones for the plane and train.
On the subway, the iPad was perfect. Running somewhere and can’t wait to till the evening to complete the episode, the iPhone does the trick.
And of course, getting the media from your laptop or server to the big screens in the house was the most important. AppleTV, while not devoid of issues, lets moving files to the big screen with AirPlay a snap. A single purpose system, limited but super functional and cost effective.
If you are going on vacation and know that your hotel TV has a HDMI plug, bringing your AppleTV along takes less room than your shaver and worth the trouble to continue the movie saga in a larger format.
Don’t discount the importance of support for even the simplest devices. With an Apple system, when things don’t work, you have the Genius Bars and moreso, their online tech support. Being able to have direct lines into someone in California who speaks English, cares, calls and emails you back is actually priceless. And having coverage on your laptop, covers your wireless and AppleTV devices as well.
All’s not perfect with the Apple system though.
Issues with the Apple system to watch out for:
What about Boxee?
This is the rub and the biggest issue for me. I’m a Boxee fan and Boxee Box user and believe in the system enough to patiently wait out the bug fixes and slow signing up of services like NetFlix. They have a vision of the future, they understand that the intersection of the web and the big screen requires a social fabric… and I’ve bought into it completely.
But, and this is mightily annoying, you can’t stream iTunes formatted media through the Boxee Box to the big screen. Media yes. Ripped movie files yes. iTunes purchased media no. Per Apple, Boxee is working on a fix to be compatible with iTunes. Till then, I’m either going to have to make the choice or run two systems at home. I’m running both now.
What about social?
I participate in a number of social networks. And I share daily on my blog. I wanted to share my experiences with my networks while and about this rewatching of The Sopranos.
I posted on Facebook, shot out some still pics on Tumblr and Twitter but just posting that ‘I’m loving re-experiencing Season 2’, with a screen grab is really flat and uninteresting.
Or as Tony Soprano might say ” The true nature of social sharing has yet to reveal itself.”
There’s been a lot of early innovation in sharing around live broadcast events but little in the time-shifted media area. Check out my posts on socialTV @ appmarket.tv.
I’ve played around with GetGlue a bit but wasn’t drawn in. The right direction and we need a verticalized social network around film. But it feels flat and really early to me. If you have other sites or communities to try out, please let me know.
What’s missing is the ability to share clips, in video. Most copyrighted entertainment is not on YouTube and without this live scene-sharing component, I ended up taking this movie marathon ride mostly alone. If I had attended a conference, visited a vineyard in France or gone skiing for this amount of time, sharing with pictures and conversation would have been an ongoing activity. For something so immersive, so emotionally connected to myself like a movie or TV series, not being able to share the passion is a loss. This ability to share scenes from a movie, and as well being able to share snippets from a video blog are new frontiers to cross to make video a common language online.
Some early work on solving the scene sharing language was done by Socialbomb. They pioneered with HBO a way to share scenes with friends across a blue-ray connected network. Early. Visionary and bit funky but it allowed you to share snippets of scenes with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Something like that off of streamed media is beginning to approximate a social language for sharing movie experiences that make sense. My post on it here.
For all the issues, this era of streaming on demand on multiple screens for the mass market is firmly here. Cable with their antiquated vision of legislating what you watch and when and with outdated pricing models is fading away. We will all be glad when it is gone.
Social is the next frontier. It cropped up after the real-time web became the norm. It will crop up now that streaming live and time-shifted is moving into the mainstream. Keep an eye on Boxee to lead the charge on discovery that future.
And about The Sopranos. Well…eighty-six hours was too short and abrupt for me;) I already feel a sense of loss now that the streamathon is over.
Watching it in wherever and whenever I wanted created a delightful fog where I’d wake up wanting the next episode immediately. What a great show. And I must admit, that second time around, Season 6 held together a lot better. I’m sensing that I might have to pick out the top five episodes and spend another great afternoon re-watching.