DVD Catalyst Newsletter 55
Thank you for reading the 55th DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
This week we had CTIA, one of the main Wireless Show Events. A fair amount of new devices and accessories were announced. In addition to that, new rumors about the iPad Mini/Nano, Microsoft's XBOX 360 for $99, Wolfenstein 3D 20th anniversary and the Avengers movie broke records.
The Avengers, an opening weekend record of 200 Million US$.
It really shows that with some original content, the movie industry isn't affected by piracy as they claim.
The movie is good, and all the recent Marvel releases, Iron Man 1, 100mil opening, Iron Man 2, 100mil opening, Thor, 66mil opening, Captain America, 66mil opening, all have made a considerable amount of money. Hunger Games, another original movie, 152mil opening, but then if you compare this with re-released movies, such as Footloose, , they complain that it's because of piracy that they can't break the sales figure of its original that was released almost 20 years ago. Sure, people will pirate movies, but with the bad remakes being released all too often, just looking at a fancy-made trailer just doesn't give you an idea of the quality of the movie, and with this economy, people just don't have the money or the time to waste on disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if they actually spent more time on the movie trailer than on the actual movie itself. With record-breaking releases Hunger Games and Avengers, I think the public has proven that they are willing to pay for quality movies.
Microsoft announced a special sale of the XBOX 360 similar as to what cellphone providers do.
Purchase an XBOX along with a month-to-month XBOX Live subscription of $15/mo, and you get it for $99.
It is a great idea, and it will enable Microsoft to stay ahead in the game with the next-gen consoles. By using this system, they can release much more powerful hardware for a more affordable price, and, rather than relying on 6 games per system to make their money back on the system, they are basically ensured of profits.
I hope, when this will be implemented for future consoles, that prices of games will go down a bit, considering that the guaranteed money they make over time with the plan will take care of the actual system price.
More rumors came up about an upcoming smaller iPad.
Supposedly the smaller version (let's hope it's a wide-screen version this time) will come out around October, and will run for $200, nicely in line with the Kindle Fire, NOOKtablet, and of course undercutting the Galaxy Tab 7 2.0.
Wolfenstein 3D, the father of shooting games like Doom, Duke 3D, Quake, Call of Duty, Modern Warfare etc, turned 20 this week.
A true classic. If you are into development, or interested in the game itself, I recommend having a look at this interesting video with commentary of John Carmack, one of the original developers:
To play the game for free, you can visit this link:
CTIA started and finished this week, and of course a lot of talk about new gadgets, phones, batterys and other mobile technology is flooding the web.
One of the main things that caught my interest was the Toshiba Excite 13 tablet, but at that size, all I can think of is, why?
Of course HTC showed a few new phones, including the new EVO 4G LTE, but with their One line-up, it seems they are their own biggest competitor.
DVD Catalyst News:
Nothing this week when it comes to DVD Catalyst 4, however, I did push out a small update for MovieGallery. I tweaked the scrolling part again, so hopefully this will fix it for most people.
I am working on an updated conversion engine, which fixes some issues for certain Bluray conversions (Sherlock Holmes, Fast Five), however, I am not yet at a point for a beta version of it yet.
HBO Go on the Acer A100
Because I couldn't use HBO Go on any of my Android tablets, I've been using my new iPad for watching Game of Thrones. Thankfully last week, an update was released for HBO Go, and now it actually works on the Acer A100.
Aside from that, I posted a few articles about DVDs that people had questions about:
The Wedding Date:
As much as I dislike Digital Copies, I have build up an extensive collection of activation codes for them over the last year or 2, and yesterday, while I was waiting for a bluray conversion of Underworld Awakening to finish, I figured I'd try and see how it actually goes.
All this DRM stuff is just a pain in the behind, and I find it ridiculous with all the ideas the movie industry is coming up with to prevent piracy.
Earlier this week, a new warning message was announced to be put on DVD and Bluray content, and, just like the ones we already put up with (along with trailers and advertising), these will remain non-shippable.
Why is it that they think that by forcing a paying customer, who clearly doesn't pirate since he/she actually bought the DVD/Bluray, piracy will be reduced?
If I buy a movie (and I buy quite a few), I don't want to waste my time sitting through minutes of crap before I actually get to watch the movie.
It's like starting a car, and being served 5 minutes of preaching by the GPS lady voice about driving safety and such, or buying something in the store, and at the door someone telling you to not steal.
With older DVD's, it went straight to the menu when you plopped the disc in the drive, but now you are forced to sit through trailers, advertising of upcoming movies etc before you get to the menu, and then, when you hit Play, a few more are thrown in for good measure and while this might be interesting for some, I wish they would just make this as an option.
For many people this is actually the reason why they are no longer buying movies, and just download them from the web for free. These rips don't have all this crap.
For me, whenever I pick up a DVD that I actually want to watch, I just convert it. Using a HD Media player with an external drive, I have access to 100's of my own movies, without having to dig through my DVD collection, and no forced trailers and stuff, just select one and the movie starts right away.
So, onwards to my UltraViolet experience.
I went through my "to sort" box, a box that I use for recently purchased DVDs and Blurays that I haven't actually put on my shelves yet, and dug out the 20 or so that had "Digital Copy" on it.
I opened them up one at a time, and started using the codes to activate them.
Since most of them are UltraViolet versions, I went to the main UltraViolet website, and setup an account, figuring I would just go there and enter the codes to add my movies. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. For the first movie I did, the DVD version of Underworld Awakening, I actually needed to go to a Sony website and setup an account there. During the account creation process, I had to link the Sony account to my Ultra Violet account. Once that was complete, I could enter the code, and my movie was available through the Sony website.
The next movie I tried, Dream House, was a Universal Studios movie, so I had to visit their website, setup an account there, link it to my Ultra Violet account, and enter the code.
Needless to say, after entering about 10 movies, I ended up having a total of 5 different user accounts. Not really friendly.
Of course now that I have the accounts setup, adding new movies will be a bit easier, that is, if I can remember the account details that is.
During the code-entry and account setup stuff, I ran into 2 things that are a bit of a pain.
Most movies I did have an expiration date of something like 1/17/2014, but if you take Contraband, a movie that I bought as a Bluray DVD version, the insert with the code has a nice message stating Stream/Download by 9/26/12, streaming and downloading of this movie might not be available on or after September 26 of 2012. So what happens with my Digital Copies after those dates?
The second thing I ran into was of course a nice collection of iTunes Digital Copies, which of course cannot be imported into UltraViolet. I can load them into iTunes and activate them, but I hate having to keep those stored on my computer. If I want to watch those, I can of course use my iPad or Apple TV (or both with AirPlay) but it is still a hassle to keep those movies available, especially considering I wipe my system on a regular basis.
Playback on a device works well (I tried Dream House and Underworld 3 on my Galaxy Nexus over wifi) and the quality is decent though.
All in all, I do think that UltraViolet is a decent attempt on trying to provide access to new-release movies on your portable devices, but still it is quite a hassle to get things to work. You need multiple accounts, a custom app on your phone (flixster), and of course the code-entry itself (which also results in a question of where you purchased each movie, so it is pretty obvious your information is being sold to other companies).
My biggest concern is that each movie actually has an expiration date set to it.
For my own use, I continue to convert my own movies. With DVDs and Blurays, I don't actually have an expiration date set, and by converting them myself, I eliminate the pre-movie stuff, giving me more time to actually watch a movie rather than waiting for it.
Here are some links for if you are getting into UltraViolet:
Main UltraViolet website:
For Paramount Studio movies (MI4 Ghost Protocol,Footloose, TinTin, Hugo etc):
For Sony Pictures movies (Underworld, The Ides of March, Jack and Jill etc):
For Universal Studios movies (Contraband, Dream House, The Thing etc):
For Warner Bros movies (Contagion for example):
Earlier this week, I picked up a Droid1 (yes, an original Droid 1). I was browsing in a pawnshop, and they had one laying there for a very small price (dead battery), so I picked it up. Even though I have to thank a lot of my success to the Droid1 (thank you DroidForums), I never actually owned one, and I just couldn't pass it up.
Unfortunately, the battery was dead, so I had to order a new one for it, which should be arriving pretty soon.
Without the battery, it does work, and comparing it to my DroidX and Galaxy Nexus, considering its age, it actually runs pretty good, except for the custom rom that the previous owner stuck on it. I have no idea what it is currently running, but I will be putting it through a fresh SBF as soon as I get the battery for it.
Spec-wise, the memory isn't the greatest, but I'm sure a decent-speed microsd will help speed things up a bit.
Full screen movies
Earlier today I posted a guide on how to make your movies full-screen on some of the forums. While I personally prefer to keep my movies unaltered, I noticed that there was some interest again on how to remove black borders from videos, so I figured I'd post up a detailed guide for it.
One of the advantages that DVD Catalyst has over its competitors is that it is designed from the ground up to make the conversion process as effortless as possible.
When I first started development on DVD Catalyst back in late 2003, the standard for converting movies was mostly a manual process. You had to use a collection of different apps, each designed for a specific task. First run app1 to do this, then run app2 to do that, and then run app3 to finalize the process.
When the easy all-in-one apps started coming out, DVD to PocketPC, Pocket DVD Studio, Clone DVD Mobile etc, this all became easier. Unfortunately, these apps use a step-by-step wizard process for each conversion. You start the application and click through a multitude of pages/steps before it started doing what it needed to do, and you have to do this for each and every movie you want to convert.
To me, doing those multiple clicks for each and every movie just seemed like a waste of time, let alone causing some additional strain on my already carpel-tunnel affected arms, so I worked on a different approach.
The thing that amazes me is, that with all these advances in technology, almost all conversion tools have remained the same. Of course, if it is not broken, why fix it, but shouldn't things be a bit easier now than they were 8 years ago?
I created DVD Catalyst because back then, there wasn't anything out there that did what I needed it to do, but I would have expected that by now at least something else would implement some of the functionality.
Just about anything that has something to do with converting movies is completely automated in DVD Catalyst 4. You can even set it up to run without any clicks at all, while still providing you with complete control over your conversions.
Quite a few people already found out that DVD Catalyst 4 automatically batches your conversions. If you already have a collection of movies, DVD rips, MKV's, AVI's etc, stored on a hard-drive or NAS, and you want to convert them to a different format for your phone/pad/tab etc, you can just drag them all over, and start the conversion. It doesn't matter if it is one, 10, 100, DVD Catalyst will just run from the first one through to the last one.
The automatic batching capability goes a bit further than that even. If you, like many people, have more than 1 device you want to watch your movies on, with most conversion tools, you have to set up one conversion for one device, and then start over and setup another one for another device. With DVD Catalyst's batching technique, you can just add another device to the conversion, and whatever you convert will be converted to as many devices you want/need.
Because of this powerful batching capability, I spent a considerable amount of time on fully automating the black-border removal process.
With almost all conversion tools on the market, if you want to make your movies full-screen by removing the borders, you will have to manually set it for each movie. Some have some functionality that will let you set a certain value for the removal, but with movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings running in a different aspect ratio (different sized borders) you still end up with some borders on some of your movies.
When DVD Catalyst 4 starts the actual conversion of your DVD/MKV/AVI etc, it takes a collection of snapshots of the actual movie, and then analyzes these snapshots to determine if there are actually black borders, and only if they are there, it will remove them from the video. During this process, it looks at what setting is selected for how you want your movies to appear, and based on that, it will make further adjustments to the video.
Of course, you can do it by hand as well, but if you want to convert 100 movies, doing this for each and every one of them will take you a while to get things set-up.
It looks like this weekend I can no longer escape building the greenhouse my wife wants so bad. Thankfully she wants it on the side of the shed, so it will not be that much work. A couple of 2x4's, some screen, and a fair collection of screws, and I should be able to have it up in a matter of a couple of hours.
Thanks again for reading this week's newsletter, and have a nice weekend,