DVD Catalyst Newsletter 133 - 12-06-13 - nVidia Shield Week

Discussion in 'Dvd-Catalyst' started by dvdcatalyst, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. dvdcatalyst

    dvdcatalyst Guest

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    Hi,
    Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 133.

    133 already. It is getting up there pretty quickly. Time flies when you enjoy what you are doing I guess.

    As the title of this weeks newsletter already mentions, this week was nVidia Shield week for me. nVidia released some updates for it recently, and while the web did mention something about them, it was all overshadowed by "the next gen" stuff regarding the new XBOX and PS4 gaming systems.

    For me, the nVidia Shield is a "next gen" system, but of course opinions differ. More about that a bit later, lets start with this weeks tech news:


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    Tech News:

    Console Scams:

    It took a bit longer than it did with the XBOX 360 and the PS3, but the picture-sales (or similar scams) of the new gaming systems are back:

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/12/05/man-pays-750-450-for-xbox-one-photo-in-ebay-scam


    If you are hunting for one, make sure you check eBay listings twice to make sure the seller is not naughty but nice.


    nVidia GRID:


    Earlier this week, nVidia activated its public beta of GRID for the nVidia Shield.

    http://www.slashgear.com/nvidia-grid-cloud-gaming-beta-hits-shield-04307554/


    GRID is a technology nVidia has been working on for a while. Right now it is a cloud-based gaming system, similar as On-Live and Gaikai, nVidia GRID uses powerful "game-servers" to run full PC games and provide access to them remotely on devices such as tablets, smartphones or laptop/pc's that are not powerful enough to run them.

    Likely to expand in the near future, currently nVidia's solution only works on the nVidia Shield.

    The Shield itself, a cross between an Android tablet and an XBOX controller can run just about everything from Google Play, but it controller-based design prevents it from being much use other than games, and to use it with casual games like Angry Birds and Tiny Death Star, it gets tricky as well. The Shield is made for "gamers games". Console-style games, racing shooters etc.

    While there are some games that work quite well with the Shield, many Android games were designed for a touch screen, so nVidia wisely added a PC streaming feature, which sets the Shield above everything else.

    With a powerful, gaming-capable PC, you can run full-size high-profile games like Skyrim, Fallout Vegas, Battlefield, Call of Duty etc, in the palm of your hand. No "almost-copies", games designed to replicate some of the experience of these games, made to work on a mobile device, but the real thing.

    A few days ago, I uploaded a video to Youtube recorded from the Shield's HDMI showing a collection of different PC games running on it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hriB6jftTM


    But, for many people the added requirement to be able to get the best experience from the Shield is too much. A PC with the minimum requirements needed to work with the Shield costs about $600, and to enjoy the latest and the greatest games, add a fair bit more.

    With GRID, nVidia is offering an alternative. It will provide access to the games as well as the hardware needed to run them, and you just connect to them using your Shield.


    I briefly played with GRID yesterday and recorded a few clips:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s_yPls0568

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QykFmTSTurE


    More below on my thoughts of the Shield and how it stacks up to the XBOX One and the PS4.


    USB 3.1 Standard:


    A new USB plug is in the works.

    http://www.geek.com/chips/usb-3-1-spec-solves-first-world-problem-introduces-smaller-reversible-usb-plug-1578815/


    There is no finalized design yet, but supposedly it will fix the biggest annoyance of the whole USB standard. The cable supposedly will be reversible.

    For some reason, whenever I have to plug in something, I am always fighting with the cable. 70% of the time, I am holding the cable upside down and have to turn it, and the other 30% I am holding it correctly, but have a hell of a time plugging it in and assume its upside down and I end up turning it twice. It would be nice to have a plug that will always fit.

    But, looking at the USB3 cord of my Galaxy Note 3, it will be yet another standard for cables:


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    I've done some movie-trailer conversions with DVD Catalyst 4 in the past to enable people with Android tablets to watch them, but this year has been pretty hectic so I didn't have much time for it.

    A new Spiderman movie is coming out next year, and earlier this week, the trailer was released, so I figured I run it through a couple of profiles with DVD Catalyst 4.

    The file-names reflect the profile used in DVD Catalyst 4 with the exception of a few modifications;

    1. "Converted with DVD Catalyst 4" overlay at the very bottom. I have had some people download trailers in the past and claimed that they were converted using other software, which prompted me to add the overlay. Of course this is only used for the trailers. The setting is not enabled by default if you use DVD Catalyst, but it is user-configurable, so if you want to convert videos with a similar overlay, you can find the setting in DVD Catalyst 4's Global Settings (the Tweaks-tab)

    2. "Black Borders" turned off. The original Spiderman 2 trailer has black borders added to match the 1080p resolution fully, and while DVD Catalyst 4 normally removes those by default, I turned this feature off (Global Settings > Borders) to not have the overlay shown in the actual video portion.

    3 "Streaming" enabled. If you convert movies and access them through the web, most will need to be downloaded completely before you can view them. This setting (Global Settings > Tweaks) results in the video getting "streaming abilities", meaning it will play when you click on it while it is downloading.

    4. HQXT variant for the device profiles. For all the conversions, I used the HQXT profile to maximize visual quality while keeping the files as small as possible. DVD Catalyst 4's HQXT profiles automatically adjust the conversion settings during conversion to whatever is needed to achieve the best quality. The CRF setting (the setting that controls the visual quality in "Modify") was adjusted from the default 23 to 22 to give it just a little more.

    You can find the trailers here: http://www.tools4movies.com/trailers/Spiderman 2/

    Just visit the link using the web browser on your device, and it should stream within a matter of seconds. No need to wait for the download to be fully completed.

    If you prefer to download them, its best to use a PC and simply rightclick on the one you want to download and then copy the file over to your device.

    The trailers are high-quality, and will play best using the default video player on your tablet/smartphone. While other players such as MX Player and Dice Player should be able to play them just fine, if their settings are set incorrectly (hardware decoding not enabled) you will run into playback issues such as stutter and freezing.


    Note: Especially with the higher-resolution versions such as the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, NOOK HD+ and Transformer TF700 your internet speed also comes into play. You might experience buffering issues if you are using a slower or mobile data internet connection. If you are using 3G/4G, you might want to connect to wifi to avoid data overages.



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    Late last week, I updated MovieGallery to v2.4.1.

    Not related to the 2.4 update, the build-in Cover-Search functionality of MovieGallery stopped working all of a sudden.

    Initially I thought it was something I did with the changes I implemented in MovieGallery 2.4, but I didn't remember even touching the cover-search-code, and even looking at different code-revisions, I didn't find anything that would have caused the recent change.

    So something with the search results then.

    Under the hood, MovieGallery simply performs a search on Google Images for the covers, and displays the results. Doing a manual search for the covers revealed that Google made some changes to the way the results were processed, which caused the search functionality to no longer find anything.

    After quite some time troubleshooting and trying to come up with a different solution, I was able to make it work. In addition to it "working" again, I also made some changes to how the images are loaded. It now loads a total of 16 results, with a quality increase of every 4.

    MovieGallery is already updated on Amazon Apps and Google Play, but at the time of writing, for Barnes and Noble's NOOK Apps, the update is still in the approval process

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    With this week being mostly about the Shield and streaming, here is a guide for our own (free) movie server and how you can use it to stream your own movie collection to your Android / Apple / Blackberry / Windows device without any special apps or requirements other than your videos and a web browser on your tablet/smartphone:

    http://www.dvdcatalyst.com/2011/11/kindle-fire-video-streaming-guide-part-2/

    and how you can use it with our MovieGallery app:

    http://www.dvdcatalyst.com/2012/01/how-use-moviegallery-with-mp4-streaming-server/



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    Thoughts:


    Next Gen:

    For quite some time, "Next Generation" has been filling up the internet. The term refers to the newly released XBOX One and the Playstation 4, both of which are designed to herald a new era of gaming.

    The hardware of these systems is not that much different from a gaming PC. Of course in a more compact form-factor and a case-design that would fit in a living room environment, but in the actual box, a PC-compliant processor, hard-drive and graphics card. Unlike previous generations, this time the actual performance of both systems can be compared to a PC, and unfortunately, for systems that are supposed to be able to last for 7 years, they both are running somewhat "middle of the road".

    With both these systems released into the wild, it leaves many (including me) asking what is so next-gen about it.

    The answer is "social". A keyword that has been growing more and more popular since the birth of FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace. XBOX Live, the premium online component for the XBOX One and Sony's incarnation, Playstation Network both provide an easy way to connect with your friends while playing games. Sharing video's on Twitch and YouTube to show each other their best/funniest moments, in-game chat, challenges etc.

    For many, the social aspect is what makes and breaks a console experience, but for me, it actually pushes me away.

    Don't get me wrong, I would love to be able to play with/against friends, but it is very tricky to fit it in my home-scenario. A few years ago, I played Split/Second a lot with XBOX Live. I wasn't that good at it, but it was still a blast to play. But, with my wife's health situation, leaving her in one room while I am playing a game in another room isn't an option. For a little while, its ok, but when has an episode, I have to forfeit and aid her in what she needs. So, my own gaming is mostly off-line, and in smaller time-portions, or on a portable device such as a tablet of some sorts.

    The problem with "portable" games, regardless of what system is used, Playstation Portable (PSP), PSVita, Nintendo DS/3DS or tablets like the iPad or a Xoom, they are usually "bite-size". Small games I would describe as "mini games", quick time-wasters you just play for a couple of minutes, but they all lack the substance of a big game like Skyrim or Fallout.

    Throughout the years, I've tried almost all of the portable gaming solutions, and before the Shield, only 2 have done it "right", the original Nintendo Gameboy and the Sega Nomad.

    With the Gameboy, Nintendo launched the handheld with "Zelda, Links Awakening", "Super Mario Land" and "Tetris", all of a quality worthy of their living room console counterparts. The Sega Nomad, went a bit further than that by being a portable version of its big home system, the Sega Genesis, and it actually accepted the same game cartridges, which is something even to this day has not been replicated.

    I had high hopes for the Sony PSP when it was announced. Supposedly similar in hardware as the popular PS2, I was hoping it would actually get games of that caliber, but while the slight loss in quality for the visuals was expected, the games were lackluster bite-size ports of the ones they were supposed to be. With the PS Vita, things are even worse in that some of the games created for it are ports of the lower-performance 3DS versions.

    Sony has been blaming the Android/Apple App Stores and the way people play games for the weak sales of these systems, but they forget the reason why people pick up a Playstation Portable or Vita altogether. Its a "Playstation", treat is as such. The Playstation name represents so much, but there is almost nothing on their handhelds that would make the device worthy of bearing the name Playstation.

    The sad thing is, all they need to do is look at the history of the PSP. After the PSP got hacked completely, people figured out how to turn PS-One games into PSP games. It took a little work, but in the end, being able to play the original Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy 7 on the PSP resulted in a massive sale for the device itself. Games specifically designed for the PSP were never able to generate massive sales, but the ability of playing the old classics did.

    Aside from the portable consoles, I tried laptops but those are too bulky, Mini-PC's such as the eeePC, Vaio UX and Vaio-P, which were too slow in performance. I did have some success last year with the Microsoft Surface Pro, but while things did work, things got a bit messy with wires for charging and the game-controller making it a bit annoying to setup and take down every night.

    For me, the Shield is truly Next Gen. By itself it offers the same experience as you get with an iPad or Android Tablet/Smartphone, but connect it to a gaming-capable PC, and it is unbeatable. It will play the biggest and baddest games, as long as your PC is capable of handling them. And if your PC can't handle it, upgrading is always a possibility, something not possible with anything else at this point.

    And, with nVidia GRID, the need for a PC is no longer a requirement anymore either. Full PC-Games streamed from the web to an XBOX Controller with a build-in screen. Perfect.


    Galaxy Note 3 Week 8:


    This week, I didn't spent a lot of time with the Note 3. As mentioned last week, I've been battling with a phone-number transfer for my wife, and for some reason, moving it from a business account to a personal account within the same company is a lot harder than to move a number from a business account to a personal account of a different phone provider.

    Recap:

    My wife's phone stopped accepting calls about a week and a half ago. After calling back and forth a bit, I ended up going to the store Wednesday last week, and spent the entire afternoon and a small part of the evening waiting in line. When it was finally my turn, things got a bit confusing, but the "process was started" and I ended up coming home with nothing to show for.

    This week:

    With Thanksgiving and the Black Friday sales going on, I ended up going back on Monday to see how things were going. Because I was there at opening time, the line was smaller, but it was still there, so after about an hour, it was my turn again. Still no completed transfer of the number, but they did offer me a temp number so at least my wife could use a phone.

    The temp number must have been used by a very popular person with bad credit. Quite a few texts from people like "hey, why have you stopped calling", and even different bill collector agencies calling every 10 minutes, the first one starting as soon as I walked out of the store.

    Then finally Wednesday around 5pm, I got a call that the transfer was complete, but they needed me to come in to get the number set up on the phone. I went right away (20min drive) to get things done, hoping it would only be a couple of minutes of time, but again, a nice line. about an hour and a half later, they asked for the phone and had the cashier lady start the typing and calling work involved to activate the sim card with the new number.

    Last week, I put a lot of time on my Note 3 while waiting, but unfortunately, this week, my wife had it next to her for "just in case". Normally when I leave the house, she has someone close by to be able to assist her if she needs something, but this week, no-one was available, so she ended up using the phone instead.

    After last week, I should have known better, but either my own stupidity or ignorance, I did the transfer stuff this week without a phone or anything else to keep my mind away from staring at the clock. On Wednesday I did have the new phone for my wife, but it was still a blank slate, fresh out of the box basically.

    But at least when I finally got back Wednesday evening, my wife had her own phone number back and on a new phone. She loved my Galaxy Note 3 so much that she got one as well.

    In short, there are a few lessons I learned with all this.

    1. Dealing with phone companies is quite a time-consuming process.

    2. Always have a backup for if you are stuck with something that doesn't work. On my Note 3, I have a few TV episodes and a few eBooks that tie me over when waiting, but that doesn't help if you don't have it with you.





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    Closings:

    I was saddened to read about the death of Paul Walker last Saturday. I always enjoyed the movies he played in, of course the Fast & Furious car series, but also the other ones he played in, and for him to die so young is terrible.

    Normally I'm not too much into the whole celebrity thing, but for some reason this one hit me. I think its because a couple of times a year I do a nightly marathon of watching the "Fast" movies, but it could also be because he is only a few months older than I am.

    I wish his family and friends all the best, and I hope Paul will rest in peace.

    That was it for this week. Thanks for reading and see you next week.

    Sincerely,
    Mitch


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