The Precursor to Google TV

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The more I discover Google TV, the more it reminds me of an Android to TV implementation that Archos accomplished. They aren’t completely the same but there are some pretty important similarities. I used the Google TV site’s overview to breakdown the similarities. I’ll tell you who does a better job of implementing each feature. Then I’ll tell you what each device offers that the other doesn’t.

First. Let’s talk about devices. Google TV is not one device. It’s essentially an optimized version of Android for TVs. It is currently being utilized by a few different folks including Logitech and Sony. Each offer a set top box version and Sony is shipping TVs with Google TV built in. The Archos 5 Internet Tablet (aka A5A) is exactly what it sounds like. A small tablet geared toward the same kinda things that you might want to accomplish on a netbook or the iPad but with the additional bonus of being an awesome PMP. Whether it achieves iPad level performance completely is another topic of discussion. The A5A has an accessory called the DVR Docking Station turning your pocket size 5″ tablet into a home theater solution. The A5A also runs Google Android but Archos did their own tweaking to optimize for TV sets.

SEARCH:

Google TV-It’s a big “duh” to say that this is what Google does best. For Google TV they’ve managed to aggregate all available media sources for a single search. Let’s say you’re searching for a TV show–you’ll be able to receive search results from YouTube, local channels, media stored on your DVR, web results a bunch more. It’s pretty cool that you can search a movie or show in almost every way you might be able to consume it. It’s almost a little scary too.

A5A-There isn’t a whole lot of change from standard search. You get Google’s search as offered on any Android device, which is great but it’ll yield the same results that you’d expect from an Android phone. Additionally this is running Android 1.6. Android 2.x offers much better searching. Android 2.2 in particular will show results from your contacts, internal storage, apps and web. If the A5A gets a 2.2 update (big IF) then it’ll certainly be elevated to being a better a search feature for TV sets but right now it’s pretty simple.

Who Wins: Google TV.

WEB:

Google TV-Pure and simple, Google TV has the actual Chrome browser. Complete access to the internet with the exception of places like Hulu that are being blocked in favor of subscription based versions:-(. So flle browsing is great but boo to no Hulu or similar content providers.

A5A-Archos uses the browser that comes with Android 1.6 but you can easily get any browser that is currently available on the Market. They all run fine and display the web in all its glory sans flash. That’s right, all the sites can viewed in normal desktop mode and work just fine but there’s no flash. This is that big IF again. IF the A5A gets the 2.2 upgrade then that will change and you’ll have a comparable experience to Google TV.

Who Wins: Google TV. It’d be a draw if the A5A had 2.2.

APPS:

Google TV-You’ll be able to access a lot of the Android Market for apps but in addition to this you’ll have access to apps that are not yet available to Android like Netflix and eventually Hulu plus.

A5A-With a simple patch you’ll be able install the Google services including Market. Again we’re on OS 1.6 here so that means you’ll only be able to use apps that work on that OS version. There are plenty but some popular ones like New York Times, Skype, Twitter and others are not available. Additionally not all apps work right on the TV since Archos does not officially support Google services on its device. YouTube for example plays fine but the video only takes up about 40% of the screen rather than filling it. Archos offers some movie buying/renting apps but the library is not that extensive nor are the releases up to date. That being said, there are still plenty of apps the work very well including: Gmail, Market, GTalk, Google Voice, Maps, Tweet Deck, greader, dropbox, photoshop, facebook, pandora, amazon, imdb wordpress and thousands more.

Who Wins: Google TV. Only because Netflix is a pretty huge game changer. Of course if your media is all recorded TV or DVD rips then you won’t really care.

REMOTE:

Google TV-Logitech gives you a pretty sweet keyboard with built in trackpad for its set top box and has an optional handheld qwerty remote. The Sony comes with a qwerty remote and both units have the option of using an Android phone as a remote. All are pretty cool choices.

A5A-Comes with a qwerty remote that is comparable to the Sony remote and gives all the control you’d expect. Additionally you can use a bluetooth keyboard and control everything. I don’t think there is a way to use a phone as a remote.

Who Wins: I’d say it’s a pretty close call. Both offer a qwerty IRC solution and a wireless keyboard solution. The phone feature is nice but if you don’t have Android then you’re outta luck. And if your phone already does enough stuff, then you won’t use that feature.

OS UI/HOME PAGE:

Google TV-Has a nicely laid out home page to quickly access Bookmarks, Applications, favorite channels etc.

A5A-The standard Android UI with an added widget call the Archos Media Center. Media is broken down into categories: Video, Music, Photo, Games and Media Club. Media Club includes those movie buying/renting apps I talked about.

Who Wins: Toss up. But I’m going with Google TV. Both of these UI’s offer quick access to your content in their own way. The Google TV UI has more reliable aesthetic performance.

DUAL-VIEW:

Google TV-Let’s you do picture in picture except the other picture can be the internet. Pretty neat. Takes out that step of using your laptop with the TV in the background. We all do it!

A5A-Offers multitasking but not at this level. The closest you can get to that is playing Pandora in the background as you browse the web.

Who Wins: Google TV

DVR:

Google TV-DVR content is integrated into the search which is pretty cool. The downside is that if you’re not on Dish Network then you’re gonna miss out. DVRing costs a monthly fee, even if it’s only $4  month but you absolutely have to be a Dish Network customer. Bummer.

A5A-A5A has a similar limitation in that you need to pay a monthly fee for a TV scheduling service to browse shows that you want to record. But that doesn’t even matter if you’re outside Europe because it’s only a European offering. The upside is that if you know what you want to record and on what channel then you can manually DVR it. You can also record live TV on the fly which is pretty cool but you can’t  pause live TV like a Tivo.

Who Wins: Contingent. If you’re on Dish Network then Google TV wins for you. Everyone else can get the lesser of two bummers with the A5A.

STORAGE:

Google TV-The units that are currently shipping are offering 5-8 GB of internal flash storage. This storage is low because it’s not meant to store your media library, just what you’re currently recording. There is no memory expansion on the Logitech or Sony units.

A5A-The folks at Archos are really great at figuring what media junkies love and they love storage options. You can limit yourself to 8GB if you want but they offer many storage solutions: 8 GB, 16 GB, 32GB, 64GB (64 is only Europe), 160 GB and 500GB. If you want this for simple DVRing then an 8GB will do just fine but if you want everything you own on the A5A then you can. On top of this, they offer a microSDHC slot for expansion.

Who Wins: A5A

UPnP:

Google TV-DLNA and UPnP are expected to work but I haven’t come across any feedback from folks on their experience with it.

A5A-Network and UPnP is another thing that Archos aces. It’s one of their specialities, it works right out of the box and is easy to access.

Who Wins: A5A. It’s more of a back burner feature on Google TV where the A5A has fast access to it right from the home screen complete with thumbnail previews of your content.

COST:

Google TV-The cost ranges from $300-$400 for the set top box and as much as $1,400 if you get a TV with it built in.

A5A-The A5A is actually on its way out because it’s last year’s tech and needs to make room for the next generation. That being said you can pick up an A5A 8 GB for as low as $150 or a 500 GB for as much as $350. Then you need to add the cost of the DVR station which is $300. For an 8GB A5A DVR solution you’re looking at $250. Not terrible.

Who Wins: A5A

GAMING:

Google TV-So far as I know, it doesn’t have it. You can play online flash based games I’d imagine.

A5A-I’ve tried a few 3D racing games on the A5A and they all perform nicely. They also fit the screen perfectly. Not to mention you can also play emulators.

Who Wins: A5A.

PERFORMANCE:

Google TV-Based off a much newer version of Android, the software is built for speed. Additionally, many units ship with a CPU/RAM combo that’ll really speed up things. There have been complaints about bugs in the Logitech Rrevue that will most likely be taken care of in a firmware update.

A5A-I like this guy but it is buggy as hell. It’s much better than it was a year ago but there are still kinks to be sorted out. Random crashes etc. If Archos decides to stop supporting it and these bugs aren’t addressed then I might jump ship. I’m working it still because I see frequent improvements and I’m hoping that some good updates are soon to follow. Tim will tell.

Who Wins: Google TV. Google TV is being implemented by bigger companies with bigger developer departments so solve issues faster. Sometimes the little guys have better ideas but they lack the resources and the staffing. Such is the case with Archos.

FINAL SCORE:

Google TV-7

A5A-6

Pretty close. I should point out that this is not a flawless test. Also, this is a comparison of features. Depending on what’s more important to you, this score board could be completely different. Media junkies and TV junkies aren’t entirely the same people. Some people hoard content and others just consume is dispose when done. If you’re not into games then that is something to consider to. In short I’d ask you to consider the score I got and then look deeper into these features and see which you’d personally use. Hope this was insightful!

Archos 43 Internet Tablet Video Tests

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My first appeal to this new line of Android devices from Archos was the fact that the Archos 43 shoots 720p video. I thought to myself that this would be like having a Flip HD with Android or a closer analogy might be a Droid X that doesn’t make phone calls or have 3G. Regardless, it still offers a whole bunch of stuff to be interested in.

I didn’t want to get too excited for this new PMP until I saw what the video recording can really do. After some searching on YouTube I came across a few video tests of the video recording quality. Have a look:

The videos were posted by HEREisOurAnswer and made ArchosLounge.net

It’s got a descent bitrate for the kind of video that it shoots. Colors, again, are acceptable. The frame rate seems a bit choppy:-( I have very low standards for these kind of portable video cameras with super tiny censors but sticking steady at 29.97 fps is pretty important. If you want a planned shoot and want to make a beautiful image then get a DSLR or something pricier. I think there’s still hope for this Archos 43. What would really help make a good determination is if we could see a video test outdoors with a centered human subject speaking at normal volume. This is the kind of discreet camera I’d like to bring with me on shoots to film a behind the scenes quick gag or bring with me to a conference to snag a quick interview with someone.

Well the Archos 43 Internet Tablet is now shipping in the U.S. so I’m sure we’ll see the video tests trickle out.

KODAK Cinema Tools App for iOS

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Finally an official app from Kodak for DoF calculating. The best part about it, for me, is that they’re even representing the Super 8 gauge. This is not a full review but rather a first impressions guide. I’ll talk about each feature and I’ll have a wish list of things that would be good  to see in future updates.

Film Calculator

A simple feature that tells you how much time you have on a certain roll or reel based on film length, gauge and frame rate shot. It supports 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, 35mm 2-perf, 35mm 3-perf, 35mm and 65mm. It’s a neat feature and perhaps something I’d use if I’m entering a gauge I don’t typically work in or if I’m frequently switching between gauges and I want to get my time lengths right. Suffice it to say, If I’m working in a gauge that I know, I probably won’t need to use this little guy. I can’t deny, however, that there might be a fleeting moment where I’ll have too much film to count in my head:-P

DoF Calculator

The app features a nicely laid out DoF calculator for: Super 8, Super 16, 35mm 2-perf, 35mm 3-perf, 35mm and 65mm. This is probably the best UI I’ve seen on an iOS DoF calculator. Everything looks clean and clear and the set up is very intuitive. The little diagram at the bottom is fantastic too. I haven’t had a chance to do a field test with it, pardon the pun. I am confident, however, that Kodak’s calculations will be accurate. I’ll send a follow up once I’ve given this a shot.

Glossary

A little pocket dictionary of terms relating to cinematography. A really neat feature. You might find that you recognize most of the terms but their list is fairly impressive. It’d still be a handy thing to carry around. I’ve often found my self in a debate with the director on what exactly a certain term really means and it’d be nice confound him via Kodak’s glossary.

Wishlist

1. A film stock database. Categorized by film gauge. Within each film gauge is a list or a grid of thumbnails that represent each stock currently available. Once you select a film stock, it’ll provide you detailed information about that stock. The same kind of info found in the film stock brochures.

2. Featured articles from Kodak In Camera magazine. The magazine is free anyway and is deserves to be more accessible. If it was integrated into this app you could read about all the great stuff that’s being done with a film stock that you’ll be interested in using.

3. Videos. Any videos produce by Kodak or endorsed by kodak that feature their film stocks. I recall seeing a video promo for Vision3 when it was released. Videos like that would be nice to see.

4. Make a version for Android 😀

Share your thoughts! What else would you like to see? Why? Maybe you think the app is good the way it is? Maybe it’s no good at all. Don’t be shy to share your view!

Froyo Unofficially Comes to Droid Eris

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This sort of has to do with filmmaking since I use so many Android apps for my craft. So yes, Froyo has arrived on the Eris thanks to the folks XDA. This comes to no surprise since Android is open source. As long as there’s a following for a phone there’s probably someone out there donating their time to develop for it. So this news is less about the fact that Froyo is on the Eris and more about the fact that it actually runs very nicely! I have a Froyo ROM called KaosFroyo on my Eris and it’s damn fast and damn stable. I was going to upgrade to the Droid X but I think I’m going to stick around Eris town for a little while.

There are frequent updates to this ROM to increase performance and experience. I’m running Revision 29 right now but 30 just came out. I’ll probably bump it up soon. I haven’t been running this ROM long but I also haven’t encountered any issues yet. In fact, I’ve noticed that it runs faster than before with the official 2.1 ROM by HTC.

The ROM runs the stock Android UI, which I don’t really mind. I kinda feel like I have a Nexus One:-P. Of course there are still significant differences between this phone the Nexus One but I can still dream!

So I don’t have much more to offer besides first impressions and in short all of those impressions are positive. The home screen is zippy, apps open quickly-boot up time was long the first time but now it boots pretty quickly. Now that my phone is rooted I can use it as a wifi hotspot and that’s pretty cool and not to mention damn useful. Also I can’t be sure of this but I think my battery is lasting longer but that might just be in my head. This was really easy to install and this has been the best experience on Android so far. Want in this action?

First You Need to Root Your Eris:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=742228

Then You Need to Install the KaosFroyo ROM:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=685594

Then you should be all set!

Thanks to you guys at XDA for all your hard work!

I’ll be sending donations, all you Eris users that like this root solution and ROM should do so too!

Archos 5 Internet Tablet: The Good and Bad

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So I finally got a chance to look at the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. Between late ’09 and early ’10 there were some unfavorable reviews written about this tablet. It’s biggest issue was lag and crashing. There have been many firmware updates since then that, to my understanding, have addressed these issues. It’s still not without its glitches, however. The touch could be more responsive and the video player controls were finicky. Maps loaded well, so did contacts, video, gallery, the browser and a bunch of other apps. There has definitely been some improvements since JKK Mobile’s review. He did a great review but I think that some of the issues that he experienced have been remedied.

If you don’t know already, I’m trying to hunt down a good Android tablet for filmmaking. I firmly believe that tablet/slate computers are extravagant in many cases but that filmmaking is one of those niche markets where it can really prove to be a practical tool. I don’t have the $$ for an iPad so I’m looking to google to save me money that can go directly to my film projects!

Now my issue with the Archos 5 IT is the pricing. $250 is pretty good but at 4.8″ you’re pretty close to the price of an iPod Touch with a screen that’s only a little bigger. Don’t get me wrong 3.5″ on the iTouch to 4.8″ on the Archos 5 is a big change but not enough. You pay an extra $50 for a slightly larger screen and you get less performance. The Archos is zippy but still needs improvements.

However, the improvements we have seen with the Archos 5 give me hope for the upcoming Archos 7 Home Tablet. It’s 7″ so now we’re far past the iTouch and it’s starting at $199! Why such a low price? Well, it’s a little more stripped down. The CPU is a bit slower than the Archos 5, there’s no accelerometer, it’s a resistive touch screen rather than a capacitive one (essentially a capacitive touch brings a more finger friendly experience) and there’s no HDMI out. For me these sacrifices are acceptable. So there really is a value here. As a filmmaker tool I’m really more interested in the communications and productivity offerings. More than likely I’ll be using google docs a lot as well as the media player. We’ll have to wait and see if the Archos 7 delivers on performance given these sacrificed qualities.

Top 5: Android and iPad for Filmmakers

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Let’s put aside discussion of “does anyone really need one.”  Of course not. Save extensive talk for elsewhere. This is a post to discuss how useful tablets or slates can be for filmmakers. I’m going to do two separate top 5 countdowns comparing the iPad to Android. Since Android can appear on many different slates it’s not entirely accurate but still an approximate comparison.

The iPad

5. Long battery life. The iPad has a fantastically long battery life. That means that if you’re reviewing a shot list at a shoot that is happening in the middle of  forest, you don’t need to worry about being tethered to a charger. You’re good to go for the entire duration of that shoot.

4. Synchronization. Nothing syncs quite like an Apple product. I’ve used Windows Mobile to Mac, Windows Mobile to Windows, Android to Mac and Mac to Gmail. They all work but none of them work with the same app and I’m a Mac user for video editing so having an Apple made product just saves extra steps.

3. Media review. One thing I love about iTunes is the intense amount of metadata it allows for. I’m a very anal producer and the idea of taking the dailies and cataloging them for review on the iPad would be great. Why catalog them on the iPad? Well, if I’m working with another person and I want to meet with them at a mutual location or come to their house we can just flip through the clips and discuss the best takes etc. Makes the post process quite nice.

2. Communication. This is not film specific but what producer these days doesn’t live by their email and social networking? With 3G and Wifi N, you can’t go wrong. That speedy data access keeps things in check.

1. Oh the apps! There are over 60 incredible filmmaking apps for the iPhone that work just right for the iPad. Given time, I’m sure that there will be many more that specifically cater to the iPad’s real estate. Honestly though, some of these apps are incredible. Check them out.

Android


5. Video out. A lot of Android tablets are coming equipped with A/V, component and even HDMI out for those presentations or video exhibitions you might share with investors, fans, friends and family.

4. GPS. Going to a remote place to shoot? There are Android tablets coming out with GPS hardware built in. Also, let us not forget that Android is by Google and Google Maps is so great that Apple couldn’t make their own app.

3. Camera. The iPad is the iPad until the next iPad replaces it. It sucks that there’s no camera and there’s no way to get one until this generation of iPad is replaced. Since Android is so dynamic in hardware options there will be tablets hitting the scene with built in cameras. Some that even have a front facing one for video chat and a rear facing one for snapshots. A great way to chat with coworkers, get a few photos from location scouting and it opens the door way for a light meter app.

2. The price tag. Since Android doesn’t cost manufacturers money, they can sell their tablets for low prices. A great plus for filmmakers that are tight on money. Like me!

1. Oh, the apps that will be there. The Android Marketplace is steadily growing and I have a feeling that it will continue. Photoshop has a mobile app and there are already depth of field calculators out there. Let’s see what else they can produce.

Final Thoughts

I think I’m going to go with Android on this one. Syncing will be a pain but the cost is the deal sealer for me. Plus, I truly believe that Android has room to grow and those apps will get there. In the meantime there are some basic productivity options on Android tablets right out of the box. That basic productivity still unlocks things like shot lists, scripts, itineraries etc. I’m posting a page that will keep a tab on the developing world of Android Tablets as a good filmmakers tool. Here is the link. Keep a tab there to see what I find!

Let me just add-the iPad is a great device. It’s great for the right person. I would only use it for admin purposes. I wouldn’t really take advantage of gaming, movies, music or much of what makes the device start at $499. I want something simple at a low price. Android delivers on that front.