Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Digital Life – Part 2: Video Distribution

IntroPart 1

A brief recap: 

  1. I hate physical media.
  2. The world is moving to digital anyway.
  3. Just not fast enough for me.
  4. So I have to figure out how to make all this stuff work together since no one is doing it for me.

That wasn’t so bad.  Now ripping a crap-ton of media isn’t the most glamorous exercise in the world, but it isn’t exactly rocket science either – so I’m not going to explain how to do that.  Let’s just assume that all of my music and video is all in a central location.

Which is good, because it is all in a central location.  I have everything stored on a Windows 7 computer with Windows file shares. 

Cool, but how do I get everything to Zunes, Tivos and XBMCs?

Well, XBMC and music on the Zune are easy since they both recognize and can consume Windows file shares.  As an added bonus the XBox 360 can consume everything as well – though the experience is simply awful.  But the Tivo isn’t so straight forward and video on the Zune isn’t as easy as it should be.

First the Tivo.  Newer generation Tivo devices support multi-room content sharing (something Tivo calls “Multi-Room Viewing” (MRV)).  This along with Tivo Desktop provides most of the functionality I was looking for – but not all.

Open Source to the rescue!  Some enterprising gentlemen backwards engineered the protocol that Tivo uses for MRV and created an application called PyTivo that shares content across the network with any Tivo that supports MRV. 

PyTivo is very straightforward to install and use.  It isn’t 100% point and click, but its close and the forums are friendly and helpful.

The main advantage that PyTivo has over something like Tivo Desktop is that it will transcode content on the fly whereas Tivo Desktop requires that all of the content be stored in Tivo acceptable format.  Pytivo also can push metadata along with the video so that you can get names, descriptions, dates, etc populated which makes the viewing more seamless.

MRV isn’t the most fully functional method for consuming content, but it is acceptable.  The text only navigation is bland – especially after being spoiled with XBMC.  MRV doesn’t support subtitles either which comes up more often than I would have guessed.  But I can live with it, at least until I can get Live TV by some other method. 

Continued – Home Theater Meet PowerShell

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