September 30, 2009

Living HD test broadcast begin

With just a few days left until it launches, Living HD is testing in high def now.
Looks like it will be a cable exclusive at launch, which is somewhat surprising.

Virgin outage in London today

Virgin Media's network was suffering problems this morning with cable subscribers in south London and the South East cut off, and the firm's own website - including webmail - down.

Apparently this was due to power problems were at a former NTL site in Winnersh, Berkshire.

As of lunchtime, Virgin Media said services should now be returning.

September 27, 2009

HD info added to on-screen programme descriptions

If it's broadcast in HD, Virgin's on-screen programme information now seems to show it in the programme details (i on the remote). Not sure how long this info has been there (only saw it today - it may have been introduced a while back) but it may prove useful.
Incidentally, they are also showing the Sky channels' HD tags too, which must be an error in the feed Virgin uses.
(I also noticed the last edition of VM's Electric magazine listed certain Sky Movies as being available in HD, which of course they aren't - unless you're a Sky HD customer.)

September 25, 2009

Virgin confirms Living HD launch for Oct 6

As mentioned on this blog earlier this week, Virgin has now confirmed the launch of Living HD on October 6th. Listings for that day's programming are here, and the full press release is below.

Virgin Media today announced that LIVING will exclusively launch in High Definition (HD) on its TV platform from the 6th October.

LIVING, home to the Next Top Model franchise, cult phenomenon Most Haunted and the break out hit of the year Four Weddings, is one of the UK’s most watched digital TV channels and will now be available to viewers in HD for the first time. LIVING HD will show some of the channel’s high-profile acquisitions to maximum effect, including programmes such as Ghost Whisperer, Private Practice, Boston Legal, CSI Vegas and CSI Miami.

LIVING HD joins Virgin Media Television’s line-up of great entertainment channels, including LIVING, Virgin1, Bravo and Challenge, and will be simulcast on Virgin Media’s TV platform from Tuesday 6th October. LIVING HD will be available to Virgin Media’s XL TV tier subscribers at no extra charge.

Mark Schweitzer, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media, said: “Our customers watch LIVING more than any other digital TV channel, so I’m delighted they will exclusively be the first to watch it in spectacular HD. LIVING has a powerful brand and a breadth of programming that works so well in HD. Our TV service continues to grow as we focus on content that both complements our existing line-up and benefits most from being shown in HD.”

Jonathan Webb, managing director of Virgin Media Television, said: “LIVING’s HD launch is a significant step forward in Virgin Media Television’s cross-platform entertainment strategy. LIVING offers some of the glossiest shows around and its HD launch will showcase our line-up at its most vivid and colourful.”

September 23, 2009

BBC confirms Top Gear in HD from Nov 15th

The next series of Top Gear, starting November 15th, will be shown in high definition on BBC HD. More details on the BBC HD Blog

September 19, 2009

Living HD

Word from a friend at VM I was talking to this week is that Living HD will not be with us until some point in October. Not sure why there's the delay - possibly it will arrive with one or two other additional HD channels (ITV1 HD the most likely addition).
Carriage negotiations with Sky over Living HD continue and, despite the war of words that's flared up again over the Ofcom report, it has also been reported that the relationship between Virgin and Sky "is better than it has ever been". Okay, so the two companies start from a particularly low point but I'm still hopefuly that there's a "Living HD for Sky 1 HD" trade in the offing.

September 17, 2009

Picture Quality on BBC HD

Danielle's posted an update on the recent change of encoders being used on BBC HD and what is being done to address the perceived loss in picture quality: Picture Quality on BBC HD: a response

Freesat numbers rise, but...

Freesat has officially taken off, with the latest press releases boasting over 600,000 customers which places it above BT Vision in the digital TV race despite only recently entering the fray.
But is it going anywhere? The big selling point initially was that it was free HD for those with a dish, but it still only has BBC HD and a few hours a week of ITV HD whereas Sky, Virgin and the imminent Freeview HD have more. More comment on Freesat on the Home Cinema Choice site.

Call for Freeview HD to be encrypted

It hasn't launched yet, but there are calls for EPG encryption on the forthcoming Freeview HD set top boxes when they finally arrive. According to a report in The Guardian:
The BBC wrote to Ofcom asking it to consider whether the digital television HD signal could be encrypted via a so-called "broadcast flag" so that only selected PVRs will be able to record over Freeview.
The actual audio and video won't be scrambled, but the standard EPG data tables that set top boxes use would be encrypted so that only manufacturers that sign up to a new licence will have access to the right code, which is needed for recording.

September 15, 2009

More on Virgin Media's IPTV plans

A word of warning: this gets pretty technical in places, but follow this link Cable Digital News for more details about Virgin's IPTV (aka "Next Generation Television") deal with Cisco and plans for the future. (Thanks to Jasmeet for the link)

September 14, 2009

Two more from 4HD

If you enjoyed the HD broadcast of the final X-Men movie last night on 4HD (not a good film but it did look pretty spectacular in high def), then you may want to set the V+ for two more treats showing in HD on the channel in the next week or so: Jaimie's American Road Trip is in HD on Tuesdays at 9pm, whilst they're repeating the much-talked about Red Riding next weekend, starting on Saturday at 10.15pm. (btw, the three episodes were shot in different formats - 1974 in Super16mm; 1980 in 35mm; 1983 in RED One Digital Cinema Camera, shot in 4K (4096x2048 12bit) so don't expect the PQ to be consistent across the series.)
Disappointingly, the Saturday evening showing of Lord of the Rings part one isn't listed as being in HD :o(

September 07, 2009

BBC HD Autumn schedule

The recent poll on this blog showed that more than a third of you still find yourself watching BBC HD over the newer HD arrivals on your V+, making it the most popular HD channel on cable. Good news: there's a raft of new programmes coming to BBC HD this autumn. We may have to wait until November for the return of Heroes, but in the meantime how about the following? (from Danielle Nagler's latest Blog post)
Returning to the channel at weekends are Strictly Come Dancing (this time, with the results), and Antiques Roadshow. There are channel debuts for Hole in the Wall, Countryfile, Waterloo Road and political satire The Thick of It. There's a range of new comedy, from BBC Two's Home Time, and series two of Beautiful People, to BBC Three's Lunch Monkeys and How Not to Live Your Life, as well as the channel's new horror title Harper's Island.

You'll find the majority of big BBC programmes for the Autumn on the channel, including Life, the Electric Proms, Lost Land of the Volcano, Emma, and The Art of Russia. As well as the Doctor Who specials, we'll be showing the animation series Dreamland, and the next Sarah Jane Adventures, and younger viewers may also appreciate the arrival of Shaun the Sheep and new Justin Fletcher (aka Mr Tumble) series, Gigglebiz, which is a bit like Little Britain for under 6s.

Stephen Fry's 'Last Chance To See"

Two new nature series kick off on BBC HD this week. Stephen Fry's Last Chance To See is on BBC1 on Sunday evening but you have to wait until Tuesday at 8pm to see it on BBC HD. It's followed at 9pm by a simulcast of Lost Land Of The Volcano from the same team who did the Lost Land Of The Jaguar last year.

September 06, 2009

Picturebox HD with surround sound

Thanks to Brian who emailed me to let me know that some PictureBox HD movies are now with surround sound (Hot Fuzz is, not sure about the others). I don't know if it's Dolby Digital 5.1 or not though - see this discussion over on Cable Forum for more debate

September 05, 2009

3D TV failing to set pulses racing

The film studios, TV manufacturers and Sky may all be doing their best to whip some enthusiasm for 3D, but it appears that few of you are excited by the prospect at this stage in its evolution.
A poll conducted on this blog pulled 420 votes, but only 12% of respondents thought that 3D TV was "very important" whilst over a third said they felt it was a fad and not important at all, and another third felt it a niche service at best. 16% considered it moderately important but not essential.
I have to say I remain sceptical myself - as a glasses-wearer I've found 3D in its various guises to be an uncomfortable experience at best, but even the idea of the technology in new sets not requiring glasses doesn't set my pulse racing either. Some in Hollywood may believe it's the future but frankly I can't see it happening with movies apart from the summer comic book blockbusters and kids films.
Give me quality HD over a 3D headache any day...

September 04, 2009

Virgin On Demand Listings available online

It has taken years, but finally Virgin is publishing its On Demand programming on the Virgin Media website. Hurrah!
Here's the URL for the HD programmes available online:
If you click on a programme title it explains where you can find it in the maze of the EPG. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell you how long a programme is going to be available or what may be coming next, but it's a damn sight more efficient than scrolling through menus on the EPG trying to find the stuff. Appears to be fully searchable and sortable, too.
(Doesn't appear to include all of the Filmflex HD films though - just one or two.)

An enigmatic island of mystery and death

No, not that Lost island, this is Harper's Island, a 13-part US drama arriving on BBC HD Sunday evening with a double episode kicking off at 9pm. Although cancelled in the US, the story is complete and may be worth checking out whilst we wait for the genuine article to return in January for its final run on Sky1.

September 01, 2009

50mb broadband for VIP customers

Don't always report on the broadband service (other sites are a better source for broadband info) but thought I'd mention that for VIP customers the 50mb XXL broadband is now just £8 extra per month (plus a £50 one-off install cost). New 802.11n modem, too.

C4 HD picking up

August is always a poor month on Channel 4 (unless you like Big Brother) and it's been a particularly dry time for those of us sampling C4HD for the first time. Mercifully, September sees things pick up on the channel especially with films and here are some of the HD programmes coming our way for the week from Saturday:


19.05 and 20.05 ER
21.00 Film: World Trade Center
23.30 Film: Hustle & Flow
01.40 Film: Mean Creek


09.25 Hollyoaks Omnibus (and every week day at 18.30)
13.00 Teen Choice Awards
14.50 Ugly Betty
20.00 Come Dine With Me
22.40 Film: Lucky Number Slevin


23.10 Film: Straightheads


23.35 Coming Up
00.05 The Kevin Bishop Show


13.20 Film: Batman (1966)


13.25 Film: Fantastic Voyage
01.15 Film: Against the Ropes


01.10 Film: Knights of the South Bronx

It's still not brilliant (but you can't blame Virgin for that) and it's disapponting that so many of C4's new homegrown programmes are still only in SD (Jaime Oliver, Dispatches, Location Location etc) but the films are most welcome.