November 27, 2009

4HD films this Sunday

On Sunday check out the excellent animation Robots at 6.25pm and Danny Boyle's dazzling sci-fi Sunshine at 10pm - both showing in high def.

November 26, 2009

Forums buzzing with Tivo news and speculation

The news that VM and Tivo are pairing up for the next gen TV stuff in 2010 has got a lot of people excited. Here are a few of the threads on the topic for those interested:
Cable Forum
Digital Spy
Before your excitement reaches fever pitch though check out this more sobering post on Broadband TV News, which says
Virgin Media currently runs the SeaChange International-owned TV Navigator (the former Liberate) middleware across its technology footprint. It is expected that TV Navigator will continue to be used on SD receivers following the extension of its contract through until at least 2011. Broadband TV News understands that TiVo is likely to be used on a dedicated receiver model, TV Navigator continuing on current and future deployments of the standard and V+ (DVR) receivers.

November 25, 2009

Virgin Media and Tivo team up for Next Gen TV

wowowowow. Virgin Media has announced that it's teaming up with US PVR innovators and market leaders Tivo for its Next Generation (ie IP-based) TV project. From the Tivo Press Release:
Under the mutually exclusive agreement, TiVo will develop a converged television and broadband interactive interface to power Virgin Media's next generation, high definition set top boxes.

TiVo will become the exclusive provider of middleware and user interface software for Virgin Media's next generation set top boxes. Virgin Media will become the exclusive distributor of TiVo services and technology in the United Kingdom.

Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media said, "TiVo's proven track record of innovation, strength of its patented technology and experience in developing best in class user environments, make it an ideal strategic partner for Virgin Media as we move aggressively to bring our next generation TV service to market. The superiority of our fibre optic network combined with TiVo's capabilities, will allow us to offer consumers the most significantly advanced and compelling TV service available in the UK, and we believe will do to the TV market what Virgin Media has done to the high speed broadband market."

The next generation platform will offer a superior television viewing experience which will allow Virgin Media customers to search and discover content through major advances in video-on-demand integration and broadband video delivery creating the ultimate one-stop-shop for in-home entertainment.

Virgin Media currently anticipates its first TiVo co-branded product in 2010.

(Thanks to Tank and Nick for the info)

November 23, 2009

Freeview HD FAQ

My recent post on the imminent arrival of Freeview HD (and less imminent arrival of the hardware it needs) has raised a fair bit of correspondence and highlights much of the confusion about this fledgling "high def" service. For those who want to know more, I can recommend this Freeview HD FAQ on The Register, which puts the basics more succinctly and accurately than I can.

November 20, 2009

Warner introduce a "swap your DVDs for Blu Ray" service

Warner Bros has introduced a new service in the US for those looking to upgrade old WB DVDs to Blu Ray discs. More details at
It's not available in the UK yet and it's not actually as generous a deal as it first appears: for each disc it's actually $7.95 (around a fiver) and the postage is another couple of quid unless you send them 25 or more. Still, not a bad initiative.

November 19, 2009

Looking to fill a Wire-shaped hole in your life?

Virgin On Demand is to feature Wire creator David Simon's latest HBO series, Generation Kill, in high definition this autumn. If you missed it on 4HD recently, it's worth investigating although it won't be to everyone's taste. Here's the press release:
From the creator of The Wire, Generation Kill follows a battalion of elite US Marines through ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ – the first 40 days of the Iraq war. It’s based on the book of the same name by Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, about his own experiences of being embedded with the Marines in Iraq in 2003. The seven-part miniseries portrays the true story of the young Marines’ experience at the tip of the spear of the American invasion, as they contend with equipment shortages, an unclear strategy, moustache protocol and an espresso machine fire.

November 17, 2009

Life on BBC HD

Last night's episode of Life on BBC HD looked pretty good to my eyes. It was about insects, and anyone who watched the series Swarm last year will know that swarms of insects really show the limitations of standard definition with awful blocking and almost unwatchable images. Flicking between BBC1 and HD last night the difference was considerable, especially the sequence showing the migration of the Monarch butterflies. Beautiful.
Reading through the comments on Danielle Nagler's recent blog post it appears that everyone's favourite HD techie Andy Quested is back and investigating the matter. Not before time, as the poll on this blog showed that 83% of respondents felt the picture on BBC HD had deteriorated of late, which is pretty damning in the face of the denials from Auntie.

November 13, 2009

BBC denies HD channel quality drop

The Head of BBC HD has posted again that there are no quality issues with the channel. Here's Danielle Nagler's latest post...and have a look at the immediate reactions in the comments below.

November 12, 2009

Top Gear and Dr Who in HD this weekend

Bit of a red letter day for BBC HD this Sunday - a shame that the drop in picture quality recently (see Poll to the right) makes it something less to shout about. Here are the highlights:
  • BBC HD on Sunday at 7pm: Doctor Who
  • BBC HD on Sunday at 9pm: Top Gear
Also on Sunday, some good movies on 4HD:
(Don't get too excited about C4's showing of Four Weddings and a Funeral on Saturday or the original Planet of the Apes next Tuesday: both are only in standard def.)

No Wild Russia on Nat Geo HD this weekend - that series has finished. All six episodes though are apparently showing back to back on Christmas Day.

November 10, 2009

Freeview HD - coming VERY soon for some

Okay, so it may not be suitably high enough definition for many, but Freeview HD is rolling out with quite an aggressive schedule according to TechRadar:

London has already joined Granada in getting Freeview HD this year, and Glasgow and Edinburgh (Black Hill), Durham and Teeside (Pontop Pike), Birmingham (Lichfield), and south Yorkshire (Emley Moor) were all scheduled for the first half of 2010. West and Central Wales (Blaenplwyf transmitter), Swansea (Kilvey Hall), Cardiff and Newport (Wenvoe) and around the Winter Hill relays will all be up and running by March. In April, Carmarthenshire (Carmel), Exeter and parts of Devon (Stockland Hill), Bristol, Somerset, Dorset Wiltshire and Gloucestershire (Mendip).

May sees Shetland (Bressay) and Orkney (Keelylang Hill) join the Freeview HD party and June brings North Wales (Long Mountain, Moel-y-parc, Presely), Caithness and North Sutherland (Rumster Forest).

OFCOM rejects DRM for BBC HD...for now

The BBC's request that some of its HD programming be "protected" by Digital Rights Management when appearing on the Freeview platform has been rejected by OFCOM. Full story over on The Register.
Given the current picture quality issues I think that's the least of BBC HD's problems at the moment - no-one's going to bother with the HD channel at all whilst stuff looks just as good on the SD channels...

November 09, 2009

Danielle Nagler interview

Now available online, the Points of View interview with the Head of BBC HD Danielle Nagler. Here's the link to the full interview: Points of View. She's towards the bottom of the page and the interview lasts just over seven minutes.
"If it's not crisp and sharp it's not necessarily a bad HD picture"? Really??
I'm not convinced by what she says regarding the current picture quality issue on the channel - my eyes tell me the channel has lost its ability to stun the optic nerves, but she thinks otherwise. Whilst it may not all be down to bitrates there is something wrong, and even if Ms Nagler cannot see it I'm sure others at the Corporation can.
What do you think? A quick poll is to the right.

November 06, 2009

Virgin demonstrating 3D TV

Be still my beating heart...
According to Digital Spy, Virgin are demo-ing 3D TV to the great unwashed today (Friday) at the new Oxford Street store. Details here.

(I know it's not HD and I think in future I'll be keeping this blog just to HD posts from hereon rather than general Virgin news - I just haven't got the time to be honest and other sites cover this in sufficient detail now.)

November 03, 2009

Virgin TV without the phone

It's always been a frustration that Virgin only offers it's TV packages with a telephone line. But at long bloody last they now are offering them as "standalone" too andyou can now get Virgin TV by itself in three flavours:

Virgin TV M+ is £11.50 a month

Virgin TV L is £16 a month

Virgin TV XL is £27.50 a month

November 01, 2009

Football on BBC HD today

The Championship match between Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest may not be the tie of the weekend but it is on BBC HD at 4.45pm Sunday afternoon. Details here. It will be interesting to see how the PQ compares with ESPN HD's coverage of the United Blackburn game last night, which looked pretty much perfect to me (even if the game itself was poor entertainment).

Picturebox HD line up

Looking pretty good HD line up now for a fiver:
  • Barton Fink
  • Bourne Identity
  • Bourne Supremacy
  • Bourne Ultimatum
  • Children of Men
  • The Funhouse
  • Haunted
  • House Calls
  • Jaws
  • Knocked Up
  • Let's Go To Prison
  • The Long Run
  • Lust, Caution
  • Prince of Darkness
  • Rise
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow
  • Seesion 9
  • Sometimes a Great Notion
  • Very Bad Things
In fact I don't recall seeing Ang Lee's Lust, Caution appearing on Sky Premier yet