Apple failed me today. The AppleTV upgrade is not what it should have been. I am not saying that having movie rentals is bad — the more features the merrier. But movie rentals on this device is like you are one step from having a stroke, and all you want to do is put a lipstick on, so you look good to the ambulance driver. What kind of shit is that?
The AppleTV needed the following updates to be relevant:
* 1080/30p support. Because this would require a hardware upgrade, I guess I would be happy with 720/30p support (it currently only does 720/24p). My camera shoots in 1080/60i (and most newer cameras do so in 1080/30p), so 720/30p is a must-have option. To achieve that on the same AppleTV 1.6Ghz Celeron hardware, the Apple engineers would need to sit their ass down and optimize, optimize, optimize. But they obviously didn’t do that. When mpeg2 DVD playback was optimized to playback in 450Mhz Mac/PCs back in the day, there’s no reason why 720/30p wouldn’t work on a modern 1.6 Ghz PC. And yet, no implementation today, closed or open source, is as well optimized. I guess all these kids coming out of college these days only know how to develop in Java. Well then, outsource in Ukraine. I don’t fucking care.
* And while we are talking about h.264 and 720/30p support: Main Profile at 4.1 level with CABAC is a must-have.
* WMV and DivX/XViD support. Here’s my argument: while it’s not a big deal having iTunes re-encoding your movies/footage for your iPod at the QVGA resolution, it IS A BIG deal re-encoding in HD. It takes much, much longer re-encoding in HD than to re-encode in QVGA. So even if Apple has their own strategy about h.264 and .mov, the reality is, that practical uses will require users to re-encode these formats to Apple’s blessed ones. And these re-encodings take so long, that will aggravate people. I know it would piss me off. Apple should get over the “we don’t support competition’s formats” and give people what they need. These are popular formats we are talking about!
Update: So I get replies over at Engadget that “it’s ok to have DivX/XViD support, but I don’t see why we need WMV“. How much more single-minded people can get? They write that just because WMV was created by Microsoft! Well, here’s why: Windows video editors mostly EXPORT in the fucking WMV format, so that’s why you need it. Ulead, Movie Maker and Vegas Movie Studio only support WMV for “delivery”-grade user format (not counting intermediate formats). That’s why! Why do people only think of PIRATED MOVIES (that usually come in XViD format) when it comes to their format preferences?!? Am I the only person on the net who wants to view LEGAL user-created content? Or is this just a case of “video format racism”?
* While they are at it, they should also try some DV .avi, HDV .m2t and AVCHD .m2ts/mts support. Mpeg2 at 1080/60i is easier to decode than h.264 in HD btw. I am a videographer, I need support for these formats too, although I would be kinda ok if they are missed.
Until these features are built into AppleTV, the deal is OFF for me. The Sony PS3 is a MUCH more convenient device for video-watching because it does not force me to re-encode everything (even if itself needs to fix some compatibility issues with some formats like .mov, and h.264 that comes out of Adobe Premiere). No, the PS3 is not as nice to use as the AppleTV with its well-targeted UI, but heck, it plays lots and lots of video formats, and it can go up to 1080/30p. So why would I shell out for the AppleTV when the PS3 does it better? Sure, it costs a few bucks more, but it’s also a gaming machine, so it it’s worth these extra bucks.