Fixing the double-letterboxing effect in Windows Media Player…

To resolve the double-letterboxing effect when playing a widescreen (16:9) movie encoded as fullscreen (4:3) on a widescreen laptop: use Videolan.

Videolan is a freeware, open-source media-player that can help to resolve this problem by providing zoom and crop features that are easily accessible with a right-click while playing the video. If you have an older version, check out the newly released 0.9.* (Grishenko) release – it’s really cool!

Download movies to DVD

Just finished reading a Yahoo news story about how movie studios are finally offering download to DVD technology that will allow users to play downloaded movies on their TVs. As is usually the case, the Adult Film Industry is again taking the lead in this initiative – Vivid has signed up with CinemaNow to offer movies for download to DVD. CinemaNow already offers movies from major Hollywood studios as well but those are restricted to playing on the PC.

NYT also has an article: “Can TV’s and PC’s Live Together Happily Ever After?” where they analyze the 4 important roadblocks to this concept taking off:

  • limitations in broadband infrastructure
  • the degree of readiness among electronics makers to provide a product with mass appeal
  • the behavior of consumers and
  • the agenda of the players in the TV ecosystem.

The reality is that just as the MP3, i-Pod and i-Tunes trio dismantled the traditional way of music distribution, if the movie studios don’t figure out a way to offer movies for download, someone else will.

I can think of 2 ways that such movies can be distributed:

  • a commercial-free premium version which can be purchased/rented in the same way and for about the same price as a regular DVD.
  • an advertising-supported free version which would be supported by highly targeted ads which the viewer is obliged to watch. The studios would have the complete demographic details of the viewers and would place highly relevant ads. Viewers would have an “add to shopping cart” button on their remotes, thus queuing any items which they like for check-out after the movie completes. To take it a step further viewers would even be able to pause Top Gun and buy Tom Cruise’s aviator sunglasses (as forecasted brilliantly by Bill Gates 10 years back in his amazing book The Road Ahead)

Capture streaming video for free using Videolan

PCMag recently had an article suggesting using Replay A/V (a shareware tool for $50) for capturing streaming audio / video streams. I was left scratching my head why they didn't suggest a wonderful free tool like Videolan. Here's the lowdown on using Videolan to capture video streams:

  1. Download and install Videolan for PC/Mac/Linux.
  2. Click on File > Open Network Stream.
  3. In the dialog box click on "HTTP/HTTPS/FTP/MMS" and type in the URL of the network stream you want to record.
    Videolan Open Network Stream Dialog
  4. Select the "Stream output" checkbox and click the Settings button.
  5. In the dialog box select the File option and browse to create a file for the stream to be written to. Leave all the settings as they are.
    Videolan Stream Output to File
  6. That's it! Click on OK twice and the stream will be written to the file. You can stop anytime you want. For best results use Videolan when playing the file.

Tomorrow: recording MP3's from online radio stations for free!