Supercharge Yor TV - Part I

These days, it seems like just one computer per person isn’t enough! We have our desktops at work, move around with laptops, and glance at our connected smartphones all the time, but there’s room for even more computers and connected devices around the house for specialized functions. The strongest case can be made for a home entertainment PC, sometimes called a Home Theater PC (HTPC), which needs to be a dedicated machine because it’s located in a family setting rather than a private one, and it uses your TV screen as its primary monitor, which becomes somewhat inconvenient for getting any other kind of work done. Rather than running wires around a house or lugging a laptop over to the TV each time you want to watch a movie, it makes a whole lot of sense for home audio and video enthusiasts to invest in a dedicated entertainment machine.

Home theaters range from simple DVD player + receiver + surround sound speaker setups to elaborate rooms with high-def projectors, custom soundproofing, and special-purpose furniture. The cost of keeping up with technology is rather prohibitive—anyone who’s been an enthusiast for around a decade will have felt the pinch of investing in Laser Disc, DVD, HD-DVD and now Blu-ray players and movie discs, not to mention the ever-growing number of cable and connector standards that keep proliferating. Today, a large number of components which need to be upgraded periodically can simply be replaced with a computer. The costs and hassles involved with each upgrade cycle are considerably reduced, since you can often achieve superb results just by swapping out one component. Moreover, you have immense flexibility and control over your media, and new formats require only a change of software.

Today, we have very demanding, non-passive requirements when it comes to media consumption. We don’t just want to watch TV, we want to record it and skip through ads. We don’t just want music; we want videos, artist information and related track recommendations. We’ve been exposed to high quality entertainment on demand with thousands of online sources to choose from, and we love it! Why settle for anything less? A home entertainment PC is the ultimate solution for families, and singles everywhere.

The content
We’re the YouTube generation, finally riding bandwidth pipes fat enough to watch clips unbuffered and surf around from one link to another, devouring video as we go along. No longer do we have to depend on a TV channel’s programming schedule—we can download (legally or illegally) practically anything we like and watch it on demand. But we’re still doing it while sitting in front of our 13-inch laptops and 17-inch computer screens. Why not zap all that over to the TV?

Star TV: The website ‘www.startv.in’ features an option called ‘Star Player’ for those who are busy at home or at work and miss out on their regular shows. The website features almost all the recent episodes that have aired on the Star network. Just log on to the website and select the video from the fields marked Week, Month and All Time. The website is well designed and has categories depending on the genre of the videos—popular, drama, romance, comedy and reality. Alternatively, one can search for the desired program too. ‘Star Player +’ is an option which one can register for using a Facebook user ID or free account, and set up a personalized dashboard which allows you to mark any program. Once aired, you’ll see it added to your dashboard for you to view at your convenience. An email reminder can also be sent and you can see what other users on the website are watching.

International TV: Sadly, many international sites like the amazing Hulu and Vevo restrict their content to viewers in the United States. There are still a few free options such as MTV.com which has a huge archive of reality-based programming available for streaming. Justin.tv is another site with loads of great live streaming videos of concerts, nature, and pop culture topics. A single directory of all the billions of videos out there would be pretty impossible to compile, but the guys behind SurfTheChannel.com have tried to do the best job they can. Beware of links that claim to let you download these videos though!
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Rajshri.com: The Indian publishing company Rajshri Media now offers hundreds of TV shows, music videos and movies. Users can stream most of these online for free, and pay to download them. Most of the shows are popular soaps and chat shows aired presently on local TV channels. Rajshri also offers its own Web serial, called Akbar Birbal Remixed, which consists of 90 three-minute episodes.

Bigflix.com: This website also has a wide selection of Indian movies, TV shows and music videos on offer. You can watch them all online and share with friends via popular social networks.

YouTube: The best blend of videos can found on YouTube. From low-quality videos taken with mobile phones to the highest quality productions, they’re all there. Plenty of commercial musicians and filmmakers now use YouTube to host their material, so search around for some real high-quality content. Amateur drama series abound, and you can catch up on recorded clips from television shows too. Live events such as music concerts and the recently concluded IPL cricket tournament are also hosted quite frequently.

Vimeo: This is more of a community for visual artists. Independent filmmakers have posted thousands of beautiful and entertaining clips to Vimeo. Some can be downloaded and saved, and many have HD versions available too.

Dailymotion, Metacafe, Joost, others: Dozens of other video streaming sites exist, usually with some specific genre. You can find tutorial videos, music, general entertainment, mainstream TV clips, independently published work, and loads more.

Podcasts and Web shows: Originally conceptualized for iPods and other portable players, the term has come to be used for any simple packaged video show, episodes of which are usually published on a regular basis. These come in audio as well as video. Literally thousands of shows are available, including ones on technology, politics, Bollywood, current events, and comedy. Chances are your favorite blogs and websites also produce downloadable or streamable podcasts. Go to www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/ for a rundown of everything they offer through iTunes, or search around for freely downloadable files anywhere on the Web.

Shoutcast, Yahoo, Live365: Undoubtedly the grandfather of online streaming audio, Shoutcast contains thousands of stations dedicated to everything from classic polka ballads to hardcore trance to political commentary. Shoutcast stations can be played on your PC, Web browser or multiple mobile devices via free clients. Yahoo also offers tons of free streaming radio stations divided by genre and physical location. One of the nicest services, although you’ll have to pay to stream it outside a web browser, is Live365. The quality and range of options available are truly mind boggling.

iTunes/Netflix: We hope that these or some similar legal, paid distribution system will launch in India and let us download or subscribe to all the mainstream movies and shows we want to watch, finally breaking free of the TV channels’ rigid schedules. Are the companies listening?

Illegal content: What can we say? It’s out there! We don’t endorse this in any way, and you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of risks including viruses and legal repercussions, but everyone already knows that file sharing networks and download sites are full of juicy, high-quality audio and video.


Published Date: May 26, 2010 02:47 pm | Updated Date: May 26, 2010 02:47 pm