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Summary:

So yesterday was quite a day. I for one am pretty jazzed about the whole Front Row deal. I think that’s gonna be some sweet action as it propagates throughout the Apple hardware line (Steve, please do this soon) in the coming months. And while the […]

So yesterday was quite a day. I for one am pretty jazzed about the whole Front Row deal. I think that’s gonna be some sweet action as it propagates throughout the Apple hardware line (Steve, please do this soon) in the coming months. And while the announcement of iTunes 6 (wow – a whole .x!!!) and Video iPods is neat, I’m a bit underwhelmed.

With all the hoopla in recent months from Apple about HD this and that, why on EARTH are the video downloads from iTunes not in H.264?? To me at least, that seemed like a given. I was shocked to find that the videos were not only non-HD, they weren’t even a proper TV resolution of 640 x 480! It’s just big enough for the iPod screen, and little more.

With 45 minute TV shows weighing in at almost 200megs, they’d be able to streamline that download (and the storage space – my gosh, the storage space!) significantly using the H.264 compression scheme. And then you could hook your iPod dock up to your TV, watch your photo slide shows and your iTunes Video downloads on your Television, instead of being tied to a tiny screen all the time.

My only hope is that Apple’s pulling one of their signature moves…
1. Announce a great new service and grab the hype.
2. Launch it with relatively sub par components.
3. Make lots of money.
4. Wait 3-6 months.
5. Announce the on or above par replacements for initial launch components.
6. Make even more money.

I’ve even considered that maybe they’ll take a dip into the subscription market, by offering H.264 video downloads on a subscription basis. Who knows. But they’d better get [back] on that HD bandwagon soon!!

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  1. Greg Balanko-Dickson Thursday, October 13, 2005

    I totally agree, video is nice, but I paid (again) for the Quicktime Pro license and it only makes sense to exploit their iTunes market penetration to push the H.264 standard – it would be a great experience for the end user and as a podcaster, well a good user experience is what we are all looking for.

    Wake up Mr. Jobs.

  2. Dude are you sure? I watched the “keynote” thing and could have sworn he said quite explicitly that it was all in H.264 format and in 320×240 resolution. I know for sure he admitted the resolution because his point seemed to be it was intended for watching it on the new iPod. Not that I agree that’s how it should be watched, just that I think that was his intention. And I’m almost positive he said it was ALL in H.264. But if you downloaded it and it wasn’t then I don’t know why he was going on and on about all the video being in H.264 if it’s really not. Maybe you should email that Steve guy and let him know what’s really going on.

  3. macinfan – I didn’t watch the broadcast, so maybe he said that and I wasn’t aware. But it’s nowhere that I saw on Apple’s site.

    Plus, I downloaded the recent version of Lost and it’s GRAINY at full screen. H.264 is supposed to size up or down w/o clarity loss. Not happening here. So if it’s indeed HD quality, something’s fishy.

    EDIT – I’m thinking, if it was encoded at 320×240 as the target size, even in H.264, maybe that means it’s gonna degrade as it gets bigger. That may make sense. But it sucks if that is the case, for all the folks who’ll just want to watch episodes on their computers….

  4. Um, H.264 is a subset of MPEG-4 ( H.263 was MPEG-2? ) So, since you need QT 7 PRO to encode Video for iPod, that is H.264…

    Now, I’m not sure where you get the idea it’s “supposed” to scale without quality loss ( who ever said that?) If you think 320 x 240 is so bad, it’s 640 x 480 on standard definition TV. Which is only twice as big.

    Oh, you think h.264 is supposed to be like the HD movie trailors?? Um, that would be HD which is 1920 x 1080i + Surround sound ( and would take 3 days to d/l )

    Think about it, and think about current Movies at 252 x 320 in MPG 1 or Divx bit torrents which fit 2 hours on 750MB CD’s I think….

    On your computer, you will always have a much higher rez screen than a TV. What did ya’ expect??

  5. I decided to download one of the Pixar shorts on iTunes to check out the video quality and was really disappointed. I’ve watched some of the HD trailers on the Apple trailer page and was amazed at the quality of H.264. Compared to the trailer, the quality of the short was just pathetic.

    Now on to the iMac. The coolest thing about it was the move to PCI Express. With the inclusion of PCI Express, the Radeon X600, and the built in iSight, the iMac goes from a really good consumer level machine to a really great consumer level machine. Why didn’t I mention Frontrow? It’s not finished yet. When you can record TV and then transfer it to your HD television it will be finished.

    Apple is really good at creating a lot of buzz with a product and then a few months later updating the product to make it a must have. That’s what is happening here. Next year the first Intel dual core iMacs will appear and it will be a true media center that will record TV programming. We will also see an all new iPod with a wide screen format that will do HD. At least those are my predictions.

  6. I expect the World.
    too much to ask?

    Thanks for the education Neo. I suppose I lost my head a bit….and mixed up my terms (2 things that drive me nuts when others do). thanks for calling me out there.

    1 thing that DOES seem ridiculous (I’m breathing evenly here) is that whether playing the downloaded video – in 320 x 240 format even – within iTunes (or just in QuickTime), my 1ghz G4 processor gets a hefty 50% draw off of it for the duration of the purchased video.
    I suspect it’s something to do with the DRM, but MAN! taxing my system like that just to watch a simple movie? pretty lame. I wonder if it heats the new iPods up while watching a 45 minute show…?

  7. The Apple iPod site says the following:

    Video capacity is based on 4 minutes per H.264 750-Kbps video combined with 128-Kbps audio.

    I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that it didn’t do h.264, since that codec requires a lot of horsepower to decode. I do think they should think about allowing a twin download, say for $2.99, of the 320×240 video as well as a 640×480 version for computer-screen playback.

  8. Hmm, well, all I can say is if the video and CPU usage really is that bad, then those guys aren’t going to be legitimizing anytime soon the video downloading like they did with the music.

  9. Wow, a page full of complete nonsense.

    H.264 has nothing to do with HD. It’s just a compression algorithm, like any other. It’s good enough to make HD manageable for the first time, but there is nothing specifically HD about it.

    So congratulations for writing an article that is all up in arms about not including something that you don’t understand.

    Also, there is no such thing as a visual image that scales without quality loss. More detailed images experience less loss. That is all.

  10. What I understand, Mr Dogger, is what I see. And what I see has less than impressed me. Forgive me for using improper terms, or misstating facts. When it boils down to it, The picture isn’t what I EXPECTED it would be. Too bad.

    Thanks to all for the educational comments where I was wrong. Anyone can point out a mistake. Those who actually have the knowledge to correct and teach are appreciated…

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