Watching video and listening to music using your web browser is great…when you don’t mind sitting in front of your computer. But when you want to take that content and view it somewhere else, well, you don’t have many options. As of today, though, you have a free, easy-to-use browser plug-in that can help: TwonkyBeam.
TwonkyBeam is from PacketVideo, the company that rolled out the TwonkyMedia manager app earlier this year. TwonkyMedia manager, now in version 1.2, is a $40 application that helps you manage all of your multimedia content and share it between devices (such as TVs, computers and more) throughout your house. The software allows you to, literally, drag the content from its location on your computer and drop it to where you’d like to view it.
The new TwonkyBeam plug-in takes the same drag-and-drop concept that’s behind the TwonkyMedia manager app and brings it to the web. It’s a bit hard to understand until you’ve tried it out, but this YouTube video from the folks at TwonkyMedia helps clarify things a bit.
Currently in beta, TwonkyBeam only works with Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher running on a Windows PC, but the company expects to expand the product to other browsers and operating systems in the future. Setting it up is easy: You download and install TwonkyBeam, and you’re up and running — the entire process takes less than a minute.
TwonkyBeam runs in a pane alongside your browser window, and is divided into three sections: content, devices and Beam. In the content section, you can toggle between videos, music and photos. When you select the type of media, a list of all of the available files found on the web page you’re currently viewing will show up in that pane. Unfortunately, though, the file names don’t carry over into TwonkyBeam, which can lead to some confusion. If you open a YouTube page with multiple videos, for example, the TwonkyBeam Video pane will display a list that reads: YouTube Video 1, YouTube Video 2, and so on. The same is true of images and music files. (The names of some files do appear after you’ve beamed them to another device.)
Once the media files are listed, you can send them over to your compatible media players, which automatically appear in the Devices section of the TwonkyBeam plug-in. PacketVideo lists compatible players on its site; the list includes a variety of set-top media streamers, connected HDTVs like those from Samsung, and audio streamers like the Roku SoundBridge. If you have the TwonkyMedia manager app running on another computer, you’ll see that device listed there, too. To send (or “beam”) a file, you click its title from the content list, select a gadget from your devices list, and then press the play button, which is found in the Beam menu.
I had no compatible media devices on hand, so I tested TwonkyBeam using two computers: one with the TwonkyBeam plug-in installed, and another running the TwonkyMedia manager app. The setup was flawless: Both apps installed easily and found one another with no help from me. And content was beamed over nearly instantaneously. I would click play on TwonkyBeam, and by the time I turned my head, the photo or video would already be showing on the other computer.
TwonkyBeam only lets you beam compatible files, which is a nice touch. (You can’t, for example, beam a video clip to your audio player.) That’s the good news. The bad news is that the content didn’t always look great once it made the move. Photos often looked pixelated and stretched. YouTube videos fared a bit better, but even HD videos didn’t look quite as sharp when they were beamed over, and I had to wonder how they would fare on a bigger screen.
TwonkyBeam also doesn’t work with all video sites (and the app does include a list of recommended sites for finding content). I had no problem beaming YouTube videos, but TwonkyBeam was unable to work with Hulu because that site’s content is protected. If I could use it to beam Hulu’s awesome collection of video to my TV, I’d be in heaven. Alas, that may be asking too much.
TwonkyBeam still has some rough edges, but this beta shows promise. To really take advantage of all of its features, you’ll need one or more of the networked media players that support the app. If you have the right device — and if TwonkyBeam could get support for sites like Hulu thrown in there — it could be killer.