December 27, 2008
Sure, Gavin & Stacey was fun, any films in high def were most welcome and Wallace and Gromit looked fabulous in high definition, but for me the highlight of the Christmas programming on BBC HD was a little trio of ghost stories on late at night; Crooked House.
Penned by League of Gentlemen and ocassional Doctor Who scribe Mark Gatiss, these were three interconnected tales that really did send a shiver up my spine (especially the third episode - I'll never wake at 3.43am and feel safe again).
The good news for those who missed them the first time around is that they're being repeated as a single 90 minute drama on Monday, December 29th at 9pm on BBC HD. Highly, highly recommended...but leave a light on, just in case.
December 23, 2008
December 22, 2008
In addition to a good selection of family movies there are a few specials on BBC HD this week that may be worth your time:
Crooked House (Mon-Weds, 11pm, 11.05 and 11.15pm) is a trio of ghost stories by Mark Gatiss that looks promising
The Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special is showing in high def on Christmas Eve at 10.15pm, fifteen minutes after it starts on BBC1 .
Christmas Day itself boast Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf & Death at 8.30pm, and the return of the Royle Family at 9.30pm. More Royals: for those who stand to attention at 3pm, The Queen's Speech is in HD, too.
Also on Christmas Day is a Strictly Come Dancing special at 7pm. Enjoy!
(Programming on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day all start around noon, 12 hours plus each day.)
December 20, 2008
Not that we're missing much ... a line up of repetitive showcase channels and minority sports from what I recall.
December 19, 2008
The cynic in me would suggest that Sky has done something deliberate to reduce the quality of the SD movies to make the HD package more attractive to its customers, but there's not a similar drop in PQ on Sky Sports.
Is there something wrong somewhere? Is there a difference in the way VM are handling the feeds? Is it a bitrate drop? Or is it just my aged eyes getting worse?
No BBC2 Heroes repeat in HD this weekend btw, but those who have somehow managed to miss season two of Gavin & Stacey can watch all seven episodes back to back on Sunday starting at 9pm.
December 17, 2008
The BBC's Andy Quested has excelled himself this month; check out this BBC Blog post to learn how to best calibrate your TV to make the most of the new HD test card on BBC HD. This is quite, quite brilliant. Thank you sir!
December 16, 2008
Personally, I don't think this is a bad move, as long as it's not extended to legal media distribution such as iPlayer or similar. I've never been a fan of downloading films, music or TV illegally - it's just plain wrong.
Berkett has spoken out on this before, and I think it's a brave step for him to stick his neck out on this. I'm sure others disagree but he gets my support on this move.
UPDATE: A Virgin Media spokesman denies The Register's story, reported here on a Wired blog
December 15, 2008
December 14, 2008
“To date our HD content is limited, we only have a couple of HD channels today and we will be launching four channels over the next three months. For us the key to HD is sports and movies and to invest unduly until we get access to that is not the right thing to do.” Berkett said Virgin could catch-up quickly should the market change and would be able to gear up within three to six months. The switch-off of Virgin’s remaining analogue homes would enable delivery of between 30-40 HD channels should the cablenet choose to offer them.Hang on..."we only have a couple of HD channels today"???? Is he talking prematurely about an imminent arrival or does he never watch the service himself? And what are the four definitely on their way?? I'd say C4 HD and ITV HD, plus maybe FX and Sky1 (as suggested over on cableforum.co.uk).
UPDATE: Over on cableforum.co.uk the ever-reliable Horizon has posted the following information from Berkett at the conference:
Berkett confirmed he has now had access to Sky's HD channels for a few months, where as previously they were "locked up" by Sky. But not a price he considers reasonable, hence the ongoing review by Ofcom which he believes will find in VM's favour.
December 12, 2008
Saturday 13th December 2008
True Lies (film) - 10.40pm
Sunday 14th December 2008
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (film) - 4.05pm
Britannia High (drama) - 7.00pm
Saturday 20th December 2008
Honey (film) - 2.40pm
Britannia High Finale (drama) - 5.30pm
Tuesday 23rd December 2008
Ali G Indahouse (film) - 10.40pm
Friday 26th December 2008
Caught in a Trap (drama) - 9.00pm
Saturday 27th December 2008
Bird on a Wire (film) - 11.05pm
Affinity (drama) - 9.00pm
December 11, 2008
Now the less good news: it's primarily family fayre - the odd gem here and there, but nothing to get too excited about if you're over the age of twelve. Here's the full list for Christmas week:
Saturday 20th: 9.45pm Herbie Full Loaded
Monday: 8.30pm Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam's not-that-bad fantasy starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon)
Christmas Eve: 11.50am High School Musical; 2.40pm The Santa Clause; 6.05pm Toy Story 2; 8.30pm Calendar Girls
Christmas Day: 11.25am The Santa Clause 2; 4.30pm Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; 10.30 Casanova
Boxing Day: 5.50pm The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe; 8.30pm Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
December 10, 2008
Bee Movie Animated family adventure featuring the voice talent of Jerry Seinfeld. Available for £2.50 from 07/12/08 to 17/12/08
Be Kind Rewind Jack Black recreates the tapes he erases in a video store. Available for £2.25 from 18/12/08 to 27/12/08
No Country For Old Men Multi-Oscar winning crime thriller from the Coen Brothers, with Javier Bardem. Available for £2.75 from 20/12/08 to 31/12/08
The Kite Runner Acclaimed adaptation about a rift between childhood friends. Available for £2.25 from 20/12/08 to 31/12/08
Cloverfield Action thriller about a huge creature invading New York City. Available for £2.50 from 01/01/09 to 07/01/09
A reminder that it will only be a month or so before these turn up for nowt on Sky Premiere in standard definition.
December 09, 2008
December 08, 2008
That's better :o)
Another feature I've discovered is that if you want the full EPG to display just your Favourites, press Home then Favourites. Pretty neat, too.
Not sure if there are other changes: over on the Virgin TV newsgroup I found this:
Today we completed the download of our latest software release (v. 126.96.36.199) to our V+ customers. Key features of this sooftware are:
- easier set-up of HD
- the availability of standard resolution video over HDMI when in SCART mode
- a feature telling customers that they have an HDMI cable connected but are watching via SCART
- a key bug fix that can make boxes get stuck in a constant reboot cycle
- improved font for subtitles on channels that carry VBI subtitles
- ability to select the Favourites menu anywhere within the guide by pressing the FAV button
- numerous other bits to bring into line with standard boxes which were upgraded earlier in the year
Head of TV Product Engineering, Virgin Media.
December 07, 2008
Season 5 starts on Sunday January 25th.
For those who ran out of patience with season 3, I can promise that season 4 is bang on the money - a strong return to form, greatly helped by having tighter scripts and fewer episodes.
December 06, 2008
Why? Well over on BBC1 they made a late scheduling change and aired a Panorama special instead. Rather than have the HD channel exclusively showcase the latest episode of the landmark drama, they yanked it off.
So when can we see episode 12? Amazingly, the only showing it's getting is in the omnibus edition on Sunday evening (Dec 7) at 6.15 on both BBC HD and BBC1.
What I find frankly astonishing is that the audience that has steadfastly sat through six hours of quality (albeit slow developing) drama is expected to hunt around the schedules to find an episode as the story reaches its climax.
The series ends this week with the penultimate episode on Wednesday at 8pm then an hour-long conclusion on Thursday at 8pm. Assuming there are no other Panorama specials in the offing...
December 02, 2008
There has been an update overnight in many areas and there's been quite a bit of shuffling in the EPG. Over on Cable Forum, regular newshound MediaBoy has suggested a new revision of the EPG that will include the following HD channels. (n.b. I cannot at this stage verify or confirm this story)
191. BBC HDInteresting - that would make some sense (us getting Sky1 HD rather than the full Sports/Movies package) and a handful of others. Why FX HD I wonder? And what timescales? Having the channel allocated isn't of course the same as broadcasting it.
193. For ITV HD
194. For Channel 4 HD
196. For Sky1 HD
197. For FX HD
198 - 200 For new HD Channels
December 01, 2008
Good news for those of us who enjoy the odd extravagance of a Filmflex HD film every now and again - both Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Iron Man are listed as "coming soon" in high def on the Filmflex website. (Please note that Filmflex's definition of "coming soon" normally means in the next week or two, as opposed to the Virgin Media definition of the next year or two...)
Less exciting is that two other summer blockbusters on their way, Wanted and Incredible Hulk, are not listed as HD.
I expect Dark Knight, being a Warner Bros title, will be in HD...fingers crossed.
UPDATE: Iron Man is showing from Dec 11, Indiana Jones from Dec 25. Both are £3.99 in SD and £4.99 in HD.
Personally, I wouldn't be so dismissive - it is still for me the best single HD channel currently available on any platform, even if it is still showing far too many repeats. What other channel offers such a broad range of original HD programming? In the next seven days we'll see new episodes of Wallander, Heroes, Strictly Come Dancing, Oceans, Apparitions, Lead Balloon, Little Dorrit and Survivors? It won't all be to everyone's taste, but there's pretty much something for everyone each week buried in there somewhere.
I don't disagree though that it could be a lot better, and here's hoping that the new promotion reel now being shown on BBC1 most nights heralds a new dawn for the service. Thanks for voting.
(Incidentally, Head of BBC HD Danielle Nagler has posted another BBC HD update on her blog here.)
November 30, 2008
"Munden shot in HD, albeit grudgingly. "I hate it. It can look great but it's just a pain. You're always linked to a monitor and the cameras are huge. I use a lot of zoom lenses and if you've got a zoom on an HD camera it's like a tank. I like to be free to pick up the camera and run with it," he says.So HD is actually cheaper to shoot than film? Interesting. If it makes financial sense for productions then it definitely will be the media of the future, regardless of any qualms the creative folk may have.
"Apart from the low budget BBC2 drama Shiny Shiny Bright New Hole In My Heart, it's the first time he has shot on HD. "It's a cost thing, 16mm film is much more expensive. I can be a bit out of control shooting stock and, if that does happen, it gets very expensive. On HD you're just using tape and it doesn't cost any money."
November 26, 2008
Virgin Media lines up further HD entertainment
Virgin Media has struck a deal with Channel 4 that enables them to offer a selection of Channel 4 programming in HD via their TV on demand service.
Virgin customers can already catch up on Channel 4 shows free of charge for up to seven days post transmission, plus access a library of hundreds of hours of their best library programmes and watch the latest US dramas and comedies on a pay per view basis, via the 4oD service. Now a selection of these shows will also be available in HD format.
The deal also gives Virgin Media the option of carrying the soon-to-be-launched C4HD linear channel.
The company's on-demand library already includes HD assets from content partners including FilmFlex, the BBC and History Channel.
Malcolm Wall, Virgin Media's CEO for Content, said: “We are delighted to be adding Channel 4 content to our growing line up of high definition programming. Virgin Media is at the forefront of technology advances in television and is not only offering its customers higher quality pictures in HD, but also the ability to watch what they want when they want it via the on demand service."
“Demand for HD is increasing, and befitting our ambition for viewers to be able to access our programming when they want it and in a format of their choice, it's important for us to be meeting this demand wherever we can. We are delighted that HD versions of some of our shows will be available to Virgin TV on demand users and look forward to increasing the amount of HD programming in our schedule over time” added Sarah Rose, Head of Video on Demand and Channel Development, Channel 4.
Source: Virgin Press Release, October 2007
Of course, the C4 HD channel has still yet to appear, and C4 HD content in TV Choice On Demand has been noticeable by its absence too - a smattering of US import content at 99p per programmes for a few weeks last Autumn then nothing whatsoever.
To date the C4 high definition offering has been so weak it has been difficult to get enthusiastic about it. But over the last couple of months it has improved and will be even more desirable when C4 does its seasonal film bonanza over the Christmas season. So come on Virgin; you announced the commercial deal was completed ages ago, now give us what you promised in 2007 and let your high paying, HD-starved customers have something early this Christmas!
November 25, 2008
- Wallace And Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
- Toy Story 2
- The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
- Pirates Of The Caribbean – Dead Man's Chest
- Starter For Ten
- Brothers Grimm
- Shrek The Halls
- Wallace and Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf And Death
- Doctor Who Prom
- The 39 Steps
- Lark Rise To Candleford
- Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special
- Gavin and Stacey Christmas special
- Lead Balloon
- The Royle Family Christmas special
- After You've Gone Christmas special
- Michael Palin's Around the World in 20 Years
November 24, 2008
Next Sunday at 9pm on BBC HD sees the first of three episodes of the new detective drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh. That's more like it...
November 22, 2008
Saturday 17:20–18:20 Oceans
And that's it. The rest of the evening is repeats of Torchwood, the recent Ian Fleming documentary, the Barbara Cartland drama and some Electric Proms. And Sunday's not much better, with the only new stuff being:
19:15–20:15 Antiques Roadshow and
November 21, 2008
Based on Terry Nation's seventies drama series of the same name, this looks like standard sub-Spooks BBC fayre. I could be wrong of course. More details, and the trailer, can be found here.
November 19, 2008
So has it been a disappointment? Some times I look at the weekly schedules for the channel and feel like things have gone backwards - there seem to be even more repeats of music programmes than ever, now coupled with snippets of old gardening footage or aerial shots from Coast to fill the schedules. But, looking deeper, there've been many great series on BBC HD in its first full year, and it would be wrong to say it has not improved. For classical drama fans we've had Cranford, Tess of the D'urbervilles, Little Dorritt and others, whilst more modern dramas have included Damages, The Company, Torchwood, Mad Men, Silent Witness and of course Heroes. Most new comedy from the Beeb these days is in HD (Gavin & Stacey, Lead Balloon and other lesser lights) whilst we've been spoiled for documentaries, including Wild China, Michael Palin's New Europe, Building Britain, Britain from Above and Around the World in 80 Gardens. And although live sport has been weaker with the loss of the England internationals and some curious quality issues with the FA Cup matches, the Olympics were stunning and Wimbledon looked better than ever.
So it hasn't been a bad first year, not by a long chalk, but it has still been something of a disappointment - the repeats are still so prevalent most evenings you almost miss the new stuff. Let's hope the second year is when things really take off. Let me know how you feel with a comment or two guys, or vote in the poll.
November 14, 2008
20:30 -21:00 Gardeners' World
21:00 -22:00 The Barristers
1/4. Series following the work of barristers. (R)
22:30 -23:30 BBC Four Sessions: Paul Weller
17:00 -18:00 Recommended: Oceans
Sea of Cortez. 1/8. The marine experts carry out pioneering science on the 20-metre-long sperm whale.
18:05 -19:20 Strictly Come Dancing
Series 6, Round 9
22:30 -00:00 Kiss of Death
Drama which uncovers a serious crime from three different points of view.
18:15 -19:15 Little Dorrit Episodes 5 and 6
Okay, so a repeat...but it's soooooo good!
19:15 -20:15 Antiques Roadshow
22:00 -23:30 Film: Code 46
Drama set in the near future about an investigator who risks his professional career and his marriage when he finds himself irresistibly drawn to a crime's prime suspect.
Starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton
November 13, 2008
The Simpsons (5 back-to-back episodes, starting at 6.30)
The Simpsons (5 more, again at 6.30)
The Simpsons (3 episodes including ONE NEW ONE!!)
The Simpsons (4 episodes)
The Simpsons (3 episodes)
The Simpsons (5 episodes)
repeat ad nauseum
oh, hang on ... that's the regular line up ...
November 12, 2008
November 09, 2008
Prison Break: from Sunday 23rd November and every day that week at 23:00 on Sky2.
24: Day 6: With the premiere of "24: Redemption" on Sky1 on Monday 24th November at 22:00, Sky2 are offering 24: Day 6 the entire series on Saturday 23rd November.
Stargate Atlantis: The first 15 episodes of series 5
They also repeating episodes of JJ Abrams new series Fringe, which I've seen and can recommend. Starting Sunday 16th November, and continuing the rest of that week, at 23:00 on Sky2.
No word yet on seasons 4 of Lost or Battlestar, but they're not due back with new series until the new year so they hopefully will follow.
November 08, 2008
November 07, 2008
Some recognition there that there's a growing demand for HD but the same old story regarding a focus on VoD content rather than HD channels. Ho hum
"We are in on-going discussion with a number of broadcasters with regards to new SD and HD channels."
"With increasing consumer interest in High Definition content, we are actively pursuing rights to HD programmes for our leading video on demand service and have already made a wide range of programmes available."
"We will continue to look for opportunities to add more great HD programmes as they become available, as well as working with content providers, such as the BBC, to provide HD programmes within the popular iPlayer service."
UPDATE (for those who don't read the Comments):
Over on Cable Forums, Media Boy (often the first with news and he has several contacts at VM) has posted:
BSkyB and Virgin Media in talks over HD Channels
I have been told that Virgin Media and Sky are still in talks over Sky's HD Channels.
Virgin hope to have the deal signed by Christmas 2008 and Virgin Media may get the rights to carry up to 15 HD Channels.
November 06, 2008
But again, no mention whatsoever of High Definition services. Yes, Video On Demand. Yes, the return of the Sky Basics is proudly plugged. But again, the somewhat slow penetration of the V+ is seen as "an opportunity for further growth" without any real analysis as to why it's not setting the world on fire. Lack of HD perhaps? Surely not...
November 03, 2008
If Sky HD sustains this growth through the final 2008 quarter (normally the best results of the year for both Sky and Virgin Media) then I think we'll have seen proof that a proper HD line up is no longer a niche specialist interest for the first adopter crowd but an essential pay TV service offering for the larger market.
Virgin Media's latest figures are published on Thursday. It'll be interesting to compare them with Sky's fine quarter.
October 30, 2008
October 28, 2008
October 27, 2008
October 24, 2008
Oh well, at least we have Little Dorrit to marvel at (8pm Sunday), followed by the more questionable pleasure of In Love With Barbara, a dramatisation of the life and loves of the lady who lived her life in a cloud of foundation, Barbara Cartland.
Incidentally, if you ever see anything in the BBC HD schedules and want to know more about it, I found this useful link that lists everything currently scheduled for the next few weeks.
October 23, 2008
October 22, 2008
October 21, 2008
I don't know anyone who's a fan of these "DOGs". The worst for this unnecessary onscreen grafitti, especially the intrusive animated nonsense, are the Sky and Virgin Media TV channels (the former's got even worse since it disappeared from cable and is now reaching US excesses). But you have to go a long way to beat the screen-filling logos on the Disney channels which obsure a ridiculous amount of the screen.
Danielle also admits that the scheduling mess over Heroes/Silent Witness didn't please anyone and pledges to do better in future. It's really refreshing to hear such honesty - whilst it's true that you can't please all the people all the time, at least by listening to her audience she's going to please us more than most.
Now, about all those repeats...
October 18, 2008
October 17, 2008
Friday night features the familiar trio of Gardeners' World, Little Britain USA and the dubious pleasure of Jonathan Ross interviewing Ricky Gervais (why don't they just get a room??).
Saturday night is repeats night central, with just Strictly Come Dancing as the new boy on the block. On Sunday there's an interesting Ian Fleming: When Bond Began as a preview to the forthcoming release of Quantum of Solace (just in case you thought the Gemma Arterton pic was misplaced!), followed by Antiques Roadshow. The late night Heroes repeat is still following the BBC2 pace, with episode 3.
New in the HD section of TV Choice on Demand is History Channel's Digging for the Truth (2 Egyptian themed episodes), whilst Big Love episodes are now numbering eight in my region.
Oh, and the HD movie for a penny for the next seven days is the Jack Black Be Kind Rewind.
October 16, 2008
And it has been shot in glorious high definition, too.
Radio Times schedules have just been updated and this is now showing on BBC HD at the same time it's being broadcast on BBC1 - hurrah!
October 15, 2008
The big issue of 5.1 / 2.0 switching. Thanks to everyone commenting on this blog and elsewhere to give feedback while we were trying switching options. It's now working, but not as well as we would like - for example, we still have more work to do before we can move between stereo and surround programmes without having to put silence between them.And they've also addressed the sometimes ropey studio HD picture on Jonathan Ross:
We have looked at the whole studio, post-production and transmission chain to see what was causing the problems. There were a couple of processes that made some of the cameras quite noisy: these have now been addressed and last Friday's show (October 3rd) looked a lot better, but we are still trying to find ways to improve the quality across all programmes.Read the full post from Andy Quested here.
October 14, 2008
October 13, 2008
October 10, 2008
Saturday night is all repeats with the exception of Strictly Come Dancing at 5.50pm. Like the world's slowest advent calendar, ticking away the Saturday nights to Christmas - it's Round 4
On Sunday there's a repeat of one of the Beeb's best HD series to date: an episode of Galapagos at 6.25pm. Following at 7.15pm is Fiona Bruce with Antiques Roadshow. Those eagerly anticipating the Stephen Fry in America will be disappointed to see it wasn't shot in HD and is only showing on BBC1.
According to the BBC, Sunday's 11.45 episode of Heroes is the second one, "The Butterfly Effect"; it looks like this repeat slot will echo the Wednesday BBC 2 timeline this season. For those who bailed out during the duller moments of season two, I'm pleased to report that the third season has been something of a roller coaster to date and a fine return to form.
October 07, 2008
October 06, 2008
Series Editor John Farron says "Sometimes we get a chance to make a film that changes the way we view history. Nearly two years ago we set out to look at a theory suggesting Stonehenge may have been a healing centre. It led to the first modern dig at the site, viewed by millions live online. And now - the results of the dig. Do watch. The Stonehenge story may have changed forever."
Should look impressive...as long as they filmed on a nice sparkly day and not over the weekend :o(
October 05, 2008
New movies this week in Filmflex's HD offering are Awake, Drillbit Taylor and Never Back Down.
HBO's excellent Big Love debuts in the free HD section this week. This was shown on Five a few years back and won't be to everyone's tastes, but if you like Six Feet Under or the odder aspects of Desperate Housewives, this may rock your boat. Hopefully season two, unshown in the UK, will follow.
The final season of The Sopranos is appearing in HD now, and worth tolerating in SD is the debut season of The Best Cop Show On TV EVER - The Wire. All 13 episodes available for nowt to VIP customers.
Finally, someone's emailed me and pointed out that there are 8 adult movies on Virgin now available in HD. Go to "More On Demand", "Adult" and there's a whole HD category there. HD soft porn...hmmm...
October 03, 2008
Sorry, but it's the last picture of Gemma guys...Tess of the D'Urbervilles concludes on Sunday. It's been a fine adaptation that's looked great in HD. For those who don't know the book, the final episode won't be a barrel of laughs I can assure you.
Before that, The Tudors wraps up Friday with Anne Boleyn for the chop and Jonathan Ross offers the dubious pleasure of Alan Carr in HD. Urgghh.
Saturday evening is all repeats (including a second showing for this week's Silent Witness) except this week's Strictly Come Dancing, whereas Sunday's 11.55 presentation of Heroes should be the season premiere 'The Second Coming', although radiotimes.com is still listing the second episode 'The Butterfly Effect'.
Meanwhile, those looking to On Demand for their HD kick: Series 6 of The Sopranos has started appearing and should be around for a few weeks. Even better in my book (although not in HD) is HBO's The Wire Season One, now dribbling out episodes in the SD listings.
The recent poll run on this blog suggested many (including me) are also considering the same move; 73% of respondents said they were considering Sky HD plus another 11% suggesting they would be making the move before the year ends and 7% who had already jumped. Admittedly, the poll's options were limited for respondents (sorry again!) but it pulled in just under 400 votes, the highest to date for a poll on this blog.
That's pretty damning for Virgin's HD offering. But not everyone who makes the move to Sky HD has as good an experience as Carol as this thread I recently stumbled upon illustrates.
Of course, experiences of both suppliers vary hugely. I know people who would never entertain cable again after some horrific NTL experiences. I also know folk who have had a torrid time with Sky. The reality is that there isn't a perfect TV service out that will suit everyone, and there's a level of compromise whichever supplier you opt for (Sky has the best HD offering, whereas Virgin's On Demand is superior). You pay your money and take your choice depending on your personal experience and priorities. The upheaval and expense of changing probably keeps all but the most disillusioned where they are currently. Me? I'm sticking with Virgin for now, despite the scarcity of Virgin Media HD on offer today...
September 28, 2008
So just so everyone's clear...on BBC HD they're showing the second episode on Weds. at 10pm, but if you want to watch the first episode in glorious HD too you have to wait until the 11.55pm showing on Sunday. Confirmation here.
Why they don't just show episode 1 at 10pm on Wednesday and episode 2 at 10.45pm (instead of a Mitchell & Webb repeat and the ubiquitous Later...) is beyond me...
September 26, 2008
Brucie and Strictly Come Dancing at 6.45pm, followed by a repeat from the second season of Torchwood and six episodes from Gavin & Stacey's second season. Much as I love G&S, yet another repeat (and missing the final episode, too) seems excessive even by BBC HD's standards.
Sunday isn't much better, although Tess of the D'Urbervilles continues at 9pm and Antique Roadshow breaks up an otherwise repeat-ful day's viewing.
Nothing new from Filmflex on the HD front either, and I haven't seen anything of note in the TV Choice On Demand selection for months. Please don't shoot the messenger...
September 25, 2008
September 24, 2008
1 Channel 4 HD finally makes an appearance on cable
Hmmmm. I thought it may be the Spring, but we'll be lucky to get anything this side of Christmas now. Once the C4 play out services move from Sky to RedBee Media there may be a change, but I'm not holding my breath and I don't suggest you hold yours. What's also disappointing is that C4 has little more HD content than it did at launch last year.
2 ITV HD not on Virgin Media at launch
Bingo! But I was surprised as anyone that it didn't appear on Sky. Still a Freesat exclusive, although not really a "channel" as yet.
3 VOD HD grows in fits and spurts
Filmflex has grown, but TV Choice On Demand has actually reduced, now just a handful of HBO documentaries, some stuff from the History Channel and seasons of The Sopranos that are removed before you're half way through them. No word on Lost season 4 nor any of the promised Sky series in either High Def or SD.
4 BBC HD expands, but "events" take precedent over regular programming
Still too many repeats, but the coverage of the Olympics, Euro 2008 and Wimbledon was memorable.
5 HD remains a niche product
I don't think anyone would see it otherwise. Sky's HD growth has slowed and they've cut prices to attract more, but it's still around just 5% of their subscriber base. Heavily marketed and now with over 20 channels it's pretty good value at £10 a month, but it's still struggling to become mass market. Only a matter of time, but it's not quite the TV revolution perhaps anticipated by the home cinema press.
6 Sky HD will be impacted by FreeSat
Too early to tell. Once the Freesat+ boxes ship it'll be interesting.
7 Sky One and the basics return
8 OFCOM report hits Sky...and Virgin
No report as yet. Relations between Sky and OFCOM took a turn for the worse though with the Picnic sniping.
9 Tiscali TV and BT Vision struggle IP TV fails to make the grade
Neither has set the world alight and the former's rumoured to be struggling to find a buyer. BT Vision has made some inroads. Mind you, BBC iPlayer proves that web TV access can be successful, especially the streaming version.
10 Blu-Ray will become the new DVD HD standard
Well, I called that one right at least!
September 22, 2008
Berkett said he did want to make HD a priority went its right to do so, but that would still mainly appear in the form of VOD rather than linear channels. He did admit HD is better. Other headlines from the webcast:
VM will launch mobile broadband by the end of the year. Expect to see fixed line/mobile bundles soon both for voice and broadband packages.
Lots of hints that all broadband speeds could be upgraded in the future. Berkett wants VM to have "clear water" between VM and DSL competitors in this market. Which is why he has given priority to broadband and VOD, rather than HD.
50mb on course to launch by the end of the year and hints of upgrades to upload speeds in the future, once DOCSIS 3 and its bonding of channels is rolled out. But this product will never be anything near 50/50 speeds both ways.
VM has no intention of going after illegal downloaders for the reason there is no law to say they should. VM prefers to work with people like the music industry, but he made it clear that it's the owners of intellectual property (ie music companies) who should protect their property, not VM. Berkett said that VM would like to offer its own music service, but no details were given.
No agreement with Sky on getting the basic channels back. Berkett made it clear he would prefer to avoid litigation, but for the court case to be dropped there needs to be a deal done first on good economic terms for VM. Berkett made clear that this issue is tied into the wider issues with Sky that Ofcom are investigating and the issues surrounding pricing of premium channels too. Berkett made clear he could have the Sky channels back now if he wished, but the price isn't right.
September 21, 2008
A somewhat corny trailer for Sylar's return can be found here
September 19, 2008
Disappointing but not surprising is the absence of the evening's new BBC centrepiece Merlin from the HD schedules. Apparently the Beeb isn't geared up for HD special effects (Doctor Who similarly suffers) so it's just available on BBC1. I was intererested until I saw the talking dragon...
On Sunday we have two episodes of Tess of the D'Urbervilles; a repeat of the opening episode at 5.30pm then the second episode at 9pm. Last week's looked great in HD and hopefully things will move a little faster plot-wise this time around. And, yes, Gemma looks gorgeous in HD.
Unfortunately next week on the channel has little worth commenting upon; repeats aplenty and just a handful of new programming; the intriguing Amazon, entertaining Mutual Friends and unintentionally hilarious Tudors.
September 17, 2008
Pure speculation, granted, but I've found this on the Samsung site whilst looking for a cable PVR picture. You may recall that Virgin earlier this year mentioned a new V+ box being available in the second half of 2008, initially thought to be another Scientific Atlanta box (like the current V+) but later confirmed as a new Samsung machine.
This is the cable PVR on Samsung's international site; 160gb drive and just two tuners, but with both Mpeg2 and Mpeg4. More details here. If this was the release spec (which I doubt) that's a more HD capable box that would probably benefit from a bigger disc. It's a nicer looking box to my eye, looking more like a regular domestic piece of kit than the somewhat space age and plasticky design of the current V+.
Then again, it could be a completely different Samsung box or it could even be that the Samsung V+ never makes it to Virgin customers as it's still in the labs at VM and there've been no official announcements.
September 16, 2008
FilmFlex are expanding their "1p movie" deal this autumn with a number of HD offerings. P.S. I Love You is available for a week from October 3rd for a penny; National Treasure: Book Of Secrets follows from October 10th along with The Cottage and then Be Kind Rewind is a £0.01 during the week commencing October 17th. Finally, a real treat with There Will Be Blood costing one of her majesty's finest pennies from the 24th. More details and trailers can be found here.
September 15, 2008
Amazon with Bruce Parry starts on Monday 15th September at 9pm. The Radio Times billing says:
Bruce Parry begins an epic adventure in the Amazon following the river from source to sea. The first part of his journey takes him from the source in the High Andes through Peru's dangerous cocaine producing valleys to visit the Ashaninka tribe.
September 14, 2008
*Let's not get carried away just yet...
September 13, 2008
Much better response from Virgin this time (thanks, Mr Barron, for taking the petition seriously) - what do you guys think?
September 12, 2008
The Beeb's new adaptation of the Thomas Hardy classic kicks off on Sunday, September 14th at 9pm. Starring Gemma Arterton (who's also in Lost in Austen), this should make those dark September Sunday evenings a little more palatable. The picture btw is of Ms Arterton with Daniel Craig in the new Bond film - not in Tess!
September 10, 2008
Freeview and Freesat stories aplenty on this site. My eye was caught by the rumour around Sky trying to quash Freesat at birth by nobbling satellite installers - I have no idea if it's true, but the conspiracy theorist in me loves stuff like this! I've added the site to the Links at the foot of the blog's homepage for future reference.
Those awaiting a Freesat PVR may want to check out the Trusted Reviews piece here, which includes headline specs for the Humax Freesat+ box.
September 09, 2008
I missed it when it was shown on ITV1 earlier this year, but I stumbled upon the utterly, utterly charming Pushing Daisies in TV Choice on Demand at the weekend. There are only four episodes (of nine) available so far, but they're an absolute treat.
If ever a series was to benefit from being shown in high definition, this is it. They were shot in HD, but Virgin only has them in SD and the rendering often struggles with the detail of the sumptuous Barry Sonnenfield cinematography (the opening field of yellow flowers being a good example of SD just not being up to it - artefacts everywhere).
So come on Virgin - give it to us in HD. Pretty please?
September 08, 2008
I'm Not There Well-received Bob Dylan biopic - the other film starring Heath Ledger and Christian Bale but it's Cate Blanchett's Dylan that impresses most
Margot at the Wedding Nicole Kidman and Jack Black no less
The Spiderwick Chronicles Based on the children's bestseller
Things We Lost in the Fire Halle Berry, Benicio del Torro and David Duchovny
Click on the film titles for the IMDB details.
It looks like almost all of the bigger releases on Filmflex are being made available in HD these days, which is very good news. On the ones I've watched the quality has been excellent. It's only the pricing they need to do something about now.
September 05, 2008
2008 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Saturday, 12.30pm
Live coverage from the Bird's Nest Stadium of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
Sylvia, Saturday, 10pm
Film - IMDB details here
Northern Lights, Sunday 9pm
Not the Philip Pullman fantasy epic, but a documentary in which Joanna Lumley travels to Norway's Far North to pursue a lifelong dream of seeing the Northern Lights.
September 04, 2008
After a test earlier in the summer, BT Vision now has a few HD films available on demand. Hulk, Babe and The Other Boleyn Girl are available for £2.99, with more promised soon.
Hardly earth-shattering news I'll admit, but the price is less than the £4+ Filmflex charge and it shows some intent.
Not sure if the other major IP TV service from Tiscali offers any HD content - does anyone know? For my money IPTV is a non-starter over ADSL connections today, but in the medium term who knows? Virgin Media itself is conducting its own trials in Kent and Sky's On Demand service on the TV depends on it too.
September 02, 2008
And Virgin Media only has itself to blame if there's a customer exodus. Personally, I don't think there will be just yet as the demand for HD isn't that great with the great British Public and I think we're still a few years from a tipping point beyond the early adopters. At the moment, HD is niche, and Sky's the place to find it if that's what floats your boat.
As anyone who's followed this blog will know I've been growing increasingly frustrated with Virgin's attitude to HD. Despite the promises, we actually have LESS On Demand high definition programming now than we did a year ago, and the improvements we have seen with HD - a better BBC HD and wider selection from FilmFlex - have been a result of other companies' recognition of the HD future of TV, not Virgin's.
But after much consideration I'm sticking with Virgin. For now, at least. If it was just my decision my family would have adopted Sky for TV years ago around the time the Sky+ first appeared. But it's a family thing and it's not an easy switch to make if I'm trying to keep everyone happy. So here are the crumbs of comfort that help me live with that decison:
1. HD is great, but it's not our TV's raison d'etre. Video On Demand, especially iPlayer, is used almost everyday by my family and we're a democratic household. My wife likes Virgin Media (she'd also be happy with Freeview, but let's not go there). My daughter likes the music On Demand. We all find new stuff in TV Choice on Demand we enjoy and iPlayer and the C4 catch up services have proven invaluable. It would for us all be a big loss to move to Sky Anytime's second rate service.
2. The programmes/channels we actually watch aren't available in HD. We watch the BBC and Channel 4 channels mostly (including Film4, our favourite movie channel). We sometimes watch ITV channels, TCM and Dave, and sometimes Virgin1 or Living. None of these are in HD (except C4, more on that in a mo) yet. Showcase HD channels are impressive but not what we want. We get our documentary fix from the BBC, which I personally much prefer to Nat Geo, Discovery or History. Sky1? Got over that last year - we watch Battlestar and Lost on DVD now. So even with Sky HD we wouldn't actually watch much HD. Not yet, anyhow.
3. Film4 HD, where art thou? We do watch Sky Movie channels at weekends, but if it's a film we're really into we will have seen it at the cinema, will have it on DVD or may watch it on FilmFlex - by the time it hits Sky Movies it'll be a second or even third viewing for us. The one film channel we would possibly switch for is Film4 HD, but no sign of that on any platform yet.
4. The V+ upscaling is "good enough". It's not HD, but for our viewing it's more than adequate. We have two LCD HD-ready TV's in the house; a 32in Tosh and a 20in Sony. Neither are really big enough to make the most of HD. I doubt we'll look to replace either before 2012. The V+ upscaling is very good, especially on BBC4 (which is my fave channel most weeks), More 4, C4 and ITV1 (the latter being notoriously poor on Sky). I've been less impressed with the Sky HD box's upscaling and find the V+ better.
5. The Temptation of Footie in HD. Yes, I know I'm clutching at straws here but the picture on Sky Sports has improved considerably since they're been shooting in HD, even on the SD channels. I'm not a sports junkie though and the Sky Sports package is a luxury I would drop if money became an issue. (Having said that, am I alone in finding the Sky Movies' picture worse of late? It used to be great but now looks over saturated to my eyes.)
Anyway, for the forseeable future we'll stick with Virgin. Which I guess will please fans of this blog as I desperately continue to hunt down information on Virgin's HD scraps. And maybe even those with Sky HD will visit here still to see how sad a search that can be. I guess there are many who want more HD on Virgin but not to the point where they can or will switch to Sky. So, as they used to say, stay tuned.
And, who knows? Maybe one day we'll have a high definition service after all, even if it is after the Freesat and even Freeview services have their HD offerings available to tempt us...
August 30, 2008
I left Virgin a couple of days ago and Nialli asked me to post a guest message on his blog about how I felt about the change.
First of all, I managed to get one of the Sky offers, so I got the Sky HD box for £75 and the installation was £30. The installer rang me around 9 am to say that he would be there around 11:30 to noon - and he arrived at noon. A very pleasant guy who had the whole thing installed in around 1½ hours and then spent the next 30 mins updating the software and showing me all the ropes.
The quality and choice of the Sky HD is absolutely top rate - especially for their two premium mixes (Sports and Movies). Just by chance one of my favourite movies was on one of the HD movie channels last night (The River - starring Meryl Streep) and it just brought the whole thing to life with the vividness, sharpness and 5.1 surround sound. Absolutely stunning scenery in HD. The same with the sport - watching some football in HD was simply awesome - and it appears better than the footie on BBC HD (and I thought that was good).
One of the downsides is that I don't think that the Sky EPG is quite as good as Virgin's - but this is due to be updated September/October time. One of the things I don't like is that if you bring up Sky menu, you lose the program you are watching until you switch back to the program (but apparently this is one of the things being fixed in the forthcoming update).
Another downside is that ITV is not as sharp as with Virgin's rendition of it - so I will miss that with Corrie and The Bill. Other channels (eg Channel 5) appear sharper. However, many of programs that I would have watched in SD on Virgin (Discovery, National Geographic, History) are now available in HD plus there is Sky 1 HD. Come October, most of the rest of the movie channels will be switching to HD too (Action, SciFi etc) so I guess I'll just become an HD junkie.
The final downside is the size of the hard drive inside the Sky+HD box, which is only 160MB - and part of this is reserved for Sky Anytime. As it is my box, I might go down the route of installing one of Samsung's SpinPoint 1TB drives - but there are also rumours of Sky opening up the e-SATA port on their box - which would make attaching an external e-SATA caddy + drive a piece of cake.
By switching my TV to Sky (I decided in the end to stick with Virgin for telephone and BB), it also had the effect of reducing what I was paying for my VIP package (£86 per month). I am now paying £42 per month for the Variety Mix (gives me all the entertainment channels such as Bravo, Living, Virgin 1, etc), Knowledge (for all the SD documentaries) and the 2 Premium mixes (Full Sports Mix and the Premium Movie mixes). Of course I have to add in the £10 per month for the HD mix (all 17 channels at the moment, increasing to around 27 or 28 channels in October) making a total payment of £54 per month (increasing to £56 per month in September).
I reduced my Virgin package to 10meg BB and phone (free weekend calls) and with e-billing this comes down to £22.50 per month making a total outlay of £78.50 (from September) and thus saving me £7.50 per month.
In conclusion, the switch has worked out well for me as I am not only saving money, I am getting a massive increase in the amount of HD programming that I will be able to watch. I guess it depends on the type of programming that you watch if you would benefit from a switch to Sky - if you mainly watch the ITV channels, the BBC channels and are happy with the movies on these channels, then you might not benefit so much - but anybody who is into films, documetaries and sport would be in 7th Heaven by switching.
August 29, 2008
(Personally, I find the existing Scientific Atlanta box as stable as any other PVR these days, so I'll happily wait until the inevitable bugs are sorted out before asking for a newer one.)
August 28, 2008
"Historian Michael Wood presents a portrait of ordinary people living through extraordinary times, tracing the story of Christina Cok, a peasant of 14th century Hertfordshire." That's all I know I'm afraid - may be worth an hour of your time, or it may just remind you of the opening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail :o)
First off, the Jonathon Ross show makes its debut in HD on Friday, September 5th. To my knowledge this is the first regular studio-based series from the BBC to appear in high definition; hopefully, more will follow.
Then there's Amazon, a series following The Tribe's Bruce Parry on an "epic voyage" up the Amazon from source to ocean. The current vogue for personality-driven documentaries (eg Lost Land of the Jaguar) can prove a little tiring after a bit but the scenery in HD should more than make up for irritations in the commentaries.
Auntie's on a bit of a roll at the moment, as I'm sure anyone who saw Britain From Above will agree; stunning TV.