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07 January 2008

Geeked About HD Online

LOST on ABCMy partner in crime (Jeanna) emailed me this link today. It's a blog post about ABC offering the first three seasons of the hit show LOST on their website for free. Now that isn't very shocking, until you notice that these episodes are offered in HD.

The minute I saw that, I had to go play. The first thing you notice when you get to is that media must be important to them. Notice below that the 'full episodes' button is red and first in the line of available options. Its also graphically tied to the ABC logo which I'm sure was no accident...

ABC.comSo you click on the button and it opens the player. Next, you navigate to the LOST episodes and pick it from the dynamic navigation bar. When you do, a warning message ('informational message' or 'free tech tip' to put a more positive slant on it) comes up. This message lets you know that your viewing experience will be greatly enhanced if you have the following:

  • 2 Mbps (or better) Internet connection
  • Dual core processor
  • 128 MB Video RAM
  • Full size monitor (at least 1330x770)

The Player: Not bad though a bit cluttered in 'normal' mode. Comes complete with play/pause and audio/mute toggle, click-to-seek timeline, cool 'more info' drop panel with the episode description, current/total time indicators and sizing options of Normal, 720p HD and Full Screen HD.

HD Mode: In 720p and Full Screen mode the clutter is gone (no room for it) and you are offered the 'HD Meter' for lack of a better term. This meter shows you the bandwidth used to stream the larger content. This meter fluctuates - but stays around 2030 kbps if there is movement on the screen. Picture was incredible with no visible frame rate distortion.

Behind the Scenes: I first viewed the HD stream in the early morning - and had the incredible experience mentioned above. However, later in the day I tried again and could not duplicate the experience. This time, when I selected the 720p and Full Screen options, the HD video wasn't there. Instead the lower quality video played at the larger screen size. This was a seamless experience, but the loss in quality was very evident. The HD Meter fluctuated between 300 kbps and 600 kbps based on movement - leading me to believe that tests the user download speed before sending the higher quality stream. This isn't a bad thing, but the fact that it still says HD when you are watching it is a bit misleading. I'm also assuming that the connection speed at work had dropped with the added users in the afternoon.

I can't wait to look into this and see what the ramifications are. We're currently streaming at 640x360 (probably close the default size at so it would be nice to offer a larger version that would look good on a 720p or even 1080p HDTV.

The other thing I'm wrestling with right now involves media delivery to less traditional devices like smartphones, PDA's, Tivo, Xbox, etc.

The question isn't whether or not we would make content available on these devices, but how and when will we be able to make it happen.