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January 29, 2006

iTunes as video jukebox

Using iTunes to catalog video is working out pretty well; I'm beginning to build a video jukebox to go with the thousands of songs in the musical jukebox accessible through iTunes.

Network streaming is very good across a wired 100-megabit network, acceptable over 802.11g, and pretty pathetic over 802.11b. I've imported a bunch of old Apple commercials, various movie videos, and have started importing shows somebody in the family wants to keep after watching the EyeTV capture files. The iTunes interface is pretty good at navigating a lot of content quickly, and provides preview frames for videos to help distinguish similar movies.

There are a few rough edges, however, and I wonder if the day isn't coming when there are two paths into the iTunes Music Store, iTunes and “iVideo.”

Why? Inclusion of both video and audio content is feeling forced. I went to listen to my “recent additions” playlist off the G5, and iTunes keeps showing me (recently added) videos. I could rewrite my smart playlist to not include videos (and probably will), but there should be a simple way to choose one kind of content or the other, even (nay, especially) over the network. Right now I just want to listen to new songs, but to do that, I have to uncheck literally five-sixths of my “recent additions” playlist.

Playing videos back in iTunes is a decidedly inferior experience to, say, DVD Player. Besides the jumpy playback, there's also no clear way to fast forward or rewind. There is a hidden feature -- if you click on the tiny preview panel in iTunes, a full resizable window opens. That's an improvement.

Still better, Improved Movie Viewing in iTunes gives an AppleScript that will fire up local movies in QuickTime, giving a smoother full-screen experience with QuickTime Player's on-screen controls. Still, it's easy to imagine a better experience with a purpose-built video management and player program.

Apple ballyhooed the addition of parental controls for a variety of applications in Tiger and in iTunes starting with version 5, but it's really a pretty weak setup, with many of the weaknesses made clearer with the addition of TV shows to the content stream.

Problem 1: Only iTunes-purchased songs can be marked as “Explicit.” Believe it or not, I have some songs I would just as soon not share with my children, but I can't find a way to set the “Explicit” tag so they'll be locked out. Apple documents the “Explicit” tag for podcasters, but I don't see any way to set it on content that isn't coming from the Music Store.

Problem 2: Video content appears to be completely unrated. Leafing through the selection of TV shows available, there's not a single episode of “Desperate Housewives” that rates a parental advisory label, even though tonight's episode is rated TV-PG.

Once again, I have no way of setting local content so that my children can't see it. I created a streamable copy of “Office Space” on my G5 as an experiment; now it's visible on the network.

What I hope Apple will do: Update from the binary “explicit/okay” system to one that reflects the V-chip ratings or the MPAA ratings, on songs and videos. There are tracks and movies that I think are okay for my 10-year-old that aren't okay for my 4-year-old. Give users access to the rating system, so that users who have parental controls can't access content at MY option, not just Apple's.

January 29, 2006 in Apple, Apple - Software, iServe and home servers | Permalink


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how owuld you exclude videos on your smart playlist?

Posted by: bk at Mar 17, 2006 9:34:56 AM

I did it by adding two criteria to my "Recent additions" smart playlist: "Genre is not TV Shows" and "Genre is not Movies".

That works without modification on shows downloaded from the iTunes Store, but I have to remember to tag shows I capture myself.

Posted by: Frank at Mar 17, 2006 9:48:08 AM