More YouTube on Apple TV Thoughts

I’ve read some negative comments about this feature and how stupid it is to watch low-quality video on a large TV. Here are my thoughts.

Sure, a lot of the content looks like crap, but this is not the fault of Apple, Apple TV nor YouTube. Coming from the common user, who is not a quality hound nor necessarily technically proficient, you are going to get a lot of very poor video. I’m sure that this is compounded by the conversion from whatever was uploaded into H.264 (I watched a supposedly high quality clip of Paul Potts and there were a lot of blocky artifacts). Someone said that it’s more about the content than the quality and I think this sums up YouTube most aptly. The content is compelling despite the technical hurdles.

As with a number of Apple releases, it’s all about the potential rather than the actualised. I think the popularity of YouTube, pushed by the behemoth that Apple has become, has the potential to change the whole quality factor and usher in the next stage: higher resolution and hopefully, less compression. I find compression to be a more important factor than resolution in a lot of cases. The current web standard in general still seems to be QVGA (320 x 240). I think it’s inevitable that this will give way to VGA (640 x 480). iTunes could be said to have started this trend. If Apple TV becomes a commercial success, it could be a driving force.

It really is a nice experience to sit on the couch and browse YouTube, much nicer than sitting at a computer. The simplified interface is easier to look at than the somewhat cluttered web version. I’ve used my computer at work to add items to my favourites and then watched them at home instead. Just be aware that you won’t be able to watch everything just yet. This caught me out tonight when I added a video to my favourites and it didn’t show up on Apple TV. Wondered why until I realised that it must be one of the ones that hasn’t been converted.

I’m not a big Web 2.0 guy but I like the very indie nature of a lot of these videos. I’m not interested so much in the music videos and blogs as I am in snippets of events. I did a search for a band but didn’t get anything (obviously not converted yet) but saw an interesting result that was a drum solo. On completion, I was presented with a list of related videos and spent about 20 minutes being entertained by various frenetic drummers. I’ve never, ever browsed YouTube before. My use was limited to viewing embedded video in web pages and clicking links sent to me by friends. This new interface makes it more inviting for me.

For non-US users, it’s possibly even more significant, as it eases the pain that is an absence of movie and TV content on the local iTunes store.

So don’t be down on YouTube on Apple TV. It really is a step up from watching on a computer, even if just for the comfort factor.

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3 Responses to More YouTube on Apple TV Thoughts

  1. Yashin says:

    I’m often amazed at what’s possible with transfers for DVD and HD sources. The original broadcasts of Twin Peaks, for example, were atrocious, and the VHS releases were, if anything, even worse! So when I bought the TP Season 2 boxed set and played it back, I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I was stunned at the quality of the transfer. The quality of the upscaled (1080i) picture was almost flawless.

    It obviously depends on the quality of the original video/film stock, but I’m pretty sure that if the BBC hadn’t been in such a rush to get the original Blackadder DVDs out back in 2000, they might have actually paid some attention to quality. A lot of properly mastered DVD re-releases (ie any of the Criterion releases) have shown up the laziness inherent in the early years of DVD transfers.

  2. tunegardener says:

    Thanks Yashin!

    Yes, I’ve seen some beautiful YouTube content. I’m guessing the resolution was VGA and not very compressed.

    I’ve got a lot of experience with DVD ripping now and am very familiar with the garbage in-garbage out principle. DVD as a standard is great but the actual end result can vary widely. It all depends on how much effort is put into cleaning up the original footage. Blackadder, for example, looks atrocious, but I’m sure they put good effort into restoring it. It’s just the best they could do given the source. Source material more modern, like The Office, looks fantastic, with clear detail you wouldn’t expect. This principle applies equally to YouTube.

  3. Yashin says:

    I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of YouTube playback on the AppleTV. Stuff like Chris Cunnigham’s promo for Bjork’s ‘All Is Full Of Love’ look pretty damn good, others like Broken Social Scene’s ‘7/4 Shoreline’ are decent, while some like the Michalel Jordan highlight reels are limited by the quality of the original videotape footage and pretty bad.

    My biggest complaint would be that not enough videos are available right now. I have 50-odd clips in my YourTube favourites, mainly music videos, and only five are available in h264 for the AppleTV just now. Admittedly most of my favourites are for indie bands like Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Pavement and the like, but still…

    BTW, I’ve just stumbled upon this excellent blog. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person out there who took organising their iTunes library seriously! Keep up the great work.

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