Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Netflix on the PS3

October 29th, 2009

I would be remiss to not have a blog post about Netflix on the PS3. As much as I post about streaming video to the PS3 and as much as I love Netflix, I can’t resist chiming in on this one.

First of all, I don’t care what the CEO of Netflix says, but having to put in a disc to stream movies sucks. The streaming app should be an installable application that sits on the XMB.

It’s not a matter of being lazy, it is a matter of convenience. Back on the PS2, when I started working on streaming video to Sony devices using BroadQ (oh yeah… btw, i’ve been working on this for about 6 or 7 years now), it was annoying to have to load in the BroadQ disc to stream the movies. I can’t imagine it will be any less annoying 7 years later when the system has a hard drive that is perfectly capable of storing the application.

That said, I’m excited this is finally happening. There’s little doubt that Microsoft opened up the checkbook to prevent interoperability. Netflix will be available for the PS3 almost exactly one year after XBox. For games, I can understand these exclusive agreements. For third party services such as Netflix, I think it’s a dick move on Microsoft’s part. I view it as yet another good reason not to support their console.

As a Netflix subscriber, I think it’s a bad move by both Netflix and Microsoft. This should have happened long ago.

PlayStation3 , , ,

Netflix Has a Developer API

July 27th, 2009

I wasn’t incredibly happy with the movie synopses I was getting from IMDB. They’re generally pretty crappy. I went looking around to see if I could scrape the Netflix synopses, and lo-and-behold, Netflix has an API!

In another open source project I’m working on, I have a need to learn GTK+. So I figured the easy way to learn GTK+ was to start with php-gtk. It’s more-or-less a replica of the gtkmm OO interface, so I set out to update my little movie categorization script with a GTK+ interface. After learning the ropes, I finally have a nice interface that queries Netflix and returns all of their data for display.

This is what I have so far (keep in mind this is all in PHP):


When you click on a movie in the list, it queries netflix and fills out the description pane. So far it’s really simple, but hopefully I can use this to generate something that will categorize movies specifically for a uPNP client. I can’t put any source code out yet since I’m not too sure how the Netflix API deals with publishing an app. Right now, it has my personal developer key hard coded, and I only get 5000 queries per day.

Here’s a video (and of course, you’ll need Firefox 3.5):

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Logitech Harmony Remotes and the PS3

July 26th, 2009

First things first: If you’re only minimally using your PS3 as a multimedia device, the Logitech Harmony remotes and Playstation 3 adapter are not for you. If you use your PS3 as a media hub, then it is a must have item.

My experience started when I realized my cable box DVR remote didn’t have a 30 second skip feature. I figured if I was going to buy a universal remote, it needed to be universal. After a bit of research, I ended up with the Logitech Harmony 880. From Amazon, with the PS3 adapter, it was about $180.

My first instinct was “Did I really just spend $180 bucks on a remote control.” Yeah, that’s a good chunk of change. If you’re looking for a cool toy to play with, I recommend it, but if you’re trying to save money, having a few different remotes and/or using the PS3 controller isn’t that big of a deal.

So if you were to ask me if I got my $180 bucks worth, my answer would be, “no.” However, that doesn’t mean that this thing isn’t really cool.

Instead of the standard style of universal remotes, Logitech has given us “activity based” universal remotes. Depending on the activity that you choose, the remote buttons react differently. For example, with a standard universal remote, if you want to switch from your DVD player to your cable box, you push the TV button, select the appropriate input, then push the cable button to control the cable box. If you have a receiver/amplifier that needs to change, you push that button and change the inputs as required.

With the Harmony remotes, you select an activity. For example, this video shows me switching from watching a show on a cable box to moving to my movie collection streamed from the PS3 (requires Firefox 3.5):

The important part to note is that I’ve only pressed one button. I set up the remote with a “Watch Movies” button. I push the button, it turns on the PS3, switches the TV input, and automatically navigates to the movies in the PS3 XMB. If I want to go back to watching TV, the remote turns off the PS3, switches the input back to the cable box, and brings up the guide.

Of course, all of this is configurable and you can create whatever macros you want. All in all, it’s a nice device. If you’re a fan of a single remote, this is a must have item. If you want a cool toy to play with, this is a must have item. If you just use the media features occasionally, skip it.

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Categorizing Your Movie Collection with IMDB

June 17th, 2009

If you have a ton of movies like I do, scrolling through the full list on the PS3 is painful. After about 100 movies or so, you realize that you need a better method of doing it.

Well if you’re on Linux, you are in luck! As I started categorizing stuff by hand, I ran into another unrelated problem. While I was searching for the solution, I came across IMDB-to-MPEG. I had to hack around a bit in the PHP code to get it to work the way I wanted, but man did it save a lot of time. I fixed a number of things and submitted it back to the author, so hopefully we’ll see a new version soon.

Basically, you give it a movie name and it queries IMDB for the movie. Based on the IMDB Genres and Ratings, it creates your symlink tree for you. So in the PS3 XMB, when you go t your movie server you have all of your movies categorized by Genre so you can get a list of all Action movies, for example. Of course, since it’s all just symlinks, you can have the same movie covering multiple genres. So for a military crime drama — such as A Few Good Men — it would be listed under all 3 genres of Military, Crime, and Drama.

But it also had another interesting feature. It creates a MPEG video file that you can play from your uPnP client that gives you IMDB info, like the plot, the year, the ratings, etc.

This is what the original looked like: About Army of Darkness.m4v

This is what my latest version looks like: About Army of Darkness.m4v

And if you have an HTML 5 browser, here it is with the video tag (in Ogg Video format):

I wish I knew a good algorithm for making motion more fluid. The animation frames look jerky. I’m sure I need to blur or leave trails or something, but my attempts have all been failures.

General, PHP , ,

More PS3 Media Streaming Information

June 9th, 2009

It appears that a lot of people are trying to figure out how to get media streaming to work for the PS3. I figured I would add a bit more information to my previous post on this topic.

Again, I highly recommend getting a 802.11n access point configured. It will make your life much easier. The PS3 internal WiFi card only support 802.11g. With 2 802.11n access points, you plug an ethernet cable from the PS3 to the 802.11n access point. The other access point is then connected via an ethernet cable to your router (or if you have an 802.11n router… you only need one).

Basically your setup would look like this:


This set up will give you a nice solid connection between your PC and your PS3. If you can actually run a wire, you’ll be better off, but 802.11n is close enough. If you do decide to use 802.11g, you really need to read that previous entry that I posted. You’re basically shooting yourself in the foot. You also need to make sure you have the latest system update. Since you should have at least a basic connection at this point, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Now, if you don’t have control over the types of media you’re trying to stream, you need to stop reading here and go look into something that does transcoding on the fly. If you’re trying this on Linux, you can try to use PS3 Media Server. Personally, I thought it was junk. If you’re on Windows, Some people say TVersity is the way to go. I don’t use these methods. I encode all of my own media so I can guarantee I have a decent copy. I encode all of the director’s commentary tracks into my M4Vs (you can select the track in the PS3 playback menu) and I make sure they’re at a quality level that is acceptable to me. If you’re pirating video off the of Internet, you probably don’t have this luxury.

If you are going to use 802.11g, you MUST use the AVI container. You will not be able to use the MP4 (a.k.a. M4V) container. The PS3 supports DivX video and MP3 audio content inside of the AVI container. On WiFi G, that is your only option.

If you use 802.11n or a wired connection, you have a few more options. My recommendation would be to use the M4V container with h.264 encoding. The only problem with encoding using h.264 is that it is the encode process is REALLY slow. However, M4V is quickly becoming the standard and AVI is fading away. If you encode all of your movies in AVI format, you’re going to be upset when it’s obsolete in a few years. Might as well plan for the future so you don’t have to reencode everything later.

If you’re downloading movies from the Internet, you need to make sure they’re in the appropriate format. If there’s DRM attached to those movies, you may have issues. None of my M4V files have DRM (I avoid it like the plague), so if that’s the case for you… good luck.

OK, so now we’ll assume you have one of the following types of files:

1. An AVI containing DivX encoded video and MP3 encoded audio.
2. An MP4 containing h.264 encoded video and AAC encoded audio.

So first things first, set up your PS3. If you’re going to use DivX, you’ll need to make sure it’s enabled in the XMB (a.k.a. the PS3 menu). In the XMB, go to Settings -> System Settings and you should have a DivX option in there. Make sure it’s enabled and you have the required code. There’s other options in there to enable WMA playback as well. That’s all you need for your PS3.

Now for the computer: You need a DLNA server.

For Windows: There’s tons of them. I know for a fact that SimpleCenter works quite well with the PS3. That said, just about any DLNA server should work if you don’t like the SimpleCenter interface. I’m pretty sure that Windows Media Player has some DLNA options as well, but I haven’t used them.

For Linux: Ubuntu users have it easy. mediatomb can be installed via Synaptic or just using Applications -> Add/Remove… There’s a couple of others. I tried 3 or 4 of them. mediatomb is the most stable. There’s a list of binaries for other distributions on the mediatomb download page. It may even be in your package manager as well. For the PS3, there’s one change you need to make to the mediatomb configuration file.

Next, you need to point them to the location of your media files. Once you’ve done that, go back to your PS3 and go to “Video” in the XMB. You should see your media server listed in the menu already. Go into the media server and select whatever is you want to watch or listen to.

General, PlayStation3 , ,

Streaming Movies over 802.11g WiFi to a PS3

April 18th, 2009

I’ll start by summing up. If you have a big screen TV (40+ inches) and 802.11g, don’t try it. I have tinkered with just about every method of encoding files to fit into the 10 to 13 Mbit/sec max of wi-fi and it just doesn’t work (well). If you insist on trying to do this on 802.11g, keep reading.

If you’re looking to do this with any sort of respectable audio/video quality, buy a couple of 802.11n Ethernet bridges. For the price, the best I could find was the “NETGEAR HD/Gaming 5 GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit (WNHDEB111)” kit on Amazon for about $102.00 + shipping.

Update: Even More Information Here

That said, if you have a PS3 and are determined to use the built-in wireless 802.11g to stream movies, here’s some info:

1. Forget H.264 and the MP4 container. It won’t work. You have to reduce the bitrate to such low levels that the compression artifacts are incredibly noticeable.

2. Get a copy of Handbrake for ripping/encoding DVDs (the built-in PS3 preset will not work with Wi-Fi).

3. Your maximum bitrate is 1500kbit with 2 channel MP3 audio at 160kbit. Even at this low bitrate, you may still have problems. If you’re watching on a screen around 30″ to 35″, 1500kbit should be acceptable. On larger screens, you’ll still notice artifacts.

4. Your maximum sustained throughput with any over the counter 802.11g wireless router is going to be about 1.5MBytes/sec (about 12Mbits/sec).

Settings for the Handbrake Encoder

Here’s your settings for a normal 720×480 widescreen movie using Handbrake:


For the “Container” drop-down box, select AVI.

Picture Tab

1. Set the De-Comb as needed. If you have a DVD that still has noticeable interlacing artifacts with De-Combing on, use Deinterlace->Slower instead, only use these if you can see the interlacing.

2. Click on the preview frame. Select everything except for Anamorphic. Check the boxes for Optimal for source, Align Dimensions, Keep Aspect, and Autocrop)

Video Tab

1. Video Code: MPEG-4 (FFMPEG)

2. Framerate: Same as Source

3. Uncheck 2-Pass encoding

4. Bitrate: 1500. If the video still stutters, you’ll need to drop this more.

Audio Tab

1. Track: Your desired language

2. Codec: MP3 (lame)

3. Bitrate: 160 (or 128 if you don’t mind sub-par audio)

4. Sample Rate: 48

5. Mix: Dolby Pro Logic II

Chapters Tab

1. It’s not supported, so disable chapter markers

That’s all you need to set. You can save these as a preset called PS3-WiFi.

Some other notes:

DLNA Servers


1. On Windows, there’s tons of them. Most will work fairly well. I liked SimpleCenter, mostly because it’s free (as in cost), it’s the first one I downloaded, it’s easy to use, and it worked.


1. On Linux, PS3 Media Server is junk. If all you want to do is watch a movie and don’t plan on ever using fast forward, rewind, or scene select it may work for you. It supports tons of options specific to the PS3, but on Linux it looks, feels, and runs like clunky Java software (oh, and you’ll need a good 750 megs of memory free to run it).

2. Twonky Media Server seems to work well, but it’s not free. It has some quirks with finding new content that you place into the media directory. Most notably, you have to restart the process for it to see them.

3. MediaTomb is free, but has a fairly ugly interface. I didn’t test very much with it, but it can be downloaded via Synaptic on Ubuntu. MediaTomb is the way to go. It’s rock-solid, fast, and easy enough to enable PS3 support (you have to modify the config slightly… just search for PS3 in the config file and follow the instructions). If you’re on Linux, this is your best bet. As far as stability, it’s way better than Twonky.

Lastly, it’s $100 bucks to get a pair of 802.11n bridges to connect your PS3. You’ll get the ability to stream HD content, you won’t ever have to rely on transcoding on the fly, and you won’t have to save your movies at such a low quality setting. Stop being a cheapskate and do your part to help the economy recover.

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