Internet TV

A colleague pointed me at get_iplayer the other day, and I spent a couple of hours this weekend playing with it. Without a doubt it is the easiest way I have come across for getting hold of content from the various UK “play it again” services for TV and Radio.

BBC TV programme downloads are in H264 video and AAC audio, and although they are not high definition – more like good VHS quality – the convenience is spectacular. I sucked down a couple of programmes from the BBC; an episode of Being Human, and an episode of Doctor Who, which took about 15 minutes each (on my current 2Mbit connection). Both were downloaded as Quicktime .mov files because the feed that get_iplayer uses is designed for the iPhone.

I then converted them to .mp4 containers (using the command ffmpeg -i input.mov -vcodec copy -acodec copy output.mp4) and stored them on my NAS. From there, they were streamed (using the Mediatomb DNLA server) to my PS3 over my wireless network, which was able to play them back onto my flatscreen TV. And it worked beautifully.

Except for the stuttering. And the occasional unexpected pause. Turns out that despite my PS3 seeing 85% WiFi signal strength, it can’t consistently transfer more than about 0.5Mbit/s over my home wireless network. Which is not enough for video streaming. A quick check with a long Cat5e cable shows no signs of stuttering or pausing, so this is clearly a problem with the wireless drivers in the PS3. So it looks like I will need to hurry along my plan to drop some more ethernet lines to the back of the TV area of the lounge. Except of course, that isn’t going to happen for a few months now 🙂

However, notwithstanding the networking issues, the potential here is great. I can write some webpages on my NAS that I can access from my PS3, on the flatscreen TV in the lounge. That will run get_iplayer and return a list of available programmes, which I can select to download and have stored on my NAS, where they will then be converted to .mp4 format which I can stream to the PS3, so I can watch them. When my fast connection comes online (hopefully tomorrow!) that should take no more than 2 or 3 minutes for an hour-long TV programme.

Internet TV … almost on demand.