The Digital Lifestyle.com Video Show – Zune and Media Center Recorded TV

The Digital Lifestyle.com video show is sponsored by Embedded Automation

I love the new Zune update and one of my favorite features is the easy syncing of Recorded TV from Media Center. So in this video I take a look at how the feature works and what it looks like on the Zune.

There are a couple of minor things I would change, like having a "Send To Zune" option in Media Center Recorded TV, but overall the new feature does work well. You can  also see my detailed look at the speed of conversion in this blog post.

 

Zune Recorded TV Sync Speed

The new Zune software syncs Recorded TV without the need for any 3rd party software, one of the question I have been asked is how long it takes to sync TV 2007-11-13-56529files with the Zune

So I thought I would try a real world test. I picked on a movie I had recorded  (The After Tomorrow), this was recorded with Windows Media Center via a Nova-T card (DVB-T 704 x 480) . The file is 2.4GB, running at 2:30 hours long. Starting the transfer off is easy, just navigate to Videos right click and select Sync.

  • 14:26 – Transfer started,  ZuneEnc.exe taking around 90% CPU, this must be the transcoder
  • 14:58 50% complete
  • 15:21 91% complete, the CPU usage drops right down, I guess it is now copying the file
  • 15:31 Transfer complete, the file is 990.6MB on the Zune

Test PC Spec: P4 3.0 with 1GB of RAM, Vista index of 3.8

So that is just over an hour for a 2:30 hour movie, which I guess is not that bad.

My next test was a show recorded from a radio channel which transmits over the digital TV signal (BBC7). This is a 1:07 hour recording, 550.4mb in Media Center. It is audio only but Media Center thinks is a video file with a blank screen, I record quite a few shows of the radio and it will be nice to get them on my Zune for listening to in the car. I kicked it off and 4 minutes later it was done, 167.2mb on the Zune

When I tried to play it on the Zune it didn’t play at all, I guess the Zune or it’s encoder does not know about DVB-T audio files, which is a real shame. The player didn’t crash but there was no audio at all.

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First impressions of the new Zune software

As a Zune and Windows Media Center owner I have eagerly waiting the new Zune software with its promise of improved Recorded TV and podcast support. As the upgrade is available on Zune.net today I downloaded it and kicked the install off.

After about 10 minutes the software was installed and it was up and running, the new UI is a vast improvement over the old version, it looks like a complete re-write which is good as the v1 software was a customized Windows Media Player.

Once I connected my Zune to the PC the software asked me to update the firmware to 2.2 which took about 5 minutes and the device rebooted a couple of times, I didn’t have to touch the Zune at all. One nice touch is the way it handles connecting your Zune to a second PC, in the v1 software it asked you every time if you wanted to connect as a guest but in the new version you can tell the software to always connect it as a guest. I use my Zune on my UMPC as well as my Media Center PC and it was a pain to keep telling the software to make it a guest.

The new user interface on the Zune device has been improved; it’s clearer and seems faster. The music experience seems the same expect when browsing an Artist you can see their albums on a carousel at the top of the device. Pictures now give a count on the pictures in a folder, I am sure I will find other changes as I start using it.

Podcast support is one feature that I was really looking forward too. With the V1 software I had been struggling to find an elegant way of downloading and syncing podcast. I used Doppler to download the shows then use a monitored folder to do the syncing and I find most of the time I ended up syncing it myself. The other problem was finding the shows on the Zune once they had downloaded, some podcasters don’t tag their shows up as Podcasts so they end up in with the rest of my music. This all changes in the V2 software, podcasting gets its own section in the devices and on the software. Much like iTunes you can subscribe to a podcast RSS feed and it downloads the latest 3 shows automatically and then you can pick what you want it to do with the other shows. I did like the syncing options, you can tell the Zune software to sync unplayed episodes, all episodes, the first unplayed or not to sync at all. I have set it to sync unplayed shows to hopefully it will keep track of what I have listened to and only sync the new ones. This setting is specific to the podcast, so different feeds can have different syncing options. Finding the shows from the Zune is much better, with the dedicated Podcast section and you can easily find and play the downloaded shows. There is also one click subscribe option that podcasters can add to their site

Next I looked at Media Center support

In the videos section of the software I could see my recorded TV shows all I had to do was right click on the show , select Sync and then it copied the show to my Zune. There must be some transcoding going on as it took about 20 minutes to sync a 30 minute TV show and during that time the Zune software was hitting the CPU pretty hard. The size of the TV show in Media Center was 1.08GB and on the Zune it was 429MB but the quality of the video is good but it looks like there is some motion blur, I will have to play with it some more to be able get a more detailed impression

I haven’t looked at auto syncing TV yet

So over all I am very impressed with the new Zune software and firmware, the Windows software is a million miles away from the old software and the syncing options are much better. Basically the whole package now works for me they way I want it to, with TV support, podcasts, wireless syncing and the other new features.

Oh and all this was on my 3 month old V1 Zune 30, well done to Microsoft for supporting the early adopters. Technorati tags: ,

 

Pictures from the install

zune1 zune2 zune4 zune5 zune6

Recorded TV Sync

 zune6 zune7

The new Zune UI

 

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Zunethoughts looks a the new Zunes

If you itching to find out what the new Zune firmware and software looks like head over to Zunethoughts.com. Jason Dunn has posted videos on unboxing, the new software, the v2 firmware and upgrading a v1 Zune. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new update.

Jason does not go in to very much detail on the Media Center sync functions which I am very keen to see, maybe I can try this myself tomorrow when the software is available

V2 Zune Software Media Center functions only work with Vista

While we wait for the new Zune software to arrive Jason Dunn on ZuneThoughts.com noticed that to get the new Media Center TV show synchronization features you must be running Vista Home Premium or Ultimate edition, so no XP support.

I wonder how many Zune users are running XP Media Center? Personally I don’t mind Vista only but does it bother you?

At least Microsoft are making an effort in to joining the pieces together

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Get your DVDs and videos on to your Zune

Over on TheDigitalLifestyle.com forums raindyrain has posted two guides on how to get DVDs and video on to your Zune. Since getting a Zune I have wanted to get more content on to it, and have some success with ZuneTVWatcher and have managed to get DVD content on to it using DVDtoWMV and then Windows Media Encoder to shrink it down.

raindyrain has posted a guide that simplifies the steps and provides options for subtitles and audio and has some tips on conversion and formats too.

 

How to rip DVD to Zune

How to convert DVD&video to Zune

I got a Zune!

This week I picked up a Zune (or Zune 30 as its going to be called). Zunes are not available in the UK but I had the opportunity to get this one and took it.2007-10-09 001 003

Most readers will know about the Zune but I thought I would write down some of my first impressions.

The first thing you notice is that the packaging is much better than most Microsoft products, it comes in a nice box with slide out draw, it’s a well thought out design, much better than the impossible to to open without industrial equipment or cutting your finger off Xbox accessory packaging.

The actual Zune device is very nice, with a solid feel. Installing the Zune desktop software was a problem as Zune is not supported in the UK, so after a quick search I found a workaround and I got the software installed. The software is nothing special just a re-branded version of Windows Media Player, hopefully the V2 version will be better and have some kind of support for downloading podcasts like iTunes.

Syncing up was straight forward and I have my main Media Center PC syncing to the Zune and my UMPC as a 2nd syncing point.

In use the device is great, it is very reminiscent of Media Center with the pivots and galleries. It was great on the way to work listening to a random selection of my music, some of which I have not listened to in years. My next task is to sort some playlists out, on my Media Center PC I have all the family’s albums including  my wife’s music (James Blunt and Elton John) and stuff for the kids so the random selection was great but it is dangerous driving whilst listening to James Blunt as it is know to make me fall asleep if I listen to more that one of his tracks 🙂 So I think I should create a driving playlist.

It’s great having all my pictures on the Zune, the automatic syncing means I will always have some recent pictures of the kids to show off.

I tried converting a DVD to WMV then getting that on to the Zune which worked great, and video playback on the Zune is very good. I am looking forward to the V2 software so that I can sync Recorded TV with it.

Overall I have been pleased with it, and am looking forward to the v2 software

Does anybody have any advice for syncing podcasts with a Zune? What Podcatcher do you recommend with it (and don’t say iTunes!)

I have also opened up a Zune Forum on TheDigitalLifestyle.com

New Zunes sync with Media Center

Good news on the Zune front. It looks like the new Zunes announced yesterday will have video sync support for Windows Media Center (which should have been in the product from day one!). At least it means that you don’t need any 3rd party products to sync TV with a Zune , this would be a feature that would appeal to me. It also looks like Zune supports wireless syncing over wifi, another feature that interests me, I hope it can be automated, I hate it when I download a podcast and then forget to sync my Treo with my PC and then get in the car and have no shows to listen to.

All the software features of the new versions will be available as an update to existing Zunes so It’s nice to see that existing Zune owners are not punished for being early adopters as is normally the case.

It looks like the Zune Marketplace is getting an update soon including Podcast features, as a Podcaster it will be interesting to see how I could get a show on there as getting a show in to iTunes was painless.

All this is great but When can we have them in the UK Microsoft!!!

 

More information from Microsoft Press Release

 

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