WD TV Live Streaming Media Player

Audio|Video|Misc
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ACCESSING MEDIA CONTENT

You start by selecting Music, Videos, Photos or Files on the main screen. The first time, you need to select from several content sources:

  • My Media Library - Scans all available network shares and attached USB storage, can take a long time
  • Local Storage - Storage devices attached to USB ports 1 and/or 2
  • Media Server - Network-attached media server devices (more metadata info)
  • Network Share -
    • Samba - Windows and Mac network shares, most network attached storage drives
    • NFS - Linux network shares
  • Online Service - Photos and videos posted in your Facebook and Picasa online accounts.

FILES AT YOUR LOCATION

The network share or media server are likely to be key for most users, as the essence of media streaming is to access and play a media file remotely. Keeping the shared media folders password-free makes most sense to me, but passwords can be negotiated with the WDTVL, and remembered after first use. Some users might keep all of their media on a portable (self-powered) USB drive, however, and move it around the house for simplicity.

You might think USB storage would give you the snappiest access, but this really depends on what and how much data is on the storage device, the speed of the network, and the "tidiness" of your media files in your shared network folders. With a 500GB USB hard drive about half full of a hodge podge of files (many thousands), the WDTVL activity light stayed blinking for hours, presumably trying to scan all the content, even though the ~150GB of media files seemed to be fully accessible in a few minutes. In contrast, on the gigabit wired network, the shared videos folder (with nearly a terabyte and hundreds of movie files) in the main HTPC storage drive was visible in a few seconds. YMMV. The difference in speed appears to be the relatively slower performance of the USB chip and core processor in the WDTVL compared to the >3GHz AMD Phenom II 4-core processor and 8GB RAM PC pushing the HTPC storage drive.

It's probably best to dedicate a USB drive for WDTVL media content. If the USB drive is more or less permanently connected to the WDTVL, you can set the box up to be a Network Share Server, with all its media visible to other computers on the network.

Interestingly, if the WDTVL and your computer are attached to the network, you can transfer files between your computer and any USB storage device connected to the WDTVL. This was not tried; there are too many bottlenecks between those points for such an operation to be speedy for transferring something like a big HD movie file.

All the comments regarding file access are specific to computers running Windows 7 and Vista, but I had similar results with a couple of Windows XP machines still on the network, and WD claims native Mac OS (Leopard or Snow Leopard) functionality as well.

My own preference has been to keep all media content on a 2TB storage-dedicated drive in the HTPC, with regular backups to a NAS box elsewhere in the network. The WDTVL's USB capability did not change my habit. The network share avoids the clutter of yet another device on a USB cable connected to the WDTVL, and the potential noise of that drive.

Folder or Browser Display Options

There are several different view options for each of the different types of media. Videos have the most number of view options.

WD TV Live
Folder Display Options
Videos
Photos
Music
List
List
List
Preview
-
-
Large Grid
Grid
Large Grid
Small Grid
-
Small Grid
Gallery
-
-

In the list views, a small icon image shows up next to the highlighted files. For videos, the most interesting option is Preview, which actually plays the highlight video file in a small window above basic properties information about the file.


Video Preview screen actually plays the highlighted file (whether there is one file in the screen or many) and provides basic properties aboiut the file.


Preview display option on higher level view of folders.

Options Button: Subtitles & Audio Lip Sync

Several functions are accessed with the Options button while the video file is selected or playing: Play Mode gets you into repeat, etc; Zoom & Pan is obvious and interesting but low priority, and Audio lets you choose between different language tracks (if that's an option in your video); you can even delete the file from here if you so wish (though most users will probably prefer to manage the media files on their network from ther PCs).

The Subtitle function is found here, although there is also a dedicated button for it on the remote. Subtitle files must be located in the same folder and have same filename as the video file. When subtitles were needed, I found it easiest to start the video, then immediately pause it, and click on the Options button to set up the subtitles.


This is the screen that comes up when the options button is pressed while a video is playing. The Subtitle menu lets you choose the right one (if there is more than one), and you can position and color the the subtitle text as you like.

Another very useful function is Audio Lip Sync, which is just what it sounds like: Adjusts the timing between audio and video. There is nothing quite so annoying —in an otherwise unflawed video — as a lag between action and sound. Select Audio Lip Sync while the video is playing, and you can delay or advance the audio track by 100ms increments using the left/right arrow buttons. There seems to be no limit to how much delay or advance; I stopped it at 11.4 seconds delay in the screenshot below. The time delay or advance engages immediately. When it is right, just hit the Back button to go back to viewing your video with the sound and action in sync.


The Audio Lip Sync function is not documented. It may have been added after the last update of the manul.

Music & Videos

The WD TV Live's ability to function as a jukebox or slide viewer is OK, but there is nothing truly exceptional here. Yes, the ability to pull the files in from any digital source in your home is nice, but the actual fuctionality has been done before, and probably done better with more specialized software for PCs. Google's Picasa, an example of a free image viewer application, comes to mind. Still, the functionality is there, and it works well enough, so there's no need to hook up other devices or computers to the big screen TV when the WDTVL is already there.

Note, however, that a folder of images that views correctly in vertical or horizontal layout in Windows does not always views the same way on the WDTVL.

With the music, once it is playing, you can freely acess most other screens without interrupting it. Only when you get into a video preview or play screen will the music be interrupted (after which it must be manually turned back on if you want it to continue playing).

As mentioned earlier in this review, if you hook this device to a computer monitor, say no bigger than 24", then the power consumption would be modest enough for it to stay always on, to be used as a music player, with a random slide show screensaver for multiple entertainment. But it would be a bit profligate to use a big screen HD TV with its much higher power consumption (>200W is not unusual) as a music jukebox screen for the WD TV Live.



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