Archive for the 'PS3 iPlayer' Category

PS3 and UK Catchup TV Services

It’s been a week now since the official PS3-optimised BBC iPlayer went live and I pulled the plug on the unofficial PS3iPlayer.com (it’s still available for but no-longer maintained.) As a few sites(!) are reporting, PS3 users are now accounting for around 10% of everyone using the iPlayer over the Internet (i.e. excluding Virgin’s service on their STB), pushing the PS3 into 2nd place, behind the PC (70%) and ahead of Macs (8.5%). This seems to indicate a hunger out there for an easy way to watch catchup services on a TV, without the hassle of connecting your PC or Mac up.

So, what’s the current state of play in general for catching up on missed TV using a PS3 in the UK? Continue reading ‘PS3 and UK Catchup TV Services’

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PS3 iPlayer is back up (Warning: Slight rant!)

Sorry for the downtime (again!) – the changes the BBC have been making lately aren’t huge, but thanks to their obfuscation of the iPlayer’s Javascript files, the simple job of maintaining PS3 iPlayer becomes horrendously complicated.

Not only does the obfuscation make it difficult to write the required regular expressions (a way for programs to look through text and pick out and modify specific sections), it also makes finding and understanding any changes needlessly time-consuming.

Now, I’m all for companies protecting their IP by taking measures to protect any source code that has to run client-side (i.e. Javascript), but in the BBC’s case I don’t see why they do this with iPlayer. The iPlayer uses a few BBC specific libraries for handling the UI elements (e.g. the carousel), but nothing that couldn’t be replaced with a number freely available open-source libraries.

The BBC is also a public body that really should be keeping these things open for people to look at and learn from and it’s not as if javascript obfuscation is any real protection against any commercial organisation that’s intent on saving a time and money by stealing the BBC’s code. I can understand that when it comes to the content, they have to be careful to respect the rights-holders’ wishes, but as far as I can tell, the iPlayer’s javascript is entirely the BBC’s own IP.

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Full Screen and High Quality Mode

You wait ages for a useful feature and two come along at once. PS3iPlayer.com has been updated to support the last night’s 2.53 firmware update. If you’re running version 2.53 or greater you should get the high quality H.264 streams (when available) and when playback begins, the player will automatically fill the screen. As before, press the circle button to get back to the webpage (as feared, no other buttons work in full-screen mode.)

The framerate isn’t as smooth as I’d like, so I might try and implement the BBC’s high/normal quality switch so users can decide between image quality or framerate.

Update: It didn’t take long for me to have enough of the choppy playback. I’ve gone ahead and implemented the BBC’s high/normal quality switch. As with the BBC’s iPlayer on the PC, the default quality is ‘normal’ and if you click ‘Play high quality’, it will play the H.264 stream. You can tell which version it’s going to play as it appears in parentheses after the ‘Press X to play’ message.

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Busy Times

PS3 Firmware 2.53 finally hit last night, bringing full-screen flash and RTMP support (and possibly other unknown treats), the BBC switched on the redirection to point the PS3 to the iPlayer’s BigScreen interface (which works well) and I soft-launched my latest PS3-related project, a social-networking site for LittleBigPlanet with a difference; it integrates somewhat with live data from the game. It is “beta” at the moment (what web-based projects aren’t these days?) but you can check it out at www.sackbook.com

For those wondering, despite the BBC officially supporting the PS3, PS3iPlayer.com will not be vanishing. For those who prefer its interface to the BBC’s offering, I’ll try to keep it well-maintained. Speaking of which, tonight I’ll add support for 2.53’s full-screen support and see if it helps with the H.264 problems we’ve been having.

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The H.264 Problem

The recent comments from SCE firmware engineers regarding the Flash implementation has given me a nudge to look into H.264 support a bit more. They say it should work, adding &fmt=6 to YouTube “watch” URLs says it should work; yet for the life of me I can’t get the BBC’s H.264 streams to play. The very same Flash player shows the videos in their high-quality glory on a PC, but on a PS3 it just hit with a NetStream.Play.Stop event (as mentioned before, the same behaviour you get on pre 9.0.115 versions of Flash on the PC when trying to play H.264 streams).

Taking an educated guess at the cause, if my experience of trying to get the iPlayer’s H.264 videos for the iPhone to play on the PS3 is anything to go by, it may be down to the H.264 streams being muxed into a MOV container and not an ISO-MPEG4 container (MP4); the PS3 will not play the former.

I am not certain how Flash Media Server operates, if it sends all the metadata from the source video file, or just specific parts, but there are certain “atoms” within an MOV file that prevents the PS3 from playing the video. It is trivial to remove them and replace them with ISO-MPEG4 equivalents, but if they make it through Flash Media Server and the RTMP stream, they may be what’s causing the problems.

P.S. Sorry for the downtime today – the BBC deployed some changes to make their fancy javascript-based widgets work over HTTPS and it threw things a little out of whack.

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On The Big Screen

Yesterday the BBC released their version of the iPlayer optimised for use on TV-connected devices; the BigScreen interface, and made this the default interface for the Wii. This change was picked up by PS3 iPlayer and resulted in PS3 users being sent to this version, which isn’t ideal as there are a few incompatibility problems to that need to be ironed out.

For now I’ve switched PS3 iPlayer back to the normal PC version. The big question is which do you guys prefer? The easy-to-use minimal interface designed for use with a remote, or the more informative ‘traditional’ version? How about Steve’s idea of a button to switch between the two, or is there some sort of half-way-house that people would like?

Also, some great news from Anthony Rose’s blog post:

PS: We’re also working on bringing BBC iPlayer to Sony PS3, but we’re not quite there yet as the PS3 uses a slightly older version of Flash which doesn’t support some of the features used in our media player, and the very promising Flash 9 update now available on PS3 has some compatibility issues. Our Flash developers are working on it – stay tuned for updates.

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Live Streams

Andrew pointed out in a comment that iPlayer now has live streams for BBC3, BBC4 and BBC News 24 and that the PS3 iPlayer didn’t support these. Good news – it does now!

If you want to try it out, go to:
TV Channels -> BBC3 -> Watch Live link (top right when on-air)

You can also just go directly to the pages at:

Enjoy!

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H264 Support (or lack thereof)

I’ve been looking at adding H264 support over the past few nights however things don’t look good. First there’s some good news; the version of Flash the PS3 now runs is “PS3 9.0.124.0″, which despite the timely release of Flash 10, is only 6 months behind the PC version (the PC’s version 9.0.124 hit the web in April.) The minimum required version for H264 support is 9.0.115.0 so theoretically the iPlayer’s high-quality streams should be playable on the PS3.

Now for the bad news – it doesn’t seem to work. It exhibits the same behaviour as if you try viewing the H264 streams using a version of Flash prior to 9.0.115.0, i.e it connects successfully to the RTMP server, buffers, then stops, displaying nothing but a black screen. This suggests it is either completely incapable of decoding H264 streams (which would be an odd omission considering MP4 is the mainstay of the PS3’s video support) or that there’s something in the stream that it doesn’t like.

So I’m afraid it’s VP6 for now.

P.S. If anyone in the know happens to come across this post and feels like saving me a lot of time poking around trying to get it to work, it’d be great of you could leave a comment or contact me directly regarding the status of Flash H264 support on the PS3.

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PS3 iPlayer and Flash 9 – The Morning After

Much better performance from the Flash player now. It’s playing VP6 encoded streams really well, but haven’t been able to check if it will play H264 streams – that’s a job for tonight. The BBC’s media player does work but neither bbc.co.uk/iplayer nor fullscreen work. I’ve stuck with my own player now as it looks much better in the PS3’s zoomed fullscreen mode (due to the BBC’s media controls not disappearing).

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PS3 iPlayer and Flash 9

Great news, although not officially confirmed, Eurogamer is reporting that firmware v2.50 will bring Flash 9 support to the PS3.

If true, it has yet to be seen just how complete the implementation will be, but considering how closed Macromedia/Adobe have kept Flash since version 7 (the current implementation in the PS3 browser was written by Sony themselves) this suggests that Adobe have been involved this time, which should (fingers-crossed) mean a full implementation.

What does this mean for PS3 iPlayer? Well bbc.co.uk/iplayer still won’t work unless the PS3’s JavaScript implementation has been fixed, but this should mean we can return to using the BBC’s full-featured embedded Flash media player, and along with it, support for the codecs used in the lower bit-rate streams. The result should mean much better quality video (on par with the PC), fewer problems on slower connections and being able to buffer the video content whilst paused (a limitation of Flash 7).

As soon as the firmware hits, I’ll get straight to work making any required changes.

Update: And it’s (semi-)official – ThreeSpeech states that from v2.50, “Flash 9 content becomes supported on the Internet Browser.”

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