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On Demand TV..some nifty new technology!

I was intrigued at Christmas to see my son's latest edition to his entertainment centre - his Kris Kringle was an Apple TV device....and I'm impressed!! Now I know cable/satellite TV services such as Foxtel have been around for a long time and now many of the major TV networks are in the mix with their on demand services available and with so much to choose from its a real minefield for us "oldies". My understanding is that most of these services are subscription-based - you pay a monthly contract in advance regardless of usage - and still there are additional costs for box-office movie access - and the special receiving equipment supplied and installed on sign-up remains the property of the provider...all part of your monthly rental.

When we downsized and relocated regionally several years ago, we made a very conscious decision not to transfer our satellite subscription-based service with us, given our regular usage of it had fallen dramatically (noting that the quality of programs on offer had dropped dramatically since we originally signed up, and many of our "favourite" shows were now available on free-to-air TV) to the point we could no longer justify the monthly cost. We concluded we would rather invest a similar sum each month on quality DVDs including box-set series and the like, and to some extent we have done that quite successfully. And along with similar gifts for Birthdays and Christmas, our viewing entertainment has been well-accommodated. Over the years then, we've enjoyed multiple seasons of acclaimed shows such as Boston Legal, The Wire, The West Wing, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad - all excellent in very different ways.

This last Christmas, She gave me two seasons of Silk (the UK legal drama series) and a 4-season box set of The Good Wife (the US legal drama series). Both are well scripted and produced and make for compelling viewing! And in our usual inimitable style, we had marathon sessions until we reached the end - oh shock, horror, what will we watch now??? Some simple research (Google) revealed there was another full season (season 5) of The Good Wife and season 6 was part way through - so how do we source it?....simple, we'll purchase and install an Apple TV. But I realised its not quite so let me share our experience with you.

Firstly, Apple TV runs via an HDMI connection (and you need to purchase an HDMI cable as it is not supplied with the Apple unit) to the TV or your Media Centre. Now our TV is 9 years old - a 50inch Pioneer Plasma - which in its day cost a lot of money - and my first concern was whether it would receive the HDMI signal. A thorough read of the manual indicated it would....TICK!

But not so old Pioneer TV has its own outboard media centre which, being pre-digital TV, also requires a set-top box. To make matters worse, my surround sound for this system has been running through an old LG DVD player quite happily. And while we easily connected the Apple TV to the Pioneer TV Media Centre and promptly got brilliant high resolution (1080p) picture, there was absolutely no sound. What the......!!! The problem was twofold...neither the set-top box nor the DVD player had HDMI connectivity and there was no way the sound element via HDMI would talk to the outputs using the old Red/White cabling. I was starting to panic, although my investment to date was only $130 for the Apple TV and an HDMI cable, but without sound, the concept was not viable. Another word of caution - HDMI cables can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 but you don't need to spend big here - again, get expert advice.

The only way to solve the problem was to update our system - not the TV itself but the peripheral gear, which meant acquiring a new HDMI compliant amplifier (we went ONKYO on recommendation), a new compatible digital set-top box and DVD/Blue-Ray player. The additional outlay was about $1,000 but now everything is connected through the Onkyo amp and ALL components are connected exclusively by HDMI - everything talks....and we now have a very seamless system. And should the plasma eventually need replacing it will be a very simple least that's the theory.

The other very significant consideration is your internet connection which must be high speed, preferably with Wi-Fi connectivity and with sufficient download capacity to accommodate a movie or TV series download - if needs be, check with you provider, as excess downloads could come at a hefty price or alternatively slow down your service significantly. My research told me a full length feature film typically can take 3 to 5GB in HD (high definition) and although a TV show will be much less per episode, be careful when downloading a full season which will vary dramatically depending on the number of episodes - if you allow about 1GB per episode, then a season with 22 episodes will take 22GB!! Many ISPs (Internet Service Provider) offer monthly service with significant capacity - ours is 200GB - and some are now offering LIMITLESS monthly capacity. But if you operate on a plugin dongle arrangement your speed and capacity may be totally inadequate for you to even contemplate Apple TV. Best do your homework BEFORE spending any money!

So, after rather an anxious day installing the equipment , we successfully downloaded season 5 of The Good Wife - the Apple TV is linked to your Apple iPhone account through Apple iTunes - same username and password etc and your trusty credit card of course - and we were able to continue our viewing ecstasy without any delay or interruption. This has opened up a whole new world of viewing to us - you can rent or purchase movies, TV shows and a host of other options including documentaries and social media such as YouTube - with some of it free to access.

All of this new technology is wonderful but it can be tricky!! So read first, invest second!

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE....

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