Self-help message board
How to contact us
Web links directory
Tips and advice
Help Me, I'm new!
Fair pricing petition
Magix Video Deluxe Plus
How to get started with
computer video editing
Join our ongoing campaign
For years, computer
hardware companies have been helping us put our favourite videos, music
and stills onto our PCs. Now that we've got hard drives full of media,
Pinnacle's ShowCenter might actually let us enjoy them - in the comfort
of our living rooms.
Many readers' earliest
outings into the world of computer video involved TV tuner cards and
analogue capture devices. The idea was that a PC could replace a TV,
VCR and stereo system, becoming an all-in-one solution for recording
and playback. There are lots of good reasons why you might want a TV
tuner on your PC, but the fact remains that personal computers just
don't feel right as home cinema devices. Watching movies on a computer
monitor feels wrong - regardless of how good a monitor it is.
And, while some clever IT enthusiasts have succeeded in creating PC-based
media jukeboxes for their living rooms, the world of computing and home
entertainment have largely remained separate. Digital media is now very
much a part of the consumer lifestyle. People are taking digital photos,
sharing MP3 music files, and even downloading movies from the internet.
However, just as a PC's desktop isn't the most appropriate place to
watch telly, it's also not an ideal or comfortable place to enjoy all
this PC-based media.
Movie studios and record labels might be slow to accept the importance
of the internet, but millions of potential customers now use it to discover
or acquire new music and video. For them, it's neither here nor there
how this affects CD or DVD sales, or whether it's ethically or morally
sound. People are getting their entertainment in cyberspace and clever
companies will try to capitalise on this market rather than crush it.
A handful of firms - including Pinnacle, Hauppauge and Neuston - are
doing just that, with networking devices that connect Windows PCs to
TV sets and stereo systems. Mac users aren't left out in the cold. Neuston
has Mac software for its box, and Linux, too, while Elgato has the Mac-only
EyeHome (www.elgato.com), and we'll be looking at those two systems
plus a range of Windows competitors in the near future.
Pinnacle's offering - ShowCenter - relies equally on hardware and software.
The hardware is a slim, good-looking hi-fi-style set-top box which feeds
a TV set. The Windows software combines a media server and database
program designed to organise movies, music and pictures into manageable
categories and playlists for access by the ShowCenter box. No media
is stored on the box itself - it's all accessed from a PC system over
a network. As the box is useless without a PC running the ShowCenter
software, that software is installed first.
The basic concept of ShowCenter makes a lot of sense. People are
using their PCs to store media, and even though they want to enjoy their
music, photos and videos, they don't necessarily want the hassle of
burning collections to CD or DVD, making up inlays, and generally keeping
track of what's where. Significantly, too, large-capacity hard drives
are now so cheap that there's shouldn't be any worries about the cost
of the space taken up by a multitude of media files.
We've got our grumbles - in particular the poor performance with certain
DivX files (though not all), and the lack of direct support for Windows
Media - but those complaints aren't major considering that conversion
to MPEG is so painless. If we were to make one immediate change, it
would be to tidy up the software on the PC side to make it more immediate
and intuitive. Ideally, it should carry the same look and approach as
the player's software, creating a better sense of continuity between
Ultimately, ShowCenter comes very close to the media jukebox that many
of us have been looking for. We're sure that, with the right marketing,
it will appeal to a vast number of internet enthusiasts as well as digital
photographers and video makers. And we hope ShowCenter will turn out
to be one of the first in a long line of convenient and practical bridges
from PC to living room.
Read the full review
in May 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
CyberLink PowerProducer 2.0
Magix Movies on CD & DVD 2.0
Pure Motion EditStudio 4
Shining CitiDisk DV
Ulead DVD Workshop 2
Wacom Graphire 3 Studio XL
In this issue's
Task-centric Creator 7
Cut-price Canon cams
Desktop spanning over a network
Affordable rostrum camera software