Friday, June 12, 2009

Closed Captions and Subtitles

This is Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer at Netflix. We've had some inquiries about why Netflix doesn't yet provide closed captioning or subtitles for streaming movies and TV episodes. Captioning is in our development plans but is about a year away.

You might be asking how it could be so hard, since we already subtitle foreign language streams with English subtitles. These subtitles are "burned in" to the video stream at the time of encoding - they are so-called "open captions" that cannot be turned on and off by the viewer. The majority of viewers would object to English captions on English content, so we have to figure out how to let individual viewers turn them on and off.

Encoding a separate stream for each title is not an option - it takes us about 500 processor-months to make one encode through the entire library, and for this we would have to re-encode four different formats. Duplicating the encoded streams is prohibitive in space too.

So we are working on optionally delivering the SAMI file (Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange), or similar, to the client, and having it render the text and then overlay it on the video at playback time. Unfortunately, the tools for rendering SAMI files in Silverlight, or in CE (Consumer Electronics) devices, are weak or non-existent, and there is some technology development required.

I would expect to deliver subtitles or captions to Silverlight clients sometime in 2010, and roll the same technology out to each CE device as we are able to migrate the technology, and work with the CE manufacturer to deliver firmware updates for each player.

Message to Netflix subscribers who watch instantly via Xbox

Hi, it’s Catherine again from the PR team. This message is for Netflix subscribers who instantly watch movies on their TVs via their Xbox 360s. As you’ve likely heard from the Xbox team, Xbox LIVE and Xbox.com will be offline most, if not all, day Tuesday, June 16th due to scheduled maintenance. While Xbox is performing this maintenance, you won’t be able to instantly watch movies on your TV via your Xbox 360. If you want to read more about the Xbox maintenance or have questions, visit the Xbox website at www.xbox.com.

Here’s the actual communication from Xbox: “On Tuesday, June 16 beginning at 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. PDT (2009-06-16 0701 to 2009-06-17 0659 UTC) Xbox LIVE and Xbox.com will be offline for scheduled maintenance. As a result, the “My Xbox” section of Xbox.com will not be available, and the Xbox forums will be in read-only mode, and you will be unable to post. The rest of Xbox.com will be functional and available. When services are restored, up to 24 hours later, there will be no new functionality or features.”

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vote for the film you think should win the Netflix FIND Your Voice Film Competition

Hello movie fans,

It’s Catherine Fisher again and we are in phase two of the Netflix FIND Your Voice Film Competition – it’s time to vote for the film you think should be made and ultimately distributed on Netflix. We blogged about the contest back in January, but as a refresher, Netflix is working with Film Independent (FIND) in search of the next great independent filmmaker. In addition to a total prize value of $350,000, the winning film will premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2010, and it will be distributed through Netflix.

More than 2,000 applications were submitted, and now we are asking the public to vote on the 10 semifinalists’ three-minute videos at http://www.netflixfindyourvoice.com/. If you are a Facebook user, you can download an application that allows you to watch the semifinalists’ videos and vote on them from the Netflix fan page here. Once the votes are tallied, five finalists will be reviewed by our panel of judges, chaired by Josh Brolin. Voting ends on July 5th, so watch and vote today!

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Ways to Enjoy Netflix on your Xbox 360

Hi, Catherine Fisher here from Netflix Corporate Communications. Microsoft swept E3 today with some exciting new ways to experience the Xbox 360. The news we are most excited about, of course, involves Netflix. Available this Fall, if you are an Xbox Gold LIVE member, you will be able to browse and add movies and TV episodes to your instant Queue directly from your Xbox 360 – you don’t have to go to your computer. And with the announcement of Xbox LIVE Party, you will be able to simultaneously watch movies on your Xbox 360 with up to seven friends – bantering back and forth about what you are watching. More than one million Xbox LIVE Gold members have already enjoyed more than 1.5 billion minutes of movies and TV episodes via Netflix since November 2008, and we hope you are as excited about the new ways to enjoy movies and TV episodes from Netflix on your Xbox 360 as we are.