I received my new video iPod just in time to take a few days vacation and head off with my wife to New York to see the Cream reunion concert at Madison Square Garden and Zakk Wylde at the Nokia Theatre. The timing couldn’t have been better to take Apple’s new iPod for a real-world test run. Instead of sitting in my living room, I would use the video on a plane, in an airport, and on the streets of Manhattan.
Before I get into how the iPod fared on my whirlwind New York concert tour, I have a confession to make. I didn’t really think I would be impressed with the video capabilities of the iPod. I attended the launch event in California and the video iPod didn’t really do a lot for me — sure it was cool and the deals with the networks was great, but it still didn’t grab me. Well, after this week, I can say that I was wrong.
I set up the iPod with playlists for Cream, Eric Clapton and Zakk Wylde to make getting to my favorites before the concerts as easy as possible. I also downloaded the latest episodes of Desperate Housewives —my wife’s favorite show.
I was amazed at the clarity of the video on the iPod. My wife, who is not easily impressed with gadgets, was so taken with the quality that she claimed the iPod as her own. (That is a story for another time—suffice it to say, it’s a battle I’m not likely to win).
When we arrived at the airport gate in Halifax, Nova Scotia, my wife sat happily watching Desperate Housewives as I continually nudged her asking for her thoughts. (That, by the way, did not go over too well—please save yourself the hassle and do not follow my example here).
I love to travel and do so quite a bit with my job. Being a frequent flyer, I have my PowerBook setup with some of my favorite DVDs and television shows to watch on the plane and in the hotel room. I didn’t think the iPod could replace my setup mainly because of the size of the screen.
I can say that the screen size mattered much less than I thought it would. That revelation brought me to the convenience aspect of my travels. Whipping out the iPod at the gate and watching a TV show is much easier than pulling out the PowerBook—especially if the gate is packed — opening the applications and launching the shows. Not to mention looking for a plug if you’re low on power.
(Speaking of power, you should be aware that video playback sucks up battery life like crazy. So don’t expect your iPod to stay charged for as long as if you were just listening to music. We watched about two hours of TV shows and there was still a little battery left, but not a whole lot.)
With the iPod, you can watch a show anywhere you are—sitting down or standing up. Try doing that with your PowerBook.
I’m not one to watch re-runs of TV shows (except maybe Columbo ), so having two Desperate Housewives kind of limited my playing time. My next task was to get some of my own content on the iPod.
There are many applications and AppleScripts that have cropped up in the last week or so and I’ve tried as many as I could, looking for ease of use in getting TV shows to the iPod. I have settled on Podner, a new application from Splasm Software that takes QuickTime-compatible files, converts them to an iPod format and puts them in iTunes, ready to be transferred to the iPod.
The thing that caught my eye with Podner was its simplicity. While I might delve into the inner depths of a topic for research when writing a story, I want some things—like transferring TV shows — to be done for me.
With Podner, you simply drag and drop the QuickTime file on the application and it gives you four encoding options to choose from. You pick your option, choose the genre and name the file, that’s it—there’s nothing more to it than that.
The quality of the resulting file has been great so far. The time to encode depends on the options you choose and, of course, the computer you use. From my experience, Podner will become a permanent fixture in my Applications folder.
With almost 5,000 songs, my 30GB iPod filled up quickly, leaving almost no room for video content and no room at all for photos. If you have a large music collection and plan to watch a lot of video, you might want consider the larger 60GB iPod —I wish I had.
And in case you were wondering, the Cream concert was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. There is just nothing like seeing Eric Clapton play guitar. Well, then again, seeing Zakk Wylde tear up the stage with some of the fastest guitar playing ever seen puts his show right up there for me.