The Adobe Media player, which just went public, looks like it’ll be a top-tier destination for mainstream online video — that is, sometime soon.
For now, there’s not much in the way of meaningful content you can’t get elsewhere — more reliably. And, the service appears to inspire a maddening amount of buffer activity.
As with Joost, you’ll have to download the Adobe Media Player application and run it when you want to use the service. The installation was quick and intuitive, with no passwords to deal with.
Content partners are mostly familiar: CBS, MTV Networks, Universal Music Group, PBS, Scripps Networks. Yep, that means no TV shows from NBC or Fox, which partner on the Web-based stremaing video site Hulu.
The Adobe Media Player looks and acts like a more sophisticated version of the Joost interface. The player is satisfying aesthetically — as in pretty cool and slick — and for the most part you don’t need help to get what you want. The viewing window is good, but not Hulu good. Joost looks absolutely clunky compared with the Adobe setup.After downloading the app, a four-part tutorial video pops up as an option. Say yes. It’s a clear all-business explanation of how to use the player and what to expect from it. More Media Player help can be found online.
Navigation is intuitive with a generous number of paths to a piece of content. The system sorts content in several ways: featured shows, by networks, by genres and new shows. You can subscribe to any series and have an icon represent the show on your first page.
Content is either streamed or downloaded. A yellow icon under the thumbnail image of the show means streaming only; green indicates downloads. The download queue can be fed with several videos at the same time.
You commit to content in two stages: by learning about the series on a pitch page, and then clicking on individual episodes. Episodes that have already been seen are displayed but the thumbnail indicates it’s been watched. A catch-up option keeps latecomers in synch with series, kind of like a DVR.
I found it easy to sample an episode, retreat to the directory and then move on to another without any kind of lag. This allowed for a lot of hassle-free sampling.
On the downside, I encountered repeated instances of fruitless buffering (on a Mac Pro running Leopard). Video sites rarely present a problem for me, even on the highest quality settings.
Lowering the quality via the preferences (as suggested in the tutorial) didn’t help. Trying to watch a video about meditation with repeated image smearing really blows that natural high. Also encountered some sped-up footage, as if I was fast-forwarding past a ED ad on TiVo.
Also encountered double-tracked audio and some weird cross-talk. A few other shows just refused to do anything. Feels like a beta, folks, but it’s only week 1.
Adobe apparently gets a cut from the content providers’ preroll ads, but doesn’t seem to add its own ads.
There is, however, prominent position give to a network with Adobe product videos, which are mostly tech types being cool-zippy on topics related to, say, Flash CS3. There’s “Photoshop User TV” “Understanding Adobe” “Photoshop for Video,” etc. I found some of the “xTrain” web developers shorts to be just OK. (On the useless side, there’s “After Hours at Adobe,” this one about someone playing disc golf.)
These tutorials are well produced and somewhat helpful if you’re new to the software being discussed. This content also streams at the new Adobe TV site, which offers one-click subscription to the topics on the Media Player.
The video app comes with a solid set of user-preference options. For example, select whether to have the system remember where you left off in a presentation. Under privacy, go with “Allow Measurement” of viewing patterns by Adobe (anonymous) … or not.
The system also functions as a CMS for personal videos on a user’s hard drive. These videos appear in the system like the professional content, with thumbnail images and all. Snazzy. I fooled around with the feature but couldn’t get it to work right away and wandered off.
TechCrunch points out that TV distributors’ geographical filtering hasn’t struck yet. Don’t get too gobsmacked, friends down under, that restriction probably is on the way.
Bottom line: Adobe Media Player deserves a visit now, and regular follow-ups to see if it’s up to speed yet. Lots of potential here, despite the locally based (on your computer) interface.