iPlayer: great when it works

I may be prepared to forgive the BBC for all the iPlayer’s usability headaches (of which there are many). As mentioned earlier, I downloaded the Top Gear polar special – and at the end of the day, it all worked. I was able to watch the show in full screen on my uncommonly large widescreen PC monitor. The picture maybe lacked a bit of sharpness, but it was perfectly watchable throughout, and the audio was nigh-on faultless.

And incidentally, the show itself was magnificent. Almost no mention of cars; instead, it was what journalists frequently refer to as ‘Boy’s Own stuff’, without necessarily knowing what Boy’s Own was. Three ordinary blokes attempting to reach the North Pole – one using conventional means, the other two in a 4×4. Who gets there first? Beautifully shot, perfectly paced, wonderfully edited. Drama, adrenaline, and the sort of scenery which just makes you gasp. Clarkson & co are in cracking form, too. Award-winning stuff, if there’s any justice.

(Some technical data for those who care about such things: 387MB for an hour’s telly, a bit rate of 860Kbps. Picture in a rather unusual 7:4 ratio, at 672×384 pixels – that’s fractionally narrower than the normal 16:9 widescreen. Encoded using Windows Media 9 for both audio and video. The DRM gives you a week to watch it; no ‘collaborative play’, no burning, no synchronising. In other words, it’s your PC or nothing.)