I’ve had a DVR (“digital video recorder”, such as TiVo) in my home theater for years. My DVR allows me to schedule TV recordings and watch them at a later time, freeing me from being a slave to the TV network broadcast schedules. In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to this way of watching television that I don’t even really know when the shows I watch are actually broadcast. When I sit down to watch my television shows I’m shown a list of recordings which my DVR has made for me and I choose a show to watch from that list.
Now what if I told you that there was a way to do that same thing with much of the video which you watch on the internet? There is, and its name is Miro. Let’s take a closer look.
Miro is an open-source project which began its life as a video player (it was known up until the latest release as “Democracy Player”) which could handle just about any type of file format you could thrown at it. Over time, though, it has morphed from a universal video player into a full-blown internet DVR.
When you watch content through Miro that content is actually first downloaded to your PC (even if it comes from a streaming video site, like YouTube), just like it would be with a DVR. It’s the timing of those downloads that makes Miro more flexible than my DVR. When I program my DVR to record the next episode of a given show I have to wait until the network broadcasts that show before it’s available on my DVR. Using Miro I can download and watch any given (or even all) episodes immediately.
Like the DVR in my home theater I can use Miro to view a list of channels, see the listing of the shows on those channels, and decide if I want to record those shows. The major difference between Miro and my DVR is that Miro’s channels are internet video sources, not traditional television sources. Instead of ABC, CBS, and CNN, Miro allows you to record content from internet video sources like YouTube, Ask a Ninja, and the Onion News Network.
Actually, Miro is extensible — if you can’t find enough content in Miro’s Program Guide (over 1,500 channels as I write this), you can add additional channels. As long as the website you’d like to add supports full Media RSS feeds it can be added to Miro. Many of the more popular video sharing sites (like YouTube, blip.tv, Dailymotion, and Revver) already support this type of feed so it’s easy to add content from those sites as additional channels. I’d like to see my home theater’s DVR do that.
Speaking of content, the shows that I’ve downloaded using Miro run the gamut in both the quality of the show and the quality of the video. The available content ranges from hard science to music videos to instructions in how to make complex origami. The video quality is also variable, ranging from the typical hard-on-your-eyes YouTube flash video to crystal-clear high-definition. Actually, Miro is a great way to watch some HD content if you don’t have a high-definition TV – the Miro video player is pretty easy on system resources so even a fairly old PC is probably capable of handling some HD content. There’s even a special HD tab in the Program Guide if you’d like to browse only HD content.
Miro is a fantastic piece of software which has changed how I watch internet video (and where, but that’ll be a different topic). The user interface is very well thought-out, the options are simple to understand, and the execution is flawless. If you enjoy watching internet video give Miro a try. It really is a DVR for the internet.