Monday, July 5, 2010

Versus Tour Tracker

I forked out the $29.95 US for Versus Tour Tracker this year. And other than some hiccups with their use of a streaming plugin (autobahn) for the first two days I'm really enjoying it.

What you get is the full TDF video feed in HD downloaded and viewed in your browser via a flash plugin. This means from the race roll out to the end of the podium awards. For Sunday's stage one this was six hours compared to three hours.

This is not the same as the Versus broadcast. You get Phil and Paul's commentary, mostly, but it is not the same commentary you get on the over the air (cable) version. I still have my PVR setup so I compared the two versions for todays feed. For some portions the video and commentary are the same, with either or both Phil and Paul doing commentary. But in other portions they split up and you get different audio.

For the most part this is when they need to do a sponsor blurb, or a replay of something missed in a commercial, etc. One of them continues with the tracker commentary and the other does the over the air commentary. More kudo's for Phil and Paul, they are doing a lot more work than we realize.

For the parts of the feed prior to when Phil and Paul are available, i.e. for when they would be doing the over the air version, there is another commentator. So on Sunday we got him for the a little over three hours and Phil and Paul for the rest.

Another strange difference, for the over the air broadcast you get the audio portion of the video feed. At least what I presume is audio from the race, crowd noises, cheering, etc. That is missing from the tracker feed.

For the first two days they where using Autobahn which is a plugin which was supposed to improve streaming. I had a lot of trouble keeping this happy. Especially trying to stop / restart, skip, replay etc. Todays video was a bit slow in becoming available and there was a short lived announcement that autobahn was removed so that streaming would improve. I think the bit rate I was getting with autobahn was better. The quality seems to be slightly less today. I need to play a bit and see if I can figure out how to improve the download bit rate.

As a bonus this also works on your iPhone. Login and you can watch the video in full screen mode there. Note that there is also a Versus iPhone app for $14.95 which may be slightly better, but that won't allow you to watch on your PC. The free Versus iPhone app is pretty cheesy. It just does standings, results etc and mostly devotes a lot of screen real-estate trying to sell you the $14.95 version.

The bottom line is I think that the tracker version is worthwhile. While you can get Versus in HD in the US we are stuck with the older non-HD feed via OLN up here in the frozen north. I have been saying for the last two years I would cancel my cable and signup in a minute for anyone who would get me HD feed for the tour. And this is doing that at a reasonable cost, only about a buck and a half per stage... maybe about $.25 per hour ...


Paulie 2 Wheels said...

Well my service has been a nightmare and there is virtually no support if you have a problem so pray you don't. The feed is not HD and is choppy at best. There is no ambient sound in the live feed just the commentators. The GPS feature does not work Overall I think it is a total ripoff! Your mileage may vary.