Remember staying up late, watching people hack at wood and climb limbless trees with the mindset of "Who wants to see this junk?" Remember hitting record a minute before the Timberworld Lumberjack Games was over, just so you wouldn't miss a piece of what you really wanted to see? Remember being thrilled when the little swirly music came up and you saw the mana symbols float into view on ESPN2?
Well, I do. I've got six of ten of those episodes recorded on VHS, too. Sadly, ESPN now runs Paid Advertisments at the 12:15 AM- 4:50 AM time slots formerly occupied(in a range) by various Magic: The Gathering Pro Tours. Zvi goes off with his Bargain deck. SMASSH goes the Verdant Force and Spirit of the Night into the face of the Sligh deck. *BURP* goes Gary Wise as the camera pans off of him, thankfully without the mic picking it up. I am a geek... A Nerd... Whatever you want to call it. I spent my time trying to get Magic recorded as it was on T.V. and only missed it when I messed up the date. I watched replays of the X-Games for the whole night until 5:00 AM alerted me that I had screwed up, and now had to go to school with absolutly no sleep this thursday, AND no Magic recorded. Good times, those were. Sadly, very sadly, I believe Hazbro has now stopped giving the money for the Paid Advertisement space for ESPN2 to air Magic. Very sad indeed...
However, with Pro Tour: Amsterhalfthetopeightwerestoned, we get, via Quicktime 4, another chance at watching the Pros be professional... granted, with some alterations to mindstate. Now here's the rub. An hour of footage (the Rochester Draft) is ninty Megabytes. That's fairly big, but decent for an hour's worth of footage. I download it on my 14.4 modem. I download EVERYTHING on my 14.4 modem. Today is February Twelfth, 2004 as I write this. When did the footage go up? I started downloading it the next day. Do some math, and you'll be able to see how long it took to download 345MB of data onto my machine. I finally get to watch a bit of it. After fifteen minutes of chatter from Randy Buehler and some guy I cannot understand from either accent or a cold, the Rochester starts. I've been watching a facinating view of a Parcan light and a "Pro Tour: Amsterdamn" advertisement/flyer/banner for that fifteen minutes. That wasn't right. I assume multiple cameras were avaible? Why not put one of the commentators for the setup time? There was obviously enough to have a nice view(that shifted subliminally in the time you stared at it) of a fill light. Well, now. At 14:48, we zoom out and 'the players are sitting down at the table, now.' Well, we take Randy's word for it, at least, since what it looks like is a bunch of lumps of putty around a green disc. Whoa. WHOA! WHOAH!! I just spent nearly a week downloading videos that look worse than RealPlayer? This is Quicktime Friggin' Four. Why does it look like this on fullscreen(or nearly?)! I shrink it to a smaller size. All that happens is the guy with a White shirt's shirt gets whiter. Wow. This isn't acceptable. My VCR has better picture quality than this. MUCH better quality, amazingly enough. Is this a problem with QT4? Let us go check.
I type in http://www.apple.com/quicktime/trailers , a very nice little "I want to see ads for movies" site, sponsered by Apple to promote its quicktime technology. Let us select one movie that has in it a star I first see on T.V. *Click.* Pink. No movies that I know of. *click* Hey, it's Highlander: the series. Look at that! It's Ron Pearlman. Oh. He just got down on his knees and preached about not killing. Odd... there's a movie that stars him on this page. Hellboy. Let's get to downloading! I first start the High quality download, as it'll take the longest. Ten and a half hours later I have the twenty Megabyte file. I download the Medium and Low quality versions as well. Now lets' find a piddly little detail on the High Quality and see how it translates into a lower quality verison. I know that many people wouldn't spend time to download the Rochester if it was 700MB; the Hellboy commercial is two minutes at twenty megs. The sound quality is very good, no janglings or gwahh sounds underneith the action at all. AHA! I found the piddly little thing that I'm looking for. About three frames into twenty six seconds, there are some doors that say S00 with a 2 underneith them. *PrintScreen*. Low and medium? *PrintScreen*. Open up a freeware that lets you move images around? it opens. Paste the .bmps and crop 'em. Here's what we've got:
Each of the qualities show the image. Only the low quality can you not see anything other than the lightness on the darkness. Now that we have comparisons for the images on WOTC's videos, we can go onto deciding what format they used.
The sound on High is spotless. No digital distortions or sample rate errors can be heard. Medium, the high end has some jangling that you can hear-- compare the last three seconds of High and Low to hear it best. Low quality contains the errors in Medium Quality and adds in more sample rate funnies that sounds like the actors are talking with a mouth full of mayonaise. Comparing now with the Pro Tour video, we have a very high noise floor. Hmmm... Needs some gating, or better quality microphones, or a Ceader Box, if Hasbro has one. Moving Along, the voices are somewhat error free, otherwise, and the sound quality is poorly recorded, but not badly digitalized. The quality of sound I'd say was about 'medium' for our comparison. Now we get to the views of the cards, or rectangularized squares sitting on a table. Hmm... That one looks like a Pentavite token from Magic Online, if it was dark instead of silver. So does that one, except it's a bit more spread out. Hmmm... I can't tell one damned card from another... This is a CARD game, right? Yea, there's narrators, but who really knows the cardnames that well? To borrow an Australian term, CROYKEY! The quality of the card images looks to be of 'low quality' to comparisons above. To see how low quality, let's look at people's faces. Yicch. Blocks and Squares for Magic. Strangely, it looks much better in the LOW quality Hellboy trailer with regards to faces. Let us look at File Size to see. For two minutes, Hellboy Low Quality is Five and a bit more Megabytes. Thus, two and a half per minute. Let us calculate how long the Rochester should be, assuming that standard is kept: 175MB. NOT 92. Nearly twice that, for very little image quality that can somewhat be seen and below average sound. It looks like whoever put this up for the web didn't care about Magic and its players. They did their job like a baboon, showed their bottom to the players who genuinly cared about the game and waited for fairly large files to download to see it being played, to only find Mad Magazine's infamous 1979 cover mentally appearing in their mind. I would still be downloading the 600MB that should have been allotted to the Pro Tour. I know all those who truly cared about seeing it would also be doing the same. I wanted to see Magic. If all you had was Randy "Boo Ler" talking to someone, why not just give us some friggin' MP3s? They sound bad, but at least we don't waste our time trying to watch the games with them.
Now, I always have something after the signoff, and here it is: Who out there has the recordings of ESPN's airings? Would it be possible to crunch them down to MPEG 1 files and distribute CDs of 'em? Yea, copywrights and such, but I don't see the videos avaible on WOTC's site at all. They arn't making any money off of 'em, ESPN won't touch 'em with a twenty foot pole or a suited connector with the games they now show. Who would it hurt? If someone has 'em and the technology... contact me, please. I want to see the ones I'm missing. Badly.