Envive Improves TheaterStation Server and Streamer
Improved processing and file support -- including provisions for high-def file extensions -- are part of the new offering.
January 26, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Who wouldn’t want access to their entire media library—movies and music—at the press of a button?

Oh, and you want to be able to scroll through your choices, looking at movie and CD artwork on your TV? And stream things to multiple rooms in your house? Including your favorite Blu-ray movies?

OK, that screeching halt you just heard came from that last request. We know Blu-ray and media server aren’t exactly peanut butter and jelly friendly right now. But Envive was presenting its take on the whole Blu-ray ripping-to-media-server dilemma during CES 2010.

The company’s updated TheaterStation and TheaterStation Client products will not let you rip Blu-ray movies from the Hollywood studios to their multi-terabyte servers, let’s get that straight. You can’t even rip copy-protected standard DVDs. But if you take home movies on a 1080p camcorder for example, and have uploaded them to your PC, you’ll be able to do the same drag-and-drop of files into your TheaterStation so you can access those HD movies throughout the house.

As part of the software update with its latest version, the TheaterStation, which acts as a big storage drive on your networked entertainment system, added the playback support for MTS and M2TS containers, which include file extensions common with Blu-ray media. The primary aspect here is that the containers support the extensions for high-definition video camera/camcorder recording, which because they are your own movies there is no worry about copy infringement.

However, as computer users have gotten more savvy, and certain software has hit the market, some consumers have discovered ways to rip and compress Blu-ray discs on their own. So once the file is on the computer, theoretically it would be streamable in a TheaterStation system.

“Over time, consumers end up with content in a bunch of file formats stored on their home computers. Our job is to provide consumers with a great experience for storing, accessing, and enjoying that content. TheaterStation is mapped as a network drive, enabling you to copy and paste your music, movies, home movies, or iTunes, onto the system,” says CEO Chris Bortner (pictured below, showing the on-screen interface). “If you take a copy-protected DVD [or Blu-ray disc] we won’t play it or copy it.”

Simple enough—download or rip to your own PC at your own risk. It’s just a file type to Envive.

As for the rest of TheaterStation and TheaterStation Client benefits, there are many. Appearance-wise, the latest update has brought a cleaner, brushed black aluminum look for people seeking minimalism from electronics. Inside the boxes there’s upgraded processing and video cards, plus the drag-and-drop ease of adding media that was introduced back at CEDIA in the fall. TheaterStation comes in 1-, 2- and 4-TB models good for 300 to 1,000 hours (or more, depending on file size) of video and 2,600 to 10,400 albums. (With an asterisk, as the company explicitly states: Envive doesn’t promote, encourage, or condone the violation of copyright or circumvention laws in your country. The term “media collection” is only meant to include media not protected by access-control or copy-control technology.)

The sorting and navigating ability is just as robust, as TheaterStation’s metadata allows you to store and sort alphabetically by genre, year and more via remote. With CDs you’ll get cover art, and movies generally have poster art attached to them. Wireless support is expected soon, but right now you can chain up to five rooms of playback for a distributed media system with the TS Clients, and TheaterStation is expandable so you can create even more unique zones in larger homes. The company offers backup devices as well, so you can sleep easy knowing you won’t lose all of that precious media.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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