Saturday, December 22, 2007

A First Look at Hulu

What is Hulu? You may have heard that NBC recently pulled all their content from iTunes to launch their own video portal. Well they did, and they call it Hulu, an invitation-only online video site from NBC Universal and News Corp , and it joins the ranks as a YouTube rival.

"Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself... Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world’s premier content when, where and how you want it" - Hulu's CEO Jason Kilar, in his first blog entry.

That was in August 2007, when Kilar extended the invitation to try the Beta site and provide feedback. He added that, "Within that same timeframe, we will also be offering great programming through our distribution partner sites: AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo."

So I was pretty excited to finally get my golden ticket to Hulu a few days ago, and at first glance it definitely captured my attention. The video library is extensive and well suited to my taste in contemporary and nostalgic entertainment. Current NBC hits like Heroes and 30 Rock, The Simpsons and classic shows like Alfred Hitchcock or Mary Tyler Moore, WKRP in Cincinnati can be viewed in their entirety and look great at standard resolution and not that bad when expanded to full screen. The selection is quite extensive, with networks and studios that include the likes of NBC, FX, 20th Century Fox, FOX, Fox Television Classics, FUEL TV, SCI FI, Bravo, USA, MGM, MyNetworkTV, Entertainment Channel, National Geographic, Sundance Channel.

It takes time to browse the library.You can spend a lot of time browsing through the library, but it's easy to find popular clips like SNL's viral video sensation, Lazy Sunday.
You can even watch full-length movies and embed any video onto your web site, like another SNL-alumni classic, the 'Blues Brothers Movie' (I embedded this one for buddy Rob!)

The video player interface is well designed and you can read the WebwireTV post for a nice review on the look and feel of the site, Hulu - A Great Free Video Service That Seems To Have Improved Greatly Since Launch.

They have a small HD Gallery which only features videos in H.264 at 1280x720 resolution. You need a 2.5Mbps Internet connection or greater and a pretty fast machine. They looked great at native resolution as well as full screen.

Here's my feedback to the Hulu UI designers on browsing.
I’d like to be able to toggle between views like on a Mac or Windows to see a listing rather than have to wade through thumbnail after thumbnail. Please though don’t give me the YouTube bubble, I want to be efficient when I search, Check out Apple trailers page to see what I mean.

Open HuluSoon after Hulu launched, a web site called, Open Hulu appeared mirroring the same content but it didn't require a password. A crafty guy named Matt Schlicht is behind the web site that embedded all the available Hulu videos onto a public site. It's chock full of advertising and you can read WebwireTV's post on OPENhulu - Hulu Videos For Everyone, Invitation Or Not | How Long Will It Last? for more details.

This Download Squad post seems to think that it's only a matter of time before the web site gets shut down. But it’s actually pretty cool that they’ve given the control to edit the clips to make our own unique clips to embed on our websites. In the face of the writer's strike, it will be interesting to see what other major development in this area will be and who else will follow suit.