Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ Development Round-up 23rd Nov

Apple TV+ has a lot of shows and movies in development, with new announcements coming quite regularly.

Here’s all the news from the last week:

Awkwafina is joining Glenn Close, Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris in the Apple TV+ Original Film. The ‘genre-bending’ movie will be written and directed by Benjamin Cleary.

Steve Lightfoot (The Punisher, Hannibal) is taking over show running duties on the Apple TV+ series ‘Shantaram’. The series was previously delayed after being acquired by Apple back in 2018. It’s set to star Charlie Hunnam.

Apple has acquired the rights for a film based on the creation of the iconic game ‘Tetris’. Produced by Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Marv’ production company, it’s set to star Taron Edgerton (Rocketman) and begin filming in December.

Jonathan Reed

Apple Reveals Premiere Date for ‘Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special’, Exclusive Apple Music Soundtrack

Apple has today announced a premiere date for the exclusive ‘Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special’ as well as further details on the show.

Premiering December 4th on Apple TV+, the ‘star studded’ special features Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Misty Copeland and Mykal-Michelle Harris.

Per Apple:

'Faced with a holiday cheer crisis, the North Pole knows there's only one person who can save the day: Santa’s great friend, Mariah Carey. Combining musical performances, dynamic dancing and groundbreaking animation, the undisputed Queen of Christmas jumps into action to create a holiday spectacular to make the whole world merry.’

The soundtrack, featuring Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson, will be available exclusively on Apple Music from December 4th before appearing on other platforms a week later. Carey will also be interviewed by Zane Lowe on December 7th before appearing on Apple Music Hits for a six hour special Christmas hits run down.

Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ Casting Round-Up

Apple TV+ has a lot of shows in development with new announcements coming quite regularly.

Last week was a busy week so here’s a round-up of all the exciting news from future Apple TV+ hits:

The new murder mystery comedy from Phil Lord & Christopher Miller ‘The Afterparty’ has filled out it’s cast with an impressive list of stars: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Dave Franco, Jamie Demetriou, and John Early. The AV Club has a good rundown of their roles.

Deadline has announced that comedian Hasan Minhaj has been cast as new member of The Morning Show team on well, ‘The Morning Show’.

Katherine Hahn and Casey Wilson have been cast as Phyllis Markowitz and Bonnie Herschkopf, respectfully in the dark comedy ‘The Shrink Next Door’. They join main stars Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd.

‘Truth Be Told’ has added a long list of actors to it’s season 2 cast alongside recent casting Julia Stiles. Deadline has the character breakdown.

Some excellent casting announcements there and we’ll round up any more in the coming weeks.

Sigmund Judge

HomePod Home Cinema: Halfway to Perfect

First and foremost, I'm an avid movie watcher so let me just state that the following perspectives come from someone that enjoys going to the cinema and wants to best replicate the theater experience at home. Before we get into Home Theater with Apple TV 4K its best we set this feature apart from another feature that joined Apple TV in tvOS 14.2.

Default audio output works with all HomePods including the upcoming HomePod mini and allows playback of all audio, including system sounds to playback through HomePod speakers set to the same room via the Home app on iOS. Home theater with Apple TV 4K allows for a virtual surround experience from one or two of the original HomePods offering up support for Dolby digital 5.1, 7.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos tracks with the speakers analyzing the acoustics of the room and adjusting on the fly.

Dolby Surround and Atmos

For those unfamiliar, a traditional 5.1 setup consists of a center speaker for dialogue, a left and right speaker to create stereo for music or ambient noise, and left and right surround speakers used to create a surround sound effect. Dolby digital 7.1 surround adds two rear channels into the mix and Dolby Atmos adds two or four (5.1.2, 5.1.4) speakers to fire sound downwards for fly over effects and the ultimate reference-quality experience. What Home Theatre with Apple TV 4K sets out to do is reflect audio to recreate a virtual interpretation of these multi-channel setups.

Setting Up

One major gripe early on with Home theatre with Apple TV 4K is how stealth-like the feature is. With next to no support documentation available at the time of writing, all focus on default audio output and no clear indication what track you're listening to, those without a trained ear will be taking Apple's word for it that something magical is happening. It took getting in touch with Apple technicians to make sure I had everything set correctly. Here are the steps you need to take to get up and running:

  • Update Apple TV 4K and HomePod(s) to software versions 14.2
  • Set HomePod(s) to the same room as your Apple TV 4K in the Home app
  • Set HomePod(s) as default output for Apple TV 4K
  • Set Audio Format to Auto
  • For the best surround sound, place HomePod within 10 inches of a wall and as close to the center of your TV as possible. If you use a HomePod stereo pair, place the speakers about 4 feet apart on either side of the TV

Overall Home Theater with Apple TV 4K Impressions

Whilst impressed with both solo and stereo HomePods and how detailed their presentations were, it wasn't until I got to some neighbor annoying high volumes that I felt like I experienced Atmos 360 degree sound on either setup.

For testing at those high volumes, I decided to revisit 'The Invisible Man', one of my favorite movies from this year, and one of the last movies I was fortunate to see at my local cinema which will always be my favored point of reference. If you haven't seen it, the movie opens with a perfect Dolby Atmos demo sequence with a powerful series of waves rushing front to back and further forward as they crash into rocks. The scene then shifts inside a home with nature's ferocious power still heard in the distance, fully detailed and wonderfully handled by both setups.

At low volumes however, there's decent separation of left, right and center channels and the signature bass I've come to love from HomePod handles the lower frequencies to a standard that traditionally would only result from a dedicated subwoofer. At $299 for a one speaker setup, you're getting a very capable 3.1 setup that outshines any soundbar I've experienced within that price range. For a stereo HomePod setup at $598, in my opinion, you're getting around the same performance seen from a Sonos arc which retails for over $200 more.

From the perspective of someone that has a dedicated 5.1 home theatre setup, the lack of rear channels is a major compromise of the current setup but given the evidence, I'm optimistic this limitation will cease to exist in the coming months. The other limitation is of course the major issue with HomePod, it's incompatibility with anything produced outside of Cupertino, though I'd imagine an easy way of fixing this would be to introduce HDMI video inputs to the next generation of Apple TV hardware and have Apple TV process both audio and video from third-party devices.

Conclusion

The pairing of HomePod and Apple TV is one many of us have been chasing since the speakers launch over two and a half years ago and it's now finally here. The new Home Theatre mode and the option to set HomePod as your default audio output will undoubtedly make a lot of Apple loyalists happy whilst simultaneously adding a new dimension to in home entertainment to many households. What will come as a surprise to many is that with one update feature HomePod has pivoted from what many people called an overpriced but beautiful sounding speaker to one of the best value home theatre setups available on the market today. If you already have a HomePod, do give Home Theater mode a try and if you don't yet own Apple's speaker, this may just be the excuse you were waiting for.

Jonathan Reed

Is Apple TV+ Starting to Find It’s Voice →

November 1st marks the first anniversary of Apple TV+, the video streaming service initially announced by Apple on March 25th 2019, before launching to around 100 countries over seven months later.
So, is TV+ just another streaming service? What should it be known for? How has it evolved so far?

One year on, what actually IS Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ launched to a lot of fanfare only days before Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+. Disney launched with their massive back catalogue. They also had a few new originals, but they were all very low-key, except for The Mandalorian. Disney’s approach was simple; throw an absolutely massive amount of content online, charge a low price and get lots of subscribers.

HBO also launched their service, HBO Max, this year. It was a strange service that confused a lot of people by being both HBO the channel and also not. They had the advantage of an incredible, high-quality back catalogue but at $15.99 and only being available in America, their reach was limited.

The other big players, of course, are Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Netflix releases many new titles every week with an extensive back catalogue. Hulu has a substantial collection of TV catchup and originals but is, like HBO, restricted to America. Amazon isn’t that far behind, but their Prime TV service has never been anything more than something to get people onto the shopping site. Not that it doesn’t have some great content.

Then there’s Apple.

In the March 2019 announcement, Apple called TV+ ‘the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers’ and ‘unlike anything that has ever been done before’ and don’t forget ‘not just another streaming service’. They brought massive stars Jennifer Aniston, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg and yes, Oprah, on stage to talk about their new projects. The $4.99 fee to share across up to five ‘family’ members, with a free year for anyone buying a new Apple device, seemed pretty reasonable.

A false start?

Then came the launch, and the reviews. The Morning Show got very mixed reviews. For All Mankind generally got ok if not overly enthusiastic coverage. People seemed to really like Dickenson though again, not excitedly. The same with Servant. See was believed to be an absolute turkey.

This wasn’t the way you wanted to launch your multi-billion dollar ‘groundbreaking’ service.

Other content - Helpsters, Ghost Writer, Snoopy, movies The Elephant Queen and Hala - all generally got positive, though few, reviews

When you launch something like this you want a huge flagship property to reel people in, Disney+ had The Madalorian for example. TV+ seemed to be pitching The Morning Show as that property, but due to the early, mediocre reviews, it never got much traction. Did you hear many people talking about the actual plot week to week?

So the build-up to Apple TV+ - over two years - felt like a slight anti-climax. A lot of people (mainly due to the one-year free trial) were trying it out, but it seemed Apple, a company known for disrupting almost every market they went into, had come up a bit short. It was met with a bit of a shrug by the public at large.

However, as the months have gone by, and more content has come out, that picture has started to change.

Continue reading on small bites >>>

Jonathan Reed

Apple Posts First Trailer for Upcoming TV+ Docuseries 'Becoming You'

Apple has shared the first trailer for the docuseries 'Becoming You' on it's Apple TV YouTube channel. The series follows over 100 children from all corners of the globe and shows how the first 2000 days of our lives shape us. The series premieres November 13th on Apple TV+.

Per the description on YouTube:

2,000 days. 100 children. The story of us. Peek into the first days of life in Becoming You, a globe-crossing, six-part docuseries narrated by Academy Award winner Olivia Colman.