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December 18 2007

Hulu puts Firefly online for free. As a taster, they've put the pilot "Our Mrs Reynolds Serenity" up on their blog. Alternatively you could over to SerenityStuff.com and read why you should avoid Hulu like the plague. Mainly because writers don't get anything from streaming videos.

Can't wait for the strike to be over so that people can start to try out these new kind of iTV products, though reading their blog I get the impression they have missed out in some areas and us international folks are probably SOL as usual with these sites.
jpr, hulu is a business venture between major studios to shut out Apple and other such companies from the business. They want control of online content so they pulled out of iTunes for this site. Amusingly, this site doesn't work on a mac, and some writers were getting paid on iTunes, but aren't here.
Yep, get that, will be interesting to see who prevails, Apple do have something of a head start and the ABC/Disney/Pixar connection but the other studios/networks have huge libraries of content to lean on.

In my dream world there would be one site like IMDB with it's search functions and a button to download the film/season/episode for a reasonable price, whoever manages that miracle will be my hero.
Actually gossi, the only writers recieving any itunes residuals were the writers who are also producers, the money recieved was from their producer status. Normal writers have not received any payments, even though the studios claim otherwise. The WGA has told the studios they will refuse that payment, because it was not in the original contract. What the studios intended on paying was the same ammount they now get from DVD and video sales. Since this is a refuted ammount and is actually being taken to court no writers can accept this payment or else the court action would be null and void. The only way the studio gets around it now is the payments it makes to producers who are also writers and then they claim they are paying the writers for downloads. Which turns out to be a half truth, they are paying them for their producing not writing.
Hulu is DRMed too so even if you have a PC, i'd imagine you're SOL if you wanna watch on your iPod/Archos/whatever. It is free (as in beer) though, even if I can't use it while the writers are striking (or at all legally, since it's US only).

(one nice feature though, it apparently allows you to embed shows anywhere, without DRM, so you can put shows up on your own blog or whatever - not quite sure why you would unless you just hate your blog hosts having any spare bandwidth, but you could)
gossi says: "Amusingly, this site doesn't work on a mac..."

For the record, I intend to avoid hulu content until the WGA strike is settled. But since I'd requested a beta invite before the strike, I did check out just one scene, which did play on my mac, FWIW (at the moment, nothing, of course).
Yeah, not meaning to pile on, gossi, but ThinkMac had a review of it a while back and it does indeed work. We're all sci-fi fans and the pilot is Our Mrs. Reynolds... right... we also love Yitzhak Arseimoff's 'We Robots', Peter H. Dicks, H.P. Rollings' 'Harley Porter' series and William Gipston, especially his 18th novel 'New Romancer'.
You know, that post has a comments function. It's not there yet (waiting to be approved?) but I commented:

Aside from the fact that this is not the pilot episode or even the first episode aired, I do respect the fact that "Firefly" is recognized as an attention-getting series.

And once the writers' strike is over and writers are fairly compensated for episodes placed online, I'll be happy to come back and enjoy all the benefits of Hulu. Until then, I'm afraid I'll have to pass. Thanks, though.


I invite everyone else to post their own thoughts about entire episodes offered online with writer compensation. I'm curious to see if they get posted.
LOL zeitgeist! Seriously, laughing out loud. "New Romancer"? Heeeee!
Thanks C.A. - I hadn't gone to the site yet, and I was wondering if there was a comments section. Will pop on over. In that vein, although as I understand it, the writers can't legally tell you "not" to download on iTunes, they did remark that there is a comments section there that could be filled in as well.
While I haven't had a chance to view the Hulu site, from articles that I've read about the site it's apparently Flash based. In other words it's more like YouTube rather than iTunes. Which means it should be cross-platform as anyone with Flash Player 9 should be able to view it, however, unlike iTunes the files can't be downloaded for portable devices. Also there's no DRM as there's no files to save on your computer. They are apparently using Adobe's new Flash Media Server, that streams the video so that there's no FLV file in your computer's cache unlike YouTube.

Also interesting is that Hulu was one of the first websites to start supporting the Flash Player 9 - Update 3 which can play HD video. Apparently, they are only showing some trailers in HD, but it is possible for them to later start showing tv shows in HD. Of course viewers need a high-speed connection and the video capabilities to view the HD files, but with the right set up this could be a decent replacement to watching regular tv. Which in my mind underscores WGA's position on new media as something that needs to get resolved now instead of waiting for their next contract. Money will be made off of the website apparently by having 30 second ads placed where advertisement breaks normally go.

(one nice feature though, it apparently allows you to embed shows anywhere, without DRM, so you can put shows up on your own blog or whatever - not quite sure why you would unless you just hate your blog hosts having any spare bandwidth, but you could)
I imagine similar to YouTube, you are just pointing to a Flash file Hulu's servers rather than hosting it on your own server. NBC and FOX doesn't want the video files to be anywhere but their own server. So the Flash file is loaded through and then the video streamed without a permanent file staying on the user's computer.
What I find really funny, in the context of the strike, is that the name "Hulu" was chosen for the site because it means "cease and desist" -- in this case, as in "cease and desist the illegal for-free downloads" -- in an African language (I think it was Swahili, but I can no longer find the article and am not certain in my memory). The *studios* sure don't want to be working on the Internet without pay -- now if only someone would translate the English-language words "empathy" and "equitable treatment" into studio-ese for them ... :)
Commented over at the Hulu site, but I doubt it'll get approved.

At the very least, they'll have to delete bunches of comments from us about how we won't watch it until the writers' strike is resolved. LOL
Also there's no DRM as there's no files to save on your computer.

The ultimate in DRM ! By which I mean, I sit corrected, ta Matt_Fab ;). Any ideas if/how they're planning to stop people capturing the stream and then stripping the non-skippable ads and sticking it on Mininova (which is a site someone, err, told me about ;) ? Or does the Flash player encrypt it or something (in which case DRM-ish then) ?

I imagine similar to YouTube, you are just pointing to a Flash file Hulu's servers rather than hosting it on your own server.

Makes sense. Blogspot can rest easy then ;).

(apparently you can somehow mark specific clips from the show when you embed the link too)
I tried to catch a glimpse proxying via ssh tunnel ( = surfing through a connection with the American ISP that hosts Whedonesque and my other sites), but couldn't get the streams to work. I like the simple look of it.

Dutch broadcasters have been putting their material online for free for many years now. But Hulu looks a lot better. Come to think of it, I have no idea whether Dutch tvwriters get residuals or not. If not... they would never get anyone to march for them, that's for sure.
Wilowy - :)

Saje - wasn't me! Also, it wasn't me ;) but someone I know checked and DownloadHelper for Firefox showed the commercial segments for download but not the show segments... weird. You can create custom clips by dragging lines on the timeline and then embed full eps or clips with copy and paste code provided by Hulu. I signed up and got access long before the strike as well.
Dutch broadcasters have been putting their material online for free for many years now. But Hulu looks a lot better. Come to think of it, I have no idea whether Dutch tvwriters get residuals or not. If not... they would never get anyone to march for them, that's for sure.

I agree Caroline. I wouldn't buy pencils for them ;-). I know the Dutch right holders get compensated through the Dutch public broadcasters. So if you put material online you pay the broadcasters a license fee. The broadcasters are supposed to give the other related right holders which includes writers (if it's in the contract) their share. But I know from experience this is not always happening.
6 of the 12 Hulu blog comments so far mention Firefly being out of order, and 7 people mentioned it as a show they're happy to see on Hulu.

I'm curious to see if they get posted.

So am I. Things look promising though. There's 1 comment up from a person says they won't be watching until the writers are fairly compensated. Maybe your comment still hasn't been approved yet. I just added one as well, so we'll see.
I just posted a "thanks but I'll wait" comment as well.
Ah, I didn't realise it worked on a Mac - I was told it didn't, and couldn't check as I'm outside the US (so it doesn't work anyway).
Posted an "I'll wait til it's right to do." message.
Hope they approve it.
Hey, now it seems that the comments for the Pilot were at least heard. They changed the episode. I don't see any "pro strike" comments approved though.
They seem to be denying approval for any pro-strike comments. Which sucks, I complimented some of their features and meant it-- I do really look forward to trying it out once the writers get residuals. Only the last line of my paragraph mentioned the strike.

Their response is timestamped at 9:50 PM today. It's not yet 5 PM EST. Are they not based in the US? Or maybe their blog time preference setting is off? That just caught my attention as an oddity.
That's GMT, maybe they're hosted in the UK ?!? ;)

Saje - wasn't me! Also, it wasn't me ;) but someone I know ...

Reckon I may know that guy too ;). Personally I never do anything illegal but if the police ever took a look at my list of known "associates" they'd probably arrest me on principle. *cough* ;).
They actually removed a "I'll wait" remark which was up there. I guess they caught on.
They haven't posted my very politely-worded comments from hours ago about streaming TV & the strike - which also mentioned the incorrectness of "Our Mrs. Reynolds" being a pilot in any known order of the series, including broadcast order - which they are now claiming for OMR. I did say sites like theirs were probably the wave of the future... I thought I was very sweet and well-behaved.

They have also removed a pro-writer comment that I did see posted there earlier, and I note that this morning, there were 12 comments without "Eugene from hulu's" comment - now there are twelve with his.

Feh3.
I posted my "thanks, I'll be back after the writers' strike" comment.
Exactly! Quoter Gal!
Yeah, I thought mine was very polite too. Especially for a comment on the interweb. I punctuated it and everything!
Why would Hulu approve pro-strike comments, people? It's not in their best interest. Go ahead and fight the good fight, but it's not like it'll take them long to undo your works by not approving your posts. Better to buy pencils or attend rallies or do anything that has a better chance of being productive.

Also, and a bit off-topic, I was dismayed to hear about what happened during the taping of Carson Daly's show. I thought the WGA members were more mature than that. Picketing Last Call is all well and good, but the man has other employees to think about as well...and the stunt makes the writers en masse look self-centered (even if only a few of them were involved), which doesn't bolster the WGA's desired image as a union of aggrieved employees fighting for workes everywhere.
BAFfler, I think one of those people was Joss, heh. I'm pretty sure there were good reasons.
I understand that people want to support the writers, but this is a FREE download. What residuals? Ten percent of nothing is -- let me do the math here -- nothing into nothing, carry the...
TV is also free to watch (if you're cheap like me and use an antenna). Both are filled with commercials (I'm assuming, I haven't actually gone to the hulu site) so the networks are getting paid.
gossi, if one of those people was Joss, then shame on him. Disrupting a show's production just because you deem its host showed insufficient support for your strike--that is, he only suspended production for a month, and then refused to sacrifice his job and the jobs of the rest of his employees when his feet were held to the fire by NBC--well, I would hate to believe that Joss would take a position as unreasonable as that.
Joss unreasonable? Unreasonable.

BAFfler, I think you've got the wrong room.
Sorry you feel that way, Willowy. But first, I called the position unreasonable--don't infer more than I said, please. And second, I think I explained my reasoning adequately enough on my previous two posts on this thread. To sum up here, though: I support the writers, but I think the action some WGA members took in disrupting Carson Daly's show was wrong, and I would hate to think Joss was a part of that.

[ETA: Actually, I don't think I did say on this thread that I supported the writers. But I have said it on at least one other thread. Sorry about the bad citation.]

[ edited by BAFfler on 2007-12-19 01:23 ]
If it's a free sample of what would otherwise be a paid download, then I wouldn't expect it to be filled with commercials. The website may have ads for generating revenue, but then people are probably hitting those just by posting in the forum.
BAFfler has a point. Some of the public perceives the writers as flamboyant rich folk with poofy scarves and funny glasses. Its important to manage ludicrous and/or negative perception, something the current WGA leadership is not open to (I refer you, again, to this Artful Writer blog entry) and probably should be. This is a PR war as well as a war of ideas and ideals. So I wouldn't dismiss anyone's misgivings about stunts like this out of hand, even if I secretly chuckle and disagree with Carson for his decision that his show must go on. I'm sure there were some mixed feelings among crew members who got more paychecks than they may have expected while crossing the old picket line. I'm sure that more people than would like to admit would be tempted to get those last few shows of the season in the can when the alternative is your crew being out of work. Anyway, just food for thought.
BAFfler, it's worth remarking on hulu.com failing to post pro-writer posts, since so many other places online do, in fact, allow comments that disagree with a position they either take, or could be expected to take.

For instance, unitedhollywood.com has allowed anti-strike comments on their strike blog in the interests of discussion. Diamond Toys posted my comments about one of their statues I didn't care for. Hulu, however, does not feel free to allow differing opinions in this respect. It's worth noting, and not at all forgone that they wouldn't.

And btw y'all, I don't watch anything online that has ads embedded in it - period. I'll buy ad-free iTune's shows again, when the writers get a good deal, and I'm willing to pay for the privilege, but I'll no longer watch anything I care about with ads in it. I've tasted freedom, and I'm through with that commercial model for good.
I've tasted freedom, and I'm through with that commercial model for good.


The revolution will be blogged and commented (and will probably require a small amount of moderation ;)).
As noted in this thread, I happen to agree with BAFfler (about the Carson Daly thing).

gossi, do you think Joss was one of them based on the deadlinehollywooddaily mention of "one creator of a TV cult series"? Is there more that points to Joss? I mean, I think based on the description and Joss' active role in the strike, there's a pretty good chance it could be him, but we just don't know that (unless, y'know, we do know). Which is all to say, we should probably not spread it if it's just rumor/conjecture.
"...But first, I called the position unreasonable--don't infer more than I said, please..."

Yes BAFler, you did. But I would say that it's difficult to separate the man from the deed, and the finger waggling in Joss's direction put me off.

We know very well how dedicated he is to the cause, and would probably cut off an appendage before he knowingly did something that might make the writers look bad. Not saying he didn't go to the show, he may have, but I highly doubt that he meant to be any kind of an active saboteur.
The Carson Daly stunt may place the WGA members in a bad light in the eyes of the mainstream public. If you're acting foolish or destructive people will have trouble taking your message seriously. It reminds me of the faction of anarchists in Portland (not all the anarchists, mind you) who like to destroy property during protests. And in that case, no, nobody's going to listen to you. The Carson Daly stunt could cause the same problem.

That's just something to consider, anyway. I don't know whether I approve of it or not, but my first reaction when I heard about it was to cheer. If Joss was involved? I can understand why he would be. I'd probably do the same damn thing. But in a political protest I wouldn't destroy property, because fire: bad.

But scarves pretty. :)
QuoterGal: "I've tasted freedom, and I'm through with that commercial model for good."

zeitgeist: "The revolution will be blogged and commented (and will probably require a small amount of moderation ;))."


: >

I felt very Braveheart or something when I said that.

"It's all for nothing if you don't have freedom."
- WILLIAM WALLACE, Braveheart, written by Randall Wallace


(And zeitgeist, I see that your name has morphed yet again...)
Yeah, I liked the Damon. All the other mods use their first names. But I can see why z was reclaimed. That's how everyone knows you.
I realize that hulu is a studio venture and so no, they're not obligated to post pro-WGA comments. Even though I was optimistic, I realized they might filter out such opinions even if they're constructively stated. Still, it's disappointing. One thing that separates the internet from the traditional broadcast formats is the two-way information flow.

The revolution will be blogged and commented (and will probably require a small amount of moderation ;)).

Thus zeitgeist's evil plans are revealed: to moderate the revolution!
"I understand that people want to support the writers, but this is a FREE download. What residuals?"

It's free to the viewer, but the studios make money off it without having to pay writers the residuals they would get if it were broadcast on TV instead. That's kinda what the whole strike is about :)
It's free to the viewer, but the studios make money off it without having to pay writers the residuals they would get if it were broadcast on TV instead. That's kinda what the whole strike is about.

Which raises a question I've been dying to ask.

When the strike is over and writers are getting paid for online reruns, how many people here who (1) support the strike, and (2) currently pirate content will stop pirating content?
Well, firstly, I don't pirate films, CDs, or *cough*non-MS ;)*cough* software (paltry as it is, the creators deserve their piece of those pies). A friend may download US broadcast TV before it arrives over here but this friend thinks that's a grey area since it's free to receive.

There's a case that US viewers are subsidising the practice by buying advertised products but then i'm subsidising anyone, anywhere in the world, that's benefited from the BBC website, the BBC World Service or BBC/ITV generated content so maybe turnabout is fair play ? And in the BBC's case at least, my subsidy is direct BTW i.e. it's actual cash that I actually pay every quarter (the licence fee).

As soon though, as there's a way I could legally access the streamed/downloadable shows from abroad (and the writers benefit) so that if I did use another method they'd be deprived then i'll stop (my friend from ;) doing it.

(and FWIW I buy quite a lot of TV on DVD too)

If it's a free sample of what would otherwise be a paid download, then I wouldn't expect it to be filled with commercials.

It's not though AlanD, it's the whole shebang, just streamed rather than available for download (which is why you can't watch it on other devices).
Nasty cough you got there Saje :)

Not that I would do any such thing, but those other people who do seems to think that only if sites like Joost, Hulu etc. solve the legal problems with making content available on a worldwide basis will they have any chance of making a dent in the piracy thing.

Key issues are timing, ease of access, ability to download in formats allowing repeated viewing wherever and whenever a viewer wants to.
You could describe it as a hacking cough jpr ;).

That's the thing y'see, in the past people have waited for content because they had no other choice, not out of some altruistic urge to make sure the US networks get a good international sales deal. Now there is a choice, I just don't see people going back to waiting so they might as well make it legally available to all (there's no reason they can't tailor adverts to each locale or for e.g. BBC sales, let Auntie host the content so that they can count streamed viewings in the ratings).
I understand that people want to support the writers, but this is a FREE download. What residuals? Ten percent of nothing is -- let me do the math here -- nothing into nothing, carry the...
FREE viewing but with commercial breaks so the studio makes money off of ad revenue just like regular tv. Remember NBC walked away from the millions they were making off of iTunes video as they felt like they weren't getting a big enough cut of the money and thought they could make more money on their own, with a site like Hulu.

Also, it wasn't me ;) but someone I know checked and DownloadHelper for Firefox showed the commercial segments for download but not the show segments... weird.
Once again, that's because tv show is streaming Flash video. Be prepared for a lot more streaming Flash video content like that around the web, now that Adobe released a cheaper version of their Flash Media Server, as in the past it used to be incredibly expensive to do.
Matt_Fabb - you may be unaware, but the Addon in question (DownloadHelper) allows you to snag FLV streams, it just wouldn't let one download the Hulu streams that were the show itself. It allowed one to download the commercial segments which were also FLV.

And, yeah, evil things have plans ;) I changed it back sometime ago and it was only like that for a few days (referring to the name thingy). Pondering changing it to my first name to fit in with the cool kids, but didn't know if it would just confuse everyone.
zeitgeist - While I haven't seen Hulu's website, I've seen the same thing happen with shows on CBC's website. DownloadHelper can snag the commercials because the FLV file actually caches on your computers. The other video streams via the Flash Media Server, doesn't result in an FLV file in your browser's cache so there's no way of snagging it. I work as a Flash developer, so I've been following what Hulu and other networks have been doing with their online content with an interest in the technical side.
So none of those products actually captures the stream then, they just (effectively) save a file from your existing cached copy ? Rascals ;).

(is there a reason it can't be done Matt_Fabb or is it just that it hasn't been ?)
Matt_Fabb - I've done a little bit of further testing with some other programs I have on hand and Replay Media Catcher IS able to capture the Hulu FLV streams even though Download Helper cannot. You do bring up a good point, however, in that if you go digging in your browser cache you can copy off a fair number of things that people say you can't save a copy of.

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