Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rewind, Fast Forward, And Pause, In Real (TV) Time (Sadly Not Real Life)

Last night I attended a press function, which I haven't done for ages as I've been primarily copy editing (and freelancing) and not writing, so I'm usually only asked to attend functions when one of my special skills (in this case: decoding tech speak) is required.

Multichoice, surprisingly, chose a Tuesday night - a decent M-Net/DStv TV night - to introduce its DStv PVR (Personal Video Recorder) Decoder (read: Africa's answer to TiVo) to Cape Town's press and other invited guests. I will be posting my thoughts on the PVR on brainwavez.org in a few days; this blog's about Cape Town and, therefore, other things.

The event started off oddly, as they usually do, with what I can only assume were drama students (as I cannot imagine anyone else saying yes to this), dressed up in brightly coloured body suits that represented VCR functions (Stop was red, FF was blue, REW was white, Play was green, and Pause was yellow). The "Functions" served snacks (and, as usual, very few vegetarian ones were to be found) while they sporadically acted their "function" roles. The "rewind" guys walked backwards carrying their trays and the "stop" people arbitrarily, well, stopped. The "pause" people never seemed to, one of the "fast forward" guys occasionally put some effort into it, and the play people, well, didn't really do anything.

It was all very bizarre (and unnecessary), but the brightly coloured drinks (in my case, a Blue Hawaiian) helped.

The view while this was going on was spectacular (and I don't mean the view of people in body suits, which I find very disturbing even at the best of times). The event was held on the top floor of Hill House in Somerset Road, which - I had no idea - has an outside deck with a spectacular almost 360-degree view of Cape Town's CBD, including the whole of Table Mountain, the length of the CBD, and right round to the harbour and bay. I counted six cranes scattered around the CBD (although I'm sure there are many more), which are an ugly, in-your-face reminder of the massive urban reinvention that is happening in Cape Town at the moment. In the CBD old buildings are being gutted to make way for new multi-million-rand bachelor apartments and a planned city-wide "mega mall" that will bring superstore shopping directly to us, 24-7, in and around the city centre. In the suburbs family-home-sized plots are being subdivided and sprawling, expensive townhouse complexes with tiny accommodations are replacing the suburban neighbourhood of my youth.

But I digress. This is a topic for another time.

Cape Town in October and November sucks with regards to one thing: the wind. Port Elizabeth is known as "the windy city" but, as far as I am aware, Cape Town's wind is much, much worse and it hasn't been helped by the bad architecture of the Civic Centre, which creates massive wind tunnels with forces that are so strong that sometimes, if you walk underneath it, you get stuck and cannot move (I know this for a rather unpleasant fact). So there I was, watching brightly coloured body-suited PVR Functions perform, with my hair blowing wildly in every direction imaginable, while being increasingly subdued by my Blue Hawaiian (which is precisely why they always serve journalists lots of alcohol) and the breathtaking view.

After about an hour we were directed inside for the presentation, which was Matrix inspired (a common occurrance nowadays) but relatively short and to the point. We were then free to corner a Multichoice representative with questions and demonstration requests, which I did. With enthusiasm. As a TV hoarder and...er..."frequent watcher" I wanted to know what would happen when you filled up the hard drive. Would it automatically overwrite stuff, or would it just not record anymore? It took three attempts before they could find someone who could answer me, because no one seemed to know. My other burning question - how do they intend educating the public with regards to using the device - was also deftly avoided, but it's one I still intend finding an answer to.

All in all, I am impressed, although primarily because I've been waiting for years for something like this to be launched here, and am happy to see that the technology was developed by a South Africa company, rather than imported from elsewhere.

I left the launch, having unfortunately missed seeing the sunset, to get home to the rest of the night's TV viewing, since I haven't had a PVR for the last year (a number of guests at the event have, and were rather gleeful about it) to anticipate my needs.

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