Picture-in-Picture: Would You Use It?

Picture-in-Picture is one of the most requested features
that I see.  I personally don’t get PiP,
never have and never will.  I’ve had PiP
on various TVs in the past, but really never found a good reason to use it.  I can understand why people would, I’m just
not one of them.

So I have to ask, if PiP was a feature of Media Center would
you use it?

Part of my problem with PiP is the fact that it is going to
get really difficult to manage if you have Extender’s in your home.  Say you have two Digital Cable Tuners, one is
being used on the local PC and another member of your family is using the
second one via an Extender.  If either person
wants to start a PiP session, you basically have to prompt both users that one
person has requested to steal your tuner. 
I have huge doubts that this would work nicely in a home.  I’m sure this would be a nightmare for
several users, especially those with kids who could likely care less if they
cut of your TV session.

Another problem I can see is basic conflict management with
regular everyday recording.  Starting a
PiP session means selecting if you wish to continue recording or if you really
want to start that PiP session.  Sure,
it’s possible to manage both of these issues but I guess I don’t see the reason
to even bother.  Do you?

23 thoughts on “Picture-in-Picture: Would You Use It?

  1. Hell yes I would use it – I suggested this in TGB a few months ago. The real need for it is watching sports where it matters that you watch something live. If you don’t watch sports then you wouldn’t understand, but I like to be able to keep an eye on multiple sporting events at the same time.

    I have extenders but it is rare that the HTPC and extenders are used at the same time in my house so the potential for conflicts will not happen often.

  2. Hmmmm, doesn’t MCE already have this conflict resolution built in to cover extender/MCE contention over tuners? Would it really be any different for PiP?

    Before MCE I had TV’s with PiP built in and I found it kind of neat but never really used it much. I do think it’s useful for sports, but I always found it kind of confusing to set up and manage.


  3. I’m a sports guy too, but even with sports I generally just pick my favorite matchup and stick with it for the night.

    And yeah, Media Center does have conflict resolution but for the Extender w/ PiP you would want to prompt both sessions and have them both confirm that change. It would involve taking signal away from one of the sessions completely, which is different from conflict resolution currently works.

  4. You know you’re my boy Chris, but i gotta completely disagree with you on this one. Anyone who watches sports knows how valuable PIP is. Not even just to watch 2 games, but say my GF’s over & wants to watch some lame show, she can still do that in the small PIP with the audio, and then i can watch the game without sound as the bigger screen. VERY VERY USEFUL!!

    As for the conflict management excuse, that’s all it is, an excuse. Everytime i’ve ever brought this up to Microsoft (3 years & counting) i’ve gotten a different excuse as to why they can’t/haven’t done this.

    So…i guess that’s a long way to say, Yes, I’d use it 🙂

  5. It would be a “nice” feature to have, but I would prefer the eHome team spend their time with more broadly appealing TV features. Plus, I would guess that most people only have one tuner. Also, the limitation of 2 NTSC + 2 ATSC tuners would definately limit the use of this feature if you have an extender. I would think the first step would be to support additional tuners.

  6. Mike: I am shocked that you don’t want to spend that time watching your girlfriends favorite programs. What is the world coming to? 😉

  7. I agree with Chris here – PIP is a fine feature, when they have nothing more to do on the TV part.

    I think it is MUCH more important to support DVB-C, DVB-S, DVB-S2, DVB Subtitles, mixing of different tyner types, ect.



  8. I forgot the other main reason to use it – let your child watch what they want, with audio, while daddy still gets to watch the game.

  9. I feel PIP would benefit the MARKETING of MCE. Whenever MSFT gets around to advertising this product some, PIP would be an expected feature for a normal consumer. I agree it’s use is limited, but it’s a needed feature.

  10. The best use I have ever seen of PiP is when one individual was watching a show on the TV, individual #2 was able to play a video game in the PiP window. With some of the giant TVs out today and sitting close to the screen, this isn’t difficult to imagine. Works great when the wife doesn’t want to give up Dr. Phil but you just have to shoot some aliens

  11. I’ve never found a consistent use for single PIP up to this point, but I’ve certainly imagined a concept that uses PIP tech…

    Imagine turning on your TV and the screen immediately divides into 2, 4, 6, or whatever number of tiles and tunes your favorite (or most watched) channels. With a single glance and click (or voice command for you Jetsons out there) you could switch to the exact thing you wanted to watch. No channel surfing needed.

    This is all made possible because MS did away with the ridiculously lame tuner limits in MCE, and I have a MONSTER machine down in the basement (bursting at the seems with tuners) serving HD to my v2 extenders all over my house.

    Sorry about that. I must have been dreaming again.

  12. I wouldn’t use it really. I get the sports argument, but really, the PiP was a requirement for that in the pre-PVR days. Now it’s just a nice-to-have IMO. Personally, I would just record both sporting events and watch them separately. Fast forwarding all the lame commentary is the added bonus with that approach.

    Of course, you always run the risk of the dumb comentator spitting out the results of the other game you’re recording.

    As for the argument for using PiP for multiple people watching the different shows on the same TV: I don’t know ANYBODY that has a single TV in their house.

    The one place I can think about using PiP is the ability to pop up various security cams around your house in the PiP window. Wouldn’t it be great to have a motion activated camera start feeding into to the PiP window while you’re watching a movie?

  13. I’d use it.

    I’d use it for channel searching.

    If MC supported more than 2 tuners, then you could have your TV session split up with all of your tuners in a grid. Like how they do it in a sports bar where there’s 4 pictures (sports) going on in the same image.

  14. forget PiP. I want a quad screen split, with 4 feeds running at once. PiP gives you a tiny picture that obscures another picture. Make use of my whole screen and show me 4 clear windows at once.

  15. I never used the PIP on my dual-tuner TV, so I wouldn’t use it in MCE. I’ve had that TV for 10 years now and never once used PIP.

    I had a roommate in college that used it, and it drove me nuts. Whenever a commercial would come on he would flip through the other channels and use PIP to know when the commercials were over. I never saw the point of watching three minutes of some show you weren’t going to finish just to avoid commercials.

  16. Why are there limits on what can users can do? If a user has 6 tuners in their system they should be allowed to watch 6 screens at once simple as that.

    Now you guys can get into the resource management …yada yada yada… but I don’t see how this is going to be a giantic leap, I mean the current management system is already pretty good, it just needs a few tweaks (not an overhaul). The bottom line is that today right now the hardware is capable of doing a lot more (quad cores…) and so should the software.

  17. It’s not always about what the hardware is capable of. Part of the development and design process of any software is to research your market and see what the benefits vs. costs of adding the feature are.

    I think we have all established that it can be done. The question is, how does it impact the platform as a whole. You have to think about things like resource management and how the feature is going in interact with the product as it stands today, which in this case is basically a multi-room PVR.

    Software can support just about anything you can dream, but you have to balance it. Excel has everything anyone would ever want, but how many of use (a) use Excel at all, or (b) use anything but the most basic features? You don’t want to add dozens of features and then realize they are underutilized or are interfering with the product as it stands today.

  18. PIP in WMC? Yes, I would like other sources to potentially be available in a PIP mode. For example, I can imagine a WMC addon that allows a baby monitor or security camera to be displayed in PIP. A tuner based PIP would be a tremendous help for my wife. My wife often likes to see what is going on in another show during commercials. For example, shes focused on watching something but during commercial she switches to E Channel for entertainment news/gossip. When she does that she will switch back-n-forth often so she can continue with her main program after it has returned. So perhaps I could see the value of PIP for her..she wouldn’t have to be flipping channels so much.

  19. I think PIP should be a function of the display device, not a function of one the sources attached to the display device.

    I haven’t used PIP very often, but the few times I have, the two video streams I was viewing were from two sources. For example, a couple of times now I have used the PIP feature in my HDTV to compare a DVD to an HD-DVD of the same title. This is possible by setting the PIP format to “dual screen” view, which divides the screen into two equal halves, each showing a seperate video.

    Another example where I’ve had two sources being displayed in PIP has been certain nights during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and there was also a Yankee/Boston game going on. Sometimes the NHL games are only on the Versus-HD network. Since I’m using MCE2005, and it doesn’t tune premium cable, I have to use the HDMI in from the cable box for the hockey game, and then enable the small PIP view in the corner to diplay the input from the MCE PC, which is tuning the baseball game.

    If the PIP function was a feature of the MCE PC rather than the TV, then these scenarios wouldn’t be possible.

  20. I definitely think that pip should be given some priority as a future feature (say that 5 times fast), but there are more imporant features that MS needs to focus on…cough…softsled!

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