Video Station: transform your DiskStation into a Movie Center

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Hi, I’m Jeremie and have recently joined Synology and its Product Management team. I’ll be working on the mobile apps and will be looking forward to sharing on them in this blog.

There couldn’t be a better time for a first post than the release of DSM 4.1 Beta last week, and with it a whole string of new features and functionalities. And one area where DSM 4.1 is going to continue strengthening the Synology brand is on the possibilities it offers users to transform their DiskStation into a complete Media center.

So what’s new? There’s one key application I’d like to talk about with you today: the new Video Station. If like me, your DiskStation was not a “x86″ model capable of running Plex Media Server, you have probably been longing for Video Station. True, Photo Station and DS photo could play videos, but managing a whole collection of movies quickly became cumbersome if you had to create folders and organize your movies yourself… Not to mention the need to transcode certain formats before playing them.

Smart app, smart functions:

Video Station isn’t just an app dedicated to playing and managing your video collection, it’s a smart one which allows you to focus on enjoying movies, not organizing them. And, we’re not releasing it alone: its sister app for mobile devices, DS video, is coming up very soon on iPad, iPhone as well as iPod Touch so your collection can be accessed form wherever you want.

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The main difficulty with a large collection of movies is making it easy to retrieve a movie anytime you need it. To do that, you need to have the right info about the movie to make searches quick and productive: title, director’s name, year of release… not simple if you have more than 100 movies and TV shows in your collection. Video Station just takes care of that: it automatically searches for all this information online and updates your video files accordingly. And if ever you realize the information isn’t correct, it’s always possible to use your own key words to perform the search and choose the correct film if more than one option shows up.

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Another smart feature is the Digital TV module, which allows to record and stream programs broadcasted in DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial standard). We all get addicted to a TV show every now and then, and would not miss an episode for all the riches on Earth! Now if you’ve ever thought it would be cool to set up a recording schedule and store the TV show straight into the video library of your DiskStation, Video Station is just what you need. All you need is a Digital TV tuner plugged into your DiskStation: scan for your local channels, and simply add the programs you want to record to your recording schedule! But what makes this “Recorded TV” really special is that it’s available on DS video: you didn’t expect this 2 hour meeting with your team and will be getting off work late tonight?  Just log in to DS video on your iPhone,check the TV program list and add a recording task to the schedule.

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One last exciting feature part of the DTV module: streaming programs directly so Video Station becomes a real TV set (streaming is available on x86-DiskStation models). By selecting the streaming mode, Video Station provides the url to stream… which can be pasted into a an external player such as VLC. This last step is the only drawback right now, but you can be sure we’re working on this so streaming and recording can be all done from the Video Station interface.

What next?

There are some features I’m keen on seeing in the future and which I believe will make Video Station and DS video really smart apps. One is helping me keep track of what I’ve watched, and what I still need to watch! I started the Prison break series once, went through the first two seasons religiously, less so for the last two seasons: now I have no idea which episodes I watched. I’ll be eager to see this feature in the next version of Video Station/DS video. In a similar way, if I exit a movie before the end, I’d love DS video to memorize where I stopped. Not a catastrophe, but a small detail that will make things smoother.

What about Plex Media Server?

As mentioned above, some of our DiskStations can run Plex Media Server, which is similar in many ways to Video Station, but is developed by a 3rd party: Plex. You can actually read my colleague Darren’s excellent article introducing this app. If ever you were wondering, we’re in no way trying to start a competition with Plex by launching our Video Station: each package has its own strengths and advantages, and we consider that 2 different offers can only be positive for you Synology users. More proof of this is that we are working with them to provide the Plex package on all DiskStations (ARM-supported package).

That’s all for now, but I’ll be looking forward to your feedback on our new Video Station and DS video, as well as another blog later on to introduce more of our new apps.