I like to watch older TV and films, the more obscure, the better. The advent of user-enabled content on the Internet makes it easier to find these types of shows, but there are still some bugs to be worked out.
YouTube is a great site for finding videos and film, but the system for downloading them is missing, and you have to use a clumsy workaround to transform the Shockwave – Flash files you get into whatever format you need. YouTube is also almost entirely user-generated content, files uploaded into YouTube by users directly. That means that the video service on YouTube depends on the interaction of users with YouTube, since they’re the ones who have to dig out old videotapes and obscure DVDs, find a way to get them into the computer, then send them to YouTube.
Fortunately, YouTube does have a large user base, and interesting videos crop up all the time. But one area that YouTube completely misses is the Usenet archives, a long-running file sharing system that isn’t dependent on websites. Usenet groups are more like user groups, in that they are broken up by interest. Inside these interest groups, people have been sharing files for decades. The video and film files that show up there can be even more interesting than those on YouTube, since they come from a collective interest group.
That’s where Guba comes in. It used to be a difficult process to grab Usenet posts and assemble them back into video files, but Guba already does that for you, and puts the file up with a thumbnail view, like YouTube. Guba also supports user uploads and paid videos, and puts them up the same way.
Guba’s best feature is it’s download service – you just pull down the menu, select the file type you want, and let go. This is a nice feature, as video files tend to jam up as you stream them. Watching them offline saves bandwith and avoids bandwidth-related issues like dropouts.
Both YouTube and Guba have a serious problem with nomenclature, however. Files routinely show up on their sites with auto-generated or truncated names, or bad or inaccurate user labels. This makes it hard to figure out which episode is which, for example, when you find a set of shows you want to watch. This affects the search function as well, as an inaccurate name won’t be as useful to a search engine, and your results will suffer.
But enough of the downsides. My interest last week was the 1960’s British spy show “Callan”, starring Edward Woodward. It was never shown in the US, and I haven’t been able to track it down from the obscure video dealers I checked with at conventions.
The last time I looked, YouTube had a 1971 movie, “Callan”, a feature made from the pilot, in a great print. Nice.
And Guba had six episodes of the last season, in degraded prints from the 1980s. The print quality was fair, but watchable.
The movie file on YouTube came for a user who uploaded it, the videos on Guba came from Usenet.