The development team behind MGM’s new Stargate digital platform has been busy, this week unveiling a new bit of functionality to meet viewer demand at Stargate Command.
The Apple and Android app now offers “Gate Cast” — the option to “cast” episodes, movies, and trailers to compatible devices and smart televisions, including Google Chromecast. (See the list below.)
When we first reviewed the site — which offers subscribers streaming video of every Stargate episode and movie — back in September, we noted that videos could only be “cast” using Google Chrome’s native ability to cast a browser tab to a compatible device. Depending on your hardware and network this was kludgy at best: on our set-up episodes often skipped and fell into low resolution, to the point of being nearly unwatchable. (Browser tab casting also meant that I could not use the laptop during viewing.)
We’re happy to report today that the new casting function works great. As with other cast-capable services this allows you to watch Stargate on your television with little effort, using your phone as a remote control.
THE INTERFACEThe interface is elegantly simple and familiar to anyone used to casting. It includes “Pause” and “Stop” buttons, along with a 30-second rewind. (This may be a bit buggy, as our first attempt to use it sent the episode back 10 minutes!) A progress bar also shows where you are at in the episode and allows you to jump backwards and forwards with a tap (though unfortunately there is no way to drag and scrub through the video).
Currently compatible devices include:
- Google Chromecast
- LG WebOS TVs (select models)
- Sony Android TVs (select models)
- Sony Blu-Ray Players (select models)
- Sony Opera TVs (select models)
- Vizio TVs (select models)
Stargate Command promises that support will soon be added for Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV devices, Samsung smart TVs, and LG NetCast televisions.
The site’s video player does still have room for improvement. There is no auto-play of the next episode, and no memory of where you leave off in the middle of an episode — making it difficult to enjoy in chunks (say, during a commute). At least on my Android phone the casting interface can only be exited by pressing the “Stop” button, and when I return to the episode to pick up where I left off I must manually search for where I was in the episode.
The video quality we are achieving through casting in preliminary tests is, for the most part, very good.Buffering and resolution will of course depend on the quality of your network (and whether the casting device is on wi-fi or hardwired). While this is vastly improved over browser tab casting, initial impressions suggest that buffering is not as efficient as high-end streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The result is that, on occasion, on my wireless network the resolution alternates back and forth between poor and very good for the first few minutes of an episode.