WO2009056824A1 - Method and apparatus for accessing media - Google Patents

Method and apparatus for accessing media Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2009056824A1
WO2009056824A1 PCT/GB2008/003659 GB2008003659W WO2009056824A1 WO 2009056824 A1 WO2009056824 A1 WO 2009056824A1 GB 2008003659 W GB2008003659 W GB 2008003659W WO 2009056824 A1 WO2009056824 A1 WO 2009056824A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
media
data
method according
clip
media stream
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2008/003659
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Philipe Sage
Original Assignee
Hasbro Inc
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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L65/00Network arrangements or protocols for real-time communications
    • H04L65/60Media handling, encoding, streaming or conversion
    • H04L65/601Media manipulation, adaptation or conversion
    • H04L65/604Media manipulation, adaptation or conversion at the destination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G11INFORMATION STORAGE
    • G11BINFORMATION STORAGE BASED ON RELATIVE MOVEMENT BETWEEN RECORD CARRIER AND TRANSDUCER
    • G11B27/00Editing; Indexing; Addressing; Timing or synchronising; Monitoring; Measuring tape travel
    • G11B27/10Indexing; Addressing; Timing or synchronising; Measuring tape travel
    • GPHYSICS
    • G11INFORMATION STORAGE
    • G11BINFORMATION STORAGE BASED ON RELATIVE MOVEMENT BETWEEN RECORD CARRIER AND TRANSDUCER
    • G11B27/00Editing; Indexing; Addressing; Timing or synchronising; Monitoring; Measuring tape travel
    • G11B27/10Indexing; Addressing; Timing or synchronising; Measuring tape travel
    • G11B27/34Indicating arrangements

Abstract

A method of accessing media is disclosed comprising receiving a media stream from a first data source (S100), the media stream including at least one time stamp, the or each time stamp occurring at a specified time relative to the start of the media stream. The received media stream is monitored to detect the or each time stamp. When the or each time stamp is detected (S102), the detected time stamp is compared (S104) with a database from a second data source, the database containing at least one predetermined time stamp value and a media clip associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp value. If the detected time stamp matches one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values in the database, the associated media clip is retrieved from the second data source (S108). The media stream and the retrieved media clips are outputted (S110).

Description

Method and Apparatus for Accessing Media

This invention relates to a method of accessing media and an apparatus for carrying out the method. The method is particularly applicable in the field of entertainment, providing techniques for enhancing user enjoyment of media, for example television programmes, movies, etc. without requiring modification of the media.

One of the mainstays of home entertainment is watching or listening to media such as television programmes or movies. Likewise, many homes now have media players for playing programmes or movies stored on video cassettes or, increasingly, digital versatile discs (DVDs). It is also becoming popular to download films from the internet and store them in a suitable memory device for playback.

However, it is often the case that once a movie (or other media item) has been watched once, the user is not inclined to view the media again and the DVD is left on the shelf.

In an attempt to engage the user's interest for longer, it is well-known to include additional media on a DVD, so-called "bonus material". Typically, this includes extra films such as documentaries relating to the making of the movie, simple games which can be played using a remote control and audio files such as music. However, all of this "bonus material" not only has to be generated at considerable expense, but also requires the DVD or other storage medium to undergo substantial post-production work to incorporate the additional media and provide navigation means for the user to access it. Further, there is no inter-relation between the movie itself and the bonus material: whilst they are usually conceptually related, the bonus material is viewed as an entirely independent item of media. Ultimately, the "bonus material", once it has been viewed one or more times, suffers the same fate as the movie and the DVD returns to the shelf.

Recently, a number of "interactive" DVDs have become available which are carefully authored for user interaction. Examples of such games include the "Trivial Pursuit" DVD game by Hasbro Inc. The media on the DVD consists of a series of segments which are not intended to be accessed in the order in which they occur on the disc. Rather, the user controls the sequence of the segments by inputting answers to questions and selecting topics using a remote control. While such games have enjoyed success, it is not possible to use them in conjunction with movies, or other media streams, which must be played in a particular continuous order. Moreover, it has been found that jumping between segments of the data recorded on the DVD can be slow and is not conducive to watching the media for extended periods of time.

Now entering the market are optical storage discs having enhanced functionality, namely High Definition DVDs (HD-DVDs) and Blu-ray Discs™. Such discs can store substantially more data than standard optical discs, which can be used to provide more sophisticated "bonus material". Media players designed to play HD- DVDs or Blu-ray Discs are also of greater functionality than standard DVD players, achieved by providing the DVD player with a more advanced processor capable of accessing and controlling output of the data on the disc. This has been used to provide some degree of interaction between the movie itself and the bonus material on the disc. For example, the user can select graphic, video or audio content from the bonus material to be presented alongside the movie being viewed, without interruption. Particular examples include accessing a video giving a director's commentary to be viewed simultaneously with the movie. This is achieved by streaming the bonus film in parallel with the primary movie feature such that the two data streams remain synchronised throughout. In the default setting, the processor outputs only the primary movie stream. However, on the user's command, the processor additionally outputs the bonus stream alongside the movie. In this way, it can be ensured that the correct portion of the bonus film is shown alongside the scene of the movie to which it corresponds. Similar effects can be achieved with animated or still graphics encoded alongside the movie.

Whilst this clearly represents some improvement, it still involves significant post- production work and cannot be used to further enhance user enjoyment of any existing DVDs, videos or otherwise. Further, though the bonus material is more extensive, once the user has made a thorough investigation of the media provided on the disc, once again the DVD will be relegated to the shelf. In accordance with the present invention, a method of accessing media comprises: a) receiving a media stream from a first data source, the media stream including at least one time stamp, the or each time stamp occurring at a specified time relative to the start of the media stream; b) monitoring the received media stream to detect the or each time stamp; c) when the or each time stamp is detected, comparing the detected time stamp with a database from a second data source, the database containing at least one predetermined time stamp value and a media clip associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values; d) if the detected time stamp matches one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values in the database, retrieving the associated media clip from the second data source; and e) outputting the media stream and the retrieved media clip.

By introducing data from a second data source and outputting data from both sources, the amount of media available to the user is no longer limited to that which can be stored on a single data source such as a DVD, yet a seamless user experience is maintained. Importantly, since the second data source is separate from, and can be authored entirely independently of the first data source, there is no need for any post-production work or other modification of the first data source, and the method can be used "retrospectively" with existing first data sources. By utilising existing time stamps in the media stream, the media clips from the second data source are automatically accessed and output at the appropriate times during the playback of the media stream, without interrupting the media stream or affecting its continuity in any way.

Depending on the types of media involved, the media stream and the retrieved media clip may be output separately, e.g., one on a display and one on a loud speaker. Even if the media types are the same, the media stream and the media clip could be output on separate apparatus, for example using displays alongside one another. However, in the majority of situations it is preferred that step e) comprises mixing the media stream and the media clip to generate a combined output signal. This enables the two media items to be output simultaneously for presentation via a single output means. Advantageously, step e) further comprises outputting the combined output signal to a media reproduction apparatus for presentation to a user.

The media reproduction apparatus could take any form appropriate to the data types in question. Since the media will typically be in the form of audio and/or visual data, it is preferable that the media reproduction apparatus is an audio reproduction apparatus, a video reproduction apparatus or an audio and video reproduction apparatus, preferably a television. However, any other reproduction apparatus such as a stereo, loud speaker, projector, computer monitor etc. could be used instead.

Preferably, the media stream comprises graphic data for visual output, preferably video data. Advantageously, the media stream alternatively or additionally comprises sound data for audio output.

Preferably, the media clip comprises graphic data for visual output. This could be in the form of a static graphic, akin to a subtitle, or in certain cases the graphic may be movable or otherwise changeable either in response to user input or under its own control (i.e. an animated graphic).

Where both the media stream and the media clip comprise graphic data, it is preferred that the mixing of the media stream and the media clip comprises overlaying the graphic data of the media clip on the graphic data of the media stream, and the combined output signal is output to a video or video and audio reproduction apparatus for simultaneous display of the media clip over at least a portion of the media stream. There are numerous techniques by which the graphic data may be overlaid, including replacing at least a portion of the graphic data of the media stream with that of the media clip, or reducing the intensity of certain areas such that the media clip is visible thereon, as will be appreciated by the man skilled in the art.

In certain preferred embodiments, the media clip comprises sound data for audio output. Where both the media stream and the media clip comprise audio data, it is preferred that the mixing of the media stream in the media clip comprises overlaying the sound data of the media clip on the sound data of the media stream, preferably reducing the volume of the sound data of the media stream, and the combined output signal is output to an audio or video and audio reproduction apparatus for simultaneous reproduction.

Advantageously, the media stream and the media clip each comprise graphic and sound data, in which case it is preferable that both the visual data and audio data are mixed using the above-described overlaying techniques.

Depending on the particular nature of the media clips, it may be advantageous to exert further control over the outputting of the media stream and the retrieved media clip. In one preferred embodiment, the media clip has associated data, preferably control data for controlling the outputting of the media clip, or content data relating to the content of the media clip. Advantageously, the media clip is output for a predetermined duration, which duration is preferably defined by the media clip or by control data associated with the media clip. That is, certain types of media clip such as an audio or video file have an intrinsic duration corresponding to the length of the recorded sound or film. Other media clip types, such as a graphic (whether static or otherwise), may not have such an intrinsic duration and in these cases it may be useful to provide control data which defines the duration. The control data may contain additional or alternative information such as mixing levels where the media stream and the media clip are to be mixed into a combined output signal. Content data refers to data such as what is the correct answer to a question, or how many points should be allocated, for example.

In another preferred embodiment, in addition or as an alternative to the use of control data, it is advantageous that the database should further comprise a command for controlling the outputting step, the command being associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values. That is, the command takes the place of a media clip, rather than being itself associated with a media clip. The command could be any desired control command, e.g. defining how the media clip already being output should be mixed into the media stream, or pausing the output of the media clip, but preferably the command is a stop command and on retrieving the stop command, the method comprises ceasing the output of the media clip. Such commands can be used to stop outputting media clips which do not themselves have a defined length.

In another preferred example, the media clip is output until a subsequent time stamp is detected which matches another of the predetermined time stamp values, and a new media clip is retrieved and output. That is, the retrieval of a new media clip is used to signal that the system should stop outputting the current media clip, and replace it with the new one.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the method further comprises the steps of f) receiving an input signal from a first input module; and g) processing the input signal.

This enables a user to interact with the media clips, for example by inputting the answer to a question posed by a media clip. Whether the input signal is accepted may depend on control data associated with the media clip, or on separate commands included in the database.

Preferably, in step g) the processing of the input signal is based on the data associated with the media clip. As well as involving the control data, this processing may be based on content data, for example data identifying the correct answer to a question, such that the processing can determine whether the input signal represents the correct answer. Advantageously, the processing comprises comparing the input signal with content data associated with the media clip to determine a result, and storing the input signal and/or the result in a memory.

The method can be implemented using a single input module. However, it is preferable that the method further comprises the steps of: f1) receiving an input signal from a second input module; and f2) determining which of the input signals was received earlier, such that in step g) the earlier input signal is processed.

By accepting input signals from a second input module, it becomes possible for each user to use his own, dedicated input module rather than having to share a single unit. Determining which of the input signals was received earlier is preferable since it avoids conflicts between the two input modules.

Advantageously, the database additionally contains a results command associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values, and when the results command is retrieved, the stored input signal and/or result is output. Commonly, this will occur towards the end of the media stream in the form of a score table giving each user's score based on his entered input signals.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the method further comprises, before steps a) to e) are performed, the steps of: i) retrieving an identification code associated with the media stream from the first data source; ii) retrieving an identification code associated with the database from the second data source; and iii) comparing the identification codes to confirm that they match.

This ensures that the database on the second data source is that intended to be output alongside the particular media stream on the first data source, i.e. in the case of a movie, that the media clips provided on the second data source relate to the movie in question. However, it would also be feasible to provide "generic" databases which could be used in conjunction with any media stream.

Once the identification codes have been confirmed as matching, the method can proceed to steps a) to e) directly. However, in certain cases it can be advantageous that the method further comprises the step o f iv) receiving an input signal confirming that steps a) to e) are to be performed.

The data can be provided to the second data source in numerous ways. For example, a second data source could be pre-programmed at purchase. However, it is preferred that the method further comprises, before performing steps a) to e), downloading the database to the second data source from one of a PC, an intranet or ethernet, or the internet. This can be achieved using a computer terminal such as a PC, or the same apparatus as that used to carry out steps a) to e) if it is provided with a communications module.

A programme enabling the apparatus (typically a DVD player) to carry out the method of steps a) to e) may be pre-programmed in a processor provided in the

DVD player. However, it is preferred that the method further comprises, before performing steps a) to e), uploading a program from the second data source to a processor, to enable the processor to carry out steps a) to e). In this way, it is not necessary to use a dedicated player since everything required to execute the method is contained on the second data source.

The time stamps in the media stream could occur at irregular or random intervals. However, it is preferred that time stamps occur at regular intervals, the intervals preferably having a duration of 1 second or less, most preferably approximately 0.1 seconds (+/- 5%).

Preferably, the media stream represents an audio visual programme, preferably a movie.

Advantageously, the media clip represents one or more of a graphic, a video clip, an audio clip or an audio visual clip. Preferably, the graphic provides a display of an image and/or text, which preferably relates to the content of the media stream. Still preferably, the image and/or text relates to a question and/or proposed answer(s). In certain preferred embodiments, the graphic is static but in other examples, the graphic may be changed or moved in response to an input signal. This can be used, for example, to highlight currently selected answers on the graphic or to manipulate icons in a game.

Preferably, the first data source is an optical storage disc, preferably a CD-ROM, DVD, High Definition DVD (HD-DVD) or Blu-ray Disc.

Preferably, the second data source is a magnetic disc, a USB or a flash memory device. The invention further provides a media player comprising first and second data readers for reading data from first and second data sources; a processor adapted to perform the method described above; and an output module for outputting the media stream and the retrieved media clip.

Preferably, the media player further comprises an input module for receiving user input, preferably an infrared (IR) detector adapted to receive IR signals from one or more remote control units.

Advantageously, the media player further comprises a memory for storage of data.

Preferably, the media player further comprises a communications module for connection to a network, an internet or ethernet, or the internet.

The invention further provides a data storage device containing a database adapted for use in the method described above, the database including at least one predetermined time stamp value and a media clip associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values. Preferably, the data storage device further contains a program adapted to enable a processor accessing the data storage device to perform the above described method.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the data storage device further comprises an input module for receiving user input, preferably an infrared (IR) detector adapted to receive IR signals from one or more remote control units. Preferably, the data storage device further comprises a processor which is preferably adapted to process two or more received input signals to determine which of the input signals is earlier (whether the input signals are received by an input module forming part of the data storage device or otherwise).

The invention additionally provides a set comprising a data storage device as described above and at least one, preferably more than one, remote control units adapted to generate input signals for receipt by the input module. Examples of methods and apparatus in accordance with the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 schematically depicts a system for accessing data which can be used to implement a first embodiment of the invention;

Figures 2a, b, c and d show examples of hardware which can be used in conjunction with the methods of the present invention; Figures 2e and f show examples of screens generated by output data according to certain embodiments of the invention;

Figure 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the steps involved in the first embodiment of the invention;

Figure 4 shows particular steps which may be involved in outputting the data in the first embodiment of the invention;

Figure 5 represents a portion of a first database for use in the first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 6 represents a portion of a second database for use in a second embodiment of the present invention; Figure 7 represents a portion of a third database for use in a third embodiment of the present invention;

Figures 8a, b and c are screen shots showing examples of media output in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention on a display means;

Figure 9 represents a start portion of a fourth database for use in a fourth embodiment of the invention; and

Figure 10 represents an end portion of a fifth database for use in a fifth embodiment of the invention.

As described above, the present invention is applicable to any scenario in which data from more than one source is to be accessed. It is envisaged that a primary application of the invention will be found in the field of home entertainment, and as such the description below will focus on this example. However, it will be appreciated that the methods and apparatus of the invention are equally applicable in other fields such as editing and data stream generation, as well as other subject areas such as education.

The supply of recorded media such as movies on a storage device such as an optical disc (DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray Disc or otherwise) is well-known. Conventionally, alongside the data representing the media content are encrypted one or more time stamps ("Presentation Time Stamps" or "PTSs") which identify the time period which has elapsed since the start of the media stream. Commonly, such time stamps occur at regular intervals (e.g. one each second) to act as a clock which is synchronised with the media itself. In the past, these time stamps have been used to give an indication of the duration of the media and/or the temporal location of the scene currently being viewed, that is, to give information on the reproduction time for outputting (displaying or sounding) video data, audio data, and sub-picture data (closed caption data). In some cases the "clock" has been displayed on the playing apparatus to aid the user, e.g. when searching through the media stream for a particular scene. Other media storage devices such as video cassettes have also been provided with similar time stamps. The use of these conventional time stamps in the present invention avoids the need for any "watermarking" on the DVD and so preserves both audio and visual quality.

In the embodiment shown in Figure 1 , the media stream representing a movie or otherwise is provided on an optical disc 2, preferably a DVD, HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disk. The media stream is stored on the disc in the form of digital data, mainly audio and video image data. The audio and video images are typically formatted and encoded according to industry standard protocols before being stored on the disc. Such standards include DVD VOB, VideoCD, CD-I, MPEG-1 , MPEG-2, CD- ROM, or CD-DA. The media stream MS is retrieved from the disc 2 using a suitable reader and passed to a processor 10 where it is decrypted and rendered using techniques well-known in the art, for presentation on an output means such as display 12. Movies are typically encoded onto DVD in MPEG2 format, a widely accepted international standard, and MPEG-2 decoders are widely available. The use of a display 12 in Figure 1 assumes that the media stream includes visual data. However, if this is not the case, the output means may take the form of a stereo or loud speaker, or indeed any suitable media reproduction apparatus. Typically, a disc player comprises a disc reader mechanism for retrieving data from a disc, an audio/video decoder for decoding the retrieved data and transforming the audio and video data into a desired output format, and a controller for processing user commands and controlling the operation of the player.

A second data source is provided in the form of a USB Flash memory device 4. Of course, any other suitable storage medium may be used instead, for example a magnetic disc or another optical disc. In some examples, the second data source 4 could form an integral part of processor 10. However, it has been found preferable that the second data source should be separable from the processor in order to allow for removal and easy replacement. A USB Flash memory device has been found to be the most convenient form of data source. The second data source 4 is accessed by a suitable reader and data is supplied to the processor 10 as will be detailed below.

The processor 10 receives the media stream MS from the first data source, disc 2. The media stream MS includes a plurality of time stamps of which two, T1 and T2, are depicted in Figure 1. The processor 10 monitors the media stream MS to detect each time stamp as it occurs. When each time stamp is detected, the processor 10 compares the detected time stamp with a database 6 provided on the second data source, USB device 4. The database 6 contains a set of predetermined time stamp values and a media clip MC associated with each one. If the comparison reveals that the detected time stamp matches one of the predetermined time stamp values stored in the database 6, the processor retrieves the media clip MC that is associated with the matched predetermined time stamp value from the database. Both the media stream MS and the retrieved media clip MC are then output.

Figure 1 illustrates this sequence of events for two time stamps, T1 and T2. It should be noted that, in Figure 1 , all of the items depicted within box P represent data items and not hardware, and are shown only to illustrate the steps performed by processor 10. The processor 10 detects a first time stamp T1 in the media stream MS at time 01 :45:10 (1 hour, 45 minutes and 10 seconds). The processor compares this time stamp T1 with the database 6 and, finding that there is indeed a matching predetermined time stamp value, retrieves the associated media clip MC1. The media clip MC1 is output by processor 10 with the media stream MS. In this example, both the media stream MS and the media clip MC1 are output via a single reproduction apparatus, in this case display 12. To achieve this, the processor 10 first mixes the media stream MS and the media clip MC1 to generate a combined output signal which is output to the display 12 for presentation. However, in other examples the media stream MS and the media clip MC1 could remain unmixed, for example if they are of different media types, and/or if they are to be output via different reproduction apparatus.

The processor 10 continues monitoring the media stream MS and at some later time, here 01 :47:10, detects a second time stamp T2. Again, this time stamp T2 is compared with the database 6 and a match confirmed. The corresponding media clip MC2 is retrieved and output by the processor 10 with the media stream.

The technique may be implemented on the apparatus in a number of ways. In a first example, a program for executing the above described steps may be preprogrammed into processor 10. Alternatively, such a program may be provided on second data source 4 which, when accessed by processor 10, is automatically uploaded (this communication is designated C in Figure 1 to indicate that the program may not form part of the database 6). In another alternative, the processor 10 may include a communications module for connection to a network such as the internet 14, and an appropriate program be downloaded into proces sor 10, potentially under the control of the program stored on the second data source 4.

The system may optionally further include means for receiving input signals from a user. Typically, this will take the form of an IR receiver 8 for receipt of IR signals from a remote control unit (not shown in Figure 1 ). This will be described in greater detail below. Figure 2a shows a media player on which the above described method can be implemented. Media player 20, here a HD-DVD player, includes a first reader 3 for retrieving data from first data source 2 (here a HD-DVD), as well as a second data reader 5 for accessing data from the second data source 4 (here a USB device). Figure 2a also shows the input device 8 for receiving IR signals from a remote control. In this example, the media player 20 includes an information display panel 21 which is shown to display the current time stamp, here 01 :46:10, in a similar manner to conventional players. This is of course entirely optional: in many cases, the time stamp will not be displayed at ail.

In the example shown in Figure 2b, no second data source 4 is provided, and the media player 20 therefore defaults to its standard settings, simply outputting the media stream retrieved from first data source 2. The media stream is output on display 12.

When a second data source 4 is inserted into second data reader 5, as shown in Figure 2c, the control program preferably stored on the second data source 4 is uploaded to the processor 10 provided in media player 20. The processor may output a "splash" screen to display 12 indicating that the method is activated (here, HDML stands for "High Definition Movie Live"). Under the control of the program uploaded from second data source 4, the processor 10 performs the steps shown in Figure 3.

Initially, in step S100, the processor receives and monitors the media stream from the first data source (DVD 2). When the processor detects a time stamp Tx (step S 102), it compares the detected time stamp Tx with the predetermined time stamp values in database 6 on the second data source (USB 4) to determine whether there is a match. If not, in step S106, the processor continues monitoring the media stream to detect the next time stamp, T(x+1).

If the detected time stamp does have a match in the database, the processor retrieves the corresponding media clip from the database (step S108) and outputs the media stream and media clip (step S110). The process is then repeated for the next time stamp. As noted above and depicted in Figure 4, the outputting of the media stream and the media clip in step S110 typically involves first mixing the media stream and media clip (step S112) to generate a combined output signal which is then output (step S114). Techniques for mixing data from two data sources, i.e. the media stream and the media clip, may be accomplished using suitable video stream mixing approaches such as those of Picture-ln-Picture (PIP) and Onscreen Program Guide (OPG), offered by set-top boxes used by digital cable networks. The particular method selected would depend on the types of data forming the media stream and the media clip. For example, in the case of graphic data (whether video or otherwise) the mixing may involve replacing specified portions of the media stream data with data from the media clip. This has the effect of overlaying the graphical data from the media clip on that of the media stream in an opaque manner (i.e. portions of the media stream are entirely obscured by the media clip). In other examples, the intensity of certain portions of the media stream data may be reduced and the graphical data of the media clip overlaid in a transparent manner such that the media stream remains visible "behind" the media clip. Any other form of graphical mixing may be used as will be apparent to the person skilled in the art. In the case of audio data, the audio data of the media clip may be overlaid on that of the media stream by reducing the volume or muting a portion of the media stream data as appropriate. Where the media stream and media clip each contain both visual and sound data, both may be mixed using these techniques. In a first example, mixing may involve the real-time substitution of analog video stream (switching), which is technically workable but not preferred for this application. A second example uses a video frame buffer, wherein the contents of the video signal from the media stream are loaded into a memory frame-by- frame. Substitution of a second video source may be accomplished by simultaneous access to the same physical addresses in the memory by independent processes (e.g. CODECs), or by logical remapping of addresses from the actual memory locations of the frame buffer, to a separate memory space which is served by a separate process (e.g. CODEC, rendering engine or other graphic processor.

The media clips may take any desired form. Each clip could comprise a static graphic, a changeable graphic, an audio clip, video clip or any combination of these. It is preferred that the content of the media clip bears some conceptual relation to the content of the portion of the media stream at which point the clip will be retrieved. This is determined by the predetermined time stamp value with which the media clip is associated in the database. The content of the media clip can be authored as appropriate to the media stream with which it is intended to be output. In a particularly preferred embodiment, one or more of the media clips contains a question, for example in the form of text displayed as a static graphic. The question is displayed for a period of time and preferably relates to the portion of the media stream being output at that time. Another media clip may provide a set of possible answers to the question, for example, four answer options. Such media clips preferably take the form of a changeable graphic, for example, which is responsive to user input.

User input can be provided by way of a remote control unit or similar which provides signals to an input module connected to the processor. As noted above, the input module can form part of the media player or, in certain embodiments, could be integrated with the second data source (e.g. provided on the USB memory device).

The remote control unit is configured to provide input signals in response to a user pressing a button or sequence of buttons provided on the remote control unit which will be recognised by the input module. The input signal is provided to the processor from the input module which processes the input signal and determines how to respond, if at all. In the case of a changeable graphic, the media clip itself may include rules as to what response should be given to each viable input signal, i.e. how to modify the changeable graphic. Examples will be given below. In some cases, the input signal or the results of processing the input signal may be stored by the processor in a memory, as will be discussed below.

Depending on the implementation, the second data source device (USB device) may comprise additional or alternative interface components to allow for user interaction via a variety of techniques which may not be provided for on the standard media player itself. A simple example would be to provide a wired connection to a control unit via the USB device. Figure 5 represents a first database 6 which may be provided on the second data source in a first embodiment of the invention. The first column represents the stored predetermined time stamp values, the second column identifies the type of data unit associated with each predetermined time stamp value (typically a media clip), and the third column identifies the content of that data unit. At time 00:05:00, the processor follows the above described method to retrieve media clip 1 which takes the form of a static graphic posing question 1. In accordance with the method shown in Figures 3 and 4, the static graphic is mixed with graphic data forming part of the media stream (here a movie) and then output on a display 12. Figure 8a shows the resulting display, in which the media stream graphic 40 is overlaid by the media clip graphic 50. The graphic 50 remains overlaid over media stream graphic 40 until time 00:05:10 when, following the above described method, the processor retrieves media clip 2 from the database. It should be noted that the media stream may contain one or more time stamps which are detected between times 00:05:00 and 00:05:10, but since none of these are found to match a predetermined time stamp value in the database shown in Figure 5, these do not lead to any change in the output signal.

Media clip 2 is a changeable graphic which provides a set of answer options to the first question. The changeable graphic 51 is overlaid on the media stream graphic 40 in the same way as the question graphic 50. In this example, four possible answers are given: A, B, C and D. An icon 52 indicates which answer is currently selected. This can be changed by the user by inputting appropriate signals via the input module. For example, if the user presses "right" once, answer B will become highlighted by icon 52. This change in the graphic is controlled by the processor in accordance with rule provided either as part of media clip 2 or with the original programme. The processor may be programmed to accept input signals in relation to media clip 2 only whilst it is being output.

If the input module receives an input signal during the time answer graphic 51 is displayed (e.g. via the user moving icon 52 to select answer B and then pressing enter), the processor may record the input signal in a memory. The answer graphic 51 is output until media clip 3 is retrieved at 00:05:20. In this example, media clip 3 has intentionally zero content. Thus when media clip 3 is retrieved and output, the output signal reverts to the media stream alone and the overlaid graphic 51 is removed to reveal the entire media stream graphic 40.

At time 00: 10:00, the processor retrieves media clip 4 from the second data source. Here, media clip 4 is a video clip which is output by mixing both the graphic and audio data with that of the media stream. The video clip graphic 60 appears overlaid over a portion of the media stream graphic 40, as shown in Figure 8c, and the volume of the media stream audio is reduced to give prominence to that of the video clip. The mixed audio signal is output via loudspeakers (not shown). In this example, the video is a director's commentary in which the director of the film represented by media stream 40 discusses the scene currently being viewed.

Since a video clip has an inherent duration (determined by the number of frames provided and the frame rate at which there are to be displayed), the video clip will be output for a certain duration (here 10 seconds) and then the output signal will automatically revert to the media stream alone. In the case of media clips which do not have an inherent duration, such as the graphics shown in Figures 8a and 8b, the length of time for which the clip is output can be controlled in a number of ways. As in the example given above, the clip can simply be output until the next media clip is retrieved. Zero content media clips can be used where it is not desired to output anything in addition to the media stream.

An alternative technique for controlling the outputting of the media clips is also demonstrated in Figure 5. At 00:12:00, media clip 5 is retrieved which comprises a further question in the form of a static graphic, akin to that shown in Figure 8a. As a static graphic, the question has no "inherent" duration, and will be displayed indefinitely in the absence of any other control. At 00:12:08, another time stamp match is found in the database which, instead of being associated with a media clip, is associated with a command. A command is a data unit which comprises instructions for control of the processor (in particular, the output of the processor) rather than media for presentation to a user. In this case, the command is a stop command, instructing the processor to stop outputting media clip 5. On retrieval of this command, the processor stops displaying question 2 and the output reverts to the media stream alone. Two seconds later, at 00:12:10, the next media clip is retrieved, which comprises a set of answers to the question in the form of a changeable graphic similar to that shown in Figure 8b.

It should be noted that other types of command may also be included in the database, such as pause commands (which may occur whilst a media clip is being output) or mixing commands which contain details as to how to mix the media clip with the media stream (e.g. suitable volume levels).

A further alternative technique for controlling the output, which provides even greater functionality, is used in a second embodiment of the invention, as illustrated using the database depicted in Figure 6. Here, columns 1 to 3 correspond to those of Figure 5. The new fourth column provides control data associated with one or more of the media clips. When the media clip is retrieved, the processor retrieves the corresponding control data also. It will be appreciated that it may not be necessary to provide control data for each of the media clips.

Media clip 1 is retrieved at time 00:05:00 and, as in the case of the Figure 5 embodiment, comprises a question in the form of a static graphic. Media clip 1 has associated control data instructing the processor to display the question for 8 seconds. Hence, during the period 00:05:00 to 00:05:08, the question is output along with the media stream, as shown in Figure 8a. From time 00:05:08 to 00:05:10, the output reverts to the media stream alone as a result of the control data associated with media clip 1. At time 00:05: 10, the system retrieves media clip 2 which comprises a set of answers to the first question in the form of a changeable graphic, and is displayed as shown in Figure 8b. The control data associated with the media clip dictates that the answer set should be displayed for 8 seconds or until an input signal is received (if earlier). The control data may also include information as to how the graphic should change in response to certain input signals, and whether a specific type of input signal is required in order to stop the answers being displayed. The length of time the answer set will be displayed before reverting to the media stream alone will therefore depend on how quickly the player answers the question up to a maximum of 8 seconds (in this example). At 00:10:00, media clip 3 is retrieved which takes the form of a game (i.e. a changeable graphic which is responsive to user input). The game could be output in a specified portion of the screen (similar to graphics 50 or 51 in Figures 8a and 8b) or could cover the whole screen (though it is preferable that portions of the game are transparent so that the media stream can still be viewed). One example suitable for use with a science fiction movie would be a spaceship themed game played against the movie background. The control data associated with the media clip could include game control data (e.g. how to manipulate the icons in response to user input), as well as an indication of the game's intended duration. The processor may also keep track of the score achieved by a user playing the game and store the results in the memory for later retrieval. In this case, the control data dictates a duration of 2 minutes such that the game would be output and playable between 00:10:00 and 00:12:00. At 00:12:00, the output would revert to the media stream.

Media clip 4 is retrieved at 00:20:00 and takes the form of an audio clip having an inherent 5 second duration. The audio clip is then output using loud speakers, having been mixed with any audio data of the media stream as appropriate. In this case, since the audio clip has an inherent 5 second duration, no control data is necessary.

Depending on the type of media to be output, it can be advantageous to associate each media clip with content data in addition to or instead of control data. One example of a database which can include both control and content data is shown in Figure 7, for use in a third embodiment of the invention. The content data provides information to the processor as to the content of the media clip itself. The processor may refer to the content data, for example, in order to identify which is the correct answer to a question and how many points should be allocated.

The first media clip is retrieved at time 00:05:00 and again takes the form of a question posed in a static graphic. The control data dictates that the question should be displayed for 8 seconds. The processor requires no further data relating to the content of the question and therefore the content data column is empty. At 00:05:08, the output reverts to the media stream alone as a result of the control data associated with media clip 1. At time 00:05:10, the second media clip is retrieved, which comprises an answer set 1 having the form of a changeable graphic. The control data indicates that the answer should be displayed for 8 seconds or until an input signal is received (if earlier). Thus the control of media clips 1 and 2 is identical to that in the Figure 6 embodiment.

However, in the present embodiment, media clip 2 has additional content data associated with it, which in this case identifies the correct answer to question 1 as answer B. The processor uses this content data to process the input signal and, in this case, to identify whether the correct answer has been entered. The processor may store this result in a memory and/or allocate one or more points as appropriate.

At time 00:10:00, media clip 3 is retrieved which takes the form of an audio clip. The audio clip has an inherent 10 second duration meaning that no additional data for controlling this output need be required. However, in this case the audio clip poses a question to the user and provides them with a set of answers. The user can enter an answer using the remote control for example by pressing up, down, left or right buttons as instructed by the audio clip. The media clip has associated content data which identifies the correct answer as "D". The processor uses this content data to process the input signal as before.

It will of course be appreciated that any of the control techniques depicted in Figures 5, 6, and 7 can be used in combination with each other as appropriate. In particular, the databases shown in Figures 6 and 7 may also include commands such as those described in relation to Figure 5.

In some embodiments, the database provided on the second data source may be "generic", that is, designed to work with any media stream. One simple example of this would be a case in which a media clip announcing the elapsed time is displayed at intervals during the media stream. However, in the majority of cases it is preferred that the content of the media clips relates specifically to the media stream in question. For example, a database containing questions relating to the "Transformers" film should only be output in conjunction with that particular movie. In order to ensure correspondence between media stream and the database, an identification step can be carried out before proceeding with the above described method.

It is usual that DVDs and other data sources are provided with an identification code for anti-counterfeiting purposes. This code can be used to check that the correct database is loaded in the second data source. The second data source includes a record of the identification code of the media stream with which the database is intended to be played. The identification code may form part of the database itself or could be stored separately on the second data source. Figure 9 shows an example of a database which includes such an ID code associated with predetermined time stamp value 00:00:00. Therefore, as soon as the media stream is received, the identification sequence is initiated under the control of control data associated with time stamp 00:00:00. The ID code stored on the second data source is compared against that of the first data source. The subsequent media clip to be retrieved depends on the outcome of the identification step. If a match is found, at time 00:00:01 , media clip 1 is retrieved which contains a title screen confirming that the correct database is loaded (an example is depicted in Figure 2c). The control data associated with this media clip instructs the processor to display the screen only if a match was found and, if not, the process continues until time 00:00:02, at which point media clip 2 is received corresponding to an error screen indicating that the inserted DVD (the first data source) does not match the database on the second data source. An example is shown in Figure 2e.

Where a match is found, the title screen media clip may give the user the option of proceeding with the above described method, and watching the movie in conjunction with the media clips, or simply watching the standard movie, in which case the method will be disabled. An example is shown in Figure 2f.

As already described, one of the preferred applications is having the media clips contain trivia questions or similar relating to the movie in question. Players can enter answers to the question via one or more remote controls to gain points. Other point scoring activities may include playing video games embedded in the databaseas media clips. It is generally preferred that all of these interactive media clips be operable using a standard remote control provided with the media player. The players could take turns using a single, shared remote control, but it has been found preferable to provide each player with their own dedicated remote control. Preferably, at least four dedicated remote control units are provided. In this way, players can compete to answer questions first and play against each other in multi- player games. Alternatively, one remote control unit can be designated for each of the answer options "A", "B", "C" and "D". One aspect of using multiple remote controls is that the input module must be capable of distinguishing between signals received from each remote control in order to identify the player responsible. When two players submit an answer substantially simultaneously, it is important that the processor be capable of determining which input signal arrived earlier, so that points can be correctly allocated. One so-called "anti-clash" technique for addressing this problem is disclosed in British patent number 2422466 by Ffynnon Games Limited. A program for performing this or another anti-clash process may be provided on the processor in any of the above described embodiments. In other examples, in order that the DVD player itself need not undergo such modification, the program may be provided on the second data source alongside a database. In this case, the input signal receiver (typically an IR receiver) may also be provided on the device incorporating the second data source.

As each question or other point scoring media clip is played, the received input signals may be processed to determine a result. The result may take the form of simply confirming whether a user has entered the correct answer, which of several users has entered the correct answer first ("fastest finger first"), or in a game scenario, how many points are scored by each user. The processor can also sort responses into chronological order. The results (as well as or instead of the input signals) can be stored in a memory provided in the processor or in the second data source. In order that the users can view their results, the results data can be retrieved from the memory. This could be done upon receipt of a further input signal from one of the users. However, in a particularly preferred embodiment, the database includes a results command which automatically retrieves and displays the results from the memory. Figure 10 shows an example of such a database in which, after the last question and answer set has been displayed and answered (media clips 200 and 201 ), at time 01 :30:00, a command is retrieved which instructs the processor to retrieve results from the memory and display them (as a static or changeable graphic or otherwise) for a period of time, e.g. 30 seconds. It is generally preferred that this command occurs towards the end of the media stream, however in some cases it may be desirable to include a results command at intervals throughout the media stream such that the players are kept informed as to the results so far.

In some embodiments, it may be desirable to provide a "master" remote control unit via which a user can access set-up menus etc, provided on the second data source to control preferences and settings (such as number of players) or enter/exit the game at any time.

As noted above, the content of the second data source can be obtained in a number of ways. In a first example, the USB device (or other storage means) could be purchased with the appropriate database and any other necessary data (such as a control program) preloaded. In a preferred alternative, the database can be downloaded to the data storage device from a network such as the internet. Users can access a designated website via a PC or other means equipped with a suitable browser, where they can choose from a selection of databases relating to particular movie titles. Each database would include a "batch" of questions or other media clips relating to the specified movie title. The "batches" may be grouped according to the difficulty of the questions such that the user can select different "levels" for each movie title. The user may also be able to select the number of questions contained in the batch from a series of options.

Complexity or grading the batches of questions in this way encourages competition and the possibility of creating league tables. For example, the users scores could be submitted via the internet back to a website on which a league table ranks the users according to their scores for each particular database.

In a first implementation, shown in Figure 2d, the database is downloaded by connecting the second data source 4 (e.g. the USB device) to the internet 14 through PC 30 which is used as described above to download the database from the internet. The database is then uploaded to the data storage device which can then be removed from the PC 30 and transferred to the media player 20 (as shown in Figure 2c).

In an alternative implementation, the media player 20 could include an ethemet connection port or other communications module as depicted in Figure 1. The processor 10 can then access the internet directly to download content from a suitable website. As in the case of the PC implementation, the user selects the desired database, makes payment and the database is uploaded to the second data store. The processor 10 may be provided with a web browser program in order to carry out this process.

Claims

1. A method of accessing media, comprising: a) receiving a media stream from a first data source, the media stream including at least one time stamp, the or each time stamp occurring at a specified time relative to the start of the media stream; b) monitoring the received media stream to detect the or each time stamp; c) when the or each time stamp is detected, comparing the detected time stamp with a database from a second data source, the database containing at least one predetermined time stamp value and a media clip associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp value; d) if the detected time stamp matches one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values in the database, retrieving the associated media clip from the second data source; and e) outputting the media stream and the retrieved media clip.
2. A method according to claim 1 wherein step e) comprises mixing the media stream and the media clip to generate a combined output signal.
3. A method according to claim 2 wherein the step e) further comprises outputting the combined output signal to a media reproduction apparatus for presentation to a user.
4. A method according to claim 3 wherein the media reproduction apparatus is an audio reproduction apparatus, a video reproduction apparatus or a audio and video reproduction apparatus, preferably a television.
5. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media stream comprises graphic data for visual output, preferably video data.
6. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media stream comprises sound data for audio output.
7. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip comprises graphic data for visual output.
8. A method according to claims 4, 5 and 7 wherein mixing the media stream and the media clip comprises overlaying the graphic data of the media clip on the graphic data of the media stream and the combined output signal is output to a video or video and audio reproduction apparatus for simultaneous display of the media clip over at least a portion of the media stream.
9. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip comprises sound data for audio output.
10. A method according to claims 4, 6 and 9 wherein mixing the media stream and the media clip comprises overlaying the sound data of the media clip on the sound data of the media stream, preferably reducing the volume of the sound data of the media stream, and the combined output signal is output to an audio or video and audio reproduction apparatus for simultaneous reproduction.
11. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media stream and the media clip each comprise graphic and sound data.
12. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip has associated data, preferably control data for controlling the outputting of the media clip or content data relating to the content of the media clip.
13. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip is output for a predetermined duration, which duration is preferably defined by the media clip or by control data associated with the media clip.
14. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the database further comprises a command for controlling the outputting step, the commaηd being associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values.
15. A method according to claim 14 wherein the command is a stop command, and on retrieving the stop command, the method comprises ceasing the outputting of the media clip.
16. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip is output until a subsequent time stamp is detected which matches another of the predetermined time stamp values, and a new media clip is retrieved and output.
17. A method according to any of the preceding claims further comprising the steps of f) receiving an input signal from a first input module; and g) processing the input signal.
18. A method according to claim 17 when dependent on claim 13 wherein, in step g), the processing of the input signal is based on the data associated with the media clip.
19. A method according to claim 18 wherein the processing comprises comparing the input signal with content data associated with the media clip to determine a result, and storing the input signal and/or the result in a memory.
20. A method according to any of claims 17 to 19 further comprising the steps of f1) receiving an input signal from a second input module; and f2) determining which of the input signals was received earlier, such that " in step g) the earlier input signal is processed.
21. A method according to at least claim 19 wherein the database additionally contains a results command associated with one of the at least one predetermined time stamp values, and when the results command is retrieved, the stored input signal and/or result is output.
22. A method according to any of the preceding claims further comprising, before steps a) to e) are performed, the steps of: i) retrieving an identification code associated with the media stream from the first data source; ii) retrieving an identification code associated with the database from the second data source; and iii) comparing the identification codes to confirm that they match.
23. A method according to claim 22 further comprising the step of: iv) receiving an input signal confirming that steps a) to c) are to be performed.
24. A method according to any of the preceding claims further comprising, before performing steps a) to e), downloading the database to the second data source from one of a PC, an intranet or ethernet, or the internet.
25. A method according to any of the preceding claims further comprising, before performing steps a) to e), uploading a program from the second data source to a processor, to enable the processor to carry out steps a) to e).
26. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the time stamps occur at regular intervals, the intervals preferably having a duration of less than or equal to 1 second, still preferably approximately 0.1 seconds.
27. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media stream represents an audio-visual progamme, preferably a movie.
28. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the media clip represents one or more of a graphic, a video clip, an audio clip or an audiovisual clip.
29. A method according to claim 28 wherein the graphic provides a display of an image and/or text, which preferably relates to the content of the media stream.
30. A method according to claim 29 wherein the image and/or text relates to a question and/or proposed answer(s).
31. A method according to any of claims 28 to 30 wherein the graphic is static.
32. A method according to any of claims 28 to 30 wherein the graphic is changed or moved in response to an input signal.
33. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the first data source is an optical storage disk, preferably a CD-ROM, DVD, High Definition DVD (HD-DVD) or Bluray disk.
34. A method according to any of the preceding claims wherein the second data source is a magnetic disk, a USB or Flash memory device.
35. A media player comprising first and second data readers for reading data from first and second data sources; a processor adapted to perform the method of any of claims 1 to 34; and an output module for outputting the media stream and the retrieved media clip.
36. A media player according to claim 35 further comprising an input module for receiving user input, preferably an infrared (IR) detector adapted to receive IR signals from one or more remote controls units.
37. A media player according to claim 35 or 36 further comprising a memory for storage of data.
38. A media player according to any of claims 35 to 37 further comprising a communications module for connection to a network, an intranet or ethemet or the internet.
39. A data storage device containing a database adapted for use in the method of any of claims 1 to 34, the database including at least one predetermined time stamp value and a media clip associated with the at least one predetermined time stamp value.
40. A data storage device according to claim 39 wherein the data storage device further contains a program adapted to enable a processor accessing the data storage device to perform the method of any of claims 1 to 34.
41. A data storage device according to claim 39 or claim 40 further comprising an input module for receiving user input, preferably an infrared (IR) detector adapted to receive IR signals from one or more remote controls units.
42. A data storage device according to any of claims 39 to 41 , further comprising a processor which is preferably adapted to process two or more received input signals to determine which of the input signals is the earlier.
43. A set comprising a data storage device according to claim 41 or 42 and at least one, preferably more than one, remote control unit adapted to generate input signals for receipt by the input module.
PCT/GB2008/003659 2007-10-31 2008-10-28 Method and apparatus for accessing media WO2009056824A1 (en)

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