written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/2/2010
Ever wish you could stream your favorite video feeds from within Mac OS X using the FrontRow application? Sadly, this is a functionality Apple overlooked or simply decided to leave out. Don't worry though, the Understudy Plug-in for FrontRow is here to fill the void.
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There is currently no native way to stream feeds like Hulu, Netflicks and Youtube from within Apple’s FrontRow application. In a previous article I showed you how to stream Internet radio stations from within FrontRow, today we will take a look at a 3rd party FrontRow plug-in that will allow you to stream various Internet video streams.
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Understudy, as described by the author, “allows access to streaming video through the Front Row interface of Mac OS X. The user can subscribe to multiple feeds, and select a video to watch from them. Understudy currently supports Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and to some degree the BBC iPlayer." Basically, this plug-in is adding a functionality that should be included natively in the FrontRow application. This, in my opinion, is another major oversight by the Apple developers with regards to FrontRow.
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There are currently a few problems with Understudy but the project is considered stable. One example would be that in order to access your feeds in say, Hulu, you will first have to login to your Hulu account through Safari. This allows Understudy to use the credentials entered into Safari to access your feeds. In the future I would like to see settings from within Understudy where you can setup your login and password for the various sites it supports. It’s true that you can login to your feeds in Safari and then minimize the window and forget about it but your login does have a tendency to time out eventually. Adding an interface to Understudy to store your various logins should be of high priority to the plug-in developer.
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I found that Understudy handled all my feeds with very few problems. A couple things to note would be that in both Netflix and Hulu, full screen mode is not fully functional. With Hulu you cannot currently run the player full screen, while in Netflix you can increase your video to cover the full screen, but it’s not actually using the video players full screen functionality. You will, as a result, still see the controls at the bottom of the screen.
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Understudy can be downloaded from their Google Code website. This site can also be used to request features you’d like to see in future versions and/or to track any bug fixes. Installation of the Understudy plug-in is as easy as double clicking the .pkg file once it has finished downloading. The Understudy installer will install the plug-in in the proper location (just be sure to exit FrontRow before installation).
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Overall Understudy fills a very large void in the FrontRow application. It performs as advertised, and in the couple months I’ve been testing, it has crashed or caused FrontRow to lock up only a handful of times. Until Apple decides to add this functionality natively in FrontRow, Understudy does an excellent job of allowing you to stream your favorite videos.