How to remotely control someone elses video playback?
March 16, 2011 11:51 PM   Subscribe

How do i go about watching a movie with a friend when we are in different states? I'm now in Bris-vegas and my mate is in Melbourne and we'd like to kick back, watch a movie or two while drinking a few beers and have a chat like we always have done. But each in the comfort of our own lounge rooms 1300km apart.

So we've set up skype which is good for the face to face talking but what we'd ideally want is to also have some way to control each others movie player over the internet so that everything stays in sync even when , for instance, I stop it 15 minutes in to mention some tangentially related tid-bit of news that an onscreen event has just reminded me of.

Streaming from one pc to another has occurred to me but sounds unnecessarily bandwidth intensive, especially as we'd want skype running simultaneously.

I guess that we can set up some sort of remote desktop control program but it feels like hitting a nail with a jackhammer.

This whole problem sounds to me like the sort of thing other people have come across in the past and, hopefully, have come up with a clean and elegant solution. Unfortunately google isn't turning up any useful hits... Any ideas would be awesome!
posted by jcm to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
skype lets you share desktops, which would be one way of doing it. You wouldn't want to have video chat running at the same time, since it would take up valuable screen real estate, but if you had sound on, you can talk.
posted by lollusc at 12:08 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: yeah what we'd probably do is dual desktop, one output to the tv/projector and one to a monitor for skype...
posted by jcm at 12:15 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: ah sorry, i misunderstood. The preference would be to run the movie separately at each location so that sound and video would be at their best. The only sharing would be the control of starting and stopping.
posted by jcm at 12:18 AM on March 17, 2011

If you're both Netflix subscribers you could pick one of the movies they stream and each start it at the same time. Come to think of it, you could do that with any "On Demand" service as well, though this probably occurred to you already.
posted by Mertonian at 1:06 AM on March 17, 2011

If you happen to have Xbox 360's you can use Live Party along with Netflix. I've done it a few times with relative success.
posted by lantius at 1:29 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: unfortunately netflix isn't available in aus. And i'm not sure VOD is the solution we're looking for in any case.
The perfect solution would enable either of us to press space on our keyboard and pause each others movie. Keeping things in sync is the main aim as it will cut down on messy skype echos and just lead to an all round better experience..
posted by jcm at 2:09 AM on March 17, 2011

After doing a little more digging, it looks like the ever-handy VLC can be coaxed into doing something like this. Documentation seems sparse, but there is a netsync module that appears to let you synchronize the playback across multiple running instances.
posted by lantius at 2:58 AM on March 17, 2011

Given the inherent delay in Skype, you're going to get echoes either way. Best just use earphones.
posted by alexei at 4:15 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't share a desktop and don't try and stream. The lag is going to be absolutely horrible.

Just download the same AVI and hit play at the same time. That's the absolute best you're going to get.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do this with a friend. We synchronize with some internet time server (e.g. in the US) "ok, hit play at :00." and we do voice chat over skype (wear headphones). We each have a copy of whatever it is.
posted by zeek321 at 5:36 AM on March 17, 2011

SeeToo might work.
posted by jedicus at 7:12 AM on March 17, 2011

If you don't manage to find a way to actually control playback remotely, maybe you could agree on a signal to skip back 30 seconds or so?
VLC will let you jump about in adjustable increments, and if you both skip back the same amount, it doesn't matter if you don't do it simultaneously, it will effectively be like pausing for that amount of time. That said, I'm not sure how accurate the skipping is, so unless you're using headphones it's likely you'd still get some echoing.
posted by lucidium at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2011

I still haven't used it, but this is exactly what view2gether is designed to do. If you try it, let us know how it works -- I've been wondering about it for a while.
posted by tangerine at 2:32 PM on March 17, 2011

I've done this a few times. Just synchronise, say go, and hit play. If one of you wants to stop shout pause. You wont be perfectly in synch, but as long as you're within 10-20 seconds you're not gonna be spoiling any related chat.
posted by fire&wings at 3:34 PM on March 17, 2011

I guess that we can set up some sort of remote desktop control program but it feels like hitting a nail with a jackhammer.

Also, the video will end up choppy as hell.

To control each others' players, you could use mplayer, and then ssh into each others' machines, and use the keyboard controls. This will probably be easiest on an operating system that ends in an 'x'.
posted by pompomtom at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2011

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