Workshop: Chess Media System

by ChessBase
10/31/2003 – The latest Fritz8 service pack upgrade, available when you log on to the Playchess server, adds a significant new feature to Fritz: the Chess Media System. This week's ChessBase Workshop gives you the technical details on how to make sure your Media System upgrade is properly installed. Workshop...

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by Steve Lopez

By now you're doubtless aware that upgraded Fritz versions are available for download on the Playchess server. Most of these upgrades contain simple "tweaks" that are transparent to the user: new driver support for the latest video cards or perhaps a couple of small changes to the Fritz engine. But once in a while the programmers add a major new feature to the program; such is the case with the latest Fritz upgrade. The new upgrade adds a major new feature to the Fritz8 program: the Chess Media System.

The Chess Media System allows ChessBase to create true "streaming multimedia" content, including live lessons via the Internet. In the original multimedia system (which is still active and available in the program) multimedia such as sound, pictures, and video could be added to a database game for an enhanced learning experience (or just some cheap chuckles, as in the infamous "Strip Chess" parody I created, but which only a few people have actually seen). In the old system separate multimedia files were attached to individual moves. For example, you might be playing through a game from ChessBase Magazine when a video window pops up at a certain move displaying a GM discussing why that move was made. When the video ends, you close the video window and proceed through the game. A couple of moves later, another video window might pop open with that same GM providing further commentary.

But these were separate videos which were linked to particular individual moves. What makes the Chess Media System different is that the video content is continuous. When you open a game which contains media content in the new format, a video window opens immediately. The video's subject (the player, the host, whatever term you want to use) starts talking -- you see and hear him/her. They start their presentation, making moves on the chessboard -- these moves appear on your chessboard in Fritz. They can use colored arrows and squares and these, too, appear on your board. In effect, you have a chessplayer at your side, talking to you and manipulating the display on your screen to illustrate their points. You don't get distracting popup windows opening and closing all the time -- the entire sequence is continuous.

I'd read a bit about this feature online and wasn't sure what to expect. But now that I've seen the Chess Media System in action, I'll admit that I'm impressed. When I first heard (and participated in) discussions on the then-future ChessBase multimedia capabilities, this is what I'd envisioned.

We'll look at this new system in two parts. The first will describe how to set up the system (yes, some preparation is required, but it's painless). The next will talk about the system itself: what you can expect to see when you run it.

Before we begin, a small bit of clarification is in order. Yes, I've been talking about using it in the Fritz program, but the Chess Media System is available in any of the current members of the Fritz family of playing programs (Hiarcs9, Junior8, etc.). Any of the programs which use the ChessProgram 8 GUI will be able to make use of this system. But, for brevity's sake, I will be referring to Fritz throughout these articles.

You're first step should be to launch your copy of Microsoft Windows Media Player and check the version number. Fire up Media Player, go to the Help menu, and select About Windows Media Player. Check the version number which will be displayed in the popup window -- it should start with a "9". If it doesn't, you must upgrade to version 9 before the Chess Media System will work. Get online, go to Media Player's Help menu again and select Check for Player Updates. This will connect you to the Microsoft site where you'll be able to download the latest Media Player upgrade. I can't give you a hard and fast rule on how long this will take -- much depends on your current operating system, which version of Media Player you presently have installed, and the speed of your Interrant connection. It took me about 25 minutes at 56.6k. (And, by the way, if you watch/play a lot of audio/video on your machine, this is a worthwhile upgrade anyway -- version 9 has some nice new features).

You'll probably have to restart your computer after installing the Media Player upgrade. Once it's rebooted, get back online, start your Fritz program, and select from the initial "splash" screen. Log in (and note that you don't need to have an account for this; you can log in as a "Guest" and still get the upgrade), go to the Help menu and select Query Upgrade. The program will look at your current version and determine if an upgrade is available. If you need to upgrade, a popup window will inform you of the fact and allow you to start the upgrade. Once again, you should allow some time for this if you don't have a broadband connection: at 56.6 the current upgrade takes about 30 minutes to download.

Once you've upgraded your program, you may have to restart your computer; you'll be prompted for this, so go ahead and follow the prompt's instructions. Once your machine has rebooted, that's it! You're done. The Chess Media System has been added to your Fritz program and is ready to run.

If you're a subscriber to ChessBase Magazine, issue number 96 contains the Fritz upgrade in the /Updates/Fritz8 folder. Just run the setup.exe file to install the upgrade.

CBM 96 also contains some Chess Media System files for you to watch. That's what we'll examine in next week's ChessBase Workshop: what you'll see when you fire up one of the new media files. Until then, have fun!

© 2003, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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