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Craftsy Apple TV 4 App

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In October Apple released version 4 of their set top box, the so called Apple TV. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Apple TV is not a TV itself. It is a set top box for playing content through your HDTV. There are other products on the market such as the Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and Sling TV. They each have similar and different features from one another. Even if you don’t own an Apple TV 4, but are unfamiliar with the Craftsy platform, you still may want to read on. Craftsy classes can be viewed via a web browser on your PC and there are apps for iOS and Android smart phones and tablets. I have found the Craftsy platform is a great way to learn new cooking skills or reinforce skills you have already picked up. There are some great cooking classes, including some specifically related to grilling and smoking foods. They have come at things from a different angle than some of the other online training sites, and this may appeal to many folks.

One of the big features of the new Apple TV 4 is the inclusion of a new operating system that is much more accessible to third party developers. The TvOS operating system allows developers to develop games, entertainment, education, health, news, sports and other types of applications for use with the Apple TV 4. So far my favorite 3rd party app for the Apple TV 4 is the Craftsy app for their crafts themed training classes. With my last two blog entries on the Apple Watch, this blog may seem to be taking a turn towards high tech. But appearances can be deceiving. This blog is all about cooking. Specifically learning about cooking. Even if you don’t own an Apple TV 4, but are unfamiliar with the Craftsy platform, you still may want to read on. Craftsy classes can be viewed via a web browser on your computer and there are apps for iOS and Android smart phones and tablets.

PRIOR BLOGS:
I have written several blog entries about some great Craftsy classes I have taken. In those blogs I describe the user interface and the features of these classes. Rather than repeat myself here, I will say you should refer to these other blog entries for in-depth descriptions of the Crafty classes. Here in this entry, I will cover the platform in general with some specifics on how it works on the Apple TV.


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LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - PT. 1 This class is taught by Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ. Part 1 of this blog entry describes the Craftsy user interface and user experience.
LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - PT. 2 Part 2 of this blog entry focusses on the class itself and gives you an idea of the structure of the Craftsy courses.
THE ART OF STIR FRYING - ONLINE COURSE Who better to teach a class on Stir Frying than Grace Young? She is the author of the cookbooks that got me started down the road to stir frying on my Big Green Egg.

CRAFTSY PLATFORM:
I am really positive about Craftsy classes. Now before you think I am some paid shill for them, let me set the record straight: I have no affiliation with Craftsy what so sever. I put my money where my mouth is. I have 26 classes all told and all but 3 or 4 are paid classes.

CRAFTSY-What it is? - Craftsy is an online based service offering video training classes for arts and crafts based topics: Cooking, Cake Decorating, Art, Photography, Knitting, Quilting,Gardening etc. The full paid classes are typically 4-5 hours long and are shot in High Definition with high production values. There are several aspects of their classes that help differentiate them from many of their competitors.

CRAFTSY DIFFERENCE 1-You Own the Class - Many online training sites charge a monthly or yearly membership fee to belong to the site. While you are a member you get access to the videos on the site. You must maintain this membership to continue to view the videos going forward. If you are continuously taking classes this may work out for you. But if you take a couple classes, you are faced with continuing the membership to maintain access to the classes you took. With Craftsy there is no ongoing membership fee. Whatever classes you choose to buy, you own. You do NOT have to download them if you don’t want to. You can stream them from the website or through the Craftsy apps. But at any time you have the option of downloading any or all of your classes. I like this pay as you go with ownership approach. I sometimes download one of my classes onto my laptop or iPad to have with me when I travel.

CRAFTSY DIFFERENCE 2-Social Platform - The Craftsy platform was set up from the beginning and from the ground up to be a social platform. You are able to interact with the class instructors by posting questions in the class message board. You can also post your photos of your results on class projects. Other users can comment and answer your questions as well. This is a mixed blessing for me. I tend to shy away from the social aspects of the platform because they can be a huge black hole for your time. But many folks really like all of this social interaction and you are free to use it or not. I have taken advantage of the ability to ask the instructors questions, and the replies come quite quickly.

CLASSES:
Here are some of the features of the Craftsy classes.

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CLASSES-High Production Values - These classes are very well done with high production values. They are all shot in High Definition and look great on whatever device you use. I was amazed at how great they look when I viewed them on my 46” (116 cm) HDTV through the new Apple TV Craftsy app. They are as sharp as any source material I have ever viewed on this TV. They are well lit, with good sound and the shots are staged to give you a great view of the action. You might say that all of this should be expected. True enough, but it isn’t always the case.

CLASSES-Good Instructors - Classes are only as good as the people teaching the classes. The instructors for the cooking classes are often authors of cookbooks on that topic or cooks who teach classes on the subject. While some instructors are better than others, you always feel they have a good command of the material they are teaching. Some of the classes are offered by companies in the field. There are classes on baking offered by King Arthur Flour and cooking classes by Sur La Table. I have attended real world classes offered by both companies and they have been excellent. The Craftsy classes by these companies are the same. They are NOT excuses for product placement or hard sells for their products. Sure they may use one of their own products, but they are not doing a blatant sales pitch for their brand. In some cases I couldn’t have asked for a better instructor. I mean a Stir Fry class taught by Grace Young? It doesn’t get better than this. I just picked up a course based on the Artisan Bread in Minutes taught by one of the co-authors of the real cookbook.

CLASSES-Seeing and HEARING is Important - One of the things that Grace Young’s Stir Fry class emphasized is hearing the sound the food makes is a key to success. These classes allow you to hear the proper sounds made when the food hits a properly heated cooking vessel.

CLASSES-30 Second Repeat Button - The user interface for Craftsy includes a 30 second repeat button. While this button is depressed the last 30 seconds of the video is replayed over and over. This comes in handy if you are having trouble understanding a step.

APPLE TV v4 APP:
On the day of release of the Apple TV 4 Craftsy had an app in the TvOS store. The App has a subset of the features of the Craftsy iOS apps. It has the features that you can easily use through a TV set top box with a touchscreen remote and no keyboard.

APPLE TV APP - Menu Structure - When you first launch the Craftsy Apple TV app you are greeted with a startup screen with 4 menus at the top. Depending on which of the 4 menus you have selected the material below the menu changes to the items pertinent to that menu. The 4 Menus, from left to right, are as follows:


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  • CATEGORIES: This is where you can search for and explore the classes available. There are 8 graphics or buttons to choose from. There are 6 graphics for the categories of classes offered: Sewing & Quilting, Cakes & Cooking, Yarn & Fiber Arts, Art & Photo, Home & Garden and More. There are two large buttons to look at just the Newest classes or the Free classes. If you are signed in to your Craftsy account (via the Account Menu) you can purchase paid classes or enroll in free classes. When you click on one of the 6 Categories you are taken to a screen with buttons/graphics at the top to select the Newest and On Sale classes for that category and sub-categories of classes for the category.



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  • MY CLASSES: The second menu from the left is the My Classes menu where you go to select one of your classes to view. There are the main splash screen graphics and as you maneuver the cursor over the graphic, that graphic enlarges and had the triangular play button paper in the middle. The title of the class appears below the highlighted class. Clicking on the highlighted graphic take you to the information page for that class. There is a list of lessons you can scroll through to select what you wish to view.



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  • MY WISHLIST: The third button is where any classes you have added to your Wishlist appear. These classes frequently go on sale. If a class you are interested in is not currently on sale, you can add it to your Wishlist for when it is on sale.



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  • MY ACCOUNT: The fourth and rightmost button is where you go to sign in to your Craftsy Account. You can also choose to sign out here if you wish. When you are signed in to your account, The My Classes and My Wishlist screens are populated with your material.



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APPLE TV APP - Viewing a Class - When you go into one of your classes you can use the Apple TV remote to view a class. You have 3 choices available. Clicking on the classes splash screen icon on the left half of the screen allows you to continue from the point you left off. Going over to the right side there is a vertically scrolling list where you can chose to start from the beginning or pick a particular lesson (chapter) to start from. Once you are viewing a lesson you can scrub through it using the touch pad on the remote to pick a spot you wish to jump to. There is NOT a button for the 30 second repeat feature when using this app on the Apple TV. However there are two alternative methods that apps made for the Apple TV can use. The first is when you click on the left or right edge of the touch pad of the remote, you can jump back or jump ahead in 10 second intervals. You can also click on the Siri button on the remote and say: “Go back xx seconds” or “Go forward yy seconds”. Since I usually use the 30 second repeat button to repeat a segment once and once only, I don’t miss it with the alternatives provided.


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APPLE TV APP - Viewing Experience - I have mentioned this several times, but it bears repeating. The picture quality of the classes when viewed through the Apple TV on an HDTV is amazing. The picture is as crisp and clear as anything I have played through this TV. Also you would never know it is being streamed. Very short buffering time and no pixillation or motion artifact of any kind. I have been re-viewing many of my classes on the Apple TV since purchasing it back in October.

APPLE TV APP - What is Missing - The items that are missing are missing for a good reason. Most people are not going to have a printer or keyboard attached to their Apple TV. So the following items are not part of the Craftsy app on the Apple TV.

  • RECIPES: You can’t print out the recipes from an Apple TV. You can use your desktop or laptop computer to print the class materials. If you have the appropriate free Craftsy apps for your Apple or Android smartphone or tablets you can also print from these. This of course assumes you have set up a way to print with these devices on your network
  • SOCIAL ASPECTS: You can not access the social features of the Craftsy platform such as posting questions to the instructor, making comments, posting photos, accessing the Craftsy blog etc. Again you can easily access these from your computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • 30 SECOND REPEAT: There is no button to do the 30 second repeat like there is on the Craftsy app on the other platforms. The Apple TV remote has a somewhat similar feature you can use. If you press the very left or right edge of the touchpad area of the Apple TV remote you can jump forward or backward in 10 second intervals. The 30 second repeat feature of the Craftsy app on other platforms repeats the last 30 seconds over and over until you press the button a second time. To be honest the few times I’ve used this feature, I have only wanted/needed to revisit the segment once. So for me this not a big deal, what is provided works fine for me.

APPLE TV APP - What is Better - The Apple TV app also has several advantages to viewing the classes on other platforms.

  • LARGE SCREEN VIEWING: These videos look great on a large screen. I often view the classes on the Apple TV from start to finish for my first viewing. I use this first look to get familiar with the topic and scout out what recipes I might want to try. When I get serious about doing the recipe I may view it one last time on the Apple TV, and then head out to the Kitchen with my iPad.
  • BETTER CONTROL: I find the touch screen remote of the Apple TV 4 is very precise and I can quickly scrub to the point I want to go to. The ease of navigation with the touch screen remote seems to be quicker and more precise than the track pad of my laptop or using touch on my iPhone and iPad.
  • SIRI VOICE CONTROL: The remote for the Apple TV has voice control capabilities. So many of the navigation moves you’ll want to make can be done by pressing the Siri button on the remote. If you know the right commands this can be the most precise way to navigate.

APPLE TV APP - Rough Edges - TvOS and all of the apps for the Apple TV 4 are version 1.0. Some of the apps feel more like late betas, but software updates should address this type of issue. Here are a couple hiccups I’ve run into with the Craftsy app:

  • MIS-LABELLED HEADERS: A few of the category headers have labels for other categories instead of the correct label. This should be easily fixed.
  • BLACK HOLE: Matter goes into a black hole and never comes out. A similar thing happens if you let a class play through to the very end of the final chapter. Instead of dumping you back out to the main screen for that class or the My Classes screen you are dumped into a black hole. You get a blank screen with nothing at all on it. No navigation buttons, nothing telling you where you are. Worse yet none of the normal navigation buttons work. You can’t go up a level, or go up to the home screen of the Apple TV. What I did find still works is the Siri dictation buttons, which can be used to get you somewhere else. Once again I am expecting this will be corrected shortly. If it happens to you, think Siri.


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FREE CLASSES:
If you are interested in learning more about Craftsy classes there are some free course you can take. This will allow you to sample the user interface and try out some classes. You will have to create an account with a user name and password. Your Craftsy account will be associated with your iTunes account for payment purposes. Since Craftsy originated on the Mac OS and iOS platforms and now has moved to TvOS, most current Craftsy users will already have an iTunes account as part of setting up these devices. I am not sure what the arrangements are now that Craftsy has Android apps available. But I am sure it is easy to do. Once you have your account setup, you can look for classes in the various categories and there will be a button to display both the Free and On Sale Classes. Be aware that some of these Free classes are mini courses with less content than the paid classes. But they will give you an idea of the features and capabilities of the Craftsy platform.


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