Long Live Physical Media

Wanting physical media to die is valiant. But the fact is that BluRay is a very convenient way to store the huge chunks of data that is high def movies. Think of this.. if you only rent movies via netflix or apple tv.. you’re never going to get a high quality bandwidth stream. Even watching movies on HD TV is a low bandwidth stream. With current compression technologies (mp4) a good quality stream takes no less than 20 and more like 25 to 30 mps. The best network connection available at my house is pulling down about 20 megs, which isn’t quite enough.. and that’s a burst speed. Sustained, especially if everyone in my neighborhood was doing it simultaneously on a ‘friday movie night’, wouldn’t provide instant access or even same night access. Even when a connection in my modern city gets significantly faster (years and years from now) the connection in less modern cities won’t yet.

Lower bandwidth steams.. like a sub- 5 mps stream of a 720p apple tv rental.. actually looks pretty good. And it’s fine for a lot of viewing.. including sitcoms, kids shows, animation.. but what about when I want to watch the next big action movie like Inception or Batman. I want to see that in real 1920 hd, high bandwidth 1080p. Otherwise why even buy a 1080p tv? If all you’re gonna watch is youtube videos blown up to full screen.. why not just buy a 720p tv?

People accept crappy video…

Or what about this argument? Most of the population can’t tell the difference between good video and bad video.. they’re used to watching low bandwidth crap on youtube.. not to mention all the problems you see daily on professional digital tv: dropped frames, weird non-standard frame rates, and aspect ratio issues.   So for most people the convenience of instant access digital rentals overcomes the slightly less quality that the download rentals has.  Cause they don’t even know that it’s bad video.  Well smarty pants, the problem with that argument is the same.. again, there’s no reason to buy high quality 1080p tv’s. How to do you sell new tv’s.. 3d tv’s.. to a public that is trained that HD doesn’t matter? Why buy an HD TV if there’s no BluRay to watch on it? Live Sports? Not enough reason for me.

Of course the way it’s done is with double talk and lies.  Sell the idea they need high quality HD TV’s and then sell that the crappy low quality video that they’re renting is ‘high quality’ by labeling it as HD – even though it’s not true HD.  But somewhere in there I still think it falls apart.  The price of BluRay media does scare people off… but without it at least being there, you do lose half the need for the HD TV.

The way of CDs…

If you’re one that uses the argument of looking at music and the death of the CD to see into the future of movies to predict the death of BD’s, think of this:  The two things are very similar in some ways but also very different.  First, the way that music is consumed is completely different from the way that movies are consumed.  The business models are completely different.  With music, the model had been that you heard it on the radio and then wanted to hear more of it and bought the album.  It’s similar today, except that the radio is now also youtube videos, and facebook, XM, Pandora, etc.  Music is extremely consumable, and repeat listens makes you want to listen even more.  It’s a first one’s free model.

Not counting the radio in your car, the digital music you listen to is basically split into two groups: streaming music services like Pandora, and downloaded music like iTunes.  All the music that you “own” on iTunes is stored on your computer. It’s all there on that physical media called your hard drive.  This allows you to load it on your iPhone or iPod and take it with you, which is what you do with music.  It also allows you to have a hard drive crash and lose it all, having to repurchase it all over again.  Something that has happened to several of my friends.

I like owning stuff…

The point is that although volatile, you can own music and you have it on your drive.  And for me, this makes me feel like I bought it and can listen to it whenever and where ever I want.  You would never agree to pay to rent a song each time you listen to it.  It’s ridiculous!  Of course you do listen to music over and over exponentially more times than repeat watches of movies.  So again, the models are very different.  But the feeling about purchasing an album and purchasing a movie is the same.

Why buy if you can rent…

Some don’t see the need to buy if you can rent.  I for one like watching things more than once, and paying to rent the same thing multiple times gets old fast.  I’ll watch a good movie at least twice.  My daughter will watch her shows many many times… and I’d rather pay to own that stuff once than paying to rent the same thing 10 times.

What about all you can eat download services like Netflix?  I sort of discount it because the quality is SO bad.  And I don’t think the studios are in love with Netflix downloads either.  Where’s long term profit for that model?  If anything and everything was available on netflix and if the quality was good enough.. how do they continue to make a profit on old library titles?  The studios will never get rid of rent or purchase models and put their entire libraries on a one price all you can watch download service.  It’ll never happen.

Back to buying, but digital downloads…

So I guess buying digital downloads is the answer?  Well, what if we did purchase digital moves, downloaded them to own and they were a decent bandwidth, like 20mps?  I don’t have too much of a problem with that as long as the DRM is open and usable enough that I can actually play them on a multitude of devices… at least all apple devices for me, but I’d prefer more.  Still, where do you store them all?  You’re back to physical media of some kind.  On hard drives I guess? A 2TB hard drive can hold about 100 HD movies at 20mps (assuming around an hour each).  So that’s not bad, for about $100. But then you gotta back them up or a drive crash could lose them. No way that the seller (iTunes or whoever) is going to let you re-download 100 movies at 2TB again for free.  So you have to mirror the drive for another $100.  At today’s rates that makes storage cost about $2 a movie.  And don’t forget that a hard drive is still physical media.. it’s still something that you have to store somewhere and it’s a lot less portable than a BluRay disk.

Long Live Physical Media…

The fact is that BluRay as “physical media” for movies is very convenient. It’s very portable.  It’s a small package to hold a movie, bonus features, etc. but not so small that it’s easily lost (like an SD card).  It can be loaned out.  Played in players in homes, cars, where ever.  It provides great quality for movies.  And it gives electronics manufacturers a reason to sell all those 1080P tv’s. So I wouldn’t wish the death of BluRay just yet.

One thought on “Long Live Physical Media

  1. I’m with you 100% except for the CD part, I still buy CD’s and will continue buy them until there is another mass-market physical media alternative (which will likely be never, and I prefer the sound of CD”s to the sound of vinyl LP’s, which makes me a bad hipster, I suppose).

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