Wednesday, January 09, 2008

HD Distribution

A lot of ink (and even more digital ink) has been spilled over the high def format wars. Will HD-DVD beat out Blu-ray (with WB ditching HD for Blu, it's looking less likely)? Having access to both formats, this doesn't really bother me anyway. What I find vastly premature is misinformed people saying the point is moot anyway since digital distribution will be here soon enough. Some "experts" are predicting that within a few years, everyone will just be downloading their HD movies from some internet service and watching them off hard disks in their entertainment system. I'm sorry but this won't happen for a very long time and I will itemize why.

1) Bandwidth. Currently, a high def movie (especially with complete TrueHD or 5.1 or DTS soundtrack) is many many GBs in size. People's download speeds are simply not up to snuff to acquire this with any expediency. Imagine having to decide what you want to watch...days before watching it. Then you'd have to spend hours and hours to get the download. On top of that, most people have very limiting download caps on their ISPs. A couple of movies would bust your monthly cap, incurring penalties. The entire infrastructure would have to change, as well as the monthly cap system, before this idea of consistently downloading movies could ever exist.

2) Storage. All these movies you'd be downloading would have to be stored somewhere. Some people have extensive movie collections have having a closed box with limited hard disk space is simply unmanageable. Also, there is something that is lost by not having a box to put on a shelf. Unlike music, which is way more disposable, movie boxes are much some useful, if only for information. A CD doesn't have a plot or technical specs that the user needs to know. A movie, on the other hand, has useful information on the box such as what sound formats the movie has, its length, the plot, actors, etc,, all indispensable information that someone might want to quickly see at a glance. Plus, dvd cases look pretty on a shelf.

3) Lending. A great thing about having a physical storage unit for a movie is its versatility. I can bring a movie to a friend's house easily and we can all watch it. Likewise, I can borrow or rent movies and enjoy them, as well. With a download, how is someone supposed to swap films? Its intangible quality doesn't lend itself this type of trading which is a major flaw.

There's a reason books have been around this long and will continue to exist for a long time. There is something comforting about a physical item that represents the entertainment that you are consuming. Having books or in this case, dvd cases, on a shelf also says something about you. If you want to show someone your collection, scrolling through a list on a hard disk isn't very ideal. I think the intangible quality to digital distribution is a big flaw but the major drawback at this point remains the lack of technology and infrastructure to implement it. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, the economics of ISPs will change but until then, expect to keep going to Best Buy and picking up the latest dvds.


Masta said...

WHAT? As one who is uninformed and generally apathetic to the topic, I say with gumption, that I disagree with everything you say. Books are still around because reading an entire book off a screen is a hassle and bad for your eyes. Plus that you can take a book anywhere, without altering the experience significantly, or charging your batteries. If people can upgrade their entire entertainment system, (speakers, screen, player) to play these HD DVD's and Blue Rays, then certainly, given time they will upgrade hard drives and what not, so we'll have storage that could handle a movie collection. With the leaps and bounds that technology has made in recent years solely for the sake of entertainment, do you really believe that bandwidth will remain an obstacle to people who really, want to watch movies?

Having seen all of my movies, 4,5 and sometimes 10 times, I can say that I wouldn't mind having the vast majority of them on a drive somewhere where they wouldn't be taking up so much space. With a few exceptions like my Star Trek collection which has a central position in my living room and yes... my life.

And lending? Lending will be no sweat when everyone has high capacity storage devices. I almost forgot you had dumped all of Teen Titans on my computer at some point. And I lent out SEVERAL entire television SERIES to someone with a portable hard drive. A few years ago I could barely play Duke Nukem on my computer without it crashing. Now you can stream movies from the internet in no time at all. I don't know if it will take a few years, or a decade, but i don't think bandwidth and storage are going to remain obstacles if there's money to be made, or saved. No, Sir. I will not live in the world you describe. A world of limitations, a world without hope, cynical, weak, frail... Someone once told me that we put a man on the moon. If this claim is true, surely, someone will find efficient ways to pirate movies, soon.

Anonymous said...

When you're talking about lending shows, you're talking divx episodes you have. Those are tiny. When these industry people talk about downloads, they're not talking divx stuff. They hate that stuff cuz it's all so easily pirated. They're talking about huge multigig files per episode or movie. Surround sound alone takes up incredible amounts of space. You'd need ridiculously huge storage space for that.

And then you say when everyone has this and that...that's my point. When everyone has it, fine. But that won't be for a long time because storage of the capacity needed isn't around yet and it will be expensive for a long time to come.

And bandwidth is a huge obstacle. The internet providers are making nice money when people bust their download capacities. To be able to download HD content, you'd need unlimited downloads which would suck for the providers. They're not getting money by the purchase of movies. The studios are. So why would they allow people to download all they want, to make others rich? It won't happen.

Also, everyone is going to need the highest speed internet...speeds faster than we have now. It's still difficult in large swathes of the USA to get regular high speed. Imagine the problems with even faster connections?

Too many things have to line up for this to happen anytime soon.

Masta said...

Okay. I accept.

Anonymous said...

It's ok. There's nothing to concede. You were just ill-informed. Of course, this is just my opinion but it's very realistic. The time may very well come to download everything but it won't be anytime soon.

Chicounet said...

I don't know why but when I download Heroes episodes (in HD) they are the same size as the Stargate Atlantis episodes (not HD). And I can clearly see the difference in picture quality... Now why is that?

Anonymous said...

Are you talking about the 350MB downloads? If so, neither of them are in HD. If you're looking for HD divx, an episode is usually twice the file size. Maybe Heroes just has more money to spend on making things look good.