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A physical media guy in a digital media world

By today’s standards, I’m a throwback, a relic, a technological luddite. Why? Because I enjoy owning movies. No, not “owning” the right to watch a downloaded movie—as you might “buy” from iTunes or Amazon—but owning the actual physical disc that stores the movie’s encoded bits. But why, you might ask?

First off, I like everything about the physical product itself, from the case’s design to the cover art to the inserts in the case. Many are boring and bland, of course, but some are truly wonderful.

Consider The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Trilogy; the image at right doesn’t do the case justice, as it’s stunning in person. And when you open it up, you’re treated to a wealth of extra content, as seen in these customer photos on Amazon.

Sure, you can get the same thing on iTunes, for the same $49.99…but you can’t experience the product’s physical extras, nor easily share them with someone else. All you can do is share the onscreen experience with others. Try using the Lord of the Rings maps while watching the movie, for instance. It works, but only if you’re using a computer while watching the movie on a TV or another computer.

Or consider the three-disc Blu-ray edition of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone that comes in a very nice case, with printed inserts. (Again, the customer photos show more than does the stock Amazon photography.) You won’t get this experience with the digital-only alternative.

I guess I’m just hooked on the tactile feel, appearance, and “solidity” of the physical media. But that’s not all.

I also like that many movies offer multiple versions; so for movies that appeal to adults and kids (i.e. Pixar), we keep the DVD version with the kids’ stuff, and the Blu-ray version in the “parents only” collection. I also like taking discs to friends’ homes for movie parties, or just loaning them out. None of this is easily possible with a digital-only movie.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Just another luddite, afraid to make the digital jump,” right?

Actually, that’s not it at all: I love the digital versions, too, because of their flexibility. I can “take” them almost anywhere, and watch them almost anywhere. But I want those versions in addition to the physical versions, not in lieu of the physical versions. That way, if something happens to the authorizing agency down the line, my movies won’t all vanish in a puff of digital smoke. If I can’t buy a movie with a usable digital version, I just make my own (but that’s a story for another day).

I do make exceptions at times, of course. When Apple sold a bunch of movie collections on the cheap, I took advantage. And recently, I discovered that I can get an HD version of the not on Blu-ray Real Genius, but only via the iTunes Store. So I’ll be purchasing that, as it’s not likely we’ll see a Blu-ray version any time soon.

But outside of those exceptions, I will always (until there’s no way to do so) prefer to purchase the physical version of a movie over the digital-only version. Call me a throwback, a dinosaur, a stuck-in-the-00s guy if you must, but I love my physical media plus digital versions; I really find it’s the best of both worlds.

5 Comments

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  1. You only rent the digital version, you can never buy, because the DRM servers can go away at any time, legally, with no compensation to you “the purchaser”.

    Walmart did this some time ago [turned off their DRM servers for their online video/music service], and only after a big uproar did they decide to refund peoples money, which they were NOT obligated to do.

    And it’s in the TOS of every video service, that the service can be discontinued at any time, and no refund is due.

  2. That’s why I make my own digital versions, just in case the studio-provided versions stop working some time. (How to do that with a Blu-ray is a coming-soon article here.)

  3. While you mention multiple quite valid reasons for valuing Blu’s over streaming video, (I personally love the extras you get in some Blu’s of director or other audio commentary tracks), you left off one item that’s a biggie for me: PQ.

    If you’ve got a decent sized teevee, there is a noticeable PQ advantage to Blu’s over “HD” streams. The bit-rate of Blu’s is much, much higher, and with a decent sized teevee, that bit-rate advantage really does make a difference that the average viewer can perceive.

    However, unlike you, I’m not quite as addicted to purchasing. I find renting Blu’s from Netflix via mail to satisfy me for many flicks. But I do purchase certain titles as well.

    (BTW, see, I’m not a confrontation semi-jerk on most topics under the sun…)

  4. I’m actually working on a picture quality piece right now, as a matter of fact. And you’re right, I should have mentioned that. I also probably should have clarified that we don’t buy everything—I only buy movies that we feel are keepers, and we’re quite happy to rent the others.

    -rob.

  5. I never use digitalcopies. I dont even know how to nd have no intention of watching on any portable device

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