Today I thought that I'd address the issue of movies appearing on physical media (DVDs, Blu-ray discs) as opposed to more "etherial" formats, like streaming.
As a cinephile with a considerable investment in my home theater system, I come down on the side of those who contend that movies are not going to look as good--particularly on a large screen or monitor--when they are compressed to accommodate the current bandwidth capacity of "streaming" services like NetFlix and other downloading services offer.
I realize that our society is making a transition from "ownership" to "access." And we're certainly becoming a more "mobile" populace, in which we send & receive email, check the weather, watch a friend's YouTube posting, comment on our loved ones' Facebook pages, and so forth--all on a smartphone or iPad or other mobile device.
Perhaps because I think of film as literature, I believe that one should sit and watch a film--in its best possible presentation--and give it the attention that it merits. The compressed form in which movies can currently be downloaded don't satisfy that criterion, as least not for me. Perhaps on a mobile device's tiny screen, downloading a compressed image suffices. After all, what's the point of 1080p high definition resolution on something that is the size of, say, my wallet?
But such compression, I fear, flies in the face of the wonderful restoration efforts that many studios now devote to cleaning up their older films. Is it possible for one to truly appreciate how a movie whose original camera negative has been scanned digitally at a high resolution looks on a small screen? Perhaps it's a case of apples and oranges; in other words, the folks who are "catching a movie" on the run aren't concerned as much with picture quality as the cinephiles who watch a movie in the Blu-ray format at 1080p resolution on their high-definition televisions. They're totally different audiences, with different expectations regarding movies. Or maybe they're the same people, who simply have different needs at different times.
I know that friends of mine have talked about the minimization of "streaming bottlenecks" now that broadband networks are increasingly the norm. And I'm told that "cloud streaming" eliminates many of the compression issues that trouble me.
Still, I myself am someone who purchases movies on Blu-ray disc format. Maybe it's just a matter of my feeling that the physical format affords me something that is tangible (even though, of course, the movie itself is stored digitally on the disc), less fleeting and temporary than a movie that I could stream via NetFlix.
Again, my more mobile-friendly colleagues tell me that I'm fooling myself if I think that the physical formats which I espouse are not "fleeting." Over time, they tell me, physical changes like oxidation will render my assumed "permanent" collection "inpermanent." Nothing is forever. Still, with proper care and storage, I am hopeful that I'll be able to enjoy my physical movie collection for a considerably long period of time.
But who am I kidding, really? Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that, I suppose, in a few years I may be composing a blog entry in which I state that I prefer watching my movies by some other means, on some other formats.
Until next time..