Friday, June 12, 2009

Rant Alert: Physical Media Vs Downloable Content

In the last few days I have started to get very angry with the number of people who have asked for my opinion regarding the future of home entertainment only to lambaste me with information about how digital downloads are going to be the future and you won't be able to buy discs anymore etc etc.

I say what a load of crap.

Whilst the music industry may have suffered a loss and a kick in the teeth with the invention of the mp3, people still buy CD's. Not as many people, but they still do.... in fact I would say most people who do not purchase their music on a physical disc fall into 3 camps. The first are pirates who don't pay for anything anyways so really they don't count. The second are those who use ipods, or other personal audio devices that link to a PC or MAC. The third are the ones who can't find that elusive album anywhere in the physical world and as an absolute last resort (or because its easier) they pay to download it.

MP3 is not as good as a CD. PERIOD. If you are listening to your music on an ipod or headphone based system you do not get to argue with me about this. If you are listening to your music on an all-in-one sound system or Bose lifestyle system you also don't get to argue with me. Sure 80% of people claim they can't hear the difference, but there are so many factors as to why this may be the case that I am not going to argue. MP3 cannot be as good as CD and that is a technical FACT. (look up Lossy compression to find out why)

I had the pleasure for 5 years of my life, working in a HIFI store, and not somewhere like JBHIFI or Harvey Norman, but a specialist HIFI store. We dealt with products designed to do only one thing. Recreate music the way it was meant to be heard. When you listen to an MP3 on a $10,000 sound system (and $10,000 is not expensive by the way) it sounds like the music was recorded underwater and then the recording was dragged by 8 horses across the country on a gravel road. Now don't get me wrong, CD is still nowhere near the best format for listening to music, but it is by far the best quality you can get main stream. Now I am not expecting everyone to rush out and spend $10,000 on a sound system; and I appreciate that the reason MP3's have become so popular is its ease of use and lack of physical space requirement, but to this day people still buy CD's. Why? and does sound quality play a part? well, actually, I don't think it does. I think people like to get something for their money. If I am going to spend $30 on something, I want to be able to hold it in my hand, read the back cover for track listings or band biographies in the booklet. I want to have something physical. Not to mention that if I have an ipod or some such, I can just rip the disc to mp3 anyways, but I will always have the original. (don't even think about telling me I can burn mp3's to CD so my argument is mute. See my rant above about sound quality of Mp3)

wow, this post is already quite long and I haven't even got to movies.

Blu-ray disc will be here to stay for quite some time. So will DVD. Movie downloads may come into play, but they will never fully succed or replace a physical media device. Escpecially not anytime soon.

Last week DVD sales accounted for 87% of the home movie market. Blu-ray accounted for 12% and digital downloads..... 1% thats right.....1 %

Blu-ray sales were up 81.72% compared with this time last year, whilst DVD sales were down 17.58% Digital Delivery, whilst up was only 32%

One of the biggest issues is with delivery. Most people do not have a lot of bandwidth available to them. To download a movie in Blu-ray disc quality is going to cost you upwards of 25GIG, that is going to take a few hours even at some of the fastest internet speeds currently available!

What do they do to fix this.....compress the title. What does that mean? Well, it means a reduction in quality....can you see the difference? Well, a blind test conducted by the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (or CEDIA) says you can. They got participants to look at 2 systems setup and configured identically except for source material. The first source was a Blu-ray, the second was a high definition MP4 file downloaded using Apple TV - both of the same feature film. The results: 92% said the Blu-ray looked better!!

You can read more about this test here

If you want to watch your movie on an ipod or PSP, fine download a crappy compressed copy from itunes (although a number of companies are now providing digital versions with the physical copy!), but for actual Flat Panel and Home Theater Style movie watching you cannot get anything in a download that remotely comes close to the picture quality of a Blu-ray, add to that the joy of actually being able to physically hold the product in your hand.

DVD won't be gone anytime soon either....with so many discs available at such greatly reduced prices, those that can't see the difference or those that don't feel paying the extra for Blu-ray is worth it, will still lap up DVD products for years to come.

There is so much going on in the world today that none of these types of arguments seem really worth spending the time on.

Like so many other arguments I will end this one with...."why can't we all just get along"

Each format has its own reason for existence. If having all 3 remains profitable, then why can't we just keep them, why does a specific format or delivery service have to win?!?!

What are your thoughts or comments?


Jen said...

I just wrote a huge reply and Blogger crapped out and didn't post it. I'll sum up. People are lazy shits who want ease of access. They've been sacrificing quality on music for years, why would they care about movies? Not that many films need to be seen on Blu-ray either. With the new NBN (fiber optic broadband network) in AU it's only going to make this type of thing easier. Just like the record companies that suffered huge losses due to resisting legitimate downloading of their music, so shall film companies and most know it. I'm not saying it's right, that's just how it is. Resistance is futile!!! :)Even my 67 year old mother is on facebook every day and loves "the youtube". Blu-ray looks incredible but paying $2.99 to stream it at a lower quality as opposed to paying $40 per disc, I think people will choose the former. People are also cheap as well as lazy. Plus, there are the pirates who I think most definitely count because in most cases, the people who do this won't rent or buy the film. Studies have shown though that they do, IF they like it. It's the new try before you buy, but that's another argument. Cool article but I honestly don't believe that DVD and Blu-ray will not be replaced in the coming years. I think people figured out that VHS to DVD to Blu-ray = ways to screw the consumer out of big $$$. I already tried to replace my film collection on DVD and I'll be damned if I'll do the same on Blu-ray only to have it disappear in 5 years. And I'm a huge movie buff! I could go on forever...but I won't!

Anamnesis said...

The thing to note here, is that MP3 has not in any way shape or form replaced the CD. The CD is nowhere near being fazed out, so to think for a second that DVD or Blu-ray won't exist in as little as 5 years is a little rash. Movie downloads will become popular, of this I do not doubt, nor am I arguing, but it will not replace physical media. People with screens larger that 40" will pay for Blu-ray over the quality of anything available digitally at present. I don't for a second believe people are willing to compromise both sound and picture quality simply to save $2 or $3 dollars. Blu-ray prices are plumeting (You can pick up discs for $13 now!), why bother downloading and paying $$ when the Blu-ray also comes with a digital copy for your Ipod, PSP or Laptop anyway? And If you do go entirely digital, what happens to your movie collection when your Hard Drive fails (and it will)? Or when they change the digital rights management, or you want to upgrade your operating system, but can't because the movie certificates won't transfer. These issues already exist for people with their music will be worse with movies. What happens when you want to take a movie to a friends house to watch? You can't because again the DRM is going to stop you. Sure, you can illegally download or crack the DRM, but would you really be willing to go to all that trouble? And whilst I imagine there are a lot of tech savvy grandparents out there, for everyone of them is 5 that are still using VHS.

As you know I work in the rental industry, this is our business. People have been able to download films freely (illegally) for years, and yet our rental figures are increasing. People prefer to go to a library and browse an actual product, not sit at home and click files..but that is a different argument entirely.

Thanks for the comment Jenni, I hope my response doesn't come across as an attack, as it is exclusivley my opnion and I am not trying to tell you not to go digital (hell I have plenty of digital files in my collection), but I do really value people posting differing opnions to my own. If for no other reason than it helps to give me a greater appreciation for what is happening out in the world with people who share similar interests. I would love to sit down one day and just chat about all the different things going on with movies and cinema....I think some very interesting conversations may take place :)

Thanks for taking the time to comment!