21
Nov
08

Will Digital Kill the Video Disc?

As I walk into my garage where I can pop the 8-track into my quadraphonic stereo and mellow out to the Mamas and Papas, I say to myself, “I love the digital age.”

 

No, wait.

 

Skip forward to the cassette and then to the CD to the MP3 player, or maybe from the VHS to the DVD to the digital download. Thanks to leaps in technology, and in no small part to the Internet, we can now download movies or watch them streaming from a site online. While the music counterpart was quick to ban against MP3 technology, and then eventually let it in, the Hollywood system has been cautious, nay leery, of digital technology.

 

Why this is no one can say for sure. Part of it could be the fight between the RIAA and peer-to-peer sites over copyright infringement, which has led to the creation of bit torrent sites for downloading. Part of it could be that downloading hurts any current contracts with DVD distribution companies. And part of it could be mankind’s caution with technology. No one of these reasons is greater than the others.

 

With the proliferation of the peer-to-peer and bit torrent sites, Hollywood was more than compelled to begin offering movies for downloading. Sites such as CinemaNow, Movielink, and Vongo have sprung up offering users up to 4,000 video/movie titles as well as hundreds of TV show episodes. iTunes has also joined the market, extending their interests from just music to TV, movies, and music videos.

 

Back to the question: will digital downloading kill DVD/Blu-ray discs?

 

“Yes” because:

         Society has become “instant gratification,” and with faster Internet ability and movies being able to be compressed to the size of 1gb, they will become easier to download. And when someone’s finished with the movie and no longer wants to keep it on their harddrive, they can just delete it.

         Downloading will kill the “need” for packaging. Like the example above, there will be no need to deal with scratched discs or misplaced ones, or creating shelf space to house your collection when you can keep it on a computer.

         Downloading will put the current video retailers (Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video) out of business by offering “what’s new” to users online instead of making users wait in line at a checkout or brave “weather elements” as they stand outside a video cube.

 

“No” because:

         Currently, we do not have the electronic infrastructure for it. This means that if EVERY person in the U.S. logged on to download a movie, the Internet would HALT. While this is a worst-case scenario, it brings out the point that in order to offer more movies to more people, networks have to be changed/ rearranged, and we’re not currently seeing that happening.

         It would be nearly impossible (at least from the current standpoint) to offer the more than 21,000 films that have been made online. Each week several movies are available on disc, with only a fraction available online. We would first have to offer everything current before tackling the insurmountable-looking back catalog.

         Believe it or not, some people want the ability to hold a video in their hands, packaging and all. They don’t care about shelf space or depreciating value; it’s the ability to look for it (like a book) and pop it into the DVD player when they want, instead of having to navigate through a computer that they don’t like having.

         There is no clear platform for downloaded movies. Some of the services use a browser, while others use the application created by the company.

         Digital rights management. The above mentioned download sites have their “special” ways of displaying the movie you downloaded. Eventually, movie downloading and watching will have to go cross-platform, which means the above companies will have to agree on one format to use in order to show the films. That will also make the movies “easier” to pirate and transport.

         With all the viruses running around, as well as “inclement weather,” what happens when your computer DIES? The motherboard fries, the harddrive locks up, etc. If your collection isn’t burned onto disc, you’re in trouble…

 

In closing, my belief is that digital downloading, while it is an interesting addition to movie watching, has a ways to go before it will get to the point it needs to be. That and with the fact that computers aren’t 100% reliable, I do not believe that video discs are leaving all that soon.

 

For more info on movie site downloading, check out the following link:

http://www.bigpicturebigsound.com/movie-download-websites-903.shtml

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