Friday, June 26, 2009

Physical Media is Not Dead

Let's talk about NOW...I know there are a lot of people who HATE physical media like it is some type of archaic tech (Hippies 2.0). People who claim to live in the cloud and haven't touched a disc in years. Nothing against those hipsters...but their lifestyle isn't conducive to everybody and should not be imposed on anyone- not yet. This group of disc-dissers recently increased in numbers thanks to the hapless HD-DVD supporters, but there are plenty of legitimate DD who never backed HD-DVD or Blu-Ray envisioning that physical media would be dead.

It is not hard to predict the demise of physical media; it is inevitable.

But not buying into a format because it will be outdated is like not owning a phone because you know it's going to be obsolete. I bought the PlayStation2 with the knowledge that a PlayStation3 would probably happen in the future. In the future I could probably download Metal Gear Solid 4, but I wanted to play Metal Gear Solid 4 in 2008. I wanted to play Final Fantasy VII in 1997...I guess I could have waited for it to be released as a digital download via PSN which happened this month (June 2009). Sorry, I don't have that kind of patience; so, please excuse me if I still buy Blu-Ray games.

On the movie front, DD are getting more viable but are still not conducive for MOST people. Dark Knight was a BIG movie and you cannot download it thru Amazon, iTunes, or even Vudu.

And before we go any further...we need to address another group- the Renegades or Rebels. You CAN download Dark Knight right now thru bit torrents, you can mod out your PS3 or 360 and download games- you can even get games and movies before the packaged content is officially released. Same thing with music... The one segment where physical media is truly DEAD?

Music is different and there are numerous reasons why-
SACD and DVD-Audio never took off, mainly because people are generally not audiophiles.
This has a lot to do with the TYPE of music that is popular now- kids are not listening to symphonies or full orchestras- they are listening to Lady Gaga. But even more importantly is that Video is much more stimulating than audio- many households spend thousands on their HDTV and just use the built in speakers. Portability is another factor- you won't last too long jogging with a playlist full of uncompressed audio- even with a 50gb iPod your playlist might only be 2hours long. Even WAV files are too big and many are listening to MP3s and AAC files- we have become accustomed to compressed audio. People are not willing to give up the comforts of compression- the portability, the iPod/iPhone, and the DRM-Free content.

DRM is another reason why music is different. It is easy to copy a CD or rip your CD into iTunes because you are making a backup and you own the content of that CD you purchased. You can buy an MP3 via iTunes or Amazon and it is DRM-free- you can put it on any device you want- CD-R, iPod, iPhone, DVD, USB, etc.

Most Hollywood/Studio movies have encryption on the DVD/Blu-Ray...on the DVD it is called DMCA and it makes it illegal for you to use it like you would use a DRM-free MP3 file. Now, making a backup of your DVD should be LEGAL...but it now looks like Hollywood is fighting to take that away- currently they are in court saying that breaking the DMCA encryption is illegal even if it is just for one backup. This ruling could set a precedent but right now the FBI is not going to bust you for making a backup of a DVD/Blu-Ray you own.

The whole DRM thing is one reason why RIGHT NOW it is not advantageous to go digital for movies or games. Even the movies that are available thru iTunes HD are NOT DRM-FREE.

But more importantly-
They are compressed...and not just the audio.

See there is a reason why the Renegades are downloading the Blu-Ray torrents- people actually take time and upload the Blu-Ray and then many people take time and download the Blu-Ray files. Some would have you believe that an upscaled DVD is just as good as a's not. If the difference was subtle or insignificant than there would not be any demand for the Blu-Ray upload.

So, why can't we become accustomed to compressed video?

Because going from standard-def to HD is as significant as Black and White to Color or at least VHS to DVD.

Because we don't buy Chapter9 of Godfather like we but Track2 of a Mariah Carey CD- we buy the WHOLE MOVIE.

Because most people don't want to watch VHS or worse quality on their 50" plasma.

Because SOME people watch video content on something OTHER than their laptop monitor.

And let's not forget the obstacles on the download front-
You need an ISP...there are still many people who don't have internet access, people who have NO intention of getting internet access, and there is actually a growing contingent of people who are getting away from the internet.

Speaking of ISP's, they might institute bandwith caps in the future- limiting the potential digital content you will be able to download without incurring a penalty charge, much like your cell phone minutes.

Hard Drive Space- downloads take up space. And even if iTunes monitors your download history and allows you to re-download, every time you get an impulse to watch Matrix if you deleted it- you will have to re-download it.

Portability- they don't make external hard drives with HDMI outputs. If I want to carry a DVD/Blu-Ray to a friends house, I just carry the disc. Maybe in the future TV's will have a USB slot- but not right now.

Not right now- it is easy to envision the future, something will come out that is better. There will be another medium after the PC- just like there was one after Radio, and there was one after TV. Newspapers are almost DEAD...and yet we criticized President Bush for not reading them. The Kindle has yet to kill physical media in its most archaic form.

Reports of Physical Media's Demise has been greatly exaggerated.

Digital Downloads are DEAD...Instant 100mb/s 2160p uncompressed bufferfree streaming is the future.
-see what I did there.

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