Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I'm Slowly Making the Switch to Digital Copies of Films

This is the year.  This is the year that I officially bought my first digital copy of a film, versus a physical Blu-Ray copy.  How did this happen?  The answer to that question will require a little bit of context, and a look at the past.

People have been switching to digital content for the better part of a decade at this point.  iTunes revolutionized the music industry by allowing people to legally purchase copyrighted music, at an affordable price.  Mind you, this was at the peak of music piracy.  In a time when people were illegally downloading thousands of songs A DAY, iTunes offered a simple, and legal, alternative.  People were actually willing to spend money on digital copies of CDs, rather than pirate the music for free.

If iTunes was the pioneer of this massive shift in consumer spending; what does that make Hollywood?  Old dogs.  For years, the major studios made it nearly impossible, and incredibly expensive to legally purchase Digital Copies of films.  They were so hung up on their physical media, they refused to acknowledge the shift in their consumer's spending habits.  Hollywood resisted the inevitable; I did too I'm afraid.  Then came Live Free or Die Hard.  Yes, Die Hard 4 completely changed the game.  It was the first wide-release DVD to include, for 'free', a digital copy of the film.  Hollywood decided, 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'

I own close to 1,500 legally purchased DVDs and Blu-Rays.  I would buy movie after movie; COMPLETELY ignoring the free digital copy that came with them.  Then something happened.  My wife and I began to travel quite a bit.  And we realized, all the DVDs and Blu-Rays in the world weren't going to help us 30,000 feet in the air, if all we carried were our iPads.  So I slowly but surely (and reluctantly) began redeeming the digital copies, enclosed in the physical discs I was buying.

I used to argue that I would continue to purchase physical media for a few reasons.  First, Blu-Ray combo packs often included a high definition Blu-Ray copy of the film, a DVD copy of the film, and a Digital Copy of the film.  I have a DVD player in my car, that believe it or not, I use quite a bit.  So Blu-Rays for the house, DVDs for the car, and Digital for the planes.  Great.  But secondly, and I believe more importantly; I was paying the same price for all three version of a movie (Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital), as I would for JUST the digital copy of the film through various services.  That just doesn't make any sense to me.

And let's get into why streaming digital copies of movies is so great.  To me, the most obvious is the convenience of it all.  My wife and I can sit on the couch, browse my digital movie collection in a matter of minutes; pick a movie and start streaming it in high-def (720p), in just a few seconds.  Let us not make it out to be some sort of a marathon to go get a Blu-Ray from the movie collection and pop it into the player.  But there is something to be said about having everything available to us in one convenient location.  And to be used across multiple devices too.

Beyond the convenience, it's a huge space saver.  My movie collection is, admittedly, outrageous.  The amount of room it takes up in our home is just plain stupid.  We have a three bedroom house and one entire room is dedicated to a computer desk and my movies.  Along with some collectibles that we wont discuss right now.

If you're curious, the digital streaming service of choice for me is Vudu.  I've tried them all, and Vudu, to me, is the best.  They support Disney films and their digital copies, as well as a number of television shows that are not compatible with other streaming services.  Remember, Blu-Ray combo packs cost about the same as a digital copy would on Vudu.  But, they often have flash sales where regularly priced movies ($14.99 and higher), are on sale for only $7.99.  Black Friday was a great example of the perfect time to buy digital copies on Vudu.  Disney's Beauty and the Beast Blu-Ray combo pack was on sale in most retailers for $17.99.  Vudu offered the digital copy on Cyber Monday for only $7.99.  A significant savings.

So let's close the loop on this totally non-linear post of my thoughts.  This year I bought multiple movies on Vudu, without worrying about the physical disc copy of the movie.  Earlier this year I bought the criminally underrated Celeste & Jesse Forever.  I think I paid $7.99 for it, and it was worth every penny.  It's smart, it has a ton of heart, and features some amazing performances by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg.  I doubt I would have ever found this movie at a conventional retailer.  Amazon is offering the Blu-Ray for $10.99, in similar quality to that of Vudu.  But I was able to purchase and view the movie in seconds.  There's just nothing else like that right now in the way of physical media.

To me, I still love the physical copies of movies.  The ability to 'show off' the collection, the special features offered on the discs vs. the digital copies, the ability to play DVDs in my car; all of these play a part in why I buy physical copies of movies.  But there is something to be said when an old dog like me starts to purchase digital copies of movies, vs. their disc counterparts.  I realize I'm behind the 8-ball here; but at least I'm rolling with it now.

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