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Solid State to Digital

In the past year the overall success of digital streaming brought to you by Netflix has a lot of people talking about what’s next for digital media. There is no doubt that declining DVD sales and the slow up-start of Blu ray has Hollywood thinking of new ways to get you to pay for their movies. Most of the thoughts I have been hearing lately are talking about jumping on the digital media bandwagon, a thought I can understand, the days of running out to a store to find what you want to watch are over and why would you want to when you can just connect a few cables to your home computer or favorite gaming system and have access to anything you could ever want to watch, for a small monthly payment. This idea has also been great for independent movie studios like Magnolia who have started to premiere their films on demand the same day you can see them in the theater, allowing their audience to grow tremendously. So, what does this mean for you? Well for most of you this is a good thing; you can get your favorite movies cheap and fast, but for movie freaks like me, and I’m hoping most of our readers, the jump to a purely digital state can be worrying.

Though it sounds like an exciting step forward and in some ways I think it is, but what most people are not telling you is what you will be losing.  For most people you won’t even notice but all of the portability that has all these critics on a soap box comes with a price. The price is quality, in order to get these films to you faster the audio and video is compressed giving you a lesser quality when it comes to video and sound. This compression is what made the idea of Blu ray so good because, for cinefiles you were finally given the chance to get true theater sound and picture in your home and in many cases sending your home theater’s quality to ranges far superior than your local multiplex. For most people this is not a problem and most critics are raving about getting rid of their old solid state media.

Again I know I’m not in the majority here but this is more a step backwards than a step forward. We are trading innovation for convenience. In this Idea of disc free future all your films would be held on a home hard drive or on a company’s external server and ready to play with the click of a button. Now this is where these disc hating critics have me scratching my head because the overall size of an HD film with no compression would create a large file and for collectors like me would replace my stacks of DVD cases with rows of hard drives. Not to mention that your missing out the special features some have come to love. Now I know most of you have grown tired of these space fillers and skip right over these bullet points reaching for your next DVD, but for me I love a deeper look into the film, the more commentary, the better. I want to know what the lead grip’s thoughts on the film were. That leaves me in a really small group of people, but along with this desire to hear everything Quentin Tarantino has to say about Inglourious Basterds. I also want the collector’s baseball bat case.

This is where I stand with an even smaller group as I’m also a collector so when I hear all this digital media hype I look at my collectors edition of The Big Lebowski and wonder what I would do with out the clever bowling ball housing. I know most people don’t care about these things and just want to watch the movie, but that’s the consumer-driven child of the 80’s in me. The over growing urge to have an army of GI Joe’s take on the Ninja Turtles in the Technodrome has always stayed with me. Maybe the 80’s is the problem that whole “there can be only one” mentality. Maybe we all just need to broaden our horizons and except that a multiple format is the future, until people stop buying the little discs and stay at home with their one click stop for entertainment. Then I’ll be stuck waiting for the next big craze in home entertainment hoping it progresses the format.

By Ryan Davis

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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