Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

The future of video

While I was at the packing party held by erindubitably and marrog before they depart for Dundee a conversation started about TV, movies, downloading, and DVDs.

There was a general feeling that physical media was just faffy. If you habitually watch your TV on a computing device then you don't actually need a spinning platter of plastic to get it there, and in some circumstances (tablets and media players) you're going to have to convert the video into a format you can play before you can watch it.

To give an example, Julie and I are working our way through Family Guy. We watch episodes largely in bed, but also in the living room. We can either download the files, stick them on the server, and then watch them from wherever we happen to be, or we could order the box set, and then go find the disk whenever we want to watch an episode, bring it to where we are, wait for it to spin up, work our way through the annoying navigation screens, and then get to watch the episode. Unless we've gone on to the next disk, in which case it's off to find the box, swap disks, and then go do some more navigation, rather than pressing "down" and then "enter" to watch the next one.*

I admit that this isn't a life-endangering series of steps to go through. But after several years of watching TV like this I'd rather like the entertainment industry to get a clue and let me watch TV quickly and easily.*

There are some moves in this direction, with Ultraviolet, which promises the ability to securely access all of the movie files you've "bought" from wherever you are. But judging by current reports they are completely fucking things up.

I am _incredibly_ wary of DRM for anything I might want to have access to in the future**. DRM files depend on a server to authenticate them before playing, and several have ceased to exist already. Google Video and MSN Music are probably the two largest cases where media files that people "bought" simply ceased to work after the providers shut them down. Google were good enough to give people refunds, Microsoft just told people to burn the files to DVD.

I was delighted to discover someone gets it. Louis C.K. isn't just an awesome comedian, he's a bit of a technophile, shooting his show Louie on a Red Camera and then editing it on his MacBook. And rather than sell his standup show in an encrypted format it's available entirely DRM free, for $5. You pay your money, and then you can either stream it, or you can download a totally normal .mp4 file, which will play on pretty much anything (works fine on both my PS3 and 360, is supported by Android and iPads). You can buy it here.

And that, to me, should be the future. I give you some cash, you give me a file that I can then play on anything I like, in any way I like, forever, without having to check with you ever again. Damned if I'm settling for less than that.***

*Of course, if we were watching it on a tablet then discs would be absolutely fuck-all use at all.
**I justify Steam to myself because most of the things on there are games I've bought and am unlikely to play much in the future. Spotify is clearly a subscription service, and I'm happy enough with that.
***There's also the argument that they're competing with illegal downloading. I'm willing to pay for things, because I think I should support the creators of things I like. I'm not willing to pay for things that are _worse_ than what I get for free though****. That's just dumb.
****One of the (not terribly serious) suggestions was "Buy the box set, torrent the files, when you've finished watching the series delete the files and sell/give on the box set. The box then counts as a large,clunky license.

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