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Saturday
Apr232011

Physical Media Still Dominates!

According to the NPD Group, more Americans use DVD and Blu-ray discs to watch movies at home than all forms of non-physical media combined.

More than three quarters of U.S. consumers continue to view movies on DVD and Blu-ray Disc; nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on home video movies goes toward the purchase or rental of physical discs.

Personally, I'm glad physical media is still dominant.  It is my desire to see Blu-ray continue to grow and eventually replace DVD.  I realize that some people can't see or hear the difference in image or sound quality, but I certainly can.  I haven't purchased a DVD in over two years and I've rented as few of them as I possibly could.  With its 50 gigabytes of storage capacity (compared to DVD's 8.7 GB), Blu-ray is the only current physical media that has the encoding bandwidth necessary to deliver clean, artifact-free video on today's high-resolution television displays.

Streaming is Inferior to Blu-ray

Most movies on Blu-ray are encoded at a healthy 25-35 Mbps versus the 5-6 Mbps of DVD.  Granted, DVD is pushing a smaller image through the "pipe" so it needs less bandwidth.  But look at streaming providers.  The bandwidth they encode their HD content at is, at best, about the same as DVD.  Yet, they are pushing a much larger image through their pipe.  It's a difference that I can see, particularly during fast-motion sequences in movies and sports.  Streaming just doesn't encode at a sufficiently high bandwidth.

If you want the best possible picture and the best possible sound, Blu-ray is currently the only way to go.

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Reader Comments (8)

Mark, as a frequent traveler, I am looking forward to the end of physical media. I've always hated swapping DVDs in my laptop on airplanes. Not to mention the increased battery consumption that optical drives result in! This is why I went from a MacBook Pro to a MacBook Air at the end of last year. I never used my optical drive. I've been moving more and more to digital downloads. All of our TV content at home comes from season passes on our Apple TV. I can then easily move that content to my MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone. This is ideal for a road warrior like me. It's great quality content and it travels conveniently.

April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Locke

One slight technical correction, most blank DVD's one can purchase at their favorite store is on 4.77Gb, since that's the size most folks have (single-sided, single-layer).

And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that physical media is a dying breed. Yes, Blu-ray has got some phenomenal specs, but that isn't enough, As an example I give you MP3's. Their specs are nowhere near the quality audiophiles appreciate, yet they have practically killed the CD market, which killed the cassette market, which killed the 8-track market, which killed the LP market, Sure there are still some remnant die-hards out there, but it isn't the masses.

Streaming entertainment, whether movies, television, or music is the wave of the future.

I'm betting that folks will give up that modicum of quality for quick and easy access anywhere, without the associated hardware. My latest TV has built-in streaming as does my smartphone.

DVD players will become a thing of the past, just like rotary phones in a very short period of time. To coin a phrase, "Mark my word." (Which should really have been the title of your blog!)

April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRainer

Rainer, The 4.7 GB DVD-Rs most people buy to burn in their computer drives are single-layer DVDs. Most modern retail movie DVDs are dual-layer.

Yes, CD sales are declining. But on one technology podcast I was listening to about a month ago, they discussed the fact that CD sales still exceed digital download sales for music. That statistic is supposed to reverse sometime in 2012.

I am not as concerned about the demise of the CD as I am about the potential demise of physical media for video. I don't listen to music on a high-end sound system very often. Most of my music listening is in the car. And in that environment, I can't tell the difference between a 256 kbps mp3 and a CD.

But video and movies are a completely different story. I do 99% of my movie watching on a very large high-definition screen. I listen to the movie using a high-qualty sound system with 5.1 sound. I can easily tell the differences between streaming, DVD and Blu-ray. And it should be pointed out that not all streamed movies even include 5.1 sound. Many are simply 2.0 stereo sound. Another way to keep the bandwidth under control. For me, movies are an immersive experience. The surround sound and the kick of the subwoofer are all part of that experience. That is how the director and all of the talented sound guys intend the movie to be experienced. Watching the movie with just TV speakers or on a computer with headphones simply isn't the same thing. Yes, it can still be entertaining, but you're just watching a movie, not "experiencing" it.

I'm not suggesting that there isn't a place for digital download and streaming of movies. I have a few movies on my iPhone and I've actually watched them from time to time. I just don't want to see Americans' willingness to settle for sub-standard video (for the sake of convenience) result in the high-qualty forms of video (like Blu-ray) going away.

One other VERY important factor in all of this is the cost of bandwidth. The cost of your "pipe." Most folks with broadband internet in their homes have unlimited data plans. That is changing. Comcast, Time-Warner, and Cox all want to move toward tiered service. They want folks that download or stream a lot of movies to pay more for their service. As the popularity of streaming increases, the ISPs will be that much more anxious to get more money for their service. After all, every time you stream a movie from Netflix instead of watching it via pay-per-view, Comcast, Time-Warner, and Cox all think you are stealing money from their pocket. They are already grumbling and they want to charge bandwidth hogs more. Maybe a lot more.

April 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterMark

LPs LIVE, Rainer! ... in my house at least. We have 1,200 of 'em.

April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVoodoo Bob

I'm already paying Cox Cable a bunch extra so that I can have a bigger/faster pipe. They're doing quite well by me already since I pay them over $150 for what can only be described as entertainment: cable TV and Internet. I use Ooma for my phone (highly recommended if you have an existing broadband connection). I'm also paying Verizon over $60 a month for wireless broadband, which, when I signed the contract, gives me truly unlimited service (woo hoo!).

I also predict that cable companies will disappear in the not too distant future. Streaming may become part of SDG&E's forte - coming through existing electrical wiring (you may insert your local power company for SDG&E). I've got networked devices that use the electrical wiring in my house (it was cheap and works surprisingly well). Throw big money into this technology and viola! it becomes the delivery method d' jour. And maybe the future will also be completely wireless ala Nikola Tesla's ideas of a century ago while he was in Colorado Springs.

Remember when renting videos at your local video rental place was the cat's nuts? Then the big guys like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video got into the act and killed most of the little guys. Well, today they're almost all gone, too. Killed by Netflix and RedBox. Technologies, as well as their delivery is rapidly changing. Netflix is streaming more and more, and now Amazon wants a piece of that delectable pie, too.

Remember that there are some people who are even content to watch movies on their smartphones; their only concern is battery life.

VBob, I love you. You're my favorite anachronism! I, too, have a vast collection of LP's, and have only started slowly (ever so slowly) converting them to MP3's. It's a slow, labor intensive process. Sometimes I think I'll just go out and purchase the digital version from some online vendor.

And Mark, aren't you going to give me ANY credit for the great blog title, "Mark My Words"?

April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRainer

Rainer, Sorry, I forgot to mention it in my previous reply. I thought of "Mark My Words" a couple of years ago. In fact, I wanted to register the domain back in 2008 (when I registered markshangout.com instead). Markmywords.com and markmywords.net were both already taken. And I wanted my blog or site name to be the same as the domain name, it's easier for folks to remember.

In retrospect, I'm glad it worked out the way it did. Reason: search engine optimization. Type 'Mark My Words" into Google. It's a common phrase and brings lots of hits unrelated to markmywords.com or markmywords.net. Then type "Mark's Hangout" (with or without the quotes) into Google. My site, which has been up for less than 1 week, is already the top three hits on Google. Mark's Hangout is not a common phrase, but it is easy to remember.

BTW, I also pay Cox for the faster, fatter pipe. But that doesn't mean they won't be pursuing tiered service at some point.

April 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterMark

I, too, am glad that as of the writing of your article, physical media still dominated. However, I felt compelled to point out and correct the following error:

Most movies on Blu-ray are encoded at a healthy 25-35 kbps versus the 5-6 kbps of DVD

The data rates should read Mbps, not kbps.

September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob55

Rob, Thanks for catching my mistake. I have corrected my article.

September 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterMark

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