Sunday, March 18, 2007

Direct Access

Online movies

NYT has coverage of the online movie industry. A.O. Scott looks at the democratizing effect of internet movie content and the possibility of first run movies being made available online.

Manohla Dargis tells about her try at downloading movies at She had quite a few troubles.

I went over to jaman. There's a lot of potential in this approach but the tech side is not up to speed yet. I watched a few minutes of a Kung Fu movie -- the picture was very small and had modest resolution, but the idea of being able to download a movie is still pretty appealing.

The technical difficulties associated with downloading huge files (a 90-minute feature downloaded from is about 1.3GB) will be lessened when the quad-core chip becomes available at consumer prices. Add the solid-state drive (SSD. Should be available before the end of the year) and downloads become far easier, with no crashes or freezes.

Online moviesThe last element needed to make movie downloads a mainstream choice is internet connection speed. Right now the max transfer rate is about 1.5 megs/second. (I know your cable company advertises speeds up to 6 megs but that's not a reality. Usually the transfer rate hovers around 400 kb/sec -- that's less than 1/10th the 6 meg/sec rate). At 1.5 mb/sec a movie would take about 1000 seconds to download -- that's pushing 20 minutes (under perfect conditions with no freezes and a hypothetical max transfer rate). At a more realistic transfer rate a movie would take up to 10 times 20 minutes to download -- not very palatable.

There are two possible fixes: Nationwide installation of high-speed optical cable, or, establishing high-speed satellite feeds. Unfortunately, neither of these is on the horizon, but the satellite option seems most realistic to me and 2 mb/sec transfer rate is currently in place.

For aspiring filmmakers the news couldn't be better. In a few years all you'll need to make a movie is a digital camera and a site that will accept your upload and, baddabing, you've got your first feature produced and distributed. The two major differences: You won't need to buy thousands of feet of film (or worry about the costs of processing, and editing), and you won't need a distribution deal to get your movie into theaters.

The online movie download industry may be in its infancy but I think it represents the way people will get their movies in the not-too-distant future. I mean, it wasn't that long ago we listened to music on AM radio and 8-track tapes, and watched movies only at the theater or on TV (until the advent of the VHS tape, that is). Stay tuned...

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