Posts Tagged ‘iTunes’

Stream It Now: Loving The Little Bits Of The Future

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Last night (as of this writing) we watched a highly reviewed movie that’s still in the theaters, but we watched it at home, in our own theater. Legally. And it cost us less than what we would have paid for one movie ticket.

The movie was Snowpiercer and it was terrific. The cost of the rental was $6.99 plus tax for a total of $7.51 through iTunes. With an Apple TV connected to our home theater setup it took just moments to rent and we were soon watching that movie in all its glory. My wife, our adult daughter, home for a visit, and I all enjoyed the movie for less than the price of one movie ticket. I’m also betting that the studio received more money from that download than they would have if we’d gone to the theater and paid close to ten dollars apiece for the same movie (distribution is expensive with every step taking a piece of the revenue. Apple’s iTunes takes thirty percent and the rest goes right in the studio’s pocket).

Many movie studios are stuck in some sort of Byzantine distribution and profit model. And they are missing out on collecting millions and millions of dollars while they whine about losses from piracy. Piracy isn’t the problem—it’s availability. For instance, this last year when the Academy Awards were announced and the list of Best Picture nominees was published we noted that we had seen only one of the nine picture nominated. We wanted to see all of them. Only one of the nominees was still in theaters. The other seven were unavailable. There was no way to legally watch the movies and give money to the studio.

Let me make this clear: these movies suddenly had a massive potential audience, a marketing boost worth millions of dollars, and there was no way to pay to see them. A few of them became available, eventually, on DVD before the awards ceremony, but not all. Why? It didn’t fit their distribution model, even though the model was causing them to miss out on a singular opportunity. Having your movie nominated as Best Picture is a pretty big opportunity. Why not sell a few more tickets?

Why are movie studios so stupid? I really wanted to give them some money to be able to see their movies. And, as with  Snowpiercer, I would have happily handed over seven bucks or so per film to see them immediately.

Please, take my money.

But they have this fixed model in their business plans. Release to the theaters, then wait. Sell to the cable companies three months after the movie is out of the theaters for on-demand sales to cable companies. Three to six months out from that make available for sale, but not for rental. For rental, like Redbox, that’s another 30-90 days. And then maybe a sale to HBO or Showtime of another premium movie channel. A year or so after that sell it again to some other cable channels.

See? Simplicity itself.

The major studios are so locked into a model that insures that people will become less and less interested in their product and willing to pay less and less, and become more and more willing to search for it online somewhere that they can download it for free (yes, pirate the movie). Why? Because they believe that if they keep their product scarce then everyone on the planet would eventually pay them to see it.

They’re wrong about that.

My recommendation: release your movie just like Snowpiercer. Give it a week or so in theaters, then make it available on iTunes for rent and sale. Then, later, make it available on DVD/BluRay, and for rentals for a buck. Collect more money up front.

Oh, and for every other movie ever made, over one hundred years of cinema, please make them all available on iTunes or Netflix or somewhere. I’d happily pay you $1 each for lots and lots of movies. Not more than that, mind you. But one dollar per movie. The numbers tell us that someone, somewhere, will pay to watch the thousands and thousands of movies made over the last century.

And before we forget: all of television, too. All of the things that are making ZERO dollars right now could be making lots of money every month, just by making it all available online.

I want to give you money.  So would nearly everyone else on the planet. You want to stomp out piracy? Make your movies available, now, inexpensively, everywhere. Collect the untold billions of dollars that we are begging you to take.

I hate the oil companies for gleefully squeezing more and more out of us and blaming it on “the market.” I hate the movie studios more for refusing to take the money I want to give them.

The future is bright, but being held back by the short-sighted, misguided media moguls. I hope that the next generation of them will better understand that there’s much more money to made. I’m made more hopeful by studios like RADiUS-TWC who have released Snowpiercer

Note: I realize that not everyone has a purpose-designed-and-built home theater that is ideal for movie watching. Our experience of watching Snowpiercer in Cinema Murray is likely better than you’d experience in most commercial theaters. I know that the sound reproduction is better than nine out of ten theaters. And Snowpiercer is the type of movie that is best seen on a BIG screen with full and accurate surround sound. Watching it on a phone or tablet or laptop screen would be a shame. As of this writing it’s still in the theaters. If you don’t have an appropriate way to watch this at home, go out and see it. It’s really good.

Yes, watch movies at home, but please stop ruining your movie experiences by watching them on tiny screens and listening on crappy speakers!

What You Need In Your Next Computer: More Horsepower, Less Storage

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I recently bought a new computer system, primarily for work. I was surprised at how difficult a decision process it was, but I’m very happy with the end result.

My previous work and home machine was an early 2008 iMac. It’s been a workhorse, but I found myself dealing with long wait times for it to wake and free itself of whatever it was up to so that I could work. It served me well to work on at my desk, but it was also our home media server, hosting our nearly 20,000 song music library and a growing TV and movie collection, and over 30,000 digital photos (and the photos are of increasing size and resolution). Because of this it’s also the machine that we sync our iPhones, iPods, and iPad to.

Add to that the fact that sitting at that desk and working at that computer has been making my back and neck pain increasingly worse. I needed more power and more flexibility with how and where I work.

Here’s the problem boiled down: I needed a powerful machine I could move around AND I needed a home system that stayed put.

I’ll spare you the long process of considering virtually every combination of Macs, iOS devices, and even desk configurations and tell you how I ended up: I’m keeping the iMac, which I’ll soon rebuild to be only an iTunes/iPhoto repository and sync station and I bought a brand new Macbook Pro 13″ with Retina display.

And it is, without a doubt, the best Mac I’ve ever used.

It is wicked fast. Applications launch in barely a breath. I can switch between tasks with no lags or pausing. There have been no crashes or even frozen applications. And the Retina screen is a thing of glory.

But I hesitated to buy it. Why? Because of the very limited internal storage options.

For my entire computing life I have always operated by one rule: you can’t have enough storage. My first Mac, a Mac SE, had a 10 megabyte hard drive. The old iMac I just demoted has a 250 GB internal hard drive and I have two 1 terabyte external drives connected to it.

It was very difficult for me to envision having less than a terabyte of internal storage for my new machine.

But as I debated and discussed this problem with friends I realized this: I don’t need to carry everything with me all of the time. But I struggled with that idea. Could I really buy a new machine that I’d use for years with less storage than I’d had in my previous machine.  I asked everyone, even Apple Store sales associate (though it was clear that I’d been using Macs for longer than he’d been alive).

So I asked myself: What do I really need?

I need access to my stuff. I don’t have to carry it with me. Here was the list that I made: I use Dropbox for all of my work and current personal creative projects. Since I’m a writer, that means lots and lots of really small text files. I would not migrate my old iMac over to this new machine. I would only install the applications that I really need. That includes Microsoft Office, Final Draft, and Scrivener.

I selected the Macbook Pro with 120 gigabytes of flash memory.

And when I was done I still have over 90 gigabytes of available storage. That’s a very comfortable amount of space.

I can temporarily fill it with things if I choose to travel. I can bring over movies and music, then dump it all when I’m home. And by using iCloud and iTunes Match virtually all of my music is available to me anywhere I can get online.

By not worrying about massive storage, I could select a more powerful and faster machine. I like having lots of home storage, but I’m finally comfortable in having less in my portable devices. When I trade in my 1st generation iPad which has 64 gigabytes of storage I’m going to happily purchase one with just 16.

It may seem ridiculous, but I somehow feel lighter.

Billions Of Dollars, Theirs For The Taking

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

It’s all about sunshine.

Jen was home from college the other day and when we settled into Cinema Murray to watch a movie, she said, “Have you seen Sunshine? I really liked it and would watch it again.”

We had not, but it was on my list to watch. I didn’t have it in my DVD library (although there are over 940 other titles there), so I switched the systems to Apple TV. We first searched the Netflix streaming service, but it wasn’t there, so a quick check on iTunes and we found it, rented it for $3.99, and watched it on the spot. We really enjoyed it. And the experience was no different than having the DVD physically in a player.

Afterwards, we talked about how much we enjoyed Danny Boyle’s movies, and I mentioned 28 Days Later, his “fast” zombie movie. Once again I searched Netflix, then iTunes. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later was there, but not the original.

So I pulled out my iPad, searched Amazon, and bought a used DVD copy, shipped, for under $5.

It’s a wonderful world we live in, but it frustrates me to no end how stupid and short-sighted the TV and movie studios are. They scream about piracy, the lost jobs and stolen revenue and yet they don’t do the one thing that would virtually end piracy and let them tap untold billions of dollars of revenue every year.

When I bought the used DVD, the studio made nothing, not one dime. If they had made the movie available online we would have watched it the next night and they would have pocketed a couple of bucks. Frankly, even priced at ninety nine cents, they’d have made something. But because they’re so stubborn and blind they made nothing. I sometimes feel like Moses leading the tribes around in the desert for forty years, waiting for the old and stubborn generation to die off, before leading the new generation into the promised land. Are we waiting for a stubborn and wrongheaded generation of studio executive to die off before a younger, smarter generation will do what they should have done years ago?

“People are stealing our property!” they cry. I’m not, but yes, other people are. For the most part, the people who download movies for free fall into two categories: people who would never have paid you in the first place, and people who can’t get it any other way.

The only effective way to fight digital piracy is to make everything available digitally, in high quality, and charge a reasonable price for it. By reasonable I mean as little as possible. The movie studios have over one hundred years of movies in their vaults. The long tail tells us that someone, somewhere, would pay for every single movie every made, if they were only available. Even at ninety nine cents for most of movies, that’s likely to be billions and billions of dollars. Every freaking year. Billions of dollars the studios aren’t making now. It’s like walking around on money but being too stupid and stubborn to stoop over and pick it up.

Stoop down and take it. Forget about piracy. Simply embrace the digital and rake in the dough.

I would like one more thing: a service like iTunes Match for DVDs. I’d pay a low yearly fee that would allow me to register all of the DVDs I’ve bought, then allow Apple, or whoever, to allow me to stream any of these movies from the cloud to any of my devices. iTunes Match for music is brilliant. What makes a movie any different?

Here’s my simple plea to the movie and TV studios: take my money, please! There are so many movies and TV shows that I’d pay you to watch, if only you’d let me.


So Much Music — iTunes Match & Life In The Cloud

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I’m completely giddy over iTunes Match.

I love music. As soon as iTunes was first released in January of 2001 I started ripping all of my CDs into an online collection. I also borrowed CDs from friends, libraries, and anywhere I could get my hands on them. Both of my daughters are musicians and music lovers, the older is a professional jazz bassist. And over the years we’ve put together a pretty big music library. If you started listening to Take On Me by A-Ha and listened straight through to ZZ Tops My Head’s in Mississippi working your way through rock, pop, classical, opera, jazz, blue grass, blues, world music, ambient, and dozens of other types of music, you’d spend fifty six and a half days.

I call that a good start.

Recently I’ve purchased music from the iTunes Music Store, Amazon, and sometimes, but rarely, on physical CDs. And I’ve been in a constant state of worry about losing the whole damn thing. I do backups, but you can never be too paranoid about that. You’ll lose something, eventually. As my library creeps toward 200 gigabytes it becomes increasingly difficult to back it all up, especially to maintain multiple, separate backups.

I’m breathing a bit easier today. I’ve paid Apple $25 and let iTunes Match do its magic. It scanned my music library and did two amazing things. It recognized nearly 14,000 songs/tracks already in the iTunes Store AND it uploaded virtually everything it didn’t match to Apple’s iCloud. I can now access my library on my iPhone or iPad, and so can the other members of my family, and we can do it anywhere. My music is safely backed up. All for just $25 per year.

Here’s the thing that tickled me most: of the tunes that iTunes matched on my machine, I was able to identify over 13,000 that Apple had higher quality versions of (higher bit rate, better format, etc.). I’ve updated my library with these files.

All for $25 per year. The music is mine. I own it. It’s safe on my hard drive (and I back that up separately). There’s no DRM.


There is a downside, but it’s the same one as always: it still takes too damn long to download files and if I want to download songs or albums on my iOS device away from home, I either need to be on a wifi network or burn precious and expensive cellular data. Pay attention to that, and everything else is copacetic.

My dream? Access to every commercially recorded and released album and song since Edison began selling them in 1889. Yes, there’s lot of bad, obscure, and weird stuff. But think of it. EVERYTHING accessible with just a click. I’m not talking about free — just cheap, easy to find, and one click away from being a part of my library at home and in the cloud.