HD Movies: Blu-ray or iTunes?


I feel like I’ve already ranted about the trend of Blu-ray movies including Ultraviolet digital copies rather than iTunes digital copies, though it apparently wasn’t here on my blog. I haven’t tried an Ultraviolet movie, though I’ve heard bad things, as it doesn’t fulfill one of my main requirements for digital movies, which is to be able to watch them via AppleTV (without having to use AirPlay).

This post isn’t about that.

Recently, a viewing of the Iron Man 3 trailer led to my father mentioning that he had yet to see Iron Man 2. Post haste, I queued it up on my AppleTV and we proceeded to watch most of the movie before he left for the night. At some point it occurred to me (or possibly it was pointed out to me) that we should have been watching the Blu-ray version as the digital version wasn’t HD.

Yesterday, while killing time during my daughter’s cheer practice, I watched The American President on my iPad, having previously loaded my ripped-from-DVD copy via iTunes. The quality was terrible and I made a mental note to re-rip it when I got home, with the presumption that it was an old rip using suboptimal settings or software. Coincidentally, I had also mentally implanted a scene from Dave that was therefore missing, so I went exploring the DVD to see if it was a deleted scene or something. This led to the discovery that the DVD itself is of terrible quality (subsequently confirmed by reading reviews of the DVD on Amazon).

I checked, and the movie is available on iTunes, which the HD version being the same price that Amazon is charging for Blu-ray. I decided to to buy it now, since I had just watched it. Instead, I added the Blu-ray to my Amazon wish list. However, I do not currently have a method of ripping Blu-ray movies, nor do I anticipate acquiring such a method. Therefore, it seems like buying the iTunes version is likely a better idea. However, I am aware that this effectively locks me into Apple’s devices for playback (plus iTunes on Windows systems I suppose).

So which way to go? Get non-combo-disc-non-digital-copy Blu-rays that lock me into using physical Blu-ray players? Get Apple-only iTunes copies that are of known lower quality (though perhaps not usually noticeable)?

Plus, even when a DVD and/or iTunes digital copy are included with the Blu-ray, that still results in the Iron Man 2 situation described above.

At present, it’s pretty clear that the iTunes HD version is my best choice, but what about the future? Or perhaps I can rely on the iTunes DRM being crackable (is it already?) and let that be my escape hatch should the need arise.

Do you think putting a comment in my Amazon wishlist entry for Blu-ray movies that says “I’d rather have iTunes credit” is likely to be effective?


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  1. #1 by B.E. Earl (@VerdantDude) on February 19, 2013 - 2:50 pm

    I simply don’t buy films anymore. With the plethora of streaming options available, there just doesn’t seem to be a point in it for me.

    Reading this post, I quickly checked my streaming options and my first go-to was Amazon Video streaming to my TV via a Roku box. The American President was there in HD and within 30 seconds I was watching it for free (with an Amazon Prime membership).

    Generally, just about anything that I want to see is either available through Amazon Prime Video, Netflix or HBO-Go. If not, I may rent it from someplace on-demand (Amazon or my cable provider), but I just don’t re-watch films over and over as much as I used to. Purchasing them in any form just doesn’t make any sense for me.

    Quick story: I watched Cabin in the Woods a few months back. Rented it from Amazon Instant Video for about $3.99 for the weekend. Watched it twice that weekend (was drunk the first time). Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine about it and I kinda wanted to see it again. But I wasn’t going to pay for it. So I checked my options and I also stream EPIX on my Roku box. I signed up for a free trial last summer and I still have it for some reason. So I checked and they had it available. So bam…I was watching it for free. That’s pretty much my experience. I’ll pay to rent it the first time around, but after that I can usually find it via one of my (legal) streaming options.


    • #2 by Ren on February 19, 2013 - 4:05 pm

      Not purchasing movies is a really good point, and a position I had taken a few years ago. The lead up to The Avengers, along with some other recent releases, changed my behavior, but perhaps I should revert.

      However, in the specific example of The American President, I was mobile and the ability to have the movie offline was much of the reason that I watched it instead of streaming something else from Netflix.


  2. #3 by Dave2 on February 19, 2013 - 3:06 pm

    I rarely buy films anymore because there’s just too much bullshit forced on honest customers for their trouble. When I DO buy a film, it’s almost always via iTunes HD. That way I can watch it whenever I want, wherever I have internet. There’s only two problems with going this route… 1) You can’t yet stream to Macs or iOS (only Apple TV) which is profoundly stupid when most every other service allows it. 2) You miss out on the “extras” that most times come with the physical copies. Other than that, I’m finding iTunes to be cheaper, easier, and with no Blu-Ray technical glitches.


    • #4 by Ren on February 19, 2013 - 4:09 pm

      Well, until now, I’ve felt that inclusion of a DVD that I could trivially rip rendered their bullshit irrelevant. Unfortunately, I’ve finally reached the point where I care that the quality isn’t as good.

      So far, the lack of streaming support hasn’t bothered me. I don’t even use it on AppleTV as I stream from my iMac. (Okay, that’s still streaming, but you know what I mean.)


  3. #5 by B.E. Earl (@VerdantDude) on February 19, 2013 - 3:08 pm

    Oh, and I know I’m paying for these options. I have an Amazon Prime Membership, but the free streaming isn’t a part of our decision for that. We purchase it for the free shipping from Amazon. The free videos are a bonus. And HBO-Go is free with out HBO subscription with our cable provider. And we would keep that subscription whether HBO-Go was available or not. The only one that we are specifically paying for is Netflix. And I’ve been considering getting rid of that lately because the streaming catalog just ain’t what it used to be. Amazon Prime has many of the same titles available for free. It’s not awful, but we could definitely get by without it.


    • #6 by Ren on February 19, 2013 - 4:20 pm

      I used the free month of Amazon Prime a couple of Christmases ago and it was nice. The two-day shipping was nice but the fact that there was no minimum purchase to enabled the free shipping was the real benefit. However, the rest of the time, including this past Christmas, I’ve been perfectly satisfied with Super-Saver Shipping. If I were to pay for a membership, it would be for the streaming content with the improved shipping as the bonus. Whenever I’ve looked into it, I’ve found little evidence that there is sufficient content available that isn’t also available via Netflix.

      I’d love to have HBO-Go, but I don’t have cable and Time Warner apparently doesn’t want my money badly enough to offer me any way to pay for their content other than waiting for DVD. Of course, when the DVDs come out, I just reactivate my Netflix shipping membership for one month and watch the whole season of whichever show it is I want to watch for $8 (or less, since Netflix prorates the first month).

      I do pay for Hulu+, but that’s primarily so that I can watch The Daily Show on my iPad when mobile. The bonus that we can catch shows we missed or I can watch other shows mobile makes it well worth the money.

      My two Tivos have lifetime subscriptions (fully amortized/depreciated), so other than technology upgrades and the occasional Redbox rental, all we’re paying for TV is $16+tax per month for Netflix and Hulu+. I’m pretty sure I’d pay $20/month for HBO streaming access — possibly more. Not every month, though.


  4. #7 by B.E. Earl (@VerdantDude) on February 19, 2013 - 4:48 pm

    The HBO-Go catalog is immense. We have been having so much fun going back and watching entire HBO series that we missed when we didn’t have HBO.

    I like the content offered from Hulu+, but (at least on the Roku box) the interface sucks and it is buggy. Also, I can’t wrap my brain around paying for a service/content and then have to watch commercials in that content. I know the ads are shorter. Whatever…I just sit and fume that they are there at all. Bullshit. So we dropped it.

    We order our cat food (not available locally) with Amazon. The shipping we save on that alone more than pays for our Prime membership. Plus we shop a lot with them anyway. Add on the free streaming content and it’s a slam-dunk.


    • #8 by Ren on February 19, 2013 - 5:11 pm

      Now you’re just teasing me with your HBO-GO!

      I hear you on the Hulu+ commercials, but it’s by far the most economical way to get the content. Well, sometimes. If all I want is mobile access, I can copy show from TiVo to iPad pretty easily. Are you similarly bothered by the commercials on non-premium cable channels?

      I still can’t justify to myself paying extra when Super-Saver is already free. Have you looked into Amazon’s subscriptions? I think those have free shipping and are perfect for things like car litter. I should look Into that as well.


  5. #9 by Kevin Spencer on February 22, 2013 - 8:18 am

    The American President is a fine movie. I don’t really have any advice regarding movie formats. We’re still rockin’ the DVD player and haven’t even upgraded to HD cable. We even cancelled our Netflix subscription about 18 months ago as we never really seem to have the time to watch many things.


    • #10 by Ren on February 22, 2013 - 9:53 am

      Assuming your lack of TV time is a result of more fulfilling activities, good for you! Sometimes I feel like my purpose in life is to watch TV….


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