Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blinkbox Pt 2: The Revenge

It's been awhile since my last blog post that wasn't a top 10 list (the good folks at Best For Film enjoy em), so, on the eve of my shooting another flick, I might as well word vomit for 1000 words or so.

A few months ago, I discovered a video on demand site called blinkbox (lower case is right, I believe), where you can rent or buy videos and stream or download your purchases. I've used the site for awhile now and can round out my original thoughts on it.

Essentially, I dig the site. They have a decent selection of films, the downloads are quick, and they have some free flicks you can check. Essentially, what you'd want from online video. The big advantages of a site like this, as I've stressed before, is that it is an easy and inoffensive way to download films legally for a price that typically doesn't make you feel ripped off. It's difficult to put a value on digital downloads, since you're not actually getting  a physical product, but that niggling feeling that you know you SHOULD be paying for a film you stream or download will always be there. The folks at this site seem decent (now, obviously they're a business, but fuck it, roll with this) and not like they are trying to squeeze every last penny out of you. They are halfway between the standard distribution model and the new one that still needs to be perfected. Bless their cotton socks, they will change and they will be the future of our legal home entertainment!

One of my biggest criticisms of the site is their price for some new releases (and some titles in general) are in line with physical releases, and I just cannot justify the idea that they are worth the same. I thought for awhile would it be worth it if the site tried to add special features to some downloads, but this ended up coming up as extraneousness in the end. Special features will remain (for the moment) the domain of physical media, whereas digital media should be more focused on moving their films on the idea of being cheaper and just pushing the film. Though I personally would love the idea of being able to download mp3 audio commentaries, but I'm just a big nerd!

I have purchased and downloaded a few films and have had no problems with them. The quality is great, they downloaded quick, and, I'll be damned, there were some films that were decent surprises! The video is protected with DRM, which means you must enter your password for your blinkbox account and can only use it with Windows Media Player (no downloads for Mac, I'm afraid). This is a bone of contention to me, as I, like a more vocal majority, feel that if I have paid for something, I should have control over how I use it. I know that this will be an area that will change for sites like this in the future, but the limitations are what make some people uncomfortable and keeps the 'pirates' in business, particularly when there are complicated ways to get around DRM (oh those tech-whizz-kids!). Oh, for those who are interested, I am unaware of any way to download the free videos from the site. I'll hazard a guess there's a way, as there seems to be for everything.

For the free films, there are ads inserted. Most of the time, these glitch up on me, but I've always been more of a downloader than a streamer. As annoying as those ads on Youtube and Megavideo are, they may be a better idea than TV style ads, though I maintain it may be better to have the same amount of ads but fewer blocks of ads in which they are shown. It is certainly less intrusive.

Rentals are also obsolete. I know it is probably still a big market with a lot of people and the prices are a LOT cheaper than your local video store, but I just cannot bring myself to pay to rent something digital. Hypothetically, it is so easy to permanently get something these sites offer for a limited time. Now, I could write a whole other 1000 words on piracy (I've only written 100 words so far, right?), so to keep on topic, I will reiterate, blinkbox is the stepping stone between what consumers want and what they are being offered. I'm keeping an eye on the site, gladly using it. I know what price range I'm willing to spend in, and I do think eventually things will fall in line with my expectations. This is not because I am saying it, but because I am just echoing the feelings of thousands of people who want nothing more than to enjoy films in an easy way.

You're not there yet, blinkbox, but someday you will. For your efforts to get there, I salute you!

For those who want a little blinkbox experience, you can now watch the fantastically awful Italian horror film Demons in all its glory for free on the site, under free movies. Here's a trailer so you can see what you're in for: