2008-06-05

Movie Rentals with iTunes

In grade 10 I did an oral presentation announcing the imminent death of the movie rental outlet. 18 years later, in Canada and the UK, the future is here! (in the USA, the future has been here since January).

More Movies
Your movie library now includes 1200 movies thanks to iTunes. However, it is still is a better value to subscribe to The Movie Network /Movie Pix or to use a PVR to record movies from network TV. A DVD sure has a convenience factor, seeing that, unlike your computer, your DVD player is connected to your TV and sound system. And Video on Demand, for relatively new releases, is always available to those of us with digital cable (but $6/movie isn't cheap).

Choice, NOW, NOW, NOW (and no late fees)
But never befor in the history of Canada have you had access to so many movies. I'm downloading the Crocodile Hunter as I write this. 1 Gigabyte (my monthly allowance with Rogers is 60). $3.99. I know from downloading TV shows that playback can be a tad choppy (but still acceptable) on my older computer. But on my iPod touch, it is seamless (although, obviously, small).

iTunes Rental Limitations
Annoyingly, many of the movies in iTunes are only available for purchase. However, I'd say 60% of the 1200 can be rented. The National Post said that iTunes would be making new releases available in iTunes at the same time as they are available in DVD. However, the CBC doesn't mention that and I didn't notice any new releases when I browsed the iTunes Canada library. (new releases are now on iTunes, see my update below).

Viewing Options
An iPod touch/iPhone to TV (RCA/composite or HD/component) cable is available for $50 or so from the Apple Store. Ironically, there is no iPod touch/iPhone to DVI or HDMI adapter available (which are the only inputs on many new affordable HD wide screen TV/monitors. I have a 24 inch BenQ 1200p, which has viewing angle limitations, but is otherwise perfect (especially for $300!). Although if you have the money, opt for something bigger (and a wider viewing angle would be better for groups). By the way, spending extra coin on an internal HDTV tuner is stupid as the only place in Canada with over the air HDTV is Toronto. Although if you live in Toronto (or Ottawa/Vancouver/Montreal and are forward looking) AND you are boycotting Bell/Star Choice and Rogers/Videotron/Cogeco/Shaw...

If You get Carried Away
Apple TV is available for about $250 (Apple TV is essentially a modified Mac Mini). However, you could buy a brand new Acer computer (with Windows Vista) for about $300 at Wal-Mart. Even laptops with TV-out are available for as low as $500 at dell.ca. And as many HDTV monitors come with PC/VGA imputs...

Update (30 minutes later): Viewing Crocodile Hunter on my iPod touch is sublime (although the movie requires a beer). I even managed to locate my iPod touch stand which I never had to use before, but is required if you need blood in your fingers after 30 minutes. At times, I did notice a very slight delay between the voice and mouths, but I was paying special attention to such details. Dark scenes are not so good, but bright ones are perfect. And the sound quality is irreproachable (although, obviously not surround). A great feature I did not expect is a chapter guide!

Wow, the Apple movie rental Store (in iTunes) just changed (while I was writing this!). It is now more graphical. And yes (!!!!) there is the new movies section I was looking for. National Post was correct. $5/ movie for those.

If you work at Blockbuster, you will need a new job (that is what I said in my oral presentation in grade 10).

OK, the blood has been restored to all my fingers, I can now resume watching the movie (although I have 48 hours, so I can take my time).

By the way, not a single movie in French among the 1200 in the iTunes catalog. Shame on you Apple. Elvis Graton and Les boys 1,2 and 3 aren't just going to magically appear on my iPod touch now are they? Bell, obviously, does have French language movies on its online rental service (actually, they only seem to have French versions of American movies, hmm).
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From the National Post:
Titles will be available for purchase on the same day as their DVD release, including recent movies such as Juno, I Am Legend, The Bourne Ultimatum and Cloverfield.

From the CBC:

iTunes Canada adds movies to lineup

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 11:12 AM ET Comments29Recommend33

Two weeks after Bell Canada unveiled its own online video store, Apple Inc.'s iTunes store in Canada has followed suit, adding movies for download to its growing catalogue.

Apple announced Wednesday that more than 1,200 films were available for rent or purchase on its Canadian and U.K. iTunes stores, the first time feature films were made available through the online retailer outside the United States.

Movies are available for purchase at prices ranging from $9.99 for older titles to $19.99 for new releases, while rentals cost between $3.99 to $4.99 and include titles such as Juno, The Bourne Ultimatum and Cloverfield.

Video was added to the iTunes lineup in the U.S. two years ago, but has been slower to come to Canada. Television episodes only became available for download in Canada in December.

In the United States, companies like Apple and Microsoft typically negotiate download deals directly with a television show's producer. In Canada, however, television networks often hold the internet rights to shows, which adds a layer to negotiations.

The delay allowed Bell Canada to beat Apple to the punch and launch its own video service in May.

Each service, however, has staked out different territory because of limitations in how they can be played. Aside from watching them on a computer, iTunes users can view Apple's videos on an iPod or Apple TV, the company's Apple TV set-top box.

Bell Video Store users must install the Bell Video Store media player on their computer, and the service is limited to PC users running Microsoft's Windows operating system or owners of some mobile media players from Archos. The videos won't play on iPods or computers running the Linux operating system.

Microsoft also launched downloadable movie rentals in December over Xbox Live, the online component of its video game console. [I don't think the Microsoft service is available in Canada]

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