Movies

July 6, 2016

Theaters

I love the movies, I have for a very long time. Going to the theater to watch a movie was an experience for me years ago. I still like seeing movies on the big screen, but people have changed, movie-goers have changed. These changes aren't the best and they definitely make the movie-going experience less than pleasant.

People are now used to watching movies on their phones, tablets and at home on the TV from time to time. This breeds a different type of movie watching crowd. One that doesn't mind the occasional interruption (say from a text message) or pausing a movie or talking with someone in the same room. That's all fine, except for at the movie theater. It is rather annoying to see someone check their phone while a movie is running. Why would you pay $10 to see a movie only to sit there messenging? The bright little screen is a distraction in a dark theater. The constant talking is also rather annoying.

So, nowadays a movie has to be a pretty big movie to get me to go out to the theater to watch it. I used to see movies in the theater weekly. That slowed down quite a bit when my two kids came along. But, now that they are bigger, I can sneak out and see movies at night after they go to bed. Still, it has to be a big movie (ie. "event" type movie) for me to get out late at night to watch a late showing and suffer the annoyances of the new-world movie-going crowd. It doesn't help that movie tickets are quite expensive. This year, I have seen only a handful of movies at the theater: Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and Independence Day: Resurgence. Deadpool being the best of the bunch, Batman v Superman being the worst.

Home

I tend to watch movies at home now. For the longest time, I was watching movies via Netflix DVD -- back in their hayday. I stopped using their service after I got tired of waiting for movies to ship and switch to streaming movies. Streaming is very convenient, the trade-off for me was quality. Sure, Netflix and Amazon have some of their libraries streaming in UHD and the majority of their libraries streaming in 1080p. But, for a cinema snob (my buddy Darrell's term for me) this was not really good enough, but I went with it anyways. The problem with streaming UHD and HD is that there is sizable compression applied to the video and the audio is the basic of basics.

Netflix HD streaming is 5Mbps and UHD is 25Mbps, that is combined video and audio together. A Blu-ray can deliver video and video at a maximum of 54Mbps. The quality is noticeable -- Netflix and Amazon UHD look like Full HD Blu-ray. On the audio side, there is no comparing a lossless DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with the Dolby Digital+ provided by streaming services (though Netflix is supposed to start streaming Dolby Atmos sometime this year).

Given all of this and given that I have a sound system that can handle everything except Dolby Atmos, I figured I would switch back to watching movies on physical media. I was using my Playstation 4 to watch Blu-rays, but decided recently to get a dedicated Blu-ray machine because of three things:

  1. Power. The PS4 is one power-hungry machine, even when playing movies. Sony says that the PS4 will consume 100W while playing a Blu-ray. This is compared to dedicated Blu-ray players consuming 8-10W while playing a movie.
  2. Noise. The PS4 is loud, even when it is playing a movie. The fan constantly spins and makes for quiet moments in movies not so quiet anymore. Even the most basic stand-alone Blu-ray players do not have fans, so they are quiet except for the slight whine of the disc spinning.
  3. Control. I don't understand why Sony continues to not put IR ports on the Playstation (neither the PS3 nor the PS4 has an IR port). This means that either I have to get a third party media controller or use the DualShock 4 to control movie playback. I cannot integrate the PS4 movie playback with my Harmony Hub. Using the DualShock 4 means that there is a bright LED that is on during the whole movie experience, pretty distracting.

Blu-ray Player

In the end, I picked up a Samsung BD-J6300. I had tried the Sony BDP-S1700 before that, but looking at the complaints about the machine, I returned it for the Samsung. It seems that the Sony line of Blu-ray players suffer from random child lock issues -- some owners left with a disc stuck in the machine and no way to get it out. I was not going to take my chances.

The BD-J6300 has 3D, which I won't use and it also has 4K upscaling. The 4K upscaling is a gimmick as 4K TVs automatically upscale signals anyways, but it is neat to see my TV flip into 2160 mode when I start to play a movie. The picture quality of the BD-J6300 is fantastic and the audio quality is fantastic too (though, it has to be for any machine since it is sending lossless audio to the receiver).

I still have a collection of Ultraviolet movies because they came free with the discs that I purchased. I never buy movies digitally because the cost of getting it on disc is usually comparable. For new releases, it usually comes with the digital UV copy. I also have Amazon Prime, so I can watch movies free from time to time. That is why I was surprised to find that the Blu-ray player was able to play streamed videos in their native 24fps. Vudu and Amazon Prime Video both stream films in 24p (Netflix also). This results in much smoother video from streaming sites, especially when compared to streaming on my Roku which only does 60Hz using 3:2 pulldown.

Content

I already have a large(ish) Blu-ray collection that continues to grow. I have looked at getting rentals from Netflix again, but it seems like they are de-emphasizing their physical media operation (with shipping center closures) and with USPS slowing down deliveries, the cost of Netflix DVD does not seem to worth it.

I looked at Redbox and have signed up. I still have not tried it yet. I have one just down the street and will give it a shot one of these days. The cost of renting from a Redbox is doable at $2 per night per movie. Five movies a month would be the same as a Netflix Blu-ray subscription.

What I found was that the local library, my branch is just a little farther down the street than the Redbox, has a decent selection of Blu-rays and a large collection of DVDs. I got Whiplash from their collection along with seven other movies (The Monuments Men, San Andreas, 300: Rise of an Empire, Grudge Match, Super 8, Foxcatcher and Captain Phillips). There's just something fun about walking in and browsing and being surprised by what I could find to borrow and take home to watch --- for free. If you haven't checked out your library, you should, it's a great resource for things other than books.

Movie Time

So, now I get to relax at home to watch movies without the annoyances of going to the theater. Sure, I will still go to watch big event type movies (Star Wars anyone?), but for regular movies, I will stick to watching at home on my 50" UHD TV and decent sound system. I will mix Blu-rays with streaming media, but will try to stick with Blu-rays. For now, I will keep with getting media from the library -- there's no real need to pay to get a movie early if I can wait to get it from the library at a later time.


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