Video Streaming and the Death of the Quality Film Viewer

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Over on the WorcsFF site the administrator has been considering the differences between cinema, home and streaming techniques regarding film distribution, and although he makes some very good observations regarding the current state of affairs with this technology I think there is more to be said.

one of the main issues that, for me at least, surround the current move to watch TV and movies online is that it once again it panders to the throwaway nature of modern consumers.

With so many sites offering free alternatives when it come to our viewing tastes it’s clear that there need be no act of contribution and therefore no obligation to make a serious attempt to work with the piece being viewed. Simply put, the very act of searching for, selecting and purchasing a movie is a part of the viewing process itself; and properly done it adds immeasurably to the final experience.

Many of the lesser known greats require considerable effort from their audiences for their greatness to shine. All we have to do to prove this hypothesis is to look at something like Coppola’s Rumble Fish, or Milius’s Big Wednesday to see this. Both movies were much maligned on their initial releases but because those people who did see them had to pay for the privilege there was a great deal more effort put into the understanding of these films, and the eventual realisation of the movies worth.

I can’t help but wonder how many talented film makers are disappearing under the dross of both the films they have to share bandwidth with, and the “viewers” that do not truly watch them. I do believe that the likes of Rumble Fish and Big Wednesday would disappear under this onslaught and would have many others.

His isn’t the end of this problem however, just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Once again we are allowing the promotion of an “on demand” culture where patience and understanding take a back seat to a persons immediate whims. If something isn’t working then just turn it off and select something else, it’s simple right?

Perhaps this attitude is why single parent families are so rife, and why when the youth feel under appreciated or frustrated (just as I did in my own youth) it seems acceptable to run literal riot over other peoples lives. Of course this would seem acceptable to these people, because there is not much of an attempt to make a society that values anything outside a persons immediate whims.

As a collector of movies and comics I resist the digital age. The reason isn’t simply because I am a Luddite (I am not, I am probably the most technologically minded person I know) but because collecting is supposed to be difficult and it is supposed to compromise the collector.

Part of the reason a collection is a collection is that it takes up space and forces the collector to make literal space for it in their lives. Not only do I have to live with my thousands of movies and comics, but my family also have to. They have to because to accept me they have to accept my collection, they too have to compromise as much as I do. This is part of the reason the collection, and the knowledge I gleam from it, has real value; as all things that cause difficulties have value if only because of the fact.

You could look on the old proverb “out of sight, out of mind” and consider how a thousand films tucked neatly away on a hard drive can truly effect the owner of such a “collection”. Perhaps when they are viewing them (if you don’t consider my comments regarding the acquisition of films to be part of the viewing process), but there is certainly less of a sacrifice made for this “collection” and sacrifice is what gives anything it’s true value… Surely.

Of course this argument could also be used against DVD or Blu-Ray, they are in themselves a technology of convenience when considered against the true place to watch film, the cinema (as the admin of WorcsFF so rightly says). This is utterly true, but I see DVD and Blu-Ray working in conjunction with cinema; unfortunately I do not see the same act of conjunction with downloading and streaming. In essence I see a pecking order with cinema as King and streaming as the lowly serf who mucks out the pigs.

So if that’s the company you want to keep, stay with the pigs and watch your streamed movies, but if you want to be with the kings then enter the palace of film.

What can I say, I think that line says it all…

4 thoughts on “Video Streaming and the Death of the Quality Film Viewer”

  1. I understand what your saying. Back in the good old days of VHS, us film buffs were ‘outsiders’, and I liked that. I remember having to search over and over again for films that didn’t have an official release on VHS, through this special mail order company in a film magazine that specialized in ex-vhs rentals. Also alot of market places. It was like finding a golden nugget- I had always wanted to ‘own’ Videodrome and had never seen films like Blood Simple and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, as well as many others like Salvador, and nearly everything David Cronenberg had made. Back then, there were no commentaries, making of’s, special features, just the film, and only the film itself.

    Then when it reached the digital age (bearing in mind that film itself is analogue) things were somewhat ruined. I remember watching Evil Dead on VHS, it had this curtain of anonymity that made the film very, very scary. Then (ironically, released for the first time uncut) we got goofy commentaries from the director and Bruce Campbell, as well as out takes, that had interviews that showed both Raimi and Campbell as almost comedians. At the time, it seemed brilliant, being able to see a film digitally, skipping chapters, having subtitles, etc, but now, looking back, I have a deep sense of longing for those days. It kept the mysticism alive. Imagine my reaction on watching Suspiria when it was released for the first time on VHS. It was scary. Terrifying.

    I could go on for ages and ages about this, but personally, I think it boils down to the inevitable growth of technology. We’re no longer outsiders, as film fans. The lunatics have taken over the asylum, and are currently watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on their iPhones as I type this.

    j

  2. VHS does seem to me to be the purest home film format, not only did it take some effort to keep it in nice condition there was more “prestiege” in the ownership of such a collection. The streaming/downloading thing is just so damned easy that a person need know nothing in order to do it.

    You know me mate, I don’t approve of being too elitist as film fans (we have to try to accept new things) but there is a point that we shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and say, “hold on I’m a REAL fan of film and YOU may have a few thousand downloaded films but that just don’t compete mate!”

    The whole thing devalues the medium, and it does hurt film production because no one is going to put effort into a momentary whim that they would into something thats respected and loved by its audience.

    You’re right, there may not be too much that can be done about it but – by All the Gods – I’m still gonna bitch and moan about it!

    Thanks for reading my blog anyway mate, I appreciate it.

  3. Yeah, piracy is a strange thing.

    I do sometimes wonder if it’s the bigwigs like Bill Gates that make it all so convenient to rip films onto DVD or even CD using their own inbuilt windows media player (or iTunes, for that matter) that profit it, promote it and make money for all the programs and software. Not to mention how, with dvds these days playing divx formats and so on, and now they even have USB hubs so people can download, put it on a memory stick, plug, play, and watch.

    Once again, it’s impossible to go into this issue without regarding the past, when home users of a computer are now becoming the pirates. Back in the days of the early PC, all I had was a cd rom drive that couldn’t burn cd’s, let alone dvds. With technology how it is now, it seems the people are their own pirates with all this free downloadable software handed to them on a platter. Human beings are vulnerable, and if there’s a cheap/free/easy way to get something, then they’ll do it. I guess it’s the way it’s always been, what with second hand shops, sales, and such.

    I remember when I was about to go to uni, before dvds became the ultimate format, and I wanted to make my own copies of my films onto blank VHS tapes by connecting one video to another with an external scart plug. Obviously, this was because I treasured my videos and didn’t want them to get nicked by strangers at uni. I had to leave one playing overnight and one recording and many of them were copy protected. It was quite a hassle.

    But nowadays, it’s easy, much, much too easy, with all the corporates almost exploiting the way people watch films and making money for themselves.

    I have a friend who considers him a big film geek, yet his entire collection is downloaded. I may have spoken to you about him before, but he’s a bit of a prick. I hate to say this, but now I go more in the way of HD, collecting blu-rays, because at least they have some value and it’s like a way of starting things from scratch, when your dvd collection has become so bloated that it takes up a whole bloody room and to own the stuff that YOU want to. Apparently, it may also be the last physical format of a film that film fans may own (in my opinion, computers and films shouldn’t have really been mixed in the first place). So I continually support it, hoping it will last as long as possible.

    They should have made CD roms to JUST play cds, dvd roms to JUST play them, and dvd players to JUST play either cd’s which are bought, official dvds that were bought (to play all formats) and none of this fancy convenient piracy crap.

    However, I’m still bloody pissed off about this region locking system with blu-ray (the Alejandro Jadarowsky trilogy is locked, I would love to have owned them)!

    In this crazy digital era, it’s VERY hard to know who is to blame for it all. If the people had access to the kind of technology we have now in the past, I’m pretty sure they’d be into it too.

    As for commenting, no probs mate. It’s very interesting, and a darn site better than my mates making fun of my ill cat and putting wit before compassion on crackbook! 😉

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