So I finally got a Netflix streaming device, an LG BD370. It is an actually a Blu-ray player but after the initial day of drooling over the resolution, it has become mainly a streaming device.
Strangely, once I got the LG, the cable box refused to work properly (after an hour of use, it sticks to one channel, better known as the monogamous cable box syndrome). I’ve been meaning to switch it out but frankly I prefer the new setup.
The Old way
My old television habit would be to search for something to watch, find nothing, compromise on something that didn’t use brain cells, search again for something more challenging and then finally end up on America’s funniest home videos.
Once a month, I’d get antsy to go to a movie theater, I’d get all excited about watching an independent movie but when Kelly and I are finally able to sync our schedules, the movie is long gone from local theaters. So we compromise on a Hollywood movie that that caters, even partially, to adults. We usually come out feeling like we got our money’s worth but we don’t talk about it afterward. Much later, the movie will come up in conversation with friends, I’ll be able to say that I’ve seen it, vouch for its quality or lack of. Sidenote: it seems like people rarely talk about movies as they once did. Is it just me? We seem too smart to have smart conversations. Too respectful to disagree? We give people room to discover their impressions but we don’t engage with those impressions.
We have a Blockbuster account, it has been at least a year since we used it. So for DVD rentals, it’s been Netflix. I have more than 260 movies on my DVD queue and yet it will take me a month to watch a movie and return it. This kills me. When I lived in NYC, I rented VHS tapes from the now defunct Kim’s videos. I would rent 2-3 tapes every two days, travel into Manhattan (an hour ride from Astoria or Flushing) to return them. I used to be so dang broke but the $10 I spent at a time were never a problem. But now, even though money is not an issue, the Netflix subscription seems like a thorn on my side. I think this has to do with guilt more than anything else.
The one bright spot has been online content. For the last 4-5 years, the films that have really stood out have been shorts posted online. Writing for TickleBooth has provided me an incentive to seek them out.
The New Way
Pull up my Netflix queue and watch something that is challenging, beautiful, independent, with a strong personal voice. You see where I’m going with this? This is a filmmaker’s paradise. As a filmmaker, it is not terribly exciting to reach your audience on a itty bitty computer screen. I don’t want someone to read an email and watch my film simultaneously.
Television and mainstream movies are still in the mix. I don’t want any of this to stop. I mean it! I just think independent film has taken a back seat to these mediums in accessibility. You have to subscribe to IFC and/or Sundance channel. You have to quick about getting to the movie theater when a foreign film comes out. The big guys have been eating up the channels of distribution. Ever since Netflix DVD rentals came into the scene, the indie titles have had a shot. But there is something to be said about watching something when you’re good and ready. Streaming provides choice and accessibility.
I should also point out that mental health is another distinct advantage. In the old way, you are at the whim of television/movie schedules. What’s on when you are ready gets top billing. You are in a passive state. When I was young, I never understood how people watched so much television. I do now, it’s all incremental. Day by day, you increase the dose. It has less of an effect, so you increase the dose some more. In the new way, it is about curiosity. The mind works so much better that way. It can also turn itself off when it is satisfied. Things are quieter around the house than they ever were.
Talk of the future
I hope all online video content is accessible on these devices. Youtube is fine but it can be better. I seriously don’t understand who watches all these Youtube stars. “Featured”, “Most viewed”, “Highest Rated” mean zilch to me. I’m tired of 3rd rate knock-off’s of Ze Frank. Vimeo would be more interesting as their featured content seem to highlight shorts more than personalities. However, something along the lines of Netflix recommendations for online videos would be awesome. For those who are not familiar with Netflix, the site recommends movies based on your ratings. For the most part, it is a very effective way to find films.
In the future, I hope, TickleBooth could have its own channel, its own interface. Some of you are more technically inclined will ask why not just connect your Mac/PC to your TV. Where is the emoticon that sticks its tongue out? That sounds like more multitasking to me. I think streaming should play by different rules. Less distractions, less features and a focus on content. Blip.tv has a channel on the Roku player, it is a good example of what I’m talking about. Sadly, it currently showcases only featured content, WTF!
Straight to streaming. What if? And here is a big what if. But what if, major studios spent their gazzillions of dollars on spreading the word on a new movie that was releasing on the web. Wouldn’t the film do quite well? They would make less from each viewer but more in the end. Every time someone said “you got to watch this film” and you could actually do it instantly, wouldn’t you more likely do it? This actually sounds like a little scary. Content overflow! But what if the event movies continued to dominate the multiplexes and the indies dominated world of streaming. The fight to save most indie theaters are a losing battle, in my humble opinion. And when a 20 million dollar “Indie” clogs up the theater, I stop caring. Wouldn’t these films be better suited for a World premiere with a virtual red carpet on the web? I don’t mean all indie theaters should die, theaters like the Walter Reade theater or Carolina Theater are in a different class because they are less about profit and more about film culture. It is important for us to keep them alive. Galleries vs museums (the positive sense of this word).
- Instapaper for videos? Find a video on your phone, bookmark it so you can watch it on your television.
- If you watch an online video on your TV versus your computer, should you pay the content provider?
Originally appeared on Ticklebooth.