Digital Crave

Why DVD Still Makes Sense

Digital Crave

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Is there a certain film that, if you come across it flipping channels randomly, you feel compelled to watch no matter what? Even though you've seen it roughly 34,000 times? Even if it's just the last half hour of the movie? Even if it's on the Spanish language station?

I have a theory about these films — I call them comfort movies. They're familiar and soothing, and you can watch them again and again in the same way that you listen to old favorite records. For instance, anytime The Hunt for Red October is broadcast on basic cable (according to my rough calculations, about once every 9.4 hours), I must watch that movie. It might be a submarine movie thing, because the same happens with Crimson Tide and The Abyss.

Evidently, I find underwater drama soothing, for reasons I probably don't want to know. I suppose I could pay a therapist $120/hour to find out, but I suspect no good news can possibly come of that.

Comfort movies and DVD

I review movies and DVDs for a living, so I have copies of all these films on a shelf somewhere. For me, they really are like old records, and knowing that I have a physical copy of them really is a comfort. Because I've learned the hard way: If you're relying on digital download and on-demand services for your movies these days, you might literally not know what you're missing.

As with music, movies are slowly but surely "going digital." Increasingly viable digital distribution — via iTunes or Netflix or your local cable provider — prompts the question: Why even bother anymore with DVD, or its posh cousin the Blu-ray disc?

Well, I'll tell you. I spend an alarming amount of time watching films and TV series collections on home video, and as such have given this matter an inordinate amount of thought. Here are some of the reasons to stick with DVD and Blu-ray in an increasingly downloadable world....

DVD Extras: Digital versions of movie titles never have the full suite of extras you get on the DVD or Blu-ray. In fact, many don't have any extras at all. This is on purpose, of course — it's one of ways Hollywood is trying to prop up DVD sales and rentals.

For those of us who value the behind-the-scenes details of a movie — the making-of docs, deleted scenes, alternate endings and gag reels — this is a dealbreaker on certain titles.

Some films, particularly historical epics or based-on-a-true-story movies, are genuinely enhanced by extras material which provide factual context in the form of documentaries or expert interviews. For instance, when director Robert Redford's underrated 2010 historical drama The Conspirator came out on DVD, it included a full-length documentary on the Lincoln assassination. Watching them both together made for a fascinating home video double feature.

For blockbuster popcorn movies, particularly effects-heavy action pictures, the extras are sometimes even more interesting than the movie itself. Take Disney's sci-fi reboot Tron: Legacy. Not a great film, but the DVD extras included some amazing behind-the-scenes material on the film's gorgeous art design and terrific music (by legendary electronica duo Daft Punk).

Image and Sound Fidelity: For most movies available via download, particularly older titles, digital copy means a fairly radical dropoff in audio and video specs. The issue is further complicated depending on what device you're transferring the movie to. Digital movies designed to be watched on a portable device necessarily have a smaller file size, which means lower-quality sound and image.

The good news here is that high-definition versions of new movies are becoming more common at the big online retailers like iTunes and Amazon, and many of the on-demand services for the living room TV have HD options now.

Closed Captioning: Due to certain technology issues with digital distribution, you can't always get closed captioning on purchased or rented digital titles. And even when you can, they may not function across various devices. It's a case-by-case situation, usually, and highly vexing if you've come to rely on closed captioning for whatever reason.

Subtitles can be hard to find with on-demand services, too — for instance, if you watch Netflix on your living room TV via a game console or set-top box. (Although thanks to some new initiatives by Netflix, that situation has been improving recently.)

Lending: This might seem obvious, but there's one very simple thing you can do with a DVD or Blu-ray that is ridiculously complicated when dealing with digital media. You can grab that DVD off the shelf and lend it to a friend. I tend to be highly evangelical when it comes to movies I'm really into. I've probably circulated my DVD copy of Martin Scorcese's Hugo to a dozen other parents at my kids' school.

Thanks to the many technical and legal compilations of Digital Rights Management, or DRM, you just can't do that with a digital copy of a movie — or a book or a record, for that matter. This is a ginormous Digital Age dilemma that is still sorting itself out, but meanwhile it means DVD has an advantage when it comes to one of pop culture's most enduring pleasures — sharing movies with friends.

I imagine the day will come when we will all have instant access to high-quality digital movies, with all the extras attached and all the viewing rights included. But that day isn't here yet. When I crave one of my favorite comfort movies, I'm glad I still have my old-fashioned DVD library.

Hugo DVD

Case Study: Hugo

The utterly enchanting Hugo, director Martin Scorcese's love letter to cinema and childhood, makes a strong case for DVD/Blu-ray over digital. I like this movie a lot, but my kids absolutely love it, which means it's been in heavy living room rotation for weeks now.

Had we opted for a digital rental of Hugo — via iTunes, say — we would have been able to watch it exactly once, within 30 days of purchase, and would be required to finish the film within 24 hours of pressing play. As parents know, kids just don't tend to operate within such schedules.

The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack also includes five excellent featurettes that explore details of the film's production and elements of cinematic history. For the grown-ups, this stuff is gold, and you can't get the full extras package in any downloadable bundle.

Finally, Hugo is a lush film, both visually and aurally, and with Blu-ray you get maximum home video specs with 1080p high-definition and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Hugo is also one of the very few films to make truly artful use of 3D technology, and the retail package includes a Blu-ray 3D disc for those with the proper home theater setup.

Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.
Check out more tech trends and new at Digital Crave

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • So What Happened Last Night In Sweden? Donald Trump Saw It On Fox News – Update

      Updated 2:07 pm Sunday, with Trump response  President Donald Trump has explained his Sweden comment: He saw it on Fox. “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he’s just tweeted. My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19…

      Deadline
    • Inside Edition
    • Father and Son Killed in Head-On Collision After Their Cars Crash into Each Other While Returning Home

      Alabama investigators claim that alcohol played a considerable role in a horrific head-on collision that killed a father and son that were driving separate vehicles early Saturday. According to AL.com, Jeffrey Morris Brasher, 50, and Austin Blaine Brasher, 22, were both killed in a crash that occurred shortly after 4 a.m. on Saturday. • Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.

      People
    • George Clooney Admits He "Chased" Amal For "Many Months" After They First Met

      George Clooney was once one of Hollywood's hottest bachelors, who swore he would never get married again (he was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993). That is, until Amal Alamuddin (now Amal Clooney) came along. George first laid eyes on the human rights attorney at his home in Lake Como, Italy in 2013. During a previous appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, the 55-year-old actor revealed, "We met in Lake Como. She was a friend of a friend who came to visit and then I chased her for many months, calling and writing, those kinds of things." George also admitted to Ellen DeGeneres that "from the minute we met, we just sort of felt like we were going to be together." He

      PopSugar q
    • Under Armour made some huge mistakes that are turning into a nightmare

      Under Armour isn't cool anymore, according to a recent analyst note. 

      Business Insider
    • This dog arrived at a shelter with a seriously detailed notebook from a kid who adored him, and we’re crying

      Today in super cute and completely heartbreaking news, a dog recently arrived at the Humane Society of Utah with VERY specific instructions…

      Hello Giggles
    • Did Ciara Just Reveal the Sex of Baby No. 2?

      Fans are pretty sure the second-time mama-to-be dropped a major hint on Instagram.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Shocking image shows Kim Jong-nam's final moments after he was assassinated

      Shocking images of the moment Kim Jong-nam was assassinated in a Malaysian airport have emerged for the first time. The half-brother of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un was poisoned on 13 February, allegedly by two women believed to be acting on behalf of the rogue state. It was originally thought the two women involved were North Korean spies, but it emerged on Saturday that at least one of the women – Sisi Asiyah, 25, from Indonesia – believed they were taking part in a television prank, though this has not been officially confirmed.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Reminder: Robert Pattinson and FKA Twigs Are Still Crazy in Love (4 photos)

      In case you needed a refresher course on the current state of Robert Pattinson and FKA Twigs 's relationship, they provided one on the red carpet Thursday night. The engaged couple made a rare joint appearance in London at the premiere of Pattinson's new movie, The Lost City of Z . Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage sually low-key about their love affair, these two couldn't hide their obvious affection on the carpet. RPatz only had eyes for his lady, who embodied cool-girl style in a black zippered jumpsuit with flared legs. Meanwhile, FKA Twigs held on tight to her man, proudly supporting him while he promoted his latest project. VIDEO: Robert Pattinson and FKA Twigs's Cutest Couple Moments 5327375581001 Yup, these two are still goals. But there were other celebs on the red carpet, and somehow photogs managed to pull their eyes off of this loved-up couple for just enough time to snap a few pics with their cameras. Keep scrolling for all of the stars who RPatz and his fiancee showed up (just a little) on the carpet. Sorry, guys.

      InStyle
    • 'You don't get to tell us what to do': Fox News anchor confronts Reince Priebus over Trump's media criticism

      Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to...

      Business Insider
    • Father and Son Killed In Head-On Collision With One Another

      Police said alcohol was a factor in the crash.

      Inside Edition
    • NFL Rumors: 8 Potential Landing Spots for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017

      Jimmy Garoppolo will be a hot commodity around the NFL this offseason. Here's a look at 8 potential landing spots for the New England Patriots quarterback.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Millard Fillmore was deservedly forgotten, but his politics sound familiar

      History doesn’t repeat itself. But it has an unnerving tendency to rhyme. Consider, on this first Presidents’ Day under Donald Trump, another New Yorker who occupied the highest office in the land. When Millard Fillmore became the nation’s 13th president upon the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850, he immediately plunged the White House and the Whig Party — one of the nation’s two dominant political parties — into turmoil. On the day he took the oath of office, Fillmore petulantly dismissed every member of Taylor’s Cabinet, which he resented for having ignored him when he was vice president. As a result, it took weeks — in one case, more than two months — before the new president’s Cabinet members

      BostonGlobe.com q
    • Police: Man in photos now 'main suspect' in 2 girls' deaths

      DELPHI, Ind. (AP) — A man photographed walking along a northern Indiana trail system around the time two teenage girls later found slain were dropped off by a relative is now considered "the main suspect" in their killings, State Police said Sunday.

      Associated Press
    • Plus-size model Hunter McGrady looks amazing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and on the red carpet

      Hunter McGrady is amazing body-positive role model in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

      Hello Giggles
    • DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans is the new big NBA trade rumor

      The deal would send Boogie to New Orleans in exchange for Buddy Hield and a bunch of first-round picks. UPDATE: The trade is happening. DeMarcus Cousins is reportedly heading to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and multiple draft picks.

      SB Nation q
    • 12 workers fired for skipping work during 'Day Without Immigrants' protest in Oklahoma

      Twelve employees of a Tulsa-area restaurant are without a job after skipping work on the "Day Without Immigrants."

      KABC – Los Angeles
    • Grieving Army Widow Meets Her Husband’s Coffin on Airport Tarmac, Leaving Plane Passengers in Tears

      A touching moment between a grieving military widow and her husband’s coffin was captured on camera by a bystander, giving millions of viewers on social media a window into the heartbreaking and personal effects of war. Lisa West Williams was waiting to exit her aircraft at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Tuesday, when she and her fellow passengers watched a flag-draped coffin being removed from the plane’s luggage compartments. The Oklahoma native was an Echo in the Special Forces and was on his eighth deployment when he died.

      People
    • J.K. Rowling has the best response to Trump's non-existent Sweden attack

      The internet can't get enough of President Donald Trump's "last night in Sweden" remarks, including, of course, J.K. Rowling. Never one to shy from a little fun at the expense of the U.S. president, the author joined in on Twitter's response to Trump's confusing reference to a terrorist attack that didn't actually happen. SEE ALSO: Internet turns to @Sweden on Twitter after Trump appears to invent terror attack Literally the biggest incident of Sweden last night was a horse called Biscuit being rescued from a well. https://t.co/CAYsHhpt6z — Grapey (@Grapeykins) February 19, 2017 #MakeBiscuitDryAgain https://t.co/C7rPpZrcNf — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) February 19, 2017 Naturally, Rowling's hashtag kicked off a whole new riff on Trump's Sweden comments.  Poor Biscuit, after #BowlingGreen, why didn't Sweden see this coming and do something to prevent such an atrocity? #MakeBiscuitDryAgain — Bren (@bnboring) February 19, 2017 Thanks to your prayers @jk_rowling Biscuit soon dry again #MakeBiscuitDryAgain @ChelseaClinton pic.twitter.com/shs4SnlM7P — Leif Pagrotsky (@leifpagrotsky) February 19, 2017 What's that, Lassie?! Who fell down the well?? #swedenincident #MakeBiscuitDryAgain https://t.co/6Aoc9yfzz0 — MJ (@meencat) February 19, 2017 A quick refresher: During a speech at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, held Saturday night, Trump sandwiched a vague reference to Sweden between references to recent terrorist attacks in Germany, France and Belgium.  From a transcript of his speech:  As many have noted, nothing close to the attacks he referenced in his speech happened in Sweden on Friday night. Even Sweden's former prime minister struggled to make sense of Trump's comment: Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound. https://t.co/XWgw8Fz7tj — Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 19, 2017 As for the horse, let's all hope its OK after its terrifying ordeal.  [H/T: Huffington Post] BONUS: The secret love affair between Harry Potter and Voldemort

      Mashable