Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Open Letter to my DVD Collection

Dear DVD Collection,

I know it feels like I've abandoned you. Up until a few weeks ago, you were my go to source for entertainment. When I had a few hours to kill and I wanted something I could count on, and I didn't want to put up with commercials, you were my first and only destination. I could throw in a disk (and by that I mean carefully transfer the disk from the case to the player to avoid scratches and extend the life of the DVD) and whether it was a movie or a favorite television show, the result was enjoyable all the same.

Sometimes I would sit back and re-watch a movie I'd seen dozens of times already. Or I might have some busy-work or chores to do, and the familiar television characters would keep my company during my drudgery. It was a solid system, one you feel I've betrayed because now I have Netflix and Hulu Plus.

I want to state, for the record, that it's not about you. You haven't disappointed me in any way. This is about my relationship to cable. Like many people, I officially cut the cable cord, choosing instead to stream video through my computer and Playstation 3. Suddenly I have a lot more options for a fraction of the cost. Every day I happen across a new movie or television show that I want to watch, and there just aren't enough hours in the day to see everything.

So I can see how it feels like I abandoned you, that the past thirteen years of building you up meant nothing to me. Let me assure you that this is not the case. You still matter, and I'll tell you why. First of all, Netflix and Hulu don't have everything. In fact, right before I got Netflix, the company jettisoned a lot of movies and television programs from the service. Hulu likewise doesn't have every show I want to watch, most notably anything currently on CBS.

This means that while these streaming services do overlap your content, it isn't 100%. There are still shows and movies that I can't stream. I'm still going to count on you when I need to visit Corner Gas, watch Die Hard, or journey with Sam and Frodo through the extended editions of Lord of the Rings. Even if Netflix or Hulu possess one of your titles, they have none of the special features, such as audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and blooper reels.

A second issue is video quality. A DVD a few seconds to buffer, and I don't have to sit through blurry pixilation for a few seconds before the picture becomes clear. I also don't have to put up with digital artifacts, such as random glitches with the picture or the odd blank space on the screen. While this may not bother me if I'm playing something in the background, it will certainly take me out of the experience if I am invested.

Finally, these services depend on both my internet connection and the networks themselves. If either of these fail, I can't access the digital content. If my subscription lapses, then I can't access my digital content. If the companies decide to remove even more programs from the library, then they have forever denied me access to that collection. You, however, and constant. Once purchased, you will never go away. I don't need an internet connection, just electricity and functional equipment.

So while I might be temporarily enamored by my shiny new toy, I will eventually come to a point of equilibrium in which I am just as likely to watch a DVD as I am to fire up Netflix or Hulu. I've already popped in a DVD or two, in fact, so you know I haven't forgotten about you. We'll spend more time together soon enough.

Still thinking of you,

Charles B. French

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