The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Future is Here

If the industry hasn't already done so, I'll go ahead and do it for them. I have long been the biggest supporter of home video. I own literally hundreds of VHS, then DVD and now blu-rays. Today, I am waving the white flag and surrendering.

For a year, I have been using my blu-ray player in the basement to access online content through Amazon and Vudu. We used it sporadically, mostly to watch free Amazon Prime shows for the girls, or older free movies. I used Vudu a handful of times to rent a new release because it is one of the few that offered 1080p and 5.1 sound. Then, I discovered something cool. When you buy a movie, it usually has a "digital copy". I had been saving those in iTunes. Now, they have switched over to Ultraviolet. This is a service that verifies your movie, then allows you to access it from the cloud. At first I was ticked because I couldn't actually save the file on my computer, making iTunes useless. Then I realized I could link Vudu to Ultraviolet, and watch my movies anywhere online - including streaming them from my blu-ray player.

Suddenly, I started to use this streaming more and more. I soon realized how great it was, so I decided I had to be able to do the same upstairs. After reading nothing but amazing reviews on the new Roku 3, I made the $99 purchase and set it up. Do you remember the first time you used TiVo? It was just like that. I knew things would never be the same. Two days later, I bought a second unit for the basement.

Internet streaming media players are the future of viewing.

Physical media for movies and television is an endangered species. A long series of formats has progressed since actual film reels were used in high end home movie theaters. Film gave way to VideoDiscs, gave way to LaserDiscs, gave way to Betamax, gave way to VHS, gave way to DIVX, gave way to DVD, gave way to HD-DVD, gave way to Blu-ray. Now, I think people will soon stop buying DVDs and blu-rays, because every movie is quickly available to rent or purchase through a number of online movie services. Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Blockbuster and Netflix are but a few. The prices are actually comparable to buying a disc, which tells you something. If they charge the same price, but don't have to manufacture and ship the disc, the studios MAKE MORE MONEY! I have even seen quite a few big titles get released online BEFORE the blu-ray comes out. Prometheus is a recent example. Oh yeah, you can buy it and watch whenever you want.

Do you remember that painful day when you made the iTunes plunge? You decided that you were going to rip all your hundreds of CDs into iTunes and go all digital. It was a little scary, and took a long time painfully inserting disc after disc. But when you were done - glorious! That day is coming for me very soon with video. No, I'm not going to rip all my DVDs and Blus. That would take a year. For $1, you can load your disc into your computer, connect to Vudu, get it verified and have your own purchased copy to stream online. Yeah, sucks to have to pay, but it will be worth it. Literally hundreds of movies at your finger tips to watch from your phone, any computer or any TV.

The other shoe will drop when cable providers, or channels themselves provide their content directly to streaming devices. Right now, services like Amazon and Hulu allow you to keep pace with your favorite shows. But Apple and Roku are negotiating right now with cable companies and trying to get internet streaming of regular TV. Then, you'll be able to watch live TV as well. When that happens, you'll hook up a tiny Roku to your TV by HDMI, and viola - instant home theater!!! No more blu-ray player, no more cable box. In fact, I'll bet someone even integrates Roku or Apple TV right into a TV in a year or 2. Plug in the TV, hang it on the wall, connect to your Wifi network, and NO CABLES at all!!!

Some other fun things the Roku allows you to do:
  • Roku app: Push pictures and music from your iPhone.
  • Plex: Link Roku to your home computer. Set up folders to stream ALL your movies, home movies, music, photos.
  • Picasa/Shutterfly: Link Roku to your online albums.

Look, I'm not ready to cut the cords yet, but the writing is on the wall. I'm sure the Apple TV has similar features, but it certainly can't claim the volume of channels Roku has right now. For now, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Roku 3. Just go buy it and get started.


Teddy said...

By the way. If anyone is wondering, Roku 3 and Apple TV are very similar but have some big differences. Check out this comparison video that really nails it in a very fair analysis.

Bottom line, Roku is offers more to everyone. Apple TV has some awesome features (video streaming from iPhone or iPad and pushing your Mac desktop to TV), but you're forced to live in AppleLand. I think most people will want more choices than a Mac, iPhone, iPad and iTunes.

Oh yeah, if anyone cares, you can watch YouTube on Roku. It seems like that is always mentioned as a negative in reviews. Really not a big deal for me, but read about Twonky. Works fine.

Colin and Liz said...

I want to cut the cord on cable, but I wouldn't because I will always need internet and internet-only packages cost about the same as what you'd pay if you get cable tv as well. What a rip! All I really need is access to Disney Junior and ESPN; it's all I ever watch.

rench said...

Cord has been cut for a month or so now! Roku upstairs. Tivo recording OTA stuff on 1st floor. WDTV Live downstairs for streaming as well as a 1TB ext. hard drive attached for home movies on-demand. Will be putting all DVD's/Blu-Ray on hard drive as well eventually as .MKV files. Love the ROKU/WDTVLive/Tivo streaming...hopefully content keeps ramping up more and more (it will).

rench said...

By the way, if anyone could ever give me a 1st grade lesson on torrents I would buy you a Schlitz. Would love to download a few things to reside on the ext. HD, but am I bit intimidated by virus/piracy unknown.

Teddy said...

Couch Potato

ian said...

I've gone the Apple route and am quite pleased. I rip everything (CDs, DVDs) to a central Mac Mini server that uses Home Sharing with multiple Apple TVs, Mac computers, and iOS devices. I also use iCloud Match which makes all my music available to any of my devices as long as I have a network connection. If they make that for TV and Movies I'd be in heaven.

I know there are compromises with locking with Apple, but a) their shit just WORKS, b) all my devices interoperate seamlessly throughout the house (Watch ESPN streaming to my TV!), and c) they keep all my stuff private.

Kevin said...

I spend most of my (minimal) free time reading books. Most of the time they are the ones written on paper, but occasionally, I will also get an e-book *gasp*.

PS - You guys are all going to die when the apocalypse happens. You can't live without your "clouds", "twonky", and "roku"; I promise not to let the zombies eat you while you're still alive.

Teddy said...

To Ian:
No arguing. Apple works, but I think there are too many other "non-apple" companies working on these things and innovating faster and better. Don't you feel like Apple no longer is setting the trends, but reacting?

To Kevin:
I too read books. But always ebooks, and almost always obtained for free online! (By the way, does book 12 of the Chaoswar Saga really count as a "book"?)

When the zombie apocalypse does happen, I'm good. My next door neighbor has a bunker in his basement, fully stocked and armed. It only takes me 30 minutes to get to Uncle Dan's. He's got an arsenal. And if I need to get out of the city, I have a friend on a farm in Ohio who is also a gun dealer and has HUNDREDS of weapons and vehicles. Yeah, he'll probably turn out to be another "Governor", but I'll make sure he doesn't have a "Penny" in his closet. Sometimes the best plan is knowing who else has the best plan!!!

Teddy said...

"I also use iCloud Match which makes all my music available to any of my devices as long as I have a network connection. If they make that for TV and Movies I'd be in heaven."

I forgot to mention, Roku can do this. They have a channel called Plex which is free. You install a free program on your computer, and it links your Roku to allow streaming of all movies, music and pics.

For $4.99, you can install an app on your iPhone (and probably any mobile device) that allows streaming of all the same media anywhere with an internet connection, and not just Wifi!

I personally don't have a need for this, but it's nice to have as an option.