My Digital Conversion Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Downloads
When I graduated high school eighteen years ago I was already a full-fledged movie fanatic. I was raised on Luke Skywalker, Peter Venkman, Marty McFly, William Wallace–and my parents of course. And as you might suspect, the medium of choice for me was VHS. Laserdisc was a mysterious and aloof maiden…kind of like my love life.
But I digress.
I started my collection of tapes early, using most of my allowance on everything from The Monster Squad to Dumb & Dumber to Predator. By the time I went to college I must have acquired at least one hundred VHS tapes. Bulky and cumbersome? Maybe a little. But only a true collector of movies can appreciate looking at a bookcase lined with VHS tapes, DVDs, or Blu-rays and know the satisfaction of an eclectic stash of films.
Now at almost thirty-seven years old, budding college students who just graduated view DVDs as akin to the steam engine and VHS tapes as dinosaurs. As 4K televisions and telephones continue to develop, even Blu-rays are starting to become obsolete. Why be limited by a physical copy that you can play at only one location when you can access The Matrix on your phone, computer, tablet, or PS4? That’s not even taking into account the various other services such as Hulu and Netflix.
Streaming and digital downloads are where it’s at.
Like Abe Simpson shaking his fist at a cloud, I’ve been railing against digital conversion for the last several years. Somewhere inside of me was a ten-year old boy screaming, “Nooooo!!! I want my physical copies!!! You can have my plastic circles of awesomeness when you pry them from my cold dead hand!” There’s just something reassuring about holding a DVD in your hand, whereas digital downloads and streaming video seem more ephemeral. But as Aemon Targaryen said on Game of Thrones, “Kill the boy and let the man be born.”
Strangely enough it was actually Game of Thrones that finally convinced me that it was time to switch to digital. That and my son.
Let me explain.
With few exceptions, I usually hold off a few weeks or more to buy Blu-rays. Target and Best Buy constantly have deals going on so why not wait a bit? The Game of Thrones seasons are one of those exceptions. First day buy all the way. Typically they come out in late February or early March, a month or so before the next season starts. But a funny thing happened on the way to the box set this year. For the first time ever, HBO decided to go against the grain and release Season 5 of Game of Thrones digitally on August 31st–a full six and a half months before the DVD and Blu-ray release. At that point I said to myself, “That’s it. I’m done. If I can get a season of my favorite show a half a year early I’m crazy if I don’t take it.” And from a business perspective it makes perfect sense. The number of people who stream and download films increases every single year. Plus in this “I want it yesterday” society, sooner is always better for your potential market. If HBO’s strategy is successful (and I have no reason to doubt that it will be) look for others like Showtime and Cinemax to follow suit. Hell this is already being done on VUDU where you can digitally get a movie at least a month before release, sometimes earlier.
The second reason for my conversion, is my ten month old son Quentyn. As many of you parents out there reading this article know, the amount of stuff that accumulates in your house after you have a child increases exponentially each passing month–mostly with toys. No one tells you that your house will turn into the obstacle course from American Ninja Warrior when you have a child, but it happens. It made me realize how much clutter bothers me. Which led to thoughts of how bulky my collection of DVDs has become. Which led me think how nice it would be to have my movies stored somewhere that didn’t use up any space. Additionally I realized that my son was going to grow up in a generation of IPADs, smart phones, and instant access to virtually every book, movie, or song imaginable. Why was I wasting my time on an outmoded technology? To hang on to some childhood belief that was no longer relevant? It made no sense.
And just like that the scales of cardboard VHS cases fell from my eyes and the conversion occurred.
Consequently (and to the shock of my wife) I’m selling all of my DVDs and putting the money into a savings account for my son. (I’m not selling my Blu-rays however, I just can’t quite bring myself to part with those). My purchase of Blu-rays and DVDs has come to an end. I feel like David Bowman descending into the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the bright colors are passing by as I descend and I’m equally excited and weary at the same time.
My first all digital purchase will happen within the next week and I’m starting it off with a good one–Mad Max: Fury Road. The lovely chrome of the streaming age beckons and I will scream a variation of the War Boys battle cry as I ride to the gates of Valhalla
“I DOWNLOAD! I DIE! I DOWNLOAD AGAIN!”
You can follow me as Darth Gandalf on Twitter @cocook1978