Long time listeners to the show/readers of my Twitter stream will know of my long running indecision with regards to how I collect films. After years of being a hardcore physical media evangelist my feelings started to change and were centred around a particular moment. Last year my father died and in cleaning out his place, strewn full of papers unneeded for years and a great deal of alcohol (a contributing factor in his death which has also had an effect on my relationship with booze in the year or so after thus far), there were dozens of DVDs, some on shelves, some uncared for and forgotten under his sofa. All this stuff, all this waste, most of it now filling up decomposing bin bags or being recycled into something else entirely, it had me thinking. Do I need this stuff? Why do I cling onto it so much?
For a great long time, it was the quality of the presentation, something Ultra HD Blu-Ray certainly does better than any streaming format does now, and the presence of Extras. With Sony's decision not to put an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player in the forthcoming PS4 Pro, I believe we have reached a turning of the tide, one where adoption of the format will not be wide enough to convince studios to continue to release physical product, indeed Disney's continued absence from the format is telling. This is a company who revels in the marketing of physical media and make a great deal of money out of it, but it appears Ultra HD won't offer this revenue stream.
After this, Extras were my primary concern but then the mind starts to wander again. When is the last time I watched all the extras on a disc? Probably my uni days over a decade ago, yet this just increases the value added proposition of physical media. However, this is changing and in terms of wanting to have your film collection be 1's and 0's electronically transported to you at any time of day, there has never been a better time. At least if you like your Apple products. Google has made some affectations with this though thus far the only real benefit of any extras on their service has been the Star Wars films.
Extras began appearing on iTunes a few years ago and some even courted controversy, for instance the "Visual Commentary" available on the Star Trek Into Darkness iTunes edition did not appear on the initial Blu-Ray release, but generally they weren't the equal of the Blu-Ray set. In fairness, many iTunes titles still aren't, however with the ability to add extras in, something many studios have done, the aforementioned Star Wars collection added commentaries and Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo added documentary material after the initial release for example, you have a collection which will likely only expand. Yes, things can be removed also but what would be the business sense there? iTunes Extras are obviously being watched, otherwise why bother, but there's also a sense that from a value perspective not creates greater parity.
One key example, the one which caused this piece actually, was the recent addition of the "Black & Chrome" edition of Mad Max: Fury Road to the initial iTunes release. On physical media, you'll have to buy a new release but not so here, it's just added. This makes the Extras package on the iTunes release BETTER than the Blu-Ray. Yes, the bitrate isn't as high and no, you don't get lossless audio but as someone with a 50 inch TV and at this point no surround sound, it has become a question of priorities. Do I want a collection of what will one day be worthless plastic cases and discs or do I want an accessible selection of films which lets face it, won't be disappearing any time soon, which also come with healthy extras. Here's another question. Seven has been £3.99 on iTunes of late. It now has what seems to be all the extras on the Blu, including FOUR commentaries. It's £6 for the Blu in a 5 for £30 in HMV at the moment. I'd go for the iTunes version.
What say you?