Ridley Scott: Streaming Movies Suck

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Three-time Oscar-nominated director of many awesomesauce movies Ridley Scott penned a HuffPo article yesterday, detailing why streaming movies are still vastly inferior to physical media such as Blu-ray. Oh, yeah, Mr. Scott? You're... you're... absolutely right. Sigh.

As much as we like our on-demand flick fix, Scott has a point. Namely, that we're so quick to be wooed by a new and convenient delivery method that we forget that it can't deliver kick-ass video and audio fidelity. He thinks the film experience trumps convenience every time. What else would you expect from a director? Obviously, to see a film in the way in which the auteur intended, you have to go to a movie theater. For a home viewing experience, though, he's all about the Blu-ray.

...the technically sophisticated Blu-ray disc, of which I've been a supporter since its inception, is the closest we've come to replicating the best theatrical viewing experience I've ever seen. It allows us to present in a person's living room films in their original form with proper colors, aspect ratio, sound quality, and, perhaps most importantly, startling clarity.


Streaming may be "good enough" in a number of situations (no experience is going to make The Hangover 2 any good), but Scott is right: a lot is lost. The reason for this is compression. In theory, there's no reason why a streamed movie couldn't be just as high quality as Blu-ray, except that there's a bottleneck, and that bottleneck is the current state of broadband Internet. In order to closely reproduce the quality of the original movie, Blu-ray movies have a bitrate as high as 42Mbps (the average is around 30Mbps). On the other side of the equation, "HD" movies on Netflix stream at a bitrate of around 3.8Mbps. In other words, there is about 1/10th of the information that's in the original. Until we all have ultrafast 100Mbps home internet connections, that's the way it's going to remain.

Scott says, "physical media has years of life left and must be preserved because there is no better alternative." He's probably right. DVDs may slowly give way to Blu-ray, but it's going to be a long time before Blu-ray gives way to streaming. But for the shitty movies you drunkenly dial up at 4AM on a Tuesday night, he's got to admit: streaming works too. Check it out and decide for yourself. [Huffington Post]


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