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The Case with Physical Media
Our full breakdown of what it means to own physical media in the age of streaming and digital downloads, including the dilemma of "ownership."
I don't own physical media. There's no reason to, unless it's a movie I really really like.
You read that statement correctly quoted from a former coworker of mine, when our discussions covered entertainment and the physical owning of its releases. Just glance at the statement again—unless it's a movie he really likes. Does this mean films that don't get his stamp of approval won't guarantee his purchase? Sure, yes, that's what trailers are for, but because I err on the side of giving films a chance no matter the negative responses, as it generates a habit of not watching something that could potentially be good. What happened to "don't judge a book by its cover?" This narrows the person's perception of what a movie could/might have become, even if it's bad. Yes, I know, some movies are God-awful, but there are those which deserve attention—a reason why certain titles, or "one-hit wonders" never flourish. Enter: Physical media.
Why is physical media a hot commodity again?
Those who are still "asleep" will never realize the conjecture of our society's movement toward an owner-less life. If being born and raised in a planet where "you will own nothing and be happy," which may as well include your own physical body, then you're in for a disappointing life journey. Imagine growing up and being told that you don't own your own body; That sounds like unhappy autonomy, and you haven't completely lived...yet. Do you own a car? Own a house? If you said "no," and responded with "renting," you're one step ahead to this "owner-less" life this world is trying to push. The real truth goes deeper, but let that be a start. The best thing about owning physical media is it's yours forever. You can watch at any time without worry about a company removing titles off their library time and time again.
Another reason is nostalgia. Just the sound of sliding a VHS tape into a VCR triggers the memory many of us had as a child, and because we're now able to afford many of these titles, it makes our viewing experience much more enjoyable. Sure, as kids, we took these things for granted, however, since the people of today don't know what's "cool" anymore, it's great that a growing community of physical media fans has spread word of a time when we owned stuff and were happy. Also, according to collectors, there are many titles that were never re-released nor re-mastered on DVD, Blu-ray or even streaming. To make matters worse, the "re-mastered" versions of movies and shows feature scene cuts, re-dubbing of certain dialogues due to its controversial and sensitive nature (you know how sensitive people are nowadays), and just the convoluted structure of a film re-digitized to modern standards. There's nothing worse than watching a movie and seeing scenes cut out for no reason and profanity being re-dubbed. WE WANT TO WATCH HOW IT WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED FROM THE SCRIPT. Stop being so scared thinking, "oh, we don't know about that because it'll offend some folks and we might lose business." Who cares? This is why comedians are struggling to get gigs nowadays. If you've ever seen The Onion Movie, we're guaranteed it will offend, especially if you're a Britney Spears fan (we've even dared streaming services and TV networks to air it...uncensored, but haven't gotten a response from executives).
Exclusivity is another reason. Personally, my tastes are incredibly niche, such as weather-based documentaries and geological history. We can mention a streaming service that may have them, but if I'm being title-specific, odds are they won't carry it. This must mean I'll have to own and watch it on either VHS, DVD or Blu-ray. Is that a problem for me? No! I'm happy about that, and would rather go that route. As mentioned earlier, some films and shows were only released on, say, VHS, and not in any other format. This makes their value even more-so since it's out of print (OOP) and makes re-living that release an exciting one. I'm not afraid to say it: Majority of today's movies are terrible, riddled with propagandic messages that really shouldn't be taught nor portrayed to youngsters today. (An example would be a movie scene featuring young actors playing characters who disrespect their parents. Are you saying that because such an act is done in the movie, that makes it okay for kids to do the same to their parents in real life? You wouldn't have lived this long if it weren't for your parent[s]/guardian. Think about that.)
Privacy is one I have to address with these reasons. Nowadays, we take privacy for granted thinking that we're already safe, from online shopping to covering the webcam on our computers and smart devices. However, are we still being tracked? Those who have quit social media would think so, let alone having an account with these major websites and businesses. In this case, when subscribing to a streaming service or downloading an app, it often asks if you'd like your activities to be tracked or to remain anonymous. Either way, personally, I still think your behaviors are being monitored. With physical media, there's no tracking whatsoever. Watch and enjoy whatever movies or shows you like without being a "number." Privacy has become an increasingly tough topic to discuss and debate, but hey, here we are, huh?
What's wrong with streaming?
Perhaps the biggest problem with streaming is it makes the viewers perceive entertainment as disposable. If a movie starts out rough or boring, we cut it off immediately and find another. Sure, you can technically say the same goes with physical media, however, those who own a copy often push through with watching from start to finish to bank in on their purchase(s). Some people may not like this, but wouldn't it be a sign of respect to production companies just wanting to entertain us? Even if you ended up not liking the movie, at least you gave them the time and that alone ought to be a good-enough gesture. With streaming, you can jump from title to title and not even care, nor appreciate the entirety of a movie/show. This triggers the short-attention span in our minds making us more impatient yet persistent. When I own a physical copy of a movie or show, I want to take all my time with it—even if it's not watched for the purposes of reviewing on this website. Depending on the title, I usually watch it more than once or twice to fully grasp what's being presented. This same behavior is true when reading books. I don't need to worry about "you have 80% left to read" notifications and can read through and jump back to a chapter when I need to. On the music side, owning the vinyl, cassette and/or CD of your favorite artist(s) is a good mark of support. Not only do you enjoy their songs, even the not-so-popular tracks, but the booklets are an insight into knowing more about the artist—who they are, how they started and so forth. Better yet, some of these booklets contain lyrics of their songs, even though you can do a simple search for them online, but it's best to have a print of the lyrics.
Streaming also seldom feature behind-the-scenes presentations (although that's likely changed). See, as someone who's being doing video production since 2001, making videos/movies isn't easy. Sure, some producers and editors are more talented than others but learning the process in making such films and shows tell us how many hours were logged in, the countless rehearsals scheduled, number of crew members involved and the equipment being carried in and out to shoot particular scenes. These behind-the-scenes bonuses, to me, are a compliment to my purchase of physical media. It's almost like having a VIP look at how the project was done. As someone who works for a client company at a major film studio, not everyone has special access to filming locations seeing crew members in the middle of a shoot and the live process of how a movie/show is properly directed. Since not all of us have that luxury, the behind-the-scenes bonuses give viewers and fans an exclusive look at how things are done. What compliments do you get after you're done streaming a movie? Again, think about that.
My take on Disney and 20th Century FOX stopping production of physical media
If being wholly focused on streaming makes your shows and movies more disposable, then go ahead. Even today, I yearn the times when entertainment weren't so politically correct, and inappropriate dialogues were simply laughed at without flinching over it. I, personally, am not a fan of movies and shows today, but that's because I don't want to be indoctrinated nor shamed for my own way of living and thinking—the biggest reason, for me at least. This goes the same with music, certain video games and news media. Whether someone agrees or disagrees isn't the problem, I don't want to be forced to believe in something and expecting me to nod my head without questioning. Sounds like an outrageous reason in ties with owning physical media, but I hold this to be true. Watching personal media I purchased, I get to watch what I want on my own time and my own leisure without someone looking over my shoulders wondering what I'm doing. Why do they need to know what I'm doing? What if someone is watching an erotic film? Okay, well, that's their business; There's no need to know nor find out (I advise to please wash your hands afterward...yes, with soap). Let those who are watching have their privacy. Personally, I don't get that with streaming despite me liking and subscribed to some (mainly for sports and nothing else). However, it feels like my experience with streamed content feels less important and I'm not embracing the experience of what it is: Entertaining, thrilling, shocking, whatever the presentation is being shown.
Worse, even when you DVR a movie or show, depending on your subscription, your recordings have an expiration date. That tells me one thing overall: Companies produce, release content, then move on to the next one. There's no heart, no love and no passion for many movies today because they're so concerned with getting and posting new content on streaming apps. They don't acknowledge nor compliment the viewers' time and effort to watch them.
All of this is tied to psychology and privacy. My purchase is a monetary transaction between the store owner and to production companies/artists themselves. I want my purchase to be known that I'm a fan and am interested in their style of entertainment, and I can enjoy what they've produced on my own time. There's no reason to tell apps what you're watching, what albums or songs you're listening to and so on, even though they'll end up knowing anyway. In a sense, owning and collecting physical media is a rebellious, but also fun, hobby to "protest" against the watered-down content being released today. From the collector's point of view, there are millions of titles never released beyond VHS nor even Beta tapes. Heck, some titles only come in the form of film stock! Nevertheless, there's a lot to be had, and whether members of production are still alive today or not, I know spiritually they'll be happy knowing we've finally explored and took the time to watch what they've created.
What if it's reverse psychology—Disney and FOX stopping physical media to get us to dig up rare titles that were never shown in theaters and TV, for them to do remakes and reboots? That's possible, and here's why I say that: If you're new to this website, historically speaking, this place has been the most humble, quiet platform for those in the industry to sneak in and see what titles we've watched, talked about and/or reviewed. During those years, I've shrugged them off as coincidence but I stand corrected: Often times, whether it's an old movie title or ideas presented by, well, myself, they've have gotten coincidentally considered without ever crediting us in the least. This is all very true, and can happily name some instances when this has happened since 2013. With that said, I know in my heart, soul and my skeletal bones that someone from the industry is reading this:
Physical media is here to stay. If you don't think so, ask Tascam who announced to making physical audio tapes of their popular, yet old, four-track recorders. If a company jumps back to making physical media because their older devices still remain a hit for audio engineers, musicians and even podcasters, then what does that say in the case of media content ownership? From another standpoint, have you imagined how angry people will get when an entity announces that our human bodies aren't owned by us and belongs to "the people in charge?" If that thought alone doesn't trigger a "run for your life" situation, then I'd have to ask the entirety of such situation involving ownership. Yeah, I know, this isn't the seventies, eighties and nineties, and things change. However, failure to see the underlying reason doesn't mean we're off the hook and forced to take in what's available to us—in this case, paying monthly on streaming services. The love, the support and the appreciation for content we enjoy only goes so far, and if that means venturing into a 'dead' format, so be it. Entertainment, including sports, are more disposable than they have ever been. I'd always enjoy the biographies of athletes and how they came to be, but with those shows featured on streaming services, it feels less exciting. If it were on physical media, with the addition of bonus features and such, I may just take a gander. Forget about ratings, concentrate on content and its release(s) after being aired or streamed. Make content that's less disposable which is streaming's biggest problem. Retention and keeping subscribers tuned in for the long haul are another problem amongst streaming. Maybe that's why? It seems like no one in the businesses are doing the heavy-lifting—thinking—and realizing the truth. Some of these folks in the industry are so deluded with the up-keeps of entertainment consumerism that they're ultimately comfortable with their daily routines, carrying out content produced from lack of passion (you can tell by the mediocre quality of directing and acting). Since things are slowly getting back to normal, this is your perfect chance to halt processes and think.
Oh, I haven't forgotten: Yes, physical media is susceptible to piracy, let alone shortage of materials to create physical copies—a counter-argument into coercing people to stream content. Let me ask this, especially if you're a video gamer: Ever wondered why the GameCube didn't succeed? Nintendo knew about the piracy and hacking of their systems, refusing to market their famous 'Cube console to countries known for reverse engineering their products (had Nintendo continue to limit release to such countries, the Wii probably would've also struggled in sales compared to their competitors Sony and Microsoft). Like Privacy, Piracy is another controversial subject but think about it: Not even companies like YouTube can stop people from downloading videos posted on their website, whether it's a video from an independent creator or an actual media company like NBC. If someone looks hard enough, there are tools that can download or screen record these online videos. Even if you block the ability to do such thing, anyone with a camera can record the screen at any moment (ask anyone on StackOverflow, in response to developers wanting to restrict downloading and/or recording their video content). Did we ourselves know about this having posted images, audio and video here on this website? Of course! The fact that our content gets downloaded is a compliment to us. Granted, we're still working on a video series that's awesome enough to grab a large audience, but from what we've made so far, and folks downloading and saving our stuff makes us happy. If it's good enough to be watched and enjoyed offline, we thank them for it. All in all, no matter how difficult you make your content downloadable or recorded, there are more than enough tools to do it anyway. Since streaming has made it more difficult, in terms of recording and saving for private viewing, more folks will find tools to snag them, thus increasing activities tied to piracy (if someone doesn't want to pay for it, another person will, thus recording it and openly share the video files or website links). May as well treat your content like alcohol and marijuana: If you want to kick up the market shares, make your content available to everyone.
I understand that our stance behind ownership and distribution of physical media won't be considered, but I've laid out valid points throughout this article in defense of it. It's like eating digital food: It may taste "safer" and less harmful to your health but at the end of the day, I'd rather eat real food. What if I gain weight over it? That's my problem, not yours nor anyone else's, so there's no need to track what I eat and why I'm eating such food. Respect people's decisions, it's their life experience and the lessons that follow them. No need to pamper people over what they do. Lessons are meant to be learned, not indoctrinated, enforced nor taken away.
(Oh man, I just said digital food...either they already know about it, or I've given them an idea. Who's "them?" The same ones who want us to own nothing and be happy.)
Long live physical media...and landline phones.
Are you a physical media collector/enthusiast? What is it about physical media you enjoy the most? Let's discuss it in the comments section below!
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