You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
March 30, 2024 4:32 PM   Subscribe

When a hurricane struck Florida in 2018, Christina’s neighborhood lost electricity, cell service and internet. For four weeks her family was cut off from the world, their days dictated by the rising and setting sun. But Christina did have a vast collection of movies on DVD and Blu-ray, and a portable player that could be charged from an emergency generator. Word got around. The family’s library of physical films and books became a kind of currency. Neighbors offered bottled water or jars of peanut butter for access. The 1989 Tom Hanks comedy The ’Burbs was an inexplicably valuable commodity, as were movies that could captivate restless and anxious children. “I don’t think 99% of people in America would ever stop to think, ‘What would I do if I woke up tomorrow and all access to digital media disappeared?’ But we know,” Christina told me. “We’ve lived it. We’ll never give up our collection. Ever. And maybe, one day, you’ll be the one to come and barter a loaf of bread for our DVD of Casino.”
The film fans who refuse to surrender to streaming: As more movies vanish from streaming services, cinephiles are rallying to physical media. Can they save a seemingly dying format?
posted by Rhaomi (75 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Better believe I've got all of Miyazaki on DVD.
posted by McBearclaw at 4:47 PM on March 30 [21 favorites]


Some days I just want to make popcorn and watch Big Trouble in Little China or Earth vs The Flying Saucers, and I can't be bothered so see if they're streaming somewhere. Hence, my precious DVD collection.
posted by SPrintF at 5:12 PM on March 30 [14 favorites]


Thank God I have candles and books....Now Ii might need a bell...haha. Get it? The movie with Kim Novak and Elsa Lanchester?
posted by Czjewel at 5:20 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


After the apocalypse, me with an Evangelion boxset and The Stanley Kubrick Collection, searching in vain for a working DVD player.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:22 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


“It’s not fair… there was time now! It’s not fair!”
posted by Servo5678 at 5:31 PM on March 30 [36 favorites]


Reminds me of physical media being a valuable commodity in the post-Internet-apocalypse setting of Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 5:40 PM on March 30


I have saved all of my eight track tapes. Thank goodness!

I am disappointed that I let go of all of my LPs. I let go of them when I pretty much had everything on CD. I pretty much let go of all of my CDs after I put them all onto MP3s.

I think the biggest mistake of those was letting go of the CDs, they will be perfect until the end of time. and I still play them, in my pick up truck. I know there will come a time when you can't get any players for your vehicle, but by then I'll just go from my phone with my MP3 collection.

I have a friend who has over 80 gig of MP3s. He hasn't touched them in years. I remember when Apple was selling iPods that went to at least 100 gig and didn't they go to 120 gig?

Anyways, for me the mistake was letting go of the CDs.

It was a hurricane that came blasting through Houston in 1983. In my apartment, the electric was off for about eight hours, the water never did go off. but there were many people in Houston, who went for weeks without water, without power. It was a horror show. i'd like to say I can't imagine what it would be like, but my apprentice at the time lived in a part of town that did not have power and did not have water. It was something.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:53 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


I listen to music almost exclusively on streaming, but I still have all the CDs I ever owned, just in case.

I also have close to 1000 movies on Blu-ray. Which is how I do most of my film watching.

Almost all my video games are physical versions, except for PC.

I also have about 100 LPs, most which were purchased in the last year or so. I got a gift card from the Metafilter auction and that sort of opened the flood gates.
posted by exolstice at 5:56 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


I think the biggest mistake of those was letting go of the CDs, they will be perfect until the end of time.

Nope. Layered media will always succumb to the passage of time, just you don't know how long.

There's a whole thing with Warner Brothers DVDs made at a certain plant in the early 2000s that are dying of bitrot.

The first CD I bought was Yes 90125 and I haven't been able to play that for maybe 5 years.

Vinyl is the most stable form of sound storage. Everything else involves media that can and will degrade across time.
posted by hippybear at 6:02 PM on March 30 [21 favorites]


It is obscene that this entire article manages to completely ignore the fact that going forward, piracy is the only way to guarantee access to the media you have enjoyed.

After these companies started to expect me to buy the same movies two, sometimes three times I hoisted the black flag and never looked back.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 6:06 PM on March 30 [44 favorites]


Coincidentally, I just bought a $30 DVD player today. The library has DVDs, and I realize that I can catch up on all the TV shows I missed without having to mess around with Netflix.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:28 PM on March 30 [14 favorites]


When HBO dropped Station Eleven and Westworld from their lineup. I snatched the Bluray copies. Even with streaming, some stuff just disappears. Unless you have a physical copy, it is gone.

I continue to purchase CD's and/or Vinyl of musical acts that I love. The Vinyl for the physical connection of listening to an actual album on a turntable, and the CD's for the times when the record does not include a mp3 download as an included feature.
posted by SegFaultCoreDump at 6:35 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


Yeah, is the lesson here to have physical copies, or just any copies - physical or digital - that are yours and don't need an internet connection?
posted by trig at 6:43 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


Everything else involves media that can and will degrade across time.
This is why I rip every CD I purchase as FLAC (or download the same for Bandcamp purchases), and rip every DVD, Blu-ray, and UHD Blu-ray I purchase (I should really get around to purchasing a license for MakeMKV despite the weakness of my local currency versus the US dollar) and save them to a reliable filesystem.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 6:44 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


But, to be honest, you can take a vinyl record and some minimal amount of physical technology that doesn't involve any kind of electricity and get sound out of it.

Your reliable filesystem will always fail in a power outage. Vinyl can actually still be played to some extent.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Brings to mind last year's post-apocalyptic movie Leave The World Behind.

Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke's daughter must face the end of the world just as she was finishing bingeing the TV series Friends.

Only the series finale remains unseen.
posted by fairmettle at 6:48 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


But, to be honest, you can take a vinyl record and some minimal amount of physical technology that doesn't involve any kind of electricity and get sound out of it.

What films are released on vinyl these days?

I’m not really sure why an article about movies is turning into a thread about music. Commercial recorded music has a robust and competitive streaming landscape. Film does not.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:10 PM on March 30 [10 favorites]


It is obscene that this entire article manages to completely ignore the fact that going forward, piracy is the only way to guarantee access to the media you have enjoyed.

After these companies started to expect me to buy the same movies two, sometimes three times I hoisted the black flag and never looked back.


I’m a proponent of piracy in specific use cases, but this argument isn’t one of them. If you’re happy with DVDs, don’t buy Blu-rays. If you’re happy with Blu-rays, don’t buy UHDs.

A blinkered refusal to legally purchase physical copies of films is only going to hasten the studios’ decisions to cease releasing any of their movies on physical media. Then, if you want a copy to keep, your only choice really will be piracy, but libraries, archives, etc will not be able to do that.

If you really want to stick it to the rights holders, cancel all your streaming services.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:18 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


that's what a lot of pirates do

(I'm not privy to studios' decision making processes but I was under the impression that the reason fewer things are released in physical form today is streaming, not piracy)
posted by trig at 7:25 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


(I'm not privy to studios' decision making processes but I was under the impression that the reason fewer things are released in physical form today is streaming, not piracy)

That’s a reason, certainly, but if physical media sales were increasing rather than declining, that would make physical media releases safer.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:30 PM on March 30


Incidentally, the library has a DVD of 28 Days Later, which according to the article is not available on any streaming service. It looks like someone checked it out today, and it's due back next week.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:32 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I'm willing to bet The Pirate Bay has that movie available to watch basically right now.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


I’ve always thought it was crazy to rely on internet service as your only means to play music or watch movies.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:43 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


im obsessed with collecting digital media and have a whole library of pdfs epubs etc downloaded from libgen over the years.. i like to pretend to have a moral rationale for this but rlly i am just offsetting my closet hoarder tendencies into computer activities. if i could afford physical media i would tho, digital stuff is honestly too fragile
posted by _earwig_ at 8:00 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


How much is a spindle of burnable media at your local Costco? I have something like eight spindles of burned media sitting around me right now and I don't even know what all is contained on those disks and if they are even readable at this point in time. That's a project I've thought I need to embark upon.

but just buy a writer and some media and start burning things. What happens after that is a different matter but if you've downloaded it and burned it, then you have it. For a while.
posted by hippybear at 8:04 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Oh, remember laser discs! That was a flash in the pan.
posted by Czjewel at 8:08 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I own three things on laserdisc, and I don't own a laserdisc player.

This is a problem because physical media but can't play it?
posted by hippybear at 8:12 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Oh the three things are Star Wars [Ed note: no, not a A New Hope], Fantasia, and Madonna Blonde Ambition Tour.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


There are so many movies that you cannot view on streaming services. There are movies that you cannot purchase original copies of. Movies that you can only find through links from blog posts, the internet archive, or torrents with a single seed who's active once a week for an hour at a time.

When these fail i don't quite know what will happen. The world becomes smaller. I feel like we're in a kind of tidal shift and we're on the precipice of losing so much. Which has maybe always been true in some way shape and form. But this loss of media feels deeper and more profound.
posted by Neronomius at 8:33 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


They made laserdiscs for over 20 years, almost as long as VHS was popular. It was obscenely priced, but better-adopted in Japan.

And also very susceptible to degradation. The glue that held the 2 sides together seeped into the reflective surface and ruined the picture. Laser rot, they called it.

I’ve still got a working player and a small collection, the crown jewel of which is the Japan import box set of the Airport movies. I can follow the entire career arc of Joe Patroni.
posted by Huggiesbear at 8:34 PM on March 30 [11 favorites]


You know how before Netflix got rid of its DVD service, there used to be these articles every now and then that were all "hey, did you know some people still use Netflix for the DVDs?"

Hi, I was one of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 PM on March 30 [12 favorites]


burning media is actually a great idea and i do have a bunch of blank cds lying around thatd be perfect but for some reason manufacturers stopped! making! computers! with! cd! drives! nobody i know has anything that can play cds.. i wish our computer overlords would stop unilaterally deciding formats are obsolete now
posted by _earwig_ at 8:36 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


There are so many movies that you cannot view on streaming services

the catalog of Peter Greenaway movies. He is such a visionary filmmaker but I don't even think his films can be purchased. I found a couple of them lurking the Bay and am eager to see them again because it's been decades.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 PM on March 30 [8 favorites]


Do you have access to Kanopy through your public library? They have a bunch of Greenaway movies which are available to stream.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:03 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


>ArbitraryAndCapricious

So like, right now they have a bunch of Greenaway movies.

But. For how long? How much access do you have to that? What countries are able to watch those movies? What happens when/if Kanopy goes down? What happens when your ability to watch Kanopy through your public library doesn't work?
posted by Neronomius at 9:36 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Tney're on my hard drive now.

Those questions are worthwhile, but I don't consider them once I have them on my hard drive.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


The library here has lots of BluRays of older and newly released films. Plus renting them increases circulation numbers and encourages them to keep buying them.
posted by lookoutbelow at 9:54 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Those questions are worthwhile, but I don't consider them once I have them on my hard drive.
"Your [hard drive] will always fail in a power outage. Vinyl can actually still be played to some extent."
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 9:57 PM on March 30


Some new films may never be released physically at all.

Bottoms, which I loved, is available on Amazon Prime, but Amazon isn't selling it on physical media. And it's just the kind of movie that I want on physical media, because it didn't gross a lot (only a couple of million over its budget, which was small) and once it's gone from streaming, it's probably gone for good.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:06 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


>Strutter

Like, the thing about vinyl and a hard drive is that there is data physically recorded onto a piece of physical media. The information is there forever.

This is about something far beyond that. The ability to have any access to that media so all.
posted by Neronomius at 10:13 PM on March 30


Your reliable filesystem will always fail in a power outage. Vinyl can actually still be played to some extent.
On the contrary, my laptop runs just fine during a power outage, but I seem to have misplaced my hand-cranked phonograph.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:40 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


The dvds I created a decade ago by burning movies to cd are most of them no longer readable, I think the disks corroded.

The dvds I bought a decade ago... Most are fine, some are corroding.

It's not easy to but new DVD players over here, so I hope my machine lasts.

Seems like the movie files on my hard drive are most likely to last, easiest to take them with me if I have to leave my home in a hurry, easiest to share with people with different devices.

If there's no electricity, or my hard drive fails, guess I'll read something.
posted by Zumbador at 10:53 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I seem to have misplaced my hand-cranked phonograph.

I have my great great grandmother's portable wind up gramophone, which still works fine. I also have a 78 of Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock, which sounds startlingly amazing. Not hifi, but amazing nonetheless and I reckon it has to be the sound of youthful rock n roll rebellion - listening to a 78 rpm single on your parent's gramophone.

Come the apocalypse I'll have about 60 songs we can listen to by clockwork, after that we can either listen to them again or find something else to do. But think how much those 60 songs would mean.
posted by deadwax at 2:04 AM on March 31 [10 favorites]


nobody i know has anything that can play cds.

About half the households in your country have a games console, and most of them will be able to play dvds and blu rays.
posted by biffa at 2:18 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


...nobody i know has anything that can play cds.

Heh. One of the biggest deciding factors in our recent (used) car purchase was that the car still had a cd player.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


If there's no electricity, or my hard drive fails, guess I'll read something.

Yeah, I'm also in the camp of if there is a total power cut, watching films or television is not on my radar at all, nevermind a priority. "The power is out and I want to watch The 'Burbs" is not something that rises to the level of desperate where I'd be burning emergency generator fuel for it.
posted by Dysk at 2:42 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


One of the biggest complaints (definitely not the only, trust me, I have more*) about streaming for films is the utter lack of commentary tracks that were pretty much standard on any decent DVD. As absurd as the extended versions of Lord of the Rings were, the commentaries, both the director/producer commentary track and the cast commentary track were really interesting to listen to. The commentary for the Thing is a fascinating explanation of just how they managed to do so many of the effects from the film. Streaming has eliminated the extras that used to be at least part of the motivating factor for buying a DVD in the first place.

*One of the many? Fucking subtitles being region locked. Got Amazon or Netflix in the States? You know what you can do that I can’t? Watch just about any non-English film with English subtitles, or Spanish, or French, or just about any language you’d want. In Japan? I can’t even watch most Japanese films with English subtitles. I definitely understand that there isn’t a ton of demand, but holy fuck, I can’t imagine supporting a subtitle track is anything close to a significant financial barrier. So, yeah, torrents
posted by Ghidorah at 2:52 AM on March 31 [10 favorites]


Like, the thing about vinyl and a hard drive is that there is data physically recorded onto a piece of physical media. The information is there forever.

This is about something far beyond that. The ability to have any access to that media so all.
It seemingly didn't work/wasn't clear, but I was just altering (hence the quotation marks and brackets) hippybear's response to me upthread, thinking he might find it as annoying to receive as I did.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 5:10 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


For me this part is huge:

fondness for behind-the-scenes featurettes and other bonus content included on discs

Criterion's streaming service is better at this than the rest, which generally suck for making extras available, except for the dullest kind of "your favorite stars talk about their movie!!" stuff.

And this:

Arrow, Criterion, Kino Lorber and BFI are probably the best known distributors, but in recent years a number of others have thrived, including Shout! Factory, Vinegar Syndrome and Severin in the US; Eureka, Indicator, Radiance and Second Sight in the UK; and Umbrella and Imprint in Australia.

should also have mentioned Third Window Films, who are doing an amazing job releasing fabulous editions of new, recent and classic Japanese films from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, etc., including the fab flicks One Cut of the Dead and Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes.

This part made me smile:

“A studio says, ‘We sold 10,000 copies of this, that’s terrible.’ But Vinegar Syndrome says, ‘We sold 10,000 copies, amazing.’”

And this is a serious concern:

It was all so glorious: we would have fewer boxes to carry when we moved

as anyone who's had to move a large physical media collection knows - that shit is *heavy*, even using liquor boxes.

Thanks for the article, Rhaomi; it's better than most for avoiding the "look at these goofy folks who still own DVDs!" crap (the last one I read at Wired was awful for that). The link to Linda Holmes' 2012 article about streaming companies releasing films with essential music missing without giving a warning, like replacing Sinatra's climactic "It Had To Be You" in When Harry Met Sally with generic saxophone crap - also still seems relevant:

it's time for a label of some kind that tips off a purchaser that there are music edits, the same way you'd expect to be warned if scenes had been cut or profanity had been dubbed over. What goes on in the digital download of When Harry Met Sally disrupts the artistic choices in the film as much as or more than bleeping swear words, after all, and nobody would sell you a DVD with bleeped swear words without telling you...

All I'm asking for is information. "Some music has been replaced." "Some music has been edited." "Some music has been replaced with a lot of soulless pantsing around on the saxophone." Whatever seems fair. Because it no longer seems fair to pass off a substantially different product as the real thing.

posted by mediareport at 5:23 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]


By the way, re: Kanopy, worth noting that not all library systems make it available; in 2019 the New York Public Library dropped Kanopy because "the cost of Kanopy makes it unsustainable for the Library." The county that includes Raleigh NC has never offered it for the same reason. Kanopy charges libraries $2 per movie watched, which adds up for a cash-strapped institution.
posted by mediareport at 5:24 AM on March 31 [7 favorites]


That’s a reason, certainly, but if physical media sales were increasing rather than declining, that would make physical media releases safer.

I don't think there's much of a problem with new films not getting disc releases, and mostly-collectible companies like Shout and Vinegar Syndrome are doing the lord's work on back catalogs.

At this point I'm not very concerned about discs dying. It's just going to be a niche / collectible, and more expensive, thing like vinyl.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:31 AM on March 31


Yup! Love actually owning media, although I do subscribe to some streaming. Now turning to picking up a few select items on bootleg as well.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:56 AM on March 31


but for some reason manufacturers stopped! making! computers! with! cd! drives!

Why would this stop you? Get an external CD/DVD burn drive.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:00 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


I don't think there's much of a problem with new films not getting disc releases, and mostly-collectible companies like Shout and Vinegar Syndrome are doing the lord's work on back catalogs.

What are you talking about? The vast, vast majority of films produced or released as an official streamer release do not get physical releases. Just to name three buzzy movies off the top of my head from just the last year that got no physical release:

Bottoms
Saltburn
Red, White & Royal Blue

There was huge grumbling in the horror community when it was made clear that one of the best horror movies of the last few years, Barbarian, was not getting a physical release.

I am personally extremely skeptical that All of Us Strangers will get a physical release.

Most theatrical releases (not just a perfunctory 2 or 3 week run as a marketing tactic) will still get a physical release, but how much longer that is true is up for serious debate.

Disney (Disney!) shuttered their entire home media division and handed off physical releases to Sony.

Sony, incidentally, is the only major player that never rolled their own streaming service or that got bought by one.

The boutique labels are doing the lord’s work (did you know that The Irishman’s only physical release is by Criterion? Probably the same will hold true for Killers of the Flower Moon) but they do not have the resources of even the smallest major studio and have to pick their projects very carefully.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:02 AM on March 31 [8 favorites]


Bottoms, which I loved, is available on Amazon Prime, but Amazon isn't selling it on physical media

Right after I saw your post, I saw a tweet from KinoLorber that says they’re bringing it out soon on Blu-Ray.
posted by elphaba at 8:09 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


Vinyl is not in fact a great preservation format, as every time you play the record it wears away at the information. You are rubbing soft plastic with a diamond! Plus if you don't store them perfetly they warp and distort.
posted by Canageek at 8:47 AM on March 31 [10 favorites]


Content comes and goes on the Internet and streaming services. We were finally watching Mad Men when it just disappeared off Amazon and wandered off to AMC+ and hell if I want that. After running through our DVDs of the first five seasons of Buffy, my wife declared she wanted them cleaned out in a purge of some of our DVDs. This was pre-pandemic. Last week, what did she say? Yup, "where are my Buffy DVDs?"

I've purged some vinyl, CDs, and books over the years, mostly for space or moving. We've been in this place fourteen years and media has accumulated. None of it goes now (with the exception of that DVD purge). Our Internet/cable can crash as we live in a rural area. Power too, but the laptop is usually charged and just needs a portable hard drive that stores at least a couple hundred gigs of TV/movies pirated years ago.

I rip the majority of my CDs to my PC/laptop plus a ridiculous amount of digital music files. I download a lot of guitar instruction videos and other stuff off YT. Content vanishes off YT on a regular basis. Memory is cheap and hard drives are huge. If one fails, I have backups, and I swap them all out after a few years. Yeah, we need power for most of it, but that usually comes back in a day or two in these parts. Of course, if the house gets hit by a tornado, we are well and truly fucked. I should put a hard drive in a deposit box some day. Other than that, the above gets us by. Just not for Buffy (at least she didn't ditch the Due South DVDs, those are IMPOSSIBLE to find).
posted by Ber at 8:58 AM on March 31


But. For how long? How much access do you have to that? What countries are able to watch those movies? What happens when/if Kanopy goes down? What happens when your ability to watch Kanopy through your public library doesn't work?
Right, I understand. That was an aside, because I thought hippybear might just want to watch some movies right now. (And I'm aware that not every library has access to Kanopy, that not everyone is in the US, that some people's wifi might be out at the moment, etc.)

The thing is, I don't actually think that DVDs are a solution to this problem on a personal level. Because of limitations of money and space, I will never be able to own a physical copy of every movie I could want to see. I'm always going to be dependent on some kind of centralized repository, and those can disappear, just as video rental stores did years ago and Netflix's DVD service did recently. At a societal level, it's important to have physical media rather than just preserving digital copies, because physical media is more durable, and hopefully someone will maintain at least one copy of everything so there's an archive for future generations. But for the individual, I don't think there's any way to ensure that you'll have access to everything, unless you've got way more resources to devote to DVD collection than I do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:00 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Right after I saw your post, I saw a tweet from KinoLorber that says they’re bringing it out soon on Blu-Ray.

This is great, and yet KL has a bad habit of announcing titles that then go MIA, sometimes for years. I'm still waiting for the fucking Brokeback Mountain 4K.

And it still doesn't really undercut my point that streamers are not interested, by and large, in physical releases.
posted by rhymedirective at 9:10 AM on March 31


I love physical media, own about 1000 LPs, probably about 2000 CDs and 100 DVDs (although that number is going up fast because they’re so cheap at thrift stores), but I also work in an archive full of physical media, which is a daily reminder that nobody can stop entropy, you can only slow it down.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:15 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


Vinyl is not in fact a great preservation format, as every time you play the record it wears away at the information. You are rubbing soft plastic with a diamond! Plus if you don't store them perfetly they warp and distort.

So true. I actually wore out a few albums from playing them so much in the pre-digital-storage days. (I switched to taping the record first time I played it and then listening to the tape. Yep kids, that's how we "burned"/"backed up" music in the Olde Days).

Wonder how long it'll take for the general public to finally realize that maybe, just maybe, just because something is available to be streamed today, it doesn't necessarily mean it'll still be available to be streamed tomorrow (or next week).
posted by gtrwolf at 9:18 AM on March 31


stored properly and not touched, I've heard that vinyl is the most enduring preservation format we have. But yeah as soon as you actually start playing the records, they age. One high end dealer (of vinyl) that I used to know said his policy was to never play any side of vinyl more than once in a twenty-four period.

As for the actual subject of the post (The film fans who refuse to surrender to streaming) -- I must confess to not getting how you can't have it both ways. I stream a lot of stuff. I also have stuff at home in various formats, various digital files on various drives as well as DVDs, even a few old VHS tapes.

Should there be a prolonged blackout, well I've already lived that reality. Remote island not so much off the grid as very near the edge of it. Prone to high winds with lots of tall trees to get blown over and take out hydro lines. So yeah, many a blackout. The short ones generally serve as excuses to get some chores done that don't require electricity. The longer ones (ie: no power even after the chores are done), you haul out your generator and immediately prioritize various survival options. Enough heat etc. And meanwhile, you charge up your laptop or whatever and dig into that backlog of stuff you've got on all those drives. A way easier (and less electricity hungry) option than powering a DVD player and a TV set.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


This all is not so much a case for piracy, but a universal case against DRM. That's what prevents you from freely* making backup copies of your DVDs and Blu-Rays before they wear out and against truly owning the media you "buy" from digital sources (because as has been seen, those can still get removed from your media library).

* Yep it's typically easy to get around, but that's because you're breaking DRM.
posted by Pryde at 9:33 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


Over the years, I've accumulated a whole bunch of media in widely varying formats*. I have also worked in the video industry, and might be a media hoarder.

The one consistency is that almost none of this media (The physical part) is *permanent* in any way. Your analog videotapes (VHS/Beta)? The quality varies so widely that it's almost impossible to assume anything about it. As mentioned above, CD/DVD disc type stuff isn't permanent whatsoever. The vast majority of the plastic used to make them degrades quicker than you'd think and scratches very easily. The older pro grade stuff is even failing at this point.

If you have anything super important, think about digitizing it sooner rather than later. Moreso if it's in a wonky** format, because IME those wonky decks/players are dying faster than the non-wonky ones, and that's the important thing.

The media's integrity itself is only part of it, the other part is finding something to play and to display it on. I can show a film with a flashlight, a flat wall and some mechanical ingenuity, I can't do the same with a VHS tape or a DVD. I joke with the older folks in the local media community that they were right the whole time. Film is going to outlive all of us.

And this is just me talking about the actual physical media, not even touching on the idea of rights and ownership of media which is something I get testy about.

With all this mention of old movies/DVDs and the like, does anyone else find it increasingly difficult to watch old SD content? 480 lines ain't what it used to be.

Whatever you do, don't ask the audiophiles about this. Trust me.

* I possess an old Betamax deck(yep, wood grain) next to a tape of the first tv release (ABC) of Star Trek TMP with commercials on it.

**Wonky is a non standard format, such as 8mm videotapes, laserdiscs, anything by Kodak, etc.

posted by Sphinx at 9:43 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Yes, libraries!!
posted by Mesaverdian at 10:31 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


does anyone else find it increasingly difficult to watch old SD content? 480 lines ain't what it used to be.

Yes. When 30 Rock left one of the streaming services we had I bought the DVD box set. Such a difference, I night have to re-buy the Bluray box.

Also, I tried to buy a fancy CRT tv off of a member here once for my laserdisc player. The upsampling of modern TVs also upsamples the noise from analog video signals.
posted by Huggiesbear at 10:37 AM on March 31


It has been obvious to me for a very long time that digital and physical media have vulnerabilities that make it highly unlikely for them to survive extremely long periods of time. The point isn't to find the One Thing that will survive forever, it's to a) figure out what the tradeoffs are so you can figure out how to achieve what you want, and b) to buy media whenever possible that allows you to convert one into the other, so you can have multiple copies of the thing you own with different pros and cons.

Physical media is something no digital service can take away from you (unless it has always-online or uncrackable DRM but let's assume most do not), but a house fire definitely can. Digital media, if properly backed up (especially to offsite storage), is likely to remain if your house burns down but is vulnerable to a power outage or disk failure. Nothing is foolproof, all you can do is go for the option that gives you the best redundancy at the price point and degree of effort you're willing to live with.
posted by chrominance at 11:17 AM on March 31


Ctrl-F "M-DISC" ...no?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-DISC

I thought my original LOTR extended edition DVDs were bit-rotting but it turns out to be a bum drive. However cost-prohibitive it might be to use in bulk, for-real long-term archival DVDs and BDs are available. Presumably. I've not used them, myself.
posted by howbigisthistextfield at 11:29 AM on March 31


I think the theoretical “blackout“ some people above mention is a bit of a red herring - it is easy to dismiss whether there is any need for physical media and whether it is available or not. But one way to think about availability of physical media (audio or video or software) is to see it as an issue of accessibility. Somebody can't afford a streaming service, or perhaps the video or audio is not available in their territory or (as we’ve seen recently) a service decides you no longer need to see or hear that creation - physical media fills that need especially if it is used in conjunction with a lending library of some sort. That accessibility allows us a continuity of culture and connection to our shared past. There's no shortage of articles saying it is set for a resurgence: Hollywood Reporter, The Future Party, Joblo.com (there's others but those are ones I found in a very brief search).

Streaming services see this creative work in often a purely commercial terms (there are exceptions but they are a minority) which always has me wondering - who deserves to consume art? I get that not everybody wants to buy physical media but I do think it is a way for art to be democratised. How would we feel if all art galleries became private and access to the images of the art were further restricted and unavailable? We have a taste of what that looks like with restrictions on how we can view or hear things on streaming services now. Piracy fills this void of course but don't the people who work in creative industries deserve to be paid for the labour?

Saying all that, physical media isn't perfect. Sometimes the remastering of a film can actually alter a film dramatically (the Star Wars films are an obvious target but more recently James Cameron's 4K remasters of some of his films are puzzlingly terrible).
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:47 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


"hey, did you know some people still use Netflix for the DVDs?"

Hi, I was one of them


(raises hand) Me as well.

For years I've been scheming to build up a DVD movie collection. I always check Criterion sales - well, Criterion every day - and start to assemble discs. What holds me back is the problem of dealing with the sheer amount of stuff which results.

I've been managing a collection of <> 3,000 books for a couple of decades, and it delights me every day, as well as supporting my work. Some of my family really enjoy parts of it, especially the kids, who grew up and learned through titles. Yet it's a gigantic thing to move and takes up a hefty amount of space. At 57 I finally have a house with enough space... but I'm also thinking of my rising mortality risks, and how my family will have to deal with most of the books which they don't want. (One solution has been ebooks, but I haven't transitioned my print collection there for various reasons including cost and viability.)

So I look at what my film collection would turn out to be, ideally, and get delighted and fearful at the same time. How many shelves would blossom to hold the things? Should I plan a Criterion-like big closet closely lined with DVD? And when I die, how much of a burden will this be for my survivors?

For now, every few months I buy a special DVD edition of a movie - a Cronenberg, a Kubrick - then stop.
posted by doctornemo at 1:54 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I feel like the "movies that could captivate restless and anxious children" part is underappreciated in the discussion here so far. In an emergency scenario where the adults have no time to be bored because they're busy keeping the household running or helping out neighbors, screen time for the kids could make a big difference. (Not that the kids shouldn't help out where possible, of course.)
posted by demi-octopus at 2:25 PM on March 31 [5 favorites]


Thank God I have candles and books....Now Ii might need a bell...haha. Get it? The movie with Kim Novak and Elsa Lanchester?

Bell Book and Candle leaves The Criterion Channel at midnight March 31. If you start watching pretty soon maybe you can squeeze it in.
posted by ovvl at 3:54 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


On the one hand I have no electricity grid power most of the time, so my usual entertainment is stuff that lives on one or more "hard drive" (at last count, 1 spinner, 4 SSD and 3 usb thum-drives). I don't own any CDs or DVDs any more. I ripped every CD I owned long before I became homeless. Never did it with the DVDs but I have plenty movies never mind how.

On the other hand I have an acoustic "classical" guitar that requires no electricity to operate and can not only reproduce uncountably many songs but also play new ones that come out of headspace. Zowie
posted by Rev. Irreverent Revenant at 5:21 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


I work in a library. Please do check DVDs out of the library BUT do not think of the library as an archival resource. Library DVDs get beat to absolute crap. You would not believe the condition some people return them in, and heavy circulation degrades them over the years anyway, even if everyone's careful.
Something we're currently seeing is that only big-ticket movies are getting a DVD release anymore, and something can be fairly successful on streaming and never come out physically at all, unless it's huge, like Stranger Things. (The exception is low-budget horror, especially Shudder, bless 'em.) Patrons still want DVDs--our collection circulates--but that desire isn't being met by the market any more.
All that is to say, if a lost film is going to be rediscovered in 30 years, I think it's going to be from a private collection, not from a library copy.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 11:22 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


Bell Book and Candle leaves The Criterion Channel at midnight March 31. If you start watching pretty soon maybe you can squeeze it in.

And if said deadline was missed there's always Youtube (Hollywood, BBC radio play, live stage production)
posted by trig at 11:38 AM on April 1


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