Shop Talk: The Cloud
Vudu and Amazon
By David Mumpower
July 13, 2012
In the most recent Shop Talk column, I mentioned the primary cloud movie services that I dislike. This week, my focus will turn to those I recommend and believe are stable. I will also discuss the advantages of cloud media storage for movies and television programs, the advantages and disadvantages of physical media, what to do with your physical media if you do decide to move into the cloud and offer a couple of suggestions for quick cloud seeding.
What I will mention here is that I have accidentally created a schism in my media library. The first step we took toward the cloud was to rid ourselves of our television box sets and acquire those same licenses through Amazon. We chose to do this because Amazon began to offer incentives to entice early adopters.
When the Amazon service started in 2006, it was much less convenient. Users were required to download Unbox software and the digital rights management restrictions were draconian. Still, there were innumerable deals in place that allowed me to attain rights to several television series I wanted to be able to access from my laptop. I bit the bullet and purchased several licenses. I immediately regretted this because I found the Unbox software counter-intuitive and generally inconvenient. For a couple of years, I stayed out of the marketplace altogether.
Roughly four years ago, Amazon Video became a more practical endeavor when the service was enabled for TiVo. The consumer gained the ability to purchase a file from Amazon then transfer it directly to TiVo for easy perusal. Long time readers are aware of my passion for TiVo as a product. Even in the TV Smart Apps era, we still have three TiVos that are a fundamental part of our viewer behavior. Given this organic means of transferring our television programs from DVDs to online access, we gleefully chose to convert.
My wife and I do not do anything half-heartedly. Once we determined to populate our Amazon Video account with television files, we went all in. This is not hyperbole. Our television library is so vast that we occasionally have troubles loading it through smart apps. Amazon has told me they have to redesign their software specifically for power users such as myself to alleviate this concern. As of this moment, we own over 800 full television seasons with innumerable stray episodes thrown in for good measure. This makes me something of an expert on the subject of Amazon Video.
My evaluation is that Amazon Video is not quite as fully formed as their cloud music service. As such, there are still growing pains aggravations a user may experience from time to time. On the whole, however, Amazon is impeccable. It is a site I frequent every day and I enjoy the ability to search for a television series/season and have instantaneous direct access to the file. From there, I can manipulate it to watch on site or download to a TiVo. If I skip the middleman, I can also stream files directly from my television as each of my sets has smart apps enabled. In other words, no matter where I am, I have 800 seasons of television available at the touch of a finger. All I require is an Internet connection. This is the beauty of the cloud.
There is beauty beyond television, of course. For instance, I am an Alfred Hitchcock super-fan. To Catch a Thief is my all-time favorite movie, while Rear Window and North by Northwest are all in my top 10. And I say that as someone who has watched north of 10,000 movies over the years. All three of these along with Notorious are perfect movies. Thanks to the magic of the cloud, I am now always three clicks away from watching any of them whenever I want. Cloud server functionality enables this. Similarly, if I want to remember a line of precise dialogue from any of Hitchcock’s movies, all I have to do is click the appropriate file. I have constant, immediate access.
Movies and television shows have always been my comfort food. I once owned over 1,000 meticulously indexed VHS tapes - ask your grandparents, kids - worth of such programming. Later, I possessed a DVD library that would have made for a fine episode of Hoarders. What the cloud affords me is the ability to indulge my previously mentioned packrat tendencies without blocking several closets with junk.
After the sudden move created by the fire, there is also a practical aspect to this. The next time I move, the only physical media I will be forced to re-locate myself are books…and I’m working on my wife about this subject. She has not divested herself of the novels she owns yet, but she has started to choose e-books over physical ones, all things being equal. Given her passion for literature, the storage space we have saved is enough to add a full gym. And a swimming pool. And a tennis court. The woman loooooves her books.