Everyone’s streaming films these days, but don’t write-off movies on disc just yet.
Perhaps it’s just my age, but I love buying films on Blu-ray and 4K disc. A bit too much to be honest, just ask my bank manager. You might be thinking: why bother with physical media when you can just download or stream movies instead? While that’s true, and I’m not denying that streaming is incredibly convenient, there are still advantages to shiny silver platters.
For a start, the quality of Blu-ray and especially 4K Ultra HD disc is vastly superior to digital downloads and video streams. The latter usually top out at around 15-20MB a second (depending on the service), but a 4K disc can easily approach 100MB. As a result, there’s significantly less compression with increased detail, better HDR and more powerful immersive audio.
Of course, streaming bit rates will also depend on your broadband speed. If you have super-fast fibre you might be perfectly happy to stream movies at high quality, but those in rural areas may struggle to enjoy the same benefits. And if your internet connection goes down for any reason, you can’t stream content at all. None of these issues will ever affect physical media.
If you’re a film fan there are also all those fascinating bonus features that often come with disc releases, such as extended cuts, commentary tracks, documentaries and deleted scenes. The rise of streaming has turned physical media into a niche product, but the upshot is that boutique labels are pulling out all the stops to deliver disc releases that justify their higher price tag.
This is great news for collectors like me who enjoy owning beautifully designed and packaged boxsets with multiple discs, posters, booklets, lobby cards and other goodies. There’s nothing more satisfying than opening the latest disc release, going through all the extras, and checking out the packaging, before adding it to your collection. In alphabetical order, of course.
There’s one other, rather obvious advantage to physical media – you genuinely own it. So you can sell the disc if a better version gets released later, pass it on to a friend as part of their ongoing film education, or even bequeath it to someone in your will. Try doing any of that with a digital download, which you don’t actually own because it’s really only a license to watch the film.
This means you’re at the mercy of the studios and streamers, so films can suddenly disappear from your digital library or a service due to rights lapsing. More obscure films may be available on disc, but might never be offered via streaming or download, while your favourite movie can be changed or censored without your consent, due to their content being considered problematic.
None of this is a problem when it comes to discs, and although Ultra HD Blu-ray is almost certainly the last physical video format, films have never looked and sounded better thanks to 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. So if you’re a film fan or home cinema enthusiast, now is the perfect time to build up your disc collection, and probably the last time.