Tag Archives: LoveFilm

To Stream or not to Stream?

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I have always been a fan of quality.

Now, that’s something which is in the eye of the proverbial beholder – what’s perfectly fine to me might be intolerable to you and the reverse is true, too.   When it comes to things like entertainment, I have always been a fan of the best reproduction that I can get my hands on, even if that means inconveniencing myself slightly – carrying a CD Walkman when many of my peers had moved on to smaller, lighter MP3 players, hankering after a Laserdisc player when everyone I knew was more than happy with VHS.  You get the picture, I suspect.

In recent years, I’ve begun to see the advantage of relaxing my self-imposed high standards just a tad.  I now carry a Sansa Clip Zip Mp3 player armed with a capricious flash card filled with songs and podcasts and I get on fine with it (albeit with my music ripped in Flac format and a funky little FiiO headphone amp to boost the output a little) and I’ve begun to play about with the streaming services available via my Xbox 360, thanks to a slight contretemps with my local branch of Blockbuster Video (I don’t want to verify personal data in a queue every time that I rent films, their bizarre corporate policy apparently insists on it.  Enjoy your soon-come obsolescence, boys).

My findings were mixed.  LoveFilm, arguably the market leader in the UK thanks to the muscle offered by corporate parent Amazon, had a limited selection not assisted by smudgy video quality and frequent buffering issues which rendered films unwatchable (this is on a 60 mb connection, mind you).  Netflix UK was similarly hit-and-miss with video quality and I really can’t get on with the recommendation engine, which works about as well (i.e., not at all) as most recommendation engines seem to do for me.  They’re fine if you’ve somehow only just found out about the existence of films and the cinema, but not really a serious consideration for anybody else.

Microsoft’s own films on demand service is apparently aimed at Russian oligarchs, so is really not for me as I don’t want to pay the cost of a new DVD movie to rent a streamed version.  So, it was to evil corporate overlords Sky that I went for a free trial of their ‘Sky Now’ service – an offer boosted somewhat in my estimation by a tagged-on 800 Microsoft Space Bucks if you watch at least 90 mins of the service in a month.

Do not spill this lady's Chablis.  Seriously.

Do not spill this lady’s Chablis. Seriously.

Having viewed the 2012 McG spy-fi action comedy, “This Means War“, and Steven Soderbergh‘s “Haywire” on the service, I’m now able to suggest that it’s actually…okay?   Not a match for a decent sd DVD transfer, as the sound is resolutely stereo-based, but perfectly watchable quality which should allow you to check out a movie and then double-down on the Blu-Ray, say, if you really like a film.  No buffering whatsover to report, either, which is a nice change – many of the streaming services that I’ve tried have offered image and playback quality so prone to glitches, drop-outs and other annoyances that they become less the experience of watching a film and more akin to glancing at still photographs and listening to a CD skipping in the background.

I don’t know that I would continue to subscribe to the service – the selection is pretty limited, which seems to be true of every such offering available to UK consumers – but it’s certainly worth looking at if you can take up this current Xbox offer in the UK.

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Filed under Blogs, Films, Geekery

Netflix launches in UK – don’t all rush at once…

Not a big deal to anybody reading this in the US, where Netflix is very well established, but the much-rumoured UK launch of the streaming video service is now with us and offers exactly that – an exclusively streaming iteration version of the online movie service.  As of this time of writing, I couldn’t see a version of the package which offers physical media to rent by post, which is in line with the US offering, which seems to be veering away from offering DVD and  Blu-Ray discs in the mail.

UK market leader LoveFilm has responded to this upstart service by freezing the price of their unlimited streaming service – it should now cost you £4.99 a month to stream movies with them, subject to the usual provisos of fair use and catalogue choices (there’s not a whole heck of a lot on either service that I’d actually want to watch online, to be absolutely candid).

Only nine days into 2012 and the online streaming battle for the hearts and minds of Britain’s technologically inclined geeks is ON.

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Filed under Films, Geekery

Reminder – Xbox 360 dashboard update hits tomorrow

Rest assured, "FIFA 12" will never besmirch my console's integrity...

Just a reminder that Microsoft are due to release the latest revision of the Xbox 360 dashboard on Tuesday 6th December – with Bing search integrated (with Kinect support, too, if you’re on the motion control train) and a LoveFilm application included if streaming films is your cup of delicious builder’s tea (the best kind, obviously).   More stuff is scheduled to roll out between now and the end of this year, with some kind of as-yet-undecided BBC presence due in the first quarter of 2012.

No news yet on whether that constitutes full iPlayer integration for UK Xbox users or something of a catch-up digest, with selected programmes on offer.

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