iTunes & iTunes Extras: A viable alternative to physical media – at last!

One thing I love about buying movies and TV shows on physical media: the extras.  You usually get audio commentaries from the filmmakers along with little featurettes (and occasionally feature-length documentaries) about the making of the film.

But the problem with physical media is having to store it somewhere.  All those cases all add up.  And if higher definition versions come out later, you’ll have to replace the disk, packaging, etc.

Until recently, I had been put off of iTunes movies because I’ve a reasonable fear that the movie studios may pull the movie off the service at any time and remove my access to the movie.  After all, this DOES happen with iTunes music – if you buy a track or album and it’s no longer sold on iTunes, you won’t be able to download it again if you’ve removed the files to make room on your computer or device.

However, I think Apple (and the movie studios) treat movies & TV shows differently.  Given the size of HD movies, they can take up an enormous amount of space on a device.  And the Apple TV has limited storage (we’re talking about the 4th generation here).  So it makes sense that purchases remain in the cloud.   Thus I’m pretty certain that movies & TV shows bought on iTunes will remain a permanent fixture – and even if they don’t, I’m sure Apple would refund accordingly (although I shall bring this up again in another blog post about iTunes in-app subscriptions – what a mess THAT is!).

Anyway, one thing I have come to love with iTunes movies is iTunes Extras.  When movies first started being released with Extras, the offerings were not brilliant.  But more and more movies are being released with DVD/Blu-Ray quality features – and with audio commentaries.  The audio commentary thing is a HUGE deal.  Something that’s traditionally been limited to physical media is now being made available online (or offline if you download the movie to your computer or device).

Even Amazon Prime Video has jumped on the audio commentary bandwagon – offering a few of their TV shows with audio commentary.  It’s essentially a different title because the Amazon Prime Video platform doesn’t appear to offer multiple audio streams.  But it’s a start.  Netflix doesn’t offer ANY audio commentaries for any of their shows yet – so they’ve got some catching up to to.

But there is a downside to iTunes Extras.  They’re not available on iTunes TV shows.  If you buy a series or individual episodes, there are absolutely no extras whatsoever.  None.  Nada.  Kaput.  I hope Apple and the respective studios will put that right.  It’s essential, I think, to do this if Apple has any ambitions to make Apple TV a viable platform.

As for making backups of all the iTunes things – I use one of these, a Drobo.  Lovely device (on loan from work) – it offers full redundancy – up to two disks can fail at once and the data is okay.  But it’s a seriously noisy thing – and one of the disks (the second one from the bottom) is humming like mad.  So it’s on to take backups of my systems, then shut off.

Coming up next on my blog: iTunes subscriptions – is Apple passing the buck? and What movies to watch on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 2017.

Why do I have sweater subtitles?

I was watching A Very Long Engagement via iTunes on the Apple TV, and was trying to get Siri to disable the second set of subtitles (since it’s a French film, it comes with English subtitles embedded within the film itself and cannot be disabled – but despite this, apparently a separate subtitles track exists and displayed).

This was the result:

ohsiri

I highly recommend going to Settings -> Audio & Video -> Subtitle Language = Off.  It’s set to Auto by default.  Don’t bother asking Siri, she lies.  After the above failure, she eventually understood what I said and told me that subtitles were off.  She lied!  So I disabled subtitles in the Settings menu and all was well.

Happy iPhone 7-mas everybody!

Today Tim Santa Cook will take to the stage to show us the brand new iPhone 7 and what it can do.

With Samsung announcing that the earliest it’ll be swapping out Note 7s with new models using batteries not made by its own manufacturing facility (apparently Samsung will be using a third party for the time being until they can bring it back in-house) on the 19th September, I’m tempted to hand back the phone, get my money back and just bite the bullet and buy the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Galaxy S7 Edge uses a Samsung manufactured battery, so I’m now quite nervous about keeping that one around.  Not that there’s been any reports of an S7 Edge exploding.  But it does make me wonder about Samsung’s confidence in its own manufacturing facilities.

Update: Another two Note 7 explosions – one in Australia, and another in the US.

But we’ll see.  Mr. Cook has seriously got to wow me with the iPhone 7 before I can make that decision.  If he does, then I’ll have to start making arrangements for the return of the Note 7 and selling the S7 Edge.  Fun!  If this is the competition, I might as well just stick with Apple..

How I love technology at times…

In other news, I’m trialling Apple Music again after a three-month absence.  Since then, Apple has rolled out two new iTunes updates (bear in mind I’m still using Windows 10), and have made a couple of changes to the backend logic with regards to Apple Music/iTunes Match.  I won’t touch iTunes Match again with a 50ft bargepole.  Why they’re still offering it given reports that they’ve essentially duplicated the functionality with Apple Music and removed DRM from uploaded non-Apple Music files when using multiple devices, is beyond me.

Apple Music is still a little buggy, even under Windows 10 and Android.  But Apple are slowly getting there. There are still issues with syncing, and I still see error 502s and similar when downloading quite a few files – but it’s much better than it was.  I’ll continue to experiment.

 

Cradle to Grave: Brilliant TV series, but no Blu-Ray version?

Update: Still no Blu-Ray, but here are a few other options..

I’m not sure whether you’ve all watched the brilliant BBC (ironically produced by ITV Studios) comedy, Cradle to Grave, based on Danny Baker’s autobiography “Going to Sea in a Sieve“.  It’s brilliant and one of the best comedies I’ve recently watched (along with Emma Kennedy’s The Kennedys).

But I’m somewhat taken aback that despite the show being shot in HD, there’s no Blu-Ray!  Just a bog standard definition DVD.

In this day of HD and Ultra HD formats, it’s almost unforgivable that a popular TV show is given a DVD only treatment.  Usually when a TV show or film is release for the home video market, both formats are released simultaneously.  Perhaps the BBC/ITV Studios are planning a later Blu-Ray release, but split distribution dates for different formats is very rare.  It’s an all or nothing approach.

As a sidenote: I still don’t understand Sky’s Buy It and Keep service.  You buy the film in HD, and it’s downloaded to your Sky+ box in HD “forever” (or until you leave Sky, after which you’re snookered), and you get a copy of the DVD through the post.  You’ve bought the HD digital Sky DRMed-to-the-hilt copy, but you get a standard definition DVD?  No thanks.  Never going to use such a service until HD on the Sky box, HD in physical format.

Incidently, I was tickled when searching for the Blu-Ray version of Cradle to Grave to discover that the BBFC still refers to the VHS format for home video content.

I won’t be buying the DVD despite thoroughly enjoying the series.  I’ll wait until I know something about the Blu-Ray release, or I’ll just have to buy the series on some non-physical format.  It’s available via iTunes for £11.99 in HD, for example.  I would, still nevertheless, prefer a physical copy.

But I do recommend to those people that enjoyed the TV series to buy the book (available in all good physical and digital formats).  You will be laughing like a loon.  I certainly am (and as such have already bought the follow-up book).