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Is Blu-ray showing too much leg? January 28, 2009

Posted by John Taylor in Blu-ray.
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Today during lunch at Flores, one of the cheap-n-good Tex-Mex restaurants I frequent, a former colleague commented that she saw Blu-ray movie in glorious 1080P for the first time during the holidays at a relative’s house. I was utterly dumbfounded by the first four words of her review:

 

“I didn’t like it.”

 

My stunned looked and instantly halted reach for more chips and habanero-and-cilantro-based salsa (yeah, it’s a good Tex Mex place) told her all she needed to know. We were about to move form chit chat to a much more serious Tech Talk and I was all in.

 

She expounded:

 

  • “We were watching Casino Royale.” Gee, exactly why are so many women interested in the new James Bond movies again?
  • “It’s hard to describe. I felt like I was seeing too much detail.” For a moment I thought she was going to say she oddly preferred Daniel Craig with a soft Barbara Walters style focus…
  • “It was as though I could SEE the green screen.” Hmmm. Starting to comprehend.
  • “I could tell when they were shooting on a set instead of shooting on location.” Bingo.

 

I had never heard these words uttered before about Blu-ray. More resolution is … better. Right? Hell I spent 2008 working with @GChip, @legin, and True Renaissance man Jules Urbach telling the story of eye-def computing. As in, visual computing so realistic you can’t tell what is generated by an AMD graphics computer, and what was recorded with a video camera.

 

Sure, I’d heard of local anchors’ faces looking pancaked and some TV stars not holding up so well under 1080i resolution.

 

Ladies, this is entirely too much leg.

Ladies, this is entirely too much leg.

But a 1080P Hollywood Blockbuster movie? Isn’t that Nirvana for techno moviephile dweeb-types like me?

 

 

 

Then, I got it. I remembered the first time I watched Star Wars on a decent DTV. You could see the little cut-outs around the Tie-fighters during dogfight scenes. Same thing when I watched Ghost Busters in HD. Those gargoyle dogs that chased Rick Moranis weren’t even remotely believable and looked incomparable to even today’s pre-vis technology. And it bugs you.

 

But I still need to see it for myself. An excuse to stimulate the economy through newegg.com?

 

Even so, there is something to be said for seeing just the right amount of leg.

Netflix “Watch Instantly” vs. Time Warner “On Demand” January 22, 2009

Posted by John Taylor in Netflix, Xbox 360.
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liberally interpreted, easier to understand scoring system. It leads to decisive victories as you will see.

JT Rex consulted with Al Franken on a liberally interpreted, easier to understand scoring system. It leads to decisive victories as you will see.

 “I like free stuff and I cannot lie.” – Sir Nicked A Lot

 Recent free things that fell in my lap:

  • Every month I get more graphics performance from AMD free driver updates (okay that was shameless).
  • Yesterday, when I put my dollar in the vending machine at AMD Lone Star B300 and punched the code for the large-size Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, the spiral candyholder turned but didn’t quite drop the candy, leaving it at the dangling edge. After an eternity, through the miracle of technology, some little sensor (made by my former client TI perhaps?) told the spiral to keep on turning for another full revolution…and then the best thing ever happens.

You not only get the candy you expected and momentarily feared you’d be denied (jes makes it sweeter), you get the candy BEHIND it too!

But the weird thing? Instead of another 3-pack large size Reece’s, I get a smaller two-pack size. Meaning, I spared some poor sucker from having to pay a full dollar for what was clearly going to be an 85 cent candy. Oh, and I ate all five PB cups but I’m sure I ran it off later…

The third free thing I got recently? All those Xb0x 360 updates including the new UI and the addition of Netflix Watch Instantly.

I have to admit, it feels like a new 360, which I just like, and its integration with the Xbox actually got me to reactivate my Netflix membership which I had canceled in preference to Time Warner’s growing HD channel lineup and on-demand services.

I chose the $9.99/mo Netflix option which means I can have one DVD at a time in my possession, but I can “Watch Instantly” to my heart’s content. Compare that to $3.99 or $4.99 per 4:3 crappy quality movie on On-Demand, and $5.99 or $6.99 for HD on-demand.

Because I wasted so much of the start of this post on vending machine tech advancements, let’s get right to the tale of the tape:

Selection: Netflix Watch Instantly (NWI) is awarded this point. This is an easy one. I have all the full seasons of The Office and 30 Rock at my fingertips on NWI. In HD, no less. Time Warner On Demand (TWOD) usually has maybe 10-20 HD movies, some of which you’d never watch. On NWI, I can get any TV show seemingly in HD, and tons of interesting indi flicks, award winners, foreign films, you name it. The two clear advantages for TWOD are new releases (they have ’em, NWI really doesn’t) and the fact that you don;t need to use a laptop to find new movies. At some point, you need to go to netflix.com and find new movies that have been released for “Watch Instantly” in order to enjoy them on your 360. But I do this in batches of maybe 10, so it’s not really been a problem yet. And no, I haven’t watched but maybe 1/10th of what I’ve got sitting on NWI yet, so no calling me couch potato. 

Wait time: from TV, Set Top Box, and Home Theater Receiver all off to watching a movie takes 55 seconds on TWOD. From TV, console, and Home Theater Receiver all off to watching a movie takes 62 seconds on the Xbox 360/NWI. I’m calling this a tie
 
Editor’s Note: I played the first available movie for each. I was too cheap to actually buy  an on-demand movie from TWOD so I used the first title under “Free Movies on Demand.” Ironically, considering my posts of yesterday, this was a short video on kids staying active while playing video games. It also loaded far faster than any movie I’ve ever bought from TWOD. So I’m giving the Xbox a 7 second benefit of the doubt.
Price: Uh, NWI is $9.99/mo. UNLIMITED. You can’t watch two HD movies in 30 days on TWOD for that. Another point for NWI.
The winner: NWI with a total score of 2.5 points out of a maximum 3 points. (0.5 points are awarded to each competitor in the event of a tie). TWOD: 0.5 points. Now that’s decisive!