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Summary:

A Tumblr post by Truong Nguyen regarding an alternate ending for “I Am Legend” struck a serious chord in me today, and not just because the the ending is a much better one than they showed in the theater. It demonstrated what is still a glaring […]

A Tumblr post by Truong Nguyen regarding an alternate ending for “I Am Legend” struck a serious chord in me today, and not just because the the ending is a much better one than they showed in the theater. It demonstrated what is still a glaring gap in the iTunes / Netflix-streaming / Amazon Unbox model of content-delivery: no consistent mechanism or even basic ability to handle alternate/augmented content.

With DVDs, you can easily select options to watch a movie with a particular set of criteria, including different audio tracks, subtitles and even alternate endings (or “middles”). There are very straightforward ways to code that into the options on the discs and users know how to cue up what combination they want to view. The best that iTunes could do – given the current distribution model and viewing options – would be to present a small clip as an additional download that contains deleted or extra scenes. There are no user expectations in the current UI – either in iTunes, Front Row or the Apple TV – that indicate one could or should be able to gain access to such content/options.

Your personal feelings on movie integrity aside (some folks despise alternate endings or “director’s cuts”), the lack of a standard in this area will mean that streamers and downloaders are relegated to second-class citizen status when it comes to video content in the same way that we were relegated to low bit-rate MP3′s in the early days of music downloads, which is a completely unacceptable situation.

Apple has an opportunity to take the lead and define how extra content will be bundled and viewed as the industry [quickly] moves to widespread digital distribution. We consumers also need to also step up and demand access to the same or even better content and not settle in and just take what we’re given. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll still be relying on DVDs – old school or (hopefully soon) Blu-Ray – for longer than I had anticipated (if you’ve ever tried to keep a DVD collection pristine with three kids in the house, you know what a losing battle that is).

Give the media bots that sweep the interwebs something to take notice of and drop a note in the comments with your take on the state of digital video content distribution. The more we raise issues, the better chance our voices will be heard.

  1. Incorrect, Sir: the alternative ending is utter crap, and serves only to reinforce how [yet again] badly Hollywood has re-written the source material.

    Otherwise, yes: until I can download full dvd-style copies of films, forget it. Not interested. As long as I can find (and incidentally pay for. ish) full quality rips I see no point in paying for a poor quality corporate-sanctioned download.. that lasts 24 hours.
    It’s a nice idea once again let down by executives completely failing to understand their target audience. Little wonder piracy is rife.
    In closing, I still buy far more DVDs than I download, but dloading is becoming a major part of my film experience. My DVD collection was 1000+ until I ran out of space and sold most of them off.

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  2. There is, not surprisingly, a file format that Apple could use to distribute downloadable movies that would enable them to pretty much match the DVD experience. Interactive menus, scene selection, extras, games, whatever. The surprising part about this better format that they aren’t using is that they invented it. Maybe you’ve heard of it, it’s called Quicktime.

    That’s right, in a single .mov file they could be putting the movie, the outtakes, the alternate endings, all the studio extras, and menus that rival the DVD. But instead, they sell just a simple single audio/video stream in an MPEG-4 container. Why, Apple, why?

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  3. Because Apple only sell what they are licensed to sell, perhaps? It is a puzzle.

    It is, again, an effervescent example of execs just painfully refusing to get it right. Like the DRM examples we all know and hate, media distro is so *simple* to get right that it truly boggles the mind how hard they struggle to get it horribly wrong.

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  4. For Rentals, which I think is the future of the Apple TV and iTunes, I doubt we’ll ever see special features. I think that’s something that the studios would love to use as an incentive to make the DVD purchase.

    I also don’t expect digital downloads to overtake the industry as fast as we in the tech world might like to think. Disks will be around for years to come for purchasing movies.

    Rentals might go digital, but I don’t think that will be successful as a purchasable format….not now anyway.

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  5. I don’t know about you, but in our region (read “Marketing Territory”) quite often when you rent a DVD from a brick and mortar store it’s a cut down version, marked ‘not for retail sale’ and has none or very few extras on it. Of course this is so that there’s still a glimmer of hope that you’ll buy the actual DVD.
    Renting, from a store or online apart from the delivery method – there’s no difference. You have a less complete experience which you have to give back after a set time.

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  6. Artie MacStrawman Saturday, March 29, 2008

    If you want extra features, get the DVD and quit whining.
    k.thx.bye.

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  7. [...] the cost of an Apple TV. Nor is it about the added benefits of DVDs over digital downloads that Bob talked about a couple weeks ago (and take the time to watch the alternate ending of “I Am Legend” if [...]

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  8. [...] the cost of an Apple TV. Nor is it about the added benefits of DVDs over digital downloads that Bob talked about a couple weeks ago (and take the time to watch the alternate ending of “I Am Legend” if you [...]

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  9. [...] Gratification v.s. Rich Experience By The Angry Drunk There was a post on The Apple Blog today that got me thinking. While I disagree with the conclusions that the author draws, I [...]

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