PlayStation3 - Home Movie Road Test

I have moved to the new way of watching home movies - and no, I'm not a subscriber to a half terabyte Internet plan and using Bit Torrent to steal movies. I'm using the new Video Rental service through the PlayStation Network, part of the content services on my PlayStation3.

This past weekend, my wife and I decided to kick back on election night and watch a movie. The plan was to flick across to Nine a couple times during the slow parts and see who was in front and indeed, finally the victor. We wanted to watch The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, she had won an Oscar and we wanted to see it. The local BlockBuster store was all rented out of the movie, and as Clash Of The Titans was quickly ruled out, we decided to head home and try out the PlayStation3 service.

The video store is easy to find - just look in the PlayStation content network. Once in the network there are options for video games to download, trailers to watch and a host of other content to look at. This did make the service a little cluttered, but finding the The Blind Side was easy as it had a giant poster ad in the new release section. Before I loaded up the movie, I looked around for back catalogue movies like Point Break and James Bond. I couldn’t find them, but that does not mean they were not there, just that they were difficult to find.

It was time to fire off the movie, and I had a choice of Stand Definition version or the High Definition version. SD is like DVD quality, 576 lines of vertical resolution. HD is like watching HD channels on your tv, 720 lines of resolution. The SD version was $7, the HD version was $8. I was prepared to spring the extra $$ for HD, however I was worried about the download size of the movie; more on that in a minute. Neither format come close to BluRay which is at 1080 vertical lines of progression.

Before downloading my choice I was shuffled across to an e-commerce area where I needed to buy credit for my account. I added my credit card number, selected $30, and went back to download the movie. I did think for a second that if you had kids who used the PS3, this could be a disaster, however, you only need to log out of your online account and then no one else can access your credit or your personal information on whatever else you have been doing on the PlayStation3. 

I’m lucky, at work I am able to download all my large files like patch up-dates, software and other heavy downloading applications, so on my home internet connection I pay the cheapest price, and get a low download quota (only 5 Gigabytes). The Blind Side in Standard Definition was 1.65 gigabytes, so that means I can watch almost three movies a month and I am practically out of data. This is a big downside, and as I checked my data usage on Monday night I hoped that downloading from the PlayStation content network would be ‘free’ and not counted to my allowance - no such luck! On the page, was a giant blue line saying 1.65 gigs used on Saturday night. Blue meant the data was counted.

We began watching the video, and took up the option of streaming the movie to the PlayStation3. The other option is to wait for the movie to download completely before playing. Streaming is the best option. The idea is, a couple of minutes after commencing the download you can start watching the movie, as the remainder downloads in the back ground. As we live 3 kilometres for the local phone exchange, our data throughput is 8.5 megabits. The streaming option was fine, although we needed to pause the movie twice in the early stages because the movie began to buffer. which meant the part of the movie we were watching had caught up with the downloaded point. That was false, because you can see a point on the download line where the movie is downloaded to and a point where you are at watching it. And the point we were watching it, was nowhere near the point it had downloaded to. So, what was going on? It was like watching Youtube on an underpowered PC.

As we hit pause a couple of times (and flicked back to Nine’s election coverage) we then continued watching the movie, which by now had been downloading for 15 minutes. That was the end of the buffering problems.

At the end of the movie you have 48 hours to watch the film again or parts of it. I wanted to watch it again because it was awesome. It was about a mother who looked at the world with a fresh set of eyes and came off a better person for it. And it was based on the real life story of Mike Oher, who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens.

My experience with PlayStations movie service was good. I gave it a 6.5/10

Summary

The Good –
- No late fee’s
Come on, we all get them and they hurt when you are handing over cash for nothing. I understand why they need to be placed, but I still hate paying them.
- Last Minute movies
You can be spontaneous (as long as your internet is fast enough). Just boot up your PlayStation3 and you can be watching a movie in 20 minutes.
- Longer to watch
New releases often give you 24 hours to watch. The service give you 7 days to watch the movie after downloading, and then 48 hours to watch again or finish watching once you have started. It also means you can, (if you are organised) download the movie during your internet offpeak time, which for me is mid night to 8am and not use your peak data allowance.
- No Different to DVD
When you are watching the movie, there is no difference to a DVD (apart from my buffering experience mentioned earlier). Some DVDs that are older and been around a while can experience skipping - not so on the digital download service.
- Feel Good Factor
I like knowing that the people who made the movie are getting paid their fair income. I know, we have all downloaded a pirated movie before, but now there are legitimate services around that make it easy to pay/download/watch, there is no excuse for being a movie pirate.

The Bad –
- Hurry Up With The Movie Adding
PlayStation say that in Australia there are over 600 movies. Which makes sense because I thought I just was not able to find a movie in the catalogue, turns out there are not many there in the first place!
- Data sucking sucks
Even the SD version of the movie is 1.65 gigabytes, more for longer movies and less for shorter. HD is more again and if you are on a small data allowance, you will find yourself being shaped quickly if you love your movies.
- Bad Broadband = Bad Experience
Although the service is the movie service good, if you have bad broadband, then this way of watching movies is not going to work for you, and there is nothing PlayStation can do about that.