Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Weekly News Roundup (August 11, 2019)

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

Welcome back to the WNR. Sorry for the long break, but we finally have some worthy news stories to talk about, and so here we are.

High Definition

Regular readers will know how we big up streaming here, and not just because we also run an Australian news site that’s dedicated to the topic of streaming.

But you have to be living under a rock to not notice that streaming is taking over everything, but sometimes some solid stats go a long way to paint a full picture of what’s happening.

That data has been recently provided by analytics firm Conviva, and it shows that streaming media consumption has double over the last year in the United States.

The consumption was led by Roku users, who helped to drive up the adoption of Internet-connected TVs by 143% and accounted for 43% of all connected TV viewing measured by Conviva. Roku themselves are seeing a period of strong growth, with the service now having more than 30 million subscribers.

Photo of Roku Streaming Stick
Roku is the most popular streaming device, according to new data

Adoption of Amazon Fire TV devices also growing strongly over the last year, up 145% and now accounting for 18% of connected viewing.

Here in Australia, our one and only cable TV operator has finally embraced streaming and have started to bundle Netflix with their subscriptions (despite the fact that it tried to launch its own streaming platform). And with broadband speeds increasing and bandwidth costs decreasing all the time, streaming just make more and more sense.

With that said, and this is from my first-hand experience with uploading 4K trailers, we are still dealing with huge files and that it’s going to take a while before we reach mainstream adoption. For one, YouTube’s bitrate of choice for 4K content is only around 13 Mbps (and that’s using the not so efficient VP9 codec, instead of HEVC), and that’s not really enough. But any higher, the number of people able to watch 4K quickly drops from an already small pool of users actively looking for 4K content. So until people can comfortably stream a 30+ Mbps stream and still be able to use their connections for other things, 4K adoption (despite the huge number of 4K or at least 1440p capable devices, including most phones and tablets and TVs sold these days) will be bottlenecked. Let’s not even think about 8K for now.


Disney’s acquisition of Fox is a bold and potentially profitable move for the Mickey Mouse company. But not right now though, because Disney has been surprised at just how much Fox Studios is underperforming right now, with projected profits turning into losses for the last quarter.

Screenshot from Ford v Ferrari
Disney/Fox has high hopes for Ford v Ferrari

The box office for Dark Phoenix was much less than expected, and none of Fox’s other movies also did well enough. The rest of 2019 looks a bit brighter with Ford v Ferrari and Ad Astra, but these are hardly locked in winners.

So if anything, the sale of Fox to Disney came at the right time for the former News Corp studio. Maybe at the right time for Disney as well. Not so much for Fox’s release slate, since Disney is already doing pretty well this year with over $8 billion in box office takings, but as a way to acquire a great back catalogue of titles to fill their Disney+ and Hulu content libraries.


That’s all I have for you this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (June 9, 2019)

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Well, that was a longer break than expected. A nice vacation was then followed by the need of a vacation for the vacation, and then a couple of slow news weeks, and here we are!

Even without much news, we’ve been busy adding new trailers to our YouTube channel. Now while we use real 4K content whenever possible, we’re still at the stage of 4K where most trailers are not released in the format. So we have a “special sauce” that we use to upscale it to make it look (and sound) great, unlike other channels that upload 4K trailers that look/sound no better (and often worse) than the original HD version.

Comparison between our "special sauce" upscaled 4K versus basic 4K upscaling
Our 4K quality (left) compared to your standard 4K upscaled trailer – click to enlarge

Of course, your output is only as good as your input, which is why we almost always use ProRes high bitrate (150 Mbps+) sources (not quite uncompressed quality, but close enough) for our trailers. So while we won’t be the first to upload a trailer, we’ll always try to upload the best quality version.

With this promo out of the way, let’s get to the news.

High Definition

So the big news this week, according to many in the press, is that Apple has shut down iTunes. But for those that read articles beyond the headline, you will have realised that Apple didn’t really shut down iTunes. For one, those of us who haven’t yet drunk the Apple kool-aid and still opting to use Windows will be stuck with the frustrating iTunes software to do everything from music downloads to software updates to backups (the fact that the software did so much, too much in fact, is one of the key complaints against the much-maligned software).

A screenshot of the iTunes software
iTunes 2001 – 2019: Will not be missed

Secondly, the iTunes store will remain the way it is, still allowing you to download and store your content locally if you still don’t trust the cloud. So the stories of “the end of downloads” are a bit exaggerated, which was never going to happen while Apple is still making money from them (about a billion a year – down a lot from its peak and a fraction of streaming these days, but hey, who says no to a billion dollars, right).

So what exactly are the changes? For one, on iDevices, the iTunes app will be replaced with three different apps: Music, Podcasts and Television. By splitting the bloated iTunes app into three separate apps, it allows each app to be better customized for the user’s needs, and to have an interface that’s better suited for the content in question. You got to remember that iTunes started out as a media player before it morphed into software that attempted to do everything. So it’s a great idea for the three iTunes sub-apps to go back to their roots.

As for how will Mac people do updates, backups and restores? They will find the same functionality that used to be in iTunes as part of the Finder app, which should have been the way from the get-go. I don’t know about you, but I think using a media player to do OS updates and system backups makes zero sense, and it’s something even the worst Windows versions (Me, Vista, in no particular order) didn’t force users to do. So it’s ironic that Windows people are still stuck having to use iTunes to do everything.

Moving quickly away from the beginnings of a Mac vs Windows flame war, and to the upcoming Netflix vs Disney+ flame war, it appears many in the U.S. are already aware of Disney+ despite almost zero promotional stuff so far.

And the awareness to sign-up ratio is actually pretty good, with 22% of U.S. households appear willing to sign up. And a great sign for Disney is that the group with the highest potential sign-up rate is households with kids, which surely has to be the Mickey Mouse company’s main demographic.

A screenshot of the Disney+ interface
Disney+: There’s something there for everyone, but probably not enough to seriously harm Netflix

Also interesting was seeing what kind of content each age group were most drawn to when deciding whether to sign up or not. 35 and older people (me!) were most drawn to the Star Wars stuff on Disney+ (that’s true for me!). 25 to 35-year olds, the group most likely to have young children and most likely to have grown up with Disney animated hits like The Lion King and Aladdin were most interested in Disney’s animated hits. And 18 to 24-year olds wanted to watch the Marvel stuff the most, the studio that has produced the biggest hits for Disney in recent times. It all makes sense!

But Disney+ is still no Netflix killer. For one, Netflix will have content from Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, while Disney+ will obviously be limited to only Disney branded content. Disney has also said that Disney+ will be more family oriented, and so don’t expect to see series like Sex Education and You, or even the fantastic When They See Us. These would most likely end up on Disney’s other streaming platform, Hulu, if they ever get made. And that’s a big if because Disney’s original production budget is minuscule compared to Netflix’s ($500 million versus $15 billion). If anything, Hulu has a better chance of competing with Netflix than Disney+, especially if Disney decides to throw more content into the platform.

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Well, that’s all we have this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (May 12, 2019)

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day!

Not a mum/mom myself, so I have to work today. Which is just as good, as we do have some news to cover, and as I’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks, this will serve as the last WNR for a bit.

I’m still having a lot of fun with my new broadband connection (especially the much faster uploads), so have uploaded many more trailers to our YouTube channel.

I’m putting my knowledge to good use upscaling some of them to 4K (with 5.1ch audio upmix as well), optimizing them for clarity, without making them look (or sound) too artificial. All using free tools that you can download from Digital Digest as well, tools like MeGUI, AviSynth and filters like Nnedi3/nnedi3 rpow2 and SpecWeb.

Anyway, onto the news.

Copyright

There’s a new way to stream pirated movies online, and you don’t have to go to a dodgy site to do so (unless you consider Facebook dodgy, which is a fair point these days). Pirates are using Facebook Watch Parties to stream popular pirated content, such as new episodes of Game of Thrones, and Facebook can’t always get to them as quickly as they should.

Game of Thrones being streamed illegally on Facebook

What Facebook is going through it pretty normal though for a new video platform, which Facebook’s Watch platform/section qualifies as. Pirates will always find a way to exploit a new video platform to host their stuff, and it’s up to the platform to figure out a way to stop them. YouTube has had to deal with it, and Vimeo and Dailymotion are still dealing with it (and not doing as good a job as YouTube). When Twitch first launched, pirated content was everywhere on it, and it’s still there if you look for it, especially for big TV events like the last season of Game of Thrones.

But for all the problems with Facebook these days, this one is probably the least serious. Unless you’re a content owner, of course.

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It may end up being the biggest movie ever, but ‘Avengers: Endgame’ will be “free” to watch for anyone who’s signed up to Disney+.

Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream Avengers: Endgame on December 11

Disney has announced the mega-blockbuster will be available for unlimited streaming on Disney+ in December, one month after the streaming service launches. This follows the previous announcement that ‘Captain Marvel’ will be one of the “launch” titles for the platform, which will cost $6.99 per month.

If the release schedule of the previous ‘Avengers’ movie is any indication, December will be roughly 3 months after ‘Endgame’ launches on home video, suggesting that “three months” will be the typical delay between Blu-ray and Disney+ releases.

Disney is also trying to buy the part of Hulu that they don’t own from Comcast, suggesting the company still have big plans for the streaming platform, even after Disney+ launches.

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That’s all for this week, and for the next couple of weeks. Until then, have a (few) great one(s).

Weekly News Roundup (March 24, 2019)

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Welcome to another WNR, and this time, you didn’t have to wait a month for another issue!

It’s mostly because there are actually a few news stories to go through, and so let’s not waste any time and get things started.

Copyright

Pirates may have found a way to rip 4K movies from iTunes, as the James Bond Collection of 24 movies have all been leaked online, in glorious 4K HDR quality.

Aquaman
The 4K version of Aquaman was recently leaked online

This follows recent leaks of ‘Aquaman’, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘The Mule’, also all in 4K, from unknown sources. The James Bond Collection was only available in 4K on iTunes, and so chances are, pirates have found a way to bypass the copy protection normally present on these files (note that Australian streaming outfit Stan also has the James Bond Collection in 4K, but it is a 25 fps encode, different to the 24 fps rip that was ripped).

So far the release group, DEFLATE, has not released any information on the source of these leaks or the method used to obtain these leaks. While there is a small chance that someone with access to the unencrypted source files could be responsible for the leak, but it’s unlikely.

More likely is the case that pirates may have found a vulnerability in the copy protection used for these files or a device used to play these files.

Expect more leaks in the coming days.

High Definition

So Fox is now officially a part of Disney, now that the acquisition deal has been officially completed. I kind of expected some kind of Soviet/American troop meeting type scenario involving Fox and Disney staff, for some weird reason, but it’s probably more like this event considering 4,000 people are being let go (sorry, been watching a lot of World War II documentaries lately).

So the Big Six is no more, and we’re left with a Big Five of Hollywood studios. More like the Humongous One, and then the Big Four, since Disney is now bigger than Universal, Paramount and Sony/Columbia combined in terms of market share, and that’s all before Disney starts leveraging Fox’s franchises, merge the Fox and Disney Marvel universe, assumes majority control of Hulu and launches its own streaming platform, Disney+.

So while Disney shares have fallen since the acquisition was completed, most likely due to the cost of the deal eating into Disney’s short term bottom line, the future is bright for the company. You don’t get financial advice that often here, but I would stock up and hold on to Disney shares with the expectation that 1 or 2 years down the line, this will prove to be a very smart decision. Of course, I have literally zero experience in investing, so you might be better off consulting the Magic Eight Ball (it told me “Most Likely” when I asked if I should buy Disney shares, so there you go).

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge @ Disney Land
The old home of Star Wars is now a part of the new home of Star Wars – Disney Acquires Fox

I’m kind of excited as to see what this melding of two movie giants will mean for us film lovers. Apart from the X-Men franchise joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is also the joining of pre The Force Awakens Star Wars movies, for which Fox still owns the home media distribution rights for. Would it be too much to ask for a theatrical version of Star Wars on Blu-ray/4K UHD? Probably yes. How about the 20th Fox fanfare back in Star Wars movies? Another tough ask, I’m afraid.

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So that was the week that was. I really don’t know what the next week will bring, but I’m excited and I can’t wait (and I might have just jinxed it – expect no news at all now). See you in a week.

Weekly News Roundup (December 16, 2018)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I finished bingeing (or is that binging – nope, doesn’t look right) Narcos: Mexico. It was great. I mean, I wouldn’t put it anywhere near shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s a high quality production featuring some great acting and an amazing but true (well, mostly) storyline. It’s also reminded me that I should go watch Scarface again, which is exactly what I’m doing just before I started writing this WNR.

Also watched Alpha, suspected animal abuse aside, loved it for the beautiful cinematography and simple story.

And yes, there was still time for some news …

Discs sales are on the decline, that’s clear as day. Blu-ray sales peaked in 2013, it appears, while DVD sales peaked long ago. While Ultra HD Blu-ray has lifted Blu-ray’s numbers a bit, the general trend is still down, especially for DVDs.

Walmart Blu-ray and DVD Sales Rack
Blu-ray and DVD sales still doing well in certain locations, says Walmart

The very first Black Friday sales figures I tracked for DVDs had the revenue for the week at $386.35 million (this was in 2008). This Black Friday, that figure has dwindled down to $116.45 million.

Sure, Blu-ray revenue rose from $27.68 million in 2008 to $104.37 million in 2018, but that doesn’t come anywhere near plugging in the hole left by declining DVD sales.

But according to an EVP at Lionsgate, the decline in discs sales isn’t happening everywhere, and in rural USA, sales are still going strong

And the recent Black Friday sales also show one important thing – people still do buy discs in great numbers, but only if the price is right. The discounting of UHD titles from their usual $25 to $9 on Amazon really helped, and that’s because the perceived value of discs have dropped in a day and age where $11 per month gets you thousands of titles, including many exclusives, like Narcos: Mexico, that you would have paid good money to watch and own previously.

Scene from The Kissing Booth
Netflix’s most re-watched Original film in 2018 was The Kissing Booth

Speaking of Netflix Originals, the streaming giant has put together a review of 2018 in terms the most “popular” shows and movies that have premiered in 2018. Netflix is notoriously shy about releasing actual watch figures, so they’ve used some interesting metrics to measure the popularity of shows, movies and even the fastest rising stars. The Kissing Booth was the most popular Netflix original film because it was the most re-watched; On My Block just beat out Making a Murderer: Part 2 as the most popular original series because it had the higher average watch time per viewing session (I think that’s what you would normally call binge-factor), and The Fab Five from Queer Eye were the most popular stars because their Instagram follower count increased the most. 

And you know what, hardly any of the movies and shows listed by Netflix will ever make it to Blu-ray or DVD. And this, perhaps more than pricing, is the biggest obstacle facing physical media.

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Alright then, that’s all for the week. There won’t be a WNR next week as I’ll be away for the weekend at a wedding. Might not be one after that as well, considering it’s so near to Christmas and all that, but will try to pop on and say hello. And now, back to Scarface.