DVDs Still Work for Me

By Cam Mather

I live near the Village of Tamworth, which is home to the greatest video establishment on the planet, “Village Video.” Tim Kidd is the owner of Village Video. I have blogged about Tim before because he is an integral part of our community. He is a volunteer firefighter. This is very important in a small town. Probably THE most important job. After renting videos.

But for me, Tim is awesome because I rent movies from him. Good movies. Great movies. DVDs that work, when I want them to!

This sounds very simple, but I’m finding that technology makes something as simple as watching a movie, which I started doing 25 years ago on a VHS machine, increasingly complex and problematic. The quality of those movies 25 years ago was abysmal, but at least they worked most of the time.

A while ago when we upgraded our satellite TV to high definition, our provider “Shaw” gave us 6 free Pay-Per-View-Movies. It sounded great! Six free movies! What an unmitigated disaster that was! We don’t have our satellite receiver tied into our phone line (because I have enough other challenges with our phone living off-grid) so I had to order the movies over the phone. They charged us $1 for this, so suddenly there was a cost involved with our “free” movies. I had to go through about 57 layers of menus until I could finally start selecting my movie. Eventually when it finally seemed ready to go, the automated voice would say “Please hold while we confirm this order…” and then 10 seconds later another message would come on suggesting that I sign up for the latest “Ultimate Gladiator Fight To the Death Event” for some outrageous price. At that point I assumed that I had successfully ordered a movie.

On two occasions we sat down in front of the TV at their selected time to watch our movie. And then 5 minutes into it, IT STOPPED! One Friday night we had actually made our pizza early so we’d be ready at 5:30 when THEY decided to start the movie. And it stopped! You know those video clips you’ve seen where someone gets pissed off at the TV and they blast it with a shotgun? I was so ticked off I was tempted to do that!

So Pay-Per-View doesn’t work for us. Besides the fact that the ordering system is complicated, time-consuming and ultimately didn’t work anyway, I don’t like being told what time I can watch a movie. And I don’t like it when it stops just after it has started. We managed to watch a couple of “freebies” but we gave up on it pretty quickly. It sucked!

When we rent a video from Tim, we start it when we want. We can stop it to make dinner or to take a break. And hey, if it’s great, we can even watch it twice! He charges the same price regardless.

People keep talking about Netflix and all these great on-line movie systems. Friends of ours were using it and discovered that from time to time the movie would stop and they would get a “Buffering” error as the internet tried to get caught up to the movie. That’s annoying. Sometimes the movie just never started again. That’s infuriating. I’ve read that some internet providers are actually restricting bandwidth to cause this because they can’t keep up.

Whenever we get together with friends, we often exchange lists of what movies we’ve seen lately, what we recommend and what we would avoid. We find that the friends who use Netflix for their movie viewing never seem to have seen the latest movies. Netflix doesn’t seem to have anything current.  They have to wait for a few years I guess until it’s cheaper. You know, wait a few years until you have completely forgotten that you wanted to see it or what it was about.

The beauty of a DVD is that you can stop it as often as you want. On a Friday night, which is our usual movie night around here, we sometimes stop a movie 7 or 8 times. To get another slice of pizza. To get more Dr. Pepper. To get dessert. To have a pee because I drank too much Dr. Pepper. To let the cats in. To close up the chicken coop. To go out and look at the helicopter flying over our house… Being able to start a movie whenever I want, and stop it whenever I want, is a really nice thing. All this new technology that allegedly makes everything seem so great can sometimes be a huge step backwards.

Macleans Magazine this week (http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/05/09/the-dvd-is-hardly-dying/) has an article called “The DVD is Hardly Dying” about how DVD rentals should be over now, but they’re not. Because internet streaming isn’t all that great. And we all know, if we all start watching all our movies on line, the whole big internet is going to just give up and stop working.

There’s a great little video store in Kingston called “Classic Video” which has a huge collection of old DVDs including TV series and documentaries. But the last time we rented some, a lot of the DVDs didn’t work properly. They were too old. You know how sometimes when you take a DVD out of the player and try to put it back into the case you end up dropping it? Well, it turns out that after 7 years of this type of mishandling, DVDs don’t work very well. I rented a DVD called “Man on a Wire” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdNXcAOaFog) about a crazy Frenchman who snuck into the World Trade Towers shortly after they were built and used a bow and arrow to shoot a wire from one building to the other, pulled the wire across and then walked back and forth across that wire. How cool is that? Well, it took an hour and 15 minutes to show all of the background, working up to his walk across the wires, and at that point the DVD packed it in. No really, the only part I really wanted to watch was him walking back and forth and lying down on this wire, 275 stories over Manhattan, but alas, this was not to be. Where did I put the shotgun again?

Which brings me back to my good friend Tim. Tim rents DVDs that work. When I want them to. No bandwidth required. No constant dread of them stopping at a crucial moment. You can stop them when you need to go pee. And you can watch the extra materials, which are kind of lame on some DVDs, but are as good as the actual movie on others. On one of the “Bourne” movies, (Bourne Ultimatum I think) they showed how they filmed Matt Damon jumping from the roof of one building across a street and into glass patio doors in the apartment on the far side of the street. The camera basically followed him right across. It was the coolest thing EVER! It took them two days to set up the shot. I watched it over and over again! Try that with Netflix. Oh wait, you never get that extra stuff… on the movie… that came out 4 years ago… that you streamed because you vaguely remember being faintly interested in it, 4 years ago.

Nope, Tim’s my man. Tim gets all my entertainment dollars. Oh, and if you ever plow your car into one of the rock cuts around here, Tim will probably be one of the emergency responders who show up to help you!

3 Responses to “DVDs Still Work for Me”

  • Gerrit Botha:

    We cut the cable and got Netflix for $7.99 per month for unlimited movie watching. We have VOIP phone/ internet so we can watch as much as we want. So far it’s worked great. Netflix doesn’t have the latest and the greatest, but I just put that into the delayed gratification column. However, your system is better Cam, for one simple reason. Your entertainment dollars go back into the local community, thereby helping to stimulate the viability of Tamworth as an economic unit. It feeds the community’s self-reliance and sustainability. For that reason alone, your buying DVDs from your friend Tim is a superior way of watching movies.

  • Jeff:

    How funny that you blog about this just now. Last night my wife and I were watching a show on HULU, and commenting that every four minutes they now show three commercials (up from what used to be two). We were commenting on why we pay a subscription to watch it online if we are still bombarded with commercials all the time. I agree though, DVDs aren’t dead! In fact, we just bought a flat screen and BluRay player two months ago, and haven’t rented a BluRay disc yet. Need to do that!

    We hear your frustrations 😀

  • I hear your frustration! We had nothing but trouble until we bought a blu-ray. (over my protest btw) Now Netflix works perfectly and so does HULU and all the rest. Don’t for the life of me know why. As far as getting those new movies from Netflix I go to other sites to get the names of new movies then put them into the search box on Netflix to find them. I do find them and if they aren’t available yet it goes into a save file on Netflix to get put on our queue when it is. Most of the time I just rent it at Red box before that but if I don’t’ there it is. I have to admit that we get more stuff from HULU than Netflix. We got rid of cable be cause we were paying $120 for 300 channels of nothing to watch. Now THAT is frustrating.

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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