Hard or Digital Media?

I have been collecting films and TV shows for a very long time. It was a regular scene to find me in my room with stacks of VHS tapes, labels, and a sharpie marker, documenting my latest recordings. I would print off episode guides for TV shows, and have the TV guide out so that I could see which classic films AMC and TCM were going to be broadcasting. I would hog the family TV in the living room, and have recordings going, sometimes for full days at a time. This became quite a hindrance to the rest of the family, because they weren’t able to watch TV. But luckily I had two parents who were supportive in my needing that next big piece in my collection. AMC would run horror movies every October (and still do). I would be recording “Friday the 13th” parts one through a million. I was able to salvage one of my Dad’s old computers and load a copy of Microsoft Word on there so that I could have a digital list of my collection, a big move forward from a college-ruled notebook.

I had to resort to a small TV in my Dad’s office to do some of my recordings. I remember “The Twilight Zone” New Years Eve Marathon, and being glued to the desk chair for hours and hours at a time. I would cross off the episodes on the guide I printed off (ya, my parents had to refill ink cartridges quite a few times). Before I knew it, my VHS collection had over 700 entries, ranging from old Disney movies to horror movies, and from “The Twilight Zone” to “Seinfeld”.

I remember the day that I moved from VHS to DVD. I have younger brothers who also have a love for collecting, and gave a lot of my stuff away. I still remember my first DVD. It was volume 1 of “Speed Racer”, the classic japanese cartoon that made its way to the US, and was in syndication for a long time. My collection evolved from VHS to DVD, and then to Blu Ray. Over the years I have exposed myself to as wide a range of film as possible. I have come to love the work of directors that I would have never been exposed to had I not performed all of the research I have. The American Film Institute, and their top 100 lists were a big resource for my film exploration. I also had a Film History class is High School, that was like a buffet of knowledge for me. I inhaled all of the content, and was often the only student in class, talking back and forth with the teacher, because there were facts that I knew, and I wanted to share what I knew with everybody. Film has always worked that way with me. I get very excited about classic film, and with new work as well. I love talking about it, as my wife, other family, and my coworkers all know.

Now onto the topic of this entry. As I have outlined above, I have collected hard media for a long time. My shelves have always been packed with movies and TV shows. Over the last few years there has been a big push for digital media. Now, hard media is still king, as the numbers show. Consumers still prefer this type of media over digital downloads. I have had what is now almost considered the old school mentality of having to have a movie on my shelf. It has always created more of a tactile experience. However, I have started to convert my collection, for the most part, to digital format. There are some sets that I own on Blu Ray that have come in very collectible sets, such as “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, the “Alien Anthology”, the “Jurassic Park” trilogy, and others. There are a handful of regular Blu Ray releases that I also have on the shelf, namely my top ten list, and other great titles of importance to me.

That being said, I have been building a digital library. Being a Macophile, I have set up a home media server, utilizing my iMac and my Apple TV (two of which I own, for the living room and bedroom TV’s). I have found this to be a lot of fun, as I can collect and collect and collect, and rather than taking up shelf space, it simply takes up gigabytes of my hard drive. I invested $100 in a 2TB drive for my iMac, and also have an external 2TB G Drive. This has worked out really well. I can even use my iPhone as my remote control for my Apple TV, and access movies and TV shows quickly over my Wifi network. I have found that I enjoy having some files in digital format, especially those that I want to have in my collection, but don’t necessarily need on my shelf in hard copy.

What I really love about my setup is that I can arrange my whole collection by genre, title, length, or whatever other criteria I can pinpoint. I also like the option to push the media to either my Apple TV or my iPhone. When I am traveling, which I do frequently, I can push a movie or two to my iPhone, and enjoy on the plane or wherever I am.

It is really easy to convert media that you own to a digital format. I utilize a couple programs to do this. Keep in mind that I am a Mac user, so this may differ for you PC users out there (get a Mac!). I use RipIt to rip the media, and then Handbrake is my preferred program for encoding the video. Click here to go to Apple’s site to view the Apple TV. They are only $99 and completely worth it if you are looking to stream media. Aside from streaming movies and TV shows you might rip into digital format like we have discussed, it also has accessibility for Netflix, YouTube, and many other services.

Here is a screenshot for RipIt:

It is as simple as clicking “Rip”. That will give you a ripped digital file, where you can save anywhere on your computer that you prefer. I usually default to the Desktop.

Here is a screenshot of HandBrake:

HandBrake is used to encode the video. I have always used the default settings, and have had really good results. I play most of my media on my 55″ LED.

Something else to note is that a lot of movies that are being released these days include a digital copy of the film, which is nice, because all of the work that would come from using RipIt and Handbrake is already done for you. There is usually an activation code, and you can have the file downloaded directly to iTunes.

So here’s my question. What format do you prefer? Hard or digital? It is an interesting topic. People tend to be very opinionated one way or another. But I have found what I feel like is a happy medium between the two.

Here is what my iTunes film library looks like. I can push all of this media to my Apple TV or iPhone. It would work for those who have an iPad as well. You’ll also notice on the left hand side there is a link for TV shows, which is of course where I have my TV shows that I have digitized. I can also send my iTunes music library to my Apple TV, so I can play my music through my LED TV, which has great speakers.

-David B. Harrington

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Top 10 Film Showcase: “The Shawshank Redemption”

We’ve heard the thought that there is one person for everybody, that that there is that one person that can make you feel more whole, more alive than anybody else. I feel that there is a certain level of validity to that. Being the film buff that I am, I want to bring that back to film. I believe that there is that one film out there that connects more deeply with an individual than any other film. There are a number of reasons why that connection may be made, but my thought, and my bottom line is that I believe there is that film out there for everybody, because film is universal, it explores the human experience almost more than anything else out there. It is absolutely no question to me that that film for me is “The Shawshank Redemption”.

While the film did receive nominations from the Academy and others, it was not a huge box office success. It is a film, that over time has settled into the minds of people all over the world, and the truth portrayed in the film has impacted people all over the globe. Hardly can you find a person that, if they have seen the film, haven’t been greatly impacted by it.

Frank Darabont took a liking to the works of Stephen King and transformed not only this wonderful piece of literature, but also “The Green Mile” into two of the finest pieces of American cinema. His list of titles Directed doesn’t match up to a Steven Spielberg or a Martin Scorsese, but nonetheless, his impact on film cannot go unnoticed. “The Majestic”, starring Jim Carrey was another wonderful film, and one that I don’t feel received near the recognition it deserved. But it is strange how there are a lot of those films that exist. Critical praise is far from the most important thing. Critics don’t have all the answers. They don’t always know a good film when they see one.

There is a bookmark in the careers of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It marks this film. Their on-screen performance as Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding is, in the opinion of this critic, the most moving performance by any two actors in the history of film. The voice of Morgan Freeman has come to be one of cinema’s prized possessions. The relationship that these two characters share brings to life the central theme of this film. Hope. In a letter to Red, Andy wrote, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” And it is with this message that rings true with Red, and the very thing that brings him out of the walls of The Shawshank prison and to beaches of Zihuatanejo where two friends were able to once again meet. “Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” The use of prison and the literal stone walls is the perfect metaphor for the trap that we fall into as human beings in which we feel that there is indeed no hope. Sometimes we have experiences that bring us places we don’t want to be. But the fact is, we have a choice. We can either “get busy living or get busy dying” just as Andy says in the film. This is an all-too-real truth that so many of us refuse to acknowledge. We are more in control of our happiness and what happens to us than most of us are willing to acknowledge.

It is an emotional experience for me every time I watch this film. The message of hope connects with me in a way no other film does. I will never forget the experience of seeing this for the first time. It’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t leave you. It stays with you forever. It keeps hold of that part of you that refuses to let it go, because it means that much.

-David B. Harrington

Click here to purchase “The Shawshank Redemption” on Blu-Ray or DVD.

References

The Shawshank Redemption. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111161/

Image source: http://www.swotti.com/movies/the-shawshank-redemption_15761.htm