Tag Archives: movies

10 Facts You Need to Know About Netflix

netflix logoIn its short lifespan, the entertainment mogul, Netflix, has been able to accomplish a great deal. They’ve twice drug themselves out from the doldrums, created their very own type of entertainment viewing platform, and now the company even accounts for a large portion of online traffic.

In the process of creating this well-loved monster, they’ve reunited (or introduced) customers with thousands of films and TV shows. Without it we wouldn’t have terms like “Netflix bomb,” we might never know what it’s like to finish an entire season in two days, and there may never have been a House of Cards.

So, what makes this rental company stand out from the competition?

10. Netflix has nearly 30 million customers.

As of mid-2013, stats sat at 29.2 million subscribers and/or renters. That’s more people who live in the entire state of Texas.

9. Half of users stream via a game console.

While the other half is used by smartphones (6%), tablets, computers (42%), computers hooked to TVs (14%), smart TVs, and Internet-capable DVD players.

8. As much as 30% of Internet traffic in the U.S. can be attributed to Netflix.

7. Netflix turned 16 last year.

Though it wasn’t on consumer radars until early 2000s, the company was founded back in 1997.

6. Customers can sign up for streaming internationally.

Including North and South America, the Caribbean, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Northern Europe, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. However, DVD rental is only available in the U.S. (likely due to storage center fees and compliance of pre-marked postage envelopes.)

5. There are 58 Netflix distribution centers for DVDs, the locations of which are top-secret.

Employees are even sworn to secrecy (and probably the U.S. Postal Service).

4. Netflix’s DVD rental side accounts for 35% of all disc-rental expenditures.

3. The Average customers spends two hours streaming each day.

2. Only 36% of users view both TV shows and movies via their streaming/rental account.

1. Netflix made $1 billion in the first quarter of 2013, $3 million of which was profit.

Not bad for a company that almost split services just two years ago.

From subscribers to titles on hand, it’s safe to say that Netflix has some impressive stats. Whether you’ve jumped on the bandwagon or are standing safely on the sidelines, they’re continuing to take on the way we watch TV single-handedly.

Buy and rent videos on Apple TV? Use this tip to save a little cash

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The Apple TV is great; I am a big fan and a happy owner, but until recently, I used to just buy a show or movie on my computer and then watch it on my Apple TV. However, when you buy or rent content on the second or third generation Apple TV, the device automatically assumes you want your video in HD. Not only does it assume you want HD, it doesn’t give you the option to purchase the SD version, which is considerably cheaper.

When you purchase content on your computer, you get the choice of buying/renting either the HD or SD option. Personally, I could care less about HD and would rather buy the SD version to save some money. It might only be a few dollars difference, but it all adds up in the end.

I always thought the only way to get the SD version of a TV show or movie was to go through iTunes on my computer, but I recently discovered a setting on the Apple TV that allows you to purchase SD versions, and it’s quite a simple trick.

First, go into “Settings” on your Apple TV, and then go down to the “iTunes Store”:

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Within that menu is a setting for “Video Resolution”, with three options. If you choose the “Standard Definition” option, every video you purchase through the Apple TV will now be in SD and at SD pricing. If ever want something in HD, though, you can always go back and change the setting to “High Definition”, or buy the HD version through iTunes on your computer first.

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This not only saves you some extra cash, but it also saves you inconvenient trips to your computer everytime you want to purchase a TV show or movie from iTunes. Happy watching!

Pre-ordering digital content: What’s the point?

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If you are an iTunes Store customer, you have probably seen the sections in the store which allows you to pre-order music, books, or movies. I don’t have data to back this up, but I would assume pre-ordering in iTunes is very popular. If it wasn’t I would expect Apple to stop offering that option.

My question to those that pre-order from iTunes and other digital stores is: “Why?” It is not as if the store is going to run out of the file. The content will be available the day of release and five years after the release (unless it is pulled by the store or seller).

Incentives, freebies and deals

There used to be a time when I wouldn’t be writing this article. In the past, I remember iTunes offering special pricing for pre-orders or extra content for pre-orders. If that was still the case, I would understand why one would pre-order digital content – you pay the same, or maybe even less, and get a deal out of it.

However, these deals seem to have disappeared. I haven’t seen a pre-order deal in iTunes in a long time. In fact, I have found it to be cheaper to wait for the physical media release and buy that at a cheaper price than pre-ordering it. On occasion, a DVD movie with the digital version has been the same price as pre-ordering, or just buying, the digital version by itself.

Actual media pre-orders (ie. DVDs, video games, etc.) still have these special offers. Disney, for example, often offers some deal on pre-ordering an upcoming movie release. Game stores often offer some type of deal to pre-order a game for your console. Why can’t digital content do the same?

One acceptable reason to pre-order

The only reason I see for pre-ordering digital content is so that you don’t forget to buy something you really want. Maybe there is a movie coming out in four weeks and you want to buy it. By pre-ordering it in iTunes you can set your computer or device to automatically download pre-ordered content when available. The content gets released and you open the “Videos” app on your iPad and “Surprise!” your new movie is there that you forgot you even ordered it.

This reasoning could also backfire. You pre-order a digital item and then forget you ordered it. Let’s say a music album, for example. You see another digital music provider has a special release-day price to download the album. You buy it there and forget you already bought it from another provider. It automatically downloads for you and you have now bought it twice. Unfortunately, you can’t really return digital content.

Conclusion

Until I see a real reason to pre-order digital content, like the deals mentioned above, I will stick to waiting for release dates and finding release day deals. Speaking of release dates, that is one thing the pre-order list is good for – finding out the release date of that movie, book, or music you want!

Netflix is finally getting it right

netflix logoIt’s been several months since Netflix has been under the scrutiny of the press. Despite their former fall from grace, the company has managed to make a solid comeback, gaining customers and fan loyalty in the process. It’s even gotten interest of internet emperor Google, looking at a price of $17.9 billion. This is especially impressive considering it was just under two years ago that Netflix put customers and shareholders on edge, announcing an entire company adjustment.

Splitting into two separate entities, jacking up prices, and a reroute of current services, it was to be the business equivalent of 52-card pick up. Luckily the company listened to critics and its fans, and, against the odds, has finally started doing things right.

The Good

To date, the company is up to 27.1 U.S. streaming customers and netting nearly a billion per year. They’ve also expanded their streaming base considerably (though I fail to be satisfied until every movie/show ever can be streamed). The site will also be the only source for new episodes of Arrested Development, which will air along a feature-length film later this year. Having grown into a cult classic, the show was revived after its cancelation nearly seven years ago. An unusual viewing for an even unusualer Hollywood situation.

What’s more is that the company shuns commercials and ads, instead it looks to its membership fees as a source of funds. Buffering speeds have greatly increased, and recommendations pan its past views for an accurate bank of preferred shows. Users can even search for movies by the stars who play in them, or search through bios, ratings, release dates, and average viewer ratings.

Still Moving Forward

Does Netflix sometimes have some quirky categories that we must decipher through? Like “witty workplace sitcoms” or “raunchy dysfunctional-family TV comedies”? Yes. And sure their blog sits at a weird URL and is only sometimes updated (with self-promotional content). Nor do they have writer profiles or pictures. There’s a glaring lack of request form, where users can ask for various shows to come through – or give much feedback of any kind. But if that’s the list of complaints, we’ll take it. When movies and TV shows can be streamed in unlimited quantities, a few blogging faux pas are nothing.

As any mechanic would say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; Netflix we’re happy it’s a mantra you finally decided to follow.

How to rip DVDs to your iPad

Watching movies or TV episodes is probably one of the top things most people do with the iPad. You can rent or purchase movies through iTunes, but what if you want to watch a DVD on your iPad that you already own? You can convert your existing movies into a file format that is iPad friendly.There are plenty of sites offering free DVD converter software, a good number of which attempt to up sell you into a paid product.

The program I chose for importing DVDs is Handbrake. This software works the same way on both the Mac and the PC, however, for this how-to, I used a Mac.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to rip movies from DVD.

Step 1: Download and install required software

First you’ll want to download Handbrake. This software is free for both Mac and PC. You’ll also need to install the equally free VLC media player.

Step 2: Insert the DVD

You will need to insert your DVD into the computer that you are using.  This may cause your computer’s DVD player to launch and begin to play your DVD.  If that occurs, press stop on the DVD player and be sure to completely exit the program.

Step 3: Open Handbrake

Upon opening Handbrake, it will bring up a window that looks like the one below.  Handbrake is asking you what source that you would like it to scan for files that it can convert.  In this case, you will direct Handbrake to the DVD that you have inserted into your computer.  In the example above, the DVD is entitled, “PS_I_LOVE_YOU”. Select the contents and click Open.

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Step 4: Allow Handbrake to scan the DVD

Handbrake will scan the DVD for the movie file to convert. It will automatically select the file with the longest time duration to convert, which is almost always the movie that you want on your iPad. As you can see in the picture below, while there are many other files on the DVD, the longest file is selected is the movie.

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Step 5: Choose a location on your computer to save the movie

Click on the “Browse” button in the Destination section of the window.  This will allow you to choose the destination where Handbrake will save the file. You may want to save the file to your desktop so that it will be easy to find later.

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Step 6: Rip the movie to your computer

Click on the “Start” button at the top of the window and allow Handbrake to do its magic!  Your movie is now being saved to the location you selected in a file format that the iPad can use.  This process can take a while, depending on the speed of your computer.

Tip: Do not let your computer go into sleep mode during this process, the movie will stop ripping and you will not get a complete file.

Step 7: Move the converted movie into iTunes

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Now it is time to move the movie file (that you decided where to save in Step 5) into iTunes.  In order for this to happen, simply select the movie file and drag it into the movie section of the library on the left-hand side of the iTunes window and drop it there.  iTunes will begin to import the movie into its files at this point.  The movie will show up in the “Movies” section of your library with the original title of the file.

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Step 8: Sync the movie to your iPad

Select your iPad from the menu on the left-hand column of iTunes and select “Movies” at the top of the iTunes window.  Be sure that the box next to “Sync Movies” is checked and the box next to “Automatically sync all” (in the drop-down menu) movies is NOT checked.  Browse to the movie that you just imported into iTunes and check the box next to it.  Select the “Apply” button in the lower right-hand corner of the iTunes window and your movie is happily being synced to your iPad.

Step 9: Open the movie on your iPad

Open up the Videos app on your iPad and verify your movie is there.  Select it and you can now watch your movie without needing Wi-Fi.

This may take you longer the first few times you do it, but before you know it you will be a pro.

Don’t Run or Walk, Sit for Something

When Jeremy Haberman left home to run a few errands with his family on another brisk Lake Nokomis morning, he wasn’t expecting another cause-related 5-kilometer walk and run to cross his path. His normal route was closed yet again. Frustrated, Haberman said to his wife, “You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to get people to pledge money for me to just sit on our couch and watch movies.”

Months later, Haberman registered for Startup Weekend Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “I completely forgot about my idea. It had been lying dormant and my tiny rant came back to mind when I was developing a pitch for Startup Weekend.” But sitting alone on a couch didn’t foster the sense of community you find at run- and walk-a-thons, and it wasn’t nearly as fun.  With help from family and friends, Haberman developed the idea of holding fundraisers at movie theaters, in essence, sitting for something.  He pitched the idea at Startup Weekend and, with help from a team of believers, it became a reality.

Together they founded Sit for Something, a social venture built to provide a fun alternative to boring, bland fundraisers. Sit for Something focused on one of the major issues of 2010: education. Haberman and his team thought about their experiences of parents and kids peddling candy bars and magazines and wanted to change the dynamic. “Kids don’t want to sell this junk,” said Haberman.  “Nobody wants to buy it, and parents are often left to foot the bill. Sit for Something had a better idea: using movie theaters to raise money for education.

Sit for Something’s first fundraiser will appeal to rock ‘n’ roll and education fans alike. On Tuesday, February 15 at 7 p.m. in the historic St. Anthony Main Theater, a showing of It Might Get Loud, a guitar documentary featuring Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge, will benefit the School of Rock Minnesota Scholarship Fund, allowing young low-income aspiring musicians to pursue their dreams. Tickets are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door. Spots are limited and can be reserved at sitforsomething.org/schoolofrock.

Sit for Something is now forming partnerships with Minnesota-based educational groups where they form a collaborative effort to advance learning opportunities for youth. For more information visit sitforsomething.org.

Review: Netflix for iPhone and iPod Touch

So I’m sitting at work, enjoying my 150th consecutive minute of Warren Miller films on Netflix when my iPod pauses the movie to tell me I have 20% battery life left.

One worry I had when I downloaded the free Netflix app for iPhone and iPod Touch was what the battery life was going to be like, so I charged up my iPod Touch and started playing movies until it wouldn’t let me play anymore. I was fairly surprised that I got through about two whole movies before it died on me (this was on WiFi). I’m not sure how much streaming the movies through 3G will affect battery life.

The Netflix app for iPhone/iPod Touch lets you browse and search for movies, unlike the Netflix app for Xbox 360 that only lets you browse certain movies and your Instant Queue. It also syncs the progress of the movies you’ve watched so far, so if you are in the middle of streaming a movie on your computer at home and have to take off you can start right where you left off with your iPhone.

The Netflix app has live search updates, although they take awhile to load

One nuisance is that while your iPod or iPhone won’t go into sleep mode when you’re watching a movie, it will automatically sleep if you pause it. This can get annoying because if I pause just to answer a quick phone call, my iPod has already gone to sleep by the time I return. Upon waking it up, I first have to wait for it to reconnect to wireless, and the app is prone to crashes while reloading. This causes me to have to relaunch the app and wait for the movie to load again.  After leaving for just 3 or so minutes, it can take me almost 5 minutes to start watching the movie again. This obviously isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever had happen to me, it does get annoying after a while.

Something that I noticed was missing from the app was a way to edit your DVD queue. I know the main focus of this app is to watch movies on your iPod/iPhone, but an option to add movies to and edit your DVD queue would be useful as well.

Performance-wise, the app runs a little slow and browsing through lists can get a little jittery and delayed, but is perfectly usable. The fact that I’m using a Gen 1 iPod Touch probably contributes to this slow behavior.

When I scroll up and down to browse through movies there is a slight lag

A little snag a few of you may run into is the maximum players allowed to run off a Netflix account. I have a mulit-disk plan so I can stream movies to six different players. I believe that if you have the basic single disk Netflix plan it will only allow you to activate one player. Using the Netflix app will count your iPhone/iPod as an activated player. So, if you have a single disk plan you might have to continually deactivate your iPhone/iPod as a player if you use streaming on a different device like a game console or computer.

Can anyone guess the movie?

All in all, I’m pleased with this app. Other than a few minor performance issues that could probably be attributed to my Gen 1 iPod Touch,the Netflix app has been a nice way to burn time when I’m on the go for 15 minutes here and there like between (or during) classes.

Watching the Oscars Tonight? Google Docs Has a Simple Voting Template

The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony will be taking place tonight and many movie enthusiasts like myself are making predictions for the recipients of this years’ awards.  If you want to make your own predictions or set up a wager with your friends, Google has created a special Google Docs template just for the Oscars.

To use the voting template, just head over to the Oscars template page and click Use this template at the top.  You will then be taken to Google Docs where you can customize the title of the form and add a message.

The voting sheet has already been populated with nominees in each category, so when you’re finished customizing just click Save.  You can view the form by clicking the link at the bottom of the Docs page.

If you want to share the voting form with your friends, simply click the Email this form button from the Docs page and enter as many email addresses as you like.  The form will be sent right to their inbox so they can easily fill it out.

After your friends have submitted the form, you can click the See Responses button from the Doc page.  Here you can view a summary of results (with graphs) as well as a complete spreadsheet of all data.

It's going to be a close competition...

The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony airs tonight at 5 pm pacific/7 pm central/8 pm eastern time.

Image credit: Dave_B_

Coming Soon: The End of DVDs?

universal-picturesAccording to a new article on movies.com, Universal Pictures will no longer be selling stand-alone DVD copies of several of it’s movies as of January 1st, 2010. Instead, the movies will only be sold as Blu-ray/DVD bundles.

This bundling is not new since Disney and other studios have already been bundling Blu-rays, DVDs and digital copies, but this is the first time a stand-alone DVD is not also being manufactured.

Blu-ray/DVD bundle packs are generally a good deal for people with Blu-ray players because you get a Blu-ray for the main TV, plus a DVD and digital copy for more portable viewing. However, for those of us who have yet to shell out the money for a PS3 or other Blu-ray player, this might be the push that finally makes us go to the store.  As the article says, “This means if you are a stickler for standard definition, you’d better start getting used to Blu-rays being bundled with your movies.”

Could this be the beginning of the end for new movies being released on DVD? Probably not, but who knows. What do you think the future holds for movies on DVDs?

Netflix Instant Watch Now Available in Windows 7 Media Center

win7-mediacenter-openNetflix Instant Watch, a popular movie and TV streaming service, has just become available for Windows 7 users in Windows Media Center.  This feature was added for Windows Vista users earlier this year, and the Windows 7 update comes just before the official launch of Microsoft’s newest operating system this Thursday.

If you haven’t received the update yet, you can manually update Windows Media Center by going to  Tasks –> Settings–> General–> Automatic Download Options and click the manual update button.

Netflix Instant Watch in Windows Media Center offers you an incredibly streamlined experience if you are using your computer as a home theater PC.  In the Instant Watch application you can view your instant queue, DVD queue, and browse dozens of recommended offerings from Netflix’s library of 12,000+ titles.

Want to see more?  Check out the image gallery below.

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