A love letter to physical media

Why do you buy physical media?

This is a question I often hear whenever the subject is brought up in conversation.

DVDs. Blu-rays. For myself, I have several reasons for why I still use physical media. But, for others, it remains something of a mystery. The purpose of this article is to explain why there remains the need for physical media and why the medium is in such a serious state of decline.

The downside

Okay, to avoid being biased, I’ll admit the negatives of physical media. It’s only fair, after all.

To obtain physical media, you have two options. Go out and get it yourself, or buy it online. Admittedly, it is an effort to go and buy physical media. And who knows if it will actually be in the store once you arrive. Quite a risk, I know.

Additionally, you have to wait a day or two if you order online. If you are desperate to watch the film or TV show, the wait can be somewhat excruciating. Watching digitally seems like an easier option.

But are these necessarily bad things?

There’s something a bit rewarding about being proactive in finding what you want to watch. It’s almost a blast from the past when looking in a store for a film, practically reenacting the trips to Blockbuster Video back in the day. Arguably, the wait makes the film more rewarding. 

Let’s just hope the film is a good one!

Something concrete for your money

As absurd as it sounds, there is certainly something to be said for having a physical item that you can hold in your hand.

Buying a film digitally, usually for around the same price, doesn’t provide the same sensation. While you can watch the film with the click of a button, there still remains an empty gap where normally you’d find a jewel case and disk.

Personally, when I pay £7.99 for a film, I want something concrete for my money.

This can also be said for the fact that if something goes wrong with your digital media account – poor playing, internal error, suspension, whatever it may be – you are going to have the hassle of getting it back. With a well-cared for piece of physical media, you won’t have this issue.

Just don’t scratch the disk!

Special features

One thing missing from the majority of digital media are special features.

For anyone not aware, special features are bonus material that is packaged with the film or TV series. They usually include documentaries about the film, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and trailers. But, this is not an exhaustive list.

Interestingly, many films (especially on Blu-ray) include commentaries. These are alternative audio tracks that have someone associated with the film, usually courtesy of the director or main cast/crew. These commentaries add great insight into the production aspects of the film and are a must for any cinephile.

Digital media usually skimps out on this. You lose all of the fascinating added bonuses that physical media often provides.

High definition

This one is exclusively for Blu-rays. No buffering or fuzzy images, just fully-defined and crisp visuals.

Films are even in 4K now. How much higher can the definition get?

Building a collection

A film collection may seem like something reminiscent of the early 2000’s, but it is something that is still very much alive today. There are countless videos of people going through what films they own. Some can even last for an hour onwards – so think twice.

There’s something so aesthetically pleasing about a shelf of neatly-arranged films. It’s also a great help when you’re stuck trying to figure out what exactly to watch. Having them all on display helps a great deal. 

Similarly, aside from looking nice together, they also look nice individually. While the odd few may be a photoshop car crash, the covers to physical media are usually something special to behold. This is something you lose out on with digital media.

Easy gifts

This one is simple. Come birthdays, Christmas time or any occasion that demands some form of present, the humble DVD is always on hand to make a good gift.

Unless the person already owns the film, how can you go wrong?

So when I hear people saying that the death of physical media is coming, I like to take a good look around my local HMV at Christmas time and see physical media fly off the shelves. I think it has a little life left in it yet.

Signing off

I understand that there are bigger problems than the whole digital versus physical media debate.

But, I just wanted to express how I feel on the subject. I hope this has reinvigorated any appreciation you have for the medium and maybe you will be tempted to dust off the old DVD player and slot a disk in this evening.

Do you prefer physical or digital media? Let us know in the comments below!