adventures in drm: ps3 movie rentals

Believe it or not, it’s not my intention to cover nothing but movies on my blog. I have decided recently that I don’t cover a broad enough course of subjects (I felt it was way too much about computers and Linux) and that I should branch out a bit more in my writing. If it seems like I’m writing a lot about movies, it’s because it’s probably my #1 pasttime when I’m bored and looking for something to do. And I get bored a lot.


The other week I tried out the DRM on Tivo’s rental service through to see how it worked, pretty much. Overall, I really didn’t mind all the restrictions, and it was mostly the price and the viewing window that annoyed me.

You can also rent movies through the Playstation 3, using the Playstation Network. They just added the feature this year, and I’d never tired it until now. This time around, I didn’t have a particular movie in mind to watch, I just wanted to test the waters again.

One thing I didn’t realize until after I was done, but this is probably the most important part, is that there’s no easy way to find a movie. I totally didn’t notice because I was just playing around to start with, so I wasn’t expecting to find something. I just went to the store’s interface and started browsing by genre. I’m pretty sure I never saw a search text box. There may have been one … I don’t remember, but I doubt it.

I found one movie in standard definition that I wanted to watch, “Singles“, and added it to my cart for $3. I figured I might as well try an HD one as well, to see how nice it was. I settled on “Chicken Little.” I’d never seen it, so I figured I might as well try it out. I think this one cost about $5.

I had to wait for the downloads, of course, and this time since I knew what to expect, I didn’t stick around. I left my PS3 on and just went on with my life. I came back later, and since my console is set to automatically power off after 2 hours of no use, it was already off. I powered it back on. Singles had already downloaded, but Chicken Little hadn’t. In fact, it hadn’t even started. That struck me as odd since anytime you download a demo and pause the transfer, it will resume downloading once you power the system back on. So either it never started it after the first movie, or it didn’t want a partial download and deleted it. Since this experiment is far from any structured, scientific approach, I didn’t really bother checking which one it was.

One thing I did notice though, was the size of each movie. And in each case I thought to myself, “there’s no way this thing is going to be decent quality.” Singles, the standard def. one, was 1.5 gigabytes. That one I could understand — they probably re-encoded it to MPEG4. Chicken Little, though, was only 5 gigs. Now that really had me curious, since it was touted as an HD rental. The small size made little sense, since a Blu-Ray HD movie would be more around 40 gigs. Of course, my harddrive would never have that much free space, so I wondered how this could possibly work out.

I ended up watching Singles while Chicken Little was downloading, though. I must say that I wasn’t expecting much from the video quality, since it was so small, but it looked really nice. There wasn’t any notable artifacts or issues. All was well. It played back without a hitch. Once it was done, I looked at the video details, and it said that it would “expire” the next day, since I’d already started the 24-hour window. It also displayed how many times I had watched the movie. I was curious whether the PS3 would automatically delete the file itself or just lock it from playing back again. I didn’t really feel like finding out, though, and just deleted it myself.

By this time, Chicken Little had already finished downloading. I went to poke around and view the video details again, but I accidentally hit the Start button instead, and it began playing it, inadvertently starting my 24 hour window ahead of time. I quickly exited out somewhat hoping that it wouldn’t do that, but it was too late. I made a mental note to watch it later, but I completely forgot about it, and I never got to see any of the movie. It did answer my previous question though — the PS3 doesn’t delete the file, it just prevents you from watching it again. I have no idea how well the HD quality looks on the rentals, and I’m not really that anxious to blow another $5 to find out.

I still think DRM is incredibly stupid, and an obvious mistake on my part locked me out of being able to watch the movie. I realize it’s my fault, and I’m not contesting that, but there’s no arguing that that 24 hour window is completely stupid. Even the original DivX back in the day give you a two day window. Denied.

Also, now that I think about it, comparing the similar price of renting it online versus getting the actual disc is a huge difference in what you get for your money. For $5.29, I can rent a Blu-Ray disc at Hollywood Video, and get true high-def sound and picture, with lots of special features. That’s the way to go.

3 thoughts on “adventures in drm: ps3 movie rentals

  1. I’ll admit, I’ve never tried RedBox. I assume they have a really limited selection, though, all of recent titles. Singles is from 1990-something. I doubt it’d be there. :)

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