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Will downloading DVD quality films replace rental?
Thursday 27 September 2007 20:02:40 by Andrew Ferguson

With the rise of postal DVD services like and others, one wonders how high street rental shops are doing. Japan is going one step further and one broadband provider (KDDI) is offering its customers the option to download a DVD image for ¥500 (£2.15), which can then be burnt to a DVD-R for viewing on DVD compatible devices. Read more on the service at, and for an English version of the KDDI website use this link.

A full standard DVD is around 8GB in size since lots of films now using double layer DVD discs. This can take a long time to download and a guide for times for a full 8GB dual layer DVD can be seen here:

  • 56K dialup, more than 14 days
  • 0.5Mbps broadband, 36 hours
  • 2Mbps broadband, 9 hours
  • 5Mbps broadband, 3 hour 36 minutes
  • 10Mbps broadband, 1 hour 50 minutes
  • 20Mbps broadband, 56 minutes
  • 50Mbps broadband, 24 minutes
  • 100Mbps broadband, 12 minutes

Of course in the real world while it is fairly easy to run a 0.5Mbps connection flat out for some hours, contention between other users on a network becomes more noticeable as the bottleneck that was the last mile of connectivity is removed. This means people with faster connections are likely to see the speeds move up and down a lot over the course of a large download. An aspect not visibly present in Japanese services are download limits, which if a service like this was to run in the UK would very often prove to be insufficient.

One big problem for any commercial service looking to offer large downloads is the ability for providers to grow their networks to cope with the loads without large increases in price. Since KDDI is only offering this service to its own broadband customers, it is likely these costs are factored into the download price, which while looking cheap to us in the UK is actually double the cost for renting a movie for a week in Japan.

KDDI already provides a fibre based service carrying a symmetric 100Mbps broadband service as well as telephone and digital TV. The promotional price is ¥5040 (£22) with the 30 channel TV service costing an additional £10 a month.

The price of the KDDI service which is cheaper than ADSL shows that the fibre based services are having to compete on price, the suggestion being that speed is not the largest deciding factor when choosing a service. This raises the big question of who would dare to speculate on a large commercial roll-out of fibre to the home services like this in the UK, if the market is too price sensitive.


Posted by bosie over 10 years ago
I'd love to see a good movie download service run like iTunes does for music tracks, even better to use iTunes as the distribution platform. I think Digital Rights Manaement should be removed to focus on volume rather than high-margin based sales. I don't want to see endless DRM players for every studios' format. I'd happily pay a tenner extra (maybe more) for symmetric fibre as in Japan but even on 20Mbps, based on the above guide, one hour is not so long to be waiting for a movie to download.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
To answer the news story title, It may well do in some countrys, but its not going to happen here all the time there are throttles, caps and other nonsense in place from ISPs, also too many still suffer from slow speeds which makes downloading a full dvd worth of data both slow and pointless. If our internet was more like Japans then yes it could easily succeed, i dunno about others but have you ever rented a film, got home and something else has come up and you never get round to watching it, wasting close to five quid in the process?
Posted by rian over 10 years ago
No, it won't happen,at least in the next 4 years. Although we got 24Mbps (most of them are not actually that fast), it still limited by the old copper wire and also the ISP's silly policy.
Posted by therioman over 10 years ago
If it worked something like 4oD then I'd consider it - 40D has become quite a useful widget. I just wish BBC Iplayer was quite as simple - same underlying technology, but more poorly implemented.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
I actually prefer ITVs system myself, click the watch button and thats what it does :) the bbc iplayer service takes ages before it starts to download content and the 4od thing and charging just aint cool for already aired TV. All of them still have yucky DRM though unfortunately.
Posted by keith_thfc over 10 years ago
I couldn't get 4OD or the BBC iPlayer to work on my new Vista machine so that certainly didn't impress. (And they wonder why people use torrents sigh....)

Downloading paid-for movies is a complete and utter farce anyway unless you have a decent LLU or cable provider which isn't traffic shaping at peak times or grinding to a halt due to congestion.

If you have to wait overnight (or more) for a download you're much better off going to the DVD shop to buy/rent - and can watch it on your big tv rather than just the PC.
Posted by MrZippy over 10 years ago
Why would anyone want to download an 8GB DVD, using H264 you can encode a HD movie to around that or less, and SD would be around 1.5GB.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
Agree MrZippy and alot of films in xvid format are half that 1.5gig size you quoted and still maintain good quality... The problem there is codecs like xvid are open source and not allowed to be used for commercial offerings. Hence why rubbish DRM bloated WMV, MPG and similar is still the choice with the big players.
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
My local Blockbuster burned down 6 months ago, so at least I could hope for more resilience from an online solution. Regarding Xvid I see no problem :-

"The output or result from running a program is not covered by the GPL license. Hence, videos created with the Xvid encoder are not subject to the terms of the GPL. Note however that you of course can only distribute videos where you hold the copyrights or where you have permission to distribute from the copyright holders. But that has nothing to do with Xvid and should go without saying…"
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
hmmm indeed herdwick seems from their webpage you are correct and i was wrong... begs the question why services like 4od and iplayer dont use it instead of wmv with DRM. Xvid compresses better than WMV and the output is normally in terms of visual appearance better quality (atleast in my experience). I just guess the likes of the BBC think adding bloated DRM protects their stuff from re-encoding even though there are apps a 5 year old can use to remove the DRM protection (albeit probably illegally).
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
Perhaps the BBC / C4 were looking for the simplest install ie using codecs that a Windows PC is likely to have on board or get via Windows Update. 40 mins on 4OD is below 0.5 GB.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
Could be right herdwick but unless im mistaken you still have to perform a security update and obtain a license from within windows media player anyway before it all playsback properly, also considering some BBC and especially channel 4 pages require flash installed it makes you wonder even more why xvid isnt used especially when its only about a 1Mb download... With that the content could be played on linux and Macs as well as PCs.
40mins in xvid at a 2pass compression of around 1000k is only about 350Mb and looks better than WMV.
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
yes there's a couple of clicks and downloads to get WMP up to speed. I have a DivX player - is it is as simple to get DivX into WMP as the current setup ? I suspect that Microsoft is probably a "partner" in this venture :-)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
I dont think they are a partner as such but i do imagine they have had a hand of some description in services like 4od and iplayer, I fail to even comprehend when the 2 services are DRM protected when 90% of the offering have already been on TV for everyone to record to dvd if they so decided. Its a real shame as the system in place means linux, mac, vista and even that age old computer the amiga can not use the service, why they dont just use swf, avi or plain vanilla mpg i dont know but i would have thought it would make the service more popular.
Posted by alewis over 10 years ago
"100Mbps broadband, 12 minutes"

Even faster when one has a 1.6GB connection... those were the days :-)

However, what will "kill" it in the UK is bandwidth capping (50gb... tsch).

Re the comment divx gives better quality than wmv.. this is not so. It depends on the amount of compression. If I compress a 4.3gb dvd down to 300mb using divx, and 700mb using wmv, the wmv version will look better. And vice versa.

My preference would be divx - it is drm free!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
Yeah obviously it does depend on the amount of compression. Herdwick correctly mentioned that 40 mins of content from the services we were discussing is around 0.5gig and i said 40mins in xvid at a 2pass compression of around 1000k is only about 350Mb and looks better than the WMVs are concerned. Which is also true. If you use your dvd example and compress a film to 700mb with the WMV codec and then also compress the same material with xvid to 700mb the xvid version in most cases (depends on the source, dark scenes compress better) will normally look a lot, lot better
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
the DRM is because both services decided they wanted time limits - this may be reflecting copyrights in the original work or even something as daft as copyright on the background music in the original. The BBC Council looked at this issue and set shorter delays and other restrictions that are tighter than the predecessor iMP player.

4OD also charge for some content, which clearly needs DRM.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
Yea herdwick i dont disagree with you and understand the reasoning, however If i were to download doctor who from their site and remove the DRM time limit the "entertainment" industry would say ive broke the law and should be hung etc, yet people that record it from the TV to their dvd recorders and keep it for life, thats fine... To me that just doesnt make sense and is hypocrisy. If big business want services like tis to be popular they need to think more first IMO. I would never pay for anything from 4OD why the heck would i want to pay for something they broadcast on TV for free?
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