class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13295″ style=”margin: 10px” src=”https://www.heyuguys.com/images/2010/02/iPhone.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />This afternoon Craig published an article explaining why he will never compromise by watching a movie on a phone. You can find said article here. To be clear, this isn’t meant as a direct argument against Craig’s views. How we watch film is a personal thing, i would never claim someone else’s decisions as ‘wrong’. The beauty about the world we currently live in is that we are presented with a huge range of options for how we view movies, and are all free to choose that which works best for us.
I did feel, however, that it was important to point out some of the advantages to watching media in this way, and share my positive experience of it, because it would be a shame for people to be put off of watching films on their phones. It offers a very efficient, convenient and unique way to enjoy the films that we love, and i personally don’t feel that it has to be an inferior experience.
My own introduction into watching movies on a mobile device came from my series of reviews last year on the iTunes 99p rental. I watched these films on my iPod touch, not strictly a phone, but it is still a mobile device, and the screen is the same as the iPhone’s.
I’ll admit, it was difficult initially. It isn’t particularly comfortable to hold up to your face at first, so finding a comfortable position is key. The advantage is that you don’t need a seat on the train, which you would with a laptop, and on a packed tube you don’t face the difficulties of trying to squash into an overfilled carriage with an unwieldy laptop case. For me, the biggest advantage is that, wherever i am in the world, whether it be stuck at an airport, on a boat in the ocean, or just in the dentist waiting room, i have instant access to my favourite films of all time.
A bit of background on the iTunes 99p rental is required here, i think. The idea behind it is that Apple offer a particular film a week for rental at a discounted price, the usual cost being £3.50. They do this as a way to entice people in to trying the format, and it works in theory. Whilst you might not be willing to spend the cost of a lower priced DVD in HMV on one watch of a film on a tiny screen, for 99p you are much more likely to try it.
The problem i found was, though the theory was sound, in practice iTunes were just shoving up pretty rubbish films that no-one would have chosen to watch otherwise. You can find a classic example here, and the problem of course is that if a film isn’t engaging, it isn’t going to sell the format. But here is where it becomes interesting. There were one or two films that i had seen before, and hadn’t liked. I actually feel that the experience of watching these films on a tiny devices on a packed train actually helped me appreciate them.
When you are surrounded by hustle and bustle, trying to concentrate on a 3.5 inch screen, you somehow feel much closer to the work on screen. I don’t necessarily mean just through proximity, i mean you are forced to immerse yourself fully in the film to offset the disturbance around you, and suddenly despite being surrounded by dozens of strangers, you find yourself connected with a piece of artwork. 50 First Dates, a film i’d watched on a rental DVD in my living room, and had felt contrived and saccharine, suddenly engaged me, and became genuinely affecting.
The point here is really that an engaging film should work in any environment, through any medium. Watching Gelngarry Glen Ross on an iPhone doesn’t make the powerful performances of Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris or Al Pacino any less brilliant. By the same token, watching Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen on a 40 foot Imax screen doesn’t make it a good film. In fact, it probably only helps to expose the continuing limitations of CGI effects.
I appreciate that film is called a visual medium, and that for many bigger is always better. But a film shouldn’t just be visual, a great movie requires the whole package. I didn’t like Avatar because the effort had all gone into the visual element, with only passing attention given to the story, plot, dialogue and character development. I’d rather watch an all around great film on a small device, than an overblown visual epic on an Imax screen.
I have a more direct comparison, because really the only way to judge is through watching the same film in different formats. I’m a huge fan of The Dark Knight. It does a good job with all the required elements. There were scenes shot with Imax cameras, there are fantastic action scenes. There are a couple of great performances, and the plot is well constructed. I saw it twice at the Imax, and have since watched it a dozen times on my iPod Touch. Every viewing is a joy, because a great film will always be a great film. If a movie lives or dies on its cinematography, it simply isn’t great.
I watched scratchy, jumpy VHS cassettes on a Granada VCR for fifteen years. I have suffered through poorly converted, badly transferred DVDs, some which i had to flip over halfway through. I have sat in a cinema, and watched a movie with the sound out of sync by half a second, and missed several minutes of movies because of projection problems. To me, the crisp transfers, great sound quality and feeling of complete control i get with watching movies on a handheld device offer a better experience, consistently, than i have often had with other formats.
If you don’t want to watch films on a phone, that’s fine. You shouldn’t, and indeed don’t, have to. I won’t criticize you for it, and i don’t think it is the wrong attitude to have. But for those who have never tried the medium, or are contemplating whether to spend the money on a digital film for consumption on your journey to work, my advice is give it a try. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, it’s all about personal choice. But i do think it’s a shame not to give it a chance, just once. And hey, for 99p, why not give the iTunes weekly rental a try. You never know, you might get the chance to sample Surfer, Dude too. That’ll really harsh your morning mellow…
What do you think? How do you choose to watch film? You can find the related forum thread here, and join in the debate.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann