I had some credits with my Amazon account so I decided to “rent” a movie through their Amazon Video On Demand program. TiVo had offered the Amazon Video on Demand for while, I decided to see what the experience would be with a HD movie.
From what I read on the TiVo site, HD movies from Amazon are only available through a select hardware devices, you can’t order them on through the Amazon site for a PC. I have a TiVo HD, which is one of the approved hardware devices.
I’m not sure why you can’t get HD movies on your PC. It’s not a hardware limitation, you can download TV shows in HD through Amazon.com. It must be a studio thing. It’s not an issue for me, if I’m going to download a movie in HD, I’m going to want to watch it on my HDTV while sitting on my couch.
With Amazon Video on Demand, you can buy a movie outright or you rent it. If you buy it, it’s downloaded to your device and you can watch it as often as you like. You can download it to 2 locations (like a TiVo and a Windows PC), plus two portable devices. The portable devices must be “Play for Sure” compliant, which rules out anything designed at One Infinite Loop.
With a rental, you have up to 30 days to watch the movie once it starts downloading. Once you start watching, you have 48 hours to watch it. Within that 48 hours, you can watch it as many times as you want, but then it’s gone. Which is just as well, a full length HD movie is going to take a chunk out of the available space on a TiVo.
I decided to rent a movie. I wanted to see Terminator Salvation and the rental price was $2.99. The purchase price for download was $11.99, but if I wanted to own it, I think I would just get the DVD for $15.99. I don’t own a Blu-Ray player yet, so the Amazon download would be at a higher resolution than DVD.
So I selected Terminator Salvation in HD from the Amazon Video on Demand list on my TiVo. I already synced up my Amazon account with my TiVo so I only needed to enter my 5 digit pass code to complete the purchase. It then displayed a screen that said that download would start within 30 minutes. It was a pretty easy process.
Sure enough with 15 minutes, the little blue light on my TiVo came on. That was the signal that the TiVo was downloading content from the Internet. I gave it a 20 minute head start and then started watching the movie.
I don’t know how it works on other devices, but with Amazon Video on Demand on the TiVo, it’s streaming at a fixed bit rate. It doesn’t scale the quality based on the bandwidth of the Internet connection. I have a decent download pipe, 20 Mb/s through Verizon FiOS. My TiVo has a wired connection to my router, so I don’t have to deal with the general vagueness of 802.11g wireless. So that means I can start watching while it was still downloading. If my TiVo was going through a wireless connection, I think I would have waited until the movie had been completely downloaded before starting to watch it.
The quality was very good. The bitrate was 2800 kbps and the resolution was 1080i. That beats what I would get from the DVD version. Amazon Video on Demand to the TiVo only supports stereo sounds, but I don’t have a true 5:1 surround sound setup yet and that loss didn’t really affect me, The movie was downloading at roughly the same rate I was watching it, with the 20 minute head start, I was able to watch from start to finish with out any hiccups.
The experience was very good. $2.99 seems like the going rate for movie rentals. I’m not sure what my cable company charges, but since they have a “$2.99 value section”, I would assume that new HD releases would cost more. Plus, my TiVo can’t access the cable company’s VOD, so it’s a moot point.
As for the movie itself? Terminator Salvation was fun. I think it was better than the reviews that it got. I thought the ending was a hokey, but I got my money’s worth out of it. I would do this again with another movie.