Why can't I buy and download HD/surround quality movies yet?

I don’t want 200 pounds of DVDs and BluRay discs taking up space in my living room anymore. This is the digital age, right? I have a perfectly fine PC with oodles of hard drive space hooked up to my home theater setup, so why can’t I pay anybody to get HD-quality movie files? Surely someone has figured it out, now that we’ve had 1080p resolution technology for the last 2 years?

FilmFresh.com? No HD, no surround.
cinemanow.com? DVD quality, no surround.

I don’t want to stream movies - connections can be unreliable, and the quality is less than optimal. I want my own digital copy. I want to be able to watch it on any of my devices - copy it to a laptop to watch on a plane or in the car for the kids or in the bedroom. I can’t believe that they haven’t yet come up with some kind of DRM that protects the companies’ profits and allows people to own a copy of their favorite movies. Doesn’t anyone want to take my money in this glorious capitalist wonderland?

They’d love to, but they’ve still got a load of the old plastic shit to get rid of.

You can download HD movies with 5.1 sound to an XBox 360. The sound is not HD, but the picture is.

Edit: I just noticed you wanted to be able to move it to other devices. I don’t know about that one. The only setup in my house that has HD and Surround is where my 360 is located though.

If you get an AppleTV, you can purchase HD movies through iTunes…and I’m pretty sure they come in 5.1. Depending on how you purchase the movie, it has the same DRM restrictions as music…up to 5 devices (all Apple devices of course). If you own the BluRay disk, there are ways of backing that disk up to a file that is HD with 5.1 surround. But quite honestly it’s not worth the effort.

Both the Xbox360 and PS3 allow you to download and stream (reliably) HD movies through Netflix with surround sound (at least the PS3 has surround sound). They also act as media servers which give you access to everything on your computer so you can torrent HD movies and watch them that way. You can also torrent HD movie or get them legally through iTunes and such and watch them on your computer. If you want portability you need a BluRay burner.

The cheapest tool available to get downloadable HD video and surround sound is the Roku HD box at $99 list and Netflix. It does 720P and surround. Unless of course you’re also in the market for a BluRay player, in which case you can get a Samsung or LG player with the ability to download Netflix at the same time.

Just coming in to mention this. My father just picked me up a Roku Box for my birthday and it functions pretty much as advertised. Watched Robin and Marian in 720p on my TV ( streaming over a wireless router from my PC in the other room ) and it was a pretty decent picture. Can’t speak to the surround, as I’m strictly a two-channel sort of guy.

ETA: No buffering delays except a few seconds on startup and if you try to rewind or fastforward, which isn’t implemented with much precision.

That would be a pretty good “worst case scenario” over WiFi.

I set a client up with a 3 of these devices, and two of them are connected optically to a 5.1 system. Incidentially, he is able to play 1 HD and 2 SD streams at the same time via his AT&T U-Verse connection with no loss in quality on his U-Verse TV signal or Internet connection.

But it is a fairly clever compromise with the fact that you really can’t MPEG encode high-speed motion without it looking like blocky shit. So instead, the Roku has a “timeline” with a set of stills from every few seconds of the material. I like the solution, but then I am sympathetic to the problem the Roku engineers faced.

Pretty decent was probably a modest understatement - I tend to talk like that ;). It was actually a very good picture, especially for an old movie.

By contrast an old 1950’s B&W French film I tried ( non-HD ) was a bit iffy, but I think it was 90+% the source material. And in contrast to that, WALL-E in non-HD was pretty good, only really obviously suffering due to the lack of HD, rather than the nature of the transmission.

Oh, no complaints really - it’s not a disc, so you can’t expect the same sort of performance from a streaming medium. I’m happy with the compromise, just throwing it out there so folks who may be curious about it have a heads up. It’s not a full-on substitute for a blu-ray disc ( yet ), but I’m favorably impressed so far.

It just seems strange that I can have a library of mp3 music files (or really, any format I want), all legally purchased, all playable by different devices made by different companies, all accessible from one centralized easy-access point, and I don’t have that variety and convenience with quality, available to me in movies in the same manner. At any price. I can’t believe that I’m the only consumer that’s looking for this kind of a product. You can buy some movies that are packaged with all three formats (DVD, Bluray, and ‘digital copy’), but I don’t relish the thought of having to waste my time ripping from a disc when I could just set my computer to download a file. Especially since the digital copy DRM only lets me play it on one computer. Let alone the problem of even more discs and cases taking up space on my shelf.

I’ve got a 1080p LED-LCD TV and a bluray player. I love the resolution and sound I get from the bluray format. Why aren’t there bluray-quality movie files out there for purchase? What’s the bottleneck? What’s the hold up? Technology not there yet? Lack of consumer demand? Corporate cluelessness? Industry ignorance? Maybe the internet providers are afraid of the bandwidth that would be used by people trying to download the large files that this would require? Seems like it would ultimately reduce the load from all of the streaming video sites - maybe Netflix, Blockbuster, and Hulu are afraid it’ll put them out of business? The level of bandwidth available to most people doesn’t really allow for that kind of quality in streaming, though.

The FilmFresh website’s downloads use the DivX format. The format seems to be the answer to the movie industry’s piracy concerns, and it looks marginally easy to work with, from the consumers’ end. Not optimal, but a step in the right direction. Is it possible that maybe the format is limiting the file size and thus the resolution and sound quality are limited?

In order… yes, yes, yes and that’s the same as #3.

Downloading an HD movie file is a time intensive process that sucks up bandwidth like no tomorrow. Bandwidth that’s not there for every Internet user. The only reason it’s even marginally there for some people is because…

Consumers don’t really want to do it. They don’t want to deal with the time sink required to download an HD file and they especially don’t want to deal with the rights restrictions of transferring the file to various different media players. DVDs/Blu-rays are portable and simple to use in a way that HD downloads aren’t yet.

But the availability of said files is kept to a minimum because the industry wants to charge users the same price as a disc-based version and that’s just clueless of what the customer wants and ignorant of how growing a not terribly advanced new product should go.

In short, discs ain’t going away for a long time.

How much hard drive space is “oodles”? Aren’t HD movies something like 25 gig each? That’s 40 movies per terabyte. If we translate your 200 pounds of DVDs to 200 titles, that’s 5 terabytes. How much HD space do you have?

I think the main answer to your question is simply that HD movies are much larger than either bandwidth or hard drives are able to handle, unlike mp3 music files which are 5000 times smaller.