Technology giveth …

… and in the case of the transition from VHS to DVD it gave plenty. There is no respect in which DVDs are not vastly superior to VHS tape. Much better picture and sound quality, faster access times, extra soundtracks, optional subtitles,  and all in a smaller form factor. DVDs are not just a better, they are a really good physical storage medium. The transition was swift, and nobody looked back.

The transition from DVD to streaming and downloads is a much less clear-cut case – and not one of just more and better. There are birthing problems such as size of repertoire, DRM is a bother (but hey, you’re renting, not buying, so less bad than with music or books), and the pricing is often unrealistic. But there’s no denying some of the obvious advantages, such as the huge convenience of being able to instantly access the movie you want when you want it.

Except for the fact that I actually can’t. Germany is one of the countries with a large enough market that the atrocity if dubbing movies and TV programmes into German makes economic sense. We also have a deep tradition of doing so. What gets released on the German market if not the movie I want – it’s an adaptation, and almost universally a tarnished one. The DVD age brought with it multiple audio tracks – and usually one of these was the original audio. There were also subtitles that I could use for anything non-English.

Technically multi-track audio is not a problem with online video, and neither are subtitles. But where technology giveth, it also taketh away: Currently, there is virtually no inclusion of the original audio in the German market. There’s the very occasional “original version”, advertised separately, but this falls far short of making the overall selection a viable proposition. With the markets for online video strictly segregated along national borders, the only workaround would be a VPN tunneling provider and the uncertain possibility of paying for a British or Irish service with a German credit card. That’s a couple too many hoops for me for the time being. For now, for my legal consumption of video,  I’m stuck with the anachronism of rotating optical discs.

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