Most of the apps I cover for MacStories relate in some way to productivity, a theme that extends to the apps normally dominating my iPhone’s home screen. Writing and note-taking apps, task managers, communication apps, and tools like Shortcuts all help me get things done each day. However, sometimes what I want from my phone isn’t a productivity tool, but an app that specializes in something related less to work and more to fun. For example, a movie tracker. Kernel is a new app that does just that.
Posts tagged with "movies"
I've always been fascinated by Letterboxd, the popular service to catalog and rate movies you've watched, as well as share your appreciation for the art of film with other users in a social network-type environment. My problem, however, is that dedicating serious time to watching quality movies (instead of whatever is on TV) has mostly been an aspirational effort; I never truly attempted to make a list of films I want to watch and set aside a good chunk of time every week to enjoy them.
Among various "quality of life" improvements (which I briefly mentioned in this episode of Analog(ue) with Myke Hurley), earlier this year I decided to create an Airtable database with a list of movies I want to see, trying to tick one off at least every week. Since I started testing a beta of Letterboxd 2.0 for iOS last week though, I'm wondering if maybe now is the time for me to consider using a dedicated service to collect, rate, and discover movies.
Services that promise to consolidate your digital movie collection in one place have come and gone over the years, so I was initially skeptical when I heard about Movies Anywhere, a new US-only service launched by Disney and other movie studios. However, after some preliminary testing of the service, I’m optimistic that Movies Anywhere stands a chance to become the first such service to catch on.
The big difference here is selection. Warner Bros., Universal, Sony Pictures, and Twentieth Century Fox have all signed on to Movies Anywhere. Along with Disney’s films, that gives the service a launch library of more than 7,300 titles.
Another differentiator with Movies Anywhere is platform support:
The promise of “buy once, watch anywhere” only works if a customer’s preferred device supports the service in question. The Movies Anywhere app will be available for iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire devices, and as part of Roku’s offerings. It will also support Chromecast, and titles will also [be] watchable through the service’s standalone website. And while apps for competing services have usually been clunky or awkward, the brief demo we saw of the Movies Anywhere app looked sleek and well-designed.
Movies Anywhere also gives customers the choice of where to buy their movies, though not without caveats on iOS.
Movies Anywhere will let customers browse for titles they’re interested in within the app itself, then allowing them to complete the purchase with their retailer of choice at the very end. (Android users will have the ability to purchase from Google Play, Amazon, or Vudu; those with Apple devices will only be able to purchase from iTunes, unless they head to a browser to purchase from a competitor directly.)
I tried to purchase a movie from the Movies Anywhere iOS app and sure enough, the only option was to buy it from iTunes. The workaround is to log into the Movies Anywhere service in Safari or another web browser, which will present you with the full menu of purchasing options. One other limitation that affects all platforms is that Movies Anywhere does not tell you how much a movie costs on each service. If you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll have to follow the link to each service to see how much they charge.
In the limited time I’ve had to try Movies Anywhere, I’ve been impressed. Logging into iTunes and Amazon Prime Video was quick and easy, and the movies I own on both providers showed up almost instantly in the iOS app and on the Movies Anywhere website. Playback happens in the Movies Anywhere app in a player that supports subtitles, closed-captioning, AirPlay, chapters, 15-second skipping ahead and back, and the option to pick up where you left off or start over if you exit the player. If Movies Anywhere can continue to grow its library of titles, the promise of all your movies anywhere you want them may finally become a reality.
Movies Anywhere is available on the App Store (US only).
In the aftermath of Apple’s announcements earlier today, it released an update to iTunes with a new feature described as rent once, watch anywhere. The release notes for iTunes 12.6, which is available as a free upgrade on the Mac App Store, say:
Now you can enjoy your iTunes movie rentals across your devices with iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.
With this new feature, you should be able to start a movie rental on an iOS device and finish it at home on an Apple TV for example, which is a welcome change to what was an overly inflexible system.
iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2 are currently in beta but are expected to be released soon, at which time this new feature will be available to everyone who upgrades to those versions of the OSes.
Speaking of the Apple TV, the app I used to stream movies to my television wirelessly was Infuse. Developed by FireCore, Infuse is a good-looking video player with support for multiple formats, Dolby Digital Plus sound, integration with the TheMovieDB and TheTVDB for metadata, and AirPlay.
I wasn't interested in features like trakt, social sharing, or subtitles – I just wanted an easy way to stream videos from my iPad to the Apple TV without loss in terms of quality and smoothness. I downloaded Infuse, connected the iPad to my Mac (my movies are on an external drive), and used iTunes' file manager to drop files into Infuse. Seconds after the copy was finished, Infuse would see the video, collect metadata, and display a gorgeous artwork preview with cast information and technical details on the file.
To stream videos with AirPlay, you need to unlock the $4.99 “Infuse Pro” In-App Purchase, which I bought immediately and didn't regret. I gave Infuse various formats including MKV and AVI at both 720p and 1080p and streaming to my second-gen Apple TV was always smooth and fast.
I'm impressed by Infuse because, once it had my videos, it didn't require me to fiddle with any setting or file conversion – it just worked with AirPlay and videos looked great. Infuse is free on the App Store and you can read more about supported formats (for video, audio tracks, and subtitles) here.
Philip Michaels reviews “Jobs” (opening in US theaters today):
But the script abandons these elements almost as soon as they appear, and the movie makers’ focus returns to marking off spaces on the Steve Jobs biography bingo card. Jobs sitting enraptured during a class about fonts? Check. Jobs tricking Woz out of his share of a bonus for developing Atari’s Breakout? Check. Jobs showing off the “1984” Macintosh commercial in its entirety? Check and mate. “This is like a video Wikipedia entry,” my colleague Armando Rodriguez told me after we finished screening the movie. That’s a harsh but not entirely inaccurate critique.
This is a common critique I've read in other reviews of Jobs as well. It would have been great to have something more than a documentary of Steve's life and mannerisms starring Kutcher. I'll still watch the movie, but I'm hoping Sorkin's take will be something different and deeper.
I’ve been watching more films this year, although all of them predate 2013 as I play catch up with 2012 box office hits and similarly popular movies from the past few years. But this has made a nice jumping off point for someone who’s now regularly keeping track of movies seen and unseen, helping me avoid articles from some film fanatic’s website titled, “20 best movies of ‘x’ year!” which, I’ll be frank, doesn’t help me that much.
Then there’s Limelight, a social bookcase for displaying film posters and ratings for movies you’ve seen and want to see. It’s an app that’s inherently social, meaning anyone who knows your username can follow you to discover new films and garner recommendations for their To Watch lists. Which is why I say it’s an app for discerning film lovers — for people who genuinely enjoy watching films, who want to proudly share their collections with the world. Limelight is very open -- at least, it’s meant to encourage you to discover something new within its small social network. Social is mandatory.
According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal last night, Apple is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios to add streaming of movies to the iTunes Store.
Apple Inc. is negotiating with Hollywood studios for deals that would let people who buy movies from the iTunes Store watch streaming versions of those movies on Apple devices such as iPads or iPhones without manually transferring them, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Los Angeles Times has a similar report:
Representatives of the iPhone and iPad maker have been meeting with studios to finalize deals that would allow consumers to buy movies through iTunes and access them on any Apple device, according to knowledgeable people who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. The service is expected to launch in late 2011 or early 2012.
With the just-launched iCloud platform for media and data syncing, there are a few differences to consider when covering the subject of "streaming" and online storage. Whereas the WSJ mentions "streaming versions" of movies, the LA Times (at least initially) simply refers to access on any device. Considering the current iCloud model, the rumor seems to fall in line with the LA Times' report -- iTunes in the Cloud, a feature of iCloud for iTunes Store content, lets users buy once, re-download at any time, and store previously purchased items in the cloud. With iTunes in the Cloud there's no "streaming version" of a song or TV show, as iCloud is effectively enabling users to access items on any device from a unified interface (you can read more in our iCloud overview). However, in the same article, the LA Times also states:
Under the plan Apple is proposing, users could stream movies they buy via iTunes on any device the company makes, such as the Apple TV, iPhones and iPads, as well as on PCs.
You may remember that ahead of iCloud's announcement in June, a number of reports suggested Apple was working on a music streaming service -- such service didn't materialize at WWDC as Apple unveiled iTunes Match, a music service that scans & match music, but doesn't allow for streaming in a way companies like Rdio or Spotify do. iTunes Match matches songs with Apple's servers and uploads the rest to a cloud locker, enabling users to download their music on any device.
Technically, the difference between streaming and access shouldn't be taken lightly. Whereas devices like the iPhone and iPad can store downloads in their local storage after they've pulled media from iCloud, the Apple TV, which works with iCloud but has no local storage, streams everything from Apple's iTunes Store, keeping small portions of data in a local cache.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the technical difference between streaming and download. Movies in iCloud have been rumored since May, and Apple went ahead and launched a service with online storage for apps, music, TV shows and documents but no movies. It's unclear how movies will be stored in iCloud when a deal between Hollywood and Apple eventually happens, but when it does, the technical aspect of the system shouldn't matter to the end user.
According to a report by Reuters, the iPad app of the Year 2010, Flipboard, might add support for movies and TV shows by the end of the year. If the company and its CEO, Mike McCue, will manage to cut deals with studios and other content providers, Flipboard will expand beyond aggregating articles from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook or RSS services like Google Reader, becoming an all-in one solution to read, share, and watch.
Flipboard mixes articles from a growing list of brands like Oprah.com and the Economist with social media feeds from sites like Facebook into a personalized online magazine. It has received $60.5 million in venture capital funding and its app has been downloaded 3 million times.
Chairman and Chief Executive Mike McCue said he will tackle the video project at the end of the year. He declined to say which studio partners he has approached. He also hopes eventually to cut deals with publishers to sell electronic books through Flipboard.
Just when the concept of "consuming content" starts making less sense now that the iPad has turned into a full-featured platform and device capable of doing things like reading, writing, sharing news, and watching movies, the evolution of Flipboard towards broader audiences and media seems appropriate. The app was launched in 2010 featuring direct Twitter and Facebook integration to display stories from these networks, visualized through an elegant layout with beautiful typography that made great use of the iPad's screen to present multiple stories at once, and allow readers to re-share them or comment of them without opening a separate client. The app went through a series of updates to further refine the interface, add more services like Google Reader for RSS feeds and Instagram for photos, recently receiving another major revamp to introduce visual search, a popular section, and a completely new UI to browse popular articles and get recommendations from the Flipboard team's curated list of stories and sources.
We're big fans of Flipboard here at MacStories, and I believe choosing to diversify the app's offerings to include more content is step in the right direction. Obviously, as Reuters says, this may never materialize if deals aren't reached with studios, but it's reassuring to know Flipboard has been considering video as the next major addition to their social magazine. In the same report, Reuters also says the iPhone version of Flipboard is expected to hit the App Store in a few weeks, although no further details are available.