First Impressions on Netflix Instant Watching

When I logged into Netflix today I saw a “Watch Now” tab that got me excited. I had heard about their plans to stream movies over the Internet, and I knew that they would have The Girl From Monday available as part of the service. So I decided to check it out while running Firefox in OS X. I was quickly rebuffed. No problem, I rebooted into Windows XP and fired up Firefox. No luck again. I rummaged around in the cobwebby recesses of my hard drive and dug up an old piece of software called Internet Explorer, which allowed me to install the Netflix Instant Watching plugin. I went to The Girl From Monday page and it had a “Play” button below the Queue button. The software checked my connection speed and determined that I could play High Quality video. After about 20 seconds, the movie started.

The picture quality is fairly good, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “DVD Quality.” The video resolution might be 720×480 (I’m not sure that it is, but it could be) but the compression leaves a certain softness that you don’t get on a DVD. Since The Girl From Monday was shot at about 12 frames per second on DV, it’s not the best test for this sort of thing, so I tried a comparison with some films I had seen before. The Matrix is available, but for some reason it’s 4:3, which is ridiculous. It looked pretty good, but not great. Zoolander was at the correct aspect ratio, but had the same look of pretty good Internet Video.

I was hoping for something a little better. Give me a longer waiting time up front and double the quality, then you’ve got something really special. If I could get HD over the Internet from Netflix, I’d buy a computer for my living room right now. There’s no way I’d buy an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player, since I don’t want to end up with a Betamax machine, but if Netflix gave me on-demand, high definition playback, that would be incredible. As it is now, it’s just a sideshow. I’d still rather wait a day for the DVD to come in the mail.

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