If you wanted to stream a compressed hi-def movie from the Internet to your TV with these codecs, you’d still need pipes fatter than today’s broadband. But in January, Comcast cable announced that it will double the speed of its Internet service, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. Video compression will further increase home Net speed. As broadcasters upgrade to the streamlined MPEG-4 codec, each channel will need less pipe to offer a better picture. That in turn frees up bandwidth in existing coaxial cable lines.
This isn’t the only improvement on the horizon. Over the next year, Intel plans to roll out WiMax – a wide-area wireless technology that can theoretically handle 70 Mbps. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, filmmaker David LaChapelle screened his new hi-def movie, Rize, by streaming it from Oregon and then transmitting it through a WiMax station in Salt Lake City. It worked flawlessly – soon even theaters won’t have to rely on physical media anymore.
Imagine what all this means for someone who wants to find, rent, or buy a hi-def flick from home. A 2-Gbyte hi-def movie is small enough to download with less delay than using Netflix or TiVo. This has already started – iFilm, the go-to service for video clips, boasts 6 million unique visitors a month. Microsoft has partnered with companies like CinemaNow for on-demand movie downloading direct to Media Center PCs. Yahoo! is also getting into the download game, offering streamed versions of Fat Actress. And how about an iTunes for movies? Apple spokespeople say they “have the opportunity, but haven’t announced anything yet.” These are tectonic rumblings.
Eventually, someone will build the sophisticated business plan and technology that will make getting hi-def movies online even easier.