Friday, 14 June 2013

The 5 Things Quickflix Needs

Now you may have already read my post on Quickflix where I took it upon myself to critique a service I only used for a month, rather than judging it on a longer time span. However, from that short time, I found a few things that would be awesome to add to the Quickflix service and hopefully they'll see this and nod there heads before saying, "That's nice", pat my head and move on with their day.

1. A QuickPlay button
Sometimes I know what I want and I want it to play instantly. The addition of QuickPlay button on the Quickflix menu would really help in streamlining the whole arduous process of me watching a movie. It's a bit of a first-world problem gripe, but I can tell you that each time you click on a film on Quickflix, you're taken to a listing page, which is awesome, I'm an info whore, but sometimes I really just want to click on a film and have it play instantly. I know when I'm in those moods where I've been thinking about a film all day and I'll check if it's on Quickflix Play on my phone and I know as soon as I get home, I'm gonna make a cup of tea and watch it. But each time, I'm hoping it to play instantly when I click on the film, but I know that won't be the case.  So my tea gets colder and I grow more impatient as I read that Sandra Bullock was in this film and it was directed by Jon Turteltaub. Just give me my romantic comedy!

Damn this attention span!

2. A Documentary Section for film and television

Holy Christ do I love documentaries. Next to fictional films, real films are my favourite types of films. Documentaries are just another node in my search for different types of stories and sometimes I find it more awesome to fall in love with real people than a relationship I know will become distended and awful after the credits roll. Quickflix needs a doco section and with a good relationship with the guys from Madman I know there is a large selection of awesome films that could be hosted on Quickflix and it'd be great for them to get out there for people to watch.

My many docos

3. Personalised Playlists + QuickQueue

A QuickQueue would also be nice addition to the Play feature of Quickflix. This could be easily setup like the Post section with users creating lists of films they'd want to watch as they're browsing. Maybe they're about to watch Sense and Sensibility but want to watch Mansfield Park afterwards, pop it in your QuickQueue. Also one thing I see a lot of jokes about from across the pond are things drunkenly popping up in a Netflix Queue. I think it'd be awesome for Quickflix to expand their social side and give their users the ability to create their own film playlists they could share with others. Whether it's a good rainy day selection, messed up, gory flicks or even just every single Steven Seagal film.

Dear God, why are there so many of them?
4. Browse per decade/year

I think for some film buffs, the 70s were a golden era of cinema that begs to be repeating. Whether it was the collapse of the classic Hollywood system or just new technology and stories to tell, the 70's continues to lord itself over the history of cinema like a bad parent at a soccer game. This is why it'd be awesome to have a decade-search system for those out there who want to see the history of cinema broken up in different years. For my mum, she could browse the best of the 80s as handpicked by Quickflix film aficionados or ordered by the star rating from Quickflix users. I know certain decades like the 20s and 30s might have a small selection, but it'd be great to see users engaging with that far back into film history.

No, we get it mum, you like Dirty Dancing.

5. QuickPreview + Low Quality streaming

With most ISP's initiating throttling services after certain bandwidth use, it'd be great to have the option of Low Quality streaming. Sometimes it's difficult to justify the 500MB on a small internet plan, like 10 or 15GB, especially in a house of five. I speak from experience of even having a home of six, including homestays who come and go and don't exactly grasp the idea of "internet usage." Also the implementation of a preview system would be pretty good for those who want to go further than judging a film by it's DVD cover. Sometimes I'm just curious of a film and maybe can't be bothered to YouTube the trailer, but I'm already on Quickflix and want to see what the first few minutes of a film are like. If I like it but don't have the time, I can always add it to my QuickQueue. Ah, see what I'm doing there.

Sadly, I tried to get into contact with the guys from Quickflix about this and a few other concerns, such as Arrested Development Season 4, but never received a response. If they do read this, I would love to thank them for the service and for simply reading this. I would also like to suggest the possibility of original programming because god knows this country needs fresher TV. I mean, SBS2 and ABC2 are doing a good job, but that's two out of a good two dozen channels. Please know I love you guys and really wish you the best for the future.

QuickFlix: An TL;DW Review

What can I say about Quickflix? Quickflix is an Australian own and run digital media service available to all Australians at a reasonable price. The company started back in 2003 as an online DVD rental service, which at the time, was a response to the customers desire for home rental delivery and a continued forgetfulness to take DVD's back. Even as the DVD rental industry went under, Quickflix remained strong and became more relevant than ever, moving from physical DVD rentals to a combined physical and digital rental retailer.

Now, while you may think that this "review" may be a press release turned into a mildly amusing blog post, I'm definitely here to tell you the Pros and Cons of the system. I'm also going to arrogantly chime in on what QuickFlix needs in the future to stay up-to-date and relevant with the average consumer and online user. I recently completed a thirty day trial with Quickflix and wanted to share my experience with everyone on how Quickflix changed how I viewed paying for media. Also I'm aware that thirty days may not be the best time for a litmus test, but hey, it's all I could afford.

Quickflix is the first ever paid streaming service I've ever tried. Now, while I'll get to the DVD rentals later, I want to commend Quickflix on the range they have in their online Play service.The amount of films and shows I was excited to see was just astounding. Classic films like 12 Monkeys, Annie Hall, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Arthur were available at my fingertips within seconds.
It's never a bad time for dutch angles and crazed Brad Pitt.
One of my favourite features was the ability to connect my Quickflix account to my PS3 and just play everything to my hearts content through my console. This really came in handy with browsing through Quickflix selection of TV series and binge watching like crazy. Binge watching is very slowly becoming the norm with the TV viewing experience. While TV is dying a slow death via reality-show-supported euthanasia, it's great to see something like Netflix exist as an alternative to mindless viewing after a hard day's work.

Last year, Quickflix signed an expansive licensing deal with HBO which gave them the rights to a lot of incredible shows both new and old. The second night I had Quickflix, I started watching a show called Taxi Cab Confessions. I'd seen clips of the show on YouTube and a few parodies on different series, but never seen the show, so I decided to take the opportunity to watch it. First, I was amazed at what HBO was like in the 90s and then saw how they made a brand for themselves. Original programming like no one had ever seen before, completely removed from the shackles of regulations and all creative, dirty, well structured, devised and edited for the right customers.

The show is exactly what the title says, but the stories presented to the different Taxi drivers are just beautiful and poetic all in their own way. One of the first stories in the episode is a police officer getting off from two 24 hour shifts. Dishevelled and tired as hell, he begins to tell the driver about his work on the force. The driver leads the passenger down a dark road when he asks him the worst thing he's ever seen. He proceeds to tell him about the few times him and his fellow officers would have to handle people who would get stuck between trains and the platform. While I can't embed the clip, I did find a link to it on YouTube.  Barely a few minutes into the show and I was weeping from how tragic and how well told the story was. Just an incredible show and highly recommended, even just from that opening sequence.

I know I'm going on about the content rather than the service itself, but that's the thing with Quickflix, you never know what you're going to find. Quickflix is for the curious,but also for the film buffs and for the average consumer. You don't have that risk of being caught out with a film that you just paid a few buck for, ultimately turning out to be mediocre. You can watch the first few minutes of a show and not feel pressured to watch it because it's "the best thing ever", according to some friends. Quickflix Play as a service is definitely a no strings attached service that feels fresh and free after years of time-based scrutiny and pressured viewing.

With the HBO deal in full effect, I highly recommend Quickflix if you want to get through classic acclaimed shows such as The Wire and The Sopranos uninterrupted. The Quickflix system is set up to be so easy-to-use that it's perfect for binge watching. Our TV landscape is changing and I feel that if you've got a few hours to kill on the weekend or want to crack open a few drinks after work, Quickflix would be more beneficial to your viewing habits than plonking yourself down and watching The Voice or Masterchef each evening.

Now with the DVD rental service, I can definitely again, praise Quickflix for their range and selection in their DVD library. So many out of print or discontinued DVD's are available and it's a treasure trove of classics that you can get sent to you within days. The Post service is great and is a pretty fun way to plan your week out. It does have it's downside, like if you wanted to just watch it right now, well that's what the Play Service is for.

With their kids and animated section, Quickflix is definitely an acceptable and family-friendly service. Almost any family could afford the $14.99 monthly pricetag and could be enjoying new DVD's every second or third day, plus you don't have to worry about your kids ruining the covers. I can't tell you how many times I'd hire out a DVD to watch one week, return it and a week later wanting to hire out again to show a friend, only to be told it had been ruined by a kid in between rentals.

What is that?! Is it spilt milk? Or honey or-what is it?!

The Post service for rentals is incredibly easy and speedy. It never took me more than a few days to return a DVD or Blu-Ray and I never got hounded by the service to return it via phone or email. During my trial, I ordered 3 discs and not once did I ever find a scratch or have any trouble with the discs. I also love getting mail so when the Quickflix packets would arrive, there would be a strange joy of with each rental. It's something to really look forward to on a daily basis, when you know something's coming.

Now, the cons of the service, which I'll be short and sweet about, are more nitpicky than anything else. I believe the streaming service was lucklustre at times. Not necessarily with the service, but when playing the service on my PS3, it would often take a while to buffer and that's without anyone in the house online. I also found that the layout for the service to be really poorly designed, but only when using it on the PS3. On the website, it's easy to navigate but I will say it's difficult for searching at times.

The "scratched disc" of future generations.

Quickflix's menu system is fairly fun but it can get disappointing if you don't know exactly what you're looking for. Family members struggled for a few minutes to select something even remotely enjoyable before giving up while waiting for the stream to buffer. After a few tries, I finally convinced them that it might take a while but you could equate the experience to the indecisive nature of most video rental consumers. The service does have similar pitfalls to most streaming services, like if you're enjoying a film or TV series and the net drops out, so too does the stream. It's expected and sadly the future we're probably going to have to deal with.

Also it should be noted that not everything that is streaming is on DVD and not everything on DVD is streaming. The content licensing differs depending on the type of media and it seems that while Warner Brothers are fine for them to have Constantine on DVD on Blu-Ray, for it to be streaming is a whole other deal. Also at times it does ruin the instantaneous feel that the video shop used to bring of being able to play DVD's as soon as you get home. If you're not a fan of waiting for your DVD selection, than you may not be a fan of Quickflix.

No, I don't know why I chose that film either. I kinda like it, that's about it.

I'm also not a big fan of the Pay-Per-Play system. I understand from an economic stand point, Quickflix is still trying to compete with services such as Foxtel Go and even brick and mortar rental houses, but it's apart of the system that I hope is suppressed in the future. It brings back that risk factor of whether or not you enjoy a film or TV series. I'll give you a good example. I was incredibly excited and was praising Quickflix earlier this year about the service bringing Game of Thrones to their service.

They'd signed a deal and things were going through, unfortunately a few days ago when GoT turned up, it was a Pay Per Play service. I thought, okay, that's just for the third season, I understand, you guys have to recoup your expenses and I'm sure this was a good compromise, until I saw that this was across all seasons. So yes, if you wanted to watch the entire series of Game of Thrones as it stands, you would need to pay for a Season Pass for the first, second and third season, totalling $87, on top of the (cheapest service) $15.  Yes, you can just rent out the DVD's for the first two seasons via their Post service, you'd probably be better waiting for a JB Hi-Fi sale or the Third Season to be released on Blu-Ray.

Where are my Streams?!
Overall, the service is enjoyable and it got me to change my ideas about streaming services. I think Quickflix is a business that benefits from it's subscription service but does fall down in other areas. I'm glad to know that it's an alternative available for those who can afford it. I think with services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus being geoblocked that Quickflix is doing an amazing job so far and with their customer base only growing, that their future is looking brighter with each month.  The internet is a tough market, but Quickflix have definitely stuck it out.

TL;DW Summary:
Strong selection in Play, DVD and Blu-Ray
Easy to access on different devices
For the curious and nostalgic
Affordable and fun

Service is streaming and choppy
Pay-To-Play is expensive and counter-intuitive
If you're impatient, you probably won't like it.
Unsurpassed International Competition from Netflix

If I had to give it an arbitrary number, it'd be an 8.

To read the Top 5 Things I Think Quickflix Needs click here

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What is Too Long; Didn't Write? and Why Kittens are Awesome

This is the official blog for Harrison Engstrom about the things he's interested in, thing's he doesn't understand and thing's he is trying to research. I can't promise it will always be coherent, but I promise it will be informative, entertaining and well-researched. I have nearly finished University and now need a weekly outlet where I can pretend to do work, research unrelated things and hopefully look for work. Speaking of researching unrelated things, here are Four reasons why cats and kittens are awesome.

1. They can look evil when they need to, to scare off larger predators

Evil kitten in the morning!

If evolution has taught us anything is that creatures will eat other creatures regardless of how cute and tiny they are. It's just science. However, through history, evolution has made the feline species smaller and cuter and more adorable, but they all have secret heart of darkness. This darkness can come out when you least expect it and can claw your face off when you're leaning down for just a pet. Their youthful spirit is still curious and mind has not fully formed to know the difference between my leg, a scratching post and the couch. It will attack and there is nothing you can do about it. We are just lucky that as humans, we have evolved our own culture to create so many well formed distractions, that we can subdue that heart of darkness whenever we need to. 
Guys, world domination is on hold for now.
2. They are kings of camouflage.
Where's kitteh?
I'm sorry, you may gaffaw, but are you tiny? Can you camouflage? Do you have that power? Do you naturally blend into your acustom environment so well that you can hide anywhere? Now, I do say acustom as while us humans have different types of environments we inhabit, cats tend to only have one through domestication. I can tell you now that while it may be a good idea to get white cat with white furniture (See: Shedding), you better do a butt-check every time you sit down.