The Vacation Read: What would the perfect media library look like?

One of the projects I’m trying to work on this week during my vacation is an index of all the films I have in the house on laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray and even VHS.  I recently realized I’d purchased duplicates of several films I already owned, and it occurred to me that while I like the way I have my movies sorted and stored in the house, it’s not the easiest way of keeping track of things.

I’m not specifically sure how many films I have here.  I know it’s well over 9,000 at this point, and maybe as high as 11,000.  That is a massive library for a home resource, and honestly, it’s probably more films than I should own.  I already know that I’m never ever going to rewatch everything I own, which raises the question of why I would own it.  Hell, even if I stopped collecting today and started watching only the discs I have that I haven’t seen, I have a feeling I’d have several years worth of movies ahead of me.

Part of the point of building a library is the ability to throw on a film anytime.  For me, the most important part of any movie collection is breadth.  I want as many films in every genre from every era and every country as possible.  If we’re having a conversation about Filipino exploitation films or British comedies or early Hollywood animation or whatever, I want examples on hand that I can easily pull out and play.  That means that I’m often buying movies that I don’t intend to watch immediately, but that fill some hole in the collection.  That drives my wife crazy because she would rather I make use of that money in some way that is of immediate benefit, while I see building a film library as a long-term project.

I was a first-generation home video kid. My children have no idea what it was like in the days before you could watch a movie in your house.  As far as they’ve always known, movies are something you have in the house.  I still remember sitting in a living room in Memphis watching my uncle demonstrate the first commercial VHS machine I’d ever seen, using “Jailhouse Rocks” as a demo, and that “A-HA!” realization that kicked in as I imagined the future and the ability to watch whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  I remember the jump to laserdisc and the early discussions of aspect ratio.  These days, most people don’t think anything about seeing black bars on the screen, but when we first saw movies at home, no one considered doing that.  My kids are never really going to understand how much pan-and-scan changed the experience of a movie, but I remember how much of a revelation it was when I saw certain films in the correct ratio for the first time, and how much it altered my idea of how to use a film frame.

I love Blu-ray as a home video standard.  I don’t think it’s the ultimate perfect never-going-to-be-improved format, but it’s incredible.  I also love the utility of a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, but not the resolution at this point.  I think the entire industry is trying to figure out the future right now, and there are all sorts of exciting possibilities.  I love the way Warner Archive works and the way they make titles available that don’t make sense for them to throw real marketing muscle behind.  Universal and Sony have both started similar projects, and I’d love to eventually be able to pay a monthly fee to have access to all of Warner’s material in high-def, or all of Universal’s, or all of Disney’s.  That’s not to say I want to replace physical media, because I think there’s something undeniable about owning a piece of media.  I see titles drop off of Netflix all the time because a licensing agreement came to an end, and with physical media, I don’t have to worry about that.  Then again, things happen, and physical media can certainly get damaged.  There is no perfect answer.

So I put the question to you:  if you could create your perfect media player and library, what would it be?  What do you need from your streaming/physical/Redbox/Gamefly? What’s the endgame for you as a consumer?  If you could have anything, what would it be?

I look forward to reading your responses to this and all the other topics this week, and I’m thanking you in advance for participating, even if you don’t normally participate.  If you guys don’t respond, this is going to be a very slow week here on the blog.  I’m counting on you, and I hope that by the time I return next Monday, I’ll know a lot more about you, and that I can use your answers to help make Motion/Captured even better.