Criterion has proven time and time again that they can do incredible things regardless of media. Now, they're expanding their streaming efforts (some of their titles are already available on Netflix's intant option) with the help of Hulu's pay subscription service.
Starting today, 150 or so of Criterion's 800 films will be available for instant watching to Hulu Plus subscribers. The privelage still costs $7.99 a month and includes all of the other content they offer, like TV shows from the major networks.
Internet comment boards are already buzzing about whether or not this is a good move. Ultra-high quality has always been a hallmark of the Criterion brand and some believe the quality offered by web streams won't be able to do justice to their incredible transfers. Even more controversial is the idea that the films will be streaming to handheld devices like the iPad and even the iPhone. Fine for catching up on re-runs of 30 Rock, but classic films are a whole different species.
We actually gave some of the content a spin and the results are encouraging. Having manually selected the 720p HD quality option, the films looked very good sent to a 1080p display via HDMI. The quality isn't on-par with an HD TV broadcast, but it's not all that dissimilar from what you'd expect from a DVD. A quick comparison also suggests that it looks better than the Netflix versions.
Like Hulu's other content, the movies load quickly and are easy to control with the preview in the progress bar. Since it was running from a PC, things did get choppy from time to time when other processes were running. But, having scrubbed through parts of The 400 Blows and the extremely excellent Cronos, the results were more than watchable.
Going forward, Criterion has promised to push a lot more content into the Hulu Plus pipeline. The blog announcement even suggests that their excellent supplemental material will also make its way onto the site, which is a big step toward making the online experience match, or at least mimic, the physical media experience.
Ultimately, it seems like a very good things. Just don't tell David Lynch you've been watching classic films on your iPhone. He hates that (Warning: David Lynch drops an F-bomb in the linked video).
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.