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The best high definition movie server will likely cost you nothing and you probably already own it
By Steve Hartfelder and Ryan Koskela, Diamond Case Designs, Inc.


Apple TVToday's home theater world is abound with devices that allow movie rentals straight from the Internet, without your ever having to endure that oh-so-90’s trip to the video rental store. Some of the most prominent video rental devices of this sort are the Vudu box and the Apple TV.

For these devices to work, they must be connected to your homes high-speed Internet connection.  Once connected, both devices utilize a very intuitive-on screen graphic system that allows easy maneuverability through a vast assortment of movies enabling you to find just the right ones.  Once the desired movie has been chosen, simply select the rental option (costs about as much as a new release in a video store) and the movie will be downloaded to your Vudu or Apple TV box.  The time necessary for the download depends on your Internet connection speed.

Once your rental has been downloaded, you have 30 days to start watching the film.  Once playback of the film starts you have a 24-hour time window in which it can be viewed as many times as you would like.  Once the 24-hour window (or 30 day period has passed) the movie is automatically removed from your hard drive.

While we think the capabilities of these devices are fantastic and the user interface is great, the major downside is their cost; the hardware needs to be purchased (currently a few hundred dollars plus) and the rentals need to be purchased, as well.  Combined with the fact that these boxes are primarily for renting movies, with limited movie buying options, these boxes are best suited for avid fans of movie rentals, and may be tough for the casual movie viewer to justify the cost. As a customer, you should gauge your interest in movies before deciding on purchasing one. In fact, you may find by using your existing cable or satellite box to its fullest you will enjoy a premium movie watching experience for less money and with less viewing restrictions.

Direct TV Jump Forward Jump Backwards ButtonsMost cable and satellite TV providers offer digital video recording boxes that allow you to record live TV programming from all the channels that are offered by your given plan. Furthermore, these providers offer on-screen guides that allow you to surf future movie broadcasts up to two weeks in advance. While it may not provide the fancy graphics of an Apple TV or Vudu box, its essentially doing the same thing; navigating an on-screen menu system of available movies. You can even click the appropriate info button for a brief description of the movies and actors involved.

To create your own digital movie server simply navigate this guide and click record on the movies you would like to see. Your cable or satellite box will setup a recording queue and automatically record the selected movies onto your hard drive.

TIP: You may find the best movies tend to be broadcast during prime time hours. Rather than surfing your on-screen guide an hour at a time, did you know most cable or satellite boxes can "jump" forward in large time increments? With Direct TV you can jump forward or backward in the guide in twelve hour increments by pressing the appropriate on-screen buttons (see inset photo). With cable TV you will normally find a Day+ and Day- button on your remote control allowing you to skip forward/back a full day at a time.

HBO LogoThis technique allows you to maximize the enjoyment of all the movie channels you subscribe to such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and The Movie Channel by looking ahead and simply scheduling recordings of the films you want to see. In addition, many of these channels are now available in high definition for the best possible video quality. Furthermore, you are not restricted in how you watch the movies or how long you keep them. You can watch the movies as many times as you want and keep them on your hard drive as long as you want. The only limitation here is the size of the hard disc itself. With Direct TV you can even expand the size of the hard drive to create a super high-capacity high-definition movie server. Watch for a future article or call a Diamond Case Designs, Inc. representative for more information.

Walt Disney Pictures LogoTIP: The ability to keep movies on the hard drive for an extended period of time and watch them over and over is a particularly excellent feature for families with children. As the rest of you parents know, your kids can get a certain movie stuck in their head and literally watch it every single day. The viewing restrictions of Apple TV and Vudu are not conducive to repeated viewing (with the exceptions of some titles that are available for purchase).

Check with your digital cable service provider to see what types of service plans are offered; if you are not happy with your current service plan’s movie content, virtually all providers now offer premium plans geared specifically to provide a multitude of movies, in the genres you enjoy most. For many consumers, finding a service plan that fits their taste in movies and then scheduling recordings of the ones they want to see may be much more practical than the cost of the "rental boxes" and the rentals themselves.

For you as a consumer, the right "solution" is based on how you plan to watch movies. Apple TV and Vudu allow you to choose specific films on-demand with limited viewing options. Your existing cable or satellite box can provide a constant stream of movies from a service plan that is catered to your taste in films with no viewing restrictions.

To see if your cable or satellite box is the best option, take a look through the coming days’ scheduled programming on your guide; you may just find some of your all-time favorites just waiting to be recorded!

Please note certain movies can be purchased through Apple TV or Vudu (at a higher price) for repeated viewing. While the purpose of this article was to explore some of the best ways to access movies in your home theater system it should be pointed out that Apple TV is also designed to serve additional purposes such as link digital photographs and music to your home theater system.

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Diamond Case Designs, Inc. - 655 N. Shepard St. - Anaheim, CA 92806 - (800) 616-5354 - www.diamondcase.com

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