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Tag: iTunes

How to Find Your Free SD Movie Download in iTunes

When you buy an HD movie in iTunes, did you know you can also receive the SD version for free?  And why would you need the SD version?  Ask your iPhone.

When you buy an HD movie in iTunes, did you know you can also receive the SD version for free? And why would you need the SD version? Ask your iPhone.

I’d like to point out three universal truths:

  • You can never have too much knowledge,
  • Too much joy,
  • Or too much digital memory for your multimedia needs!

As a Road Warrior, I happen to like having a few movies at any given moment in my iPhone.

I really haven’t had any media management concerns on my iPhone 4S over the past couple of years, because I’ve got the full boat… 64 GB of memory.

So I feel I can live a little large and jam some extra cinema into my iPhone’s playlist if I prefer.

And I don’t mind admitting I’ve downloaded a few flicks lately.
The last one was “Skyfall,” the latest James Bond and arguably one of the best.

The Evil Secret of High-Definition Video
Then last weekend while uploading some fun photos of my three year old, I realized my iPhone barely had enough memory for Siri to blurt out one of her snarky retorts.

By Grabthar’s Hammer, what happened?!

So I checked out my iTunes library and realized Mr. Craig’s high-definition Bond adventure had targeted almost 6 GB of precious flash media on my iPhone.

One movie… 6 gigabytes?!

Well that didn’t seem right.
I know HD content can create large files, but I thought with compression technologies, the movie studios wouldn’t be offering up digital files quite so big.

I reviewed a few of the other movies I owned in iTunes:

“Star Trek” – 1.96 GB
“Inception” – 2.19 GB
“Thor”- 1.73 GB
“Apollo 13” – 2.22 GB
(Yes, you may notice a genre pattern here.)

So why were all these films so much smaller than “Skyfall?”

The only difference was the other movies were downloaded via an iTunes code packaged with the Blu-ray Discs I had bought.

And “Skyfall” was purchased directly from iTunes.
Apple had been running it at a special price.

The Blu-ray Disc Dream is Not All in High Definition
I sprinted over to my Blu-ray Disc shelf and studied the cases.
As I looked more closely at the packaging, I came to the uncomfortable realization that my bonus ‘digital copies’ via iTunes had not been downloaded in HD after all.
The iTunes movie codes inserted in the Blu-ray Disc cases only unlocked the standard definition files.


Well, in fact, the fine print does only say, ‘Digital Copy.’
(not HD Digital Copy)

Well, I guess that explains the size discrepancy.
They’re just SD movies.

So… iTunes SD movie downloads provided by glorious Blu-ray Discs in HD?
That doesn’t feel quite right.

But it’s a discussion for another day…
And a new data point for my ongoing struggle to decide
whether I should stick with buying physical Blu-ray Discs or give in and go all in with iTunes movie purchases.

There’s No Room for HD in Your Smartphone
As much as I prefer to own HD movie files for use on my larger displays, I don’t believe smartphone screens really show a significant difference between HD and SD.

But more importantly, my iPhone (or any smartphone for that matter) can’t handle more than a few HD movies at a time.

It’s simple math.
If you only own a 16 GB smartphone, it’s toast after you feed it two movies.

Using an SD file would appear to be the only reasonable option when loading up your movie collection to your smartphone…

Time to find the ‘Mini-Me’ version of 007.

SD Still Has its Place
So your simple media management solution is to own two files for each movie you buy.

  • HD for your HDTV or computer
  • SD for your smartphone

But how do you locate the SD peer file, once you’ve bought and downloaded the HD movie master?

Sure, you can easily find the SD version in the iTunes Store.
But you don’t want to pay again to download the SD sibling, once you’ve already had to pony up for the HD version.

Don’t do that…!

Where’s Your Free SD File?
The location was not entirely obvious to me even after some online research and a quick review of iTunes itself.

But buried in an Apple support page, I found a cryptic answer….

“To download the SD version, you need to download the video again from your Purchased page.”

Well that seemed simple enough.

So I took at look at my ‘Purchased page’ in iTunes and observed all my movie icons happily waiting for their next screening.
But there was nothing to indicate an additional free SD download of my HD Bond.

Then I saw it!

Here’s the trick:

  • Go to your ‘Purchased’ page in the iTunes Store
  • Click on ‘Movies’
  • On the bottom right there’s a box that say, “Download HD When Available”
  • Unclick that!

Suddenly the SD versions appeared as available for download!

It was like having the keys to the candy store.
I clicked, and before you could say, “shaken but not stirred,” I downloaded my SD movie file.

2.45 GB.
Thank you.

One final step…

Then in the ‘Summary’ tab of your iPhone (in iTunes):

  • Go to ‘Options’
  • Click on “Prefer standard definition videos”

Et voilà!
The SD files finally show up for syncing to your iPhone…

Load Up on Your Mobile SD Content
So to access your SD content, you simply have to tell iTunes you don’t ‘prefer’ HD… twice.
(which kind of goes against everything you believe in)

You just don’t want HD… right now.
(Don’t forget to switch that setting back when you go to buy your next HD movie.)

It’s just not that intuitive…
And all this from a tech empire that designs products my three year old could operate well over a year ago.

Anyway, that’s how you do it.

Your iPhone can now experience some Hollywood Zen.
…and still have some room left to answer your next phone call!

Nonplussed with Hulu Plus

Don’t ask why Fox only gives you five streaming episodes of “Fringe” to watch on Hulu Plus. Just consider it another unexplained Fringe event.

Don’t ask why Fox only gives you five streaming episodes of “Fringe” to watch on Hulu Plus. Just consider it another unexplained Fringe event.

New Year’s Resolution #479:
(been a busy week)
Catch up on my favorite television shows I’ve neglected watching.

Always on the Fringe of “Fringe”
One series I’ve stuck with over the past four years is “Fringe.”
Created by J.J. Abrams who brought us “Lost,” this series, inspired by
“The X Files,” has also taken its time unveiling its complex truths.

It’s really been a roller coaster ride since last season.
I barely understood the confusing ‘altered universe’ as opposed to the cool ‘alternate universe.’ (the slickest part of the show to date)
Still, I’ve wanted to hang in through this fifth and already jarring final season.

Don’t Blink
Once upon a time, I was exceptionally diligent in time shifting my broadcast/cable viewing through my trusty DVR.
But I’ve been running out of memory of late.
(as has my DVR)
Plus, I haven’t been consuming enough episodes to relieve my DVR’s bulging hard drive.
(Life is busy!)

And as with “Fringe,” as soon as you miss an episode or two of your favorite TV show these days, you’re stuck.
Many series evolve a common storyline across multiple episodes.
So it’s difficult to jump back in even if you’ve been briefly absent.

Spend a Doubloon on iTunes
One catch-up solution is to simply suck it up and pay for the missed episodes on iTunes.
Two or three bucks per episode (SD or HD) isn’t a terrible loss, but shelling out anything really annoys me.
I know I could have had it for free, if I were only a bit more organized with my media management.

Hulu to the Rescue
Another option is to take advantage of the fact that many series stream some of their episodes for free on the networks’ websites or on Hulu.

Hulu has been around since 2008.
It’s a joint venture between NBCUniversal, Fox, and Disney/ABC with free programming from over 410 content companies.

I’ve found Hulu a great convenience for my emergency catch-up viewing as well as quickly checking out popular clips from shows like
“Saturday Night Live.”

Last year, I took advantage of this ad-supported streaming lifeline to keep up with “Fringe.”

Unfortunately, this season, I quickly fell too far behind the five-episode streaming limit imposed by Fox. So Hulu wasn’t able to help.

And then I had an epiphany.
What about Hulu Plus?

All the Fuss with Hulu Plus
Free is always nice, but the paid subscription model of Hulu Plus gives you ‘more.’
And that’s what I needed! (I thought.)

Hulu Plus launched in 2010 and hosts over three million subscribers, more than doubling its membership over the past year.
(It’s currently available only in the U.S. and Japan.)

There are five reasons to go with Hulu Plus:

  • The big hook with Hulu Plus is “generally,” you can watch the entire current season of a TV series.
    (plus multiple episode or full back-season content from many TV shows)
  • With Hulu Plus, you can now stream content beyond your computer to devices like Apple TV and Roku.
    So this returns your viewing experience to the big screen in your living room.
  • Hulu Plus also works with mobile devices like your iPad.
    And you can also use the same subscription for your multiple devices.
    (but only one simultaneous stream at a time, please)
  • Hulu Plus streams in HD, when available.
    (Hulu only gives you SD.)
  • And there are movies too.
    That said, there’s a clear consensus out there you shouldn’t go to Hulu Plus for its flicks.
    Stick with Netflix for that.

The enhanced Hulu Plus costs $7.99/month. (There are still ads.)
On the upside, they give you the first week for free.
(Happy New Year!)

Stormy Waters Ahead
All these ‘enhancements’ and incentives to go Plus is clearly a marketing power play, but I suppose everyone’s got to make a buck.

The more successful Hulu Plus becomes, the more disruptive it will be to the traditional broadcast/cable revenue model.
And that could spell future trouble for Hulu.
(Fast and Slate have been discussing that side of the story recently…)

And the newest indicator that Hulu’s non-traditional approach has really irritated its media giant owners is the big news from January 4th that both
Hulu CEO Jason Kilar and CTO Rich Tom are resigning.

That’s quite a shake up!

Netflix Streaming – The Sacrificial Lamb
So I really needed to resolve my micro-conundrum sometime before Fringe signs off!
But should I be buying into yet another scheme to pay for free TV?

And then I thought about Netflix Streaming and how difficult it’s been recently to find a good movie for both my wife and me to watch together.
And coincidentally, that’s also $7.99/month.

Time for a swap? Why not?!
(I’ll still keep my Netflix DVD plan.)

Hello Hulu Plus!
And just like that, I had my first month for free.
(I half expected Alec Baldwin to swing by and congratulate me.)

My Digital Quest Became a Fringe Event
After signing up, I immediately went to the “Fringe” page on Hulu Plus to begin my catch-up journey through season 5.
Suddenly, time slowed to a halt as my eyes struggled to look beyond the five listed episodes. My eyes were frozen!

Was there an alien force preventing me from viewing my prize?

No, there simply weren’t any more episodes on the page.
Only the same five episodes already available for free on Hulu.


What’s the point of paying for Hulu Plus to have access to the complete current season of a series if it was never there to begin with?
(Maybe the Observers from “Fringe” have secretly taken over Hulu.)

Remember when I mentioned earlier that Hulu Plus is supposed to give you the entire current season of a show to date?

I included that pesky little word- ‘generally.’
Not ‘always.’

Hulu’s website says-
“For most major network series available on our service, Hulu Plus offers every episode of the current season.”

‘Most’ is also not the same as ‘always.’

So like my mother always told me, you should always read the fine print.
Buyer beware.

All right. So I had a little bad luck on my first try.
There are hundreds of other series to choose from.

“Revolution” is Mostly Dark
I’ve also wanted to start watching NBC’s “Revolution,” which has generated some great buzz this season.
So I quickly navigated to that page.
All the lights weren’t on there either.
Just the last five episodes.

Uh huh.

Can’t Get to “Sesame Street”
My wife and I have been thinking it’s time to introduce our boy to the wonders of “Sesame Street.”
Full episodes? Hold on there, cowboy.
You can watch some short clips, but that’s it.


Three Strikes?
But it’s not all bad news for Hulu Plus.

  • CBS Joins the Party
    CBS has been a notable holdout since Hulu launched, but beginning this month, that logjam has finally been broken with a freshly inked deal.
    Look to see more CBS programming on Hulu Plus over the next few months.
    And it should be noted that all this new goodness is apparently not coming to the free Hulu service.
  • Fox Throws Plus a Bone
    Fox has its own set of arbitrary rules that hold back new episodes on Hulu for eight days. (unless you’re a DISH, Verizon, or Cable One subscriber)
    Hulu Plus unlocks it for you the day after air!

Digital Smorgasbord
Hulu Plus has a lot going for it, but it’s limited by some really frustrating, quirky rules.

There’s no way to know for sure what you’re able to watch until you actually look for it.
(Even all of the content on Hulu is not always available on Hulu Plus because of licensing limitations.)

The Truth for $5.98
So after a frustrating trip down yet another digital rabbit hole, I’m back where I started.

Well, the truth has always been out there.
It just costs $5.98 and a slap to my pride.

Yep… It’s iTunes.
I just have to buy the freaking two episodes of “Fringe” on iTunes, and I’ll immediately be back within the cozy five-episode Hulu Plus bubble!

Click. Click.

Can We Fix it?  Yes We Can!
So that’s the end to my disappointing and brief Hulu Plus journey.
Well, not exactly.

I’ve got the free month.
Why not use it!?
So I’ve been taking Hulu Plus out for a test drive.

It’s only been a few days, but there are already some promising developments:

The Dysfunction of “Modern Family” Works Great
Last week, my wife and I happily watched a couple of episodes of “Modern Family.”
This series isn’t available on Netflix Streaming, and I gave up on the Netflix DVD we received, because holding onto half a season’s worth of episodes backed up the flow of other Netflix DVDs standing by to ship.

“Bob the Builder” Fixed It
Big Bird will have to wait, but “Bob The Builder” has quickly become a huge hit with my son.
I fired up this toddler-friendly series onto my Apple MacBook Pro laptop, and my boy now happily sits with me at my desk watching Bob, Wendy, Rolley, Dizzy, Scoop, Lofty, and Muck, while I’m putting the finishing touches onto my blog’s next post on my iMac.

Suddenly, I’ve found myself very close to Digital Zen.
How unexpected.

Stay Tuned
So the jury is still out.
If Hulu Plus continues to help me and my family find and watch our ever-growing backlog of TV episodes, maybe there’s room for a little more Plus in our digital lives.

Just like watching “Fringe,” it’s been confusing and not without frustration.
But it has also offered up some rewards.

I’ll continue to “observe.”

Going Batty Buying Movie Music

Hans Zimmer composed the music for “The Dark Knight Rises.” Figuring out how to buy the complete album has almost as many twists and turns as the movie!

I saw “The Dark Knight Rises” on opening weekend.
All two hours and forty-five minutes.

Yes, I’m on record saying that as the parent of a toddler, I don’t go to the movies much. But, hey, daddy, sometimes you’ve got to find a way. Right?

This is not a review of the trilogy’s finale, but I’ll simply say I loved it.
Not perfect, but if you’ve seen the other two, you must see this one.

Movie Music Lovers Unite
So one of my little vices is collecting good movie soundtracks.
Nobody I know really understands this, but for those of you out there who are secretly listening to John Williams’ music, rock on!

Hans Zimmer is also one of the popular composers big films in need of big music turn to these days.
His resume of over one hundred movies includes Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Inception,” “Sherlock Holmes”, and “Thelma & Louise.”

Believe me, you’ve heard his work…

So after seeing “The Dark Knight Rises,” I decided I enjoyed the music enough to buy the soundtrack, even though it was inevitably derivative of the first two films.

I immediately went to iTunes to easily download the music, but I found myself unexpectedly faced with a choice. I could buy the basic soundtrack for $11.99 or I could purchase the Deluxe Edition with two bonus tracks for two dollars more.

Bonus tracks?
What’s up with that?
I didn’t mind spending a couple bucks more, but I decided to do some research to see what the Batman’s marketing machine was up to.

This next step made my decision even more complicated.
I discovered that the CD version of the soundtrack had a different set of bonus tracks than the iTunes version.
Specifically, one of the extra music tracks was shared by both iTunes and the CD, and the other two were different.

So if I wanted to own all if the music, I would seemingly have to buy the album twice.
Now that’s simply silly.

I previewed the tracks in question, and decided to go with the CD (marketed as the ‘Enhanced CD’), which I bought on Amazon for $10.

But the battiness doesn’t end there.

One Last Hurdle
When the CD came in, I popped it into my iMac to rip the tracks into iTunes. All good. But where were the bonus tracks?

I’m instructed to go to a Warner Brothers website (actually WaterTower Music) and log in with an email address and my birthday.
Now that’s a little demanding, don’t you think?
I just want my music, which I’ve already paid for. This wasn’t part of the deal. (I didn’t read the small print.)
I stopped giving my email address away for free a long time ago.

But I’d come this far.
So I decided to give them my ‘special email address,’ where marketing emails go to die.
(You do have one of these email accounts, don’t you?)

And after this headache-filled process that took just short of forever, I owned most of “The Dark Knight Rises” soundtrack.

Holy Marketing Madness Batman!
So why all the smoke and mirrors?
When I went through this herculean music selection process on the Monday after opening weekend, it should have been a snap.

What threw me down the tech rabbit hole once again was the fact that I didn’t have the option buy the CD and then purchase the iTunes bonus tracks a la carte.
But when I took another look at iTunes today, I noticed the entire Deluxe Edition was available for individual track download.
They changed they’re minds… or did they?
They totally took advantage of us early adopters!

I must offer a slight disclaimer here that somehow I might have missed the a la carte option the first time… but I really don’t think so.

How Many Frickin Music Tracks Are There?
So what’s up with the five bonus music tracks spread across two sales channels?
Actually, it gets worse.
There’s also a sixth bonus track called “All Out War” that was made available to fans who pre-bought their movie tickets at
They’re apparently very special.

My head is going to explode.

I guess it’s just another a way for WaterTower Music to maximize technology to squeeze a little more green out of silly fans like me.

All I wanted was to legitimately and legally buy the music from a movie.
Is that so wrong?

I’ve now downloaded the extra two tracks from iTunes. After listening to them, I’m having buyer’s remorse.
(There was a reason I didn’t go with the iTunes Deluxe Edition.
“The Shadows Betray You” is the better track, by the way.)

But it’s done. I’m calling it a day.

Unlike most of my posts that attempt to finish with a light twist, this one ends on a super heavy note.
Unhappily, there is one more music track that everyone needs to download now. It’s called ‘Aurora,’ and Hans Zimmer recorded it in the days following the Aurora, Colorado tragedy.

Mr. Zimmer says on his Facebook page that “100% of the proceeds will be donated to Aurora Victim Relief organization.”

You can download it on iTunes or MoonToast.

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