An interesting conversation came up in my class the other day. We were remembering our first visual experience on each medium. A journey that segued from medium to medium until we reached the present!
So many associated memories and stories. Here’s a snapshot of mine
1. VHS (First Film : Jaws , Somewhere in the 80s)
This will have to be my first movie medium ever. A VHS tape! The black cassette holding spools of magnetic video tape that ran for 150mins. We had a National Video Cassette Recorder for the playback and it was too advanced for me to understand what most of those tiny buttons did. So I would just put the tape in. It goes inside with a loud metal clanking sound, you press the reverse- the tape starts winding back up to the beginning, you click play-the interlaced super-saturated low resolution video starts to play! Good times. Initially the guarantee of a tape running perfectly was 80–90% but this changed drastically and went down to a 30–40% chance when I started renting classic Hollywood tapes which were literally stuck to the library shelf due to their limited popularity in my little town.
2. Theatrical Projection (First movie: I have no clue, Somewhere in the 80s)
Now, I seriously don’t remember the first film I ever saw on the silver screen but it was at the only cinema we had at our town. Definitely a Malayalam language film.
3. Cable Television (First Movie: The Big Bet, Mid 90s)
Cable Tv was an overnight sensation. Everyone was talking about it. Heard from friends who lived in metropolitan cities about a channel which showed hollywood films back to back and it was called Star Movies. Was so psyched about the channel and I kept searching for it on my box but had no luck. Almost an year later, I was randomly browsing on the tuner when I found out that we finally have Star Movies! Words cannot explain that moment. Me and my brother, we spend an entire week sitting right in front of the tv without turning it off because we thought it might just go away. Every single film that we saw during that initial week were special for so many reasons. We never got to watch hollywood films in that clarity ever before. The colours, the sound and above all, the suspense of which film they are gonna show next — it was out of the world! We saw a lot of films. “Air America, The Big Bet, The Good Son, Gross Anatomy, Ernest the scared stupid, Pet Cemetery, Monkey Trouble, Commando, Wild America, Raising Arizona, Beverly Hillbillies, Trapped in Paradise and many more.
4.VCD (First Film : Six Days Seven Nights, Late 90s)
I was really excited when I heard about Video Compact Discs making its way to Indian stores as I was really a fan of the recording quality Audio CDs (Even now, I do believe that Audio CD is the perfect medium to enjoy music in the way it was supposed to be heard). But the video counterpart wasn’t a huge leap in visual quality. Yes, it was different — lines became pixels and fungus became scratches. I used a computer for most of my VCD playbacks at a time when standalone VCD players were not popular and computers didn’t support more than 256 colors! Lack of interlacing was initially a major setback as every single cut in a movie stood out!
One funny memory is watching “The Exorcist” in 1/4 window mode as we were too scared to go full screen on our 14” monitor.
5. DVD (First Film: The Mummy, Early 2000s)
Honestly this time, the news didn’t excite me much. Had enough with the circular disks and was happy with the content I was getting from Star, TNT and HBO. But, the initial playback experience changed that belief. The resolution that perfectly matched the tv aspects was a definite improvement. I switched DVD playback from computers to my XBOX 360. During my days in Australia, there was this shack where I went to buy used DVDs for cheap. Infact my entire luggage was this collection, travelling back home.
6. Digital Rips (First Film: Lord of the Rings, Mid 2000s)
The dawn of online pirates! DVD/VCD/VHS rips started ruling the web. I downloaded my first RIP from a P2P software called Limewire. Had to spend around 2 days to get the film downloaded on to my system but the whole thing was a window that opened up to unlimited possibilities of entertainment.
7. BLURAY (First Film: Kung Fu Panda, Late 2000s)
The PS3+HDMI+FULLHD LCD concoction made every other medium look plastic-cheap! The colors were brilliant, contrast was sharp and sound was unbelievably clear. I remember showing off the power of BluRay to my guests by playing the first 10 minutes of KungFu Panda before they even had a chance to sit!
8. Streaming (First Film: Stranger Things, Mid 2010s)
When I recently relocated to my new apartment, getting my satellite tv service back up was a top priority. I mean, right under Internet and just above everything else. Its been two months now and I still don’t have a service. Totally intentional, but let me explain how did I successfully substitute TV with alternate and much better visual entertainment- streaming! Netflix is my main feed. I watch TV Shows, Older movie titles, Netflix originals and Documentaries in here. That too in Full HD! Many might say that Netflix India is not worth the money, but I would say it is totally worth the subscription fee that you are paying here in India. For 650INR, you get a pretty decent catalogue of movies and tv shows with unlimited streaming and multi-device support. (For people complaining that the US Netflix has a much bigger menu, do give ExpressVPN a try to watch the US Netflix and much more through any device. Its not free, but totally worth it). I also do stream content from Amazon, Crackle , Mubi, Tubi and our very own alma mater, Youtube! .