Legal and Easy DVD Downloads
So you're looking for a copy of "Roaring Glory Warbirds: F4U Corsair" from 1988 and Amazon tells you it's discontinued. Or maybe you need to get a copy of "Peter Pan" starring Cathy Rigby from 2000, but the cheapest you can find it on Amazon is nearly $40. What if there were a easy, cheap and legal way to download and burn these movies to DVD (after all, unless your Mac is pretty old, it probably came with a DVD burner, and blank DVDs can be had for well under $1).
Well, there is such a thing (or this would be a pretty short blog post!). Head on over to EZTakes and you'll find that F4U Corsair flick for only $5.98 and "Peter Pan" for $6.97. EZTakes is a legal service for downloading and burning movies (with *no* DRM). Of course, you can just watch them on your computer, too. A few of the films are even available to stream for free. Most of them also have a preview of a couple of minutes or so, but the previews are in Windows Media format, so you'll need the free Flip4Mac codec to play them.
Ok, so you get the picture (as it were) – you won't be getting "Avatar," "24," or "Star Trek" here, but EZTakes does have 5000 films – documentaries, older films and TV series, foreign films, horror flicks, etc. Most of them are pretty cheap, and a few are even free.
I first found out about EZTakes while satisfying my craving for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 . For those of you who don't know about the show (and don't want to click on the link!), the short version is that every week, they'd take some terrible movie and make fun of it with jokes and wisecracks while it played. (Yes, there's a lot more to it than than – read the Wiki entry!). The show is long off the air, but some of the people responsible for it have gotten together and are still tearing up movies. Now they call themselves "Cinematic Titanic". They release their shows on DVD and via EZTakes.
So how does it work? You first need to download their special software, the EZTakes Download Manager. It's available for free for both Mac and Windows. Then, when you want buy a film, you click on the "Download" button for that movie. A very small file with the extension "gdb" is downloaded – double-click on that and the Download Manager with start up and begin your download (I'm sure if I configured Safari to auto open downloads it would just fire up the program, but that's a big security hole as far as I'm concerned).
You get the full DVD, with any menus/extras/etc. The resulting download (which by default goes to your Movies folder, in a new sub-folder called "EZTakes") is a VIDEO_TS folder. That's the format of a DVD, so you can play it with the Apple DVD player just by pointing to that directory. Another nicety – they give you a graphic of the DVD disc art and the case art – so if you have a way to print on your DVDs and empty cases, you can make them look just like a commercial DVD.
If you want to see these on your iPod/iPhone, you'll need to convert them with something like Handbrake, a free utility. EZTakes has a "ToGo" option, but it requires paying $9.95 for the plug in (one time) – and Windows (they are working on a Mac version). Handbrake is easy enough that you can save your money.
The Download Manager is pretty good software, though. With your first purchase you'll need to set up an account, but after that, you'll just be warned that your download will cost $x and be charged to your card – which you have an opportunity to cancel or change the payment type. Don't worry about failed downloads – you aren't charged until a download succeeds. I had one that took me a few days of retries (Comcast was acting up) and I was only charged the one time after several tries.
The software also will start up the DVD software or burn the film to disc for you (it just uses the OS' internal burning software, but sets the options correctly for you).