For some time, people in the UK and Europe have ogled at movie services offered overseas, where offerings such as the PlayStation Video Store and Netflicks have been available for quite some time. These such services gives its users the ability to own or rent movies and download them onto their console. A few select countries in Europe and the UK have had the Video Store for a little while, and now a similar steaming service to Netflicks has launch to the UK from LOVEFiLM, who open its cinema doors to film buffs on the PlayStation 3.

Over the past weeks I have been invited to trial LOVEFiLM’s service and to sample their presence on the PlayStation Network. I do love a good film, and I have sat through some pretty bad ones too, so this offer wasn’t going to be something I’d turn my noise up at – so I jumped in. Some time ago I used to be a LOVEFiLM member. Using their postal service to rent films and games was a good experience for me, one that gave me the ability to trial some games and to watch some unseen films that were not on my radar or were too risky to buy outright. LOVEFiLM has now moved on with the times and have since created the ability for its members to stream its library of titles via the “Watch Now” steaming service via a desktop browser, and now, on the PlayStation 3.

Streaming its rental service to the PlayStation 3 is a no brainer. Rather than waiting for your chosen film to arrive in the post, you are able to select from a growing library of ‘Watch Now’ titles and then stream them pretty much instantly to your TV screen. You can’t grumble at such simplicity to be honest. This makes it great to browse through some unknown films, re-watch some old classics, or to find, skip to, and share a key classic film moment with your friends and family.

All of this sounds great, but just like the PlayStation Video Store, everything comes at a price, and you’ll need a subscription of at least £5.99 per month to be able to view the “Watch Now” titles on your PS3. Luckily LOVEFiLM has you covered should you be a little curious. New members are able to experience the service, for free, for at least fourteen days, granted you have a credit card to sign up with. Signing up for a free initial trial to the LOVEFiLM service can be done either by entering your details via your desktop browser and then enter your created login details in the PlayStation LOVEFiLM portal, or you can sign up whilst on the PlayStation 3 itself – however do make sure you have a keyboard handy, as using the on-screen keyboard will leave you wishing you did this on your computer or laptop in the first place!

Once signed up and signed in through the Video > LOVEFiLM section on the PlayStation’s XMB you are taken to the home screen, this is where you can view the latest featured films on offer or you can jump in and browse through their library of titles available. If you want to browse what is popular from all the available “Watch Now” movies, you can do that, or you can look through the entire LOVEFiLM library and rate and review a DVD or Blu-ray title as well as add them to your list of titles that you would like posted to you.

So that is pretty much LOVEFiLM in a nutshell, but you are probably reading this to find out what the service is like as a whole? Well it has its good and bad points. The good is that everything just works. Finding your movie or browsing through featured, most popular and highly rated movies is made simple and streaming is instant on a decent Internet connection. Controls to play, pause, stop, fast-forward and rewind your movie are simply done via the PlayStation controller’s face and trigger buttons. So all the basics for a steaming service has been achieved here, but to really excel there are a few things absent here, and luckily all these can be addressed through software updates and changes in the service that is currently offered.

Being fresh out of the gate, it is quite easy to nitpick its user interface and most of all the quality of the movie being steamed. Being a streamed service, the quality is well below that of high definition services, such as HD streams from the PlayStation Video Store and other providers such as iTunes on Apple TV. All “Watch Now” films are in standard definition only, so expect quality on par with DVD when watching on a HD display. If you have an upscaling amplifier between your PS3 and HDTV, then the experience is a little more pleasing on the eye, but only just. Being a compressed file, artifacts will show themselves during fast moving sequences in the film, and it is at these points in the film where the quality of the video starts to become blocky and a bit YouTube-like.

To keep the steam’s file size down, it would be wrong to expect any form of Dolby Digital 5.1 audio source to accompany the standard definition video here; however the quality of the audio is more than acceptable – just don’t expect your amp or 5.1 system to be used to its fullest here. There is certainly room for improvement in this area, and I do hope LOVEFiLM decide to stream HD quality video and audio in its library at some point, and when they do, I hope they include this in the existing subscription to be highly competitive. At a time where HD television channels and movies are beginning to be offered, it seems odd to have seen this option lacking here.

Looking over the interface of the LOVEFiLM browser, there are a few disappointing features, or I should say lack of features here. After a little time with the interface you soon start to crave for even the most basic of movie watching and browsing tasks. The first is having no ability to skip through a film’s chapters, something that would enhance the watching experience. Another niggle is during playback there are only just fast-forward and rewind options, and when these are triggered there is no visual tracking of where in the film you are. Instead you are given a time and only when pressing resume will you know how far forward or back you have searched to.

Some of the user interface could have also been more intuitive. It is quite easy to cancel from a film without any given warning prompt; luckily there is at least a resume function when returning back into the film, but only as long as you are in the same session. This niggle is also present in the menus too, where leaving the search area resets your entry, meaning you have to type it all back in again. Lists are also reset back to the top when returning from viewing a film summary page, instead of keeping your last left position, which can prove frustrating when viewing lists of up to a hundred titles. Being able to edit your postal list is also missing. You can add films to your postal list but there is no way to remove titles or edit them. This is kind of important if you don’t have a computer to edit your list via a desktop browser. Sure there is the PS3 browser, but still, it’s a simple option that is lacking here. These are all small niggles that can be addressed via a patched update, so hopefully we’ll see some of these implemented in the very near future.

Streaming movies online is vastly becoming the main way we absorb our video content, whether it be skits and shorts on YouTube, to watching the latest blockbusters via such services like LOVEFiLM. There are still a lot of people out there that prefer the convenience of owning a physical copy of their movie, so streaming will not be the victor any time soon. But with streaming being a cheap, manageable, and almost pirate-free distribution for movie production companies, and the increase of broadband speeds over the coming years, I can see subscription services like LOVEFiLM soon becoming a common way of watching the latest blockbuster release or classic motion picture from the comfort of your own home.

LOVEFiLM v1.02 reviewed

Anthony Barker

Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.

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