Let me insert a caveat here at the beginning: I am not going to delve into the legality (or lack thereof) of streaming vs. downloading; I’m sure any reader of this post will already be familiar with such matters. This isn’t a post that’s intended to convince you that one is better than the other, or that you should do this instead of that. This is simply an explanation of how I choose to watch dramas and why.
From the get-go I’ve been a downloader. When I started watching Japanese dramas about 6 years ago, the only options I had were to download the dramas or use one of the streaming sites. The streaming sites typically had low quality videos and there was always the risk of broken links, missing parts, etc. Plus all the garbage ads and such that cluttered the page. I was also influenced by the Jdrama subbing groups. Most of them hard-subbed the dramas and were constantly reminding downloaders that they did not want their subbed videos to be uploaded to streaming sites.
A lot has changed since then. Streaming is a much more viable option now, though I mainly use it when I’m watching a currently airing drama – and then the honor typically goes to Viki because they are usually the fastest and because they don’t “Americanize” the subs like DramaFever does.
But even with drastically improved streaming services, downloading is still my preferred method for one simple reason – convenience. Streaming requires a fairly fast internet connection and is affected by all the random things that can affect anything you do online. And I do not always have an internet connection when I want to watch a drama. I’m in a situation where I have the freedom to watch dramas (or read, or cross-stitch, or whatever) while I’m at work. But I don’t have internet access there. So to watch a drama at work, it has to be downloaded so I can take my laptop (or my kindle now that I have one).
Having downloaded dramas makes it easier to share the joy with others. My daughter’s friend lives in the boonies and only has dial-up (the only other option where she lives is satellite internet and her parents think it’s too expensive). So I burn DVDs for her which she can then watch on her computer. That’s just one example of many.
And let’s face it: the streaming sites simply can’t carry everything. And if you’ve been around on the internet long enough, you know just how quickly things can change or disappear entirely. Downloading gives me insurance against sites going down or specific dramas no longer being offered. I’m also able to watch high definition versions as opposed to the lower quality videos offered by most streaming sites.
Of course there’s a downside to downloading as well. I need subtitles to go with the raw videos, and sometimes they can be hard to find. Sometimes the subs are timed to a different video than what I have downloaded – this often happens when I download a high def version of an older drama. I’ve taught myself how to re-time subs so that I don’t have to sacrifice video quality.
I’ve had my share of hard drive crashes and data loss. After six years, I have so much time and effort invested in my dramas that I don’t want to risk losing them if my laptop dies. So I store dramas on two external hard drives then burn them on DVDs. I create labels and organize the DVDs in large binders. I have one binder full of Kdramas; another large binder is half full of Jdramas and TW dramas. I have a small binder for movies.
A neat thing I discovered a couple of years ago is that some blu-ray players will play avi, mp4, and mkv video files, and also support srt subtitle files. I’m able to watch many of my downloaded dramas on my TV because of this.
If I was a wealthy person, I would happily buy the official DVD sets of all the dramas I love. I hope that one day I’ll be financially able to do so. But even if I could afford to buy the official DVDs, I would probably still download because the subtitle quality of the official DVDs – if it actually has English subs – usually sucks.
I wonder if I could get a job editing subtitles for drama DVDs….