Entertainment Internet

How to Check the Quality of a Movie Before Downloading

Dan Price Updated 17-12-2019

Checking the quality of a movie means two different things: the literal quality of the copy you’re downloading, and the critical quality of the movie itself. In this article we help you check both.

When you download films from the web, you’ll find yourself faced with a long list of confusing terms and acronyms about the movie quality. Telecine, workprint, WEBDL… what does it all mean? How can you make sure you end up with a watchable version of the movie you want?

And what about the other definition of movie quality? At the very least, you should always check critics’ and cinema-goers’ reviews. This will help you avoid the wasted time and bandwidth of downloading bad movies.

Keep reading to learn more about how to check movie quality. We’re going to explain what all of the terms mean, and then look at the best sites for checking movie ratings.

Movie Quality Ranking

We begin with the literal quality of movie downloads. We’ll work through the various formats in reverse order, starting the worst quality and ending with the highest.

Depending on the site you use, this information can pop up in a few different places. It might be in the file name, in an adjacent information box, or in the NFO file (more on that later). Remember, you can often download the NFO file without downloading the entire movie if you cannot find the information anywhere else.


A workprint is a pre-release version of a movie. It’s akin to a first draft in writing terms—it’s not a finished product. You might find pre-dubbed sound, placeholders, missing special effects, and other issues.


Cam quality refers to a copy of a movie that someone has created by filming the screen in a movie theater using a recording device. The copies are normally illegal and suffer from low quality. Avoid.


Like cam quality, telesync movies have been illegally recorded in the movie theater itself. However, unlike cam quality, people use professional recording equipment to make the recording. Usually, the recording takes place in the projection booth.


The first semi-decent quality movie format worth downloading is Telecine. They are created using old Telecine machines, which can produce digital copies of movies from analog film reels. The movie quality is slightly worse than DVD thanks to lower-quality source reels.


DVDscr is short for DVD Screener. It is a copy of a DVD that the studio has sent out for promotional purposes. Because it’s a copy of a promotional DVD, it will not contain the usual DVD extras such as director’s cuts and additional scenes. It might contain serial numbers, counters, and other information on the screen.


SDTV is a copy of a movie that’s been created from a TV recording. It is part of a wider TVRip category. Depending on where the recording was made, it will either be in 576i (North America and parts of South America) or 480i (rest of the world) resolution.


Now we are moving onto the best movie quality rankings. DVD copies come in two forms, DVD-Rip and DVD-R.

A DVD-Rip is a final retail version of a movie, but it will not have all the extras that you typically get on a DVD. DVD-R versions are copies of entire DVDs; you will get the extras. As a consequence of the extra material, DVD-R versions of films are often 5GB or more in size.

Read our list of the best tools for ripping DVDs The 11 Best Tools for Ripping DVDs and Blu-rays to Your Computer Here are the best tools for ripping DVDs and Blu-rays so you can digitize all of your media without any hassle. Read More if you would like to learn more.


WEBDL copies of movies have been ripped directly from a streaming service or downloaded from an online digital store like iTunes or Amazon.

To check the quality of a WEBDL movie before downloading it, pay attention to the accompanying resolution information. There are four common WEBDL resolutions: 480p, 720p, 1080p, and 2160p. 480p and 720p are the most common.


As the name suggests, Blu-ray quality movies have been created from Blu-ray discs. Once again, you will come across several different resolutions. They are 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080p, and 2160p. Blu-ray movies in 480p, 576p, and 720p have been manually encoded to a lower resolution than the original source in order to make the file size smaller.


Alongside SDTV, HDTV is the other movie quality format to fall under the TVRip umbrella. The source for an HDTV movie is HD television. Most cable providers will broadcast in 1080p; however, many HDTV movies are encoded to 360p, 540p, or 720p, so are not full HD movie downloads.


A raw-HD movie download uses uncompressed HD footage. The resolution can vary, but the video is completely lossless. Raw-HD recordings typically come from the studio. A resolution indicator might sometimes accompany a Raw-HD download. If there is no resolution indicator, it is often better to select a different format to ensure you get a full HD movie download.

(NB: The exact wording and formatting of the movie quality information will vary from site-to-site. Make sure you fully research a site’s terms for movie quality before downloading anything to avoid disappointment.)

Where to Check Movie Ratings

We now move onto the critical quality of movies. And in the world of movie ratings, there are three big sites worth checking: Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDb.

1. Metacritic

Metacritic movie ratings

Metacritic gives each movie a score out of 100 based on an aggregate of scores from dozens of other reviewers, sites, newspapers, and blogs. For each aggregated score, there’s a link to the original review so you can read it in full. The scores are also categorized into positive, mixed, and negative. It gives you an easy way to tell whether a couple of outliers have influenced the overall average.

Separate from the critic reviews, Metacritic also has user reviews. When you click on a movie, you can give a score of 1-10 with a single click. Like the critic’s reviews, you can see an average of all user scores.

2. Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes movie quality

Rotten Tomatoes uses its “Tomatometer” to let you know whether a movie is worth watching. When at least 60 percent of reviews are positive, a movie gets a red tomato and is considered “Fresh”. If the score falls below 60 percent, it gets a green splat and a “Rotten” rating.

The highest accolade is “Certified Fresh”. A movie gets that top rating when it scores above 75 percent and has at least five reviews from “Top Critics”.

As on Metacritic, audience scores and reviews are also available.

3. IMDb

IMDb movie ranking

Lastly, you should check out IMDb. The scores on IMDb are entirely user-generated; every film has a rating out of 10. All you need to do to add your own rating is register on the site.

IMDb typically has the most audience reviews from the three sites, so you can be more confident that the average score you’re seeing is representative of the movie’s true quality.

More Movie Metadata to Check

Making sure you have a high-quality movie is only half of the battle. There are lots of other bits of movie metadata you also need to keep an eye on if you want to make sure you download the best version of the video for your needs:

  • Date: The date of the movie’s original release. Useful in the case of remakes, trilogies, and films that share the same name.
  • Languages: A list of which language audio tracks are available in the download.
  • Subtitles: A list of available subtitles in various languages.
  • Genres: Which category does the movie fall into?
  • JPG: Many movie downloads will include at least one JPG file. It is a screen capture of the movie and helps you to ensure you are grabbing the right file.
  • NFO: An NFO file might contain some of the details we’ve already discussed, as well as information about the video bitrate, audio bitrate, codecs, screen resolution, and more. You can often download an NFO file separately from the main movie file. You should do so if a movie’s resolution is not apparent from the format information.

Beware of Movie Piracy

As should be apparent from reading the article, many of the movie quality formats are most commonly found when downloading pirated material. It’s improbable that you will ever stumble across a legitimate cam recording or WEBDL format, for example.

MakeUseOf does not condone piracy. Remember, downloading pirated movies could land you in serious trouble with the authorities. You have been warned.

If you would like to learn more about legally downloading films to watch, make sure you read our article detailing how to download movies and TV shows from Netflix How to Download Movies and TV Shows on Netflix If you want to download movies or shows on Netflix to watch while traveling, commuting, or just when you're out of range of a Wi-Fi signal, here's how to do it. Read More .

Related topics: BitTorrent, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hariharakumar
    January 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I have found out the other way to check the quality of the movie. Check this out

    [Broken Link Removed]

    • Mubashir
      November 6, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Freefilmy.in is bast

  2. Tera
    March 23, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I am used to downloading films from rapidshare using one of its SEs rapidqueen.com/ . It is true that sometimes the films' quality leaves much to be desired, but nothing doing - these are disadvantages of free web services...

  3. Nasim
    January 4, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    There should be option to check the movie quality before download, other after downloading those 1GB+ movies we will be unable to enjoy the quality.

  4. Kimi
    December 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    is anyone else having problems trying to go to vcdquality.com??

    • Psilocybin
      December 28, 2008 at 11:38 am

      It's rumored to taken down... I hope it isn't.

  5. pHo
    October 4, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    The scene had next to no security 5 years ago, these days following busts you'd think it'd be sorted out. But no, the amount of clueless kids with axx is ridiculous, and if you think anyone has ever been busted over information provided on iSONEWS, VCDQ, NFOrce etc then you're insanely naive. You think sites providing release data are the reason every torrent tracker on the net has films just past, 0sec then you're retarded.

  6. st0n3y
    October 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    lont, stop being over dramatic. vcdq is not going to get these guys in grps caught. Its not like it leads the mpaa to the top site where these groups affil. So take a chill pill bro, we all know your prolly the first person to check vcdq for new releases. So stfu bro. Your prolly just some stupid racer kid who thinks he's cool cause your on a 1-2 hour pre site.

    • Simon Slangen
      October 4, 2008 at 5:57 pm

      Lets keep it low on the flaming bro.
      Perspectives differ. We can try to argument our positions, but opinions are never 'right' or 'wrong'. ;)

  7. karl
    October 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    If you are downloading winrar compatible archive file types you can extract a sample from the first couple of files:

    Just right click on the first file and select "extract files...", make sure you check "keep broken files" in the dialog box. (If click "save settings" you dont ever have to select this again and you can use "extract here" next time.)

    Winrar will extract the file and tell you "next volume is required", just hit "cancel", then "close" the diagnostics messages window.

    Open the file with vlc (vlc may ask if you want to fix the file, just say no).

  8. Syngenetic
    October 4, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Pretty neat guide. Was always looking for this. Nice tip once again!

    Syngenetic, CoderScripts.com

  9. lone
    October 4, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    amen lont

  10. lont
    October 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    VCDQuality and sites like it need to be obliterated off the face of the internet. The scene is already insecure as it is, and the last thing it needs is more publicity. When you've got a blog describing scene rules and it's one of the more popular stories on Digg, you know you've got a problem. Go back to p2p and leave the scene what it should be: private.

    • Simon Slangen
      October 4, 2008 at 4:13 pm

      P2P stands on the foundation of a community; it's 'for the people, by the people'. If you rid it from what you call 'more publicity', and make it 'private, you're in fact destroy its very essence.

      • lont
        October 4, 2008 at 5:41 pm

        I want to destroy its essence. People in the scene risk a lot by participating and only gain more exposure by sites like this. The average Joe shouldn't be able to download a pirated film with a few clicks, it's ridiculous. Don't confuse my stance with elitism, you want access? Contribute. You have nothing to contribute or don't want to? No loss.

        • Simon Slangen
          October 4, 2008 at 5:51 pm

          I get what you're meaning and I agree with you to some degree.

          I admire the people in the scene who risk with no aim for personal gain and frown at all those freeleechers. For this reason, the private tracker system should indeed be applied more broadly.

          However, I don't think we should make a taboe out of p2p.

  11. 800HighTech
    October 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Of course not all downloads come with samples or .jpgs, and even if they do, some are not the same as the quality as the video.

    The NFO is usually included but even the info contained in this can be false.

    Nevertheless, this guide is very useful for those who didn't know....

    I would also advise reading the torrent comments and downloading rips from trusted uploaders....

    Great article, keep up the good work...

  12. hydr0san
    October 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Scene releases come with sample files, VCDQ just takes JPGs from those files :)

  13. design
    October 3, 2008 at 9:24 am

    g-- i don't know how many times i've accidentally wasted so much time downloading movies filmed on a dinky camcorder in theaters.

  14. haider_up32
    October 2, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    imdb doesnt provide much info..wikipedia is good...aXXO rocks ...check opensubitles.org for sub availability den pick a pirate

    • Simon
      October 3, 2008 at 4:04 am

      The best thing about IMDB (in my opinion) are the pretty harsh ratings. I find them a lot more objective compared to other websites.

  15. uuzi
    October 2, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    yeah forgot about that, using vlc is probably the best way to go when downloading from a fileshare service like emule or some bittorrent trackers who havent got the releases in their scene format (rar's) but have the decompressed avi file instead.

    btw: nice overview over the possibilities though, keep up the nice work MUO

    • Simon
      October 3, 2008 at 4:03 am

      Thanks for the rectification uuzi. I must point out that most releases on VCD Quality contain a JPG file, though.

  16. Dead End
    October 2, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    In addition to uuzi's highly accurate corrections, not all releases come with samples. using VLC to watch partially downloaded files is handy when forced to download a release without a sample.

  17. Greg
    October 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Oh man, I can't even remember how many times I patiently waited for movie to finish dwonloading just to find out how crappy the picture was.

    • Simon
      October 3, 2008 at 4:05 am

      So. True.

  18. uuzi
    October 2, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Furthermore, there usually is no JPG included in a scene-release. scene-rules state that there has to be an nfo, a sfv, and rar's of 15/50/100mb and a sample. a JPG is not required and therefore is mostly not available. Sometimes releasegroups include JPG's in their PROPER releases, in order to show ivtc/aspect ratio flaws in the release propered. but this also is not required by scene-rules.

    Bets way to check for the actual quality of the movie, is by downloading the sample and looking at the releasename.

    greetz uuzi

  19. uuzi
    October 2, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    R5 doesnt have a counter oder watermarks whatsoever, R5 stands for Region Code 5 and its source is a DVD released BEFORE official release in china/russia in order to fight the common pirate copys there. the dvd release has got no extra features like making of or so and it comes mostly without an proper DVD-Box. But it is an official release by the movie industry.

    greetz uuzi