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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
I watched the workprint of “Blade Runner” for the first time last night and it might be… my favorite version of the movie? Anyone else feel that way? (This is the best use of Twitter)
— Paul Rust (@paulrust) February 13, 2019
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 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.
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 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.
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.