Disney · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

iTunes Rental and Audio Description Review

I hear a lot of flak given to Apple products nowadays, and especially, iTunes.  Honestly, I don’t understand why, because a lot of the reasons – the DRM protection, only able to use it on one device – is rather cross platform for any sort of digital media.  I don’t use it too much, but if I want to buy something digitally, I tend to use iTunes as an option because it’s nice to have the software just right on my computer for me to open and browse the store.
My main reason for keeping iTunes when I rarely use it however, is the sheer amount of audio description content that is on iTunes.  It far trumps Netflix, and you can actually own the things with said audio description if you’re so inclined.  I’m not one for buying movies and TV shows, but I’ve been wanting to try the audio description features, and iTunes rentals, for a long time and have a lot of movies I’ve been wanting to watch, since I don’t really go to the movies and pretty much I haven’t seen a loooot of stuff from the past six years or so.


So, put your hands together!  This will be a review of both the iTunes rentals and how it works, and the audio description on iTunes, and how it works.  Let’s get into it!


The Rental Process


Renting on iTunes is just like buying anything else on iTunes.  Search for the title, and results will pop up.  You can also just sift through categories, but what’s the fun in that unless you want to just hunt down something you may not have known existed before for a good watch.  For me, I’m very behind in my Disney and Pixar watching, and had seen a review about it recently critiquing it a bit harshly, so I wanted to see what all the hub bub was about Brave and decided to rent that.  I enjoyed it far more than I expected, if you’re wondering, but that’s another topic for another post.


So I searched for Brave in the iTunes store, and went to the page.  It has two options:  To buy, or to rent.  Buy is the first option, and the far more expensive option, and rent is underneath it.  Underneath all of the buying functions, there’s an HD and SD option for the quality of the video.  I want to point this out especially to blind and visually impaired viewers, because SD is 1 dollar less.  If you don’t have enough vision to see the graphics and animation of the movie, I’d suggest saving the extra dollar and getting the SD quality.  Every penny counts, right?



After that you’re prompted to buy the media, if you have the prompt set in your preferences.  Then buy it, and you’re good to go!  If you go back to the movie page, then it shows you how many days you have left to watch the movie.  Go into your iTunes library, check movies, and pick Rentals, and bam your rental is there!  A very easy process, if I do say so myself.  I had to reset up my iTunes account so it took a bit longer, but when actually having everything setup, renting was a breeze.


Playing and Watching the Movie


Go down to the section where all of your movies are when you’re ready to play it.  If you’ve left that section selected and closed iTunes, it will still be on that tab which is nice.  There’s a section that says “Grid” and that’s where the movie is.  You have the option to simply play the movie, which is streaming it via iCloud, or to download it, which gets it directly to your hard drive, so you can watch it offline.  I didn’t do download, so I assume that’s what it does, correct me if I’m wrong.


It’s pretty straight forward from there, hit play, the movie takes a while to load, then play. The movie has its own window independent from iTunes, so you can use all the normal media controls over there.  I didn’t want to chance anything until the credits, but I played around with it when it got there and hitting pause or rewind and fast forward does nothing to affect your rental.  I rented something from iTunes a loooong time ago, and that wasn’t the case before, so it was nice to see they had fixed that with the new version of rentals.


How Rentals Work After Playing Them

This is another feature of rentals that wasn’t here when I rented before, but you don’t only get to watch the movie once, which is nice.  When you go to hit play, a pop up dialogue shows up and says “If you start playing this, you’ll have 48 hours to watch the movie.  Are you sure you want to play?”.  Hit yes, and you get to watch the movie as many times as you want within that 48 hour period.  I’m not one to watch a movie more than once, but I just thought it was a nice feature.  Like I said, I really did like Brave, so I’m tempted to watch it again before I lose it in my rental library.


Before you hit play, you have 30 days to watch the movie.  If you hit play is when the 48 hours start, so if you just don’t have time to watch something and rented it, you have 30 days to do so before you lose it.  I personally don’t rent a movie unless I know I’m going to watch it soon, but figured I’d mention it for anyone who has a busy life and wants to make sure they have ample time to watch a movie rental.


Audio Description


Now for what I was most excited to try, the audio description feature!  iTunes has made it really easy to make sure you know something has audio description before you buy it.  On the movie or TV show page, it has an icon that says “AD” on it, underneath where it would say if it has closed captions.  This makes it really easy to see if you get audio description, when on other platforms like Google Play, when I’ve looked to see if movies had audio description, it was impossible to see if something had it or not.  iTunes has the info right up in your face, so there’s no if, ands or buts to whether or not it has audio description – see AD, and you’re good.  Knowing what companies do audio description on their media helps tons too:  I picked a movie from the Disney conglomerate of media, because I know they all have audio description.  So you’re pretty much safe if you want to watch a Marvel, Disney, or Pixar movie.


To make sure audio description plays when you start streaming your movie, first go into Edit:  Preferences.  There’s an option that you check that says “Play audio description when available” and all you have to do is check that, and it works on your PC or Mac.  Keep in mind, I did all of this on the PC, so your experience  may be different, depending on what sort of device you’re using.  For me, I had no issues on the PC simply checking the box, hitting ok, and having it work when I streamed the movie.  I made sure to double check preference’s just in case, but I’m the cautious type.  Absolutely no issues with the audio description not working throughout the entire movie, and no issues with the movie stopping midway or anything:  was a 100 percent smooth experience, and I really enjoyed every part of the process.




Final Thoughts


A few things I’d like to mention that I couldn’t fit in some categories are the volume of the movie.  I thought it was a bit low, and that’s a major pet peeve of mine.  It wasn’t hard to hear without headphones with nothing on, but if you were say, doing housework and wanted to have a movie on while working, you’d have to hook it up to some sort of Bluetooth speaker to be able to hear it with any sort of volume.  I had everything maxed out and it was still kind of annoying how low the movie was, but not enough for me to feel the need to put on headphones.  I watched it in bed, so was rather chill and doing nothing while doing so, but if you like to multi task take that into consideration.
The audio description was very well done.  There are a lot of visual things in Brave, and the way the audio description described it, paired with the audio of the movie really made the mannerisms of a certain character come to life in my mind.  Whoever Disney Pixar uses, their studio is great and I can’t wait to watch more.  Next on my list is Coco, really can’t wait to catch up with what I’ve missed animation wise.


I hope that if you don’t like iTunes, or don’t use it, this review lets you see one of the benefits to doing so.  For blind users, I hope this info is useful to you if you’ve been on the fence about trying iTunes audio description, and to sighted users, I hope this was interesting information to read!