Streaming Goes Art-House Chic

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Back when the laserdisc was the premium home-video format, the Criterion Collection was deemed the go-to label for highest-quality transfers of art house movies. On February 15, 150 Criterion films were released online through Hulu Plus, the $7.99 per month subscription service. Later in the year, the number of titles is expected to grow to 800. A handful of titles will also be available each month from the free Hulu service, though those movies will contain commercial interruptions.

Many of the titles are foreign film masterpieces from such directors as Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Foreign films stream with English subtitles, but subtitles for the hearing-impaired are unavailable in the case of English language-made movies. Criterion hopes to roll out captions for all titles soon, according to a spokesman. The company also plans to add supplementary content, which was a mainstay of its disc-based titles.

High-definition streaming of Criterion Collection films is available in 720p and, depending on the source, in various standard-def resolutions with several different bit-rate options.

Most viewers access Hulu or Hulu Plus through a Windows or Macintosh computer with the Adobe Flash player installed. Increasingly, though, they’re streaming directly through a TV set or a device connected to the TV.

TVs with Hulu Plus include the Sony Bravia EX520 and EX523 Series of LCD-LED sets each in 32-, 40- and 46-inch screen sizes and the Bravia EX720 Series in 32-, 40-, 46- and 55-inch screen sizes. Other devices from Sony include the BDP-S380 and BDP-S480 Blu-ray Disc players, the Sony SMP-N100 Network Media Player with Wi-Fi and the Sony dash Personal Internet Viewer.

Hulu Plus is one of the many applications available on Samsung products that are Samsung Apps-enabled. They include the Samsung 6000 Series of LED-LCD TVs in 32-, 40-, 46- and 55-inch screen sizes and the BD-C6900 and BD-7900 Blu-ray Disc players.

According to D-Link, you can now stream Hulu Plus to the D-Link Boxee media receiver. Meanwhile, manufacturers that have announced their intentions to add Hulu Plus streaming include TiVo with its Premiere DVR; Panasonic and LG with their Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players; and Western Digital with its WD TV Live media players.

You can also stream Hulu Plus to an iPhone 4,3GS (running iOS 4); a 3G- or Wi-Fi iPad; and a 3rd or 4th Generation iPod touch (running iOS 4). Hulu Plus is available at the iTunes App Store.

Unlike a laserdisc, which had to be turned over every 30 minutes, or a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, which typically has to be removed from a jewel case and inserted in a tray each time it’s played, the grand convenience of the streaming Criterion Collection is that you can stay seated indefinitely.