Now Playing on a Monitor Near You

SAN FRANCISCO (05/05/2000) - My girlfriend left town this weekend, so rather than hit the movie theater solo, I sat down at the computer--to watch a film.

I ponied up $6, put some popcorn in the microwave, and checked out The Quantum Project, billed as the "first direct-to-Internet movie." The digital flick, a $3 million science fiction short that premieres Friday, stars Stephen Dorff (also seen in the movie Blade) as a quantum physicist.

The producers are apparently confident that an audience is willing to buy and watch movies on the Net. They executed the project with high production value and hired known actors. John Cleese is probably the most recognizable star, although he doesn't get much screen (monitor?) time.

To watch the movie, you'll need the Microsoft Windows Media Player. The movie opens in a window that's about five inches wide, or you can change an option to view it at full screen. The smaller version displays quite well, but the full screen is too pixelated and distracting to watch for any length of time.

Warning: Take Your Time

Even over a cable modem, downloading the high resolution version of The Quantum Project took more than 15 minutes at around 200KB per second. The movie is 164MB in size, and no steaming version is available. To save time, I could have chosen the standard resolution version, which is about half the file size and costs $2 less.

Once I'd downloaded the entire file, I had to unzip it into a folder on my hard drive. Once it was unzipped, I double-clicked to open the movie, which launched my browser and whisked me to a Web page where I entered my credit card information. Once payment was authorized, the movie started.

It Looks Good, But

The entire project was filmed using a digital camcorder, the Panasonic DVCPRO50. The result is excellent, as it appears to be near-film quality.

But like most "direct-to" movies, the plot here is a bit thin. The film relies a bit too heavily on special effects to impress its audience. In addition, some may say a $6 movie is a bit pricey for its running time of 32 minutes.

I think I'd rather watch a full-length DVD, at half the cost and twice the quality. Or I'll hit an early matinee and eat stale popcorn. No quantum leap, this.

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