In-Flight Commentary

Published 10 years, 6 months ago

Herewith I present the latest in what can only now be called a series of travel-tip posts.  (The first one, published a couple of years back, was about avoiding jet lag, if that’s of interest.)

I recently came upon a way to while away the lonely hours of a long plane flight and thought I’d share.  Two words: commentary track.  More specifically, listening to the commentary track (or tracks) of a movie you’ve already seen and enjoyed.

How is this better than just watching a movie?  Well, because you’ve seen the movie, you don’t really need to watch it: you can just listen to the commentary.  Thus, you can crank your laptop’s screen brightness down to “off”, thus saving some battery power.  Which you’ll need, thanks to the power required to drive the DVD.  If the commenter says, “Ooo, look here at this bit of the screen”, you just pip the brightness up enough to see what’s going on, and then crank it back down after.

Of course you can rip the movie with the commentary audio track to your hard drive to save the battery even more.  Also, if you’re willing to live without visual reference, you can rip the audio track itself and listen on an iPod.  But honestly, how many of us will go to that level of effort?  It’s a lot easier to bring along a single DVD and pop it into the laptop.  I also like this approach because plane flights are one of the few times when I have enough enforced downtime to get through a whole commentary.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be on one of the newer planes with grounded power outlets, your power worries are moot.  Still, when you have five or six hours ahead of you, a good commentary track or three is a good way to make the time pass more quickly.


  1. Wouldn’t watching from an image on the hard disk save on power, also? Never mind the crypto-legality of doing such a thing in certain jurisdictions, but it seems to me that your hard disk will be in operation, anyway, so why use both it and the optical drive when you can instead just use the one?

  2. Wouldn”t watching from an image on the hard disk save on power, also?

    Um, I touched on that in the fourth paragraph, didn’t I?

  3. I usually spend the largest part of my long-haul flights catching up on mailing lists. You know, the kind where you still have 8579 unread emails – but don’t want to unsubscribe, because every couple of months there’s a good highly technical flame-fest that you actually learn a thing or two from. :)

  4. That’s why I like my Zune, I can cram a few movies on it and the battery lasts forever. I’ve had 4+ hours of video play and 8-10 hours of audio from a single charge.

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