iTunes gives you the option of buying in high definition, but all HD downloads are set at 720p HD by default. Luckily, changing this to 1080p Full HD is easy.
If iTunes has an HD version available in 1080p Full HD, you’ll be able to download that title in the highest resolution.
When you’ve found the movie or TV show that you want, before clicking ‘buy’, scroll down to to the middle of the page where you’ll see a section titled ‘Information.’ This is normally found underneath the section for ‘Cast and Crew’.
Here you’ll find information about the film or episodes you’re downloading, including runtime, format (widescreen or 4:3) and how big the file sizes are.
Here’s where you’ll also be able to change the default resolution from 720p HD to full fat 1080p.
Simply click the link that says ‘Downloading 720p’. The Store Preferences menu should then pop up. Check the box marked ‘Download full-size HD videos’ and that’s it, you’re good to go.
One other thing to keep in mind is Playback settings. Whilst you’ve got the Preferences menu open, click on the Playback icon and select ‘High Definition (1080p)’ from the Preferred Video Version drop down:
This ensures that your purchases will play back in the highest possible resolution after download.
If you’re paying back iTunes on older devices or TVs with lower resolutions, you can pick standard definition (720 x 576) and 720p HD from this same menu.
Why does Apple offer movies in SD and 720p?
The reason that iTunes offers 720p HD versions by default is out of consideration for folks with older displays that can’t properly support 1080p content. It’s not, as you might think, down to file sizes. In fact, Apple compresses its 1080p Full HD files to the extent that the files sizes are actually a little smaller than their 720p equivalents.
Whichever resolution you download high definition iTunes purchases in, they’re going to take up a lot of space.
Your average 90 minute movie will weigh in around 3-4GB. By contrast, the extended version of the first Lord of the Rings film for example is 8.59GB. All three hours and and 47 minutes of the restored version edition of Lawrence of Arabia is a chunky 9.08GB.
In the example above, we’re downloading a copy of Whiplash in 1080p Full HD. This will take up 4.27GB of hard drive space compared to the 1.83GB a standard definition copy would make. You can see how quickly you’ll need some extra room if you want to keep movies kicking about on your hard drives.
Those of you on crusty old Internet connections and capped data plans, which would make downloading a Full HD movie a labourious (and potentially expensive) experience.
Apple says that a typical two hour movie in SD could take around two hours to download on 1Mbps of bandwidth while the same film in HD would take around four and a half to six hours.
At peak times, when contention hits broadband networks, you could be in for a long wait on a slow line if you’re downloading content in HD.
You might want to stick with SD versions until you’ve got a bit more breathing room – and a faster Internet connection.