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Old 13 Oct 2011, 01:50 PM   #1
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Default UltraViolet Launched With Little Or No Fanfare

Warner Bros. has soft launched the UltraViolet cloud based "digital copy" system with its 'Horrible Bosses' and 'Green Lantern' Blu-ray releases, something that was promised back in August.

UltraViolet, the Sony backed format, allows consumers to get a cloud stored copy of the movie they just purchased, on DVD or Blu-ray, one that can be downloaded or streamed from all of their portable devices, including their iPhones or iPads, and Android devices. Eventually, smart TVs, game consoles, Blu-ray players and other Internet connected devices will probably support UltraViolet too, allowing you to watch a movie without even inserting the disc, that you just purchased, in.

But apart from the UltraViolet logo that sits on top of the usual "Digital Copy" sticker, it is one potential game changing launch that seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

With UltraViolet being supported by almost all of the Hollywood studios, and some of the largest IT and technology companies, it certainly is strange how little fanfare accompanied the launch. But given the current state of the platform, perhaps it's not surprising at all.

For starters, UltraViolet doesn't yet specify just how movie lovers will actually get access to the cloud stored version of the movie they just purchased, as it has been left up to each studio to determine just how that is done. Warner Bros. has decided to use its recently acquired Flixter service to distribute the movies, meaning people will not only have to enter in the 12-digit redemption code (something familiar to those that have actually bothered with their digital copies before), you also have to download and install the Flixter app to get the cloud based fun started. And where there isn't Flixter, such as on smart TVs or game consoles, UltraViolet does not shine at all.

Sony is also launching UltraViolet soon, using 'The Smurfs' as the launch title in early December, but its UltraViolet redemption process is even more convoluted, requiring users to register and download the digital copy from one of its own websites.

But the positives are there too. For one, it seems studios, well Warner Bros. at least, won't be charging customers extra for UltraViolet, with the 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet/Digital Copy combo for 'Green Lantern' costing the usual $24.99. And all And when enough devices start supporting UltraViolet, and you have to think that a lot of them will given the format's 60 strong consumer electronic partners that include the likes of Panasonic, Sony (of course), Samsung, as well as IT partners Dell, HP, Motorola, then UltraViolet will really take off.
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Old 14 Oct 2011, 01:25 AM   #2
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Dunno, so far I'm ot impressed.

I bought the Blu-Ray/DVD combo of Horrible Bosses and it came with that ultraviolet thing. I was looking for a traditional digital copy, you know, either an iTunes or WMV file I can *ahem* save as an unencrypted file.

With the UltraViolet system, I had to enter the code after signing up for YET ANOTHER ACCOUNT (Sigh, why does every movie studio want my contact information?) only to have to install some Adobe AIR crap that just downloaded an encrypted mp4 file of the movie.
Here's the kicker: You can't play it in any software but their own, which uses Flash of some sort. It's not iTunes encryption, and opening the mp4 in any other player reports it as a broken or invalid file.
I went into settings and told it I preferred WMV format, but yet it still downloaded as mp4

Oh, and when I went into "movies" and clicked Horrible Bosses, it wanted to charge me $14.99 to download it a second time on the same computer.
I had to do a bit of messing around in my web browser and forcing it to tell the software to credit me a download.

So the system seems just like any other stupid DRM-encrypted format, and it's even more annoying as you don't "own" the movie when it says you do. At least with iTunes digital copy, it's tied to your iTunes store account - and if you have the redemption code still, you can easily redeem it as many times as you want to get the movie again (provided it's the same account). I'm not sure if it'll add it to the list of purchased items, now that the newest versions of iTunes let you redownload your purchases.


As for devices "accepting" UltraViolet, it's always been easier for me to just get the iTunes file and *ahem* store it as unencrypted mp4... haven't come across a smartphone that won't play standard mp4 files...
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Old 14 Oct 2011, 01:44 AM   #3
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Thanks for the first hand report - the system Warner are employing, via Flixster, seems like more trouble than it's worth. At the moment at least.

Ideally, UltraViolet should work exactly like Digital Copy did before for downloads, but also add streaming capabilities. I'm sure there's a better way than manually inputting a 12-digit code (a QR code scan comes to mind, at least for mobile devices with cameras), although I think the need to create an account is unavoidable. What UltraViolet needs is to link up with existing streaming/download services such as Netflix and iTunes, or implement its own centralised system, as opposed to each studio having their own (and users having to log on to each separately - which will be a nightmare!).
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Old 14 Oct 2011, 04:13 AM   #4
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Yeah, my Blu-Ray came with a code. The problem with a QR code is that they really just store text, and I could just as easily scan one and then use a QR code creator site to share it with everybody else who could then get a free digital copy.

Unless they made each QR code have a unique code, which basically is the same as having to type it in. In fact, some of the Digital Copy movies I've gotten recently (I can't remember which studio, was it Universal?) had the digital copy redemption sheet have both a plain-text code and a barcode you can scan with a phone. It wasn't a QR code, but the multi-colored kind (I think it's Microsoft's implementation of QR codes?)
The codes were part of some PocketBlu app, or something very similar for other studios.

Yet another studio had an impressive Digital Copy offer (either Paramount or Universal, can't remember which)... the problem is that unlike WB and Fox, where you can use the same code to get both iTunes and WMV versions, it was strictly one-time use... but anyway, they offered FOUR versions instead of just two.
It had the traditional iTunes and Windows Media, but you could also choose to unlock it on Amazon Video on Demand (I'd imagine it would add it as a purchased video to your account, I couldn't try it due to the one-time use thing) and the fourth option was something called VUDU.

But yeah, I agree. If I could link my UltraViolet account up to iTunes, and download my supposedly included copy of Horrible Bosses through iTunes, that would be infinitely more useful to me than some Flash-based app. What I like about the Windows Media versions of the Digital Copy is that I don't have to make an account (Warner kept asking me to for their newer titles but always gave the option not to) so I can just type the code in, get my file, and be done with it. And since I already use iTunes, that wasn't too big of a deal either.
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Old 14 Oct 2011, 12:00 PM   #5
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I think each code is unique, so you can't really share it with anyone. Would be cool if they were able to integrate UltraViolet with the PS3/Blu-ray players, and you insert the disc, and it gives you the option to redeem the movie using am unique code stored on the disc.

The problem is that Amazon and Apple, I think, haven't really signed up to UltraViolet, so that's the two biggest players missing. But the studios can get back into the game if they unite and choose one single delivery platform, and get the playback app out to every device it can (especially the game consoles, iOS/Android, and on Internet connected TVs and Blu-ray players), in the same way Netflix has managed to "infect" everything. I think they can do it, since they have enough consumer electronic partners, but the usual Hollywood greed will be their own stumbling block (as each studio want to use UltraViolet to promote their own delivery platform, Warner with Flixster for example - it all ends up benefiting Apple and Amazon and their cloud storage service, in the long run).
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Old 14 Oct 2011, 06:16 PM   #6
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Well right now, the UltraViolet downloads don't use iTunes at all. I don't know who actually provides the hosting, but when you download it, it's a DRM-encrypted mpeg-4 file that doesn't play in anything, literally, except their own Adobe AIR based player.

Quote:
Would be cool if they were able to integrate UltraViolet with the PS3/Blu-ray players, and you insert the disc, and it gives you the option to redeem the movie using am unique code stored on the disc.
Sony actually did something like this with District 9 and other films a few years ago. It still had the traditional one-time-use code on a sheet of paper inside the case, but you could put the disc in a PS3 and along with the movie, an option would pop up to transfer the file. I've got 2012 and District 9 on my PS3 in that form. Both of them are "Digital Copy for PSP", so they're relatively low-quality... but they do play back on the PS3 perfectrly fine and don't need the disc inserted to play.

Problem with Digital Copy is that every studio does their own thing. It's relatively annoying. I refuse to pay extra for it, since I can make my own "digital copies" anyway... but it's nice to have it show up in my iTunes library as well so I can potentially redownload it later.
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