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Ultraviolet Digital Copy Review – Can it Be the iTunes Copy for the Rest of Us?

Victor B. Oct 20, 2011 12

The Green Lantern Blu-ray starring Ryan Reynolds may not be the best movie of the year, but it will be significant in one aspect: it is arguably the highest profile movie – so far to carry the Ultraviolet Digital Copy.  For the most part in the past, if a disc release had a digital copy included, it would be an iTunes version that would only work in iTunes on a Mac or PC, and on iOS devices.  Some also included Windows Media Plays for Sure versions as well, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that those may not have been as much of a selling point for the physical copy.

Personally, as an iPod Touch owner having the digital copy on a Blu-ray release greatly helps my decision on whether to get the basic Blu-ray only edition or the combo pack with the Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy.  After spending that much money on a movie, of course I want the option to watch it on whatever device I want to – as long as its an iOS device.

Unfortunately, I most of my other portable devices don’t fall in the iOS camp.  Is buying a combo pack smart then if I also have Android devices?  Enter the competition to Apple’s DRM.  This year, we saw the introduction of PocketBlu, which I have stated in previous podcasts had potential but the execution was lacking immensely in ease of use, which Apple has covered, hence the easy and quick adoption.  And now this month, we start to see Ultraviolet enter the market.  Is it the answer?  The one DRM to rule them all?

First a little background on Ultraviolet.  It was developed by The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a consortium that has most of the Hollywood studios behind it, except Disney – go figure.  What makes Ultraviolet different from the iTunes ecosystem is that 1. it promises to be available to more devices possibly including iOS devices, and 2. your list of movies will be on the cloud, making them available on whatever compatible device you want it on, and 3. it will be more convenient for households or families.

Here’s an example: I have a family with 2 kids, Android phones, computers and an iPod Touch(or iPad), and a game console.  If I purchase a Blu-ray that also contains an Ultraviolet digital copy, I would just log into the Ultraviolet service, enter in the code included in the package, and the movie would be added to my Ultraviolet collection.  I can then go to my devices and access the website or the app and in most cases download the movie to the device, to be watched anytime, on up to 11 devices.  Currently Apple allows content to go on up to 5 devices.

Sounds really good right?  I was pretty excited when I heard about this technology especially that most of the movie industry is behind it.  So how was the execution?  Hang on for this, its may be a bumpy ride.

Inside the Green Lantern disc packaging there is an insert with directions for redeeming your digital copy:

1. Go to the website ultraviolet.flixster.com/greenlantern

2. Create a Flixster and Ultraviolet account

3. Enter the code provided.

Wait, I need to create two accounts?  Ok, well at least they let you use your Facebook login, but all that does is link it to your account, you still need to create the accounts with an email and password.  Once in, you see the movie you just redeemed in your collection on the Flixster website.  As a bonus with the Green Lantern movie, you also get the great animated movie Green Lantern:Emerald Knights.  Definitely a good bonus.

So now you have an Ultraviolet account that holds your movies, a Flixster account to allow you to watch the movies and manage your household account.  But if you want to watch the movie on your computer, you have to download the Flixster Collections app to your computer.  This is where another layer of confusion comes in.  Once downloaded, you are already logged into the Flixster account, but if you exit the Flixster Collections app and return needing to log in, you may find that your username and password do not work.  That is because Flixster Collections is a totally different service that needs it’s own user name and password!  Surprise!  This could be because the Flixster Collections app was recently purchased by Warner Bros.  Already I’m tired and I’ve wasted a lot of time just trying to get this movie.

Flixster app home

The Flixster App's home screen

After all that, I tried watching the movie after downloading and the quality is comparable to an iTunes digital copy, it is not in HD but I wasn’t expecting it to be, so the technology works pretty good on the computer.

The next test is trying to put it on a portable device.  Here would be another point of confusion.  The Flixster app is available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry, and it is a pretty nifty app that allows you to see what new movies are out and trailers, etc.  But the ability to watch your Ultraviolet movies is not available on all devices yet.  If you were wondering the list of compatible devices is here.  Luckily, for this review I have an HTC Thunderbolt which is one of the supported devices.

Flixster collections GL

Flixster Collections

The Movies app by Flixster gives you the ability to log in using Facebook as well, and if your phone is already logged in to Facebook, then pressing the Facebook icon gets you access to your Flixster account.  My collection showed up immediately and I tried streaming one of the movies over 4G.  It started playing for a few seconds, then just buffers for a long time.  I moved to wifi and the stream moved a lot snappier, but it has to buffer the movie before starting.  The video quality looked good over wifi and the stream stayed consistent, no pixelization or stuttering.  Scrubbing through the movie works, although a buffering box shows up over the film even while playing.  I was not able to find any way to download the film from the Movies app.

So is it worth it?  I believe despite the turmoil of having to create all these accounts, the idea of having your movies available to you no matter the device you choose is something that needs to succeed.  Overall the quality works for mobile devices, and pretty much just needs users to jump through less hoops to start.  Once logged in however, the experience is great in that the Flixster app gives you more than just access to your movies, you get services similar to Fandango and IMDB where you can see what movies are playing in your area and info on new movies.  As time goes on with this service, what would help make it more useful is having it available on more platforms, including consoles.

VIA PC MAG

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryanflores9 Ryan Flores

    Wow. Well written

  • Joshua Sutton

    Can you watch the downloaded copy on an Android tablet? I'm just thinking of times when I'm not around WiFi..