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UltraViolet for iOS: how to make the most of your digital movies

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Digital movie libraries were once located solely on the hard drive of one’s computer. Occasionally DVDs came with either an iTunes or a Windows Media file to unlock. Now you get redemption codes that will add movies to a cloud based movie library of the seller’s choice, not yours. The chances of maintaining an iTunes only approach to your cloud based movie collection dwindles with each new release.

iTunes Digital Copy

The trend with new movie releases seems to be heading exclusively towards Ultraviolet digital copies. As an example, the Lords of the Ring collection I purchased just last year came with a digital copy that is now part of my iTunes library whereas The Hobbit’s digital copy has found its way into an UltraViolet library. It seems like Bilbo and Frodo have different destinies after all.

The following will look at the different ways of obtaining a digital copy of a movie as well as how accessible each cloud based movie library is when it comes to watching the movie on various Apple devices.

UltraViolet Digital Copy

UltraViolet Apple TV AirPlay

Flixster is just one of many retailers that support access to your UltraViolet movie collection in the cloud. WallMart Entertainment, Target Ticket and BestBuy Cinema Now are three other such retailers that will allow you to purchase UltraViolet movies and add them to your collection.

Once added to your UltraViolet collection, the movie is accessible by any participating retailer’s cloud service. UltraViolet movies that I added through my Flixster account are accessible from my Target account, and visa versa. The other great thing about your UltraViolet movie library is that there are plenty of apps in the iOS app store (listed below) that will allow you to access and view your movies from your iPhone or iPad. Unfortunately, not one of them will allow you to stream a movie to the Apple TV.

Amazon Disc + On Demand

At first I thought Amazon’s Disc on Demand service was just like Amazon’s Auto Rip program for music discs. Sadly I was mistaken. What you do get when buying a DVD or Blu-Ray disc from Amazon that qualifies for this program is a one-time movie rental of the movie you purchased. The idea is that you will have the ability to instantly watch the movie while you wait for it to be delivered. Being an Amazon Prime customer, you have access to a collection of movies and television shows just as you do on services like Netflix. Unlike such services, you can also purchase movies and television shows, which Amazon will be more than happy to store for you in their cloud.

Just this year, Amazon has enabled AirPlay capabilities on their iOS app, which will allow you to play your entire Amazon video collection on the Apple TV.

Disc to Digital

Flixster Disc to Digital

You do not always need a code to gain access to a digital copy of a movie you have bought on a physical disc. One of the unique features that Flixster offers via its OS X app is the ability to scan in your existing DVD movie library and ‘upgrade’ to a SD or HD version of the movie in their cloud based movie library. The app runs on OS X and will identify the DVD in very much the same way Apple’s own iTunes Match works with music discs. The one catch is that you will have to pay a “fee” for this service. I am not sure I am ready to invest so much into my aging DVD library, but it is nice to know I have options.

While most retailers that support UltraViolet are making every effort to ensure that your movie library is accessible on your Mac and iOS devices, not one of them have any means of playing movies on the Apple TV. Amazon is a good all-around solution: you can even play back your Amazon movies using AirPlay on your Apple TV. The one thing you cannot do is transfer any of your digital copies into your Amazon Instant Library. Amazon does not support UltraViolet and the movie industry does not allow for digital copies to be redeemed into your Amazon library.

With no means to play back any movie in one’s UltraViolet collection on an Apple TV, something will certainly have to change; and soon, hopefully.

16 Responses to “UltraViolet for iOS: how to make the most of your digital movies”

  1. I say we do our civic duty and the entire nation start ripping dvd in an act of civil disobedience. We bought the movies. We “own” them right? or so we are led to believe. Why can’t we store them were we want. I don’t want a flixster, wal-mart, vudu, itunes, amazon etc… libraries. I want one library where all my content sits, is accessible and If i want it in a cloud I get to choose the cloud. If i want it on a device, I get to choose the device.

  2. What if you have DVDs to be converted to a digital format at home? Will any of these services allow DVDs that pre-date the digital purchasing option? I’d like to convert all of my DVDs to a cloud and still have access rather than keeping physical copies around.

  3. Vudu limits storage of downloaded movies to start-up disc on my laptop only. Clearly, this is a deal breaker. Not only can I not find a hard drive large enough to store my library, but I can not back it up to an external drive as a safety copy. Do you have any idea how long it takes to download 2,000 Vudu movies?????

  4. Re: The can’t use Airplay with Apple TV to play Ultraviolet movie thing… I’ve read that since Ultraviiiolet files dont work with Apple, that’s why Flixster won’t work via Airplay into Apple TV. Thing is, for a long time, it did. I had to switch on Airplay Mirroring, then clear my Iphone memory of the Flixster App, then re-select Flixster and play… and it worked. So does anyone know who is going to fix this? It sounds like Ultraviolet / Flixster can push a button and make it happen. Who should we complain to? If you know, thanks.

  5. Joshua Clinard

    I think you have been misinformed. The fact is, you only need to make one account at whichever retailer you prefer. You can redeem all your codes straight from the retailer’s website. Flixster also allows you to delete moves you don’t want if you got it from them.

    Also, Flixster allows you to download movies to your iPad in HD, and I am sure vudu will also in the future.

  6. I really dislike the UltraViolet experience. All those websites and lockers. Signing up with multiple studios for spam. All of that should be done on the backend. Just send me to *one* website to redeem everything. Make that website experience a joy, not a pain to use.

    While you’re at it, don’t stick several crap movies I didn’t ask for in my locker. Why would you place unpurchased movies with RT scores below 20? Just because you own both Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes?

    I’m also not thrilled with the studio’s moves to have “digital copy” mean UltraViolet *or* iTunes. I should be getting both.

    Seriously, these half-basked attempts just make me want to rip my discs more, not less.

  7. Unfortunately it’s impossible to “make the most” of an ultraviolet library on iOS. Downloads are restricted to SD quality on that platform. No clue why the movie studios would force such a terrible restriction on the content. Major bummer and a total deal breaker. iTunes is the better choice at this time.

  8. What is the experience using these iOS apps untethered? The beauty of iTunes versions is that the files actually sync to the device for viewing on car trips, in the air, etc.

    • The movies can be downloaded to the device and watched offline.

      For example, on VUDU I downloaded the SD version of Serenity (from my UltraViolet library) and was able to play it back when the phone was in Airplane Mode. The size of the file (according to the usage info in the general section of the settings app) was ~620MB for the 119 minute movie, which included storage space for the app itself.

      There was no way that I could tell to transfer movie files from the OS X version of VUDU to the iOS version of VUDU (like there is with movie files via iTunes). So you will have to download each movie file separately to each device you want to watch it on.

  9. reinharden

    Vudu’s OS X application (VudoToGo) also offers disc to digital functionality.

    And, at least through January 31, 2014, Vudu’s is half as expensive (so long as you do 10 discs; see for pricing details).