Digital HD

After joining and then leaving the Disney Movie Club, I wound up with a bunch of Blu-ray disks. Many of them included a DVD disk as well so that you could share with friends who don’t have Blu-ray or to convince you to buy the Blu-ray disk even though you don’t have a player yet. Blu-ray does not seem to have caught on as well as DVD’s originally did, maybe because people don’t feel like buying disks and players anymore when they can stream over Netflix, Roku, Chromecast, or whatever to their TV, computer, phone, or tablet. Good technology, bad timing. And Blu-ray has branched off so that now there are 3D Blu-ray disk which should play in a conventional Blu-ray player (though not in 3D) and Ultra HD 4K which is not backwards compatible. Even though most of the highest grossing movies are filmed in 3D, Neither of these seems all that popular. People maybe don’t want to wear the glasses at home or something and maybe there aren’t enough UHD TV’s and UHD disk players out there yet.

Three Blu-rays, one that includes Digital HD download, one with DVD, and one with both.

Three Blu-rays, one that includes Digital HD download, one with DVD, and one with both.

Anyway, in addition to the DVD disk, many of the Blu-rays include a digital copy or “Digital HD” as stated on the cover. Sometimes there isn’t a digital HD copy and sometimes not a DVD and sometimes neither. But lately, it seems the digital copy is being included more and more often (and the DVD less and less: Pixar is re-releasing movies on Blu-ray that used to include Blu-ray and DVD disks and now including the Blu-ray and Digital HD only, which saves them the cost of including an extra disk).

disneyanywhereDisney (and its subsidiaries like Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm) includes a code inside the Blu-ray case that you can enter at a Disney website to activate or register your digital copy. Then there is a service called Disney Movies Anywhere which is an app that lets you watch those movies on your iPhone, computer, or android phone. You can also link your account with iTunes and have the movies in your iTunes account and even download it and watch it offline. Once it is in your iTunes all of your authorized devices can watch the movie too. So it gives you a way to watch it and share it with people in your house. Now I have six or so Disney movies in my iTunes. I liked the idea of having them in iTunes because it should be around forever. With Disney Movie Rewards, you also earn points from the code which can get you free movies, posters, and other goodies.

uvioletMovie studios outside the Disney family started their own service to register the digital copy codes called UltraViolet. For the most part UltraViolet is just a website where you can store those registrations, not watch them or buy digital versions of movies. To watch the movies you have to link a media content provider to your UltraViolet account. A popular one is called Vudu, which is owned by Walmart. Vudu makes money selling and renting movies online, so you can get an account for free, and then by linking it to UltraViolet, you can watch or download the movies you have registered (the downloads only work with the provider’s app). There are other services besides Vudu, but it seems like the biggest.

vuduThere are other businesses that let you purchase and rent movies online. I’ve already mentioned iTunes, but there is also Amazon and Google Play. Maybe Netflix should be in there as well. But with UltraViolet, you can build and keep a collection, hopefully forever. And then with Vudu, you can share your collection with 5 different users so they can watch your movies. So I think they are really trying to give people a reason to buy movies and help them enjoy them and make it a good experience to compete with people illegally downloading pirated copies. To me this is better than renting movies online, which usually cost $4-6 whereas you can go to Redbox and rent them for less than $2 a day. With the rentals you generally have a month or so to watch the movie, but it doesn’t make sense that it would cost so much more to rent online than borrowing physical disks from a network of machines located all over the country. Buying the movies online isn’t that great either: while I have been able to buy physical Blu-ray movies with digital copies for less than $10, most online purchases are $10-20. Again, there is something wrong with this picture that physical copies transported to and sold at a store cost less than buying online.

Over Thanksgiving week I bought maybe 10 or so Blu-rays and DVD’s (most DVD’s don’t come with digital copies) and I have registered a couple of codes with UltraViolet and Vudu (to register one movie, I had to start accounts at two different websites). I was able to download Vudu to my 7-inch Android tablet and I watched one of the movies on the tablet. I could put Vudu on my iPod as well, but it isn’t a great viewer due to the small screen size and there isn’t that much memory free. I also watched a couple of my Disney digital copies which I can watch on a computer, including my 10-inch Windows tablet, or on a laptop for a bigger screen. The Windows tablet is kind of bulky and there seems to be more glare on its screen plus the headphone volume is just too low. Watching on the 7-inch tablet is pretty good and I have been watching some TV episodes ripped from DVDs using a program called Handbrake, watching them with the VLC viewer for Android which is great. I tried to transfer some Vudu movies to my Windows tablet, but the downloads are buried pretty deep in the file system and I don’t think they are supposed to be moved, unlike the iTunes movies which can be moved (to a memory card since the tablet has limited memory) and played in iTunes no matter where they are. So iTunes is a little easier to deal with than Vudu in terms of the files.

One of the Blu-rays I bought was the box set of The Sopranos. HBO participates with UltraViolet, but you can also enter the code directly in iTunes as if it were an iTunes gift card and it shows up in your library (in the cloud unless you download episodes). Not only that, but HBO lets you also use the code to get the show in Google Play. So I have The Sopranos in three different places. That was probably dumb of me. I should have watched a few episodes first and if I didn’t like the show, I could have sold the Blu-rays and the unused code. Some people sell the disks or the code and keep the other, but the codes are not supposed to be transferred (no way to stop it since they don’t know who bought the Blu-rays in the first place).

The other thing about Vudu is they are the only UltraViolet-compatible viewer that also lets you enter Disney codes. So you could actually keep everything in Vudu. In fact, Disney Movies Anywhere can be linked to both iTunes and Vudu so that your movies appear in both (along with Google Play, Amazon, and some others). None of the iPod, tablets, or laptops have 1080p HD displays to show the movies in their best Blu-ray resolution. I’m sure I could stream movies to my TV, but since I already have the Blu-rays and a player I don’t really need to do that.

8 thoughts on “Digital HD

  1. Vudu shows all of my episodes of The Sopranos, but Ultraviolet only showed 3 episodes per season in my library. Ultraviolet’s help page says contact the company where you entered the code, which was hbodigitalhd.com, but they referred me back to Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet asked for screenshots of my Vudu account showing I have all the episodes and my Ultraviolet account showing they are not all there. Once I did that, they said it is a known issue and they will let me know when it is resolved. It doesn’t affect anything in the short term since I download the episodes from Vudu anyway and Ultraviolet just keeps track of what I own. However, if I wanted to switch to another provider than Vudu, the new provider would get the ownership information from Ultraviolet and think I had bought a random 3 episodes per season instead of all of them.

    Meanwhile, I was having some trouble at Google Play downloading Sopranos episodes. On the app when I look at The Sopranos, they default to Season 6B, which I own, but they say I do not own it. Instead I need to scroll to the season “Complete Series” at the bottom of the list and pick episodes from there. But still, sometimes they don’t download and Google Play says maybe I need to restart my device to get the items (which never works). But if I download multiple items, sometimes items that I couldn’t download by themselves will download okay.

    They don’t have all the bugs worked out yet. Meanwhile, iTunes seems to have no trouble with any of this, I just can’t watch iTunes shows on my Android tablet.

  2. All of the episodes of The Sopranos showed up eventually at MyUV.com, so that is no longer a worry.

    Recently Target had a lot of Blu-rays for $4 each (usually $5), but they are mostly older titles and don’t include a Digital HD copy. In fact, I bought a couple that did include it only to realize when I got home that the codes were expired. I don’t know why the codes would ever expire. One of them registered anyway no problem even though the expiration date was in 2015, but another one, even though it said Ultraviolet on the cover, had a code for Target Ticket inside which is a defunct streaming service from Target. I tried the Target Ticket code at Vudu, but it said the code was invalid (the code had expired last year). The company that took over Target Ticket was no help because I never had a Target Ticket account. MyUV.com was no good either. The movie was produced by Weinstein/Anchor Bay/Starz. I went to Weinstein’s website but couldn’t enter the code. However, at Anchor Bay/Starz I was able to successfully enter the code and have the movie show up in my Vudu account.

    Another movie I have had for a while had an expired code that I was never able to redeem. It could also be redeemed in iTunes by running a program on an included DVD. I opened iTunes while that DVD was in the computer and it automatically registered in iTunes. It is not an HD version, but it would be okay for playing on a small tablet.

    Also I found out that Vudu has a service called Disc to Digital (or D2D) where you can pay $2 and get a Digital HD copy for a Blu-ray that you own. It doesn’t work for all movies (no Disney titles), but it works for a lot of titles. To prove ownership, you take the Blu-rays to Walmart (they own Vudu) and then pay them. [Walmart no longer verifies, you have to use the app as of April 2017] One of my first Blu-rays was Pulp Fiction which did not include a digital copy, but now I can get it for $2. I also have The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but it does not have an upgrade available.

    Anyway, the neat thing is that you can buy these really cheap Blu-rays at Target and then for another $2 get a Digital HD copy (if you only have the DVD, it is $5 for the upgrade, but only $2 if you get SD instead of HD). For only $6 total to get a Blu-ray and Digital HD copy is pretty good. I almost bought Argo, The Hurt Locker, Silver Linings Playbook, and Where the Wild Things Are, but I already have several Blu-rays I have not watched and I am thinking about doing another enrollment at Disney Movie Club, so I held off. You can also buy upgrades at home, but your computer has to be able to read Blu-rays, which most do not. But if you do it at home, and you have 10 movies to convert, you get 50% off, so only $1 each. [10 for $10 expired in March 2017] Right now I am only up to 1, which is Pulp Fiction, and I’ve never even taken it out of its shrinkwrap (purchased in 2011), which points to part of the folly of buying Blu-rays. Still, I’ve been watching most of my recent Disney purchases, but still have some other movies I bought on Black Friday that I have not watched yet.

  3. You can’t take Blu-rays to Walmart for the Disk to Digital program anymore. Now you have to use your smartphone to take pictures of the UPC which then lets you purchase a digital version. Unfortunately I don’t have a smartphone. The iPod has the function built into the Vudu app, but it doesn’t work because the iPod doesn’t have GPS, neither does the iPad. The Nexus 7 tablet has GPS, but only a video camera, not a still camera, so it doesn’t work either. If necessary, I could get someone with a smartphone to temporarily download Vudu, log in as me, and redeem movies at my house, then uninstall Vudu.

  4. Target lowered their $5 Blu-rays to $4 again, so last night I bought five movies. With three I already had, I hoped to get a couple of more and then convert 10 discs to Digital HD for $10. But I just now found out that after three years of running that deal, Vudu is no longer doing that promotion. That means $2 for each Digital HD movie, which isn’t terrible, but not as attractive as $1. Maybe I’ll hope for some kind of sale or discounted gift card deal, but not sure when that might happen. For the time being you can get your first Disc to Digital conversion for free, which I think can even be a DVD to Digital HD, which is usually $5.

  5. I got confused on the rules at Disney Movies Anywhere. I thought you could only add a new viewing service (like iTunes or Vudu) every six months, but the rule is you can only connect with a different account in the same service every six months. I first connected my DMA account to iTunes six months ago, so I connected to Vudu now, but I think I could have connected to Vudu any time. Now when I add a movie to DMA, it shows up in iTunes and Vudu (this is nice because my Nexus tablet couldn’t play iTunes content, but with the movies in Vudu, it can). The Vudu movies do not show up in Ultraviolet though since Disney doesn’t do UV. Essentially, DMA is a competitor to UV, but Vudu partners with both of them.

    Anyway the six month rule means I could disconnect my iTunes account now and connect to a new iTunes account. I am still not sure if movies I have in iTunes would then disappear when I disconnect my account or if they are mine forever. I suspect they are mine forever, otherwise why have the six month rule?

  6. In July I decided I would try the Disc to Digital on a DVD since the first one is usually free and my laptop can read DVD’s so I can use the app to verify that I own it. I chose Citizen Kane and was able to make everything work, but I was charged $5. Like the 10 for $10 deal, I had waited too long to get the good deal, but it wasn’t real clear that the deal had ended, so I called customer service and they gave me a $5 credit (and let me keep the movie). But I still had no way of doing D2D for Blu-rays without a smart phone.

    I have been watching movies on my 2017 iPad which I bought after enjoying Mom’s old iPad (now passed on to Jenny who is enjoying it to read books). The Digital HD versions look great on the new iPad’s retina display, but even SD versions I ripped from DVD looked okay, so I ripped most of my DVDs to digital and can put those on the iPad as needed (the ripped versions take up a lot less space than the HD versions too). This is a great thing because it has gotten me to go back and watch some of my DVDs like Chinatown and Pleasantville that I might not watch at home, but will watch on the train since I have nothing else to do (I am up to season 3 of The Sopranos now in Digital HD plus I’m watching Modern Family, West Wing, and Seinfeld ripped from DVDs).

    So I was thinking I could watch something from my Vudu library on the iPad, but realized I hadn’t downloaded Vudu onto it yet. So I did that last night. On the old iPad I couldn’t do D2D because it didn’t have GPS, which they need to verify that you have the disc at your home not just at the store. The new iPad doesn’t have GPS either, but I enabled location services when I started Vudu and then scrolled down to Disc to Digital in the menu. It told me to scan a UPC. Interesting! I grabbed my Blu-ray of The Illusionist and it said that title wasn’t available. I tried my copy of The Graduate that I had just gotten on the Criterion Collection, but it said that didn’t work either. Next I tried The Italian Job, a Blu-ray I got for $4 and it worked! I went ahead and got Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well, which used up most of my credit. I haven’t watched a lot of the other Blu-rays I bought recently so I hesitate to get the digital versions, investing more money in titles I may not watch. But it is nice to have the option now. I think the reason the new iPad works is that it has virtual GPS based on which wi-fi networks it can see and maybe Vudu allows that to count. Even without the 10 for $10 deal, getting 10 for $20 is still pretty good. For instance, Pulp Fiction is $4 just to rent in HD from Vudu and $13 to own, and I can own it for $2 since I already have the Blu-ray.

  7. After writing the reply above, I made such a good case for D2D that I went ahead and scanned 6 more Blu-rays to get digital versions. Several more discs were not able to be redeemed and for some reason Argo was going to cost $5 in HDX, so I didn’t get any of those. Also I did not get The Hateful Eight, which I bought blind last year and only gave a B-.

  8. I downloaded Citizen Kane to my iPad to watch and discovered that Vudu only downloads SD versions to the iPad, not HDX. That was disappointing. It turns out people have been complaining about this for several years, so I am not hopeful it will be addressed soon, though Android devices can download HDX.

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