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 requires a special UHD player. Neither of those seems all that popular, although probably most of the highest grossing movies are filmed in 3D. People maybe don’t want to wear the glasses at home or something.

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 (many are Blu-ray only, no DVD or Digital HD copy). Sometimes there isn’t a digital HD copy and sometimes not a DVD. 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).

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 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 both my iPod and my 7-inch Android tablet, and I watched one of the movies on the tablet. I haven’t actually downloaded anything to the iPod since the screen is so small and there isn’t much free memory, but I could. I also watched a couple of my Disney digital copies which I can watch on a computer, including my 10-inch Windows tablet, but not on Android (more on that later). The Windows tablet is kind of bulky and there seems to be more glare on its screen. 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 can 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. However, Disney makes you choose a company for your account link (you can change your mind every six months and choose from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and a couple of others; once you switch, your movies may stay at the old place and populate to the new place), and I think I would prefer iTunes for now, though my iTunes movies can’t be played on the Android tablet which is probably my favorite for watching on the train (they make a Disney Movies Anywhere app for Android, but for it to work you have to link your account to Google Play). And if I want an even bigger screen I could watch these offline on my laptop. 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.

2 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, 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, 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. 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. 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. 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.

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