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

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.