Ultraviolet? More like ultra-annoying.

By now, it’s pretty obvious to people who know me that I like to have digital copies of my movies. I guess one could argue I got started relatively early (compared to the current consumer desire, that is), seeing as that as far back as 2006, I was making digital copies of Mortal Kombat to watch on my smartphone. Nowadays, though, when a movie comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I buy the version of the disc that comes with the digital copy. I like being able to have the movie in iTunes, where I can watch it later using my iPhone or HP TouchPad.

However, the studios have started offering this “new service” for the digital copies that is really annoying me.

I’ve noticed that several movies that featuring a digital copy have a label on the packaging advertising that it is an “Ultraviolet digital copy”. It’s a reference to Ultraviolet, a service by Flixster that sells access to streamed versions of movies, plus allows you to redeem codes for movies you’ve bought. You can watch the movies via the Flixster app on iOS and Android, and there’s also an app (based on Adobe AIR) for PCs as well. Sounds great, right?

In my case, it’s anything but.

The primary reason I have digital copies of movies is because I want to watch them while traveling. As I brought up earlier, I like watching Mortal Kombat when on trips for Mortal Kombat Online. Another example was when I was traveling from Dubai to Houston; I watched the entire The Lord of the Rings film trilogy on the flight. Also, on a drive from New Orleans to Houston, Jennifer and I once watched The Dark Knight. In other words, I mostly watch my digital copies on portable devices. PC playback support, while kind of nice, is less important to me.

There are really three problems here. The first problem is that I like to use iTunes to manage the media on my iPhone. It tells me how much space I have available on the device, so when I’m picking and choosing what movies I want on the phone, I can make accommodations for what I’m willing to remove to make space, like shrinking the music playlists and the like. Furthermore, with the movies on the hard drive, I can simply copy the movies over USB to the phone. With Ultraviolet, while I can copy the media to my devices, I can’t actually copy it to iTunes. I can copy it to my PC, but iTunes will not recognize it as a viewable movie. I can download it straight to my iPhone, but then I have to figure out ahead of time how much space I need to clear. Worse, according to Flixster’s website, I can’t delete the movie afterwards without deleting the entire app first.

The second problem is the one that REALLY irks me. There’s no support at all for the iPod Classic or the HP TouchPad. There isn’t a Flixster app for webOS (and I’m not holding out hope that one will come out), and the iPod Classic doesn’t have net access at all. The iPod Classic is what I bring with me on trips where I don’t know what I’ll want to watch beforehand, as my entire media library will fit on it (as it has a 160 GB hard drive). One might think it’s annoying watching a movie on a screen the size of the iPod Classic’s, but if I’m not sharing with another person, it’s not that bad.

The third problem is that all of this depends on the Flixster and Ultraviolet services being completely in sync. That doesn’t seem to be the case. During the setup process for my account (done while trying to redeem a digital copy of Green Lantern), it set up a Flixster account and asked me for an email address and password for the Ultraviolet account. However, I was never told what the sign in name was for Ultraviolet, and there isn’t a process by which to find out what it is on Ultraviolet’s website. I’ve got a support ticket in, and I hope they can tell me what it is. In addition, the Flixster app for iOS isn’t giving me access to the movies in Ultraviolet. The FAQ on Flixster’s site said that if the Flixster and Ultraviolet accounts are linked, I should have access to the movies. I guess the accounts weren’t linked after all (despite what the setup process said).

All in all, I’m pretty fed up. At least when the movies had iTunes support, all I needed to do was put the code in to iTunes and the movie would simply download to my PC, and work right off. All of these extra hoops I’m having to jump through with extra accounts, new players, and the like do nothing to make things easier for the consumer. It’s crap like this that helps increase piracy, as those people who “do the right thing” get the shaft, and the pirates can get their copies of the movie far more easily and without any of the hassle.

I guess I should just look at the bright side. The worst case scenario for me is that I can take the DVD and use HandBrake to create my own digital copies. Still, it’s frustrating, and I’m going to definitely think twice before buying any film that features an “Ultraviolet” digital copy.

One thought on “Ultraviolet? More like ultra-annoying.

  1. Very well written. I hate when companies try and lock you into their newest and best service without giving you an option to use an older format that you like better. The loss of flexibility is the most frustrating part. I’m going to have to buy a new phone soon, and I dread having to digest all the new features they’re going to shove down my throat.

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