WTF is... UltraViolet
Cloud Nine or Hurt Locker?
We're all used to buying movies and TV series on disc. Many of us are accustomed to downloading films and shows from the likes of Apple's iTunes. A fair few of us stream video content from Netflix or Lovefilm. Wouldn't it better to combine all three into a single system?
Such a combo is what the Hollywood-backed UltraViolet is trying to become, and with the support of the best known content companies in the film business, plus retail giants like Tesco and Walmart; computing fims like Adobe, Microsoft, HP, IBM and Nvidia; IPTV players and broadcasters, including BSkyB and BT; streamers Netflix and Lovefilm; and hardware makers Panasonic, Philips, LG, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and more - all members of the 75-strong Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) consortium - it's hard to see it failing to succeed.
Not that it's the only player in town. Apple's iTunes stands apart, back turned, arms folded, nose high. Indeed, it's unlikely to ever be a part of UV since it is one of the service's key competitors. So too are all the folk making disc rips available through Torrent sites.
The UltraViolet way
UltraViolet, which launched in October 2011, is pitched as a universal cloud-hosted movie library. The notion is that all your content - not just what you will buy but also what you've already bought - will be permanently available to you on the internet.
Buy a film on Blu-ray Disc and, once you've created a UltraViolet account, either directly at the UV website or through the disc distributor's online shop, and you'll be able to stream the content too, not just watch it on your TV using a BD player.
You'll be able to download it too, for offline viewing - handy if you want to take a stack of films with you to while away the hours on a long flight, say.
Delete the file deliberately or accidentally, and you'll always be able to re-download it. Or simply stream it to avoid having to find disk space for it.
If you're not collecting discs any longer, you'll be able to buy UV movies just as you would a download from iTunes, Vudu or Blinkbox.
How UltraViolet works
Behind this process is a framwork that combines file formats and digital rights management (DRM) technology, and a mechanism to connect cloud-stored licences to content owners' online archives.
UV accounts don't store the content itself, only the licence that grants the account holder the right to view the material. Stream a movie through a UV partner's website or their app, and the system confirms that you're allowed to watch it. It then initiates a stream, or download, from whatever server farm holds the video file.
Paramount's UV store
There are two advantages here. First, content owners need only hold a couple of copies of each title, one in SD, the second in HD. Users' accounts don't accumulate copies of movies themselves.
Secondly, if a studio decides to offer, say, 4K by 2K copies, it can do so easily. If it likes, it could provide existing customers with access to those higher resolution files simply by updating their licences.
Next page: Licenced premises
What is c, e, and pi in your world?
"Secondly, if a studio decides to offer, say, 4K by 2K copies, it can do so easily. If it likes, it could provide existing customers with access to those higher resolution files simply by updating their licences."
And they will use RFC-1337, "IP over invisible unicorn ponies" to deliver it.
No, wait, they will NOT offer you this upgrade - you will have to buy a new disk, a new player, and a new level of service in Ultraviolet to get an upgrade like this.
And since Sony is involved, it will eventually be discovered that the service has installed a rootkit on your Windows computer (because That Which Is Not Windows shall not have Ultraviolet) and has disabled your Blu-ray writer and permanently enabled your webcam ("the better to monitor you, my sweetie"). Also, one day you will be given the choice to either "upgrade" your software, which will no longer work on Thursdays (because pirates copy things on Thursdays), or lose any ability to use the service.
That's why I disregard Ultraviolet, or the "digital" copies that are nothing but a waste of media. If I care to spend my money on a movie, I get a Blu-ray/DVD pack (and if there are other formats in the pack, so be it). I use the Blu-ray on my HD TV, and the DVD gets introduced to Mr. Handbrake.
A grave misconception
"yes, all this involves DRM, to prevent folk giving content away to all and sundry."
No, not to prevent you giving away - it's to make sure that every single use of the content is explicitly sanctioned by the "rights holder". So that they could stop you from using it at any time they like and so that you could not invent a new way of using the content without a prior approval by them.
Why can't people see it? Must be something they put in the water, or I will start believing in chemtrails soon...
@Chris 3 BD does not disappear
"If you buy a blu-ray disk and UV it, the blueray disk doesn't magically disappear."
Read AACS white paper on key revocation.