Like many of us, I have a collection of favorite movies. These include Ghostbusters, Stripes, Serenity, and dozens more. I don’t always want to watch specific movies, but when the mood hits, it’s great to be able to grab one or another and relax for the the evening. Unfortunately, DVDs while fairly small and compact aren’t that portable in large numbers when it comes to traveling as a consultant.
As a result, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a more portable solution to traveling and having movies instantly available. The typical solution suggested, is to buy a decent home server, a few terabytes of disk, and start ripping the movies from the DVDs. Then I can have any movie that I want whenever I want (provided I can always reach my home connection). For this solution I’d need a server, a bunch of disks, RAID configuration, backup strategies, and then to decide the size for each of the movie files. This solution involves more time, cost, and risk than I’m really interested in. For instance, while I’ll want a good quality picture in my living room, do I meed the same resolution for the movie when I play it on my phone (heck will it even fit on my phone). For these reasons, I’ve avoided the DYI media center idea.
What I wanted was a solution that worked out-of-the-box without any need to configure or think about it. That solution came to me through the movie service that we’ve all seen around for a while called UltraViolet. I’m sure you’ve seen these before, the ads for it at the beginning of movies. They talk about how it works with any device and stores the movie in the clouds. For my purposes, this was exactly what I wanted and after doing some research into it, I think you might be interested as well.
The first time I asked around about Ultraviolet, I was met with a lot of concern from people about whether the service would be around for the long-term. This was my concern as well. Who’s to say that when the partners in UltraViolet disagree that the entire service won’t fall to the wayside. After a bit of investigating of the service, that doesn’t seem like it will be the case. It turns out, that the underlying infrastructure of the service is designed that the studios can work in partnership or as separate entities.
To explain, using the diagram in Figure 1, the UltraViolet service is a network of many partners. The main partners in the service are the studios, which include Sony, Warner Brothers, NBC Universal, Paramount, and BBC Worldwide (yes, we get Doctor Who). The studios each have their own independent Ultraviolet service which is where the digital license of the service for the movie is held. This means the original distributor of the movie is also managing your license. Since there are many studios in the network, the UltraViolet website offers a single interface to roll many studios into a single service offering; which basically makes the site your movie aggregator. You can see your entire movie library from this site.
Figure 1. UltraViolet Service Layout
The important part of all of this is to be able to download and watch your movies. This ability is provided from few partners, primarily Vudu and Flixster. Vudu is owned by Wal-Mart and provides tools to watch the movies through DVD players and video game consoles. Specifically, I have a Blu-Ray player with Vudu on it and I’ve been watching my movies through my X-Box. Flixster, which seemed like the most pointless app on my tablet for years, is now the app of choice for viewing movies on my phone, tablet, and laptop. It allows the movie to be downloaded for offline viewing (or archiving) and scales the video feed to fit the display device (the same movie can be 500 MB for my tablet and 2.2 GB for my laptop).
Needless to say, I am incredibly thrilled with this service. While on my last engagement, I was able to watch Ghostbusters because the whim hit me. And then watch Shaun of the Dead a couple days later when I was in the mood for that. Without this service, I probably wouldn’t have had that kind of flexibility. Of course, you may have wondered about your existing movie collection, that’s the gem in all of this. Studios supporting the service are offering upgrade options for many of their movies. For a few dollars movies can be added at their current resolution or upgraded to a couple other resolutions. And old movies that I don’t have I can purchase on the service for typically less than an in-store purchase.
If you are looking for something to provide your movie entertainment while on the road, I definitely recommend looking at Ultraviolet. The only negative I’ve found in the service thus far is a few studios missing; such as Fox, Disney, Miramax, and Weinstein. Hopefully, those studios figure it out and get on board. If not, though, I’ll likely end up purchasing less of their movies. I mean, what’s the point in picking up DVDs anymore when I can opt to have the content at my fingertips and make any hotel room feel a little more like being at home.