Keeping with its trend of making UltraViolet suck less, Walmart recently announced its own beta program for an at-home disc-to-digital conversion service, letting customers upgrade movies on physical discs to standard- and high-definition UltraViolet copies in the cloud from the comfort of their own chair. Best Buy’s CinemaNow introduced a similar service at the end of 2012, but readers may recall that the DMZ’s initial test of Best Buy’s similar offering didn’t go so well. Walmart, however, seems to have UltraViolet down to a science.
Last year, the press scratched its collective head and the masses largely ignored Walmart’s in-store disc-to-digital conversion program. By taking packaged DVDs to a nearby Walmart, consumers could acquire a digital copy of each movie on VUDU for a nominal two dollar fee or upgrade to HD for five dollars a disc. As it turns out, VUDU may have been the best thing to happen to UltraViolet. VUDU’s ease of use combined with its extensive library of licensed content has made UltraViolet redemption easier, and Walmart brings that service to a broad customer base.
VUDU’s new beta program extends this service—in its entirety—to consumers’ homes. The prices are the same as Walmart’s in-store conversion service ($2 and $5, plus tax). HD conversions are provided in VUDU’s excellent 1080p HDX format, and unlike CinemaNow, VUDU also offers a $2 Blu-ray conversion option. All titles are automatically added to consumers’ UltraViolet libraries.
The VUDU team is currently sending invitations to this limited beta to VUDU customers. Participation requires downloading and installing an updated version of the VUDU To Go app to a PC with a DVD or Blu-ray drive (Blu-ray conversion obviously requires a Blu-ray drive). The updated application is not yet available for the Mac, even though it’s built on Adobe’s runtime platform, AIR, like the earlier version.
In our tests, the conversion process was flawless. We tried each combination—DVD to SD, DVD to HDX, and Blu-ray to HDX—without incident. With the first purchase, VUDU prompted us to go online and add credit card information to the account, and even that process was easier and more polished than in our CinemaNow test.
Shortly after we completed our purchases, all the titles properly appeared in our existing UltraViolet library (are you listening, Best Buy?), available to stream or download on TVs, set-top boxes, computers, Android and iOS devices, or on the Web.
Overall, our test of VUDU’s new at-home disc-to-digital conversion service was successful. With one hitch. Curiously, the one Warner Brothers title we converted, The Last Samurai, is not available for playback in Flixster—the UltraViolet retailer that Warner Brothers itself owns. And there’s the rub with UltraViolet or any cloud-based media service: the dirty, convoluted game of content licensing. So maybe UltraViolet is a decent solution for hosted digital video content…because at least we still have our discs to play when we want and where we want.