UltraViolet (UV) is a new cloud-based system where customers can store movies that can be accessed from multiple devices in various platforms.
The system allows customers to create a household account where movies are stored in a digital locker. Customers are able to register six people per household; however, since the users do not have be at the same address, a household seems to a very ambiguously defined grouping at this point. Can we create super lockers consisting of six film fanatics?
The system consists of two main components: digital rights management (DRM) and a common file format. The digital locker is not your typical cloud where your individual files are stored on remote servers. Instead, the locker consists of a list of movies the household has the digital rights to access. This reduces the amount of server space needed for the system, which will hopefully keep the system free of charge.
Each household can register 12 internet-capable devices to view the content. When a user wants to watch a video, the movie will be downloaded in a common file format to the different devices. This common file format is intended to institute a streamlined file format for downloadable video content. Their site states “You’ll be able to download and play UltraViolet media on UltraViolet computers, tablets, game consoles, set top boxes, Blu-ray players, Internet TVs, smartphones and other mobile devices.”
The consortium behind the UltraViolet project is the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). It is a cross-industry initiative that includes every major film studio, except for Disney, along with video distributors and manufacturers, such as Comcast, Microsoft, and Netflix. While the list has 60 major players in the video market, it is still missing Apple and Disney.
DECE sets to gradually release the system this summer by offering a select number of studio titles for sale either electronically, through a retailer, or digital copies on Blu-ray and DVD discs. Initially, consumers can use downloaded copies on many devices they already own. Also, they can access their digital lockers via websites or linked devices with UltraViolet-optimized media player apps.
However, the consortium still has serious issues to resolve with the release date quickly approaching. Insiders indicate that members cannot agree on several major security issues and even if they will offer high-def. The paranoia over illegal copying and sharing discs may result in absurd and confusing DRM requirements that could kill the system.
If the system is implemented correctly, it could be the next wave format, which could deal a deathblow to DVD and Blu-ray. However, the seeming volatility of consortium should encourage most consumers to own a physical or digital copy of their purchased film.
Unfortunately, like other format evolutions in the past, previously bought DVDs do not seem to apply to the system. Even moving forward, if UltraViolet is only offered on select titles, will sales dip this summer because people will wait for a version with UltraViolet to be released? Hopefully, DECE will answer many questions that still remain at the NAB show.