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Thursday
Feb072013

First Impressions: Vudu's "Vudu to Go" Beta Software

By Dennis D. McDonald

I am experimenting with the Vudu beta software for in-home “upgrading” of old DVD’s to HD streaming movie files for selected titles from my DVD collection.

The week before I had checked out the three Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs on the Vudu site. Some searching verified that the high definition files are in fact available. Since Walmart is a long trek from my house I decided to wait for the beta software to become available so I could do the “conversion” from home.

When the “disc to digital” service was introduced last year the only option available was to take owned DVDs to Walmart to have the “conversion” process performed; I first reported on this service in Some Disappointments with Walmart Vudu’s DISC-TO-DIGITAL Service.

Via a Twitter message a few days ago I found out that the beta “Vudu to Go” software was available for downloading. I did so and installed it on our Windows 7 machine.

I first inserted Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD and then Two Towers Extended Edition DVD into the computer’s DVD drive. In each case the title was not recognized and a message displayed saying it would have to be checked “manually.” This was despite my typing different version of the names into the software’s search box which retrieved multiple hits for each title, none of which was idenfied as the “extended edition.” I never heard back from Vudu on either one, even though I know the HD version is actually available for each of these titles, had I wanted to take the DVDs to Walmart.

Return of the King Extended Edition however was recognized by the software. Upon verification of my payment the movie icon appeared immediately in my online Vudu “my movies” list:

Initially when I tried to play the movie back on my Windows 7 PC I got this message:

“Oops! This movie won’t play on your display due to copyright restrictions. It can be played only if both your output and display support HDCP. [#3339]”

Of course, it played back fine on my iPhone but watching Return of the Kings on a small screen was not what I had in mind!

Some quick checking revealed that “HDCP” is a copy protections scheme that looks for approved connections between the computer and the display device. Grumpily I swapped out the VGA connection for an HDMI cable purloined from the downstairs Xbox. The movie fired right up and displayed on my 22” flatscreen monitor. Problem solved.

Viewed on an actual HD display (a 40” Sony Bravia) the streaming HD version of Return of the King displays well although it is still not as detailed as, say, an actual newer Blu-Ray such as Prometheus. Still, the service works well — when it works — and I am looking forward to converting a few more titles to get the higher definition versions.

Conclusions

I’ve found Vudu to be useful, though I think the $5.99 to “rent” newer movies in high definition is a bit steep. I still use Netflix for most streaming given my taste for older and foreign films.

I’m reluctant to go too far with creating a “purchased” streaming collection given the competing services available; see Danny Sullivan’s How trapped are your digital movies and TV shows? for a rundown of what consumers face.

The first films I tried to “convert” via the Vudu service were my Pixar DVDs but Disney does not participate in the program (or the Vudu service’s underlying UltraViolet system). Plus, my little adventure with the VGA cable told me that there are still asinine restrictions on what we can do with legally “owned” files. In any case, we’re probably going to have to wait a long time for a single universal streaming service to arrive for all movies, new and old. 

Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in data strategy, collaborative project management, and new technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, General Electric, and the World Bank Group. His experience includes the management of projects involving conversion or migration of financial and transaction data and their associated access and management systems. Contact Dennis via email atddmcd@yahoo.com or by phone at 703-402-7382.

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