Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Watching My First VUDU Movie

By Dennis D. McDonald

Last week my friend Charlie came over after dinner. We go out to movies a couple of times a month and afterwards go for a beer. This time we decided to stay in. He would supply the beer and I the popcorn.

Our intended entertainment: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL. We had both missed this at the local mutliplex and its availability on VUDU was appealing.

VUDU is Walmart’s online streaming movie service. Unlike Netflix, VUDU provides — for a price — access to recently released DVDs online. I had been reading  about VUDU’s disc-to-digital service and thought I might be interested in that for the few DVDs I own that are worth a $5 upgrade to get an HD version online complete with surround sound. After signing up for VUDU and a linked Ultraviolet account online, when VUDU emailed me saying I had a $5.99 credit to watch a film using their streaming service I decided to try it out given that the VUDU app is available via my Sony Blu-Ray player.

Problem was, when I started up the VUDU app and told it I wanted to watch GHOST PROTOCOL, no sound was available. While the beer got warm and the popcorn cold I tried everything I could think of and finally gave up — the HDX version was silent. Nothing I could do with my router, the Sony TV, or the Blu-Ray player made any difference.

Instead Charlie and I watched my recently purchased TROY Blu-Ray, which as it turned out was a good decision. If you’re into sword-and-sandal epics that one’s pretty good and you get to watch Sean Bean NOT die in a movie, for a change.

Next day I started an email exchange with VUDU support to find out more about my audio problem. Response was quick and the recommended solution was to (1) reboot the Blu-Ray to update the software and (2) to switch the Blu-Ray’s audio configuration from AUTO to PCM.

The second step worked, though I think that the PCM signal feeding into my old Yamaha surround system was not being decoded into 5.1 audio; that’s a problem I need to address since if I actually upgrade selected old DVDs to HDX format using the Vudu Disc-to-Digital program I also want surround sound (which is included in all the old DVDs); presumably I’ll be streaming “my” upgraded movies from the same “cloud” as the regular VUDU service.

In summary, though, I’m impressed with the VUDU streaming service. The collection includes more “current” movies than Netflix, plus the availability of the HDX format does provide extremely good video quality, as my experience with GHOST PROTOCOL demonstrated. And, email support was quick and responsive (thanks, Craig!)

Still, there are only so many hours in a day. I have no intention of “converting” hundreds of old DVDs to another format, no matter how good they will look on a modern screen. Plus, $5 a pop does run into some dough even if I do get to keep the DVD. I’ll probably use the conversion service for one or two small batches of film and that will be it. That Pixar movies are not available through this service is a definite disappointment since that’s actually where I would begin the conversion process.

In retrospect it was probably a mistake to buy so many DVDs over the years given that we only watched most of them just once. Streaming as a replacement for rental makes a lot more sense.

Besides, I’ve found through Netflix that there are many older films and TV shows, foreign or independently produced, that are just as good if not better than modern “Hollywood” fare. So I probably won’t be giving up Netflix, either.

Copyright © 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, open data, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. Clients have included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Library of Medicine. He has worked throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and China. His web site is located at and his email address is On Twitter he is @ddmcd.

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