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What is Ultraviolet?

The digital movie service is now live in Australia, but what actually is Ultraviolet and how do you use it?

The digital movie service is now live in Australia, but what actually is Ultraviolet and how do you use it?

(Credit: Ultraviolet)

Ultraviolet has been operating overseas since late 2011, and it's now made it to Australian shores. But what is Ultraviolet and how does it work?

To over simplify things, Ultraviolet is like a storage shelf for the digital rights of movies you've bought on DVD or Blu-ray.

It's been developed and supported by a group called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, which has members such as Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount and many more major film studios. (One notably absent studio is Disney, which has its own version of the Ultraviolet system, and thus isn't a supporter).

So how does it work?

In Australia, you'll slowly start seeing DVDs and Blu-ray movies hit the shelves marked with the Ultraviolet logo along the top, like in the examples below:

Retail versions of The Hobbit showing the Ultraviolet logo. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Inside you will find a special code. Redeem the code online, and you'll have access to a digital version of the film that you can watch via one of the supporting services.

In Australia, you can redeem the code via the newly launched JB Hi-Fi Now Video service from JB Hi-Fi, or you can use a service from the US called Flixster. Both of these have apps across Android and iOS, and Flixster is also available on Windows Phone and BlackBerry. More services are expected to follow.

Because Ultraviolet is a repository for your digital licenses, you only need to register your Ultraviolet code once at any portal. We registered the code for the Blu-ray version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at JB Now Video, and when we created a Flixter account and linked our Ultraviolet log-in, the file was already in our "owned movies" section.

You have 24 months from when you purchase the physical disc to register the Ultraviolet code.

How do I watch my Ultraviolet movies?

Simply log into an Ultraviolet connected app on any device, and you can either download or stream the movies you have registered. That means phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and — presumably — any smart TV or networked home entertainment device that has access to those apps.

You can add multiple members to an Ultraviolet account — up to six — meaning the family can share one account. You can also set parental controls from the Ultraviolet site.

You can also have up to 12 different players registered to an account — a player being defined as any device with an Ultraviolet-enabled app installed.

The steam quality depends on the physical purchase you made, as does file size. A DVD purchase will have an Ultraviolet version that streams at a lower quality than the associated Blu-ray digital version.

According to Warner Bros in Australia, the Flixster service will support three simultaneous streams, while a file can be downloaded onto 5 separate registered devices.

The Terms and Conditions for JB Now Video have the same stipulations on streaming and video downloads.

What are the limitations?

At the moment, in Australia, the biggest limitation is the size of the Ultraviolet library — it's precisely one, that film being The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

More are on the way, but it seems like a slow trickle — JB Now Video lists just three more movies as being on their way (Gangster Squad, This is 40 and Django Unchained) before 6 June. This is a far cry from the 9000 titles available in the US. Warner Bros has stated that all of its major releases in the future will have Ultraviolet codes.

There are also no current plans for a digital only purchase or rent option in Australia — this won't be replacing your physical purchases, just adding digital files to them.

Finally, in the US, there is also a service called Disc to Digital, where some studios allow you to register an Ultraviolet license for a disc you've purchased in the past before the Ultraviolet service was available. There are no firm plans for this to launch in Australia yet.