The Hollywood consortium Ultraviolet is teaming up with Walmart to convert customers' DVD and Blu-ray movies into digital copies through the streaming service Vudu. Just be prepared to pay a steep price for the privilege if you've got a big movie collection.
Each DVD conversion costs $2 for a standard definition digital copy or $5 for high definition, and each Blu-ray conversion costs $2. Movies will be available for streaming on any Internet-connected device that supports Vudu, such as the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, desktop Web browsers, and the iPad's Safari browser.
To convert a movie, users must bring their discs to a Walmart store starting on April 15. Users then create an account with Vudu, Walmart's streaming video service, and a store employee authorizes the digital copy.
Customers get to keep their discs, but as The Verge points out, it's not clear how Walmart will prevent multiple users from creating a digital copy with the same DVD or Blu-ray.
I've been skeptical of Ultraviolet since the consortium first formed in 2010, and this latest effort isn't doing much to help. In theory, Ultraviolet is supposed to be DRM that actually benefits the customer by making their movies convenient to access from anywhere. Unfortunately, the service keeps stumbling as it tries to get off the ground.
In this case, the cost of movie conversion is too expensive to perform in bulk. If you've got 50-movie DVD collection, you'd have to pay $100 to $250 to convert your entire library. The users with huge DVD or Blu-ray libraries are Hollywood's best customers, yet they're getting no special discounts or incentives to make digital copies of their movies.
It's also not clear whether the movies that Walmart converts will be available through other Ultraviolet services besides Vudu, such as Flixster's apps for Android and iOS. Unlike Vudu, Flixster allows users to download their Ultraviolet movies onto an iPhone, iPad or Android device for offline viewing. Walmart hasn't said whether its solution includes a way to watch offline.
It's too bad, because movie watchers really could use a way to store all their movies online, making them available for streaming or download on any device regardless of hardware maker. That's what Ultraviolet aims to do, but there may to be too many conflicting interests between movie studios, retailers, and hardware makers to offer a truly seamless experience for users.