After May 1, if you're out shopping and you buy a DVD or Blu-ray, there's a good chance it will come with a bonus -- a free copy of your new movie or TV series online, available for streaming or for download.
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This new, free service is called UltraViolet. It's been widespread in the United States for a year and a half, but we're only just getting it in Australia.
From May 1st, more and more movies and TV series on DVD and Blu-ray will come bundled with free UltraViolet movie streaming and downloads. The first title to come out with UltraViolet support will probably be The Hobbit.
A Blu-ray + UltraViolet copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
This Blu-ray disc is the US version of The Hobbit -- Australian versions, and any other UltraViolet-enabled DVD or Blu-ray, will change the blue banner at the top of the disc case to a purple one.
The sticker on the front of the disc case gives you the idea behind UltraViolet -- with this movie, you get a coupon that lets you load The Hobbit onto a service that lets you watch it on your PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone.
The sticker you'll see on UltraViolet-enabled movie and TV discs when they're available in Australia.
The idea behind UltraViolet is that, after you've bought a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you'll find a slip of paper inside the disc case, with a unique 12- or 16-digit code on it. That same slip of paper has a short three-step instruction process that tells you what to do.
Here's what you'll see when you open a DVD or Blu-ray movie that has UltraViolet included. The slip of paper tells you what to do.
Here's the process, with a little explanation of each step.
1. Go to the website mentioned on the slip of paper. There are different websites depending on which film company -- like Universal, or Sony Pictures, or Warner Bros -- you buy the DVD or Blu-ray from. However, this doesn't matter much, because all of your saved UltraViolet movies (no matter the company) appear in the same place after you've redeemed them.
2. Enter the 12- or 16-digit redemption code on the slip of paper.This code is unique to the DVD or Blu-ray disc you just bought, so the service will know which title you're activating with UltraViolet. It also means that the code can only be used once, so you can't lend the slip of paper to a friend or sell it. Don't lose this slip of paper.
3. You're done. The code is checked for validity -- if it has been used before, if you're in the right region, and so on -- and if everything checks out, the movie is added to your UltraViolet collection. At this point, you're asked to create an UltraViolet account if you don't already have one, and an account for whatever film company website (or 'portal') the slip of paper mentions.
The slip of paper that came with our copy of The Hobbit. We removed the code, but when you buy a movie or TV show you'll see a code in that empty space.
One important note -- the service is region-locked, so if you buy your movies from an international store like Amazon UK, you won't be able to use their registration codes with the Australian version of UltraViolet.
Here's a slideshow of how we used Flixster, the Warner Bros-owned portal, to add movies to our UltraViolet collection.
In our slideshow, we used a VPN to pretend we were accessing UltraViolet from the US, as well as US Blu-ray movies we bought from Amazon, to show you the process. Once UltraViolet is launched in Australia, you'll be able to add Australian DVDs and Blu-ray movies to your local UltraViolet collection.
You can use one portal to add movies or TV shows from any other film company, too -- you don't have to sign up to portals for Sony and WB and Universal and everyone else. As long as you sign up for an UltraViolet account, and at least one portal, you can access your movies.
Most movies and TV shows should be accessible from every service, although we couldn't add one title -- The Hunger Games -- through Flixster, as it would only work through another service. We've been told that in Australia, you'll be able to use any portal you like.
For more information on UltraViolet, check out our story on the service's launch with The Hobbit.