This is the May 8, 2014 revision of the UltraViolet FAQ.
(See below for what's new.) Send corrections, additions, and new questions to Jim Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
This is a work in progress, so please forgive unfinished sections and unfinished links. Glib answers will be replaced by real answers at some point.
This FAQ is usually updated at least once a month. If you are looking at a version more than a few months old, it's probably an out-of-date copy. The most current version is at UV Demystified.
This is a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document about UltraViolet, the online entertainment ecosystem. It's not about wavelengths, sterilization, music albums, the perfume, or movies starring Milla Jovovich.
The most current version of this FAQ is on the Web at <UVDemystified.com/UVfaq.html>.
If you'd like to translate the UltraViolet FAQ into another language (Klingon, anyone?), please contact Jim.
The UltraViolet FAQ is written by Jim Taylor, the author of the DVD FAQ and the books DVD Demystified, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About DVD, and Blu-ray Disc Demystified. Jim has worked with interactive media for over 30 years, developing educational software, laserdiscs, CD-ROMs, Web sites, and DVDs, along with teaching workshops, seminars, and university courses. Jim began participating in the UltraViolet alliance (DECE) in 2008 when he was Chief Technologist at Sonic, started this FAQ in 2010, and joined the staff of DECE in 2011.
For better or for worse, Jim probably knows more about UltraViolet than anyone else on the planet. Which doesn't mean this FAQ is 100% accurate, but if FAQs were horses this would be a good bet.
UltraViolet (UVVU or UV for short) is an ecosystem for interoperable electronic content. It's a branded set of specifications and agreements along with a centralized rights clearinghouse that allows retailers to sell movies that play on UltraViolet-compatible players and services.
Put another way, UltraViolet is DVD for the Internet. Just as the DVD logo means that you can buy a DVD from any seller and expect it to play in any player with a DVD logo (DVD players, DVD PCs, DVD entertainment systems in automobiles, and so on), the UltraViolet logo means you can buy UltraViolet movies from any seller, keep track of your "online locker" or "virtual collection" of movies, and expect them to play on anything with the UltraViolet logo (PCs, tablets, smartphones, Blu-ray players, cable set-top boxes, and so on).
Here's how UltraViolet works:
* UltraViolet is launching in phases. Streaming became available in fall 2011. Launch of the UltraViolet Common File Format (CFF) and associated players is planned for 2014.
Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) is the international cross-industry group that runs UltraViolet (see 6.1 for more). DECE was originally called Open Market. DECE member companies developed the policies, specifications, and license agreements. DECE member companies are not obligated to support UltraViolet or produce UltraViolet products, but many of them have already done so or stated their intention to do so.
Neustar, a company that provides number portability, text message short codes, DNS service, and .biz domain registration among other things, was chosen by DECE to run the central component of UltraViolet (see 3.1.1).
Most online video services have their own "ecosystem" of formats, players, and usage models. A movie purchased from iTunes won't play on an Xbox, and a TV show purchased from Best Buy CinemaNow won't play on a Walmart VUDU player. Without an interoperable system like UltraViolet it's impossible to have the "buy anywhere, play anywhere" model that DVD supports and move from physical media to purely digital media.
Of course for UltraViolet to ultimately succeed it needs participation from many companies. As of the end of 2013 there were 13 online services supporting UltraViolet (see 1.7.1) with content from most Hollywood studios as well as studios such as BBC, Lionsgate, and Roadshow Pictures. And many significant companies are members of DECE, the consortium behind UltraViolet (see 6.2).
It's free to set up an UltraViolet account. Retailers set their own prices for movies and other content.
Once you buy an UltraViolet right it lasts forever (see 1.6.1). Some retailers or streaming services might charge a fee (kind of like a "shipping and handling" fee) or require a subscription for you to stream or download additional copies from your Library, but in general there is no cost other than buying videos and players.
UltraViolet licensees pay annual fees and may pay usage fees. See 6.2.1.
You go to a web site or one of those old-fashioned physical stores and buy a movie. Instead of getting a box in your hands or in the mail, you instantly have the movie added to your Library. You can then download and copy the movie to all your UltraViolet players. You can also stream the movie from UltraViolet-compatible services.
In many cases you can buy a DVD or Blu-ray with UltraViolet included for free (see 1.6.5). In a call with analysts on Aug 3, 2011, Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner's chairman and chief executive, told analysts during a conference call that 'beginning with the releases of Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern in the fourth quarter, the vast majority of our future home video new releases will be UV enabled.'
You can also use the disc-to-digital service offered by some retailers to upgrade to UltraViolet from your existing DVDs and Blu-ray Discs (see 1.6.4).
The right to an UltraViolet movie is perpetual and remains in your Library unless you delete it. UltraViolet rights never expire. Once you download a movie you can play it as many times as you like, as long as you have at least one UltraViolet player that works and is registered to your UltraViolet account. You can make as many backup copies of an UltraViolet file as you wish.
Online access to movies in your UltraViolet Library is provided by services that participate in UltraViolet. Most of them provide free streams and downloads, but there is no obligation for them to provide free access forever.
There is the rare possibility that a video might be recalled because it turns out that the studio didn't have proper rights. In this case any copies of it that you've already downloaded will continue to play, but you won't be able to stream it anymore or download additional copies.
If DECE goes out of business you will still be able to play UltraViolet movies that you have downloaded. You won't be able to buy new movies in UltraViolet format. Your content rights may be transferred back to the retailer who sold you the movies, and the retailer may choose to provide additional support for downloading and streaming them.
If an UltraViolet retailer goes out of business you will still be able to download movies you bought from that retailer, as the retailer is obligated to provide download services for five years after purchase. Once you download an UltraViolet movie to a particular player it will continue to play on that player as long as the player keeps working, with no requirement to reconnect to the Internet or the original retailer.
If an UltraViolet streaming services goes out of business you'll have to find a different service to continue streaming from your digital library.
This is an as-yet-unfulfilled promise of UltraViolet, potentially extending the ecosystem to hundreds of millions of DVD players worldwide.
UltraViolet purchases may include the right to get a physical copy (called a discrete media right). [Note: As of March 2014, no retailer has chosen to offer this feature.] The copy can be on a DVD or an SD card. You might get a DVD right there in the store, or you might be able to request that a DVD be mailed to you later, or you might be able to burn the movie to a DVD or SD card in the store or at home.
UltraViolet rights can also be included with the purchase of a DVD or BD. (See 1.6.5)
You might ask "What's the difference between copying an UltraViolet file onto a DVD-R or an SD card myself and a DVD or an SD card I get from the retailer?" You would be clever to ask this, since UltraViolet files can be copied onto any storage device, including SD cards and recordable DVDs (see 3.3.6). However, UltraViolet files will only play on UltraViolet players registered to your account (see 1.11.1), not on standard DVD or Blu-ray players. On the other hand, a DVD copy from the retailer is a regular DVD-Video that will play in any DVD or Blu-ray player. And an UltraViolet SD card you get from the retailer is in CPRM-SDSD format, which will play on some mobile phones and some DVD players with SD card slots.
You can "upgrade" an existing purchase to UltraViolet if the studio allows it. This is usually called disc-to-digital. You either take your discs into a store (i.e., Walmart) or insert them into the drive in your computer so they can be identified. Essentially the physical disc is treated as a proof of purchase that's extended to UltraViolet. Once you have added a movie to your UltraViolet Library you can download and stream it like all your other UltraViolet titles (although you won't get physical copy rights as described in 1.6.3, since you already have a physical copy).
Typically you pay $2 to convert DVDs to UltraViolet SD or to convert BDs to UltraViolet HD, and you can often upgrade DVDs to UltraViolet HD for $5. Over 9,000 discs are eligible for UltraViolet conversion.
Warner Bros. was the first studio to mention this in August 2011. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, Samsung announced a Blu-ray player with a built-in disc-to-digital feature, but it never materialized. In March 2012, Walmart announced an exclusive disc-to-digital program in cooperation with five major Hollywood studios to convert DVDs to UltraViolet. The initial program was in-store disc-to-digital, which requires you to take your discs into the store to prove that you own them. Walmart stamps the disc so they can't be converted again. (They still play in your DVD or BD player.)
In January 2013, Best Buy and Walmart announced in-home disc-to-digital, where you can put a disc into a computer for electronic identification. The feature is now available from Flixster as well.
Many DVDs and Blu-ray Discs come with UltraViolet rights included. You buy the physical disc then go to a website where you enter a redemption code, sign in to an UltraViolet retailer account, and add the movie to your UltraViolet Library.
Look for an insert inside the disc package, go to the indicated website, sign in if needed, and then enter the code from the insert. In some cases you can simply scan a QR barcode to go directly to the redemption web page with the code entered for you.
The UltraViolet right bundled with a disc may not match the resolution of the disc. That is, you might get an HD UltraViolet right with a Blu-ray disc or you might only get an SD UltraViolet rights with a Blu-ray disc. You usually get an SD UltraViolet right with DVD, but you might get an HD UltraViolet right. If the code redemption page doesn't indicate the resolution then the only way to tell is to enter the code, then check your Library to see what the resolution is. (Or try a Web search to see if someone has posted the details.)
UltraViolet is currently in Phase 1, which means content is available for streaming and service-specific download. (Phase 2 will add the UltraViolet common download file format.) In other words, for now you need an account with one or more UltraViolet services to stream and download movies. See 1.7.1 for a list of services. The services provide web pages, smartphone/tablet apps, connected TV apps, and other specialized applications on over 600 million devices.
UltraViolet movies can be streamed and/or download on the following devices in the US and Canada. Not all of the devices below are supported by services in other countries where UltraViolet is available.
UltraViolet launched in the US on October 11, 2011. It's available in the following countries. (See 7.1 for historical launch dates.)
UltraViolet will launch in Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg in 2014. Support for other countries is planned, but no dates have been set.
All UltraViolet launches so far have been "phase 1" with only streaming and proprietary downloads. The second phase, with interoperable downloads using the UltraViolet Common File Format and UltraViolet players, has been delayed until the second half of 2014.
The first phase provides the account and Library system but focuses on streaming access. The second phase adds shareable downloads for UltraViolet players, and will begin when UltraViolet files and players become available in the market. UltraViolet rights purchased in phase 1 will automatically extend to downloads in phase 2.
The following online services support UltraViolet. Some offer disc redemption (see 1.6.5), some offer disc-to-digital (see 1.6.4), and some offer online direct purchase (often called electronic sell-through or EST), and some offer all three services.
|Best Buy CinemaNow||US, Canada|
|EzyDVD||Australia, New Zealand|
|Flixster||US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland|
|JB Hi-Fi||Australia, New Zealand|
|Kaleidescape||US, Canada, UK, Ireland|
|M-Go||US, UK, Ireland|
|Barnes & Noble Nook||US, UK, Ireland|
|Sony Pictures Store||US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany|
|Universal Hi-Def||US, Canada|
UltraViolet supports any form of video — movies, TV shows, and so on— as long as the content owner licenses it for use in the UltraViolet ecosystem.
Not yet, although it could add support in the future.
No, UltraViolet is intended for commercial content. Although an UltraViolet service could combine your Library and your personal content. See 4.5 for more on personal video.
Yes. Each UltraViolet user has their own parental control settings. Parents can set the maximum rating level for their children (and perhaps the children's grandparents), which limits what the children can purchase, what they can see when the view the Library, and what they can stream. Users can also separately set parental controls on their UltraViolet players.
UltraViolet does not restrict what movies are made available through the system. The ratings information identifies adult content, and the UltraViolet parental control feature allows each user (or the parent of an underage user) to choose whether or not they can see adult content.
UltraViolet currently provides only electronic sell-through (EST). In other words, you can buy movies but you can't yet rent or subscribe. DECE plans to add more business models in future versions.
Not currently. However, retailers and streaming services that support rental can easily add UltraViolet buying, download, and streaming to their existing offerings.
Not in the usual sense. You don't get monthly access to thousands of movies and TV shows on demand, as with Netflix. However, existing video subscription services can add features for you to download or stream movies already in your Library, subject to content license agreements. And you can subscribe to ongoing series that automatically add new episodes or movies to your UltraViolet Library as they are released.
Sort of. Retailers are free to make content available based on any transaction they wish. So content may be acquired for free or in exchange for something such as watching an ad or joining a club or signing up for a service, but the acquisition is permanent. Retailers and streaming services can't, for example, provide one-time views if you watch ads. UltraViolet currently has no mechanism for inserting ads into content during playback.
Here's the basic model for accounts, players, and content:
Because you can copy UltraViolet movies from player to player, UltraViolet needs a way to make sure that you own the movie you want to play. It does this by checking to see if the movie is listed in your Library and by checking if the player is "yours." The UltraViolet account system lets up to 6 people share 12 players. Each player must be registered, or "joined," to the account.
Joining is a one-time step that usually starts on the player. Choose the "register" option on the player, sign in to your UltraViolet account, and you're done. The player then shows up in the "Our Players" section of your account.
You can unregister ("unjoin") a player at any time, so as you upgrade to new devices such as mobile phones and computers, or switch to different software apps, you can remove the older ones you no longer use and add new ones (up to the limit of 12).
For normal removal you choose the "unregister" option on the player. There's no limit on how many times you can add or remove players this way, although there are restrictions on flipping a player back and forth between the same UltraViolet accounts.
If a player is lost or broken you can go to the UltraViolet website (uvvu.com) and remove the player from there. There are limits on how many times per year you can mark a player lost or unavailable, to prevent people from "losing" dozens of players that somehow find their way into other hands, still loaded with movies. It would be like repeatedly holding onto library books or Netflix discs while telling the library or Netflix that you "lost" them all.
You can link accounts at UltraViolet services to your UltraViolet account. This is a shortcut to logging in with your UltraViolet username and password every time you use an UltraViolet service, and it establishes a persistent connected between the service and your UltraViolet account.
You can see which services are linked to your UltraViolet account by going to uvvu.com and choosing "Linked Services" from the Member Details section. You can unlink services from here if you like.
You're not required to link accounts. For example, if you wanted to buy a movie from an UltraViolet retailer that you don't think you'll ever visit again, you can uncheck the "Link my UltraViolet account with XXX" option. You can still buy the movie, but that retailer won't stay connected to your UltraViolet account.
You can link an unlimited number of UltraViolet services to a single UltraViolet account. In other words, you can link an account at Vudu to an UltraViolet account, an account at Flixster to the same UltraViolet account, an account at CinemaNow to the same UltraViolet account, and so on.
You can only link one UltraViolet account to a single account at an UltraViolet service. In other words, you can link your UltraViolet account to your Nook account but you can't then link someone else's UltraViolet account to the same Nook account.
In certain cases you can only link two accounts at an UltraViolet streaming service to a single UltraViolet account. This limit applies to streaming services that use "persistently" connected devices such as cable set-top boxes, game consoles, Roku boxes, BD players, and the like. Because only a one-time link is required, after which you can use those devices without re-entering a username and password or retyping an activation code, you can only make two links from accounts at one of these services to a single UltraViolet account. (This limit is unfortunate but necessary, since it prevents someone from, for example, visiting every house in their neighborhood and permanently hooking up dozens of household streaming devices to a single UltraViolet account.)
Keep in mind that all users of an UltraViolet account share the same content. So there's no need to link each member of an UltraViolet account to one account at an UltraViolet service. In other words, once you link your UltraViolet account to a Vudu account, all the movies in the UltraViolet account are shared through the Vudu account. Linking additional members of the UltraViolet account doesn't add anything (and may result in an error message because the the two-account link limit mentioned above).
Basic users can't create links to streaming services, only full and standard users can.
UltraViolet services may have their own limits on the number of specific streaming devices or apps you can link to their service. This is independent of UltraViolet account links. In other words, you might make one link from your Vudu account to your UltraViolet account. You can then link various devices and apps to your Vudu account, subject to Vudu's own limits. Each time you link a Vudu app to your Vudu service, your UltraViolet movies will appear on the Vudu app, since your UltraViolet is already linked to your Vudu account.
Yes. UltraViolet files can be copied onto USB sticks, SD cards, hard drives, and any other form of storage for playback on an UltraViolet player, either directly from storage or after copying from storage onto the player. As long as the player belongs to an account with rights to the file, it will be able to play it.
Players that don't have their own connection to the Internet can use a PC to download UltraViolet files and transfer them to the player.
Yes. Superdistribution refers to unlimited distribution of files before they are purchased. Any method can be used to deliver the file (even BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks), as well as pre-loading files onto players or storage media such as SD cards. The first time the file is played, the player will discover that the content is not licensed and will give the user the opportunity to purchase it. Once the purchase is complete the file will play.
Retailers are obligated to provide download service for UltraViolet content they sell, but they have the additional option to cast the files onto the winds of the Internet and let them land where they may in hopes that finders will be buyers.
In general, UltraViolet files will play on every UltraViolet player. UltraViolet does not have region codes.
Sale of UltraViolet movies depends on retail and distribution agreements, so not all movies can be purchased in all countries. Access to streams and downloads is available in the country where your purchased the movie, but may not be available in all other countries. But once a file is downloaded to an UltraViolet player, it can be played anywhere.
The UltraViolet file format supports 60Hz and 50Hz frame rates. Players are only required to support 60Hz video, and almost all content is in 60Hz format, but it's possible to have a 50Hz movie that won't work on a player that only supports 60Hz.
No! UltraViolet is not a new DRM (digital rights management) system. One of the many things UltraViolet does is make existing DRMs interoperable (see 3.3.2). In other words UltraViolet makes it possible to buy content that works on different players using different DRMs.
Snide note: For years, people have complained that one of the biggest problems with DRMs is they aren't interoperable. That is, if you buy content protected by one DRM you can't play it in a player that uses a different DRM. UltraViolet made huge advances in solving the DRM compatibility problem, yet some people are now griping —inaccurately— that UltraViolet is another DRM.
In spite of what you may hear from pundits, discs are not going away any time soon. Jim's prediction in 2005 was that it would take at least 20 years for typical American consumers to switch from DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD) to digital downloads and streaming. As of 2014 that still seems about right. That said, physical media will inexorably and inevitably be replaced by electronic media. More and more people are turning to the Internet for television, movies, news, and other video.
UltraViolet and other online video systems provide alternatives to DVD and BD, but ironically UltraViolet may extend the lifecycle of physical media by easing the transition, since it provides the ability to get physical copies of UltraViolet movies or to get UltraViolet rights when you buy a disc (see 6.2.3).
You can hold a DVD. You can't hold an UltraViolet right.
Video and audio quality of UltraViolet SD movies can be better than DVDs (or of course can be worse). UltraViolet supports chapters, but does not yet support DVD-like menus and interactive features. This is planned for a future release.
It's a little farther down the electromagnetic spectrum.
Video and audio quality of UltraViolet HD movies can be on par with Blu-ray Discs (or of course can be worse). UltraViolet supports chapters, but does not yet support BD-like menus and interactive features. This is planned for a future release.
Their names are different, for one. (There's actually a lot to say here ... I'll get to it eventually.)
UltraViolet works fine with Apple iOS devices if you download an UltraViolet app. Flixster Movies, the first UltraViolet-compatible app (released in Oct 2011), can stream and download UltraViolet movies on iPhones, iPads, Macs, Android devices, and Windows PCs. Using Apple AirPlay mirroring, iPad2's and iPhone 4S's can play the movies through Apple TV.
UltraViolet can work with iTunes, but only if Apple chooses to participate in UltraViolet. Until then, UltraViolet movies will play on Apple devices but won't show up in iTunes.
After work had been underway on UltraViolet for a year or so, Disney announced its own KeyChest project, which was immediately held up by others —not Disney— as competition for UltraViolet. Disney stated that KeyChest would be a lightweight system to track rights, without all the additional usage models and business models that were being worked out for UltraViolet. Since then, KeyChest morphed into a Disney-only service under the hood of Disney Movies Anywhere (originally Disney Movie Rewards, then re-announced as Disney Studio All Access in February 2011 and launched as Disney Movies Anywhere in early 2014).
It would be technically possible for KeyChest to be connected to UltraViolet, so that KeyChest rights would appear in UltraViolet Libraries and vice versa. The decision to join UltraViolet is up to Disney.
Yes, in the sense that your Library is stored "in the cloud" and accessed using the Internet. One important distinction is that the UltraViolet system itself doesn't store or deliver content. UltraViolet keeps track of which movies and TV shows you own. Different retailers and streaming service providers canstore and deliver your movies over the Internet (see 3.1).
No. These services are essentially large hard drives in the sky. Some have music streaming/download features. It would be quite easy for Amazon, for example, to support UltraViolet files in Cloud Drive, and in fact Amazon Cloud Drive users can upload their UltraViolet files to Cloud Drive for safe keeping and then download them to UltraViolet players.
Yes. UltraViolet allows in-home streaming using the two DLNA link protection formats DTCP/IP and WMDRM-ND. An UltraViolet-compliant DLNA server (a DMS) or a DLNA-compliant UltraViolet player (a DMP) can stream to other DLNA devices (DMRs).
UltraViolet defines a set of "roles" within the ecosystem. Each role has certain requirements and obligations, along with technical specifications on how the role operates. Each role is detailed in the following sections.
There is only one Coordinator, currently operated on behalf of DECE by Neustar. The Coordinator is the central clearinghouse that holds information about UltraViolet content and UltraViolet users. The Coordinator does not store or deliver content. It only stores information about users and what content rights they own.
A Web Portal is a central web site providing user access to the UltraViolet ecosystem. Currently there is one Web Portal, at www.uvvu.com. After logging into the Web Portal, users can manage their account, view their Library, and manage the players and services that are connected to their account. (The original Web Portal was built by Neustar. It was replaced at the end of 2013 by a new version built by Digitaria.)
A Content Provider, such as a Hollywood studio, publishes content for use in UltraViolet.
A Retailer, such as Best Buy or Wal-mart, sells UltraViolet content to users by putting the right to access the content into the user's Library. Retailers can sell online or in physical stores.
A Download Service Provider (DSP) provides services to Retailer for delivering content to users' UltraViolet players. DSPs provide downloads and DRM licenses. A Retailer can be its own DSP or can use a third-party DSP.
A Locker Access Streaming Provider (LASP or streaming service provider), such as Comcast, streams content to users' players.
A Client Implementer makes UltraViolet-compatible players, called devices. Devices can be physical players such as web-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, or mobile phones or software players that run on open systems such PCs, tablets, or smartphones.
An Access Portal provides a way for users to login to UltraViolet without going to the Web Portal or to a Retailer or LASP.
DECE members developed a common file format (CFF) designed to play in all UltraViolet players and work with all DECE-approved DRMs. The format is based on existing standards from MPEG, SMPTE, and others, and was originally derived from the Microsoft Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF) specification. The goal was to avoid the problem of different file formats for different players and to make it possible to copy files from player and player.
There are two profiles for files and players: standard definition (SD), and high definition (HD). (The CFF specification defines a third portable definition format (PD), but UltraViolet currently doesn't use it.) An SD player will play only SD files, and an HD player will play SD and HD files. See 3.2.4 for details.
Much of the work done by DECE is being adopted by MPEG in updates to the MPEG-4 container format and as part of the MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) format. Therefore, the common file format can be used in other systems and is expected to become broadly deployed.
UltraViolet files use the fragmented MPEG-4 container format (fMP4, technically known as ISO/IEC 14496-12 and often called an ISO container, not to be confused with an ISO image file for CD/DVD/BD disc images or the ISO shipping container format, and often using the .mp4 extension, not to be confused with MP4 audio players, which are really just fancy MP3 players that can also play AAC audio files, which usually use the .m4a extension, which is defined by MPEG-4 Part 7, technically known as ISO/IEC 13818-7, so they really should use .mp7 as the extension, but I see your eyes glazing over so I'll get back to the topic at hand). The MPEG-4 container format is based on the Apple QuickTime file format.
UltraViolet files are not required to be encrypted, but they usually are. The files are encrypted using AES keys, which are then protected using one or DRM systems, with the DRM-specific information placed in the header of the file. This is known as the ISO MPEG common encryption method (pssh/cenc).
UltraViolet files use H.264/AVC video (ISO/IEC 14496-15). See 3.2.4 for resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates. Only progressive-scan video is allowed (none of that last-century interlaced stuff).
UltraViolet files use stereo MPEG-4 AAC LC audio (ISO/IEC 14496-3) as a required base format, with optional multi-channel AAC, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (MLP), DTS, DTS HD, DTS Master Audio, and DTS Express (low bit rate).
UltraViolet files use a profile of SMPTE Timed Text (SMPTE TT), which is in turn based on W3C Timed Text Markup Language (TTML). TT incorporates both Unicode text and PNG graphics for captions, subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), and other types of subtitles and subpictures such as sign language and written commentaries.
(px) (aspect ratio)
(max channels, sampling rate, max bitrate)
|Standard (SD)||640 x 480 (1.33)||23.976, 29.97, 25, 50, 60||MPEG-4 AAC 2ch 48kHz 192 kbps *||CFF-TT Profile of SMPTE TT
(text and graphics)
|MPEG-4 AAC 5.1ch 48kHz 960 kbps|
|AC-3 (Dolby Digital) 5.1ch 48kHz 640 kbps|
|854 x 480 (1.78)||EAC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus) 5.1ch 48kHz 3024 kbps|
|DTS 5.1ch 48kHz 1536 kbps|
|DTS-HD 5.1ch 48kHz 3018 kbps|
|High (HD)||1280 x 720 (1.78)||23.976, 29.97, 25, 50, 60||MPEG-4 AAC 2ch 48kHz 192 kbps *||CFF-TT Profile of SMPTE TT
(text and graphics)
|MPEG-4 AAC 5.1ch 48kHz 960 kbps|
|AC-3 (Dolby Digital) 7.1ch 48kHz 640 kbps|
|EAC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus) 6.1ch 48kHz 3024 kbps|
|1920 x 1080 (1.78)||23.976, 29.97, 25||DTS 5.1ch 48/96kHz or 6.1ch 48kHz 1536 kbps|
|DTS-HD 7.1ch 48/96kHz 6123 kbps
|DTS-HD Master Audio 8ch 48/96/192kHz 24500 kbps|
|MLP (Dolby TrueHD) 8ch 48/96/192kHz 18000 kbps|
* = Mandatory
We're in the 21st century now! Almost every modern display is natively progressive scan, so rather than have all the players or displays convert interlaced video with varying degrees of quality, UltraViolet expects the content producer to do a one-time, high-quality conversion.
Like DVD and Blu-ray, UltraViolet uses technical methods to prevent unauthorized copies. Unlike DVD and Blu-ray, which each have their own special copy protection systems, UltraViolet uses industry standard DRMs (see 3.3.1) in a way that makes them work together (see 3.3.3).
In December 2008, DECE chose five DRMs (digital rights management systems):
Additional DRMs may be approved later. The first five are conditionally approved, which means they will be supported across the ecosystem (in phase 2, see 1.7) if and when an UltraViolet-compatible version of the DRM is ready for commercial deployment in players.
As of October 2011, CMLA-OMA and PlayReady were declared operational for use in UltraViolet players. As of early 2014, Adobe Primetime and Marlin are nearing final approval.
A digital rights management (DRM) system combines copy protection —encryption of video and audio so that it won't play if accessed or copied in an unauthorized way— with a usage model —rules about when and where something is allowed to be played. Because DRMs use technological protection measures, attempted circumvention triggers laws such as the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty.
A perfect DRM is invisible to normal users. It only appears when someone tries to do something illegal. Unfortunately there is no perfect DRM system, and most DRMs get in the way of doing legitimate things with purchased content. That's why people don't like them.
An early example of a DRM is the CSS technology used on DVDs. A CSS-protected DVD is encrypted, but every DVD player has built-in keys to decrypt the DVD while it plays. It's only when someone tries to make a copy that the encryption gets in the way. Getting in the way of someone trying to make copies to sell or give away is a good thing, from the copyright owner's point of view. Getting in the way of a teacher trying to use a film snippet or a home user trying to make a legally allowed personal copy is not.
UltraViolet gets closer to a perfect DRM than most attempts so far, although it's far from perfect. UltraViolet does this by using multiple DRMs and a liberal usage model that allows multiple users to download and stream on many devices.
Mojo and Vaseline.
The attempts to use DRMs on downloaded music in late 1990's early 2000's were too limited and too restrictive, making it impossible to move music from player to player. Studios eventually gave up and allowed music to be sold unprotected.
The home video business generates tens of billions of dollars every year. Movies are very expensive to make, and studios are unwilling to let the content flow freely. Studios protect their movies for the same reason people lock their houses and cars—not everyone can be trusted to do the right thing. Many initial attempts at online video were too limited and restrictive (see 1.2), but UltraViolet is an attempt to find the right balance between control and flexibility for honest users.
Every UltraViolet player has a DRM client in it. When the player is joined to an UltraViolet account, the DRM client gets a domain ID corresponding to the account. The Coordinator keeps track of all the players and their DRM clients and domain IDs, joining them into a metadomain for each account. When a player attempts to play an UltraViolet file it first checks to see if there's a DRM license in the file corresponding to the DRM client, and the DRM client checks to see if the DRM license matches its domain ID. If so, the file plays.
If there's no matching DRM license then the player uses information in the file to request a DRM license from the DRM license server at the DSP providing license services for the Retailer that sold the file. The DSP checks the accounts Library to see if it has rights to the file. If so, it sends a DRM license to the player, which can then play the file. The player stores the DRM license in the file for future use.
If the DRM license doesn't match the player's domain (e.g., the file was copied from a player in one account to a player in a different account) or there is no DRM license or license acquisition info (e.g., it's a superdistributed file, see 1.11.2), then the player may give the user an option to buy rights to the file. Once the right has been added to the account's Library then then a DRM license can be acquired and the file will play.
This approach allows files to be freely copied from player to player and for players to be joined to an account at any time. As long as the account "owns" the content there will either be a matching DRM license in the file or the player will be able to request a license.
All of this happens invisibly and very quickly behind the scenes, apart from the case where a user doesn't own the content and is prompted to buy it.
Yes. You can copy any UltraViolet file. You can make as many copies as you like and store them anywhere you want. If you have the right to play a copy (if it's in your UltraViolet Library) then it will play on any of your UltraViolet players. If you don't have a right to the copy then you'll need to buy the right before you will be able to play it.
Ultraviolet does not currently specify or require watermarking for content protection or forensic use.
Forensic watermarks (to help track down where a copy came from) can be applied to any audio or video stream, regardless of format, so it's possible for forensic watermarks to be inserted before content is published into the UltraViolet ecosystem, but UltraViolet players are not required to check for watermarks of any kind.
It involves chickens, arcane symbols, walking backwards widdershins, and bits. Lots and lots of bits.
Encoding and packaging systems are available from companies such as Digital Rapids, Elemental Technologies, and Rovi.
Some of the same services that produce DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are now able to prepare content for UltraViolet download in the Common File Format (see 3.2) and also work with streaming services to encode files for streaming.
DECE members have access to test files and a file verifier. DECE member companies such as BluFocus and Testronics, who provide DVD and Blu-ray testing services, are working on new UltraViolet tools and testing services.
UltraViolet is designed for commercial video produced by licensed content provides and sold by licensed retailers. Unless you sign up as a content provider or use a service that's a licensed content provider, you can't get your content into UltraViolet.
The UltraViolet file format is based on the MPEG-4 standard (see 3.2), so if you put your own video into the right format, it may play in UltraViolet players.
If signing up as an UltraViolet licensed content provider (see 3.1.2) is too expensive you need to find a content aggregator who's licensed as an UltraViolet content provider. A content aggregator can put your titles into the UltraViolet ecosystem and market and sell your titles directly (as an UltraViolet retailer) or license your titles to other UltraViolet retailers.
Do you believe the government is secretly implanting tracking chips in children as part of the vaccination program? (If yes, stop reading. Go hunt for crop circles or Elvis.)
The amount of misinformation spread around about UltraViolet, not to mention downright enmity, is surprising. People are free of course to dislike UltraViolet, and it's far from perfect in design or execution, but this section attempts to counter certain outright lies and misstatements that tend to circulate, like stories of microwaved poodles and Pop Rocks with soda.
No. Hundreds of people worked on UltraViolet for years, and this was not an agenda item in any of the meetings.
Here are the facts:
It's in the best interests of every participating company to get you to use UltraViolet as much as possible so they can sell you more movies. Is a company more likely to give you free downloads and streams so that you'll buy movies from them, or will they try to squeeze money out of you for a download or stream that costs them pennies?
Ironically Warner choose to extend the guaranteed free period from one year to three years, which led to allegations that you would be forced to rebuy UltraViolet movies after three years. The Warner Bros. UltraViolet Digital Copy insert in packages says "If offer redeemed prior to deadline, delivery of streaming and downloads available at no additional charge for 3 years from date of redemption." The redemption deadline is just over 2 years after the disc went on sale. Warner doesn't say whether they will or won't charge for downloads or streaming after 3 years.
Imagine the worst case scenario: One year after purchase or redemption (or three years for Warner), downloads and streams of the movie are no longer free. If you never downloaded an UltraViolet file then you would have to pay for a download. If you wanted more streams you would have to pay. Retailers and studios could charge whatever the market would bear. Files you downloaded during the guaranteed free period would continue to play on all your UltraViolet players (PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc.). If your UltraViolet right came with a BD or DVD you would still have the disc. So UltraViolet would work roughly like DVD and BD today, except on many more devices. It would work on Apple devices plus millions of other devices that aren't supported by Apple iTunes.
Bottom line: Once you download an UltraViolet file you can play it as many times as you like for no charge. You can make copies that work on a variety of devices. You can stream for at least a year for free. You might be able to download and stream for free until you die, or you might have to pay after year or two or three. We don't know today what one year or five years or one decade will bring. Assuming UltraViolet succeeds, it will continue to work on hundreds of millions of devices for decades, and unlike VHS and DVD and BD it won't get out of date because of advances in technology.
There you have it: UltraViolet is clearly a nefarious plan hatched by dinosaur-brain Hollywood execs to restrict the use of your legally bought digital purchases.
The UltraViolet system has a record of all your purchases, of course. Your Library is visible to all UltraViolet services, but unless you give a particular service permission to use your information for marketing purposes that service is not allowed to use it for anything other than UltraViolet functions (managing your account, viewing your Library, downloading, and streaming).
The UltraViolet system keeps track of your streams. It does not have a record of your downloads. Once you download an UltraViolet file you can play it as many times as you like without ever being connected to the Internet. It's impossible for UltraViolet or studios to track your offline playing habits.
UltraViolet usage data is available to licensees, but only in aggregate form. For example, a studio will know how many copies of a movie were sold in a given month and how many times the movie was streamed, but it does not get information about individual users, their purchases, or their streams.
In other words, UltraViolet does not enable data mining by studios, retailers, or anyone else. UltraViolet licensees have limited access to your data except in the case where they ask you first for your permission.
If you're really worried about this scenario the first thing you should do is cut up all your grocery store loyalty cards. Then cancel all your online shopping accounts and buy everything in person using cash. Then stop using the Internet altogether.
UltraViolet rights belong to your account and cannot be removed. Once you download an UltraViolet movie it's yours forever (see 1.6.1) even if UltraViolet fails and shuts down (see 184.108.40.206).
UltraViolet retailers are required to provide streams for at least five years after you buy the movie, but there's no guarantee you can stream forever or stream for free after the first year.
Do you really own the content that is in the cloud? You own the right that is in the cloud, and you have full access to playable files that you download. You aren't guaranteed perpetual ability to download and stream from the cloud.
From all the vitriolic complaints at Amazon and elsewhere you would think so. But consider what you get when you buy a DVD or BD with an "UltraViolet Digital Copy." You get a copy of the movie in the cloud and you can download and stream more than one copy of the movie to an iPhone, iPad, Android device, Windows PC, Mac, or Xbox 360. Your UltraViolet "copy" often isn't contained on a disc in the package, although it can be. You have to download it or stream it. But it doesn't work with Apple iTunes and iCloud. Crivens! Good thing Warner Bros. didn't call it an "iTunes Digital Copy."
UltraViolet was developed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, LLC (DECE), a non-profit group of companies that owns and licenses the specifications and the logo. DECE operates the UltraViolet ecosystem. More information is available at www.uvvu.com.
The UltraViolet specs were made available in February 2011. The license agreements and most of the specs are public, available for download. The Coordinator API specification is confidential, so you must fill out a request and sign an NDA before you can get a copy.
Companies participating in UltraViolet must pay annual fixed license fees. Certain roles also pay usage fees.
Most roles pay US $50,000 per year per territory, with a cap of $150,000.
Client implementers pay $75,000 per year for a worldwide license, plus $0.25 each time one of their players is registered to an account.
Each transaction resulting in placement of a rights token costs $0.25 for a long-form movie or $0.02 for a short-form TV show, split between the retailer and the content provider. Each stream costs $0.01.
Usage fees are capped at $250,000 per year. Companies taking multiple roles must pay the fixed license fee for each role, capped worldwide at a total of $300,000.
A special partner developer license, which allows companies to develop products or components only for full licensees, costs $5,000 annually.
Small companies (annual gross revenue <$100M) pay only 20% of fixed fees but have an increased usage fee cap to make up the difference.
More details are available in the license agreements (see 6.2).
UltraViolet is supported by DECE member companies comprising studios, consumers electronics companies, computer companies, retailers, service providers, and more. A complete list is available at UVVU.
DECE provides a yellow pages list of licensees providing components and services. Many DECE member companies are working on UltraViolet products and services that aren't yet announced. Additionally, the following high-profile companies provide or have announced UltraViolet services.
Visit the DECE inquiry form. You can become a license (to develop UltraViolet products or services) or a member (to work on the specifications and features) or both.
What, you still want more information after reading all the way through this? Lucky for you there's more out there on the Internet.
|2007||OpenMarket proposed by Mitch Singer of Sony Pictures.|
|Jun 2008||DECE LLC formed by original OpenMarket founders and opened to all interested companies.|
|Jan 2010||Common file format and initial set of 5 DRMs announced; Neustar announced as Coordinator provider.|
|Jul 2010||UltraViolet brand announced.|
|Jan 2011||CES announcements with more details and expectation of availability in second half of 2011. Evaluation specifications released.|
|Mar 2011||UltraViolet FAQ unveiled to the world in quiet obscurity. High-Def Digest Forum members and others find it within weeks.|
|Jul 2011||UltraViolet licensing program started and 1.0 specifications released.|
|Oct 2011||UltraViolet launched in the US with the release of Warner Bros.' Horrible Bosses, the first Blu-ray disc to include UltraViolet rights.|
|Dec 2011||Sony Pictures and NBC Universal released their first Blu-ray Discs with UltraViolet copies included.
UltraViolet launched in the UK when UltraViolet rights were bundled with Final Destination 5 on Blu-ray.
|Jan 2012||DECE announced that in less than 90 days since launch UltraViolet passed 750,000 accounts, representing over
1 million users.
Paramount Pictures released first UltraViolet EST-only titles.
|Feb 2012||IHS estimated that UltraViolet passed over 850 million users and 1 million titles (representing over 5% of the EST market, which
sold 19 million titles in 2011). PaidContent.org later quoted DECE that user count was more than 1 million.
UltraViolet is a question on Jeopardy ("uvvu.com is the website for this 'colorful' system that can unite your discs and downloads into 1 digital library").
|Mar 2012||Walmart announced its participation in UltraViolet, including a disc-to-digital program.|
|Apr 2012||Walmart Vudu service added UltraViolet.|
|Jun 2012||UltraViolet passed 3 million users and 6,000 titles.
Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures release UltraViolet titles in the UK.
|Sep 2012||Barnes & Noble announced its participation in UltraViolet.
UltraViolet passed 5 million users and 7,000 titles.
|Oct 2012||BBC Worldwide announced its first UltraViolet releases, including Doctor Who Series 7.
Warner, Universal Studios, and Sony Pictures announced they will release UltraViolet content in Canada before the end of the year.
Redbox announced plans to join DECE and promote UltraViolet.
|Nov 2012||Best Buy CinemaNow began participating in UltraViolet.|
|Dec 2012||UltraViolet passed 9 million users and 8,000 titles.
Cineplex (in Canada) and M-Go began participating in UltraViolet.
|Apr 2013||Over 12 million users.
UltraViolet launched in Ireland with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
|May 2013||JB HiFi and Flixster launched UltraViolet in Australia and New Zealand.|
|Jul 2013||“Pacific Rim” was the first SuperTicket offering (from Cineplex and Warner Bros.), allowing moviegoers to purchase a movie admission ticket and pre-order the UltraViolet digital version at the same time.|
|Aug 2013||EzyDVD added UltraViolet support in Australia and New Zealand.|
|Sep 2013||Target Ticket launched in the US with UltraViolet.
Kaleidescape added Canada.
|Nov 2013||Over 14 million users and 11,000 titles.
UltraViolet launched by Flixster in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with Pacific Rim.
|Jan 2014||Over 15 million users and 12,000 titles.
DivX DRM granted conditional approval for use in CFF.
DECE and this FAQ use the term "content" to refer to movies, TV shows, and any other form of video. This FAQ often uses the terms "video" or "movie" to refer to any form of video.
Data transfer rates when measured in bits per second are almost always multiples of 1000, but when measured in bytes per second are sometimes multiples of 1024. This FAQ uses "kbps" for thousands of bits/sec and "Mbps" for millions of bits/sec (note the small "k" and big "M").
In December 1998, the IEC produced new prefixes for binary multiples: kibibytes (KiB), mebibytes (MiB), gibibytes (GiB), tebibytes (TiB), and so on. (More details at NIST, also released as IEEE Std 1541-2002.) These prefixes may never catch on, or they may cause even more confusion, but they are a valiant effort to solve the problem. The big strike against them is that they sound rather silly.
This FAQ is written and maintained by Jim Taylor. Everything written here can be blamed on Jim. This FAQ is not an official publication of DECE and is not endorsed by DECE.
Thanks to Mitch Singer, Mark Teitell, and Gary Mittelstaedt for their early support of this FAQ.
This FAQ is dedicated to my long-time colleague and friend Scott Fierstein, who died of cancer in October 2012, two days before UltraViolet's first birthday, and long before his time.
Scott was one of UltraViolet's most ardent champions and one of the earliest driving forces behind DECE, representing Microsoft in DECE work for 6 years. Scott had a passionate vision of how UltraViolet could meaningfully change the way people are entertained and educated. In dozens of DECE meetings over many years, Scott pushed hard to go the extra mile and make UltraViolet that much easier, that much friendlier, and that much greater. Sometimes it drove him crazy that we couldn't do everything with UltraViolet that we wanted. I always told him his problem was that he cared too much.
Much of what's best about UltraViolet is because of Scott.
Copyright 2010-2014 by Jim Taylor. This document may be redistributed only in its entirety with version date, authorship notice, and acknowledgements intact. No part of it may be sold for profit or incorporated in a commercial document without the permission of the copyright holder. Permission will be granted for complete electronic copies to be made available as an archive or mirror service on the condition that the author be notified and that the copy be kept up to date. This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranty.
UltraViolet Demystified is hosted by the excellent SiteGround.
Sign up for hosting services at SiteGround and Jim will get a discount on the cost of hosting this site.