Best Buy has launched a new service, allowing you to convert your DVD movies into digital UltraViolet titles you can stream and download from several devices using CinemaNow software.
Wal-Mart has a similar system in place allowing you to convert your DVDs to Digital, and store them in the cloud. With the Best Buy service, you can do the same, but with software used at home. Currently, more than 3500 titles are supported with more titles added every day.
Services from Netflix, Amazon Instant and the recent RedBox Instant, are good choices when streaming movies on the go. But if you’d like your own custom collection at your fingertips, without the monthly fees, CinemaNow may be what your looking for.
I decided to give the Best Buy service a try and dug up some DVDs from the closet. Since most of my collection was Blu-Rays (not supported yet), I was only able work with a few titles. I brought The Matrix, Little Miss Sunshine, The Jerk and Airplane into the living room.
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for a CinemaNow account. During the registration process, you’ll need to either sign up for an UltraViolet account or link to an existing one, if you have one.
The next step is to download the CinemaNow Player for Mac or PC.
After inserting a disc, you’ll be presented with a few conversion options:
Airplane was not recognized. The Matrix and Little Miss Sunshine was recognized but did not qualify for Disc to Digital conversion. Both The Jerk and Pulp Fiction qualified for conversion; I purchased Pulp Fiction HD for $5 and The Jerk in SD for $2.
For future reference, CinemaNow has a list of supported titles.
The same software you downloaded earlier will be used to play any movies in your library. CinemaNow for PC and Mac will stream any movies you have rented, purchased or uploaded using the Disc to Digital service. You also have the option of downloading any movie you own to your computer to watch later.
The movie library layout is pleasing to the eye and can be sorted by purchase date or title. Movies are displayed by their cover art along with a short description and actor info along the right side of each selected film.
Both movies were recognized and streamed flawlessly using the CinemaNow app on my iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot to stream any movie in your library. As someone grandfathered into an unlimited data plan, I find it inconvenient. Netflix allows me to stream using my cellular connection.
You also have the option of downloading any of your UltraViolet titles to your device itself. This will allow you to watch your movies on a flight or anywhere Internet is not available.
The service claims it’s compatible with “CinemaNow & UltraViolet enabled apps”. But despite my best efforts, I could not get the CinemaNow Xbox app to play any of my UltraViolet titles. Both movies I had transferred from DVD to digital were shown under my library. Attempting to play them, however, resulted in an error: “Your UltraViolet account is not active. Please log into your UltraViolet account at www.uvvu.com for more information.”
The issue was “escalated” and I’m to receive more info in 24-48 hours. I’ll update this article when I find a definite answer or solution to the issue.Since I couldn’t find anything in the support FAQ, I decided to ask one of CinemaNow support reps via chat. After about 10 minutes, I was connected to a rep that suggested I unlink, then link my UltraViolet account. After that didn’t solve the problem, she asked me to unregister, then register my Xbox 360 device. That didn’t solve the issue either.
Update: A representative responded to my inquiry about Xbox support for streaming purchased disc-to-digital titles:
“Thank you very much for reaching us with your inqueries. We kindly apologize for the inconvenience you are presenting. We’re currently having techical difficulties with the UVVU accounts being linked to CinemaNow. We’re working on a fix to resolve this issue, as of now you can rent/purchase NON UVVU titles.”
The CinemaNow service seems to be a great idea to get that DVD collection into a cloud server you can stream and download from anywhere. Unfortunately, the list is minimal and may not allow you to complete your entire library. Since I’ve adopted the Blu-Ray format from early on, most of my discs are not compatible with the Disc to Digital format either.
If your DVD library is extensive, CinemaNow will probably be an expensive option. A cheaper alternative would be to create your own movie server, converting each of your DVD’s manually and storing them on a dedicated system, such as a Mac Mini. They can then be played with via the software of your choice. A jailbroken Apple TV is a popular choice.
If my movie collection will be in the cloud (even if it’s a partial collection), I’d want to have it available on a wide range of devices, especially on my TV.
Another thing to note is the lack of closed captioning support. Not a deal breaker but important if you are dependent on them. HD is also not compatible with my Xbox 360, iPad 3 or even on my Macbook Pro. I was pretty sure my iPad 3 was HD.
In all fairness, the service says it’s compatible with some HDTVs and Blu-Ray players but I have not been able to test this yet; neither my HDTV nor Blu-Ray has a CinemaNow app available for them. Please let me know how they’ve worked for you (and if you can stream your UltraViolet titles).
The software is still in Beta, which means the price plans, features and supported devices may change. For now, the service seems incomplete. I’m going to give it a few months and see if anything changes.
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I’m not sure when this was originally posted, but I can tell you as of October 20th, 2013, the XBox playback issue has still not been resolved.