Digital copy has become a standard feature in most new Blu-ray discs, but the methods of transferring them and playing them are different from studio to studio. With so many people stepping up to Blu-ray this Christmas, and the multiple choices you often get in the box, I thought we’d take a look at the three most prevalent forms of digital copy this week, and rate them on quality, portability, ease of use, and more. Let’s start with a look at pocket BLU, the portability app favored by Universal, Fox, and a few others on occasion.
Ease of Use: A-
File Size: B+
Platforms: iOS/Android (Basic disc interface functionality supported on Blackberry, Windows Phone, and Nokia Platforms)
What sets pocket BLU apart from other digital copy options is its ability to stream special features, some of them exclusive, over the internet, and to download your digital copy directly from the Blu-ray disc to any device on your home network. This eliminates wasteful one-time-use discs, production and shipping costs, and general clutter. You just shoot a QR code on the sheet with your phone or tablet camera, and the file automatically authenticates and sucks it down in about 10 minutes. pocket BLU can also act as a WiFi remote for your Blu-ray disc player, with a full keyboard for the handful of Blu-rays that support it. File sizes come in in the 700MB range, with quality being acceptable for use on phones, tablets, and laptops, but can suffer from macroblocking and other compression issues when output to larger displays.
When I upgraded to iOS5, my copy of X-Men: First Class was hosed, and I had to re-download the app and re-transfer the file from the disc so it would work again (Deluxe tells me that the authentication code can be used 5 times). More importantly, the pocket BLU app currently lacks any kind of orientation lock, which can make watching scope movies lying in bed a real pin-pong adventure. There’s really no excuse for video not to be locked to horizontal display like it is in virtually every other application at all times, because nothing says entertainment like a quarter-inch tall video image. The format is also limited to Apple, Android, and PC/Mac playback.
Recent statements made by Deluxe hint that pocket BLU may very well support UltraViolet in the near future, matching features with Warner Bros.’ Flixster app. Even given that functionality and additional studio support, though, in the future I think I’d choose iTunes for digital copy (which we’ll cover in a future installment) over pocket BLU, despite the file sizes being over twice as larger. While redeeming the digital copy is far more difficult and time consuming in iTunes, the playback experience is much more pleasurable, I’ve never had a movie corrupt on me, and transferring the copy between authorized devices is a lot easier.
Still, though, in sheer terms of ease-of-use, pocket BLU wins hands down. Point and shoot and boom, your movie is there, with very little muss or fuss for the end user, and that’s a feature that needs to be emulated by the other camps.