Saturday, March 29, 2014


During the lead up to the big re-release of MGM's The Wizard of Oz on Blu-Ray last year, I mentioned that certain sets comes with a code for an Ultraviolet copy of the movie. And then when I reviewed the set, I didn't even mention it. Shall we rectify that?

Ultraviolet is the film industry's answer to illegal streaming sites and the interest in digital copies of a film. The concept is that you set up an Ultraviolet account and an account with a content provider (of which there are several: Vudu, Target Ticket, Flixster and CinemaNow being just a few). Any Ultraviolet codes that come with a DVD or Blu-Ray you own can be redeemed for access to that title through the Ultraviolet service, creating a "locker" of films you can watch with an internet connection and an Ultraviolet device, including a computer. Even better is if you use multiple content providers, your movies are accessible on all of them. (Unless there are licensing issues.)

Ultraviolet access can also be purchased, either by buying the film or putting a DVD copy in your computer with the service's program (Flixster and Vudu have this), and get a Ultraviolet copy in standard definition for a few bucks or a high definition version for a couple more. Alternately, Blu-Ray copies can be brought to a merchant (Vudu is owned by Walmart, for example) and high definition Ultraviolet access bought for title for a few dollars. This access also lets you download the movie to a portable device for internet-free playback later.

Basically, with a portable device, you can watch some of your favorite Oz films on the go or bring them up on your home theater system without grabbing a disc, if you have a compatible device (more recent TVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles and other streaming video devices have some sort of Ultraviolet capability).

There aren't a lot of Ultraviolet Oz titles available right now. There's MGM's classic film, and Warner Brother's Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz. There's also the film version of The Wiz. There are a number of other Oz titles available from these providers, but they're not Ultraviolet compatible: they'll be tied to the one content provider unless they eventually do get added to Ultraviolet. This includes The Witches of Oz, the Disney Oz movies, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime series.

Disney has recently launched Disney Movies Anywhere, which they hope to connect to more content providers, but is currently tied to their site and iTunes. (And yes, all three of their Oz titles—Return to Oz, The Muppets Wizard of Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful—are available on it.) Still, it's a separate service from Ultraviolet.

As you can imagine, depending on your internet strength (if you're streaming it), most Oz titles look as good as their DVD/Blu-Ray counterparts (or better, if a title is available for streaming in HD, but not available on Blu-Ray).

MGM's The Wizard of Oz is a different story, though. Unlike recently-produced theatrical titles, it wasn't made in an widescreen aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is almost the shape of a CRT ("box") television set. Almost. The image is actually a little wider than such an image. Thus, when you watched the MGM film on VHS and DVD, a tiny bit of the picture was actually cut off.

With Blu-Ray being designed for widescreen televisions, the 2009 home video release was actually the first time the entire picture was released to home video. And this same high definition print is what is available on Ultraviolet. If you were to view it on a widescreen television or a portable device, you would see black bars on the sides of the image.

However, with me still having a CRT TV, my experience watching the Ultraviolet copy through my Blu-Ray player's Vudu support was different. At first glance, the image appears identical to a DVD copy (aspect ratio-wise), but taking a closer look, there were tiny black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. Thus, without an HDTV, those little bits of frame were all visible.

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