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UltraViolet (UV) is a digital rights authentication and cloud-based licensing system that allows users of digital home entertainment content to stream and download purchased content to multiple platforms and devices. UltraViolet adheres to a "buy once, play anywhere" approach that allows users to store digital proof-of-purchases under one account to enable playback of content that is platform- and point-of-sale-agnostic.
UltraViolet is deployed by the 74 members of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium, which includes film studios, retailers, consumer electronics manufacturers, cable TV companies, ISPs, network hosting vendors, and other Internet systems and security vendors, with the notable exceptions of Disney and Apple. Disney is developing its own competing Keychest format, while Apple has added movie storage to its iCloud service. The UltraViolet platform is a standalone application for devices that allows streaming & downloads of pre-purchased media.
Content consumers create a free-of-charge UltraViolet account, either through a participating UltraViolet service provider, or through the UltraViolet website, with six accounts allowed per household. An UltraViolet account provides access to a Digital Rights Locker where licenses for purchased content are stored and managed irrespective of the point of sale. The account holder may register up to 12 devices for streaming or downloading for transfer onto physical media (e.g. DVDs, SD cards, flash memory). Once downloaded, an UltraViolet file can be played on any UltraViolet player registered to the household account, but it will not play on devices which are not compatible with UltraViolet. Files can also be streamed over the Internet. Up to three streams can be simultaneously transmitted. Compatible devices include set-top boxes as well as Internet-enabled devices such as computers, game consoles, Blu-ray players, Internet TVs, smartphones, and tablets.
UltraViolet does not store files, and is not a "cloud storage" platform. The rights for purchased or rented content are stored on the service. UltraViolet only coordinates and manages the licenses for each account, but not the content itself. The content may be obtained in any way, in its standardized multi-DRM container format. By creating a digital-rights locker rather than a digital media storage locker, UltraViolet bypasses the cost of storage and bandwidth used when the media is accessed. In addition, by only managing the rights and licensing of content, UltraViolet insulates itself from future technological advances, allowing users to keep watching content they have purchased.
The Walt Disney Company is backing its proprietary Keychest digital file service and is not a member of DECE. Non-participation in the DECE consortium does not preclude Disney from licensing use of the technical specifications; API-enabled interaction with the UV Account infrastructure; and promotional and marketing use of the UV logo for UV content and devices. In 2012 Disney CEO Bob Iger said Disney had not ruled out UltraViolet but were taking a "wait-and-see approach" and that it was too early to make conclusions.
UltraViolet content is downloaded or streamed in the Common File Format, using the Common Encryption (CENC) system. This format is based on the Base ISO File Format, and ensures that a consistent set of codecs, media formats, DRMs, subtitling, and other kinds of data, are used across the whole UltraViolet ecosystem. Because every UltraViolet title arrives in this format, it will generally play on any UltraViolet branded device.
DECE members developed a common file format (CFF) designed to play in all UltraViolet players and work with all DECE-approved Digital rights management. 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). SD players can play only SD files. HD players can play both SD and HD files.
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). 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 each of the required DRM systems, with the DRM-specific information placed in the header. Both ISO scheme (PSSH/CENC) and IPMP frameworks are allowed. A player device only needs to implement one DRM.
UltraViolet files use H.264/AVC video (ISO/IEC 14496-10). Multiple resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates are supported. Only progressive-scan video is allowed.
UltraViolet files use stereo MPEG-4 AAC LC audio (ISO/IEC 14496-3) as a required base format, with optional multi-channel AAC, HE AAC v2 (optionally with MPEG surround), Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (MLP), DTS, DTS HD, DTS Master Audio, and DTS Express (low bit rate).
UltraViolet files uses SMPTE Timed Text (SMPTE TT), which is in turn based on the 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.
In addition to CFF packaged content, UltraViolet content can also be offered from existing movie streaming services, using their existing streaming and DRM technologies. However, such content can only be viewed online, not stored for later viewing like the CFF content. This legacy streaming is likely to be the first way of receiving UltraViolet content from the cloud.
UltraViolet selected five DRM technologies allowing restrictions management on a broad range of devices: televisions, set-top-boxes, DVD & Blu-ray players, games consoles, PC, tablets and smartphones.
The selected DRM technologies are:
Using the Common Encryption technology, any of these DRMs can be used to play the same file. There is no need to download another version to use a different DRM. The same file works everywhere (for a given screen size).
DECE announced that beta testing of UltraViolet would start in the autumn of 2010 in the United States. The first titles, Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern, were released beginning October 11, 2011 by Warner Home Video using redemption codes bundled with Blu-ray discs and DVDs. The service was launched in the United Kingdom in December 2011. In October 2012 three participating studios announced UltraViolet releases in Canada before the end of the year, and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group stated that UltraViolet would next launch in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, and France.