Digital Movie Stores:
The technology today enables you to get the movies you want when you want them. TV providers have been offering Pay Per View and On Demand for years, streaming services from Amazon and Netflix have been finding their ways onto DVR's, all providing you a quick way to access the content you want to watch.
With the release of the original iPhone 6 years ago, Apple started offering access to movies and current TV show episodes through its iTunes store, and since then movie companies and device manufacturers have been flooding the market with additional ways for people to obtain their content.
While extremely handy, unfortunately these stores were not created to benefit the actual consumer, but mainly as yet another way for these companies to make more profit.
Movies purchased through an online movie store are locked to devices that can access that store alone !
When you purchase a movie through Apple iTunes, it will only work on Apple devices, or devices (a Windows PC for example) running iTunes.
If you have an iPhone and/or an iPad today, getting a movie from iTunes takes a second or 2, but, if you decide to move to an Android tablet next week/month/year, or just pick one up for your child or something like that, your iTunes collection can not be accessed.
The same goes for all of the other movie stores. Google Play, Samsung MediaHub, Sony Entertainment Network, Blackberry Video Store, all locked to your device type, and when you use a product from a different brand/OS, you are no longer able to access your purchased movies.
There are some that offer multi-platform solutions, such as Vudu and UltraViolet, by means of applications, but because these applications get updated regularly in order to support an updated DRM system, support for older devices, even though they might still be perfect for watching movies (think Apple iPad 1, Blackberry Playbook or Motorola Xoom) is often dropped.
Then there are some other caveats you might run into as well. Many companies have a limit set to the amount of devices that have access to the content you purchase. Under normal circumstances you shouldn't run into that, but if, for example, you are an "Apple Family", with kids and multiple Apple TV's, iPhones, iPads and MacBooks in the house, things add up pretty quickly.
And lets not forget the online requirement for many of these stores. Either you can access the video only by streaming, or, in order to verify your account, you need to be able to connect to the internet at least once a day, something not always possible when you are on a trip.
But the worst of it all is that none of these video stores take your own movie collection into account. Obviously movies purchased through iTunes can not be transferred over to a Google Play account, but even your physical collection, DVD, Bluray or even VHS, the movie companies expect you to purchases all the movies you already own, and want to watch on your tablets, phablets and smartphones, again.
The sad thing is, they now are acting even more greedy by not including some special features on the disc, and instead include it spread over multiple digital stores. With the latest Star Trek movie, some special features not found on the Bluray ended up as a "Bonus" for iTunes, and other content, also not found on the Bluray, can be obtained as a "Bonus" through Google Play.
The reason as to why the movies you purchase from an online movie store work on some devices and not on others is not because of the video format that was used to create the video, but because of the DRM applied to the video. DRM is like a wrapper around the video that can only be opened by software that supports it AND only with the account information that was used in the wrapping process.
Without the DRM wrapping, the video would work fine on tablets and smartphones from different brands/models/companies.
Anyway, I can go on about all this for a very long time, but lets get back to the actual post:
Play the same video on different devices:
As I mentioned above, without the DRM wrap that locks the movie to one specific company, it will play on a large variety of different branded devices. The video format used by the digital movie stores is pretty much the same for all of them, except maybe for a few differences such as an additional audio stream or subtitle formats.
With this in mind, it is actually quite easy to use an application such as DVD Catalyst to create a single video file that will play on multiple devices. In addition, such a video file, because it is not locked to a fixed account, is "future-proof" in that you will (very likely) be able to use it for the upcoming generations of the iPad, iPhone, Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Note, Kindle Fire etc.
To create such a "play-all" video file, just select one of the device profiles you want the video to play on, and when done, just copy it over to the devices you want to be able to watch the movie on when you want/need to:
Step 1: Download and install DVD Catalyst 4 on your computer.
If you have not done so already, download the free trial version (link) or purchase the retail version for a limited time for only $9.95 (link).
Note: DVD Catalyst works on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.
Apple MAC/OSX or Linux are NOT supported at this time.
Step 2: Start DVD Catalyst 4 and select your device profile:
While with recent devices it will be unlikely you run into this, but if you are using older-generation devices such as a NOOK Color, iPod Touch 3, iPad 2 etc, you might run into a limit of its capabilities. Newer devices are capable of playing video at higher resolutions than what is currently available to you as a consumer, but with these older devices, their abilities can be limited by their performance.
Step 3: Insert your DVD or drag your (AVI MKV ISO DIVX XVID MOV M2TS etc) video files over onto DVD Catalyst 4, and tap Go to start the conversion process.
DVD Catalyst can not convert so-called “Digital Copy” movies, or movie and TV episodes purchased through iTunes or similar online video services such as Amazon UnBox and UltraViolet. These video files are DRM-protected, which prevents software such as DVD Catalyst from converting them.
Off-the-shelf DVDs, as well as video files that do not include DRM such as AVI, DIVX, ISO, MKV, MPEG etc can be converted normally with DVD Catalyst.
After the conversion is complete, connect your device to your computer and copy the created movie file over whenever you need to.
During the years that I have been doing this, I have build up a nice collection of video files that play on almost all the devices I have had. A few hundred of them I converted with first-generation iPod Touch screen-size limitations (480x320) , and while they are watchable, they obviously don't look as good as "fresher" ones that I converted without limitations.
With DVDs, simply selecting a profile such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD in DVD Catalyst will result in a video file that has the original DVD resolution, and a visual quality very close to that of an actual DVD as well. For a higher quality file while still keeping compatibility with devices such as the iPad, Playbook, etc, select a HQXT profile for your device.