Lately, I’ve been on the hunt for Blu-rays that come with an iTunes digital copy. I’m especially keen on ones I can find on sale or better yet the ones in the used Blu-ray rack. Two recent finds have been the Harry Potter movies and Wolverine. Starting last year, there were limited edition releases of the Harry Potter movies that included an iTunes Digital Copy and were sold exclusively at Target.
Why do I care about iTunes Digital Copy? iTunes Digital Copy is important since it removes the time and effort to ”rip” Blu-rays or DVDs. Ripping a movie not only provides a backup but it allows you to watch it on a variety of devices at home or on the road. However, videos take up many gigabytes of disk space. Digital copy also saves you the trouble of ripping different versions for tablets and smart phones. Of course, iTunes Digital copy will also allow you to stream to an Apple TV. For some movies, you can stream directly from iCloud removing the need to store the movie in iTunes on your PC or Mac.
As great as Digital Copies are, they have their problems. I’ve previously put together a post of iTunes Digital Copy tips. For one, the Digital Copies usually have expiration dates on them (once you redeem the code, the movie is yours for life). However, sometimes the studio will honor the code past the expiration date. That was the case with a used copy of Wolverine I picked up at Newbury Comics on Blu-ray. While it was supposed to expire on September 20th, 2011, I was able to still redemm the code a couple of weeks ago. However, due to licensing restrictions, Wolverine and other Fox titles are not available to stream from iCloud. Titles previously unavailable from Universal are now available from iCloud.
The Target version of the Harry Potter movies state on the case that the Digital Copy was supposed to expire April 10th of this year. However, Warner Brothers has extended that date to July 31st. Not surprising, given there was significant stock at my local Target. In my own experience, any Digital Copy code one year past its expiration date. However, there’s an indication that Warner Brothers may “unexpire” some of its Digital Copy movies this May. Stay tuned on this.
With the exception of the Deathly Hollows, all of the other Target Harry Potter movies are priced at $14.95 each. For that price, it includes the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy code. However, unlike other digital copies I’ve used, it only provides the code for download, not a copy of the digital media file on a physical disc. Also, the digital copy for the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is only for Ultraviolet not for iTunes. In some cases, consumers that have issues with UltraViolet have obtained an iTunes Digital Copy code from WB support.
Alternatively, you can also find used versions of the Target exclusive at places like Newbury Comics. At Newbury, it will cost you $11 for a used copy but you run the risk that the digital code was already used or it’s not included in the package. I recommend that you open the used Blu-ray at checkout. This way, if the Digital Copy code is not included you can always pick out another copy. The good news is that a lot folks don’t care or know about Digital copy at the moment.
Watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Blu-ray, I observed the quality was good but it did not live up to the full potential of what Blu-ray could do. The video detail could have been sharper. The audio is Dolby Digital, not Dolby TrueHD. I expected scenes like the dragon chase to sound better. Thankfully, Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince has a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The video transfer for the Half-Blooded Prince is also top notch. From what I’ve read the Deathly Hallows is also a high quality transfer and has a DTS-Master audio track. Update: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is also a high quality transfer. Video is sharp and virbrant. Dolby Digital instead of TrueHD but its still immersive and sounds great.
But here’s the good news. With Digital Copy, there’s the possibility a better encode will take it’s place down the road. Yes, the Apple TV is limited to Dolby Digital but hopefully that will change in the future.
Also of note, for some reason, the Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince digital copy will not show up in iCloud or the iTunes “Purchased” screen. It does show up in my iTunes transaction history. I haven’t had this problem with any of the other movies. At this point, I’m working with Apple and WB support to get it straightened out. It’s unclear if it’s a licensing or technical problem.
To finish, here are a few other resources I’ve found to help you track down Blu-ray Digital copies:
List of Digital Copy Expiration Dates: Not comprehensive but a good starting point.