I recently purchased Sicario on iTunes in 4k because what the heck, even though I already owned it in Digital HD on Vudu I really wanted to see it in 4k with HDR. And, it was on sale for only $6.99!
But when I went back to Vudu to see if it was upgraded to UHD (the acronym Vudu and Google Play use for 4k resolution), it wasn’t. Although, I thought it might have been because Apple and Vudu are now part of that whole Movies Anywhere thing.
Oh, but wait. Lionsgate isn’t partners with Movies Anywhere. No wonder why there was no upgrade to the movie. Hmm, what about UltraViolet? Aren’t iTunes and Vudu connected that way? They are (see clarification in comments below), but Lionsgate isn’t an UltraViolet partner either.
Not to pick on Lionsgate. Paramount and MGM aren’t Movies Anywhere partners either. And, Universal titles are no longer supported on UltraViolet. So, in a nutshell, I purchased Sicario twice just to get the movie in 4k.
Also Read: Microsoft Joins Movies Anywhere
The lack of consistency across digital movie services doesn’t just end with studios not supporting MA or UV though. Sometimes the service just doesn’t have the title in 4k. For example, neither Google Play or iTunes sell Avengers: Infinity War in UHD, while Vudu and FandangoNow do.
That’s true for many Disney and Disney/Marvel titles. A Wrinkle in Time and Black Panther are two other examples. Vudu and FandangoNow sell them in UHD but Apple and Google miss out.
There’s also inconsistency across franchise films. As an example, Vudu sells Sicario and the Sicario: Day of the Soldado in UHD, but the sequel doesn’t appear to be encoded with HDR10 like the original. Is that just a mislabeled SKU on the VUDU website? Or, was it really digitally mastered without HDR? It’s hard to tell because HDR really isn’t something you can be sure of unless you’re able to do a direct comparison.
Could there ever be one standardized digital packet of video/audio versions that is distributed across all platforms? Maybe someday. But for now we still have to think about output before deciding on where to buy a digital movie. Much of the inconsistency stems from MA and UV not having universal support. But as far as 4k, one might wonder if Disney is holding back how much 4k is released in anticipation of their own digital service.