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Tip: Convert physical Blu-ray and DVD discs to iTunes with Vudu and Movies Anywhere

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The expansion of Movies Anywhere to new studios and services has, in a roundabout way, enabled a new capability: You can now scan physical DVDs and Blu-rays that you own, and for a small fee convert them into authentic, legitimate iTunes Store purchases. AppleInsider explains how to do it.

Last week, Disney's Movies Anywhere service greatly expanded to include Sony, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The service links to major digital providers, including Apple's iTunes, to allow film purchases to be accessible regardless of where they were originally bought, as long as it's through one of the five participating studios.

For example, if you bought a digital movie on Amazon, linking that account and iTunes to Movies Anywhere will allow the same film to be downloaded or streamed from iTunes.

Things get even more interesting, however, when Walmart's Vudu service is brought into the mix. As discovered by AppleInsider reader Joe Piervincenti, Movies Anywhere also recognizes films purchased through Vudu's unique "Disc to Digital" program.

How it works

Vudu Disc to Digital lets users scan the barcode from any DVD or Blu-ray they own. If the film is recognized and is supported through the program, the purchase can then be "converted" to digital for a small fee.

Vudu charges $2 to take a high-definition Blu-ray and turn it into a digital copy.

For a standard-definition DVD, Vudu charges $2 for an SD digital copy. Customers can also pay $5 to upconvert a standard-def DVD to an HD digital copy.

While the Vudu Disc to Digital service is not new, the cross-syncing support via Movies Anywhere is. That means you can take your old, physical movie collection and convert them to legitimate iTunes purchases (or Amazon, or Google Play, if you prefer). Simply search the Movies Anywhere site ahead of time to make sure the film is included in the cross-platform syncing service.

For customers looking to convert their film collection from physical to digital, it's now easier than ever.

How to do it

Presumably, as an AppleInsider reader, you already have an iTunes account. You're already well on your way.

You'll want to make a Vudu account through the service's official iOS app. Using the Disc to Digital feature requires not only a credit card, but also that you share location data.

Once you're set up and logged in, tap the Menu button in the Vudu app and scroll down to the very bottom, where you'll find Disc to Digital as the second to last option. Tap it, and then choose the Scan Barcode button.

Scanning your movie collection is easy, though not every film will be supported. Our tests found that collections of films sold in one package are usually not compatible. Don't expect to take your Star Wars original trilogy box set DVDs and put them on iTunes.

We also had trouble with some limited and collector's editions, which sometimes lack barcodes on their packaging. We encountered this problem with a Blu-ray collection of four Alien films, as well as with unique packaging for Evil Dead and Akira.

Unsurprisingly, rare and obscure releases were not supported. Similarly, don't expect your TV collections on DVD and Blu-ray to work.

The Vudu app lets you scan in bulk, so you can have a number of films lined up to convert at once. Once your films are scanned, the app sends an email to complete the purchase.

Authorize the purchase and the films will be in your "My Vudu" section of the app.

Your films are now in Vudu, but the next step is to convert them to iTunes. That's where the new Movies Anywhere app comes into play.

Open the app and register an account, then choose More from the bottom menu. Next choose Manage Retailers.

Here, through a very simple process, you can authorize the app to tap into both your iTunes and Vudu accounts. If you have them and want to connect them, you can also authorize Amazon and Google Play.

Once you add both iTunes and Vudu, you're done. Vudu purchases — including those Disc to Digital scans you bought — will now show up in your iTunes library. That includes the new TV app for iOS and tvOS, and it allows you to both download and stream the films directly from Apple's iTunes Store.

Notably, all HD purchases on Vudu show up as high definition on iTunes as well. 4K, however, is another story.

A 4K question mark

At the moment, how Apple presents 4K movies in your library, and how it streams them, is something of a mess.

For example, in my own library, I own an iTunes copy of Ex Machina — a film that Apple has used to promote 4K support on the new Apple TV via Twitter ads. And yet the film shows up in my library as HD-only.

Then consider Logan — a film I bought on Blu-ray and then added to my digital collection via an iTunes digital copy redemption code. The movie shows up in my library as 4K, and when I stream, swiping downward with the Apple TV remote shows that it is, in fact, streaming in 4K.

But then with Vudu, I converted a Blu-ray copy of Pacific Rim to iTunes. The film shows up in my library as having 4K support, and yet when I swipe down while streaming, it says the film is playing in HD — not 4K.

Three different 4K films. Three different purchase methods. Three different outcomes, without any clear understanding of why.

This is Apple's own store on Apple's own hardware, not a third-party service or device. The lack of clarity is inexcusable, and needs to be addressed.

Notably, legacy standard-def movies I own from old digital copy redemptions remain SD, and do not list as HD in my library. For example, I have redeemed versions of Back to the Future that remain in SD — and they accurately list as SD in my iTunes library.

If Vudu conversions are not eligible for 4K, that's fine — just don't display them as being 4K in my iTunes library.