Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (August 13, 2017)

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A broken iPhone, a format in decline, the ending of a deal and the continuing of leaks. That’s what we have in store for you in this week’s WNR. Read on to found out just what the hell I’m on about.

Copyright

Power leaked via iPhone

Using a broken iPhone to leak an unaired episode of Power – that doesn’t happen usually

There’s got to be a better way to do this. Playing a screener on an iPhone with a broken screen while holding up another phone to record the playback, all the while complaining about your sore arm. This “new” cam method may not catch on, but the man responsible for it may very well be easily caught thanks to his habit of turning the phone to record his face. STARZ, the owners of the leaked ‘Power’ episodes, has promised a swift legal response, but this whole thing is so ridiculous, it might just work in the favor of the accused.

But this incident does proof one point – if there’s a way to play it, there’s a way to rip (and upload) it. STARZ may have invested in the best security infrastructure to protect their content, but all it took in this case was a shared password and a (broken) iPhone, and viola, leaked episodes.

And even when the theft attempt is more ambitious and professional, as in the case of the HBO hack, the result is the same. The HBO hackers, after failing to extract a ransom from HBO, release more content this week. The “highlight” of this latest batch of leaks is the episode outline for the unaired episode 5 of season 7. Written a year ago, so some things will have changed from the final product to air this Sunday, the episode outline will no doubt still contain a few valid spoilers. There are also timelines, roadmaps and promotional strategies for HBO’s flagship show, the release of which will no doubt irritate the suits at HBO HQ.

More leaks will be on the way, unless law enforcement can catch up to the hackers sooner rather than later.

High Definition

Tomorrow Never Dies DVD and Blu-ray

Blu-ray and DVD s are on the way out, Netflix in

The DEG’s regular reporting of the state of the U.S. home entertainment industry is an interesting read. Not so much because of the surprises (there aren’t any), but because of the very clear trend it is showing in each and every report – digital is beating physical, and streaming is beating everything else.

So the latest DEG report, for the first half of 2017, shows subscription streaming revenue continuing to rise at the expense of purchases. Not something studios heads will like. And within purchases, digital is rising while sales of physical media is dropping at a rather alarming rate (Blu-ray faring better than DVD, it has to be said).

Distribution is now more and more in the hands of tech companies like Netflix and Apple, and that’s worrying for studios, as that used to be their job (and their revenue source). So it was no surprise to me that the most powerful of the studios, Disney, wants to take back distribution by launching their own proprietary streaming platform. This also means that Disney movies will cease to be on Netflix in 2019, when Disney’s platform launches (Lucasfilm and Marvel content may follow suit).

Disney content on Netflix

Disney to go it alone as it plans to remove content from Netflix

From a consumer perspective, this is bad news. The dream of an all-inclusive, single streaming platform where everything you’ve ever wanted to watch is just a click away, is dying. Instead, we might have to start getting used to fragmentation, where you have to juggle between half a dozen or more streaming accounts just so you can binge between episodes of Family Ties and Cheers, or run a movie night of the best zombie movies ever (which will never, ever, featuring Brad Pitt’s World War Z).

Or we might have to get used to some kind of super, meta streaming service: Netflix ($9.95) with the add-on options including Disney, HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, et al. Did we just reinvent cable?

(and to be fair, Hulu is already doing something similar with its HBO, Cinemax and SHOWTIME – and now with a live TV option too. So I ask again, did we just reinvent cable?)

Whatever happens, it will most likely mean we’ll have to pay more to get what we currently get.

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So with that, we come to the end of another WNR. I’m off to watch the Disney stuff on Netflix before it all gets taken down. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (July 30, 2017)

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

I know I’m a little late to the game, but having wanted to do the right thing and wait for a legal way to watch Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale here in Australia, I’m just about to finish the first season. Wow – is all I can say, what a great show! Sure, there may be a little too much hand-holding to elevate the show to the status of The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s right up there, especially the acting from Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd (she’s also great in the movie ‘Compliance’, which is also very disturbing) – but everyone the show does a fantastic job, to be honest). Give it all the awards now!

And yes, despite what might feel like me wasting words on filler, we do have news to go through this week.

Copyright

AutoGK Google AdSense Ban

Apparently Google thinks video conversion tool AutoGK is a file sharing tool

The war on piracy takes a strange turn as previous ally, Google, has apparently now joined the dark side. Google’s decision to prevent download site FossHub from putting ads on pages that link to file sharing (including BitTorrent) software sounds like something Hollywood would do, not the tech company we’ve known and loved. Apparently, having anything to do with BitTorrent, in Google’s eyes, is illegal, despite the fact that these software are completely legal and have as much to do with piracy as web browsers (in that while it’s true that BitTorrent clients are used to download pirated content, the same can be said of web browsers, like even Google’s own Chrome browser, which people who visit The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites are most likely using).

But was I surprised at the way Google acted? Ask any webmaster that has been in the business for a few years, and they’ll tell you lots of horror stories about having to put up with the search engine company we all used to love, but is now out to screw us in any way it can. In fact, I’m not even surprised at the exact circumstances that led Google to ban the entire FossHub site from their advertising service just for a few file sharing tools, because I’ve been through exactly the same thing, and even worse.

Google banned ads from being served by my AutoGK software download page a while ago for the exact same reason they gave to FossHub: “unauthorized file sharing”. This is despite the fact that AutoGK is a video conversion tool, and does not have any file sharing features (and it’s also 8 years out of date). I attempted to repeal the decision, but there’s almost always no real person at the end of the review process, and so I just gave up.

A couple of years ago, Google also banned my site from being able to display ads because we had a few YouTube downloader tools. Despite the fact that Google claims different parts of their company (YouTube, Google search, AdSense …) are all separate and they do not collude with one another (and so there’s no anti-trust issues at all), the fact that their advertising branch banned my site because it featured downloads that violated another branch’s policies, seems to suggest otherwise. Also interesting to note that they did not care about video downloaders for other video sharing sites like Dailymotion or Vimeo. Anti-competitive much?

Anyway, here’s hoping the extra media attention will help FossHub reach a real person at Google and resolve this issue. But even if that happens, the thousands of other sites that are in the same situation and won’t get the same media coverage, like this one, are still going to be out of luck. And you know what the suckiest thing about all of this? That there’s actually no real alternative to Google ads, just like there’s no real alternative to YouTube, Google Search, Google Shopping … monopolies are no fun!

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Oh crap, GoT season opener viewed 90 million times illegally

A follow up to last week’s story about Game of Thrones piracy, the final figures are in and the season premier was viewed or downloaded illegally more than 90 million times! And as we touched upon last week, nearly 78 million views were directly associated with streaming portals, as opposed to torrent downloads. Only 500,000 downloads came from torrent sources, according to the data from piracy monitoring firm MUSO.

Australia didn’t have the most downloads/views, but given our small population, 2.2 million views (and assuming 2 view/download per household), it means that something like 12% of households in Australia might have gone down the piracy route for GoT – not surprising considering the epic fail by our only legal broadcaster for the show (see last week’s WNR for more info on that).

High Definition

Paramount has chosen to embrace Dolby Vision, joining the likes of Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Sony. Why is this news? Well, it isn’t really, as Paramount hasn’t even bothered to produce a list of future releases that will feature the souped up HDR tech (Baywatch? Transformers: The Last Knight?). And since hardly anyone even has a DV enabled TV, will anyone actually care?

But news is news, and when there’s not much going on, one can’t be choosy.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling well for Nintendo

Speaking of choosy, a lot of people have chosen the Nintendo Switch, with 4.7 million units already sold in the first four months since release. This compares well to the Wii U, which only sold 3.45 million units during the same period, and it didn’t have stock issues to deal with either. It’s still somewhat behind the Wii’s 5.84 million, but who can compete with the Wii?

Switch games are also selling like hot cakes (I looked it up, I think we call them pancakes here in Australia), with ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ being the pick of the bunch with 3.92 million copies sold (and who are the 0.8 million people that are buying the Switch without Zelda? Heretics!)

As to why the Switch is a success while the Wii U wasn’t? I think it’s because the Switch’s design and purpose are a lot clearer than the Wii U’s “portable but not really portable” design.

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That’s all I have for you this week. A little bit longer than my recent efforts – it’s good to have news to write about! See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (July 23, 2017)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Back again after another small break last week. I actually flew to Sydney to watch my beloved Arsenal play, and it was a great trip. Luckily, not too much happened in terms of news, so we can just continue on this week as if nothing has happened (and nothing did happen, I promise).

Copyright

Game of Thrones Pirates

The only real pirate *in* Game of Thrones, but lots of pirates *for* the show in real life

Winter has truly come here in Australia, and it has also come to Westeros. While a little bit later than usual due to the shortened season, the season premier of Game of Thrones has once again caused a piracy frenzy. While lots of people are still illegally downloading to find out what Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Cersei et al. have been up to, not as many people are doing it via torrents, it seems.

Just like with legal viewing options, streaming seems to be taking over. And it’s not hard to see why. Streaming is more convenient, works better on mobile devices, does not require extra time to download, and most importantly, is less likely to cause the viewer legal problems.

So for all the effort rightsholders have put into going after torrenters (and HBO have already started to crack down on them for the season 7 premier), the only net effect it seems is to drive them to find alternative ways to pirate, ways that can’t be monitored. If anything, this has helped to create piracy solutions that are actually much more convenient that before, and possibly more convenient than the legal streaming options. And this is not a good thing.

The piracy surge was also made worse by HBO’s servers meltdown. In Australia, our only legal source for the new episode had its own technical difficulties with many unable to stream the show during prime time viewing hours. Making piracy look like the better option (irregardless of the price), again, not a good thing.

High Definition

Okja Poster

Christopher Nolan not a fan of how Netflix chooses to release original productions like Okja

Also not a good thing, according to legendary director Christopher Nolan, is Netflix. Or more specifically, the way Netflix likes to release its original theatrical productions in theaters and also online at the same time. The director behind big blockbusters such as ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and the more recent ‘Dunkirk’ thinks it’s a rather pointless exercise to do simultaneous releasing, at a time when all the major studios are trying to find ways to bring forward digital releases.

Instead, Nolan says that Amazon’s approach of having a 90 day exclusive window for releases before it becomes a free-for-all on their own streaming platform is the way to go.

While I do agree with Nolan that the theatrical experience is unique (and you have to say, Nolan’s films deserve to be seen on the biggest screen you can find), giving movie lovers another option via streaming is ultimately good for the consumer and a great way to fight piracy. But Nolan touches on a great point in that the “straight-to-Netflix” release isn’t too far from a “straight-to-video” release, and it devalues the film in question. It makes me feel like the movie must not be a very good one if it’s already straight to Netflix, even though in many cases, it’s probably a pretty good one if it doesn’t star Adam Sandler (I kid, I kid, but also not really?).

Still, there hasn’t been a Netflix original movie that’s on the scale of something like ‘Dunkirk’, and there may never be, simply because not even Netflix would want to risk releasing such a high budget movie direct to streaming, for fear it may anger the cinema chains as well as the previously mentioned “cheapening” effect.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

PS4 back on top after a few months of Switch fever

The Nintendo Switch’s honeymoon period is well and truly over, with the PS4 getting back on top not just in May, but also for June’s NPD report. It was, according to the NPD, the best June ever for the PS4. Sony will be hoping the momentum will carry them through and past the release of the (potentially too expensive) Xbox One X towards the end of the year. Otherwise, the introduction of a “real” 4K game console could reverse fortunes for Microsoft, who have never really recovered from their “all our games are digital, and you can’t trade them – plus our console is clearly not as powerful as the PS4” SNAFU from before the Xbox One launch.

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That’s all I have for you this week. Much better than the nothing from last week, I hope. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (July 9, 2017)

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

How are you doing on this Sunday (or Saturday, depending on where you are)? It’s been another quiet week (I think the US public holiday might have had something to do with it), so we’ll get through this rather quickly (again). But before we get to that, there’s the little matter of a birthday. Not only was it America’s birthday, it was also Digital Digest’s own, 18th, birthday.

If I had to be completely honest, eighteen years ago, I deliberately chose an easy to remember day to launch Digital Digest (then known as DVDigest). What I didn’t know back then was that I would be doing this for an other eighteen years, as when I started, I had much shorter term ambitions.

Before I launched the website, I had been on forums helping people find a way to play DVDs on your PCs (which was something really new at the time, and quite difficult to achieve if you want a smooth 30FPS experience). What I found was that I had been answering the same set of questions over and over again, and that was getting tiresome. This is what led me to set up a new website, where I would gather all my knowledge and provide the necessary downloads to get people started with DVDs. Eventually this became talk about AVIs and DivX, and when Hollywood started to fight back against DVD ripping, naturally the discussion shifted to the issue of copyright and piracy. And we’re still talking about it today (although there is much less talk on DVDs, and more on Ultra HD Blu-ray)!

Eighteen years is a long time. I don’t even want to imagine what things will be like 18 years from now (we probably won’t be using discs as much, but streaming might still be around, with Netflix sending a holographic video feed directly into your brain implant no doubt), but I bet it will be interesting.

Oh yes, the news.

High Definition

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Disney finally jumping on the Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon?

Speaking of Ultra HD Blu-ray, only one major studio has so far neglected to release anything on the format, and unfortunately, it happens to be the biggest studio around. Disney’s lack of interest in 4K is rather annoying, considering the studio’s franchises (Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar), films from which would look fantastic on 4K no doubt. It would also give Ultra HD Blu-ray a huge lift in terms of sales.

Not convinced by movie fans eager to pay Disney good money for 4K content, it took director James Gunn to finally convince Disney to do the right thing – Disney will release its first Ultra HD Blu-ray movie in August, for James Gunn’s latest movie, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’.

This is big news for Ultra HD Blu-ray. Looking at the recent Blu-ray top 10, there are some notable omissions when looking at the titles that have Ultra HD editions, titles like ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Moana’ and ‘Rogue One’ (speaking of ‘Rogue One’, it has been consistently in the top 10 since its release in April – a UHD release for it would sell like the proverbial hot cake). And this list doesn’t even include any Marvel titles, the whole back catalogue of which would instantly be best sellers on UHD.

Still, you can’t blame Disney for waiting this long. The wise thing to do for Disney would have been to wait and see on a new disc format in an age where discs are slowly dying. And as the most profitable studio, they can afford to sit on the sidelines for a while.

But there will be no more sitting. Expect a deluge of 4K hits from Disney in the near future.

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That’s all I have for you this week. I know it’s not much, but I’m sure things will pick up again. See you next week.

Update: Forgot that I have a small trip planned for the next weekend, so it’s very unlikely there will be a WNR at that time. So not so much “see you next week” as “see you next, next week”.

Weekly News Roundup (June 18, 2017)

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

How are you on this frosty Sunday morning? Hope the week has been good to you. Once again, we take a look at the most interesting news of the week, and for once, we actually have a few to go through. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Just what is going on? More Ultra HD Blu-ray rips have started to appear on the usual download sites, and nobody seems to know just how exactly

Inferno Ultra HD Blu-ray Cover

More Ultra HD Blu-ray titles have been ripped and uploaded online

they were ripped. It appears unlikely that UHD Blu-ray’s main copy protection mechanism, AACS 2.0, has been ripped, since this would be big news and news that any cracking group would likely share. So this then leaves the possibility of some kind of workaround or flaw that exists, that is allowing these heavily protected discs to be ripped.

This reminds me of the HDFury incident from last year, where HDCP protected 4K streams were being ripped and the mystery behind the ripping was solved when Hollywood launched a major lawsuit against the company that made HDFury, a device that allowed HDCP 2.2 to be ripped.

So it remains absolutely possible that there may be some kind of workaround for ripping AACS 2.0. Perhaps a software player that has an exploit, that kind of thing.

Stay tuned for more info.

Also in copyright news, but not really copyright news, Sony have come up with a brilliant new idea that has many Hollywood artists angry. Sony plans to release family friendly “clean versions” of films with selected digital purchases, removing profanity, sexual references and violence from these films.

Some say this isn’t a big deal because these versions already exists for TV broadcasts and on flights and nobody has made a big fuss over them. But others says this kind of censorship takes the creative decision out of the hands of filmmakers, and it usually means a poor and really obvious job (lots of calls of “mothers”, for examples) that’s to the detriment of the film itself. And while this kind of things was tolerated for TV broadcasts and airlines due to their specific legal requirements, Sony have done this without any kind of significant legal or moral pressure, and this is what also makes artists angry.

Storm in a teacup? Or storm in a motherfu**ing teacup? Don’t know.

Gaming

Xbox One X

The Xbox One X, side by side here with the Xbox One S, is smaller and more powerful

So the big gaming news of the week centers around E3 and the official launch (or is it the second official launch) of the Xbox One Scorpio, now known as the Xbox One X. Most of the details about Microsoft’s upgraded Xbox One is already known, but we didn’t know the name (see previous sentence), the price (USD $499) and what it will look like (black monolithic box). And now we know these things.

The only major surprise was that Microsoft managed to build a 4K console and fit it into a box smaller than the now entry level Xbox One S, and that’s kinda cool.

At $499 though, it’s asking a lot of gamers, many of whom only recently shelled out for a Xbox One or PS4, but that’s the price of 4K I guess (and it’s still cheaper than building your own 4K gaming PC).

A lot of critics are warning that the ‘X’ won’t be a success because it’s too expensive and hardly anyone has a 4K display. This is true, but Microsoft isn’t just building the console for today (or November 7, when it is released), it’s building it to last until the next console generation starts in about 3 years or so. At that time, I think we may look back on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and be able to point to only one of them as a true 4K gaming console.

Of course, this relies on games being able to take full advantage of the 6 teraflops of power the Xbox One X offers – developers have so far not produced the goods for the PS4 Pro when it comes to making the case for the the console existing at all (but 1 in 5 PS4 buys today is a Pro, so that’s not too bad – overall, 60 millions PS4s have already been sold), but they may have a bit more to play around with in regards to the ‘X’.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one, see you next week!