Archive for the ‘High Definition (Blu-ray/HD DVD/4K)’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (December 2, 2018)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the final month of 2018. Where has it all gone? Or is it a case of “why did it take so long”? Regardless of which side you’re on, I think it’s safe to say that the fact that I’m talking about the calendar means I really don’t have anything more interesting to write in this intro, so I guess it’s best I just move on to the news, right?

Copyright

Google Auto-Suggest

Google’s piracy demotions system being exploited by scammers?

In case you need another reason as to why copyright take-down regimes are a bad idea because they’re too prone to abuse, well, I have another one for you this week. It appears that scammers have found a way to game Google’s anti-piracy demotion system in order to get malicious websites to rank higher for popular piracy related keywords.

The ingenious scheme involves sending bogus copyright take-down notices to Google, pretending to be well known entities such as Steam or Ubisoft, to remove game piracy related links from the rankings. To be fair, the links they’re asking to be removed do contain pirated content, and so any legitimate take-down notices containing the same links would have been removed. But the intentions behind these take-downs are not quite right, it seems, as with the real piracy links removed from the search results, the fake ones, the ones with malware, are now occupying higher positions on the search results and allowing the scammers to profit.

The scammers have obviously done their homework too, as they’ve submitted “DRM” take-downs, as opposed to the normal DMCA ones. DRM take-downs on Google do not allow the website owner to file a counter-claim, to defend their position (or to inform Google that the take-down notice was a fake one to begin with), and so the scammers have found a great way to get what they want without anyone being able to do anything about it. Many of the removed URLs do contain DRM breaking tools (cracks for games), but many do not.

But since this news story has been making the rounds, it seems Google have wised up to this little trick, and they’ve started flagging some of the take-down notices as potentially fake, although the removed URLs remain removed for the present.

Abuse of copyright take-down regimes isn’t really anything new, but it usually involves companies trying to destroy competitors.

High Definition

LG UP970

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players have doubled in numbers in 2018

This Christmas may be all about 4K, according to a new report by consulting firm Futuresource. The report shows that, with the average price of 4K UHD TVs now down to about the same level as a standard HDTV, adoption of these ultra high definition sets are speeding up. Global shipment of UHD TVs are expected to exceed 100 million units globally, with China being the biggest market. Even the pricier HDR enabled sets are selling well, roughly half of UHD TVs sold are now HDR capable.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also increasingly popular, with this year doubling the number of units sold previously, and along with that, $360 million in UHD Blu-ray disc sales.

Streaming still remains the most popular way for people to obtain 4K content though, and by streaming, it mostly means Netflix at the moment. 4K broadcasts, on the other hand, remains rare. There are still some issues to be resolved in regards to broadcasts standards, and this may mean a lot of 4K UHD TVs are already obsolete (or require a very “last decade” solution, like a set top box, for future compatibility). For now, OTT (ie. streaming) still easily beats OTA (over-the-air), when concerning 4K.

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And on that note, we end the first WNR of December, and one of the last of 2018. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (November 11, 2018)

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Hello again, and welcome back after the brief hiatus. No, it wasn’t to do with the US election, although it was again extremely fascinating to observe US politics. Here in Australia, our election campaign season is very limited, to only a couple of weeks, intentionally done so to prevent the non stop campaigning, fundraising and news cycles that seems to dominate everything in the US. We also only use paper ballots, using the advanced technology known as a pencil to make our mark (literally, and figuratively on our democracy), and none of our votes goes wasted, even if you vote for minor parties (there’s a thing called preferences that allows you to direct votes to eventually the major parties if your minor party candidate fails to be one of the two frontrunners). It all seems to make a lot more sense than what happens in the US, what now with yet another recount in Florida.

Anyway, with the election somewhat out of the news cycle, we have some news to cover here at the WNR.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo says use us for your games or lose millions

The company behind Denuvo is trying to convince more game publishers to sign up to the anti-tampering system by claiming that AAA games not protected by Denuvo could be losing $21 million in revenue due to piracy. The company behind Denuvo, which used to be also called Denuvo but has since been acquired by Irdeto, came to this figure by calculating the number of pirated downloads of an unnamed AAA sports game, that managed to rack up more than 300,000 pirated downloads in the first 2 weeks after release. Irdeto then took this number and multiplied it by the retail cost of the game and came up with the $21 million figure.

While I can’t blame Irdeto for trying to push their product on game publishers, the fact of the matter is that there is no way that unnamed AAA sports game managed to lose $21 million to piracy. For that to happen, every single downloaded pirated copy would have to translate to a paid for copy, and that just does not reflect reality in any way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversion rate, the rate that pirated downloads translate to paid copies if the pirated copy did not exist, would be something low like 2% to 5%, which means at most, this would translate into $1 million in lost sales. And that would also be income, not revenue. I’m not sure how much it costs game companies to license Denuvo, but it may not be a straight forward thing, especially given how gamers hate Denuvo and there’s probably a few percent of paying gamers who avoid games that have it. But of course, there’s really no way to find out either way, so publishers, out of fear, rely on Denuvo and Denuvo can sell them the appearance of security, if not actual security. And everyone sleeps better at night. Except for gamers.

High Definition

We now know a little bit more about Disney’s upcoming streaming platform, which will now be officially known as Disney+ (read: Disney Plus). Another thing we now know – there will be a second Star Wars live action TV series, set as a prequel to Rogue One and starring Rogue One’s dashing hero Andor, again played by Diego Luna.

Disney+ Website

Disney+ will allow Disney to fully capitalize its extensive list of IPs

Disney boss Bob Iger also let known how Disney+ will be differentiated to Hulu (now majority owned by Disney), in that Disney+ will be more family oriented compared to Hulu, which has a younger user base. So shows like FX’s American Horror Story won’t appear on Disney+, but will on Hulu, for example.

And you just know Disney+ will heavily rely on Disney’s biggest IPs, Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, because even in the promo graphics provided by Disney, the logos for Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar were quite prominently shown.

Iger also expanded a little on the idea of releasing movies on home video a little bit earlier. Not on Disney+, in which Iger was adamant that the existing restrictions would stay, but for Blu-ray, DVD and Digital sell-through. Iger was keen to stress this does not mean changing the theatrical window (which would get all the cinema chains all riled up), but there is a gap between the theatrical window and the home video window that Disney wants to exploit. Bringing the home video window forward would also allow the streaming window to open up a bit earlier too, maybe.

So 2019 looks like an exciting year for streaming, lots of changes appear to be coming.

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That’s all we have for this week. See you in seven!

Weekly News Roundup (October 21, 2018)

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

And we’re back, this time on a new server. Sorry for the lack of a WNR last week, it was just too hectic to do one what with the new servers downloading all the GBs of stuff from the old servers. The migration is going better than expected, it’s been a while since I’ve done such a large scale move and things have actually gotten a lot easier over the years, thanks to a lot of automation. It’s still panic and confusion half of the time though, but hopefully most of that is behind us now, and it’s just the matter of making sure everything still works.

Let’s take a look at the news stories this week …

Copyright

GTA Online

Creating cheat tools in GTA Online, and other games, might get you in big legal trouble

Wow, I didn’t know cheating was so dangerous. Or rather, making cheat tools can apparently get your house searched, computers seized and assets frozen. I guess it is a big deal when it involves a $6 billion gaming franchise in the form of GTA V and in particular, GTA Online, and cheats that allow gamers to generate unlimited virtual currency and bypass Rockstar’s virtual economy could mean real damage to Rockstar’s real currency intake.

The lawsuit is being fought via copyright law, which at first seems a bit strange, but all the publishers are doing it this way, these days. Blizzard, for example, argued that cheat tools break the game’s EULA and the regular copying of code and files by the game is therefore considered illegal copying. Or something convoluted like that.

Still, not too many people will be upset by this because nobody likes cheaters and those that profit from cheating tools, but it still does seem a bit excessive to go after cheat makers so hard like this. I’m sure a strongly worded letter would have had the same effect, but this feels like a show of force to scare away other cheat developers. Shame for the 5 Aussies at the end of it though.

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Remember when torrent news website TorrentFreak was blocked as a piracy/hacking resource? It’s now been banned by Steam, of all places, for being potentially malicious. Just how news stories can harm Steam users, I don’t really know, but Steam is no stranger to blocking anything it deems slightly related to piracy, and I guess news sites (like this one, and this one) are fair game now.

High Definition

New Netflix Interface

Netflix spending heaps on content, but it’s working to drive subscriber growth

Netflix posted some great Q3 results, following the lackluster revenue report from the previous quarter and doubts in the market about the streaming firm’s long term profitability. This initially caused Netflix stock to surge in price, but it has now fallen back to below where it was due to weakness across the whole NASDAQ.

Leaving aside market wobbles, Netflix looks like it’s in a good position, both in the US and in overseas markets. It’s still spending a sh*tload of money on content, some $3 billion negative free cash flow for the year, which is why off of nearly $4 billion in revenue, net income was at a much lower $403 million (which is actually higher than normal).

But the investment in content is worth it as long as it drives new subscribers to the platform. Of course, Netflix would prefer to spend money creating original content than to license existing content, because it has been the originals that have been driving subscriber growth, and in the long run, originals actually cost less money.

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And so that was the week that was. Now back to server stuff.

Weekly News Roundup (October 7, 2018)

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

The great server migration of 2018 has started. Due to circumstances beyond my control, we need to move all of our sites to new servers, all at once, and so things are a bit hectic around here. I guess a server upgrade was long overdue, and so the move is coming at a good time, but as anyone who has been involved in migrating data from one system to another, you’ll know of its frustrations (and many, many potential pitfalls). So if you find parts of the site not working or acting a bit weird, don’t stress, we’re working on it!

It was a light news week again, although that would be because I was too busy to really notice what was going on. Either way, let’s get through this quickly so I can get back to more server shenanigans.

High Definition

What I did notice was how much Netflix (or video streaming in general) I was watching in the background during the many boring hours of a typical server migration. And it isn’t just me. Netflix use may not account for as much as 15% of global downstream traffic, and up to 40% during peak times on certain networks. I know that video, especially 4K video, is a bandwidth hog, but for one single platform to use so much bandwidth, it’s still quite an amazing thing.

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian, one of the original series that could debut on Disney’s upcoming streaming platform

In a perfect world, and by perfect I mean if everybody had access to affordable ultra high speed (100+Mbps) internet connections, then this use would actually be a lot more since Netflix’s 4K streams are still very much compromises in terms of quality. This is why Ultra HD Blu-ray still has a place despite the move away from physical media, because it is still the most reliable way to deliver the sometimes 100GB worth of digital data into people’s homes.

Competition is always a good thing, but while Netflix has some, it’s clear that they’re nowhere near being able to be a threat to them just yet. Amazon Prime came closest in terms of global downstream bandwidth use, but Netflix was still more than 4 times bigger (Hulu was even smaller). But Netflix’s biggest threat may yet to materialise in the form of Disney Streaming. With Disney absorbing Fox, the combined might of these two studios could allow them to create a streaming product that has a huge backlog of titles, along with a huge list of original productions that can fully exploit Disney and Fox’s owned franchises. From the very limited information we have about its streaming product, we already know that a Marvel series based on ‘Loki’ is in the works, along with another one for the ‘Scarlet Witch’. There’s a new Muppets series too, another one based on Monsters, Inc., and two Star Wars series including $100 million live action series ‘The Mandalorian’. And don’t forget that Disney, via Fox, will now own a huge chunk of Hulu too, and there will be some kind of “synergy” (I hate myself) between it and Disney’s so far unnamed streaming product.

Exciting times for streaming, that’s for sure.

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That’s it for the week, short I know. Probably won’t get much better next week, but one thing is for sure – I’ll have watched more Netflix (and Stan)!

Weekly News Roundup (September 23, 2018)

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Welcome to another issue of the WNR. Many of you read this roundup via our newsletter, and if you do, you might have noticed that it was our 600th issue last week. There’s a pretty strong link between the newsletter and this WNR, as both became regular features at around the same time, some 11 years ago. To put that into perspective, when the WNR first started, the iPhone was only a couple of months old. That’s the original iPhone, the one without any numbers (or now, Roman numerals/letters) after it. 2007 was also the year that Netflix started their streaming business.

So suffice to say, a lot of things have changed since then. But as you’ll find out in this WNR, some things stay the same.

Copyright

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker

Some Denuvo games are being cracked on the day of release

So 11 years later, DRM is still around and still a pain in the you know what. It used to be the controversial SecuROM that was causing all sorts of problems like constant reactivations, rootkits, these days it’s Denuvo with its potential performance problems. But publishers, just like back then, don’t care too much about the problems DRM like Denuvo and SecuROM bring, not if it protects their games. At least in Denuvo’s defence, it does actually work, for a while. That “for a while” is getting shorter and shorter though, and a new batch of games with the latest Denuvo version has just been cracked.

It’s kind of sad that publishers continue to use DRM even though there’s plenty of evidence that it’s actually making for a poorer user experience for their products, like how framerates for ‘Mass Effect Andromeda’ went up by 12%, in one test, after an official patch removed Denuvo protection from the game recently. There’s is also the negative PR for when a game is announced to use Denuvo, and that may even translate to lost sales.

But you take a look at ‘The Witcher 3’ from the one major publisher who is staunchly anti-DRM, and you look at its sales, and you wonder, is DRM really needed? Despite gamers knowing that the game, being DRM free, would be instantly piratable, 1.5 million people still chose to pre-order the game. And even after release (and after the pirated version was floating freely online), 6 million more copies were sold in the first six weeks. And the game continued to sell well two years after release, with sales in 2017 outnumbering that from 2016 – and all the while, the game was DRM-free and pirated everywhere. This made the ‘Witcher’ series more popular, sales wise, than the likes of ‘Fallout’, ‘Borderlands’, and the entire ‘Batman’ franchise.

The ‘DRM-free’ equals ‘piracy’ equals ‘lost sales’ equation doesn’t seem to compute.

High Definition

New Netflix Interface

Unique local content, interface improvements, key to being competitive for SVOD providers

The SVOD marketplace is getting very competitive. Even though Netflix has a huge share of the market, other players like Amazon, and here in Australia, Stan, are all vying for a slice of the, admittedly still growing, pie. This means that it’s more important than ever for SVOD platforms to be able to stand out from the crowd, to offer something unique. And plain old original content isn’t enough, increasingly, SVOD platforms are now offering localised original content.

Take Australia for example, the local SVOD outfit Stan has already released several original Australian series and even a movie, while Netflix has one in the works as well. And from Netflix, here in Australia, we can watch series from China, Brazil, Spain, France and many other countries.

And apart from unique content, there’s also the need to constantly improve the user experience. The apps for most streaming platforms are already pretty slick, but there are always room for improvement (even if it simply means removing certain features that are no longer useful, such as user reviews and star ratings).

Improvements to playback quality, in terms of 4K UHD, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and soon, HDR10+ are also an important way to keep things fresh.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. I have no idea what issue this one is, since I haven’t been using issue numbers with the WNR. Probably somewhere just north of 500, is my guess. See you next week!