Archive for the ‘Video Technology’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (July 22, 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.

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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 (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!

Weekly News Roundup (May 28, 2017)

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Hello from not so sunny Melbourne, as we once again tackle the news that was this week.

And the news was that there wasn’t much news. To be fair, I’ve been busier than usual with other stuff this week, and so perhaps didn’t look hard enough for interesting things to write about, but still, it was a relatively quiet week in all respects. But there are still a couple of things to go through, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So has Star Wars: The Last Jedi been stolen or not?

A follow up to last week’s story about the possible leak of a Disney movie, torrent news website TorrentFreak has done some more investigation and it’s becoming somewhat clearer that the full story is a lot less clearer. The veracity of the leak is now under question, according to TorrentFreak, as they managed to find the alleged hacker/leaker/blackmailer, who claims he has access to a workprint of The Last Jedi. The problem is that the leaker, who claims he got the film from a friend who had access to it in post-production of the movie, has failed to release convincing evidence that he even has the film, and now, he’s claiming he has a hold of Sony’s Emoji movie as well.

So what might have been a story about a leak and blackmail, might be one about delusional boasting and extortion. Or it might be just for a the lols, some kind of attention grabbing stunt that may not have anywhere to go now that Disney has called the leaker’s bluff.

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Samsung 4K TV

4K is doing well in sales

So UHD seems to be going pretty strong, for both TV sales and for movie sales. Just how strong? According to data released by Futuresource, sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray disc players are expected to be up 148% in 2017 compared to 2016, with some 1.4 million new units being sold this year. A third of all new TVs being sold this year will be UHD capable too.

Coupled that with the expected release of 250 new UHD Blu-ray titles this year, it all looks like to be a pretty healthy ecosystem for this still very new format.

Samsung remains the king of TV sales for the present, but Chinese brands, including TCL, are catching up apparently.

Still, Futuresource expects TV sales to remain flat for 2017, due to market saturation, and the lack of any major sporting events (which usually help to push TV sales).

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So that’s it for the week, I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have. Times are tough, you know. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (May 21, 2017)

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus – stuff got into the way (more dental stuff as well) and I just couldn’t rush out a WNR last week. But it’s all good now, and we have lots to go through this week, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster

Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the film that hackers have stolen from Disney?

The new trend in piracy appears to have shifted to one of hacking, theft and blackmail. Following the theft of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’, a story I covered a few weeks ago, it appears Disney has become the latest victim of this trend. Disney boss Bob Iger revealed that hackers claims to have stolen one of the studio’s unreleased films and have threatened to release it publicly if a ransom demand, in BitCoins, is not met.

Iger did not reveal the name of the film, but did categorically ruled out meeting the hacker’s demands, which means the hackers might soon release the film online and we’ll all know then what film it was. It’s also unclear whether this is related to the Netflix theft, although based on the Twitter account of the Netflix hacker, it’s probably not the same guy (he did not mention anything about having hold of Disney content).

Many are speculating as to which movie was stolen, but with Disney’s line-up for 2017 including the likes of ‘Cars 3’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, Disney better hope it’s not one of these mega blockbusters that ends on being leaked on torrent sites.

Speaking of being leaked on, Netflix’s new Android app, or rather Google’s Play store, is preventing those with rooted phones from downloading the latest update. Those with rooted phones are being met with a message stating their phone is not compatible, and this is most likely due to the new DRM requirement of the updated Netflix app.

The issue isn’t that bad though, since users can always sideload the Netflix app and it will run perfectly on rooted phones (so it’s really just the Play store being a d*ck, and not letting rooted phones from updating) – assuming you can find a secure place to download the Netflix app.

As for what’s actually new in the app, there’s a huge new feature for users of LG’s G6 phone. It is one of the first phones to support Dolby Vision HDR, and the new Netflix app will be able to take full advantage of the phone’s gorgeous screen. Samsung Galaxy S8 owners like myself got prematurely excited when the HDR logo started showing up on our phone too (which also supports HDR, but not Dolby Vision), but it turns out it was just a mistake and that the streams weren’t happening in HDR.

The HDR update for the S8 and S8+ will be coming soon, most likely, and I can’t wait!

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LG G6 Dolby Vision Comparison

Dolby Vision promises better, more colors, and more vivid pictures than even HDR10

Speaking of Dolby Vision, the first Dolby Vision enabled Ultra HD Blu-ray movies will be coming in June, first from Universal and then from Lionsgate. Universal will release ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ while Lionsgate has chosen ‘Power Rangers’ to showcase just how awesome Dolby Vision will be (assuming you have a good TV to show it off).

I haven’t covered HDR as much as I should here, so I copy/paste a section from the above news article to explain the difference between Dolby Vision and the HDR used by most currently available UHD Blu-ray movies, HDR10.

Dolby Vision offers several improvements over the open HDR10 standard, including greater color depth (12-bit vs HDR10’s 10-bit), support for a brighter picture (1,000-4,000 nits vs always 4,000 nits) and Dolby Vision enabled TVs feature a special chip that knows the TV’s own capabilities and helps these displays produce the best possible reproduction of the film compared to the original masters.

In other words, while HDR10 is a more open standard that’s easier to implement, Dolby Vision should offer a better picture quality with all things being equal. And don’t discount the extra 2 bits in color depth – this turns out to be an increase of 67 billion colors being represented! The brightness support also means that DV requires everything to be mastered at 4,000 nits, whereas HDR10 content can make do with only 1,000 nits (of course, whether your TV can support such a high nit count is another question).

DV also has better tone mapping (thanks to that special chip), and support for dynamic metadata that allows for scene by scene optimization of the picture.

But for now, HDR10 has the better hardware support, greater quantity of content, and for most people, it’s already awesome enough.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is a top seller!

Speaking of being awesome enough, the Nintendo Switch has outsold both the PS4 and Xbox One again in April, despite there being stock shortages. And despite only being released two days before the end of the April NPD reporting period, Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the top game seller for the entire month as well.

It’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, which hasn’t been top of any chart for a very long time. Whether it will last, is anybody’s guess, but whatever you say about the Switch, it’s definitely something different compared to the offerings from Sony and Microsoft.

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That’s all I have for this week. Have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (May 7, 2017)

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

How are you on this fine Sunday? Hope you’ve had a productive week, or perhaps like me, you had such a super productive week, where you managed to accomplish so much that everything becomes kind of a blur and you actually can’t even remember all the things you did. Or maybe I actually didn’t do much at all, I don’t know.

As for news, there’s definitely some, so let’s get started.

Copyright

The Smurfs 2

Not my first choice for the first ever ripped Ultra HD Blu-ray

Bad news for Hollywood, and the Ultra HD Blu-ray format. It appears crackers have managed to break the upgraded AACS 2.0 protection on these discs and successfully ripped the first 4K title. Just why they chose to rip The Smurfs 2, and not something like Deadpool or Suicide Squad, I don’t know.

A little refresher, the copy protection scheme used on standard Blu-ray discs, the original AACS, was long cracked. But AACS 2.0, used primarily for 4K content these days, was supposed to be better and tougher, and many theorized it would take years to break it. I guess not.

While it appears Ultra HD Blu-ray discs may soon lose their protection, they do still have several “natural” forms of protection left. First, the sheer size of 4K movies makes them less than ideal download targets – why waste time and bandwidth downloading 50+ GB of movie, when you can get a pretty decent one for under 3 GB. Second, making disc copies of these movies is still not easy to do, given the price and lack of availability of these high capacity discs. Thirdly, if you can afford the “proper” set up to view 4K movies at their best, you can probably afford to buy the discs.

So for now, the piracy of UHD is strictly an academic exercise, and buying the disc still makes much more sense. For now.

High Definition

Samsung 4K TV

4K TVs are selling well, and so are discs, but physical media is still on the way out

From piracy straight to sales, and Ultra HD Blu-ray is doing pretty well at the moment, according to the latest report from DEG. But it may be the only bright spot in the overall gloom that is physical media at the moment, with revenue down 14.3% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter last year. Digital, on the other hand, is enjoying record growth, with subscription streaming revenue up 26%, and digital sales of theatrical titles up an amazing 30%.

As for 4K, Q1 2017 added a further 2.6 million 4K TVs to the total number in U.S. households, up 54% from a year ago. Disc sales are going strong too, with 900,000 discs sold from a total of 139 titles now available on the new disc format.

Overall, total spending was up 2%, meaning the losses in physical media is being more than adequately replaced by gains in digital.

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I have more than adequately done my quota of work this week too (maybe still not enough right here for the WNR, but what can you do), so it’s time for me to call it a week. Until next time, have a great one!