Archive for the ‘Video Technology’ Category

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!

Weekly News Roundup (April 23, 2017)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Welcome to a brand new week on the WNR, where we bring you all* the latest news and happenings in the world of digital video, Blu-ray, gaming and everything else. It looks like I survived my wisdom teeth surgery after all, sorry about the lack of updates the week before (too busy barfing from postoperative nausea).

I’m writing this WNR a little bit later than I usually do on Saturday because I just picked up my new Samsung Galaxy S8+ and have been playing too much with it. It’s a really nice, I can’t say little but it definitely doesn’t feel too big, phone, with a gorgeous screen that doesn’t seem to end (gaming and watching movies, particularly those in the wider aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is a fantastic experience).

But no time to play time, it’s time for work, and there’s quite a bit to go through this week too, so let’s get started)

(* “All” is defined as the news stories I found interesting and/or had time to write up)

Copyright

2Dark

2Dark’s updated Denuvo protection cracked already

The cat and mouse game between anti-tampering system Denuvo (ie. DRM) and game crackers continues afoot with Denuvo releasing an updated version, dubbed v4, of their system. Unfortunately for Denuvo, it only took a month for the first game to be protected by v4, 2Dark, to be completely cracked – something that others had thought would take a lot longer.

While this does not mean all games with Denuvo v4 will be easily cracked from this point onwards – each game needs to be cracked individually – it does mean that crackers possibly have found an entry point into the system and it will make it easier to crack other games that are scheduled to use v4, including Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, Dead Rising 4, Nier: Automata, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Of course, being protected for a month is still better than nothing and one could argue that a month is actually all that’s needed for a game, as that’s why most of the sales happen. However, it seems with each cracked game, crackers improve their technique and reduce the time needed to crack the next one. So if Denuvo v4 only manages to protect Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 for a couple of days, then perhaps publishers won’t be so keen to use Denuvo unless they can get some kind of money back provision in their contract.

High Definition

PowerDVD 17

PowerDVD 17 has UHD, VR and other cool stuff … but you’ll need the hardware to match

It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally a way to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on your PC. And if you have one of those fancy PC based VR system, then you can watch your favourite movies in a VR environment too (or watch immersive 360 degrees movies).

I am talking about the latest and greatest version of PowerDVD, now in version 17 (I remember talking about it here on Digital Digest way back when the software was still in 0.x version). If you get the Ultra version, which is still at the $99 that it has almost always been, then you’ll have access to all these fancy new features.

Of course, you’ll still need the hardware, and that’s when the problem starts. The latest Kaby Lake CPU, the latest integrated Intel GPU or a GTX 970, and an Ultra HD Blu-ray reader drive are your *minimum* requirements, so it’s by no means accessible for everyone. And that’s just for Ultra HD Blu-ray – you’ll need more hardware for VR.

But if you’re rich and you already have all of these, than PowerDVD 17 Ultra is a must-buy. A must-buy mainly because it is the only thing you can buy that will play UHD discs.

While Disney is still saying away from UHD, unfortunately, Rogue One’s Blu-ray release was still a big one. Just not as big as The Force Awakens, which is not surprising. The 3D edition of the movie also sold really well despite it being a Best Buy and Target only exclusive. If it had been available on UHD, I think the UHD results would have been amazing. Not as amazing as Planet Earth II from the previous week, but still amazing. Come on Disney, pull it out!

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch outsold the PS4 and Xbox One in March

If you’re also rich, you’re probably one of the million or so people that already have Nintendo Switch. Not to say that the Switch is expensive, it’s quite good value for what you’re getting, but you’ve either already spent a load on a Wii U and games or you’re coming from the PS4/Xbox One camp, which means the Switch is another thing you have to buy, and given what has happened with the Wii U, you might be a little bit cautious.

But there doesn’t seem to be a need, since all reviews point to the Switch as an excellent, fun system that gives you something the others can’t. And it seems a lot of you agree, as it was the best selling console in March, at least in North America, easily beating the PS4 and the Xbox One.

This may not hold up for the coming months, since the Switch’s game library is still quite small (although I found the fact that more Zelda games have been sold than the total number of consoles to be quite interesting – are people buying games before they buy the Switch?).

But poor Xbox One, relegated to third place. Scorpio can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, and even then, success is not guaranteed. It might be the most powerful console in history when it’s released, but if it’s also twice as expensive as the PS4 Slim, then you can forget about it.

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You can also forget about me getting a lot of work done in the next few days, as I’ll be playing with my S8+ and the Gear VR. Actually, I will most likely be doing the vacuuming and house work, but that doesn’t sound very cool does it?

Weekly News Roundup (April 2, 2017)

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

So April Fools went by and I didn’t take part at all. Partly because what with the war on fake news at the moment, it just didn’t seem very tasteful. But mostly it was because I forgot until it was too late (damn you time zones)!

So rest assured all news stories covered in this issue of the WNR are real ones. Or at least I think they are, it’s so hard to tell these days.

Copyright

Pornhub

Are pirates really resorting to using porn video sites to upload popular mainstream movies?

Okay, this one does sound like an April Fools joke, but it was posted days before, so it should be safe. Apparently, pirates are turning to porn sites to share popular mainstream movies, like ‘Rogue One’. With the usual streaming sites, like YouTube, under constant surveillance for pirated content, pirates have resorted to using tricks like changing the audio pitch, or creative cropping and mirroring, to escape the ever more vigilant anti-piracy scanners. And even if they achieve this, once the upload becomes popular, it will usually become noticed by the powers that be and get taken down faster than you can say “oh that’s a good quality upload”.

But by turning to porn video sites like PornHub, where automated anti-piracy filters don’t exists and the watchful eyes of rights-holders and their agents are not focused on finding pirated content (that’s not to say they don’t visit these kind of websites, hint hint), uploads stay uploaded for longer if not indefinitely.

Dailymotion

It’s a bit easier to find real pirated films on less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion

But of course, since this story went public, sites like PornHub have gone on a cleaning spree and most of the mainstream pirated content has been removed. Even after extensive searching on the site by your truly, um definitely for research purposes only of course, I could not find any mainstream pirated content on PornHub even after hours of extensive searching. Did I mention it was for research purposes only?

After clearing my browsing history, I went to a few other video sharing sites (non adult ones), and also noted that other less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion also seem to escape relative scrutiny.

The conclusion? There are plenty of options for people who want to watch pirated content. Some of which you may have to put up with some rather distracting ads and the occasional moaning sound, while you may only have to worry about buffering issues and the lack of a really usable mobile app with some of the other more sensible choices.

Censorship

Anti-piracy filters are a form of censorship, says tech startups

Which is why introducing a law that forces the use of piracy filters for Internet sites and services simply won’t work, because it’s easy for sites to escape the attention of rights-holders, especially if they happen to be in jurisdictions that don’t have to abide by the new law. The lobby group for Internet startups, Engine, are basically saying the same thing, and have commissioned a report that says filter schemes will place an unfair burden on startups, as the cost of implementing a filter can be tens of thousands of dollars just for licensing costs.

Engine are also concerned about the false positive rate of such a filter system. While the false positive rate is only 1 to 2 percent, this adds up to be quite a large number when potentially dealing with millions of files that wouldn’t be out of place for a file or video hosting site. It could literally means tens of thousands of legitimate files being blocked or removed for no good reason at all.

So an expensive, innovation crushing system that won’t work and may block thousands of legitimate files, is the one system that rights-holders are now pushing for all Internet sites in the U.S. to adopt. Yep, sounds about right.

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It also sounds like the end of another WNR. I know, another short one. There will be more next week, hopefully.

Weekly News Roundup (March 12, 2017)

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

So autumn is finally here in Melbourne, and the weather seems to be getting hotter, after our relatively mild summer. It’s getting harder and harder to make sense of the weather, I don’t know if it’s climate change or something else, but the weather here is almost a complete reverse of what it was like here fifteen years ago.

There’s finally some more news to go through this week, which means that the next week will probably be very quiet. Which is just as well, as weddings and other events means next week’s WNR might be delayed or cancelled entirely depending on how much news there is and how much time I have left. But I have time this week, and there are news this week, so let’s get at it.

Copyright

Microsoft Bing

Google and Bing now committed to jump through many hoops for rights-holders … Bing probably just happy to be included, to be honest

So this week, we know a bit more about the somewhat secret agreement between Google, Bing and rights-holders, thanks to freedom of information requests by digital rights groups EFF and Digital Rights Ireland. And the more we know, the more we don’t like about the so called “voluntarily” agreement.

So from sharing user data, to manipulating search results even for “neutral” search phrases, to domain registrant data spying, it’s got a bit of everything. Except everything is all about Google and Bing appeasing rights-holders so they won’t demand them implement some kind of “take down and stay down” regime. Good luck with that!

Meanwhile in crazy old Germany, it seems the job of educating today’s youngsters about the dangers of piracy still lies with parents, who if they don’t give their kids the old “piracy is bad, mmmkay” speech, they may find themselves liable for their kid’s downloads.

I mean, I just don’t see how this is enforceable in any way. How are parents supposed to prove that they’ve had “the talk” (well, the other talk) with their kids, in order to prevent liability? Should they record it, along with a time stamp, maybe with a live broadcast being shown in the background, but all of this is easy to fake anyway. And what’s to prevent parents from making the speech (and they having proof of it), and then when the camera is turned off, to tell their kids to download at their heart’s content now that liability has been removed as a threat.

Maybe the safest thing to do, from a copyright law perspective (and from the perspective of a rights-holder), is not have kids at all, or to give them up for adoption at your earliest convenience. It’s the (copy)right thing to do!

High Definition

VLC for the iOS

I never thought I would be writing about the CIA and VLC in the same news story

I don’t get the chance to write about the CIA a lot in this roundup, but when I get the chance, I plan to make the best of it. So a real opportunity came this week when it was revealed that VLC, the video player that everyone should have a copy of on their computer, has been used by the spy agency for other uses other than to play pirated Homeland episodes.

To be fair, the VideoLan Team was quick to explain that, while the software did contain a vulnerability that allowed malware to piggypack on to its code, to allow the execution of a CIA made computer scanning program, the vulnerability no longer exists in the latest version and future versions will be more “CIA proof”.

I guess it’s also a testament to the popularity of the free, open source media player (that can play almost all video formats without the need for any installed codecs) that it’s a tool of choice for not only the CIA, but also for the targets of the CIA, which may include enemies like IS/ISIS/Daesh/Whateveritscalledthesedays, frenemies like Pakistan, and friends like Germany and Australia (or are we frenemies now? Can’t keep track with Trump’s foreign policy tweets).

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So the CIA, child rearing advice, rights-holder appeasement, a bit of everything really for this WNR. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (March 5, 2017)

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. As we start my favourite month of the year (birthday month!), things are happening all over the place. And by things, I only mean more and more copyright actions, whether it’s new lawsuits, or new site blockings. It all seems rather pointless considering how none of it has proven to work in the past, but I guess for some, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

But that’s a dangerous line of thought. Because sometimes doing something but doing the wrong thing can take your focus off doing the right thing. If rights-holders want to spend all their time and effort in obsessing over these anti-piracy measures, and totally ignore trying to innovate, then that’s great news for the likes of Netflix and Google and Apple, or the next big tech company, who will all gladly fill the gap in consumer need left by the dinosaurs that are the movie and music companies.

With Netflix making movies, and YouTube getting into TV, it’s only a matter of time we will have to redefine just what is a movie studio or a music label, and what kind of value do they actually inject into the whole ecosystem.

Okay, enough ranting for now, let’s get to the news (which will ultimately lead to more ranting).

Copyright

Censorship

Rights-holders: censorship is the way to go

The piracy blockade in Australia is gathering momentum, with more sites now being added to the blocking list. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie have already been targeted, and now in the second round of legal action (to get a court order to force ISPs to block sites),  ExtraTorrent, RARBG, Demonoid, LimeTorrents and dozens of other sites are now being added to the blockade.

If successful, this will lead Australians to one of three choices. To pay for the overpriced, under performing legal option to watch Game of Thrones; to get a VPN to bypass the blockade (or to access sites that haven’t been blocked yet); or to not watch Game of Thrones. The last option is obviously not realistic or acceptable, and the first option is hardly palatable (or even a realistic option for many), so … let’s put it this way, if I was operating a VPN company right now, I would be pretty happy with these developments. And if I was a copyright lawyer, I would also be happy and would start preparing the legal groundwork needed to start suing VPN providers. A win-win for everyone except for consumers and innovators.

Sweden is also getting in on the site blocking game (a little late if you ask me), with the Pirate Bay, and a handful of other sites, finally getting blocked in its home country. The ISPs are not happy and vow to fight future blocking attempts, with one ISPs boss even calling this latest development just a sign of the copyright industry’s “death throes” as the industry fails to grasp the need to reform and to evolve to become more customer oriented.

Meanwhile ExtraTorrent is coming under renewed pressure with its main domain name, extratorrent.cc, being seized by the domain’s registrar, although it does not stop the site from being accessed thanks to the myriad of backup domains. More death throes.

High Definition

Netflix Downloads

Netflix: Innovation is the key to success

So on the other site we have company like Netflix, and their CEO, talking positively about the future, and taking positive steps to innovate their way to success. With mobile data usage on the up and providers not so keen on the development, Netflix has seen the potential problem and has decided to take some steps to address it before it becomes a problem. The company is working on compressing its already efficient video streams to make it less data intensive for mobile users, with CEO Reed Hastings believing that 0.2 Mbps is all that’s needed to deliver good quality video. To put that into perspective, a typical 2 hour movie would only use up 180 MBs of data.

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV (Click to enlarge)

On piracy, Hastings confirmed the company’s strategy of not fighting pirates, but helping them. Helping them by giving them what they want (lots of entertainment options) at a price they’re willing to pay (so not $30 per movie).

Speaking of the future, 4K means that many people are going to start looking for a new TV soon, and one of the questions that’s always been asked, regardless of whether it’s looking for a projection TV, a plasma, a HD, or Ultra HD one, is how big should the TV be.

Based on my experience, there’s usually no such thing as too big unless you have a very small room. A TV that you think might be too big now, will seem small by the time you need/want to upgrade again. But if you do have limited space, or more precisely, limited distance between you and your TV, then maybe take a peek at this infographic (special thanks to Kagoo.com for the image). It uses science to determine what’s the optimal distance is if you actually want to be able to see those extra pixels from your new 4K TV.

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Okay, that’s enough for this week. Have a great one and see you in seven.