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New system to destroy film piracy

Cameo-Screen1.jpgJapan's National Institute of Informatics asked Sharp to develop a system to stop film piracy, or rather to stop those using cam-corders to record films in cinemas, and therefore stop film piracy forever.

Amazingly Sharp have developed a system that actually does work and ruins the recorded film, and it looks like this could be the answer to the industry's prayers.

The system uses pulses of infra-red light, around ten pulses per second, which are projected from the back of the screen towards the audience. The infra-red light passes through tiny holes in the screen which are there to allow sound to pass through, and renders any recording equipment useless.

Sounds a great idea, and if you go to the source story at FarEastGizmos through Gizmodo and Atomic Popcorn you'll see an image example of the first infra-red camcorder blocking system in action.

It sounds a great idea, however, I can't help thinking that they have seriously miscalculated on a few issues:

  1. Infra-red filters in front of the lens would filter out the interfering light, although I'm not sure of the effect it would have on the actual film itself.
  2. Believe it or not this could have an adverse effect on ticket sales as some people watch illegally copied films for an idea of how good or bad a film is before going to pay the ticket and watch the film.
  3. The majority of pirated films that are actually watched by people are not camcordered films.

I can't help but think that these three facts just make the idea sound like a complete waste of time and effort on the part of the industry. Let's take a closer look at why.

On the first point I'm not sure I'm really qualified enough to know what would happen with an infra-red filter on the camera lens and what the effect would be on the film picture itself. I am guessing that there wouldn't be much of a problem, but there's a part of me thinks that perhaps the film would look slightly odd.

Of course there's an additional question here that you have to think about. What would the effect on you be of infra-red light being pulsed ten times a second for up to, and possibly over, two hours at a time? Oh infra-red light doesn't affect you some will say, but flashing at ten times a second for two hours?

Let's move onto the second point though, the effect on ticket sales at the box office. Now I do know a couple of people who, if they are thinking a film is really bad, they'll have a look at a pirated copy of a film to see if it's any good. Admittedly they don't look at the whole film, but they do download it, look through it, and then make a decision as to whether or not to go and see the film, and by that I mean spend the money.

I don't know the number of people world wide who do that, but it could certainly loose the studios a little money, if they don't gauge the film through non-marketing materials then they don't buy a ticket.

I agree, that last one is tenuous, true, but probably not that widespread. However here's the big one. Of all the pirated films I've heard friends, colleagues and general members of the public talk about, even the few I've seen, none of them have been camcordered.

Let me just hit you with that again. None of them. It's true that a couple I know of have said that they've downloaded a film and seen that it's a camcorder version, but then they immediately dump it and go and download another source.

Of the pirated films I've seen from friends, I have to say that there's one thing in common, they are all nigh on perfect copies. It's clear they are taken from DVD's.

The real culprit is in the industry or from the store. Once a film is released and on DVD it's a doddle to copy, before that it's down to people in the industry, surely the whole Wolverine debacle showed that, or are the studio trying to tell us that this was a camcorder copy too?

We know what the cinema deal is really about, the studio's are fed up that they can't market the hell out of their new trailers and not letting them loose on the internet. If they force us to go and see it in a cinema before a film they might squeeze some extra money out of us. Really, the most camcordered aspect of cinema are the trailers.

Rather than spending money trying to curb people recording in the cinema, why not spend it trying to put a hidden code across on DVD pictures, something hidden that only turns up with a filter or a piece of software. That way it could easily be identified whose DVD has been pirated.

Mind you, that cost falls on the distributor and the studio, whereas infra-red and the latest night vision goggles are at the expense of the cinema.

Well it's either code the DVD's in some invisible way or make better films that attract people to the cinema, and that doesn't mean 3D!



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