Pic piracy prods stepped-up security

Thomson, Philips Research develop systems for limiting theft

As the entertainment world embraces digital distribution, the major studios have been reluctant to join in, fearful that piracy would render their product — and their libraries — essentially worthless to them as pirates racked up profits in their place.

So the Digital Cinema Initiative spec made a point of spelling out the need for solutions that protect content all along the digital pipeline, from production to distribution.

Two companies, French-based Thomson and Philips Research in the Netherlands, have each developed DCI-compliant systems for limiting piracy. Both systems, Thomson’s NexGuard and Philips’ CineFence and CompoTrack products, utilize watermarking technology to help thwart the efforts of thieves, both in the post-production pipeline and in the theater (most notably via camcorded copies made from the auditorium).

For the latter, the watermark is introduced within a theater’s playback server, adding data that is invisible to audience members, but which can be picked up by even the crudest recording devices.

Popular on Variety

“We’ve even done tests with the video captured by digital still cameras, which is very poor quality, and we were still able to retrieve the watermark,” says Pascal Marie of Thomson’s strategic marketing.

In both systems, the watermark provides information as specific as the theater complex at which the video was captured, which theater within that complex, and date and time. That helps studios track the flow of digital content across the Internet.

Not yet developed, but on the drawing board at both companies, is “camjamming” technology, which not only captures an embedded watermark but makes the captured content unusable. “It’s something which has been quite difficult to develop,” notes Ronald Maandonks, Philips’ general manager of content identification. “It has to be imperceptible to the human eye but disturbing to the camera.”

Equally important is protecting content in each step of the production phase — everything from digital dailies to visual effects to color grading. “With the migration towards digital workflow, in post-production, content security becomes a very hot topic,” says Marie, noting the leakage of an uncolor-corrected copy of Universal’s “Hulk” in 2003 helped give critics and potential audiences the wrong impression about the green superhero.

Both Thomson and Philips offer watermarking systems for post (Philips with its CompoTrack and RepliTrack products, depending on format) to dissuade copying of content during that phase of production. Additionally, Thomson includes an integrated encryption system. “By encrypting the content and giving very specific tokens to specific individuals within a post house, etc., you can limit the access to the content to only the people who need to access it to accomplish their task,” Marie explains.

Both companies note the next step in content security will involve video-on-demand. “We want to make the watermarking technology available to set-top box manufacturers, so that when premium content is available on video-on-demand services, it’s possible to identify individual transactions,” Marie says.

Maandonks notes Philips’ CompoTrack MPEG watermarking system is already available for such use and that the company is working with manufacturers to integrate the product into video processors as well.

More Film

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 Skalitzer Str. 105 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

  • Carlo Chatrian Berlin Film Festival Artistic

    Carlo Chatrian Leads Berlin Fest Into New Era

    Carlo Chatrian’s rapid rise to becoming Berlin’s artistic director stems from the steely resolve of a soft-spoken film lover with smarts and a clear sense of what he considers meaningful in contemporary cinema today. The Italian film critic and curator previously served a five-year stint as artistic director of Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival. He is [...]

  • Jimmy Carter

    Tribeca Film Festival to Open With 'Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President'

    The 19th annual Tribeca Film Festival will open on April 15 with the world premiere of the documentary “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President.” The film explores Carter’s lifelong passion for all genres of music and how it helped propel him, a former peanut farmer from Georgia, all the way to the White House. Carter’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content