Sony's Insane Fear Of 'Piracy' Means Many Movies Now Suck In Digital Theaters

from the ridiculous dept

Nina Paley alerted us to an article from the Boston Globe that's been getting some attention about how many theaters are showing digital projections of regular "2D" movies that look really bad because projectionists don't remove 3D lenses. Basically, lots of theaters are using digital projectors, which were supposed to be a huge boon for the theater industry. It's easier than shipping and loading film. It can often present a crisper picture. In general it provides plenty of benefits. Those same projects can show 3D movies, but if you try to show a 2D movie via the 3D lenses, you can lose a ton of light. In some cases, the films are being projected 85% darker due to this. In other words, it's making the theater experience dreadful.

You might just think the issue is lazy projectionists who don't want to change lenses. While that might play a part... the bigger issue appears to be Sony's insane fear of digital infringement:
So why arenít theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert's Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, "and if you don't do it right, the machine will shut down on you.'" The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn't made and "audiences are getting shortchanged.'"
Yes, the projector requires you to get security clearances and internet passwords just to change a lens... or it shuts down on you. Why? Because of the fear of the dreaded "piracy." Of course, all this really does, in the long run, is drive more such "piracy" by making people question why they should go to the theater for a crappy movie-going experience.

* Oh, and yes, it's pretty freaking cool that Roger Ebert's projectionist is named James Bond.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Christopher (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    I wonder how long it will take the Anonymous Coward to show up and start spouting BS on this subject.

    Perhaps this is why some theaters have specific theaters for 3D movies and others for 2D movies.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    Not all of us ACs are bad, remember that many of the most insightful comments have been from ACs like myself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    the?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Interesting that the source never mentioned piracy at all. As usual, leave it to Mike Masnick to insert his own opinion into a story but present it as fact. It's not like the theaters don't know what's involved in changing these lenses when they shell out millions of dollars to buy the projectors. Maybe they should either buy different models or you know, make sure their staff have the tools to do their jobs. Pinning this on a ham-fisted piracy approach is just another in the recent long list of ways Masnick is trying to make everything the industry does about stomping out pirates.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Sony is creating the very problem they fear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    I once couldn't see a movie because the bulb had burned out and the theater said only a union technician could replace it, and he couldn't get there forever.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    2D movie please

    Honestly a lot of movies aren't even worth the current 2D ticket price, assuming you can even /find/ a 2D showing of it.

    From this observer's point of view the entire supply chain a basic economics lesson about fixed costs and supply/demand/profit curves.

    A lot of movies would probably make more money if they sold tickets at half the current prime rate but actually filled seats with value savvy consumers; who might even buy more refreshments due to the perceived savings.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Re:

    Actually this is to prevent only certified sony anything (People, parts, ect) to work with their equipment. It is the same reason that it is hard to buy a third party battery for a sony laptop without a little hacking due to sony protectionism.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

    * Oh, and yes, it's pretty freaking cool that Roger Ebert's projectionist is named James Bond.

    Well, one would think that a projectionist named James Bond would already have the security clearance to open the projector. Or at least the skills to bypass them with a laser disguised as a pen and a watch with a super powerful magnet.

    But, then again, who wants to watch a movie that is shaken, not stirred?

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    You can't buy a different model projector, you must use the model that supports the movie's DRM and that DRM requires codes and activation. With as many problems as they have, do you seriously think that theaters would waste their money on a projector that makes their reputation worse if they had a choice?

     

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    Joe Publius (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    In the end what's the point of rigging a piece of equipment like that so securely that an error could brick it, however temporarily? It's no surprise that theaters are taking the easy route, and punishing the movie watching experience as a result.

    Why isn't Sony thinking of all of the corn farmers who will be out of work because of their great strides in making theater-going such a crummy experience?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    Ah, I see. Sony just puts crazy security on the projectors for the fun of it. Thanks for clearing that up.

     

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    DogBreath, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:40pm

    It's always about money...

    whether it's Sony worried about, "Pirates!", or theaters putting in reduced wattage bulbs to save a few bucks , the customer is always the one who ends up getting the shaft.


    To paraphrase: "You can't screw over all of the people all of the time, but hopefully you can screw some of them enough of time to keep your outdated business model afloat, and make a pile of money in the process".

     

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    codeslave (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re: 2D movie please

    Many years ago I worked as a projectionist at a theater that had $1.50 second run movies. This was when the full price was around $6. We were the most profitable theater in the chain due to concession sales, apart from the drive-in which sold burgers, pizzas, nachos, etc. Concessions is the prime way theaters make money - most of the ticket price goes back to the studios on a sliding percentage based on the number of weeks the film has been released. That's why studios also like to have one or two huge weekends at the highest rate, then cut the number of screens so they can maximize their percentage on their next release. The theaters, however, have no leverage to change this.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Piracy

    > Interesting that the source never mentioned
    > piracy at all

    So Sony is just password-protecting its machines and bricking them for the slightest error as a lark?

    > Maybe they should either buy different models

    If they did that, genius, they couldn't show any Sony movies, since they won't play on anything that doesn't meet Sony's DRM requirements.

     

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    HothMonster, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

    Re:

    13 minutes from your post

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Well I'm not getting the shaft because I don't go see movies in the theater anymore. I prefer to watch at home on Netflix. Do I care I have to wait a few months to see whatever crappy new movie? No.

     

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    Jay (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:00pm

    Re:

    "It's not like the theaters don't know what's involved in changing these lenses when they shell out millions of dollars to buy the projectors."

    What the...?

    Do you KNOW how much a movie projector lens costs?
    Do you know anything about the lumens that a projector needs to produce?
    How large the room is?
    How many people in the audience?
    The loans on the projector?
    The amount of money needed to pay all of it back?

    The newest upgrades for your series? Ambience? THX certification?

    There's so much to worry about in movie theaters, it's not funny. Then you have Sony making this even MORE difficult with password protection on their products?

    What do you THINK consumers are going to do, if they see a movie is bad because of its graphics?

    If the lens could pop off and on, this would be a dead issue. You need special services from the Princess in Another Castle, Inc. to change it. All this DRM over 3D vs 2D projection is going to make less and less people go to the movies.

     

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    DannyB (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    The original source says

    Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, ďand if you donít do it right, the machine will shut down on you.

    That is tantamount to mentioning piracy.

    Mike Masnick has it exactly right.

     

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    Adam, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    The theater I worked at used separate 720p office projectors to display ads and streamed "Digital Movies". None of the main projectors had 3D lenses or anything of the sort, they were all fixed set up 35mm machines.

     

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    Brad, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Anti-Piracy efforts may cost more than the piracy itself.

    I would dare say that anti-piracy efforts is costing companies more than any real losses from "piracy" and that stopping "piracy" (which is a pipe dream) would prove to be much more costly than "piracy" since all movies, songs etc would lose that buzz and viral effect that "piracy" creates.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    What's an "Internet password"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re:

    "The original source says


    Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, ďand if you donít do it right, the machine will shut down on you.


    That is tantamount to mentioning piracy.

    Mike Masnick has it exactly right."

    "The result, IN HIS VIEW"

    Its a guy's opinion, and one guy's opinion apparently proves FACT that SONY is EVIL.

    Mike Masnick has it exactly wrong.

     

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    ltlw0lf (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:10pm

    Re:

    Well, one would think that a projectionist named James Bond would already have the security clearance to open the projector. Or at least the skills to bypass them with a laser disguised as a pen and a watch with a super powerful magnet. But, then again, who wants to watch a movie that is shaken, not stirred?

    Maybe he goes by the name Jimmy Bond, a washed up X-Football player with lots of money, but not much in the brain department, who hangs around with Melvin, John, and Richard trying to prove that aliens exist and the government sponsors terrorism, etc. only to be killed off by the executives at Fox after 13 episodes (because all the best television shows are killed off by Fox after 13 episodes.)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Still dodging the point, I see. The projectors require security clearances and internet passwords, and will shut down if the procedure isn't followed correctly.

    This is a fact, not someone's view.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    the names bond, james bond, and we dont have the access codes to defuse the projector bomb

     

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    Jeremy7600 (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    On the digital feature/content systems I've worked on, the movie files are typically DRM'd. In the lab I work in, the feature (movie) player is separate from the content (ads, inter-movie slideshows) player which is separate from the projector.

    The Feature player was the unit that was locked down to the nth degree. They even had to make special baffles for the vents so that people couldn't disable or short the case open switch. (Which in the first design was rather simple to bypass) They have security stickers on the enclosure. Everything on the drive is encrypted. In order for the system to work they needed to be activated before being shipped out, which involves connecting it to a server (I assume for encryption certificates and such).

    The content player was an off the shelf PC with no security outside of a login. The only thing special it had was a decoder board or high end audio board. It used a standard nVidia video card.

    The Projector was only locked with a key. Maybe to keep the $800 bulbs from being stolen.

    It does not surprise me that the projector (if it is an all in one player/projector) is locked down.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Re:

    That reminds me. I need to go file a patent for

    'A password on the internet' (In the grand tradition of BLANK on the Internet)

     

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  29.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Its a guy's opinion, and one guy's opinion apparently proves FACT that SONY is EVIL.

    Umm...Sony is evil...not only for this single transgression mentioned in this post but for the myriad of other times Sony has faltered. A short list off the top of my head:
    Playstation Network easily hacked - user privacy compromised = EVIL
    Sues Geohot for replacing functionality on PS3 that was removed from machines sold using said functionality as a selling point. = EVIL
    Removing functionality as mentioned in 2. = EVIL
    Sony rootkit exploit installed on customers machines w/o permission = EVIL.

     

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    Lord Binky, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Mike is pointing out, that Sony is a little wrong in the head when it Sony laments about a splinter in it's hand (piracy) while at the same time it is shooting itself in the foot with a shotgun (one pellet of which is expending alot of effort that it knows will just make films worse to view in a theater)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Like Christopher isn't an anonymously cowardly name.

    Look this is really bad design on the part of the projector builders. The lens should be in a zone where it can be changed without a security clearance. Of course this also means the only way to watch a Sony movie is in 3D.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:33pm

    Re:

    Yep and just wait until that Sony password system crashes. No sony releases for two months.

     

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    Lord Binky, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Sony's Shotgun

    By the way, Sony's shotgun that it is shooting itself in the foot with also has "PIRACY PROTECTION" carved on the side of it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

    Sony has come down to the gift that keeps on giving. More and more Sony products seem to have major issues. Pretty soon at this rate, Sony won't have to worry about piracy. They may have to worry about customers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Makes sense

    So, if it's your credit card on PSN, Sony doesn't give a shit about protecting info from the hackers. But if it's theirs precious "feature," they protect it like ICBM silo.

     

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    Overcast (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    So, if it's your credit card on PSN, Sony doesn't give a shit about protecting info from the hackers. But if it's theirs precious "feature," they protect it like ICBM silo.

    Good observation.

    Reasons I avoid Cd's from Sony is the potential of rootkits.


    And yep:

    Sony has come down to the gift that keeps on giving. More and more Sony products seem to have major issues. Pretty soon at this rate, Sony won't have to worry about piracy. They may have to worry about customers.

    I do have a Sony TV and Camcorder, but the more Sony acts like this - the more I'm thinking about buying Hardware elsewhere...

     

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  37.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 3:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    > proves FACT that SONY is EVIL.

    Finally, you got it!

    Do the math:
    1. Sony puts DRM into projectors. (Original source cited in article.)
    2. DRM = evil. (Axiom)
    3. Therefore by substitution of terms: Sony = evil.

     

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    DannyB (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    > > Mike Masnick has it exactly right.
    > The result, IN HIS VIEW

    Do the math:
    1. Masnick article mentions projectors require passwords, shut down, etc., causing movies to suck in theaters.
    2. This is DRM by any reasonable definition.
    3. Therefore DRM is causing movies to suck in theaters.
    4. DRM is used because of delusions that it prevents piracy.
    5. Therefore article is correct: Fear of Piracy means movies now suck in theaters.

    Please explain how this is wrong?

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You obviously dont get it. Your supposed to come to TechDirt and just say MOOOOOOO and follow the herd. :)

     

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  40.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    Re:

    Considering that this is a blog that discusses the news, not presents it as news, your point is lost in the signal. Get a life, shill.

     

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  41.  
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    DogBreath, May 26th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's either an ill-conceived anti-piracy measure, or another Sony forced obsolescence plan: Make 2D movie watching suck in theaters, slowly kill 2D movies, rake in higher profits from "easier to see, but more expensive to view" 3D movies. Probably one or the other... or could it be... both?

    I for one won't be least surprised the day Sony puts out a Blu-Ray movie that updates their players to no longer be able to play DVDs. After all, it worked perfectly on their PS3 "Other OS" removal... didn't it?

     

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  42.  
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    Rich, May 26th, 2011 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or just insult people when you have no good argument.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    OTOH, your "insightful" opinion has it all right because why, precisely? Please. As one AC to another... Get a grip!

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 26th, 2011 @ 5:38pm

    Re: ... one would think that a projectionist named James Bond would already have the security clearance ...

    From whom?

    Which country do you think James Bond works for?

     

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    Daylyn (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:00pm

    It shouldn't be hard to hack the Sony projector, everybody else is hacking Sony pretty easily these days.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: ... one would think that a projectionist named James Bond would already have the security clearance ...

    Which country do you think James Bond works for?

    Everyone knows that Bond works for the British MI6.

    But, since he seems to be undercover as Ebert's projectionist, he must be on loan to ICE to assist in the dangerous job of apprehending copyright infringers.

     

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    Bnesaladur (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:24pm

    What I don't understand is why the projector has to be designed in this way. DRM aside can the projector not be designed so that the projectionist could easily swap one lens out for the other? Yes it could, it just wasn't. They COULD make it plug and play but as was mentioned before, SONY does not like letting anyone other than themselves handle the hardware side of the product.

     

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    abc gum, May 26th, 2011 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Sony rootkit exploit installed on customers machines w/o permission"


    Quantity of those responsible tried for their crimes = 0

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 7:20pm

    Per Sony specs, a projector does not need to be opened to change its lens, but it does require technical training in order to make the change and currently takes about 20 minutes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:16pm

    Re: Re: 2D movie please

    Why don't they have leverage, though? Where else are studios expecting their movies to be released and shown on the big screens?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Trueity. I was really liking Chicago Code and *poof*. Gone. Liked Terriers a lot too and *poof*. Gone. Retooled Law & Order LA was becoming quite likeable and *poof*. But that's NBC, who *poofed* the original L&O for...no discernible reason I could see.

    Pure crap reality shows and over-produced padded out contests? Still stinking up the place.

    Sorry. Got ranty.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:29pm

    Re:

    Worrying about customers (their info, their personal property, their experience, their convenience) has never been Sony's agenda, twould seem.

     

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    Jay (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: ... one would think that a projectionist named James Bond would already have the security clearance ...

    It was either that, or work as a special liason for TSA.

    He chose well.

     

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    Rekrul, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe he goes by the name Jimmy Bond, a washed up X-Football player with lots of money, but not much in the brain department, who hangs around with Melvin, John, and Richard trying to prove that aliens exist and the government sponsors terrorism, etc. only to be killed off by the executives at Fox after 13 episodes (because all the best television shows are killed off by Fox after 13 episodes.)

    I was in a Big Lotts store today and they had the complete box set for like $6.

     

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    Jan Bilek (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 10:38pm

    translators

    Czech translator who makes subtitles for American movies wrote article (in Czech, sorry) about how difficult it has become to translate movies because of the restrictions enforced by studios.

    For example he claims that when he is asked to do the translation, he gets the copy of the movie with action scenes cut out and other scenes fuzzy so he can only see speaking person's mouth. It can be difficult to understand the meaning of a sentence without knowing the context... so sometimes subtitles don't even make sense.

    And I guess American studios will be really surprised when they find out that many Czechs have given up on going to cinemas and prefer pirated movies with subtitles made by fans, which can be much better than official subtitles.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 11:03pm

    Re:

    As usual, leave it to Mike Masnick to insert his own opinion

    Really, so what else did you dumbass expect from him on his blog? D'uh!

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 11:11pm

    Re: translators

    Despite the czech, do you have a link for this story?

     

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    dcee (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 12:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think the reason it takes security clearance is well thought (well, in the mind of a sick company): if you change the lenses, from 3D to 2D, you'll then be able to record the movie in 2D in "good" quality.

     

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    Jan Bilek (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 12:59am

    I sent the link half an hour ago... I am afraid some anti-spam script evaluated it as spam.

    Just google "FFFILM: Konec titulků v ČechŠch?"

    BTW, the title means "The end of subtitles in Czechia?"

     

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    gilroy0 (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 4:05am

    I imagine this has as much to do with degrading the 2D experience (thus, comparatively, heightening the 3D experience and justifying all those extra $$ charged) as with actual piracy.

     

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  61.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 4:54am

    Re:

    13 minutes. Must have stopped for lunch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    icon
    Phillip Vector (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 5:00am

    %85 light reduction

    I presume then there is no "Gamma Control" that they can up the level of light?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 5:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ZOMG!! 'Mikee the Masnick' *dared* to express a logically derived opinion on his *own* blog! OH NOES!!!!

    Even worse, people agree with him and not my corporate overlords!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 5:33am

    Re:

    If you make it easy to just swap a lens, then during that minute the lens is removes from the projector, there is a hole that exposes the inside of the projector to the outside environment. Pirates or aliens could get inside the projector!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    icon
    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    The projectionist may be James Bond, but it seems it's AC who has the license to shill

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I was in a Big Lotts store today and they had the complete box set for like $6.

    I bought it for that much when it first came out on DVD. Picked it up along with Space: Above and Beyond. Of course, I bought several copies of Firefly each for about twice as much, but I get more use out of Firefly.

    Oh god how much I hate Fox. At least they did kill the Ben Stiller Show, but all the other shows they killed before their time, so sad. At least the shows are cheap on DVD, unlike their "successful" ones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), May 28th, 2011 @ 12:01am

    Re:

    Thanks. A bit hard to read with Google translate but I think I got the gist of it. And oh yeah, studios suck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 28th, 2011 @ 3:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I still want a proper conclusion to Dark Angel!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), May 31st, 2011 @ 1:52am

    Re: Re:

    +1 Internets to you sir!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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