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 aren?t 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.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Sony's Insane Fear Of 'Piracy' Means Many Movies Now Suck In Digital Theaters”

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69 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

DogBreath says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:

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.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The original source says

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.

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.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: 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.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

codeslave (profile) says:

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.

Gwiz (profile) says:

* 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?

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: 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.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Rekrul says:

Re: 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.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Gwiz (profile) says:

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.

Joe Publius (profile) says:

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?

DogBreath says:

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”.

Brad says:

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.

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

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.

Lord Binky says:

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)

Overcast (profile) says:

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…

Bnesaladur (profile) says:

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.

Jan Bilek (profile) says:

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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