I swear, you are all a bunch of pod people, you consumers. You take whatever crap is dished out, and pay extra for it. When the DVD was produced to replace the tape (VHS) there was a significant down grade in performance in every single way but one. These downgrades were entirely unnecessary. The downgrades were implemented for two closely related purposes: Marketing and marketing.

You know what I’m talking about. You can’t pop a DVD into a player and fast forward to a spot and watch the movie. You can’t even watch the movie, in many cases, until you’ve watched ads. You can’t que a DVD for later watching so that you can avoid the ads.

As an educator, this has meant that I’ve been unable to use DVDs in the classroom AT ALL!!! Well, if I were to pirate sections of a DVD and put them on my own DVD without ads and complex titles and menus, then maybe but of course, that would be illegal!!!

What brings up this rant? Well, I just bumped into a story about how the Astronauts on Atlantis were unable to watch some movies they had brought with them because they couldn’t get the DVD’s to work. They did not have the right codex or something. What is a codes you ask? A piece of software that someone is paying for that is designed to disable DVD functionality and make it hard to use the technology.

Comments

  1. #1 Serena
    May 30, 2009

    Several teachers show Planet Earth in their classrooms to illustrate certain concepts in biology. Every time, they have to sit through the dumb ads before they can get to the section they want to show. I agree with you Greg, it is a downgrade.

  2. #2 uzza
    May 30, 2009

    WORD!

  3. #3 Colin
    May 30, 2009

    I’ve don’t go to the theater any more because 2 tickets + pop corn + pop = 2 DVDs. Or 4 cheap DVDs.

    I rarely watch DVDs on my tv because I have to put it in a half hour before I want to watch. I love watching a movie with a trailer for a movie that’s been out for a decade.

    mplayer under linux is where it’s at. `mplayer dvd://1 -ss 10:24` to jump to 10 min, 24 sec on title 1. It’s glorious.

    I won’t buy into blu-ray until I have to because it offers me even less.

  4. #4 Dan J
    May 30, 2009

    It’s sad that I am forced to break a law (which was, in essence, created by the entertainment industry) in order to watch a DVD on a Linux computer. Oh sure, I could pay for the DVD CSS license and watch them, but why should I have to pay extra to use something I already bought? Oh yeah, licensing fees. I can’t watch this movie that I paid for for free you know. That would be wrong.

    And let’s not even get into “fair use”. The movie and music companies hate that phrase. They suggest educators play the DVD on a screen while recording it with a video camera to get the parts they want. To do otherwise is circumventing the DVD encryption, and that’s illegal.

    The whole situation regarding the entertainment industry, copyright, licensing, etc. makes me ill.

  5. #5 Name Withhled
    May 30, 2009

    Since everything in Linux is a file even if it isn’t, there must be a way to make a screen into a file, play the dvd to the screen, and then, it’s in a file.

  6. #6 Astrofys
    May 30, 2009

    I’ve never had any of these problems, but maybe this is due to the fact that I live in Sweden, and that our DVDs are produced under different customer protection laws?

  7. #7 Jason Thibeault
    May 30, 2009

    Name Withhled (heh): my initial impression is that you could create a FIFO named pipe (mkfifo blah), then figure out some way to use mplayer to use an output-to-file into that “blah” named pipe. Or you could create a new X display (say :1) and spawn mplayer on :1, only somehow tell X that :1 is supposed to be a pipe to disk instead of a display on some video head or another. I don’t know how you’d go about doing that, or how you’d replay that screen later however. I think you may be confusing the “everything is a file” philosophy of the hardware on the filesystem with X, which probably hooks into the /dev/(video card) file and pushes its display out through that.

    Though all this is moot, since what you’re trying to do is take a known input decoding, and create an output file from it in a specific , and mencoder (the sister app of mplayer) can pretty well do exactly that. What’s the advantage of decoding the DVD then redirecting the results of the “analog hole” directly to a file, rather than simply decoding the DVD and outputting into a format that is readable by other players? I doubt the law would look highly upon either method.

  8. #8 Dan J
    May 30, 2009

    The problem is that the files on most DVDs are encrypted with Content Scramble System (CSS). It is illegal to decrypt these files unless you have paid a licensing fee to use the proprietary decryption algorithm. (The ability to patent a mathematical function is still something that pisses me off.) Nearly all consumer devices or programs use the algorithm by appropriate license. The algorithm has been cracked, and several programs are out there that decrypt the DVD stream to do with as you wish. These programs are illegal.

  9. #9 JYB
    May 30, 2009

    Too lazy to find the link, but I remember reading on slashdot that the mpaa (or some other bad guy) argued that educators should use a camcorder to record a clip of the DVD they want to show……awesome idea. I can get all the fun of a bootleg from Chinatown in the comfort of my own classroom.

  10. #10 Meatlegee
    May 31, 2009

    Use Handbrake to rip your legal DVD to your iPod, then hook the iPod to your TV in the classroom with the video out cable.

  11. #11 JL
    May 31, 2009

    Isn’t it illegal to show commercial DVD’s in public (the classroom?)

  12. #12 SLC
    May 31, 2009

    You know what I’m talking about. You can’t pop a DVD into a player and fast forward to a spot and watch the movie.

    I don’t know about commercial DVDs but my DVD player/recorder has a fast forward capability that essentially works by skipping frames. It works fine on my self recorded disks.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    May 31, 2009

    JL: It is actually illegal to show home rented DVD’s in the classroom. You can legally show the commercial version (or the “classroom use” version) but you can’t “collect money” for it (i.e., other than tuition and stuff).

    Or, you can rent the DVD from certain sources that specialize in renting them out for classroom use.

    SLC: Wow I want your magic DVD player. My DVD player often does not allow use of any of the controls until the commercials or whatever are done showing. THEN you get to control. But in a classroom setting or while giving some otehr kind of talk, one does not want to be busy cuing up a five minute bit of a DVD in this matter.

  14. #14 SLC
    May 31, 2009

    Re Greg laden

    As I stated, I don’t know about commercial DVDs which may have been encoded so as to prevent frame skipping.

  15. #15 Dan J
    May 31, 2009

    Greg said:

    My DVD player often does not allow use of any of the controls until the commercials or whatever are done showing. THEN you get to control. But in a classroom setting or while giving some otehr kind of talk, one does not want to be busy cuing up a five minute bit of a DVD in this matter.

    This is the result of a PUO (Prohibited User Operation). When compiling the file and program structure of a DVD, certain elements of the program stream can be flagged with PUOs, rendering control useless until that particular stream with the flag has been passed. This allows the DVD publisher to force consumers to watch copyright messages or commercials. Most illegal/grey market DVD ripping programs allow you to unflag these PUOs, enabling full control of the copy. (Yes, that’s another thing the entertainment industry hates.) You are only legally allowed to get their content in exactly the way they intend.

  16. #16 lylebot
    May 31, 2009

    My DVD player lets me skip things that aren’t supposed to be skipped, like commercials. I got it about 7 years ago; maybe somebody (the MPAA?) has cracked down on manufacturers since then.

    The firmware of some DVD players can be hacked. I was able to hack mine to play DVDs from other regions. All I had to do was burn a little file onto a CD, put the CD in the DVD player, and start it up. Of course, it is ridiculous that one would have to go to such trouble.

  17. #17 SLC
    May 31, 2009

    Re Dan J

    How about playing back a DVD on a computer using a player like the VLC player?

  18. #18 Dan J
    May 31, 2009

    SLC said:

    How about playing back a DVD on a computer using a player like the VLC player?

    I prefer to use Xine for DVD playback, but that’s just a subjective preference. VLC gives me trouble with menus sometimes. Yes, the software players can be instructed to ignore the PUOs, as can hardware players (see lylebot’s reference above). There are many commercial players which can be hacked by software means or by pressing a series of keys on the remote in order to allow them to ignore region restrictions and PUOs.

  19. #19 Epicanis
    May 31, 2009

    I’m guessing it was a “region coding” issue. DVD’s from Europe and an American DVD player? Or vice-versa?

    (What DVD region is “in orbit”, anyway?…)

  20. #20 Chris
    May 31, 2009

    The most annoying commercials usually take about five to ten minutes, so I put the DVD into the machine and not turn on the TV for a while. Often I am doing other things like getting beverage, arranging stuff or just turning off my laptop.

    I have a couple of machines that let me speed up DVD play. First is the Sony (yes, I know it is the evil empire) DVD/VHS combo machine. The first fast forward level is 1.4 times faster, and allows for sound (I use it for fairly boring bits of a long movie).

    The next is that my son’s old HP laptop (that has been rebuilt and I use for watching movies in bed) has an old version of WinDVD, that lets me watch with sound at speeds up to double normal speed.

  21. #21 Chris
    May 31, 2009

    Epicanus said “I’m guessing it was a “region coding” issue. DVD’s from Europe and an American DVD player? Or vice-versa?”

    The article said it lacked the right software. A quick guess is that someone failed to put DVD software in the machine, or maybe they brought Blu-Ray disks and did not have the proper type of disk drive, or the (I just learned about it), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Access_Content_System .

    They should have done what my younger son does, buy a movie for $10 on Amazon and directly download into his computer. After watching the latest Star Trek movie he was watching all of the ones we own (both of them), and then he downloaded a couple others (he is also watching The Original Series on CBS).

    By the way, it is possible with the right equipment and software to copy video tapes into an mpeg2 file, which can be burned to a DVD.

  22. #22 Andrew
    May 31, 2009

    It is astonishing that a DVD would be carried into space without testing out the system first. I thought they did this for every gram of weight.

  23. #23 Badger3k
    May 31, 2009

    “It is astonishing that a DVD would be carried into space without testing out the system first. I thought they did this for every gram of weight.”

    They had to leave the codec out to save weight, obviously!

  24. #24 Ivan
    May 31, 2009

    Damn straight. This is why I hardly ever watch actual dvds anymore. I once hacked the macintosh dvd player app to ignore the “prohibited user-ops” mentioned in a comment above. I think I may have lost that hack after a hard disk crash, but it might be fun to figure it out again… not that I’ve really needed it.

    There are some tricks on hardware players: sometimes fast-forwarding is allowed (usually not on the FBI screen), even if the menu button isn’t (you may have to do it several times, because the player won’t automatically continue fast-forwarding past a title break, and the ads are often split across a bajillion titles).

    I’m just glad that the balance of power is still in the users’ hands, even if it’s still mostly the technically-inclined ones. Everyone should know about open-source software players like mplayer and VLC that don’t give a shit about UOPs. Also:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_ripper

  25. #25 DuWayne
    May 31, 2009

    I watch everything on my computer, if I get DVDs, I rip them to DIVX and watch them on VLC. I don’t see why you couldn’t rip them straight and put the feature on a DVD to play in the classroom – other than it probably being totally illegal. The other option would be to set it up before class and have it paused on the beginning of the feature. The latter is what one of my instructors does – works pretty well…

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    May 31, 2009

    The pause does not work if the machine decides to go to sleep. Also, if I’m oraganizing talks by a bunch of people and somebody wants to show DVD’s then all the ripping and burning and stuff is not going to happen.

    I’m not going to say what I do in the classroom, but that does not solve all the problems.

    This is even annoying for basic home use, or for reviewing videos. I don’t have to rip and burn every single thing I watch. Most of what I watch (that is a DVD) is a netflick or something I’m reviewing. It simply is not practice for me to do workarounds. Having said that, the advice we are seeing here is all very interesting even if everyone is going to burn in copyright hell.

  27. #27 Jason Thibeault
    May 31, 2009

    I agree that patenting what amounts to simple mathematical routines is disgusting and injust. What does all this say about the DMCA? I mean, having to circumvent these encryption schemes just to be able to watch the movie the way we want, after having purchased the license to be able to do so, is technically illegal. And yet the process for circumventing it is so trivial that it can be described in plain English: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/DeCSS/Gallery/plain-english.html

    My Philips DVD player from about 5 years ago, can not only play MPEG and DivX AVIs, but also has a frame-skipping fast-forward/fast-rewind feature (2x, 4x and 8x) that appears to work even when the Next button is disabled via UOPs. If it weren’t for this, though, I would sooner use VLC or MPlayer and watch what I want on my computer (outputting video over to my TV by an S-Video cable) than be forced to sit through half a dozen ten-year-old theatrical previews for movies that were bombs even when they were new. Congratulations, industry, on making what should be a more convenient technology and loading it down with so much crap and ridiculous self-serving “features” that people long for the good old days of VHS.

  28. #28 Ivan
    May 31, 2009

    Comment #3 about using mplayer is probably the best advice if you can play your DVDs on a computer (VLC is coming along well too, for those who’re afraid of the commandline). You also need to know how to figure out which “title” (this has a particular meaning in the DVD standard) on the disc you want to play in the first place, so here’s an example:

    my_prompt$ mplayer -vo null -ao null -frames 0 -identify dvd:// 2>/dev/null | grep ID_DVD_TITLE

    ID_DVD_TITLES=3
    ID_DVD_TITLE_1_CHAPTERS=1
    ID_DVD_TITLE_1_ANGLES=1
    ID_DVD_TITLE_2_CHAPTERS=13
    ID_DVD_TITLE_2_ANGLES=1
    ID_DVD_TITLE_3_CHAPTERS=1
    ID_DVD_TITLE_3_ANGLES=1
    ID_DVD_TITLE_1_LENGTH=16.000
    ID_DVD_TITLE_2_LENGTH=8100.867
    ID_DVD_TITLE_3_LENGTH=105.000

    From the length and number of chapters of title 2, it’s obviously the main feature. Let’s suppose we also know that we want to jump right to chapter 6:

    my_prompt$ mplayer dvd://2 -chapter 6

    As Colin mentioned, you can also use the -ss option to jump to a particular time index inside the title.

  29. #29 davem
    May 31, 2009

    I’m having trouble understanding this problem. In the UK, where I am, DVDs are way better than tape. I don’t have to watch any part of a DVD if I don’t want to. All DVD players have fast forwards which work just fine. Is this a US-only (region 1) problem?

  30. #30 moopheus
    May 31, 2009

    Wow, I guess I am buying the wrong DVDs. I couldn’t swear to it (especially since they are now packed for moving), but I don’t think any of the DVDs I own (which, admittedly, is not a huge number) actually have commercials, so it never occurred to me that this is a problem.

  31. #31 Julius
    June 2, 2009

    There’s some very typical obsessive geek behaviour here, though :-) Greg points out the *legal* issue, and a bunch of you respond with “oh, I just use ‘mplayer -option -arcane-settings -foo -bar’ on the command line and it works beautifully”. Sure, it’s worth mentioning that there are technical ways to get around it. But it’s kind of missing the point to go on about it that much – it’s ILLEGAL. For home use, that might not matter much, but for the situation outlined – classroom or presentation use – that’s a serious issue. You might get away with it most of the time, but having to routinely break the law in order to do a perfectly legitimate job is just broken, in a way that no amount of DMCA-violating open source software will fix.

  32. #32 andy o
    June 2, 2009

    Wow, you’re complaining about DVD’s? Bluray will give you a heart attack!

    In both cases though, the easiest way is to go with a laptop and AnyDVD (“HD” version for bluray). It’s the only program with such an incredibly neat feature that it “remasters” your DVD on-the-fly (so no need for ripping), getting rid of region, PUO’s (so you’ll be able to skip) and other such nuisances. You can then use any free software player of your liking without worrying if it can skip stuff or not.

    I’m an HTPC geek, and Slysoft’s AnyDVD HD is by far the only program that it’s worth paying for in that realm (the commercial bluray players all suck, especially PowerDVD).

    Give it a try, there’s a 21-day free trial at slysoft.com.

    There is one caveat though, the super crappy Panasonic a.k.a. “Matshita” drives that have region lock that can’t be hacked. These super cheapo drives come with many laptops unfortunately, but you can easily buy an external one or replace it with a NEC drive.

    Oh, and you have to use Windows if that’s a problem for you.

  33. #33 andy o
    June 2, 2009

    Wow, I guess I am buying the wrong DVDs. I couldn’t swear to it (especially since they are now packed for moving), but I don’t think any of the DVDs I own (which, admittedly, is not a huge number) actually have commercials, so it never occurred to me that this is a problem.

    Posted by: moopheus | May 31, 2009 7:14 PM

    It’s basically an individual DVD (or possibly a studio) thing. As someone mentioned above, there are “prohibited user operations” that the people who master the DVD can set, so you can’t do some stuff like FF, RW or skip to menu. This was more common with older movies, but today most of them if I’m not mistaken (only watching blurays recently) already don’t set PUO’s for commercials, but only for FBI warnings, studio logos, and such kind of crap (which, at 3 or more in a row can get just as annoying, but still).

  34. #34 Ivan
    June 2, 2009

    Oh, and you have to use Windows if that’s a problem for you.

    Bingo. Microsoft: Making children sad since 1975. And even if I was forced to use it, why would I buy crap from your company to do the same thing that GPL software already does?

    There’s some very typical obsessive geek behaviour here, though :-)

    Duh. ;^) And it wouldn’t be half as much fun if it weren’t illegal. (kidding) You’re right, the law is fucked up, but at least it’s also largely irrelevant and toothless.