back to article Crypto snafu grounds 3D Avatar screenings in Germany

Several 3D screenings of Avatar were called off in Germany earlier this week following a DRM-related mix-up. Copies of the new SF blockbuster from James Cameron are digitally sealed so that one key per copy of the film, per film projector, and for each movie server in a cinema is needed. The key supplier, Deluxe, reportedly …


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  1. John G Imrie


    Digitally restricted movie

  2. slooth

    DRM FAIL!!!

    Another reason why DRM is such a stupid idea in the modern IT world!!!

  3. Dazed and Confused

    Screwed by their own DRM


    couldn't happen to a nicer crowd

    perhaps they see why no one wants anything to do with this sh1t

  4. OldDogNewWalk
    Thumb Up

    Delighted of Ealing!!

    As far as I'm concerned, the more often that DRM is seen to stick the green end of a pineapple up it's own back-side, the better.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe this will affect other theaters as well, resulting in a lower then expected box office take, making them realize just how troublesome DRM is for legitimate use.

    Im sure, if someone in a theater somewhere is making illegal copies, they have already bypassed the DRM.

  6. Snert Lee

    Say what?

    "The snag would have been avoided if the multiplexes had resisted the temptation to show the blockbuster across multiple screens"...

    In other words, the technology would have worked better, if they'd used it less.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Interesting theories...

      However it does say that it requires one key per projector.

      In this case its not the tech thats at fault is the suppliers for not providing enough keys and the cinemas for overselling based on a comodity that they didnt have (ie the licences to show it in multiple screens at one time)

  7. Mr Pedantic

    Vorsprung durch technik?

    Whatever happened to German orderliness and precision? Das ist nicht in Ordnung!

  8. Mectron


    Even movies in theater a plague with illegal DRM?

    i suggest the movie theaters sue the distributor for sending INFECTED movies

  9. Big-nosed Pengie


    Film has Digital Restrictions Management now?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    DRM on film?

    I thought that even though this is shown in 3D. They still use film! Not digital disk or what not. The IMAX 3D still does. How can you get DRM on film?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not been in a projection gallery recently have you...

      Film is slowly disappearing, about half the projectors at one of my local cinemas are digital now. I don't know what the delivery method is but the projectionists hate it because it makes showing a movie so simple a monkey could do it pluss they're film buffs who believe digital is inferior (even when the source material is digitally created, go figure)

      IMAX, 3d or otherwise is to my knowledge still film, think it's 3 simultaneous 70mm projectors and some very fancy optics but I could be wrong..

      1. Anonymous Cowardess


        According to Heise the movies are delivered encrypted on harddisks per courier (no FTP or other modern nonsense). They are then copied to the cinema's servers. They then need to request a key for each copy/projector-combination. The keys can be restricted to certain times of the day and may only be valid for a limited time. So the distributor doesn't trust the cinema to not show the copy more often or longer than it's licensed and the cinema doesn't trust the projectionist to not make a copy in his free time. What they think we would do with a pirated copy though is anyone's guess. I mean, who has a 3D-projector at home?

      2. Derek Williams

        realD 3D vs IMAX 3D

        Most cinemas are using a system called RealD 3D, it's cool, it uses a single projector which projects the left and right image alternatly and then a fancy thing called a z-screen which sits in front of the lens which polarises the light so i can only be seen through either the left or right lens on your glasses - they use a more or less standard digital projector and a screen management server to decode the images - so a movie either comes in over the interweb really slowly or it's delivered on a hard disk in a little flight case by a courier - so all the projector monkey has to so is slide the hard disk caddy into the front of the server and press play, in theory

        IMAX 3D on the the other hand uses 2 70mm films running sideways in 2 seperate projectors pointing at the same screen with a polarising filter over the front of the lenses - it's a hell of a lot more tricky and costly so set up and distrubuted

    2. Les Matthew


      Because in this case it was distributed to cinemas on external hard disks.

      Here's a translation of what happened from another tech site.

    3. cowbutt

      Film is old hat these days

      Dolby 3D Digital Cinema (which is what the new digital cinemas seem to use, judging by the new Showcase De Lux in my city) is a digital format. I seem to recall reading that the cinema's servers retrieve the films via FTP and key material is delivered on DVD. makes for interesting reading.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    I find the mere fact movie studios have become so paranoid even specially made copies for cinema use (which are nigh IMPOSSIBLE to use outside that setting) are protected with cripple-level DRM humorous.

    Isn't this of all things a wake-up call just how silly this whole witch-hunt against perceived piracy has become ?

  12. Gary Turner

    Who's there?

    Yeah, but did anybody attend the screenings?

  13. peter 45

    Clever Google

    Englsh-language. They can translate anything these days. Even spelling mistakes

  14. Lou Gosselin

    DRM is a consumer nightmare

    Unfortunately, we must expect things to get worse before they get better.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I was one of he affected screener viewers I'd have wanted BOTH refund and to see 2D version. ... It's not like CineWorld allows one to see a 3D version of a movie without charging a hefty premium! (think it was 11 vs 7£ for Beowulf 3D/2D)

  16. Steve Brooks


    So the only real aff4ect of DRM is to stop people who paid for it from actually seeing it, I am sure the pirates already have it cracked and uploaded to P2P.

    "In other words, the technology would have worked better, if they'd used it less." One interpretation, the other is, the technology is fine and worked exactly as it was inteneded, people without valid decryption keys can't watch or play it, we just get less revenue as a result. But hang on, isn't DRM supposed to stop piracy and increase revenue?

    1. Brian 6

      @Steve Brooks

      "So the only real aff4ect of DRM is to stop people who paid for it from actually seeing it, I am sure the pirates already have it cracked and uploaded to P2P."

      Actually no they haven't.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Its all over a certain bay where some swashbuckling friends seem to hang out a lot...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dont trust me.

    I am a file sharer through and through but i am always going to the cinema, mainly because they have sorted out the whole thing in the UK with comfy seats and decent sound.

    Didn't this site report that last year was the biggest ever for movie takings at cinemas? (or something).

    Perhaps like other industries the movie world should sell their product on the basis of it being worth buying rather than them being the sole supplier, which they no longer are!

  18. Rob Bruins Slot

    Nice one

    I always assumed that all copyright protection technologies had 1 flaw, if you can see the stuff, you can copy it, never thought they would fix that one by just not showing the movie.

  19. Suburban Inmate

    I hope IMAX Brum won't be affected.

    I'm down there tomorrow night. Tickets are all but sold out.

    As for washed out 3d version colours, I'm not bothered. Relaxation with enhanced sound and more vivid colour perception? There's an app^H^H^H herb for that....

  20. Chris Hills

    Well well

    I am an opponent of DRM in consumer hardware. In this case it appears to be working exactly as designed. The cinema was trying to make easy money by screening more copies than it was entitled to. It should have paid for the extra keys it needed.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Theatre _not_ pirating

      They were laying on extra screens due to demand (as multiplexes do) and the key generation system either couldn't keep up or fell flat on its face, meaning the projectors wouldn't startup.

      Given that royalties are paid per bum on seat, not per screen lit up, it's not in the distributor's interest to restrict the number of projectors lit up. Paranoia is the issue here.

  21. Robert E A Harvey

    Quite simple

    They don't want me to watch their movies. I won't.

    You can't put DRM on live theatre, thank $DEITY

  22. Graham Marsden


    ... of derisive laughter, Bruce!

  23. Apocalypse Later

    Let's get this straight...

    ...Hollywood can encrypt their video to a standard that even the intended viewer is unable to see it, but the Pentagon is unable to apply even the simplest encryption to stop the Taliban intercepting video streams from US surveillance drones on their laptops out in the bush. Perhaps the generals should tell the RIAA that surveillance videos are copyright?

  24. -tim

    Better for the theater owner?

    I don't know how the business works in Germany but in many parts of the world the movie company takes about 90% of the 1st weeks income and 80% the second week with drops to about 20%. So it looks like the biggest losers are the ones screaming for the most protection.

    1. Dave Bell


      There are few films that have lasted long enough in the a cinema for the exhibitor to make a profit.

      And Hollywood is notorious for accounting practices which prove that no film makes a profit. That's why so many contracts specify a percentage of the gross.

      Even in the days of of Goldwyn and Warner, Hollywood studios were front men for New York financiers. Which is why there are so few good films in any decade. You can never underestimate the taste and probity of a New York banker.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    DRM isn't just for consumers

    They are adding DRM not only to make direct digital transfer piracy of the master content more difficult, but also to control (count) the number of screenings at each exhibitor, keeping the exhibitors 'honest' since they are known to try and sneak in extra showings which they have not licensed. All that stuff is nailed down in contracts between the studio and the exhibitors.

    I believe the studios used to (and probably still do) hire people to check up on the exhibitors to verify that they are screening the movies per their contract with the studios. They can fire (um, excuse me, make redundant) all these auditors if they can do the same job digitally with the DRM.

    Assuming that the studios would have allowed the screenings (as opposed to say under selling the market to hopefully create a frenzy) the FAIL was that the key escrow / distribution / licensing system was not agile enough to quickly react to a sudden demand for more licensed screenings of the 3d version of the movie. Sudden unexpected demand happens all the time and more popular movies push less popular movies off the screen whenever the exhibitor thinks they can make more money and are not already locked into a contract to screen something else.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Know your enemy :)

    Its the studios pushing the DRM, not the exhibitors. At least here in the States, the studios and the exhibitors are two very different entities, each with their own agenda.

    Unless the snacks suck I think we ought to lighten up on the exhibitors. They have been getting screwed by the studios forever. But now they also get to feel the pain of defective DRM - just like the rest of us. For their sake I hope they have more pull to get the problems fixed than the rest of the consumers of the world.

  27. Tony Paulazzo
    Thumb Up

    The 'cure' for piracy

    is easy, Imax returns spectacle to cinema going, something too long lost, if you want families to pay thirty quid, you need to offer them something they can't get anywhere else - and I'm not talking about sticky floors, overpriced popcorn and interminable adverts - screens and sound systems not much better than what they get at home.

    Avatar in 70 foot high 3D even more so, saw it today at the Imax, fracking awesome - Cameron is back! 2.5 hours of 3D goodness and no headache, easy going storyline, but then, all his films are, with a message not rammed down your throat like 'Day after tomorrow' or 'day Earth stood still', and litmus test, my 9 year old niece loved it too! kept her glasses on throughout and didn't need the toilet once. Total win.

    Been to the cinema 5 times this year, Star Trek - Imax x2, Watchmen - Imax x2, Avatar - Imax (once only, but all tickets sold out now till after Xmas - bummer). Hmm, beginning to see a pattern, quick, someone tell Hollywood to get a fracking clue.

    Thumbs up for Avatar.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      oh dear...

      Day after tomorrow - Really bad

      Day the Earth stood still - mediocre

      Avatar? We shall see.

  28. Andrew Macrobie

    Washed out colours ?

    Can't say I noticed this in Avatar or any of the other 3d screenings I've seen lately.

    I saw a "Real 3D" presentation in a cineworld, the projectors for that were definately digital. Can't comment on Imax...

    1. markp 1
      Thumb Up

      I second this sentiment

      The polarised glasses cut out a little of the light, making it seem as if you were viewing thru very lightly smoked shades (maybe 80% transmission or so), but as the projector was super-bright anyway it didn't matter. The colours were as vivid as I've seen in any movie. Not entirely sure where the "washed out" idea is coming from - maybe John was, for some reason, thinking a film largely composed of shots of blue people in a green forest was made 3D by use of the red/green or red/blue anaglyph process?

      One prob I did find was that my polarised specs weren't so brilliantly made and one side was either showing a double image, or allowing part of the other view to show through. Didn't compromise on the 3D effect (still having to bat flying jellyfish out of my face, getting vertigo on the flying scenes and a whole lot of WOW that I haven't felt since Star Trek / Matrix 1 / Insert-groundbreaking-Miyazaki-film-here) but DID cause one hell of a headache that led to me taking the things off in the quieter, flatter sections. Hopefully as someone else has mentioned above, if I catch a repeat showing in an IMAX rather than Cineworld, things will be better (if more expensive!), 72Hz refresh rate and HUEG screen also helping somewhat.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    @Digital Delivery Method

    Saw it on Discovery Science. They use a standard USB 2.0 hard disk, although they make no mention of the filesystem used...

  30. Winkypop Silver badge

    What is this "FILM" thning anyway?

    And when will it be on the uTorrents?

    1. markp 1
      Thumb Down


      Good luck with enjoying the whole three-dimensional, uncompressed, "4k" resolution experience there bub.

      I <3 teh downloads, but I happily pay to see things like this in the flesh first time out. Well, truth be told, I wasn't so happy at paying more than eight quid for the privelege, but some of that was the cost of the specs I got to keep, and vs the cost of buying the Blu-ray disc (and a player, and an HDMI cable) or upgrading my PC to cope with a 1080p Divx it's not so bad.

  31. Neal 5

    @Brian 6

    Oh yes, it has, freely available on torrent, many for a few days, both screeners and rips.

  32. markp 1

    This may be a controvertial standpoint, but...

    Isn't this the DRM working exactly as intended? The cinemas paid for a certain number of copies of the film and licenses to show it (and thereby generate revenue from said showings)... they tried to put on more showings than they originally bought licenses for, to try and make more money without paying the extra licensing fees they're legally obligated to pay... and got stiffed because of it.

    I'm normally a big hater of DRM because of it's effect on restricting fair use and flexibility of ownership at the consumer level, but in this case it's both justified and has been proven effective. Moviemaking is a money-spinning business affair first and foremost after all - it has to be, for these sort of artworks to be created. You can have the passion and the drive to make something awesome, but if the funding isn't there, you're stuffed - it can't yet be all made with bootlegged copies of Maya, After Effects and Premiere.

    If you've just spent god-knows-how-many millions and several years of your life making an epic movie that's a watershed in digital effects and integration (with an at-least reasonable storyline to boot), paying wages for hollywood stars, etc, then why wouldn't you want to stop major cinemas - themselves big businesses - taking the piss in the opening week, which is where you make most of your return on investment? Or people taking your pre-delivered hard disks full of movie, DRM-free, and easily finding a way to rip it out to divx to put on the internets and spoiler the whole thing, without needing a camera? (Or two small cameras duct-taped together with the 3D glasses sat in front of them...)

    The arguments over DVDs, Blu-Rays and torrenting we can leave for another time at this point, as they operate on something of a different plane, particularly for big "event" films.

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