Archive for the ‘Piracy’ Category

Discussing copyright, copyleft and all the things in between.

Kitty has reached critical mass.

November 18th, 2009 by Jarmo Puskala
Kitty has reached critical mass (and by "kitty" I mean VOD)

The Xbox Zune marketplace opened here in Finland as well. This means that for the first time we have a VOD service that is 1) As easy to use as The Pirate Bay 2) Offers instant viewing 3) In good quality and 4) Is almost reasonably priced. The price being “almost” since it depends on the film, if you watch HD or SD and where you buy your Microsoft points from. But for example Babylon 5: The Lost Tales would cost you some 2-3e, while a current blockbuster in HD would be 4-5e.

But because the studios are still hell-bent on committing a slow suicide there are two major problems. First is the selection – it’s small, ridiculously small. There are fewer films on offer than there are DVDs on my bookshelf. But this should be only temporary. The second problem is that to watch the HD videos you need a HDCP enable tv that is connected to your xbox trough hdmi. This means that if they want me to pay the 1,50e extra for watching fiolms in glorious Full HD I need to buy a new tv AND a new Xbox (I’ve got one of the older models without hdmi).

This copy protection bullshit is absolutely ridiculous. HD is still in adoption phase, it’s not mainstream. And yet the studios are trying to slow down the adoption by building artificial barriers of entry. The second is that the studios need to sell the HD to get the price of films back up. The price of DVDs has dropped like a rock – the old bargain price of 9.99e is the new norm with films coming down to 3-7e in a month. Still every dvd produced costs, the printing fees, copyright fees & rating fees tend to stay the same even when the selling price goes down. And it’s the part that goes to the filmmakers that gets cut. And if that’s the price of a physical disc, why pay more for a download? Yet the price of online VOD is kept artificially high. HD streaming has the promise to offer the extra value and get some people to pay more. So slowing down the the adoption of HD is just plain stupid.

However, even though most people won’t be able to watch the HD streams in the next few years, the Zune marketplace is still the best VOD service available in Finland right now. And it’s good enough to have the potential to reach critical mass and finally bring film rentals online.

Things we didn’t know about: Iron Sky Erotica.

November 16th, 2009 by Jarmo Puskala
Iron Sky images get appropriated for softcore Nazi porn without our knowledge.

Iron Sky images get appropriated for softcore Nazi porn without our knowledge.

It’s another ordinary Monday at the offices. However we got some unexpected entertainment. While looking for reference images, our concept artist Jussi was kind of surprised when he found his own works being used as backgrounds for softcore Nazi porn. On a site with the catchy title “Goetia Naughty Alien UFO Vril Society Girls“. The site is very NSFW, but if that’s not a problem you can find it here.

More strangely familiar looking occult erotica...

More strangely familiar looking occult erotica...

We had absolutely no idea about this, so as you can imagine we’ve had quite a bit of fun and several “WTF?” moments checking out where our pics had ended up… The site is the work of one Mark Dunn, who has basically Photoshopped a lot of naked or nearly naked girls to pose on the Iron Sky concept art pictures. And written a lot of text in between the pics, ranging from the etymology of the word “Easter” to Adolf Hitler. Why? I have no idea since I didn’t even read half of it, sorry.

Nazi jetpack Playmate?

Hot jetpack Hitler?

It’s not all Iron Sky, there’s a lot of other stuff, like this picture of a Hot Jetpack Hitler Nazi… And suddenly I get a slight shudder at the thought of what kind of Google searches will find this post*.

Anyway, many say that a porn parody is the highest form of compliment. However Mark does seem to be very serious about all this, especially copyright:

All © Copyright of Works, Art & Writing Above & Herein belongs to the Creator of this humble Web-Site, Artist and Author Mark Dunn, whose Magickal-Persona of Artistic Pseudonym among many being Faustus Crow.

He’s also added a big “copyright by” watermark into every picture. So Mark, if you’re reading this. We don’t really mind Photoshops of half-nekkid women. Actually, if I were to hold a vote here at the office they would turn out to be quite popular. However, it’s a bit unfair to use pictures from another artist and then claim copyright on them.

Don’t get me wrong, whatever the copyright law says, it’s not our business what you do with your spare time, if Photoshopping Nazi erotica rocks your boat then go for it. We’re just saying you shouldn’t claim credit for work you didn’t do. Also, if you use Iron Sky stuff making occult erotica, don’t credit us either.

*Speaking of Google searches, the scariest search we’ve spotted in our logs was “i want to by man eating plankton” [sic].

VOD – Voyage of Despair

November 9th, 2009 by Timo Vuorensola

(This post was originally published on Zombie Room. This is the second part of the Zombie Room’s look into the world of Video-On-Demand. You can read the first part here.)

cdonlogo

THE WEBSITE

CDON.Com is a web store that operates in the Nordic countries. It’s owned by Modern Times Group, a company that created the Metro Newspaper, and specializes in entertainment – music, movies and consumer electronics.

The site has tucked the Video-On-Demand -service in the lower parts and shadier corners of the huge site, that’s hoping to serve every customer’s needs. Once you realize where it is, the basic functionality is quite simple. The site looks as clear as a web supermarket can – which means loads of ads blinking everywhere, and very little useful information anywhere.

cdonsite

FINDING A FILM

CDON.Com has a variety of films categorized under top lists, most viewed and by genre. Scanning the site we very quickly noticed that their Finnish language is horrible. Finding a film to watch is equally painful: from their mediocre selection of few hundred film – that’s basically a smaller (and much worse quality) selection than any video rental joint – we ended up picking Choke, a crappy drama based on Chuck Palahniuk‘s quite awesome text.

In general, webstores do have a problem with shelf space – in any store you register at least on some level hundreds and hundreds of products, but on webstore you either have to have something in mind already, or you are relying on what other people are watching – unless they have a very advanced search and recommendation system.

CDON hasn’t made the film search too easy: apart from first ~20 films in every category, they just offer a plain list of titles, and even the mouseover that reveals a small picture of the cover works very randomly.

Some kind of a film suggestion system would be preferrable, but with a selection of few hundred titles, making it useful is impossible.

PAYING FOR THE FILM

Once you have something in mind, it’s relatively easy to pay and play. Registration isn’t necessary, and it takes about 10 minutes until the film is on. Payment options are either Visa or Mastercard – so eveyone with no credit cards; sorry, no service to you, sub-humans.

The prices are the best of the whole test – from 0,95€ to 3,95€, which is acceptable (I think 2 bucks a stream is what I’m willing to pay – in a perfect world), and they even have a “free film of the month”. After the purchase, you can either download the film or stream it. However, they’ve added some stupid download manager which, of course, destroys your digital copy after 24 hours.

WATCHING THE FILM

Quality is fuzzy DV, and there’s no subtitles. But the film starts right after you’ve paid it, and the player works perfectly.

SUMMARY

A service which offers the lowest prices, but stumbles with quite a bad selection of aging semi-blockbusters for general audience.

Zombie Room review: 2,5/5

- – -

movie-tv

Movie-TV is the Internet-end of a small, Helsinki-based DVD-outlet called Keskus-Video, located at Eerikinkatu. The shop is a wonderful place, a small, labyrinth-like maze filled from wall to wall with DVDs – and the prices are very much right. It’s one of the places I avoid unless I have loads of money, since I end up spending a 50-100€ every time I just step on Eerikinkatu. Luckily, we live in Hakaniemi…

THE WEBSITE

Hats off to the developers of Movie-TV – they’ve boldly entered into a market that’s very soon going to be dominated by big-ass players, and only very few of the smaller ones will survive. I’m not sure what’s the business idea behind Movie-TV, but what I can gather from the site is that it’s basically a very comprehensive DVD shelf of a real movie nerd commune – it doesn’t have that many titles, but among them are some quite fascinating pearls: a wide collection of Haneke, loads of action films from the 80′s, nice amount of horror, and even kids’ animations and anime. Instead of trying to push aging, two-year-old semi-blockbusters, it’s selling me good films.

Technically, the site isn’t flawless – the design is a bit clunky and usability is lacking certain amount of intuition.

movietvsite

FINDING A FILM

At first, the site throws on my face a random collection of DVD covers. Too small to be of any use, but at least I get an idea of quite a colourful selection. The films are categorized under top lists and genres. We decided look scan around for a while, and ended up on I Heart Huckabees (no idea why, and I still regret the decision).

PAYING FOR THE FILM

Let’s start with the bad news – the pricing is absolutely mindless. They ask 6€/streaming, and there’s no possiblity for download – excuse me, what the hell? It took a while for us to convince that we’re willing to pay, but – reminding us of the test we were working on – we gave up and paid… But, really: please, think about it – what are you doing? You should be competing with Pirate Bay and Mininova, not with Sokos and Stockmann.

But then came the nice surprises: instead of the credit card requirements, you can decide to pay either with a card, directly from bank account, or even with an SMS or a phonecall. No registration is required, so they won’t be spamming me for the rest of my lifed just because I wanted to see a film.

WATCHING THE FILM

Once you’ve selected the film, it takes only 5 minutes before it’s is rolling – and there’s a possibility to choose whatever quality you like – even HD, if available. The film plays nicely and the quality is good – even subtitles are available.

SUMMARY

A small but devoted service with an interesting selection of ridiculously overpriced films.

Zombie Room Review: 3/5

- – -

film2home

Red-themed Film2home -service is owned by Bonver Videodata, a company that claims to be the single biggest home entertainment distributor in the Nordic countries. The service is available in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

THE WEBSITE

Film2home is devoted to films and TV-serieses, and they begin serving you with two major disappointments: first, you need to use Internet Explorer for the service to work, and second – they have a whopping library of “almost 1000 films”. Now having 1000 films in your home shelf is quite a lot, but you’ve picked them yourself. For a service trying to serve thousands of customers on daily basis, 1000 titles is just not enough.

The site looks nice enough and it has big, clear and clickable buttons everywhere for the ease of use.

film2homesite

FINDING A FILM

The selection is limited, yet they’ve been able to drag some quite fresh films there, too. Well, fresh considering their DVD release schedule in Finland… The service is putting a lot of effort in offering enough interesting information about the titles, so you don’t have to go digging for IMDb – they even have a user rating system, which reminded me of how completely inexistent the social dimension in mostly all of the VOD services is.

The films have been categorised in quite an intuitive way – in addition to genres and top-lists, the titles can be searched by the name of actor and theme etc. This is important, and it’s completely unacceptable that services out there don’t put enough effort into good and clear categorizing and search methods – the only reason for that is that mostly they are lazy and don’t give a shit about the user experience.

PAYING FOR THE FILM

There are films you can only “rent”, and films you can “buy”, too – that means, of course, downloading. But basically, that’s what it does anyway, it’s just a minor difference in the tech on how it’s executed – but the pricing is just ridiculous. They expect me to pay 15-20 € for a digital download – it’s really one of the worst deals… I pay considerably less on mostly any DVD, and I get best quality, a physical copy, all the extras and so on…

Again, these services should be competing against Pirate Bay, not Stockmann.

Price range for download is around 4 euroes, you get something a bit cheaper and there’s even a free film for members (this month it’s Mission Impossible…). Payment methods include Visa and Mastercard.

WATCHING THE FILM

Now here comes the shit. First, we needed to change from Firefox to Internet Explorer, go through the painful setup process of a Microsoft products, before nd finally we were able to start viewing. Oh, no – we of course needed install Adobe Flash Player. That’s OK, only problem is that it refused to install – the reason was, eventually, because we were using 64bit Explorer, not the regular one. I almost gave up trying to figure this out, since there was no error messages or anything, it just didn’t work. It took almost 15 minutes from the moment we decided we wanted to see In the Electric Mist, before it was actually running.

Don’t know is this somehow Flash Player -related problem, or something to do with the service – but we weren’t able to pause the film without having to stop and start over again from the beginning (Buffering… attempting to reconnect… buffering… … …). Doesn’t sound a biggie, but remember that “pause” is the greatest feature of home cinema compared to theaters…

SUMMARY

A nice-looking service built on nearly unusable tech, with quite a small selection of films.

Zombie Room Review: 2/5

- – -

filmnet

Filmnet is a VOD service that operates in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. It’s “powered by Canal+”, which should promise plenty of interesting content available.

Well, not so much. They have exactly 133 titles in the library, which is basically not even a library – we have over 400 DVDs in our shelves. But there’s one we, the Zombies, like very much: they have Dead Snow!

THE WEBSITE

The site looks nice and sleazy in its glossy black suit, almost like an aging playboy in a bit shady nightclub, serving Mickeys for the girls.

filmnetsite

FINDING THE FILM

The films are categorized clearly under normal genre categories, and as a nice plus, they have a “recently watched” films in the front page – almost like RedTube!

But here’s an interesting question – during the last 5 days I’ve visited there, the recently watched films –box’s content hasn’t changed a bit. Makes you wonder if it’s either broken, or they have no users.

The site has striking resemblances in general look and feel to the free porn sites on the net – and they even have a 18+ section which has almost as many films as the non-porn site has!

PAYING FOR THE FILM

Payment options are limited, and the system gives a strange errors, trying obviously to hint the user to use Internet Explorer. The price for the films is expensive – 4,25€/film, regardless of how old the film you are watching. You also need to register in order to be able to pay, which is kinda stupid.

WATCHING THE FILM

But the nice thing is that the service is quite straightforward, and it took us only 4 minutes until the film was up and running. The quality is OK, the connection works quite well – only kinda embarrassing thing we noticed was that their subtitles didn’t support the Nordic characters – the “䔑s and “ö”‘s.

SUMMARY

A service that’s clear, fast to use and straightforward, but looks more like a porn site, has terribly bad selection of films (ok, they have Dead Snow, which is a big plus) and the pricing and the subtitles suck ass.

Zombie Room review: 1,5/5

- – -

sfanytime

My expectations for SFAnytime weren’t too high to start with, given the experiences of Jarmo Puskala from Energia. SFAnytime has been for quite a long time the biggest VOD-site in Finland, and they’ve been promoting heavily. And at the same time, it has been criticized the most.

THE WEBSITE

SFAnytime looks neat and clean, and you get very quickly a good idea on what the service is about. The impression of a professional VOD service crumbles quite fast though, when an unexplainable error message halts the process, and you are required to register – after which the service just crashes immediately.

sfanytimesite

FINDING THE FILM

The film catalogue is nice – not specifically new, but has some good films in it. We decided to pick Steve McQueen’s debut film Hunger, which turned out to be an excellent choise.

PAYING FOR THE FILM

Trying to pay for the film was, again, very cumbersome. The process begins with a strange DRM notice, after which you need to re-register. Visa and Mastercard are accepted as payment methods, and right after the payment, it comes apparent that Explorer is required as a browser. The price is 4€ – again, quite expensive, especially given the overall quality of the purchase process.

WATCHING THE FILM

The service gets stuck into “acquiring media usage rights” –message, and we’re able to continue watching after we had changed the browser. At this point, I’m almost willing to give up, but force myself to continue. The quality of the download needs to be chosen from a very complicated and badly advised menu. It takes total of 10 minutes to get the film rolling. Luckily, Hunger is the best film we’ve watched during the test, so my pain is alleviated.

SUMMARY

A service that has been around for quite some time, and just fails to fix its basic problems, but it still remains to be the first place to go because they’ve managed to establish themselves in Finland as the definitive VOD service, thanks to big promotion and marketing.

Zombie Room Review: 1,5/5

- – -

theauteurs

We had already almost given up hope for a decent service by the time we finished watching the film from SFAnytime, but then our friend Eric Vogel tipped us about The Auteurs, a fresh VOD service we had never heard of.

THE WEBSITE

The Auteurs is a VOD service unlike anything we had encountered ever before. Right from the beginning, it’s apparent that this is something different: the website looks much more like a social network site than a VOD service, it’s clear, simple and focuses more on content than shiny skin – and it makes me feel like it’s made by people who actually have a respect for great films.

The experience starts with a beautifully simple Facebook Connect login. After that, you end up into a site that promotes loads of great films in very informative and detailed way, with big pictures and clear links.

The site makes watching films online a social experience, where you share your reviews, your wishlist and films you watch with other people – and it’s very tightly connected with Facebook and Twitter. You can create your own profile, they have a forum for discussions, and everything you do and see is easilly shareable.

auteurssite

FINDING THE FILM

Unlike most of the other services, The Auteurs has really done a great job in presenting, suggesting and categorising films. And what films they have! No bullshit, only good films by great filmmakers. Masters of cinema like Kubrick, Lynch, Fellini and Svankmajer populate the amazingly international and high-quality film listings.

The problem is that most of the films they have on the site are not available for viewing, at least not now. The site makes it clear that it’s still in Beta, so most of the issues are acceptable – they are working on it, and doing a great job. But you can very easilly just sort the films available for viewing in your area, and although the catalog is not huge yet, you get an impression that somebody has really been working on it.

And the categorization of films is highly advanced – the site has wonderful lists like Festivals, where they’ve listed all of the films in competition on every major festival, beginning from early 30′s.

Each title is described in great detail, and you can view what others have thought of it. For us, unlike in other services, it was a problem to decide which film to watch out of the great selection, and we settled down eventually with Primer.

PAYING FOR THE FILM

The first real issue is the price. At least that’s what I thought first, but then I realized that hell, it’s really not the price I’m paying, but the experience and the extra I get with it. Each feature film costs 5€, and short films 2€ – there’s even some free films available. And even better, you have a possibility for a monthly subscription – with 18€/month you get an unlimited access to the ever-growing selection of the site’s films, and with 10€ you get to watch 4 films/month.

This is almost too good to be true.

WATCHING THE FILM

And as I suspected, it is too good. With the following comments, please be aware that the site is still in beta, so there are problems and beta users need to bear with it. And I’m also not sure why watching the film sucked, and if it has anything to do with the site itself, but it did. And we tested it out with two different computers.

The film twitches a bit. It’s an amazingly annoying feature, and I’m not 100% sure if it’s a problem with every film (we, obviously, tested out just one), but watching Primer was really painful. Bad quality can be forgiven – and the quality at Auteurs is very good – but skipping and twitching can’t. The film was nearly unwatchable, and I felt very bad about it, even more since the site was tuned exactly the way I want a VOD site to be, and they’ve even say: “P.S.—By the way, we’ve worked hard on the quality of the streaming and we are very proud of it… just wanted to let you know…”

I don’t know what was wrong with it, but it sucked big time.

EDIT: As Eric wrote in comments: “Sad to hear about stuttering/streaming problems with The Auteurs. I’ve watched two films there with none of these issues.”

Another big, annoying minus for the viewing experience was the forced subtitles – in Swedish. Watching Primer, which is quite a mindfuck of a film in itself, that’s twitching every now and then, and subtitled in Swedish was well… not very pleasant. Not worth 5€.

Having said that, the great thing is that viewing is possible with every operating system and every browser out there, and it’s really fast and easy – took us about 3 minutes to get the film rolling, fastest of the whole test.

SUMMARY

A great service and social network that’s suffering from some beta problems, but still manages to rise above all the others. Give it another 6 months, and this thing is going to become the definitive VOD service for film geeks, serving films that won’t be available even on Torrent sites.

Zombie Room Review: 3,5/5 (Note: still in Beta!)

- – -

That’s it for now. Check back at Zombie Room for parts one and two, and my attempt at hoe the Ideal VOD Service should be done.

Feature film ‘Blank’ released for free distribution!

March 22nd, 2009 by Timo Vuorensola

I think it was Star Wreck that just happened to be the first feature film ever released for free on the Internet. After that, we’ve seen such masterpieces as We Are The Strange and Four-Eyed Monsters being released on the Internet, and now it’s time for a new film to emerge for free, torrent-based distribution: Blank.

I’m quoting TorrentFreak‘s blogger enigmax, under CC-By-Sa -license:

Times are certainly changing and slowly but surely people are beginning to realize that rather than trying to fight piracy and destroy file-sharing networks, the best approach is to embrace your one-time rivals and try and create something positive.

Established in 2000 by director Rick L. Winters, Annodam Productions is an independent film company. A forward looking outfit, Annodam will premiere its latest movie Blank, worldwide today.

Blank is the story of a Johnny, a young boy who witnesses the violent death of his parents and older sister. Roll on some 20 years later and Johnny becomes involved in crime with his adoptive father – who is also a crime boss. While watching a game of poker Johnny discovers who murdered his family and sets about planning his revenge. Johnny unwittingly becomes involved with a pair of serial killers and the whole movie climaxes with a bizarre and shocking end.

While the plot may seems standard Hollywood fare, the way this movie has been financed and is set to be distributed is not – Director Rick L.Winters explains, “The thing that makes this film unique is that it is a co-op based concept where the entire cast and crew worked on a deferred percentage of the film’s gross. In other words, the cast and crew own a percentage of the film’s gross, so the profits are not going to Hollywood executives but instead into the pockets of the filmmakers themselves.”

After receiving several distribution offers for Blank, Rick turned them all down.

“I have seen firsthand the greed that lurks in the Hollywood corporate circles,” he said while explaining that after he released his first film, the cast and crew couldn’t understand why a distribution company was making all the money. So instead, Rick decided to let the audience distribute Blank for him – via BitTorrent.

“This time around the fate of the cast and crew getting paid is in the hands of the audience who watch the film. No Hollywood bank accounts being filled to turn out more crappy remakes,” he said, while adding that the future of film is “in the home market, through peer to peer distribution.”

Today, Blank is released on DVD for $14.99, via online streaming and of course, for free on BitTorrent. “No one should have to pay for a film they did not like,” says Rick. “No one should be denied the right to enjoy the art of film.”

The idea is that if people like the movie after they have seen it, they should go to the Blank website and make a donation. People are asked to donate what they feel the movie is worth, and in return will be invited to follow the production of the next movie, which they will have helped finance through their donation.

Rick told TorrentFreak, “I am excited with the aspects of peer to peer distribution and the possibilities. Giving everyone the opportunity to see my film for free in hope of receiving donations is a little nerve wrecking – wondering if I will receive enough donations to make my next film. The concept is still scary for independent filmmakers who don’t have the big budgets like the big studios and most of the time drain their personal accounts and run up credit just to get their film made, in hopes of recouping the cost of making the film.”

Several large BitTorrent sites including Mininova will be offering Blank, but undoubtedly it will spread to many others too. Rick L. Winters is also writing a book which will document the whole process so that others can use the same methods to distribute their own movies.

“I can only hope for the success of this endeavor to show the world that the revolution of peer to peer distribution can no longer be ignored and the time is now,” Rick told TorrentFreak. “I decided to try the concept of a coop base film in hopes of encouraging other independent filmmakers to come together and create and share the art of film for EVERYONE to enjoy.”

Congratulations to Rick and the crew for effectively ending the piracy of their movies and we wish them the best of luck with ‘Blank’ and all future success.

You can grab the torrent for the movie from Mininova.