This Is Really Happening

Here we go again — analog is dying. Analog video may be closer to death this time, but it's probably better to call it an execution.

Analog video is being declared an old horse that's hard to handle and in need of replacement. The Advanced Access Content System (AACS) license agreement aims to stop piracy by limiting the analog video output from Blu-Ray players. The system's founders include IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, Warner Brothers, and Walt Disney.

This is being done under the disguise of creating “opportunities” for new business models for content providers, distributors, and content aggregators. Providers will be allowed to “develop, promote and license technologies designed to enhance digital entertainment experiences for consumers.” Remember that the AACS knows what is good for us. Apparently, the assumption is that we are all guilty of copying movies to the detriment of the entertainment business. This is our penalty for the industry's inability to control the copyright of art by other means.

For example, a 10-megapixel picture, typically 1,364×768 pixels in resolution, will be limited to 640x480i. The downgrade will be unmistakable. Most people using a high-definition display would consider the image unacceptable. One day, your signal is looking good, and the next day, it looks bad enough for you to say, “Something is wrong here.” The AACS will be reviewing additional technology as potential solutions. Note the word “potential” — I guess we don't have an answer here just yet.

The intent (which I will paraphrase) is to thwart professional mass distribution of unauthorized recordings, such as theatrical camcorder piracy. In case you are not familiar with this process, individuals record movies inside a theater, duplicate the video, and sell copies on the street. This black-market form of manufacturing has been around since the mid-1970s. It started with VHS videotapes and has now progressed to DVDs. Now it is piracy of an international nature, and it does need to be stopped.

According to the AACS, major benefits for the consumer include:

  • Enabling new entertainment experiences across multiple devices (what a new idea)
  • Supporting the delivery of next-generation content, including high-definition video (I always get the present next generation confused with the next, next generation)
  • Providing increased flexibility while remaining transparent to legitimate users (perhaps a definition of “legitimate user” would be helpful here)

A major AACS milestone was reached on Dec. 31, 2010, when manufacturers could no longer construct Blu-Ray players (including those built into PCs) with high-definition analog outputs. Also on that date, manufacturers of Blu-Ray discs were allowed (but not required) to embed their discs with a Digital Only Token, which disables a player's analog output. Some recent Blu-Ray titles have these tokens, and some don't.

The next major milestone will be on Dec. 31, 2013, when video manufacturers will have to eliminate analog video outputs altogether. In case you are wondering, cable, satellite, and telephone company TV settop boxes are not affected. One exception: The analog outputs of these boxes can be disabled for video-on-demand showing of movies still in theaters.

Time to flip, flop, and fly. Analog video could die.

11 comments on “This Is Really Happening

  1. eafpres
    July 3, 2013

    @Peter–“For example, a 10-megapixel picture, typically 1,364×768 pixels in resolution, will be limited to 640x480i”

    It seems the logical extension would be to ban all personal technology that might be capable of recording directly to digital media.

    This also highlights what can/will happen when hardware companies become software companies then become media companies (Sony is a good example, Amazon similarly but in a different order).  The conflicting needs of disparate customer groups will lead to the lowest common denominator.  Sony will degrade hardware to protect media rights.  They will implement software to prevent otherwise legal uses of media.

    The music industry has already been through this.  Apple was one of the worst offenders in stupid DRM implementation.  Times have changed, somehow the music industry is still there, and people are buying more content online.  There is almost no analog music to be had anymore, but nobody notices. 

  2. PZman
    July 3, 2013

    I agree, people & especially the users don't seem to care about what DRMs will do to them. “To” is the key word here. I know of selected groups (names are with held to protect them) that still relish a good analog recording. My Klipsch, MacIntosh tube amps, 1000+ vinyl recordings & yes, even my cassette collection keep me going late at night. I would like to experiment with a 24 or 20 bit D to A converter to see what comes out one of these DRM devices and see how it sounds being returned to analog.


  3. Scott Elder
    July 3, 2013

    I just love it when one group of smart people try to out smart the other group of smart people.  This idea of dropping the analog connector just gives me a great idea for a great new product.  I will design a mat to lay on top of the TV screen and photograph the pixels as they are played.  Then i will spool out the pixels serially and re-encode the data.  Presto!  Who wants to write up the patent??  SMILE.

    Perhaps I have to run a calibration image first to setup the pixel ADC. hmmm…..

  4. eafpres
    July 3, 2013

    @Scott–thanks, a great way to start the 4th of July holiday with a good laugh!

    I suppose the industry response will be to mess with the pixels and require everyone to wear special glasses.

    Oh, wait–they already tried that, I think it was called 3D TV!

    Have a great holiday!

  5. Netcrawl
    July 3, 2013

    @easfpres, I agree with you companies like Sony is reinventing, moving into software business- they're going for digital rights, just like what Apple is doing. DRM is both the villain and hero of today's digital content revolution, it sits in the middle as a technology platform designed to mediate and enforce rights at various level of media distributions. The problem with DRM is its proprietary, it tend to impede rather than facilitate super-distribution or the free movement of content from one hardware to another. 

  6. eafpres
    July 3, 2013

    @Netcrawl–great point–anything that has the key design criteria to restrict or impede rather than facilitate is going to fail, eventually, in my opinion.

    Make it really easy to buy licensed material (which includes few limits on what I do with it (legally) after purchase, and, importantly, fair pricing) and people will do it.  Look at iTunes–very successful, more so after removing some of the dumb restrictions.  There is still the issue of the “lifetime limit” on machines, but even that is workable with Apple.  So they learned and adapted.

    One area that I will give the media companies credit is for movies where purchasing the DVD sometimes gives you download rights to a digital copy, or there is a digital copy you can move from the DVD to a computer.  

  7. Davidled
    July 4, 2013

    The DRM is all about the protection of company. I am wondering what happends if media company deals with auto industry regarding on DRM. For example, any music or video could be downloaded to a certain vehicle model. That might impact the vehicle sale in the auto industry, since all OEM focus on the development of internet connection with multimedia technology. That might be interesting in the business rule.

  8. Brad Albing
    July 6, 2013

    @Scott – I like it. Let's get started on the prototype.

  9. PZman
    July 9, 2013

    I like the idea about certain vehicles receiving selected tunes, of course I look at it the reverse way. Can I get a black box to stop certain tunes from being downloaded or played in specific vehicles. Especially the ear splitting, loud one, right next to me. Also having the availibility for a few pieces of equipment being capable of playing anything through anything is great. I don't see the need for all electronic gear being “free range” just some for the audio/videophiles.

  10. SunitaT
    July 30, 2013

    With the new digital video principles coming into the picture, the common misunderstanding is that analog video is dead or dying. The truth is that analog video is very much alive. Over the next several years, however, analog video will migrate away from customer applications to professional and industrial applications. Analog video will continue to dominate in professional and multimedia apps, such as video matrix switchers, keyboard/video/mouse systems, A/V extenders, projectors and conference room systems. These apps are normally based around the PC, which does not use high-definition video standards, but uses high-resolution analog video standards set by the Video Electronics Standards Association.

  11. PZman
    August 5, 2013

    I'm sorry to say that analog video is dying. By the time analog video drifts to professional video and there is no reason to; professional and I mean broadcasters, sports production and other video production individuals are going to or are in High Definiition video. HD is a digital format from acquistion, recording and post-production. All the video work I have been doing has been digital in one form or another. Video matrix switchers are convertering over to DP (Display Port). DP is a VESA standard. Some equipment uses HD-SDI or SDI (serial data interface) As for projectors, they are coming DP or HDCP. As for AV extenders and other types of gear, as long as there is a need and there is supply, you will see it. I can find new 3/4 video tape, extinct for 25 years. What I don't like is this ability to control my equipments output, the Digital Rights Management. Second the  3/4 material I was talking about is still available because manufacturers kept supporting the format for years after the format was considered dead, where new CD, BlueRay recorders and players have to be made with DRM, limiting my ability to set up my system they way I want to.You have any questions, write back & let's chat, I would enjoy it.

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