AACS cracking – here’s the deal

Earlier this week, news broke that someone had “cracked” the AACS DRM system used by both HD-DVD and BluRay. At this point, there hasn’t been independent verification of any of this, but here’s the deal as best as I understand.

A guy named muslix64 on the Doom9 forums figured out a way to extract title keys from HD-DVD discs, very likely using a vulnerability in Power DVD 6.5. He then wrote a decryption tool based on the publicly available AACS specifications. He released the software, including source, but did not release any title keys. He made hints that there is a fundamental flaw in the way title keys are handled, and that player revocation is unimportant. With player revocation, a flawed player (such as Power DVD, if indeed it is vulnerable) can be disabled from playing future discs.

It’s interesting, if indeed it’s true. There is no evidence that the AACS encryption itself is flawed, and indeed, that seems unlikely as it’s essentially an implementation of AES. However, we know that using encryption for DRM on untrusted hardware is likely to have some vulnerability, if you’re willing to dig deep enough. That is apparently what’s happened here.

What does it mean? Not much right now. Muslix64 has disappeared, and nobody has been able to discover the relevant title keys at this point. If someone does recreate a title key extraction method, it would be an interesting alternative to the world of DVD cracking. Instead of having a DMCA-violating circumvention device in the form of DeCSS or any of the later decryption programs, you could instead have a totally legitimate decoder tool paired with some title keys. The legality of the title keys would be questionable – the court case would be very interesting. In any case, it’s likely that you’d get your HD-DVD, check online to get the title key, paste it into your ripper and be done.

Give it 6 weeks and check again. This could be a blip, this could be the death of BluRay and HD-DVD. We’ll see.

Sony HVR-1500 deck breaks my heart to little pieces

So first off, I find it shocking that the first mention I get of a new HDV deck is via a DVD mailed to me by Sony. I’m speaking of the HVR-1500, a new half-rack studio HDV deck. No links here, because Sony has no mention of it on their website. It sounds like it was announced in conjunction with the HVR-V1U camera.

So why does it break my heart? Because it’s SO close to being what I really want. It’s got expandable input and output options. One of those options is HD-SDI output. But input? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m afraid it’s limited to SD-SDI. What?!

This is such blatant marketing-driven stupidity on the part of Sony. We can’t have folks using HDV as a record format in a professional setting, that’d be crazy! So we best cripple the product.

I’m encoding the video they sent me to post here, so you can marvel at the greatness that Sony almost achieved. I’m going to be doing some shin-kicking at NAB this year …

[Edit: Video Posted Below]

The truth of depth of field

A number of sites have linked to this article about depth of field, which looks at the commonly held belief that zooming in creates a shallower depth of field.

The article isn’t super clear, but the essential fact is that zooming in doesn’t actually change depth of field, it just makes the stuff in the background bigger. The stuff is no more blurry, it’s just easier to see the blurriness.

He’s absolutely right of course, but it’s really splitting hairs. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.

HDV is dead, long live HDV

There have been a few articles in the past week stating that the end of HDV is near. This article in particular goes into depth about the emerging intraframe formats which are vying for the low-end professional market.

I agree that AVC-Intra (note: AVC could be either inter- or intra-frame, don’t assume!) and JPEG2000 are good options for compression going forward. They’re both good steps forward, but I don’t think they’re HDV competitors. Let me explain.

At this point there are no “professional” HDV cameras on the market. The closest you get are the XDCamHD products from Sony, which are more or less HDV wrapped in MXF going onto an optical disc, with the ability to bump up the bitrate a little bit. All the other HDV cameras on the market are, in my opinion at least, consumer or pro-sumer level. JVC might argue a bit, but they’re JVC so who cares?

The products being discussed in the Nordahl article are most closely related to the XDcamHD products. Neither AVC-Intra nor JPEG2000 are particularly well suited to tape based storage, at least miniDV style cassettes. The Panasonic and Grass Valley (respectively) cameras instead make use of different direct-to-disk recording options. AVC-Intra is just an i-frame-only version of H264, which itself is just a further development of the technology from MPEG-2. JPEG2000 uses wavelet compression and could be pretty impressive. I’ve never used it in production. Both are solid choices for higher-bitrate recording.

I don’t think HDV is going anywhere soon. Getting away from LongGOP compression is a good idea in the long run, but for the low end of the market I think it’ll have to wait until flash memory becomes much larger and much cheaper. I’m a firm believer that it will be difficult to penetrate the low end of the market without the ability to easily swap media in the field, without lugging along a laptop. That means being able to carry a pocket full of flash cards, preferably of some variety that can be purchased at a local Target or Best Buy when you’re shooting in the field. P2 is a start down that path, but I think widespread adoption is still a ways off. Products like the Firestore are just bridging the gap until we can have proper direct-to-memory capture.

From a technical standpoint, I think we’re just starting to see what HDV can do. For example, read Steve Mullen’s article on smart GOP splicing. If you can avoid the generational issues of reencoding HDV, the remaining issues are based on processing speed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see realtime HDV output over firewire in the next version of Final Cut.

Here’s my predictions for recording formats in 2007 and 2008. For cameras under $10,000, HDV will remain the dominant force. The HVX-200 and successors will continue to embrace P2, but I think it’ll be 2009 or 2010 before P2 is really practical in all situations.

For cameras from $20,000 – $50,000, you’ll see a few formats. AVC-Intra will replace DVCProHD, as NLEs add support for that format. AVC-Intra has major benefits over DVCProHD with no downsides. XDCamHD will stick with the current setup through 2007, but in 2008 I’m expecting to see a higher bitrate recording system (XDCamHD2 or some such) which will add a non-GOP recording format. It’d be nice if it was JPEG2000, but I’m guessing it’ll be SONY2000 or something stupid and proprietary like that. JVC will continue to push ProHD long past its sell-by date, and the HD100 will become a faded memory.

Above $50,000, I think what we’ve got today is pretty much where we’ll stay, with the exception of DVCProHD being replaced by AVC-Intra. HDCam, HDCam-SR, D5 and the other “big tape” formats are with us for the long haul at this point. Various direct-to-crazy-raid turnkey solutions will probably begin to creep into this market space as well, but it’ll be a slow process.

And me? I’ll just go back to shooting Hi8.

Greatest Email Ever

This has nothing to do with video, but I just got this email from my polisci professor and can’t stop laughing. The paper was about Iraq policy …

Hi all,

We have one final exam paper that doesn’t have a name. The paper has no title page, all the class info in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, and the first sentence reads: “The strapping hero stands, sword in hand, ready to slay the mighty dragon; two powers evenly matched.”

I’m assuming this is a final exam and not a review of “Eragon,” so please send an email to me and the two TAs (Cc’d above) if this is your paper.

Panasonic AV-HS300G – Portable HiDef switcher

Panasonic is now shipping the AV-HS300G, a DC powered HD/SD switcher. I don’t know much about this product, but I’ve very interested. It doesn’t look like it’s as all-in-one as the Anycast, but the MSRP is $7999 which puts it in a whole different price range. This could be an ideal solution for doing field shoots with the canon XL-H1. You still need a separate way to record the video,

This demands more investigation.

 Webapp Wcs Stores Images Models Av-Hs300G

Alex Lindsey has been Antiqued (Sony releases new 4:4:4 camera)

(If you don’t get the title, you don’t listen to enough podcasts)

Sony has announced a new 4:4:4 1080p camera, the F23. It’s essentially a modified F950 which adds the ability to dock with an HDCam-SR deck, and also support more camera attachments. The F950 and F23 live in the same market space as the Arriflex D-20, Grass-Valley/Thompson Viper and Panavision Genesis. Essentially, if you don’t have at least a half million dollars, don’t bother asking.