Philips Wants to Stop Piracy With ‘Ambilight’ Technology


Over the years, many new technologies have tried to stop camcording piracy at movie theaters. From infrared beams, through night-vision goggles, to watermarks, thus far the problem still persists. Continuing the search for the ultimate anti-piracy tool, Philips now joins the quest with a proposal to use ambient lighting to mess with pirate recordings.

The movie industry sees illegally recorded movies as one of the biggest piracy threats and goes to extremes to stop it.

Over the years, movie theaters have used audio and video watermarking tools to detect pirates, for example. And during prominent events, night-vision goggles and other spy tech is used to monitor movie goers.

Most anti-piracy efforts are not particularly pleasing for the public, but a new technology from Philips hopes to change this. In a recent patent application the technology company proposes an ambient lighting system for movie theaters that will hinder pirate recordings.

“The major motion picture studios are losing large amounts of money due to piracy. The worldwide motion picture industry, distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators, lose each year billions of dollars as a result of piracy,” the company begins.

Philips notes that many of the current security measures, such as watermarking, make piracy traceable. However, they don’t prevent actual recording and distribution. Watermarks can be simply rendered useless if pirates remove them afterwards, for example.

“The problem with current security measures in digital cinema is that they do not prevent pirates from filming the content from the cinema screen. Watermarks can help to identify the source of pirate content, but it does not prevent the actual copying and spreading of the content.”

The ambient lighting solution is different and Philips believes that it could reduce piracy substantially.

The concept is quite easy. By shining light on the visitors from the side, at a certain frequency, the pirate recordings will be severely degraded up to a point where they’ll become completely unwatchable.

“The solution proposed here is to shine visible light from an (additional) light source with a pre-determined modulation frequency at the cinema screen while the movie plays,” the patent application reads.

“When the frequency is chosen well, a camera will not be able to properly film the content, because the light source runs out of sync with the camera resulting in stripes running through the movie content.”

The idea is partly inspired by Philips existing Ambilight technology for TVs. This generates lighting effects around the TV that correspond to the video content. The cinema setup will do the same while hindering pirates in the process. A win-win situation, according to Philips.

“It is yet a further aspect to provide a more immersive experience when watching video content on a display device in combination with anti-piracy measures,” the patent application reads.

It’s unclear whether there are concrete plans to roll out the technology at movie theaters. Philips, however, is no stranger to these type of anti-piracy solutions. The company previously rolled out CineFence, a forensic marking technology for both image and sound, targeted at digital cinema content.

In any case, it’s a good marketing message to get movie theaters to try ambient lighting. Whether it’s really effective has yet to be seen though.

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