Cinavia Audio Watermark

What is Cinavia, and what does it have to do with me… and by the way why can’t I play this video file?

Well, likely, that is just random coincidence. But it could be that you can’t watch that movie in your home theater system because of the Cinavia DRM. It is a digital rights management system that requires two parts – a watermark in the audio stream and appropriate hardware to detect the stamp.

How does it affect you? Well, if you play your video on a home PC or in most cases a DVD player there is no effect what so ever to your playback. But if you play the movie on a Blu-ray player, like say the Playstation 3, you will end up with a mute movie – or more likely it won’t play at all. Note that it is enough that you play the movie in the PS3 media player, it does not have to be an actual disc (in fact it is the HDMI w/DTS receiver that’s the culprit).

How does it work? Well in short it is a watermark recorded into the analogue audio of media (like a movie in the cinema or a blu-ray disc). It is able to survive recording through microphone, compression and encoding without affecting the quality of the audio (at least not the audio perceivable to us mere humans…). On the other end is the hardware detector displaying a neat message for you to visit the Cinavia homepage. The Fat Lady is singing, except you can’t here the sound – and in any case the show is over.

It works by comparing and verifying the audio source with the format in which the video was released. Imagine if you will a Telesync recording, but the audio is taken from a line-in source in the cinema. The Cinavia detector will verify the audio against a theatrical release but finds a camera source. Or a Russian R5 release with English line-in audio instead of the original audio track.

Late 2009 saw the introduction of Cinavia audio watermarking developed by Verance Technology. In pure technical terms it is enough with one audio channel to detect the mark and it will survive distortion through production, duplication, distribution, broadcast and us consumers spilling coffee on the digital media. From 2010 all commercial Blu-ray players will have Cinavia detection.

So to sum it up, in most cases it won’t affect you at all except if you are using your Playstation as a media center at which point it is merely a nuisance. The fact that it is only a mildly annoying piracy deterrent is the only reason the bootleg community hasn’t bothered with cracking the watermark yet. It was aimed at stopping Blu-ray bootlegging but most people ripping Blu-ray movies don’t burn discs but view the downloaded file on a PC – at which point the issue is mute, as is the sound.

Stay tuned for more horrible jokes.


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