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The MPAA and NATO move to ban wearables...

by on31 October 2014 3850 times

We all knew this day would come, with all of the smaller and hidden cameras on phones, smartwatches and products like Google Glass it was only time before the MPAA stepped in and shut things down. This is exactly what they have done in conjunction with the National Association of Theatre Owners (yes NATO). It is not just Google Glass that they have gone after but a number of other wearables that contain recording technology like the Samsung Gear series of smart watches. The blanket ban does not prohibit someone from bringing them in, but it does require that the devices are removed and turned off for the duration of the movie.

What is going to be interesting are the people that have Glass attached to their prescription glasses. How is the movie theatre going to justify forcing someone that needs corrective lenses to remove their glasses? Still the looming fear of the wearable as a form of piracy is sort of silly when you think about what type of device you are talking about here. To give you an example, most current wearables will get you video that is just a notch above really bad. This is even on newer devices that have improved cameras. It is not just the capture that defines this though.

Let’s take a look at a one wearable in particular: the Gear 2 from Samsung. The camera on it is capable of capturing 720P HD video (2MP). This looks great on paper until you realize that its light range is not well suited for dark areas. This is fairly common in smaller sensors where there is not enough space to grab light. The sensor is also too small and thin to get any real detail out of the movies and images that it captures. You get very flat and stale pictures and videos in good light so trying this in low light is going to be a nightmare. Next up we have the fact that the amount of storage on the Gear 2 is a very small 4GB. Yes you could technically fit a whole 720P movie in that space, but given the memory size (512MB) and the processor you would also end up with a dead watch long before your average movie was done. Because of this Samsung limits the length of your video to a few seconds. There are a couple of apps that let you push past that, but they are no better in terms of quality and drain your battery very quickly.

Google’s Glass is even worse than this in terms of video quality and storage space so this is not really a threat to the MPAA in terms of movies. It is much more of a threat to individual privacy than to the MPAA’s revenue.

So why the sudden move to ban wearable technology? Well it is quite simple, as we mentioned when Glass first came out and as more companies moved to drop in cameras on wearables we knew that the MPAA and others would quickly move to ban these devices in their infancy before the quality of the cameras improve along with the storage and processing abilities. After all it has not been that long of a ramp up cycle for your average cellphone to get to 15MP with HDR and 128GB of storage. We can expect the wearable market to hit that in the next couple of years. They want to make sure they cover their bases now before they have to worry about it. The new rules are very broad and intended to include future advances in technology and devices that might come under the heading of wearable. It is both smart and dumb on their part.

It is smart from the standpoint of trying (in vain) to slow piracy at the theatre, but it will drive more people away from them at the same time. Right now, in talking with several theatres, less people are going to the movies. This is in part due to rising ticket and concession costs ($8.00 for a soda??) as well as the limitations that theatres are putting on people. This means that the cost per ticket and per item at the counter need to rise to make up the difference. This in turn pushes more people to places like Netflix, and Amazon Prime as well as the torrent sites. It is a vicious cycle that the industry just does not seem to be able to comprehend. Still even with decreased movie attendance the big studios are reporting record profits almost every quarter and new releases are seeing better attendance from the public simply because the product is getting better.

Although we know that this will not happen, perhaps fighting technology is not the way that this should be working. We know there is a large demand for content to the home and hospitality (hotels) get movies earlier than others (sometimes while they are still in the theatres). Why wouldn’t the industry consider a subscription service that allow pay-per view access to a certain number of titles per year? It would reduce casual piracy and maintain the revenue stream. They could even time delay the blockbuster titles to keep revenue from the box office while gaining back people that might never go see the movie for other reasons.

Hollywood is on a self-destructive dive with their anti-piracy measures and sadly they want to take us all with them. If they would change their view on stop trying to hold onto the same revenue model they have had since the depression they might actually turn things around. Instead they will probably continue to ban devices and spend more money trying to stop the sharing of movies  which just isn’t going to work anymore.

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Last modified on 31 October 2014
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