Philips looks to build 'huge' video database for video ID service
Aims to fingerprint all video
When Philips Research fell out of the audio fingerprinting business in 2005, it obviously left something of a scar, with the business sold for an unspecified amount, but since it was just as the buyer, audio database specialist Gracenote, had just raised $10.9m, that was taken to be the amount. But talking to Alex Terpstra, the CEO of Philips Content Identification at IBC this week, it seems like it plans to achieve a better outcome in the world of video fingerprinting.
"In music ID, the big item that Philips was missing was a database of music, so we sold off the technology to Gracenote. Today Philips still operates in video fingerprinting, and both audio and video watermarking," he said.
"But this time around we are building a huge database of virtually every piece of professional video there is," Terpstra says with a nod, "That’s right we are not making the same mistake again."
The aim is clearly to set Philips up as the one company that can recognize every piece of video from a 5 second sample, leaving it at the core of video recognition technology which is at the heart of proactive video takedown, which, for instance, will prevent copyrighted video being uploaded onto UGC web sites.
Gracenote has remained a private company and Philips still owns some of it from that technology transaction, and Terpstra clearly thinks that fingerprinting will be a highly prized technology. Fingerprinting takes statistical data about the video and looks for unique or unusual relationships between say luminance and motion, and stores these in a tiny fragment of statistical data for each part of the video. Watermarking is the process where information is hidden in a video or audio file to show which source of video it originated from.
When Gracenote bought that fingerprinting technology from Philips they had just launched a service where a mobile handset owner could hold up their phone when listening to music, the system could identify the music and the handset owner could then buy it. The same types of services could be created for video, but we suspect far more profitably. The technology could be used with spiders all over the web, to identify and takedown copyrighted video, a problem that YouTube could do with the answer to, and which its parent Google has been working on now for most of the year, to avoid a $1bn legal squabble.
When we asked Terpstra whether Google was talking to Philips he simply put his fingers in his ears to intimate that Google was simply a company that just didn’t want to hear. Rival Audible Magic has recently landed a similar contract in May with MySpace.
"The system in use at the moment from other technology suppliers are all re-active, whereas ours is pro-active” says Terpstra, meaning that the content owner has to first find the breach, then point it out so that a fingerprint of the video can then be made, and from then on the web site will not accept a further copy for upload. There’s the need for that database once again, and this time Philips thinks it will be the only supplier to arrive there and take all the onus off the copyright owner.
At the show Philips announced that Dolby has just introduced its CineFence anti piracy watermarking technology for use with digital cinema releases.
"We are already dominant in digital cinema watermarking," said Terpstra, "with Christie, Dolby and XDC using our system. Thomson has its own technology, but ours is already in 3,000 digital cinemas and anyway Thomson’s Technicolor uses our technology in its special "Screener" copies of DVDs that go out to Film Academy members voting on the Oscar nominations."
Last year Thomson set up a huge initiative to replace the celluloid delivery systems of Technicolor for delivering films, with a global digital network, and will use this leverage to push for its watermarking system to also be used.
Terpstra said, "We can watermark movie masters, pre-release editions of movies, digital cinema copies or license our technology to set top manufacturers to watermark individual movie copies. The only place that doesn’t use watermarking is on consumer DVD.
"With an encrypted film you know when you’ve beaten it, but with watermarking you are never quite sure as a hacker if there is still enough of the watermark left to identify where the source material came from. The only way to get rid of the watermark is to ruin the quality of the video and that makes it uneconomic for pirates," said Terpstra.
Philips also announced at the show that its VTrack watermarking technology has been integrated into the set top boxes of leading manufacturers Sunniwell and its own Philips brand. Vtrack was implemented by Philips Content Identification earlier this year and is supported by major chipset vendors including Broadcom, ST and Texas Instruments. The system is aimed at protecting home based HD services.
"The camcorder used in a movie theater was the major source of movie piracy, but as HD is more commonly available and the quality of screens in the home improves, then copies made with a camcorder at home are suddenly a real danger," said Terpstra, which is perhaps why he sees the Philips watermarking going into more and more set tops over the coming year.
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