visualizing DVD layout

I have purchased a couple of DVDs which employ an obfuscation scheme I like to call Sea Of Bullshit. I refuse to call it copy protection, because it is not. All it does is complicate the job of figuring out which title you want to watch when you aren't using the on-DVD menus. (when it comes to seeking, pausing, and rewinding, mplayer beats the pants off every other DVD player I've encountered)

Today I will contrast the Samurai Jack DVD with one of the Daria DVDs.

I wrote software which visualizes the data extents of a particular title as a rainbow on top of the blackness of the rest of the disk.

This is Samurai Jack:

You can easily see there's a title 1 spanning most of the disk, and then titles 8 through 13 are subsections. This is a common layout for a DVD with one title for the whole episode set plus separate titles for accessing individual episodes.

Some other DVDs don't have the individual titles. Some don't have the giant master title and only have the individual episode titles.

Contrast that with Daria:

This is a Sea of Bullshit. The vast majority of those titles are bogus. Often they will contain the first 2/3 of an episode and then closing credits, or perhaps the tail end of a different episode. I'd bet money that none of them are actually referenced by the menus.

You will notice that using this visualization one title stands out from all the others: title 74 is a nice pretty rainbow. This is the title that contains all the episodes in sequence. There are seven decoy titles which are obviously bogus when you visualize them this way.

Given the sheer volume of titles, it's a little harder to notice that title 65 through 73 contain well-sequenced spans that correspond to the individual episodes on the disc. The software I wrote includes individual tabs that can be used to get a higher-resolution visualization of any one title, but I didn't waste time with screenshots.

breaking the rainbow

It's entirely possible that a DVD authoring tool could create a DVD where the extents for the good title were in a scrambled order. The only real penalty would be on players with small buffers and long head seek times. There would be a pause as it moves the head for the discontinuity.

In fact, one of the other Daria discs appears to have that sort of layout, where the master title has one episode out of order. I'm not sure why. Maybe there was an error in the ordering that they corrected late in the authoring process and didn't have the right menu options to sort things.

Hilbert Curve

Inspired by an XKCD comic * I decided to see what it would look like if I were to use a Hilbert Curve for visualization instead of a plain raster.

It is a bit more difficult to realize that 74 is the good title.

For this particular kind of visualization the Hilbert Curve is not a useful tool.

marketing anecdote

I bought Samurai Jack because I saw every episode on Cartoon Network and it kicked ass. I didn't anticipate actually watching them myself. I don't think I watched one from the DVDs until years after I bought the discs.

Duckman, Powerpuff Girls, Trinity Blood, Invader Zim, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist, Futurama, Blue Submarine #6, and Robot Chicken all fall into this category. I watched them on TV, and bought the DVDs because they kick ass.

I bought Daria because I remember seeing a few episodes on MTV long ago and I wanted to watch the whole series in a coherent fashion.

Aeon Flux, Kino's Journey, and Mushi Shi fit into this second category.

I pay money for DVDs. If you want to make money selling DVDs, make TV shows I like. People who only download crap from the internet aren't your market. People who eventually buy DVDs (who may or may not have downloaded it first) are your market . Don't waste time making content aimed at poor people.