Hmmm, interesting…

It seems that the Red Dwarf DVDs have a rather curious form of copy protection (or, at least, piracy prevention) on them.

I was just decoding Thanks For The Memory off the disc – not for illegal pirating filesharing reasons, I hasten to add, but so that I can convert it and copy it to my Gameboy Advance movie player and watch it on the train – and once it had completed and I went to view the file in Media Player to check the file out, I noticed something very strange.

For those not familiar with the way DVDs work, a brief summary – they contain, among other things, encrypted VOB files. These files contain the actual movie data itself – VOB stands for Video Object and a VOB file is essentially a glorified MPEG file (they’re encrypted so you can’t just copy them to your hard drive and watch them like an MPEG, though). Your average half hour of TV show tends to be about 1GB, and since VOB files can’t be bigger than that, most DVDs (such as the Spaced I was converting last night) will have one VOB file for each episode.

But on the Dwarf DVDs, the episodes actually appear to be staggered across VOB files. That is, I ripped the third file on the disc, assuming that it would contain Thanks For The Memory in its entirety. It doesn’t. It contains all but the first chapter of …Memory (starting, therefore, with the “Show me the way to go home…” sequence), and then the first chapter of Stasis Leak.

I wonder if this is true of other DVDs, too, or if it’s something unique to RD? Either way, it’s more an annoyance than anything (any determined pirate could easily use basic video editing software to cut and paste the relevant bits together), but it is a quite ingenious way of stopping straight, simple ripping without having to resort to ludicrous copy protection techniques that stop the discs from even working in PCs…

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