Verimatrix has been investing in watermarking R&D for more than 10 years, and today the company is a global leader in the practical application and commercialization of forensic video marking solutions. Watermarking and related techniques are important components of the company’s layered content and revenue security strategy.
After pioneering watermark insertion in the video output of set-top boxes (STBs) with its VideoMark™ product for managed IPTV networks, including the granting of several patents, Verimatrix extended the use of VideoMark for over-the-top (OTT) video services. Common to both applications is an emphasis on imperceptible payloads, without impacting the consumer experience, while supporting the full range of features that rights owners require, including legally defensible identification.
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Moreover, only Verimatrix offers fully integrated and proven encryption, key management and watermarking solutions for both managed and unmanaged (OTT) networks.
Video Watermarking – A Powerful Technique
In response to the ever-shifting media monetization challenges, various techniques have been developed and deployed to help address the protection of video content over its full lifecycle. One of the most powerful of these techniques is video watermarking. The application of watermarking to digital video content, which draws on long established technologies combined with new and innovative approaches, enables rights owners and pay-TV operators to directly address key challenges in their efforts to maximize the revenue potential of high value content, including the emergence of 4K/Ultra HD video.
Defining Technology Characteristics
Video watermarking is a technology that seeks to securely, robustly and imperceptibly embed identifying information within copies of media content. These aspects benefit from some amplification:
- Imperceptible marking is required to preserve the quality of the viewer experience and avoid any implication that the delivery channel that uses watermarking reduces the integrity of the original material. The modifications applied during the watermarking process are kept to a minimum with respect to the desired robustness. Imperceptible marking draws a specific contrast to some visible overlay techniques used to help trace illegitimate channel rebroadcasting.
- Security is necessary to preserve the integrity of the inserted information, and especially to prevent any modification of the embedded watermark payload.
- Robustness ensures that the watermark remains readable even after manipulation or transformation of the media. The most robust watermarks will survive multiple transitions from digital to analog format and be unaffected by filtering and distortion.
Video Watermarking for Forensic Tracking
A specific watermarking application is user-specific forensic tracking, the goal of which is to help identify the source of unauthorized copies of media files and trace them back to the last authorized recipient. User-specific forensic watermarking is an application that embeds a timestamp and other data in the video that identifies e.g. the service operator, delivery network, and end-user. This establishes a virtual “chain of custody” for content that accurately identifies the source of unauthorized copies, and which hence provides a valuable tool in potential legal actions against the perpetrator.
Moreover, the presence of an identifying watermark will no doubt serve to deter piracy if the user is made aware - beforehand - that the content is traceable to the last authorized recipient. Thus, forensic watermarking is a key component of a layered content and revenue security strategy.
Early Release Window / Premium Video-on-Demand
Forensic watermarking also offers pay-TV and hospitality operators new revenue opportunities by enabling access to premium HD and VOD content for early release window (ERW) services. The ERW timing runs in parallel with the theatrical showing and well before the DVD/Blu-ray release window. Studios offering ERW content require forensic watermarking in addition to strong encryption and Selectable Output Control. Verimatrix has been working with the Hollywood studios for more than 10 years and offers a technical solution that is trusted for ERW services.
4K/Ultra High Definition Video Services
The emergence of next-generation 4K/UHD video services is accompanied by redefined security requirements from the Hollywood studios for content protection. Forensic watermarking is a key requirement area as described in the MovieLabs Specification for Enhanced Content Protection. Verimatrix is at the forefront by already offering a solution that fulfills these requirements.
Forensic Watermarking in the Media Value Chain
The application of watermarking is not limited to a single insertion point in the value chain. Instead, watermarking can be applied at various stages during the content distribution cycle: in the studio, in the distribution network, and finally in the receiver.
Moreover, multiple watermarks from different sources can be applied to the same content while extracted individually later. Forensic tracking is thus enabled at multiple stages in the value chain, with the possibility to trace lost content back to its last authorized network and user.
A key VideoMark advantage is that the payload can be extracted without the need for the original, unmarked content. A major benefit of this so-called blind extraction approach is that there is no need for large content archives, etc. Verimatrix/Reveal™ is a set of tools offered in order to extract and interpret the embedded payload, thus providing convenience for VideoMark customers and, importantly, security against arbitrary verification.
To get a perspective on how these technologies can be applied further, please download the whitepaper “Integrated Watermarking Creates More Profitable Pay-TV Businesses”.