Following up on last week’s post about international release dates and subtitles, I’ve been asking around to find more information about studios’ anti-piracy efforts. I didn’t get into any specific numbers — and I wouldn’t know how seriously to take the numbers anyway.

But based on these conversations, I came across a few broad bullet points worth sharing:

  • Studios have gotten more sophisticated about putting tracking marks in individual prints, often localized by country, to help them determine the source of a leak. It’s not just the ugly brown dots anymore.

  • For almost every movie, they can trace back bootlegs to one or two “cams” (in-theater camcorder recordings) and just a handful of subsequent DVD rips. They assign letter grades to these bootlegs based on quality. And quality matters: a cam which rates a “C” won’t be nearly as much a factor as a “B.”

  • For certain countries, studios will delay theatrical release because of a history of cams originating there. They’ll then release the DVD as soon as possible thereafter.

  • The subtitles issue becomes important because a cam or rip in the wrong language isn’t especially appealing.

  • In Italy, where custom greatly favors dubbing over subtitles, you don’t see much piracy until the local language DVD rip leaks.

Obviously, this is only talking about feature films. American television is at least as important to many international viewers, and much harder to lock down.

And for independent film, it’s a whole other clustermuck. You’re dealing with local distributors, so trying to coordinate any worldwide effort is going to be extremely difficult.

Last night, I was talking with another friend about 3D. It hadn’t occurred to me that a 3D film is probably more difficult to cam. Possible, certainly — it’s a fun mental exercise — but not as easy to get something usable.