Pirated movie release types

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With regard to warez groups or organized piracy groups, a movie is usually released in several formats and different versions because the primary sources used by a group for a particular movie may vary. Pirated movies are primarily released by these organized groups, commonly referred to as scene groups or warez groups. The first release of a movie is usually of a lower quality (due to a lack of sources), and is eventually replaced with higher-quality releases as better sources become available.


Cam releases were the early attempts at movie piracy which were implemented by recording the on-screen projection of a movie in a cinema. This enabled groups to pirate movies which were in their theatrical period (not released for personal entertainment). But because these releases often suffered distinctly low quality and required undetected videotaping in movie theaters, alternative methods were sought.

Beginning in 1998, feature films began to be released on the internet by warez groups prior to their theatrical release. These pirated versions usually came in the form of VCD or SVCD. A prime example was the release of American Pie.[1] This is notable for three reasons:

  1. It was released in an uncensored workprint format. The later theatrical release was cut down by several minutes and had scenes reworked to avoid nudity to pass MPAA guidelines.
  2. It was released nearly two months prior to its release in theaters (CNN Headline News reported on its early release).[citation needed]
  3. It was listed by the movie company as one of the reasons it released an unrated DVD edition.[citation needed]

In October 1999, DeCSS was released. This program allowed anyone to remove the CSS encryption on a DVD. Although its authors only intended the software to be used for playback purposes,[citation needed] it also meant that one could decode the content perfectly for ripping; combined with the DivX 3.11 Alpha codec released shortly after, the new codec increased video quality from near VHS to almost DVD quality when encoding from a DVD source.

The early DivX releases were mostly internal for group use, but once the codec spread, it became accepted as a standard and quickly became the most widely used format for the scene. With help from associates who either worked for a movie theater, movie production company, or video rental company, groups were supplied with massive amounts of material, and new releases began appearing at a very fast pace. When version 4.0 of DivX was released, the codec went commercial and the need for a free codec, Xvid (then called "XviD", "DivX" backwards), was created. Today, Xvid has replaced DivX almost entirely. Although the DivX codec has evolved from version 4 to 10.6 during this time, it is banned[2] in the warez scene due to its commercial nature.

In February 2012, a consortium of popular piracy groups officially announced x264, the free H.264 codec, as the new standard for releases,[3] replacing the previous format, which was Xvid wrapped in an AVI container. The move to H.264 also obsoletes AVI in favor of MP4 and Matroska, although AVI video files are still common.

Release formats[edit]

Below is a table of pirated movie release types along with respective sources, ranging from the lowest quality to the highest. Scene rules define in which format and way each release type is to be packaged and distributed.[4]

Type Label Rarity
Cam[5] CAMRip
Common; Quality issues make this an unpopular format
A copy made in a cinema using a camcorder or mobile phone. The sound source is the camera microphone. Cam rips can quickly appear online after the first preview or premiere of the film. The quality ranges from terrible to very good, depending on the group of persons performing the recording and the resolution of the camera used. The main disadvantage of this is the sound quality. The microphone does not only record the sound from the movie, but also the background sound in the cinema. The camera can also record movements and audio of the audience in the theater, for instance, when someone stands up in front of the screen, or when the audience laughs at a funny moment in the movie.
Telesync[6] TS
Very common
A telesync (TS) is a bootleg recording of a film recorded in a movie theater, sometimes filmed using a professional camera on a tripod in the projection booth. The main difference between a CAM and TS copy is that the audio of a TS is captured with a direct connection to the sound source (often an FM microbroadcast provided for the hearing-impaired, or from a drive-in theater). Often, a cam is mislabeled as a telesync.
Workprint[5] WP[7]
Very rare
A copy made from an unfinished version of a film produced by the studio. Typically a workprint has missing effects and overlays, and often differs from its theatrical release. Some workprints have a time index marker running in a corner or on the top edge; some may also include a watermark. A workprint might be an uncut version, and missing some material that would appear in the final movie (or including scenes later cut).
Telecine[5] TC
Fairly rare; losing popularity due to R5 releases
A copy captured from a film print using a machine that transfers the movie from its analog reel to digital format. These were rare because telecine machines for making these prints were very costly and very large. However, they have recently become much more common. Telecine has basically the same quality as DVD, since the technique is same as digitizing the actual film to DVD. However, the result is inferior since the source material is usually a lower quality copy reel. Telecine machines usually cause a slight left-right jitter in the picture and have inferior color levels compared to DVD.
Pay-Per-View Rip[8] PPV
PPVRips come from Pay-Per-View sources. All the PPVRip releases are brand new movies which have not yet been released to Screener or DVD, but are available for viewing by hotel customers.
Screener[5] SCR
Very common
These are early DVD or BD releases of the theatrical version of a film, typically sent to movie reviewers, Academy members, and executives for review purposes. A screener normally has a message overlaid on its picture, with wording similar to: "The film you are watching is a promotional copy. If you purchased this film at a retail store, please contact 1-800-NO-COPIES to report it." or more commonly if released for awards consideration simply, "FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION." Apart from this, some movie studios release their screeners with a number of scenes of varying duration shown in black-and-white. Aside from this message, and the occasional B&W scenes, screeners are normally of only slightly lower quality than a retail DVD-Rip, due to the smaller investment in DVD mastering for the limited run. Some screener rips with the overlay message get cropped to remove the message and get released mislabeled as DVD-Rips.

Note: Screeners make a small exception here—since the content may differ from a retail version, it can be considered as lower quality than a DVD-Rip (even if the screener in question was sourced from a DVD).

Digital Distribution Copy or
Downloadable/Direct Digital Content[9]
A digital distribution copy (DDC) is basically the same as a Screener, but sent digitally (FTP, HTTP, etc.) to companies instead of via the postal system. This makes distribution cheaper. Its quality is lower than one of a R5, but higher than a Cam or Telesync.

In the warez scene DDC refers to Downloadable/Direct Digital Content which is not freely available.

R5[10] R5
Very common
The R5 is a retail DVD from region 5. Region 5 consists of Russia, the Indian subcontinent, most of Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia. R5 releases differ from normal releases in that they are a direct Telecine transfer of the film without any of the image processing. If the DVD does not contain an English-language audio track, the R5 video is synced to a previously released English audio track. Then a LiNE tag is added.[11] This means that the sound often is not as good as DVD-Rips. To account for the lesser audio quality typically present in R5 releases, some release groups take the high quality Russian or Ukrainian 5.1 channel audio track included with the R5 DVD and modify it with audio editing software. They remove the non-English spoken portion of the audio and sync the remaining portion, which contains high quality sound effects and music with a previously recorded source of English vocals usually taken from a LiNE tagged release. The result of this process is an almost retail DVD quality surround sound audio track which is included in the movie release. Releases of this type are normally tagged AC3.5.1.HQ and details about what was done to the audio track as well as the video are present in the release notes accompanying the pirated movie.[12]

The other regions are:

  • R0 No Region Coding
  • R1 United States of America, Canada
  • R2 Europe, including Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Israel, Malaysia and South Africa
  • R3 Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
  • R4 Australia and New Zealand, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America
  • R5 India, Africa (except Egypt, South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho), Russia and the Post-Soviet states
  • R6 Peoples Republic of China
  • R7 Reserved for future use, MPAA-related DVDs and "media copies" of pre-releases in Asia
  • R8 Airlines/Cruise Ships
  • R9 Expansion (often used as region free)
DVD-Rip DVDRip Very common
A final retail version of a film, typically released before it is available outside its originating region. Often after one group of pirates releases a high-quality DVD-Rip, the "race" to release that film will stop. The release is an AVI file and uses the Xvid codec (earlier DivX) for video, and mp3 or AC3 for audio. Because of their high quality, DVD-Rips generally replace any earlier copies that may already have been circulating. Widescreen DVDs used to be indicated as WS.DVDRip.
DVD-R DVDR,[13] DVD-Full, Full-Rip, ISO rip, lossless rip, untouched rip, DVD-5/DVD-9 Very common
A final retail version of a film in DVD format, generally a complete copy from the original DVD. If the original DVD is released in the DVD-9 format, however, extras might be removed and/or the video re-encoded to make the image fit the less expensive for burning and quicker to download DVD-5 format. DVD-R releases often accompany DVD-Rips. DVD-R rips are larger in size, generally filling up the 4.37 or 7.95 GiB provided by DVD-5 and DVD-9 respectively. Untouched or lossless rips in the strictest sense are 1:1 rips of the source, with nothing removed or changed, though often the definition is lightened to include DVDs which have not been transcoded, and no features were removed from the user's perspective, removing only restrictions and possible nuisances such as copyright warnings and movie previews.
Extremely common
TVRip is a capture source from an analog capture card (coaxial/composite/s-video connection). Digital satellite rip (DSR, also called SATRip) is a rip that is captured from a non-standard definition digital source like satellite. HDTV or PDTV or DTH (Direct To Home) rips often come from Over-the-Air transmissions. With an HDTV source, the quality can sometimes even surpass DVD. Movies in this format are starting to grow in popularity.

Analog, DSR, and PDTV sources are often re-encoded to 512×384 if fullscreen, 720x404 if widescreen. HDTV sources are re-encoded to multiple resolutions such as 720x404 (360p), 960×540 (540p), 1280×720 (720p), and 1920x1080 (1080p) at various file sizes for pirated releases. They can be progressive scan captured or not (480i digital transmission).

Common, becoming more common
VODRip stands for Video-On-Demand Rip. This can be done by recording or capturing a video/movie from an On-Demand service such as through a cable or satellite TV service. Most services will state that ripping or capturing films is a breach of their use policy, but it is becoming more and more popular as it requires little technology or setup. There are many online On-Demand services that would not require one to connect their TV and computer. It can be done by using software to identify the video source address and downloading it as a video file which is often the method that bears the best quality end result. However, some people have used screen cams which effectively record, like a video camera, what is on a certain part of the computer screen, but does so internally, making the quality not of HD quality, but nevertheless significantly better than a Cam or Telesync version filmed from a cinema, TV or computer screen.
WEB (Scene)
Common, becoming more common
This is a movie or TV show downloaded via an online distribution website, such as iTunes. The quality is quite good since they are not re-encoded. The video (H.264) and audio (AC3/AAC) streams are usually extracted from the iTunes or AmazonVideo file and then remuxed into a MKV container without sacrificing quality.

An advantage with these releases is that they mostly have no network logos on screen, just like BD/DVDRips. HDRip is an encoded version of any HD source, like BRRip, BDRip or HDTV, into a smaller file size. Although the original source might be in a higher resolution, scene groups often transcode the rips to 720p.

Common, WEB-DL is preferred
This is a file losslessly ripped from a streaming service, such as Hulu, Crunchyroll, DiscoveryGO, BBC iPlayer, etc. The quality is sometimes comparable or even superior to WEB-DL, but bitrates are usually lower to save on streaming bandwidth (for example, Hulu WEBRips frequently have superior picture quality over iTunes WEB-DL, but inferior audio, AAC 2.0 vs DD 5.1). The file is often extracted using the HLS or RTMP/E protocols and remuxed from a TS, MP4 or FLV container to MKV.
Common, WEBRip/WEB-DL is preferred
This is a rip created by capturing video from a DRM-enabled streaming service, such as Amazon Instant or Netflix. Quality can range from mediocre (comparable with low quality XVID encodes) to excellent (comparable with high quality BR encodes). Essentially, the quality of the image obtained depends on internet connection speed and the specifications of the recording machine.
BluRay/BD/BRRip BDRip
Blu-Ray / BluRay / BLURAY

BD5/BD9 (also known as BD25/BD50)

Very Common, becoming even more common
Similar to DVD-Rip, only the source is a Blu-ray Disc. A BD/BRRip in DVD-Rip size often looks better than a same-size DVD rip because encoders have better source material. A common misconception among downloaders is that BDRip and BRRip are the same thing. They differ in that a BDRip comes directly from the Blu-ray source, while a BRRip is encoded from a pre-release, usually from a 1080p BDRip from another group. BDRips are available in DVD-Rip sized releases (commonly 700 MB and 1.4 GB) encoded in Xvid or x264, as well as larger DVD5 or DVD9 (often 4.5 GB or larger, depending on length and quality) sized releases encoded in x264.

BD5 or BD9 are also available, which are slightly smaller than their counterpart DVD5/DVD9 releases. They are AVCHD compatible using the BD folder structure, and are intended to be burnt onto DVDs to play in AVCHD compatible Blu-ray players. More recent types, probably associated with the use of newsgroups and cheaper storage at home, are complete Blu-ray copies (images). They are commonly referred to as BD25 or BD50 and may or may not be remuxed (but not transcoded). (Remuxing is keeping the original video, but eliminating audio tracks, and/or adding audio tracks in other languages.)

BD/BRRips come in various versions: the m-720p (or mini 720p), which is a compressed version of a 720p and usually weighs around 2–3 GB; the 720p, which usually weighs around 4–7 GB and is the most downloaded form of BDRip; the m-1080p (or mini 1080p), which usually weighs a little bit more than 720p; and the 1080p, which can weigh from 8 GB to sizes as big as 40–60 GB. There are also mHD (or mini HD) versions available, which are encoded in lower resolution and are smaller in size.

Release Terminology[edit]

The acronym HC in some releases refers to Hard Coded subtitles.

The notation NF in some releases refers to Netflix.


  1. ^ "Video CD: American Pie". [dead link] iSONews.
  2. ^ "The XviD Releasing Standards 2005". 
  3. ^ "H.264 Codec Now the 'Official' Standard". 
  4. ^ "AfterDawn Glossary". 
  5. ^ a b c d VCDQuality Terms – Lists recent video releases in the warez scene.
  6. ^ Telesync – AfterDawn: Glossary of technology terms & acronyms
  7. ^ "What does "WP" mean?". Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  8. ^ "What is PPVRip?". 
  9. ^ "Music_Video_Council_Rules_v6.0-MVC". 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2013-01-22. "DDC" refers to Downloadable/Direct Digital Content which is not freely available 
  10. ^ Wes Finley-Price – CNN.com Webmaster (2009-11-09). "Pirated copy of District 9 posted online". scitech.blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  11. ^ "What does "R5" mean?". Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  12. ^ "Man.on.a.Ledge.2012.R5.DVDRip.XviD.AC3.5.1.HQ.Hive-CM8.nfo". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  13. ^ "The 2009 DVDR releasing standards". [dead link] THE.2009.DVDR.RELEASING.STANDARDS-TDRS2K9
  14. ^ "TV release rules v1.5 (2002-11-16)". Archived from the original on 2016-01-19. 
  15. ^ "The BDR releasing standards".  THE.2010.BDR.RELEASING.STANDARDS