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by Archives October 26, 2005

Downloading movies from peer-to-peer networks can be confusing. CAM, TS, TC, WP, SCR…what the hell do all these acronyms mean? Even if you are able to find what you’re looking for, half of the time movies won’t play correctly. This guide will shed some light on all those arcane terms and help you set up your computer to play these movies.

Cams (CAM) are usually the first version to hit the internet. This is bootlegging at its most basic. It involves someone sneaking a camcorder into a movie theatre to record the movie, usually without so much as a tripod. The video is usually grainy, shaky, poorly framed and obscured by seats and theatregoers. The sound is recorded with the camcorder’s microphone, so it is usually of poor quality and includes people talking and laughing throughout the movie.

Telesyncs (TS) usually appear late Sunday or early Monday after a film is released. Telesyncs are like high quality cams. They are usually recorded in an empty theatre or from the projection booth with a good camera. The sound is usually directly recorded from the source, though some telesyncs record sound through an FM radio transmission intended for the hearing-impaired, or with a professional microphone. The result is decent video quality with good sound.

A telecine (TC) is a high-quality digital copy of a movie from an analog reel. This is done using a specialized machine. Telecines usually have excellent sound and video but are inferior to DVDs. Telecines were once rare but are quickly becoming popular.

Workprints (WP) are unfinished versions of the film created by the studio. They often have content that will eventually be cut from the theatrical release. Sometimes they are missing certain effects and may include a timer. Workprints may also include a watermark: a visible or invisible message that contains information about the workprint’s source.

Screeners (SCR) are advance releases of films sent to industry insiders. They almost always include an anti-piracy text overlay and sometimes include scenes in black-and-white. Screeners are usually the same quality as a DVD-Rip.

DVD-Rips (DVD-R) are copied directly from the retail DVD. These sometimes appear before the retail release date because workers in DVD production facilities smuggle copies out. A DVD-Rip may just be a compressed video file of the main feature or it may be a complete copy of the DVD including menus, subtitles, extras, etc. The two can be differentiated by their file size: The former weighs in at around 700-800 MB and the latter at 4000+ MB. These releases are generally of the highest quality, so they usually replace any prior releases.
When you try to play a file and all you get is a black screen and audio, chances are you’re missing a codec. The most popular codec is XviD. XviD is a free and open sources codec that allows for near DVD quality at a fraction of the file size. DivX was the predecessor to XviD but has been in decline due to the fact that it is commercial software. XviD and DivX were both built off the same base of open source code and they are very similar. All you have to do is run the setup file on your computer and your default media player should now be able to play the movies in question.

You’ll also need a MPEG-2 codec or player for VCDs, SVCDs and complete DVDs. I recommend using a player specifically designed for MPEG-2 rather than simply a codec, as the latter tend to be buggy and missing essential features. My preferred commercial player is PowerDVD. I also list a good free open-source MPEG-2 player as my Free Application O’ the Week.

Next week I’ll cover downloading TV shows and anime.

Link O’ the Week:
One of the best sources for P2P news, guides, software and support.

Webcomic O’ the Week:
Bigger Than Cheeses by Desmond Seah
It’s funny because it’s offensive.

Free Application O’ the Week:
An open-source MPEG-2 player with skins and lots of features.

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