Real Life DRM Problems: Atlantis the Lost Empire DVD

Most of the time I just want to casually watch a movie. I don’t need to own every DVD I have a passing interest in. I even have trouble watching movies I really love more than once. Back in 2001, I was browsing the Michigan Ave Borders in Chicago and found the Atlantis the Lost Empire Illustrated Script. I discovered after a few pages that one of my favorite comic book artists, Mike Mignola, designed all the characters and mecha. Later, in Hollywood Video I rented the non-special edition DVD. When I watched the disc through my home theater set up, I was disappointed that its Dolby Digital soundtrack was broken.

Disney’s Atlantis the Lost Empire was one of a few discs at the time that were mastered with bad audio flags (including Pearl Harbor and Jurassic Park 3), that in combination with my Onkyo 7.1 AV receiver output a few seconds of audio mixed with a few seconds of silence every few seconds (some Denon receivers had the same problem).

Disney DVD’s solution was to try a different receiver. Onkyo’s solution was to avoid Dolby Digital and run the DTS track, only available on the $40, non-rentable Atlantis Special Edition 2-disc set. Both of these solutions were unacceptable. I turned to the internet for answers. I found you could re-encode the Dolby Digital track with proper flags with Apple’s DVD Studio Pro. So all I had to do was grab the separate video and audio tracks from the disc, repair the audio and then burn the fixed movie to a DVD-R.

Defeating a commercial DVD’s CSS DRM is the first problem you’ll hit in this process. Fitting a feature film onto a single layer DVD-R is another problem you will run into while making a backup of any commercial DVD. Luckily, the Atlantis disc crammed both the widescreen and pan and scan versions of the animated feature on the same disc. The widescreen extraction could easily fit on a DVD-R.

DVD Studio Pro needed the original AC3 audio from the MPEG-2 stream. I demuxed the audio and video into different streams or tracks. I then imported the tracks into DVD Studio Pro. I left the video untouched. The Dolby Digital soundtrack required pointing the six separate channels to the correct speakers in DVD Studio Pro’s GUI (L, C, R, LS, RS, Sub). DVD Studio Pro produced a new MPEG-2 stream and burned a DVD-R.

The re-encoded DVD-R played perfectly. The movie regained its full surround sound majesty in my home theater. Without the offending flags from the original Dolby Digital stream, my flagship Onkyo TX-DS989 AV Receiver had no problem. I enjoyed the movie I rented for $4.

My $4 should have gone down the drain with this defective disc. But, through many hours of my valuable time and many expensive software and hardware resources, I was able to enjoy a very mediocre animated feature from Disney’s catalog.

Large corporations screw up and they don’t like to publicize it. Personal DIY can fix these screw ups. Part of this DIY process, defeating DVD’s DRM protection, was criminal. I don’t feel like what I did was theft. I just wanted to watch the movie I paid for.

14 thoughts on “Real Life DRM Problems: Atlantis the Lost Empire DVD

  • April 13, 2006 at 3:03 am
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    Kudos to you! I wanted to loan a R1 DVD to a friend who has a
    difficult-to-hack R2 DVD player, so it was easier to copy the main
    VOB to a DVD-R and record it as a region-free disc that just
    happens to play in NTSC.

    Reply
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  • April 13, 2006 at 11:58 am
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    I hope you get arrested!

    And the EFF and ACLU rally behind your cause, it goes all the way to the Suprreme Court, and new rules of fair use are established.

    (Fat chance with our corporate-lackey legislators and jurists).

    Reply
  • April 13, 2006 at 2:30 pm
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    Of course, to be perfectly legal and non-thefty you threw away the disc you made when you returned the DVD to Hollywood Video, right? Riiiiiight? Wink, nod. Etc.

    Reply
  • April 13, 2006 at 3:13 pm
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    I’ve moved houses twice since I made the DVD-R, so it’s either lost or in some dusty box. Throwing it away is only the ethical thing to do. The right to back up a copy of software you own is only expressly given in some old PC and Mac software EULAs. The problem is violating CSS in the first place to extract the movie and fix it. The content creator’s argument is valid, you shouldn’t steal their stuff. How are they to know if after the DVD is cracked whether you’ll watch it once, put up a torrent on the intertron, or go sell bootlegs at a flea market? It’s the same violation you must make to load a DVD onto any hard disk based movie jukebox, from an HTPC to an iPod to a PSP. Doesn’t Sony distribute software to RIP movies to PSP video? The only way the content providers listen is through their bottom line. If your tired of buying your favorite movies on new, more convenient formats, then stop buying them. It worked with UMD.

    My point of the post is sometimes you have to fix things yourself. Dolby admitted to a software bug that led to the problem, that was quickly fixed, but some titles got pressed. To this day I have to assume the mentioned DVDs were not recalled, remastered and redistributed fixed. Onkyo promised an update but one never came for my receiver.

    I might go rent Atlantis again just to see if I still have the same problem 5 years later. Better yet why doesn’t everybody go rent it and see if you get the same result. This problem was not confined to just Onkyo receivers of that vintage, Denon was affected too.

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  • April 13, 2006 at 3:21 pm
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    > Better yet why doesn’t everybody go rent it and see if you get the same result.

    What, are you a shill for this crappy movie?

    Reply
  • April 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm
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    I’m just curious if the problem is still relevant. Jeez, Fuzzy, quit throwing pennies at me.

    Reply
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  • October 11, 2007 at 8:45 am
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    I love blogs like this one. You are 100% on point. Do I detect the least bit of sarcasm in your writing (re: %RIRLE%)? Keep up the good work, I was looking around for information about Movie dvd video rental when I say a link to here.

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  • December 9, 2007 at 10:19 pm
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    That reminds me – I have a R4 copy of Jabberwocky that’s got a completely broken AC3 track – all the dialogue comes from the right speaker. I should really get around to re-encoding it so that it’s not painful to watch. I’m sure Columbia are very interested in fixing the problem… 😛

    Reply

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