Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

by Tim Baysinger via The Wrap

Mark Hamill had a secret role in “The Mandalorian,” that nobody knew about until Friday.

On the final episode of the behind-the-scenes docuseries “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian,” it was revealed that Hamill lent his voice to a character in the Disney+ series. And who he voiced is an Easter Egg hunter’s dream: The droid EV-9D9.

Disney+ last aired a new episode of “The Mandalorian” in December.

Don’t know who that is? “Star Wars” die-hards will tell you EV-9D9 is the same droid in “Return of the Jedi” that was responsible for registering new droid acquisitions in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Even more, the episode in which he turns up — the fifth of the season — takes place on Tatooine, which just so happens to be Luke Skywalker’s home planet.

It’s not the first time Hamill, an accomplished voice actor, has played someone other than his famous Jedi Knight in the galaxy far, far away. He’s voiced alien creatures in both “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” as well as the Sith Lord Darth Bane in the TV series “The Clone Wars.”

Hamill, of course, is also well known for lending his voice to The Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

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by Ben Gilbert via Business Insider

Do you have a Nintendo Switch? Did you also have a Nintendo 3DS or Wii U?

If you answered yes to both of those questions, there’s a possibility your Nintendo Switch account was one of about 300,000 that was breached by hackers.

Nintendo announced the breach in April, but it doubled the number of affected accounts in an update this week “as a result of continuing the investigation.”

The issue applies specifically to anyone who connected their old Nintendo 3DS and Wii U “Nintendo Network ID,” or NNID, to the Switch. Nintendo now uses a system called Nintendo Account, but the company allowed people with existing NNIDs to connect those to their new Nintendo Account.

Nintendo said it no longer allows NNID logins on the Switch.

If your account was breached, you’ll likely know soon by receiving an email like this:

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Beyond sending an email to the account associated with your Nintendo Account, Nintendo is alerting affected users by forcing a password reset.

“As a further precaution,” the company said, “we will soon contact users about resetting passwords for Nintendo Network IDs and Nintendo Accounts that we have reason to believe were accessed without authorization.”

Going forward, the company suggests doing two things to make your accounts more secure.

First, you should change the passwords associated with both your Nintendo Account and your Nintendo Network ID. Second, you should set up two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security on top of a password.

For more information, check out Nintendo’s support page here.

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by Mike Feibus via USA TODAY

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – About a month ago, the internet started to list.

Up to that point, online activity flowed more or less in balance, with work traffic relegated mostly to the business side of the ship. Then social-distancing directives forced much of the serious stuff over to the starboard side. Which is where we watch Netflix.

As it happens, the country’s internet infrastructure has proven robust enough to handle the wholesale shift. Unfortunately, it’s a different story for many homes with older Wi-Fi routers that weren’t equipped to handle the onslaught.

If your work videoconference is struggling to keep pace because it’s crowded out by your spouse’s team meeting and the kids’ virtual classes, then take heart. Help is on the way.

Tomorrow, the FCC is expected to approve a new lane for Wi-Fi traffic, something it hasn’t done in more than two decades. It spans the 6GHz frequency range, which means it’s much faster than both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. Plus, it’s more than twice as wide as both those bands combined. Which means that 6GHz-enabled smartphones and tablets will have plenty of elbow room for all your family’s left-boat and right-boat activities.

You can’t buy electronics with 6GHz Wi-Fi yet. When devices do become available, they’ll be marked with the Wi-Fi 6e designation, which means they support the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard with radios that can communicate on the new band as well as the older, more crowded frequencies.

Expect to start seeing 6GHz devices – as well as routers to connect them – in time for what I’ll call the back-to-homeschool shopping season this summer.

A spectrum that can keep up

It’s not so much the skyrocketing volume of traffic borne out of social distancing that’s stressed older networks so much as the type of traffic. Even before work-from-home directives, Wi-Fi 4 and older-generation routers often had trouble keeping pace in the evening, when family members simultaneously played online games, engaged in social media and streamed videos.

Daytime internet traffic during social isolation has proven to be even more challenging, with multiple family members logged into high-bandwidth videoconferencing sites, with real-time activity flowing in both directions. Wi-Fi 6 laptops and smartphones are built for that. They’ll perform even better on 6GHz spectrum, where they will be free of interference from smart doorbells, thermostats and older tablets, PCs and phones.

These new network demands that Wi-Fi 6e addresses aren’t fleeting. They’ll remain in place long after the current stay-at-home directives are lifted. For one thing, health experts predict we’re in for more social-distancing initiatives over the next year or two in response to the ebb and flow of COVID-19 infections. But even when we’re not trying to flatten the curve, education and productivity are retooling for a future with more homebound activity than before. For one, school boards are expected to incorporate video into classrooms so kids can participate virtually when they’re home sick. With younger children, that likely will force at least one parent to stay behind and work from home.

As well, some professions are already rethinking how they approach face-to-face communication. In healthcare, for example, coronavirus is turning the emerging telemedicine industry on its head. Rather than examine people remotely who aren’t sick enough to go to the hospital, clinicians increasingly are tapping the technology to maintain safe distances between them and contagious patients.

I also believe that America’s culture of showing up to work sick will suffer collateral damage from the coronavirus crisis. We’ll still work, contagious or not. But going forward, we’ll probably do it from home.

Although it wasn’t planned that way, the new 6GHz spectrum couldn’t come at a better time. Because while the hull of our internet infrastructure has proven to be sound enough to handle the stress of an all-hands call to the home side of the deck, older home wireless networks have been exposed.

The upcoming 6GHz Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi 6e, has the raw bandwidth, range and networking intelligence to run smoothly what we want to do and what we need to do. You might call it the new Wi-Fi for the new normal.

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WASHINGTON — It is billed as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text message with friends and family, even in a country that has restricted popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.

But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to U.S. officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.

ToTok, introduced only months ago, was downloaded millions of times from the Apple and Google app stores by users throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. While the majority of its users are in the Emirates, ToTok surged to become one of the most downloaded social apps in the U.S. last week, according to app rankings and App Annie, a research firm.

ToTok amounts to the latest escalation in a digital arms race among wealthy authoritarian governments, interviews with current and former U.S. foreign officials and a forensic investigation showed. The governments are pursuing more effective and convenient methods to spy on foreign adversaries, criminal and terrorist networks, journalists and critics — efforts that have ensnared people all over the world in their surveillance nets.

Persian Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar previously turned to private firms — including Israeli and U.S. contractors — to hack rivals and, increasingly, their own citizens. The development of ToTok, experts said, showed that the governments can cut out the intermediary to spy directly on their targets, who voluntarily, if unwittingly, hand over their information.

A technical analysis and interviews with computer security experts showed that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front company affiliated with DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm where Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives work. DarkMatter is under FBI investigation, according to former employees and law enforcement officials, for possible cybercrimes. The U.S. intelligence assessment and the technical analysis also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm that appears to be tied to DarkMatter.

Pax AI’s headquarters operate from the same Abu Dhabi building as the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency, which until recently was where DarkMatter was based.

The UAE is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against Iran and a close counterterrorism partner. Its ruling family promotes the country as an example of a modern, moderate Arab nation, but it has also been at the forefront of using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent — including hacking Western journalists, emptying the banking accounts of critics, and holding human rights activists in prolonged solitary confinement over Facebook posts.

The government blocks specific functions of apps like WhatsApp and Skype, a reality that has made ToTok particularly appealing in the country. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, recently promoted ToTok in advertisements.

Spokesmen for the CIA and the Emirati government declined to comment. Calls to a phone number for Breej Holding rang unanswered, and Pax employees did not respond to emails and messages. An FBI spokeswoman said that “while the FBI does not comment on specific apps, we always want to make sure to make users aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that these mechanisms can pose.”

When The Times initially contacted Apple and Google representatives with questions about ToTok’s connection to the Emirati government, they said they would investigate. On Thursday, Google removed the app from its Play store after determining ToTok violated unspecified policies. Apple removed ToTok from its App Store on Friday and was still researching the app, a spokesman said. ToTok users who already downloaded the app will still be able to use it until they remove it from their phones.

It was unclear when U.S. intelligence services first determined that ToTok was a tool of Emirati intelligence, but one person familiar with the assessment said that U.S. officials have warned some allies about its dangers. It is not clear whether U.S. officials have confronted their counterparts in the Emirati government about the app. One digital security expert in the Middle East, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss powerful hacking tools, said that senior Emirati officials told him that ToTok was indeed an app developed to track its users in the Emirates and beyond.

ToTok appears to have been relatively easy to develop, according to a forensic analysis performed for The Times by Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who works as a private security researcher. It appears to be a copy of a Chinese messaging app offering free video calls, YeeCall, slightly customized for English and Arabic audiences.

ToTok is a cleverly designed tool for mass surveillance, according to the technical analysis and interviews, in that it functions much like the myriad other Apple and Android apps that track users’ location and contacts.

On the surface, ToTok tracks users’ location by offering an accurate weather forecast. It hunts for new contacts any time a user opens the app, under the pretense that it is helping connect with their friends, much like how Instagram flags Facebook friends. It has access to users’ microphones, cameras, calendar and other phone data. Even its name is an apparent play on the popular Chinese app TikTok.

Though billed as “fast and secure,” ToTok makes no claim of end-to-end encryption, like WhatsApp, Signal or Skype. The only hint that the app discloses user data is buried in the privacy policy: “We may share your personal data with group companies.”

So instead of paying hackers to gain access to a target’s phone — the going rate is up to $2.5 million for a hacking tool that can remotely access Android phones, according to recent price lists — ToTok gave the Emirati government a way to persuade millions of users to hand over their most personal information for free.

“There is a beauty in this approach,” said Wardle, now a security researcher at Jamf, a software company. “You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”

In an intelligence-gathering operation, Wardle said, ToTok would be Phase 1. Much like the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program — which was quietly shut down this year — ToTok allows intelligence analysts to analyze users’ calls and contacts in search of patterns, though its collection is far more invasive. It is unclear whether ToTok allows the Emiratis to record video or audio calls of its users.

Each day, billions of people freely forgo privacy for the convenience of using apps on their phones. The Privacy Project by the Times’ Opinion section published an investigation last week revealing how app makers and third parties track the minute-by-minute movements of mobile phone users.

Private companies collected that data for targeted marketing. In ToTok’s case — according to current and former officials and digital crumbs the developers left behind — much of the information is funneled to intelligence analysts working on behalf of the Emirati state.

In recent months, semiofficial state publications began promoting ToTok as the free app long sought by Emiratis. This month, users of a messaging service in the Emirates requiring paid subscriptions, Botim, received an alert telling users to switch to ToTok — which it called a “free, fast and secure” messaging app. Accompanying the message was a link to install it.

The marketing seems to have paid off.

In reviews, Emiratis expressed gratitude to ToTok’s developers for finally bringing them a free messaging app. “Blessings! Your app is the best App so far that has enable me and my family to stay connected!!!” one wrote. “Kudos,” another wrote. “Finally, an app that works in the UAE!”

ToTok’s popularity extended beyond the Emirates. According to recent Google Play rankings, it was among the top 50 free apps in Saudi Arabia, Britain, India, Sweden and other countries. Some analysts said it was particularly popular in the Middle East because — at least on the surface — it was unaffiliated with a large, powerful nation.

Though the app is a tool for the Emirati government, the exact relationship between the firms behind it is murky. Pax employees are made up of European, Asian and Emirati data scientists, and the company is run by Andrew Jackson, an Irish data scientist who previously worked at Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm that works with the Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies.

Its affiliate company, DarkMatter, is in effect an arm of the Emirati government. Its operations have included hacking government ministries in Iran, Qatar and Turkey; executives of FIFA, the world soccer organization; journalists and dissidents.

Last month, the Emirati government announced that DarkMatter would combine with two dozen other companies to create a defense conglomerate focused on repelling cyberattacks.

The FBI is investigating American employees of DarkMatter for possible cybercrimes, according to people familiar with the investigation. The inquiry intensified after former NSA hackers working for the company grew concerned about its activities and contacted the bureau. Reuters first reported the program they worked on, Project Raven.

At Pax, data scientists openly brag about their work on LinkedIn. One who listed his title as “data science team lead” said he had created a “message intelligence platform” that reads billions of messages to answer four questions: “who you are, what you do, how do you think, and what is your relationship with others.”

“With the answers to these four questions, we know everything about one person,” wrote the data scientist, Jingyan Wang.

Other Pax employees describe their experience creating tools that can search government data sets for faces from billions of video feeds and pinpoint Arabic dialects from transcribed video messages.

None mention an affiliation with ToTok.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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by L.W. ‘Sarge’ Barker, President

We lost one of our own this week. Reuben James Karnagerulz was an outstanding Executive Officer and loyal friend who dedicated the past 6 years of his life to the betterment of Gamer’s Outpost LLC.

Reuben was also a fighter whom I deeply admired for his zest for life. Whether it be a  Zombie Run, Comic Book, Cosplay and or Gaming Convention, Charitable event, or even Storm Chasing, Reuben was always at its core, never allowing health issues to prevent him from enjoying life while always placing others above himself.

For example, Reuben would often game on behalf of the sick kids of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital via the Extra Life Charity for hours on end. And he would not stop until his set monetary goal was accomplished.

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And it was his love of gaming and our overall community which brought Reuben to us in 2013 where he quickly worked his way from the rank of Editor to becoming our Executive Officer of Public Affairs and Marketing. He held this position honorably, even writing our official Mission Statement.

Reuben was the proud winner of our Annual Editor Award in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This program meant a lot to him, so to honor his memory, it has been renamed The Reuben James Karnagerulz Juarez Editor of the Year Awards.

Reuben will never be forgotten by our organization. He holds a special place with us, his “adopted gaming family”. I will miss his “night owl” wisdom when we bantered about the business from late at night into the early hours of the morning.

“Thank you” Reuben. Rest in peace my friend.

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by Zack Sharf via IndieWire

The future of the DC Extended Universe might be a question mark, but Henry Cavill says in a new interview with Men’s Health he will not being giving up the role of Superman so easily. Cavill appeared as the Man of Steel in three DCEU films directed by Zack Snyder: “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Justice League.” Cavill suggests what many fans believe when he says his movies in the DCEU got progressively worse.

According to Cavill, his Superman origin story “Man of Steel” was “a great starting point. If I were to go back, I don’t think I’d change anything.” The actor believes “Batman v Superman” is “very much a Batman movie. And I think that realm of darkness is great for a Batman movie.” As for “Justice League,” Cavill’s thoughts are blunt: “It didn’t work.” “Justice League” was overhauled by Joss Whedon after Snyder left the project due to a family tragedy.

Cavill has not played Superman since “Justice League” and Warner Bros. has not announced any plans for a new Superman movie. The studio has taken different routes with Cavill’s “Justice League” co-stars. Gal Gadot is returning as Wonder Woman in Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984” (June 5, 2020), while Jason Momoa will follow last year’s one billion dollar grosser “Aquaman” with a sequel (December 16, 2022). Ezra Miller’s standalone Flash movie has gone through several different iterations but is currently on track to be directed by “It” filmmaker Andy Muschietti. Affleck exited his role as Batman, but Warner Bros. is rebooting the Caped Crusader with Robert Pattinson and director Matt Reeves for “The Batman” (June 25, 2021). Superman is the only “Justice League” character without a movie in development.

“I’m not just going to sit quietly in the dark as all this stuff is going on,” Cavill told Men’s Health of the rumor his time as Superman has ended. “I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see.”

Next up for Cavill is the Netflix fantasy series “The Witcher,” which debuts December 20. The streaming giant has already picked up the show for a second season.

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by Gregory Wakeman via Yahoo Movies UK

The death of Carrie Fisher at the age of just 60 in December, 2016, was a tragedy that rocked the world of cinema.

It was especially tragic for Star Wars fans because, while Fisher returned as Leia Organa in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it has long been rumoured that the beloved character would feature much more prominently in the ninth installment, which we now know is called The Rise Of Skywalker. 

Leia will still be in The Rise Of Skywalker, though, as J.J. Abrams is going to incorporate deleted scenes from The Force Awakens, which he also co-wrote and directed, into the blockbuster.

Abrams has now opened up about this process, saying Leia’s involvement is uncanny, while insisting that they still got to tell her story in the way that they’d originally envisioned.

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“There are scenes where she’s interacting with other characters in a way that is uncanny,” Abrams told Total Film. “Hopefully, if it works, it will be an invisible thing and if you didn’t know, you would never know.”

“But we got to tell the story with Leia that we would have told had Carrie lived. And that’s kind of incredible.”

Of course, we now don’t have that long to see what Abrams does with both Leia Organa and Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, as the ninth and concluding part of the Skywalker saga is going to be released on December 20th.

The Rise Of Skywalker will revolve around Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Cameron coming together to take on Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and the remaining First Order.

It’ll also be the last big-screen Star Wars story we see for a while as Disney have already revealed that the franchise is going to go on hiatus after its release.

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Sonic

by Connor Sheridan via Total Film Magazine

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie’s redesigned protagonist appears to have been revealed.

His new look seems to be a heck of a lot closer to the speedy blue mammal you know from the games, after an early trailer promoted a vocal backlash from fans. Physical advertisements for the movie that show Sonic with a much less frighteningly human head have been spotted by eagle-eyed Twitter users. In fact, if you didn’t look too close, you might think it was just an extra-furry version of Modern Sonic.

Tails’ Channel | Sonic the Hedgehog News & Updates@TailsChannel

Here’s a wider picture of the allegedly leaked redesigned standee image. Source is also unconfirmed.

View image on Twitter
The original movie design for Sonic the Hedgehog gave him an upsettingly human-looking face (and teeth), giving him the overall effect of being a muscular child in a furry blue onesie. The redesign restores his skinny limbs, his white gloves, and his trademark lopsided smirk. It almost gives him back his old connected goggle eyes, though it doesn’t go quite that far into cartoon territory. The biggest remaining difference from the game version now, aside from having individually rendered fur/quills, is that his arms are still blue.

No official announcements have been made about Sonic’s new look so far, aside from the movie’s producer saying that “the fans have a voice in this too”, but the appearance in that leak lines up with another one spotted in October.

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at this point its going to spread like wildfire, i posted the image to the public first and i didn’t take a photo.

View image on Twitter
The Sonic the Hedgehog movie was originally due to hit theaters this week, but it was delayed because of the overwhelmingly negative response fans had for the original design. It looks like fans are much more pleased with the new version, so hopefully the movie as a whole will be similarly well received when it hits theaters on February 14, 2020.

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by Cameron LeBlanc via Fatherly

If you’re a Netflix subscriber who relies on an older Samsung TV or Roku streaming device, your days of watching Stranger Things could be numbered if you don’t invest in some new equipment.

On December 1, certain older Samsung TV’s and Roku streaming devices will lose access to the streamer due to “technical limitations.” If your device is affected, you’ve likely seen this error message and/or received an email from Netflix warning you of the impending loss of compatibility.

Unfortunately for those of us trying to understand the situation, no one seems to understand what, exactly, those “technical limitations” are. It could be that they don’t want to dedicate developer time and effort to writing software for devices that are no longer widely used. It could be a conspiracy to sell new equipment. It could be something entirely different. But the fact that none of the three companies is eager to provide exonerating details suggests that something less than consumer-friendly is afoot.

Clues are, unfortunately, scant. Engadget says that if your Roku can’t autoplay the next episode in a series—a key feature that keeps people watching passively—it will no longer be supported.

A Roku spokesperson told Digital Trends that the Roku 2050X, Roku 2100X, Roku 2000C, Roku HD Player, Roku SD Player, Roku XR Player, Roku XD Player are among the devices affected. It’s unclear if this is a complete list.

Samsung has been even less specific, stating on its website just that “Some older Samsung smart TV’s are affected by this change.”

If you lose access to the streamer, you can check out Netflix’s list of supported devices. Because unfair as it may be, dropping some cash on a new streaming device is probably worth it if you’re already invested in the latest season of The Great British Baking Show or any other the thousands of other Netflix titles.

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by Janko Roettgers via Variety

Microsoft has teamed up with Warner Bros. to store a copy of the 1978 movie “Superman” on a small glass disc about the size of a coaster. The collaboration, which will be officially unveiled at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida Monday, is a first test case for a new storage technology that could eventually help safeguard Hollywood’s movies and TV shows, as well as many other forms of data, for centuries to come.

“Glass has a very, very long lifetime,” said Microsoft Research principal researcher Ant Rowstron in a recent conversation with Variety. “Thousands of years.”

The piece of silica glass storing the 1978 “Superman” movie, measuring 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm. The glass contains 75.6 GB of data plus error redundancy codes.

Microsoft began to investigate glass as a storage medium in 2016 in partnership with the University of Southampton Optoelectonics Research Centre. The goal of these efforts, dubbed “Project Silica,” is to find a new storage medium optimized for what industry insiders like to call cold data — the type of data you likely won’t need to access for months, years, or even decades. It’s data that doesn’t need to sit on a server, ready to be used 24/7, but that is kept in a vault, away from anything that could corrupt it.

Turns out that Warner Bros. has quite a bit of this kind of cold data. Founded in the 1920s, the studio has been safekeeping original celluloid film reels, audio from 1940s radio shows and much more, for decades. Think classics like “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz” or “Looney Tunes” cartoons.

Warner Bros. stores film in cold storage vaults, where temperature and humidity are tightly controlled and air sniffers look for signs of chemical decomposition that could signal problems

“Our mission is to preserve those original assets in perpetuity,” said Brad Collar, who is leading these efforts at Warner Bros. as the studio’s senior vice president of global archives and media engineering. And while the studio is deeply invested in these classics, it also keeps adding an ever-increasing number of modern assets to its archives, ranging from digitally-shot films and television episodes to newer forms of entertainment, including video games.

To date, the Warner Bros. archive contains some 20 million assets, with tens of thousands of new items being added every year. Each of them is being stored in multiple locations, explained Collar. “We want to have more than one copy.”

And to this date, Warner Bros. is storing every single movie and TV show on film, even if they’re being shot digitally. For archival purposes, the studio splits a film into its CYMK color components, resulting in three distinct copies that are then written on black-and-white film. The results are being stored away in a cold vault, which is kept between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hollywood studios have been storing films like this for decades, explained Collar. “This process is tried and true.” And it works: When Warner Bros. recently decided to reissue “The Wizard of Oz” in 4K, employees just had to go back into the studio’s vault, retrieve those 3 color-isolated copies, digitize each, and reassemble them to the color master copy. “It is an evolved process,” said Collar.

However, the process doesn’t work for all kinds of assets. Video games, for instance, need to be stored digitally. Light field video captures, holograms, or whatever else the future may hold for next-generation entertainment, will likely also require different solutions. And with recent visual improvements like 4K and HDR, there is an ever-increasing need for petabytes of storage, said Warner Bros. chief technology officer Vicky Colf. “It’s the quality of the content that we are dealing with.”

The studio has been researching novel storage solutions for some time. When Collar first heard about Microsoft’s Project Silica, he was instantly intrigued. After all, the idea to store media on glass sounded awfully familiar: Collar had stumbled across old audio recordings in Warner’s archives a while back, which were being stored on glass discs slightly larger than regular vinyl records.

His team had to first find special players to access the recordings, but was then able to digitize them, unlocking a “Superman” radio play from the 1940s. So when the Warner started talking to Microsoft about collaborating on Project Silica, it was immediately clear that “Superman” was the right film to store on glass. Said Collar: “It’s a beautiful full circle.”

Warner Bros. has been storing all of its films and TV shows, even those shot in digital formats, on 35mm film.

But Microsoft’s approach is based on very different technology than what was used by 1940s-era archivists. Project Silica relies on lasers similar to those used for Lasik eye surgeries to burn small geometrical shapes, also known as voxels, into the glass. “We can encode multiple bits in each voxel,” explained Rowstron. And unlike traditional optical media like CDs or DVDs, Project Silica actually encodes data in multiple layers. Microsoft used 74 such layers to capture “Superman” in glass, but has since advanced the technology to add many more layers.

Once data is stored this way, it can be accessed by shining light through the glass disc, and capturing it with microscope-like readers. In fact, in Project Silica’s early days, the company simply bought off-the-shelf microscopes for this process, which also benefits from machine learning to make sense of the captured light.

The process of storing and accessing data with Project Silica is still in early stages, but it works: After burning the copy of “Superman,” Collar’s team checked to make sure the data was not corrupted. “We did a bit-by-bit check,” he said. The result: The movie was there, safe for future generations. “We have that glass now here in our vaults,” he said.

Microsoft also did extensive tests to make sure that Project Silica storage media didn’t easily damage. “We baked it in very, very hot ovens,” said Rowstron. His team submerged the glass in boiling water, microwaved it, and even scratched it with steel wool — all without any damage to the stored data. Sure, it is breakable if you try hard enough, admitted Rowstron. “If you take a hammer to it, you can smash glass.” But absent of such brute force, the medium promises to be very, very safe, he argued: “I feel very confident in it.”

And while Microsoft partnered with Warner Bros. for this first proof-of-concept, the use cases for Project Silica may ultimately extend far beyond Hollywood. Other known examples for cold data include medical data and banking information, explained Rowstron, adding that many other applications may not even be known yet.

To illustrate the potential, Rowstron referenced the way consumers used to treat photos taken on their phones. A few years ago, before cloud storage became ubiquitous, a consumer may have taken a burst of photos of one motive, and then deleted all but one of those pictures. Fast forward a few years, and machine learning algorithms have gotten really good at combining these burst photo sequences, and turning them into better-looking composite images. “There is a lot of value to keep data around,” Rowstron said.

This also explains why Microsoft is interested in storage solutions like Project Silica to begin with. The company’s own Azure cloud business already safekeeps vast amounts of data for its customers, including both “hot,” frequently accessed data, as well as “cold” data. For some of its long-term storage needs, Azure still uses tape, which frequently has to be checked, and even re-copied, to maintain data integrity. Glass could one day be a more secure solution to safekeep data for the company and its customers.

Warner Bros. isn’t expected to replace its existing archival strategy entirely with glass any time soon, said Colf. “It’s just another arrow in our quiver,” she said. “We hope that film is an option for us for many years to come.”

There is also still a lot of work to be done before Project Silica can become a real product. Read- and write-operations need to be unified in a single device, and the amount of data stored on one piece of glass needs to increase. Microsoft isn’t revealing how much it has been able to squeeze onto the latest generations of the medium, but it is apparently not in the terabyte range just yet. Still, Rowstron is confident that Project Silica will lead to a break-through in storage technology. “I believe the future is glass,” he said.

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