Watermarking is an old technique which content owners use to discourage the unauthorized use of their content. Image watermarking techniques can be used in video frames as well, because a video asset considered a collection of video frames. With the arrival of OTT platforms, forensic watermarking in video assets has become a go-to rule for premium content owners, as piracy is rampant in this space.
The process of inserting identifiable data within each frame of the unique copy of a video file is known as invisible or forensic watermarking. Such a watermark is a code or collection of characters encoded in a digital document, video, audio, image, or program that allows the content owner, the user, and the playback session among other indicators to be uniquely identified.
The test of a good forensic watermark rests on the principle that it should stay undetectable, store large enough payload, and be impossible to remove without compromising the host video beyond recognition. Such a watermark should make security as its paramount concern in the sense that hackers cannot tamper it easily. In the digital rights management (DRM) business, video watermarking has become popular ever since the OTT sector has expanded to cover all geographies in the world.
There are multiple reasons why forensic watermarking in used by premium content owners and OTT platforms. For example, every big media player wants to monitor its audience through analytics and other means. One way to measure audience engagement is by embedding the audio on TV channels with channel names. The device at the viewer’s end can decrypt this code and send it to a monitoring company, which then collates this data to decide the size of audience.
Whenever a Hollywood film is released, it is sent as preview or pre-release copies to media outlets, bloggers, and independent viewers. This limited distribution is fraught with dangers, as the film can reach the piracy ecosystem even before it has hit theaters. Production houses bank on forensic watermarks in such cases when it is not possible to send out DRM protected content.
Forensic watermarks become a handy tool to beat illegal recordings in movie theaters, which add information like screen time and theater IDs in watermarks. In the event of an illegal recording taking place in cinemas, they can extract watermarks from pirated copies to know the time and place of recording.
On the other hand, in the case of visible video watermarking, the video asset has a loud logo which apart from adding to the branding of the content owner also deters base users from indulging in content copying and reselling.