How Star Wars: The Force Awakens was Kept Secure before Release

January 15, 2016 by Ixia Blog Team

Would you have bet on an early leak of the new Star Wars online before the release date last month? I hesitantly made a bet with a coworker that they would find a way to keep the film secure until release. He was playing the odds that such an anticipated release would get out early. Thankfully for Disney (and me), it was several days after the release that the first copies appeared online. Even then, the files were only hand held camera copies filmed in a theater and not a true digital copy. I had won a free lunch for myself, but it made me wonder, how did they keep the most sought after digital file in the world from leaking out? Over the last few weeks I have been casually poking around and here is what I found out:Star Wars 2016

  • Film, not digital: Director J. J. Abrams has a fondness for the look and feel of old-school film . This has the added benefit of being very hard to steal electronically, at least until the movie is converted into digital form for editing later in the process.
  • Early on-site editing: After scanning into digital, the only early copies were kept at the primary stage London studio. Wired has a great article on the upcoming Star Wars series and in it the film’s producer Kathleen Kennedy mentions having direct video feeds from the local editing bays. This is in contrast to most of us who can access our work files from our living room couch.
  • Secure editing System: In a webinar on the film team discusses using the Avid editing system, which has built-in security from encryption to authentication to ensure films don’t get out early.
  • Secure “shuttling”: Film companies can contract with firms to securely “shuttle” their multi-GB film between key sites for editing as the film comes to completion.
  • Incentives: I am just guessing on this one, but the financial success of the film is often tied to the bonuses of many key people who have access to the film. They would be very careful to guard the film as it would cost them personally.
  • No awards screeners: Usually, a late-in-the-year film will send out early DVD copies known as “screeners” to critics for consideration in various awards. Disney wisely elected to not send out these copies as they would have almost certainly leaked.

In short, Disney and their partners sacrificed convenience, cost, and some early critical praise to keep the film secure so they could maximize their revenues and long-term profit goals. Companies do this all the time. Coca-Cola stores their secret formula in a locked vault and not on a secure fileserver. When something’s value is priceless and you cannot take any risk whatsoever, you do not put it on a shared network. For everything else, make sure you have security in place and you stress test it to its BreakingPoint. This is why Ixia is such a trusted partner with our customers. We help companies large and small validate the performance and security of their networks, especially when they don’t have the luxury of Disney’s budget to throw at major projects.

Now I just have to figure out where my co-worker will get to take me for lunch…would filet mignon and an old French wine be pushing the definition of “lunch?”.

— Jason Echols, Sr. Manager Solutions Marketing Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA)

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