in the warez
scene are defined by groups of people who have been involved in its activities for several years and have established connections to large groups. These people form a committee, which creates drafts for approval of the large groups.
In organized warez distribution, all releases must follow these predefined standards to become accepted material.
The standards committee usually cycles several drafts and finally decides which is best suited for the purpose, and then releases the draft for approval.
Once the draft has been signed by several bigger groups, it becomes ratified and accepted as the current standard.
There are separate standards for each category of releases.
What is defined
The first part of a standards document usually defines the format properties for the material, like codec, bitrate, resolution, filetype and filesize. Creators of the standard usually do comprehensive testing to find optimal codecs and settings for sound and video to maximize image quality in the selected file size.
When choosing filesize, the limiting factor is the size of the media to be used (such as 700MB for CD-R). The standards are designed such that a certain amount of content will fit on each piece of media, with a specific quality. If more discs are required for sufficient quality, the standard will define the circumstances where it is acceptable to expand to a second or third disc.
New codecs are usually tested annually to check if any offer any conclusive enhancement in quality or compression time. In general, quality is not sacrificed for speed, and the standards will usually opt for the highest quality possible, even if this takes much longer. For example, releases using the Xvid encoder must use the two-pass encoding method, which takes twice as long as a single pass, but achieves much higher quality; similarly, DVD-R releases that must be re-encoded often use 6 or 8 passes to get the best quality.
When choosing the file format, platform compatibility is important. Formats are chosen such that they can be used on any major platform with little hassle. Some formats such as CloneCD can only be used on Windows computers, and these formats are generally not chosen for use in the standards. Some newer formats like H.264, while offering much more advanced compression than the popular Xvid, are rarely used because decoders are not widespread.
Next, the standard usually talks about how to package the material. Allowed package formats today are limited to RAR
, of which the latter is used only in 0-day
The sizes of the archives within the distributed file vary from the traditional 3½" floppy disk (1.44 MB) or extended density disk (2.88 MB) to 5 MB, 15 MB (typical for CD images) or 20MB (typical for CD images of console releases), 50 MB files (typical for DVD images), and 100MB (for dual-layer DVD images). These measurements are not equivalent to traditional measurement of file size (which is 1024 KB to a MB, 1024 MB to a GB); in a typical DVD release, each RAR file is exactly 50,000,000 bytes, not 52,428,800 bytes.
Formerly, the size of disks were limited by the RAR file naming scheme, which produced extensions .rar, .r00 and so on through .r99. This allowed for 101 disks in a single release. This format is the old RAR naming system. For example, a DVD-R image (4.37 GiB), split into 101 pieces, produces approximately 50 MB disks. The new RAR naming format, name.part001.rar, removes the limit, although the individual split archives continue to be 50 MB for historical reasons. For dual-layer discs, the limit is avoided by using 100 MB RAR parts.
Different compression levels are used for each type of material being distributed. The reason for this is that some material compresses much better than others, movies and MP3 files are already compressed with near maximum capacity, and repacking them would just create larger files and increase decompression time. Ripped movies are still packaged due to the large filesize, but compression is disallowed and the RAR format is used only as a container. Because of this, modern playback software can easily play a release directly from the packaged files, and even stream it as the release is downloaded (if the network is fast enough).
MP3 and music video releases are an exception in that they are not packaged into a single archive like almost all other sections. These releases have content that is not compressible, but also have small enough files that they can be transferred reliably without breaking them up. Since these releases rarely have large numbers of files, leaving them unpackaged is more convenient and allows for easier scripting (scripts can read ID3 information and sort releases based on it, for example).
Rules for naming files and folders are an important part of the standards. Correctly named folders make it easier to maintain clean archives and unique filenames allow dupecheck to work properly. There's a defined character set which can be used in naming of the folders. The selected character set is chosen to minimize problems due to the many platforms a release may encounter during its distribution. Since many FTP
servers or operating systems
may not allow special characters in file or directory names, only a small set of characters is allowed. Substitutions are made where special characters would normally be used. As a note, spaces are explicitly disallowed in all current standards, and are generally substituted with underscores or full-stops.
The ubiquitous character set includes the upper- and lower-case English alphabet, numerals, and several basic punctuation marks; it is outlined below:
An example would be "Title.Of.The.Release.Source.Codec-GROUP".
If a group violates the standard, a release will often be 'propered' by another group. A sample is usually required to prove the flaw in the material, unless the flaw was clear enough for the release to be nuked at releasing time. Flaws can be found later during testing of the material, such as a broken crack or a bad serial. There is usually a two week period after the release date during which propers are allowed. However, many propers are released later than this so the 2 week timescale is of no significance.
List of Standards
There are several standards to release movies, TV show episodes and other video material to the scene. VCD releases use the less efficient MPEG-1 format, are low quality, but can be played back on most standalone DVD players. SVCD releases use MPEG-2 encoding, have half the video resolution of DVDs and can also be played back on most DVD players. DVD-R releases use the same format as retail DVD-Videos, and are therefore larger in size. Finally DivX, Xvid and recently x264
releases use the much more efficient MPEG-4 standards. However few DVD players
can playback these files so far.
- MPEG-4 release standards are set in the so-called TDX rules. The generally accepted TDX2002 ruleset requires movie releases to contain a DivX 3.11 or Xvid encoded video stream with an MP3 or AC3 encoded audio stream in an AVI container file. Movies are released in one, two or three 700 MB files, so that they can be easily stored on CD-R. Two or four TV show episodes usually share one CD, hence 175 or 350 MB releases are common. 233 MB (3 episodes per CD) are rare but not forbidden, and are often used for high-resolution rips of animated 30-minute programs.
- The introduction of HDTV and the availability of high definition source material has recently resulted in the release of video files that exceed the maximum allowed resolution by the TDX rules (which anticipated DVD-Video rips as the ultimate source). Due to a missing standard these releases follow different rules. They are usually tagged as HR HDTV and use half the resolution of 1080i (960 x 540 px, vertically cropped to 528 or 544 px). Some releases also use a resolution of 1024 x 576 px to provide a proper aspect ratio of 16:9. A doubling of file sizes is common with HR HDTV releases.
- The latest TDX revision is TXD2005, but there's a rebuttal against this revision, proving it to be flawed in several aspects. Higher resolutions are not allowed. More efficient formats such as AVC and AAC have not been adopted yet, but are still being pushed by some release groups. There are also considerations to replace the old proprietary AVI file format with a modern container such as MP4 or MKV that can include multiple audio streams, subtitles and DVD like menus. However few standalone DVD players support these formats yet, and cross-platform playback is an important consideration. Nonetheless the introduction of MPEG-4 playback capabilities in standalone DVD players was a result of the huge amount of TDX compliant movie material available on the internet.
- The scene requires DVD-Video releases to fit on a 4.7 GB DVD-R. Hence many released movies are not 1:1 copies of the retail DVDs. The latest standards revision is 2005.
- Scene rules require the releasing group to spread SVCDs in BIN/CUE files, that fit on 700 MB CDs. One movie typically uses two CDs, although length may force the release to be a 3 or 4 CD release. Content source is typically analog, such as Cam, Telecine or telesync releases. Sometimes DVDSCR or even retail DVD is used as SVCD source. Advantage of SVCD is that you can play it on any standalone DVD player, but as XviD-capable players are taking over the market, SVCD is becoming slowly obsolete.
- Scene rules require the releasing group to spread VCDs in BIN/CUE files or MPG files, that fit on 700 MB CDs, although often the CD size is dictated by the length of the movie or video. One movie typically uses two CDs, although length may force the release to be a 3 or 4 CD release. Content source is typically analog, such as CAM, Telecine or Telesync releases, (Movies recorded by a camera in theatres, often with external audio sources) but is often DVD, DVDSCR, (DVD 'Screener,' a DVD distributed before a movie is available on retail DVD, they often contain watermarks, black and white scenes or scrolling messages, all inserted to discourage people from copying and distributing them on the scene). Because of its low quality, VCD releases are declining in favor of SVCD and XviD. VCDs are often larger than these higher quality files, making VCDs even less attractive.
Due to broad support in hardware devices, all pirated audio material is required to be released in MP3 files at VBR
quality. In 2007, new rules put forth that all files must be encoded with Lame 3.97, using the "-V2 --vbr-new" switch (not cited in the refs at the end of this paragraph). More efficient formats such as AAC
are currently not allowed. While Vorbis is an open codec with more hardware support, AAC is likely to be adopted as a release standard in the future, because it is the successor to MP3 and because AAC is supported in more players, especially iPod
- Application releases are usually split in two different categories, 0day and ISO apps.
- *0day applications are usually ~150MB or smaller. The release format allows almost anything in 0day section, but often 0day releases are cracks or keygens for different applications or small games with size varying from 1-50MB. Sometimes e-books, imagesets, fonts or mobile software are released as 0day.
- *ISO applications are usually either in BIN/CUE or ISO format. Allowed media is CD and DVD, but release can be smaller than the media size. Applications are required to contain working key or keygen to generate valid serial. Patch cracking is also required, which is used to bypass hardware protection, such as serial or USB dongle.
- The game must fit on CDs or DVDs, and the format should be either BIN/CUE, or ISO, respectively. Some sites allow CCD images too, as defined in the site's rules. Media descriptor files (MDF/MDS) seem to be permitted now as well.
- PDA rules require folder naming to define which application and version the release contains. Also required are CPU type, operating system and cracktype. Optional information such as language is expected, if the release is non-English. Packaging follows 0day guidelines.
- There are no set standards for the console scene.
- Sega Dreamcast releases are by convention in Padus Disc Juggler Format.
- Sony PSP releases are by convention specified as FULL UMD or UMD RIP, meaning some parts were removed either out of non-necessity, or to fit it to a certain-sized memory stick. You can play an iso with Custom firmware or an emulator such as devhook.
- Xbox releases are by convention in the XISO format, a slight modification of the DVD ISO format.
- PlayStation 2 releases are by convention in standard DVD ISO format.
- Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS releases are in their native ROM format (.gba for Game Boy Advance, and .neo or .nds for Nintendo DS). However, like the 0day releases, due to their small size, these are often compressed into RAR format, then compressed into ZIP format; otherwise, they are simply compressed into ZIP format.
- Wii releases are by convention in standard DVD ISO format.