Movie Detective: Optishell alerts cinema managers to illegal recording in theatres


Fighting piracy is a priority for cinema industry stakeholders. Distributors and exhibitors lose billions of dollars in revenue each year due to the ease of filming and distributing pirated copies of films, via the Internet and hard copy. Pirated copies financially impact the pre-release and early release of a film and, with the global nature of piracy, force studios to release films internationally even when marketers would prefer a different release schedule to maximize revenues.

However, protecting film content in theatres is possible with Optishell, a technology that detects illegal filming. The system is highly cost-effective compared to other known solutions for IP content protection. Optishell is an Israeli startup that was established in 2011. The founders, Yossi Cohen and Dr. Eli Elson, have more than 10 years of experience in the most sophisticated anti-piracy detection technologies. With the close guidance of Dr. Jim Helman, CTO of MovieLabs, and Mr. Steve Weinstein, former CEO of MovieLabs, Optishell then partnered with Christie.

Optishell technology was developed in collaboration with MovieLabs—a joint research group founded by the six major producers and distributors in the United States—for the dedicated purpose of protecting film content from being recorded in cinemas. The system is a compact and budget-friendly technology that any cinema can install and works to identify recording devices in a wide range of lighting conditions, including complete darkness. The device is located near the screen and scans the audience with sophisticated processing algorithms to analyze the image and detect recording devices within the theatre.

Optishell can be installed permanently, or temporarily, as in the case of a movie premiere. In either scenario, the detection is fully automatic. When installed for a first release, the operation is synchronized with the TMS file of the cinema. Optishell is connected to a local server, usually located in the auditorium's booth. The server is then connected to a NOC via a private network. When the installation is temporary, the NOC may be located in the theatre where the premiere is taking place.

When the system (automatically) detects a recording device, it generates an alert. This alert appears in front of a trained operator in the NOC in the form of a blinking colored button. The operator presses the button and an image of the area where the recording device was detected appears in the display. The operator can inspect the picture, and if piracy is suspected, the system sends the image to a predefined officer in the cinema complex to deal with the piracy. In addition, the system can generate reports and evidence of the event for further use as needed.

Since any automatic system is not immune from false alarms, the system learns from the decisions of the operator. When the operator rejects a detection, the algorithm learns this image is a false alarm and statistically inserts it in the learning mechanism.

The software installed in the device performs periodic testing to check the technical status of the hardware as well as monitoring the software. This allows Optishell, together with Christie, to offer a service for the protection of the film content without selling and charging the exhibitor for the hardware installed. The service offered is on a per-use basis and free maintenance is included.

Optishell is in negotiation with studios, exhibitors and security companies for protecting premiere events, and with some exhibitors in South America for protecting content during release screenings.

For business inquiries related to Optishell, please contact Craig Sholder at