Variable rating-based playback of audio/video content
Original Publication Date: 2002-May-19
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-21
With the advent of digital movies and DVD's, this disclosure presents a method for allowing movies/computer games/audio books to be viewed at the desired rating level, so that audiences can choose what rating to watch/listen based on their preferences. While in concept this could allow an NC-17 movie to be viewed as G, the main goal is to allow movies and other multimedia objects to be downgraded a level or two (R to PG-13, PG-13 to PG) to allow more audiences to view. The motion picture industry has adopted a rating system intended to provide guidance for viewers as to the appropriateness of movie content for selected audiences. Movies are rated on a system from scales of G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 based on the content of material deemed offensive or themes inappropriate for viewers of an age group. The choice of what rating to apply to a movie is made by a movie reviewer from the industry. In many cases, the difference in rating from a less restrictive to a more restrictive classification is based on a few scenes of language content (or visual content) that the industry has agreed fits the age group. The movie producers are quite aware of which scenes cause particular ratings to be applied and are accustomed to removing some scenes or doing voice overs (for a TV version of a movie, for instance) of some scenes. This capability is achieved by adding metadata to the different segments (or scenes) of the movie (much like if you watch a DVD now you can move from scene to scene). The metadata could be placed for all scenes which control rating. For example, if a scene is viewable at the lowest rating (G), then there needs be no metadata information. For scenes that cause a rating to be increased, metadata is kept about this scene (on the track). The video player can, while playing the video, also read the metadata and decide whether to (for instance) mute certain words or pictures, to allow a given movie to be viewed in whatever rating mode that the audience prefers. Options for what the DVD is supposed to do during playback of "banned" segments that are inappropriate for the current playback setting could include: play music, silence, skip to the next part, turn off the audio but keep playing the video, turn off the video but keep playing the audio, display a menu, display a "Censored" banner, overlay clothing upon the naked actor, blur or alter the contrast to make the inappropriate pixels indiscernible, etc.