Age: 1 hour, Seeds: 456781
August 4, 2011 8:40 AM   Subscribe

How do TV torrents go up so fast?

I’ve been doing some *cough* research and it always amazes me how quickly torrents for popular shows like Glee are posted on a website like Pirate Bay. Only an hour after the show airs and the internet is already full of torrents that transmit virus-free, HD quality shows. I’m interested in knowing how it goes up so fast. Do they record it from TiVo or something? And if so, how?

Not something I’m interested in doing myself, *cough* just something that’s been on my mind.
posted by facehugger to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All you need to do is use your computer as the cable box's output, rather than the TV (there's a myriad of programs and hardware for this), record the stream as it airs live, edit out the commercials when its done, encode it into whatever format is best for distribution, and throw it up on the tracker. Lots and lots of people are monitoring the tracker in whatever way as they're expecting the torrent to come up there when the show is over.
posted by griphus at 8:45 AM on August 4, 2011

The speed of the releases is part of the culture:
Groups are in constant competition to get release up as fast as possible...
posted by pants tent at 8:50 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

As far as releases there are groups that make it their job to release these shows as soon as they're out. They have all kinds of technologies to make that happen.

As far as seeds, some torrent tools have an ability to take an rss feed that lists torrents. There are several sites where you can get RSS feeds of specific shows. So as soon as the torrent gets published to a feed the torrent software picks it up and starts downloading it w/out any intervention. It usually finishes pretty quickly and then starts seeding.
posted by pyro979 at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The short answer: automation. Pretty much the entire process, from recording to publishing a torrent, is easily automated except for editing out commercials, which probably takes well under an hour.

After that, as others have noted, there are plenty of users out there who, in turn, have automated tools that "listen" for new torrents of series they're following and download them.
posted by mkultra at 8:57 AM on August 4, 2011

mkultra (awesome name) has it 100% correct. Most of the hardcore TV watchers have it automated, so they don't do anything while their computer does all the work for them.
posted by darkgroove at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2011

Editing out commercials can be automated too.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:28 AM on August 4, 2011

Remember that these shows go out on usenet first, then picked up by the private trackers, and then the public trackers. So if you know how to use usenet, you would get them EVEN FASTER!
posted by kuanes at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2011

If part of your confusion is why unpaid groups work so hard to make it happen so quickly, efficiently, and at high quality... I think what a lot of people don't realize is that, to many people, it's not so much about stealing the shows. They probably make available a lot of shows they'll never, ever watch. It's actually a hobby. It's fun, it uses neat technology, and there's a lot of competition.
posted by gilrain at 9:35 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some parts of Canada are on Atlantic Time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Time, and use an 8 PM local start for shows. So if the show has the same timeslot, it may actually air there before it airs anywhere in the US. There have also been cases where shows aired on previous days in Canada than in the US, but that is uncommon.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on August 4, 2011

OP, what Time Zone do you live in?
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:53 AM on August 4, 2011

kuanes: "Remember that these shows go out on usenet first, then picked up by the private trackers, and then the public trackers. So if you know how to use usenet, you would get them EVEN FASTER!"

I'm not sure if that's always true any more - there are groups doing simultaneous releases, and even skipping Usenet altogether.

That said, download speeds are always better from Usenet, and with a client like SABnzbd you can do all the RSS feed-based auto-downloading stuff the Bittorrent clients offer. So I hear.
posted by jack_mo at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: On a semi-technical note, my understanding of HOW its done is this:
The scene groups will do a full cap of the episode. However, after each commercial break, they begin encoding that segment. When the final segment of the show is encoded, the multiple encoded segments are stitched together, and released.

This process is why there can be errors in the middle of encodings - it's often when these separate segments are stitched together that sync errors can occur and slip past unnoticed.
posted by smitt at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Remember that these shows go out on usenet first, then picked up by the private trackers, and then the public trackers. So if you know how to use usenet, you would get them EVEN FASTER!

Not really. "Scene" release groups do the work of encoding it as others have mentioned, and there is a big emphasis on release groups to get it out as quickly as possible because generally only the first release of a given show/movie/whatever in a particular format is considered to be legitimate (so if you release late, it will be considered a "dupe"). These groups then upload them to "topsites", which are high speed FTP sites that are generally restricted to a very small number of users within the scene. From there, they get distributed to everywhere else. How fast they get distributed to any given tracker/usenet group/blog/ddl site/whatever depends on how fast the people who run those are at getting access to the topsites and publishing them elsewhere. The time between when a release is originally published and when it is posted somewhere else is called a "pre time", and the fastest private trackers generally have pre times of under a minute. Here are some details for pre times on TV torrents. As mentioned in the article, there are IRC channels entirely devoted to tracking pre times of various torrent sites to figure out who posts content the fastest.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:22 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

So does anyone ever get busted for downloading television programs, or are they a grey area?
posted by mecran01 at 11:06 AM on August 4, 2011

mecran01: "So does anyone ever get busted for downloading television programs, or are they a grey area?"

From a legal standpoint, it's no less a grey area than any other file sharing.

I don't think, however, that there's a case on record for someone being sued specifically for downloading/sharing TV shows. I suspect it's largely because:

- The TV industry does not have a centralized boogeyman for this kind of thing, a la the MPAA/RIAA.
- It's probably really hard to identify the economic damage of a show being shared, as it's typically not "bought" the way a song or movie is.
posted by mkultra at 12:20 PM on August 4, 2011

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