Ok - let's begin with the basics. Where do the movies comes from?
Sources movies can be ripped from
Workprint (WP) refers to a movie that has not even hit the movie theatres yet but has been leaked out. It may have missing scenes or music as it might not be the finished article and the quality can range from very good to very bad.
CAM copies are basically when someone uses a regular or professional camcorder and shoots the movie either from a TV or from inside a movie theatre. This method usually provides the worst audio and visual quality (a really bad CAM might even show the audience in a movie theatre and any background noise like laughter).
TeleSync (TS) refers to a copy which was shot in an empty cinema or from the projection booth with a professional camera, directly connected to the sound source. Much better quality than a CAM (especially audio) but keep in mind the quality from TeleSync to TeleSync may vary drastically. Check VCDQuality for sample images and audio & visual ratings.
TeleCine* (TC) is the process of transferring motion picture film from cinema reels to digital format, or the machine used to complete this process. The quality of this is almost always better than a CAM or TeleSync and could be on par with a VHS tape. Since the TeleCine equipment is very expensive this method of ripping a movie is uncommon unless a movie is very popular.
* Not to be confused with telecine as a process, where studios add additional frames to the picture in order to increase the framerate, or inverse telecine where various video editing tools reverse this process.
Screener (Scr) refers to a copy made from a VHS tape (do not confuse it with a DVD Screener) that is sent to movie critics or video stores for promotional use before the movie is available to the public. Audio & visual quality is what you would expect from a VHS tape (depending of course if the rip was made off the master tape or off a copy of a copy of a copy...) but may have some very annoying timers on the screen or even go black & white in places for a while.
VHS Rip refers to a retail copy of a VHS tape which is available to the public. These tend to be rare since unlike with Screeners & DVD Screeners, DVDs usually come out together with the VHS version and since DVD's are better quality the VHS tape is ignored and not ripped. Audio & visual quality is what you would expect from a VHS tape (depending of course if the rip was made off the master tape or off a copy of a copy of a copy...). There are old movies though which were never released on DVD (e.g. Eddie Murphy Delirious) which exist as VHS Rips and many XXX releases as well as sports videos.
TV Rip or DSR (digital satellite rip) usually refers to a TV episode that was ripped off television. It is possible to get TV Rips before they are even aired on the appropriate television network. This is done by intercepting satellite feeds (known as 'wildfeeds') when the production company of a TV series sends the latest episode to the television network the day (or a few hours) before. The quality ranges, depending on what hardware is used. Since digital satellite trasmissions offer the best quality (such as "wildfeeds"), groups tend to use that but digital TV PCI cards also do the trick.
Satellite Rip usually refers to a movie that was ripped off satellite television. This tends to happen for movies that have not been released on DVD yet (previous examples used to be the Star Wars trilogy and Schindler's List before they finally came out on DVD) and the quality can be extremely good.
LD Cap aka LaserDisc Rip. As the name suggests this is ripping from a LaserDisc. Athough better quality than a VHS tape it is not as good (although some people will debate this) as a DVD. The most well-known LD Caps used to be the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies ripped by Kramerica before the DVDs of these movies came out.
Pirate DVD (PDVD) or non-retail DVD refers to a 'pirated' movie usually sold in the far-east. Movies such as Daredevil & X-Men 2 had seen PDVDs released on the Internet before the retail DVD came out. Though not as good as a DVD Rip these "region 3" Asian DVDs tend to have good audio & visual quality. Most groups now tend to release these PDVD's as *iNTERNAL* DVD Rips (i.e. they don't distribute it out but do keep it within their group). This is because they do not want to release a DVD Rip which isn't upto scratch - it gives them a bad name.
DVD Screener (DVDScr) refers to a rip made directly from a DVD source. It is a copy that is sent to movie critics or video stores for promotional use before the movie is available to the public. Being a Screener it may have some very annoying timers on the screen or even go black & white in places for a while. Visual quality tends to vary from "property of" messages throughout, black and white scenes or a timecode to a blurred counter or completely clean (i.e. essentially a DVD Rip).
DVD Rip refers to a rip made directly from a retail DVD and encoded into some other format (usually DivX, XviD or SVCD). Video & audio quality depend on which of these encodes is used but as always tends to be the most common source for high quality rips. Audio quality tends to be 128kbit+ mp3 (higher for SVCD) but usually on two CD DivX/XviD encodes AC3 (aka Dolby 2.0ch or 5.1ch) sound is used.
HDTV or HR HDTV refers to a TV episode which has been ripped from a high definition television stream. These have essentially replaced normal TV Rips as the quality is on par if not slightly better than a MP3 audio DVD Rip and of smaller size (350mb) or in the case of an HR HDTV (High Resolution High Definition Television) the quality is higher than that of a DVDRip as the file size is higher (700mb) in order to accomodate a very high resolution and AC3 audio (tends to be 5.1ch audio but sometimes is 2.0ch). PDTV also exists which is slightly lower in quality and not as good as DVD although the quality is still a lot better than a normal TV Rip.
NTSC/PAL DVD-R is the highest DVD quality you can get. DVD Rips are essentially downgraded versions of a DVD-R. These files are basically DVDs almost as you buy them from the shop, with menus but perhaps extras such as deleted scenes removed. PAL DVDs have better horizontal resolution but NTSC ones tend to be released months earlier.
Now that we know what sources movies can come from, what groups are there that get these movies and how do they encode for distribution?
VCD: usually used for TV Rips, CAMs, TeleSyncs, TeleCines & VHS Screeners/Rips.
VCD stands for VideoCD. It allows a regular CD (CDR74) to contain 74 minutes of video and audio regardless if the file size of the movie exceeds the capacity of the CDR. Unlike SVCD, which has a variable bitrate of upto 2500kbit, VCD has a constant bitrate of 1150kbit. VCDs can be played in most of the stand-alone DVD players and in all stand-alone VCD players as well as from your computer's media player.
SVCD: usually used for DVD Screeners, DVD Rips and some TV-Rips, TeleSyncs & TeleCines.
SVCD stands for Super VideoCD. The difference between VCD and SVCD is that SVCD doesn't specify a certain bitrate for the video. SVCD itself contains MPEG-2 video stream (same as DVD) and MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 audio stream which allow a variable bitrate of upto 2500kbit. Depending on this variable bitrate the most you can fit on a CDR is about 40 to 60 minutes. SVCDs can be played in some stand-alone DVD players as well as from a media player on your computer such as VideoLAN and they can also contain multiple audio streams, subtitles, still images, menus, chapters, hyperlinks and playlists. Examples of SVCD groups include SD-6 & QLTVCD (for TV Rips) and Centropy, FLiX, FiCO, FLAiR & TCF (for movies). SVCD encodes are far more appreciated by a DVD source even though a lot of TeleSyncs are now encoded in SVCD.
XVCD & XSVCD: both these formats are capable of much higher resolutions and bitrates but very few stand-alone DVD players support them and as a result are practically never released by groups.
KVCD: this is a new format which is growing fast. It is a new way to encode your AVI files to MPEG so that you can put them in your DVD standalone and watch them on your television. The revolutionary thing about it is that the mpeg files created are not bigger in size than the original avi! The downside is that not all DVD standalones can actually play this new VCD format. For a list of DVD players that can click here.
DivX/XviD: usually used for DVD Screeners and DVD Rips (including TV Series as well as movies) although a lot of individual people (like DaDuck) have now recently been using DivX or XviD to re-encode sources such as TeleSyncs (as far as I know noone has yet gotten a TeleSync source and encoded it directly to DivX or XviD).
With DivX or XviD you can store upto about 120 minutes of relatively good quality video onto one CD (~700mb) unlike with VCD and SVCD which usually require at least two CDs. Now that DVD players are being released which support DivX & XviD these encode are becoming even more popular.
DVD-R: only deal with DVDs.
DVD-R stands for Digital Versatile Disk - Recordable. This standard is to DVD-ROM like CD-R is to CD-ROM. It uses 4.7gb disks that can only be written to once, and then can be read by standard DVD-ROM drives. DVD discs hold between 4.7-18gb of data so if a DVD movie is over 4.7gb it is impossible to replicate the whole movie onto a DVD-R therefore extras and languages need to be ignored. This one of the highest quality of video & audio you are able to currently get off the Internet.
Re-Encodes (TMD) (SMR) (DaDuck) etc...: any encode that has been re-encoded.
A re-encode is a movie that has been taken from its original encoded source (DivX, SVCD etc...) and re-encoded into a smaller file or different container. Most commonly found on the FastTrack network these are usually done by groups such as TMD (The Movie Depot) & SMR (Shadow Movie Realm) and by individuals such as DaDuck. These re-encodes are done for quicker downloads and therefore the quicker spreading of the movie. Generally these aren't really worth downloading unless you have bandwidth limitations as the quality compared to the original encode is worse (a TeleSync is bad enough, why make it even worse?). The imperative thing here is that TMD and SMR do not encode their own stuff, they get for example a Centropy or ESOTERiC release and re-encode it. So do not think they had anything to do with getting the movie other than that they re-encoded it. These re-encoding groups always release their re-encodes with the original group name in the filename.
Hopefully when downloading a movie the original filename of the movie (as set by the group that released it) is still intact. If this is the case you should see the following details in the filename.
1. Optional: re-encode group
Such as [tmd] or (Smr).
2. The name of the movie
This could be abbreviated (e.g. 2f2f for 2 fast 2 furious, lb2 for legally blonde 2)
3. Optional: release comments
Extra tags include:
4. The source it was ripped fromDUPE: not an actual filename tag but if something exists already, then theres no reason for it to exist again without proper reason.
INTERNAL: groups do a lot of internal releases, so as not to be duped or due to the amount of rips already done for a movie. Also lower quality (usually DVD) rips are done internaly so as to not lower the reputation of a group. An internal release can be made available but they usually can't be traded to other sites without request from the site ops. Some internal releases still trickle down to other P2P clients such as IRC but it usually depends on the movie and its popularity.
LIMITED: a limited movie means it has had a limited theater run, generally opening in less than 250 theatres, generally smaller movies (such as art house movies) are released as limited.
NUKED: not an actual filename tag. Usually if a movie has something extremely wrong with it (lip sync issues, wrong movie etc...) a global nuke will occur. Nuked movies can still be found but it's a good idea to check why it was nuked to see if it is worth getting. Also if a group realise there is something wrong with their release, they can request a nuke. Here are some other common (and not too serious) nuke reasons:
Bad A/R: bad aspect ratio (people appear too fat/thin).
Bad IVTC: bad inverse telecine (process of converting framerates was incorrect) (do not confuse with a TeleCine source).
Interlaced: black lines on movement as the field order is incorrect.
PROPER: whoever releases a movie source first (e.g. a TeleSync) has won that race, but if another group feels the release is poor or if the release has been 'globally nuked' (see above) then that group can release another different source for the movie (must be TeleSync again) and add the tag PROPER to it.
REPACK: if a group releases a bad rip, they will release a Repack which will fix the problems.
STV: Straight To Video, never released in theatres.
SUBBED/UNSUBBED: refers to hard-coded subtitles within the release (usually Asian languages). If a release was originally subbed then the unsubbed tag will be used if an unsubbed release of the same movie appears.
WS/FS: WideScreen/FullScreen. Normally all releases are widescreen therefore the WS tag is not used. If a fullscreen version is released then the FS tag is always used. If it is released before the widescreen version then when the widescreen version comes out the WS tag gets used.
Please note: if a filename has something like .ShareReactor at the end of it, it just means that ShareReactor are advertising their website, they have absolutely nothing to do with the release of the file in any way.
See the beginning of this tutorial for source explanations.
5. The format it was encoded into
See further up this tutorial for encodes.
6. Optional: the audio codec used
This is usually reserved for the AC3 (aka Dolby 2.0ch or 5.1ch) and DTS codecs only.
7. The group that released the movie
See further up this tutorial for group types.
This is a completely abbreviated filename for the movie 2 fast 2 furious by the group DVL. By knowing that DVL is a DivX/XviD group and that 2f2f stands for 2 fast 2 furious we can then go to one of three NFO sites for more information. (A .nfo file is supplied with each movie to promote the group, and give general iNFOrmation about the release, such as format, source, size, and any notes that may be of use - you can find NFO files at iSONEWS, NFOrce & VCDQuality)
Here just the movie name is abbreviated (Legally Blonde 2), the filename also indicates that the source it was ripped from was a DVD Screener (dvdscr), the encode is XviD and the group that released it is DEiTY.
Here we have a complete filename. The movie name is obvious, the PROPER indicates that another group released this movie before (see 3. Optional: release comments). The source is a DVD Rip (DVDRip), the encode is XviD and the group that released it is DiAMOND.
Just a small addition to this guide. As a lot of people seem to assume that the extension of a file plays a very important role.
Possible extensions to movie filenames
.asf stands for Advanced Streaming Format and contains audio and/or video compressed with 3rd party codecs. Used to be a relatively popular video format but is a lot rarer now.
.avi & .divx extensions usually occur for DivX or XviD releases as well as re-encodes by groups like TMD and SMR. Many people assume DivX and XviD = DVD quality - they don't! Even though DivX and XviD are usually used for DVD Screeners & Rips there are plenty of TeleSyncs out there now which have been re-encoded to DivX or XviD! The .divx extension is exactly the same as the .avi extension but very rarely used.
.bin extensions basically contain .mpg/.mpeg files therefore follow the same rules as .mpg/.mpeg.
.mkv is a Matroska Video Stream extension. Matroska is the newest container format like OGM where you can put video, audio & subtitles. It is much more powerful than OGM but also newer therefore currenly quite rare. (Read more...)
.mov & .moov & .qt are Quicktime movie extensions and are usually used for trailers, not complete movies (.mov being the most common).
.mpg & .mpeg extensions almost always occur for VCD and SVCD releases. This basically means the quality of the movie could be anything as every movie source tends to be encoded to VCD or SVCD.
.ogm is an Ogg Vorbis compressed video file and is very rare. I have only seen some anime series have this extension. It is another extention for the OGG container adopted by Windows users to distinguish music (OGG) and video (OGM). Although not an official extension it is used by DivX and XviD encoders that put video into the Ogg container. (Read more...)
.rm & .rmvb is a Real video file (.ram is for audio only). The .rmvb extension stands for RealVideo Variable Bit Rate File so as the name suggests .rmvb files use a variable bitrate whereas .rm files use a constant bitrate. These generally are reserved for online real-time video but the television series SouthPark is known to use the .rm extension.
.vob stands for Video Object File and is used in DVDs. It contains MPEG-2 video and several possible audio formats, as well as menus and interactivity. If you are downloading a .vob file then this means you are probably downloading a DVD-R.
.wmv extensions usually indicate a re-encoded file (so file size will be smaller). This is mostly used for television series although a few movies have been known to carry this extension.