Explained: Advanced Workflow Security with Watermark ID

According to a recent study, the film and video industry lost $29B to piracy last year alone. That translates to an estimated 230,000-560,000 jobs killed by piracy.

Now you might think that piracy is only a problem for big studios and Hollywood blockbusters, but piracy impacts all of us.

If your creative or business partners take a hit from a leaked project, that translates into lost opportunities for you to continue to work with them down the road. Even worse, if your team or facility is responsible for the leak, that could be game over for your business.

So whether or not you’ve ever had a piece of content leak online, workflow security should be one of your first concerns if you want to succeed in this industry.

In our latest episode of Explained, Workflow Architect Patrick Southern shows us how you can keep your media, workflow, and team safe.


To combat the risk of piracy, some studios are taking the air-gapped approach, where All computers involved in post-production are disconnected from the internet.

Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Most instances of piracy happen whether the post-production company’s computers are online or not.

The first rule of security is to assume that no system is safe. Just like with backing up media, computers fail, software crashes, and people make mistakes. Count on it.

So when it comes to workflow security, air gapping is not enough to stop leaks. You need more robust safeguards that can actually respond to leaks when they happen.

Catching the pirates

For example, in 2005, Star Wars Episode V was leaked to the world just hours before its wide release.

Albert Valente stole a copy of the movie from the post-production house where he worked. He then sent it around to a bunch of his friends, including a guy named Mark Hoaglin. Hoaglin subsequently posted it to the internet a few days later.

The FBI was able to trace the leak to Hoaglin, and were at his home within hours.

But that’s just one high-profile example. In 2009, Gilberto Sanchez bought a copy of X-Men: Origins on DVD on the streets of New York, before it was released. Sanchez bought pirated movies frequently, but this time he uploaded it to as well. Again, the FBI’s response was quick and decisive.

In yet another incident, the movie Super 8 was leaked to the internet in 2011. But this leak was different. Embedded in the video was a watermark that said “H. Stern.”

Howard Stern’s team had been sent a copy of the DVD so that Howard could interview J.J. Abrams about the film. In the case of Super 8, they were able to track the leak to the Howard Stern show, but couldn’t track to the exact staff member responsible for uploading the movie.

So the watermark worked, but only to a point.

Identifiable watermarks

These days, watermarks can be far more specific. New session-based watermarking tools can embed identifying information about the exact person watching the video into the video file itself.’s Watermark ID feature goes even further, by letting you embed the name, email address, and even IP address of the person watching the video at the exact time of playback.

Watermark ID brings top-level security and workflow customization to our Enterprise customers. You can place the text anywhere in the frame, and it can automatically align the text based on its position. It’s great for sharing things with people outside of your team, like directors, producers…or even Howard Stern.

But it’s also a great way to keep things safe within your team for people like Albert Valente and his friends.

If someone on your team needs to download a file, Watermark ID writes their watermark to the file during the transcode process, all in the background.

This is a much faster approach to embedded security, and removes the significant delays of other systems.

Sharing unmarked files securely

Of course, there are times when your team needs unmarked versions of these files for grading, VFX, or other mastering work. And Watermark ID can handle that, too.

Account administrators can grant specific team members access to clean versions. Or, if you prefer, you can allow certain users to override elements of the watermark itself.

For example, you can let members of the team adjust aspects of the watermark, like positioning, opacity, and color, but without being able to remove it completely. So they can get on with their work without compromising the security of the content.

Tell us about your workflow

Every day brings new security challenges to our workflows, but we think Watermark ID can keep your media and workflow safe. We’re excited to see how teams are meeting the challenges of an ever-changing security landscape.

Patrick Southern

Patrick is a Workflow Architect at