Getting Anime from the Web
mini-FAQ started by Jonathan Turner
For the VTOtakus mailing list
Version 01/06/2003 (0.002)

I. Introduction
===============
  1. Can you really get anime from the web?
  2. What kind of anime can I get from the web?
  3. Licensed?  What's that?  I keep hearing it.
  4. Fine fine, I hear your warnings about licensed anime... before I ask about downloading anime, I also see on a lot of anime on eBay for hella cheap.  What gives?

II. Fansubbing
==============
  1. Fansubbers?  What's or who are they?
  2. Subbed?  Are there any dubbed anime available on the web?
  3. Alright, now what's this digisub that pops up every once in a while?  Does that mean they subtitle Digimon(tm)?
  4. Digital fansubs... movie files... wait, is that what these AVI files are?

III. File types and quality
===========================
  1. Before I begin my search for digitally distributed anime, what should I be looking for?
  2. What are the types of digitally distributed anime?
    1. What are the current popular anime file types?
    2. So, one may ask, is it possible to have an MPEG stream inside an AVI file?
    3. I've heard of fourcc, is that something like AVI?
    4. So how do you know you have good quality with an AVI?
  3. Quality?  I want high quality!  Tell me more about digital fansubs.
  4. You mentioned CRC, what's that?  What is a checksum?  Is there any way to make sure I downloaded the complete file and that there were no errors?

IV. Downloading anime
=====================
  1. Coolness, now, how do I get it/them?
  2. What's IRC?
  3. What is FTP?
  4. What is HTTP?  Isn't that just like a webpage?
  5. What is Peer to Peer?  What is P2P?
    1. What is KaZaa Lite?
    2. What is DC/DC++ Hubs?
    3. What is eDonkey/eMule?
  6. What is File Swarming?
  7. What is NNTP/Usenet/Newsgroups?
  8. What are the other programs I hear about?
  9. I've heard of trading, how does that work?

V. Viewing anime
================
  1. Yay, I downloaded some anime episodes... now what?
    1. Movie Players
    2. Movie Codecs

VI. Conclusion
==============
  1. Now I have all these anime, and I've watched some of it and I'm hooked, what do I do now?

---


I. Introduction
===============


Q) 1. Can you really get anime from the web?

A) Yes.  And, at the moment, there's a lot of it out there.

Q) 2. What kind of anime can I get from the web?

A) Technically you can get both licensed and unlicensed anime from the web...
As for types of anime you can find Japanese, Chinese, Korean, heck, even some
of the recent American ventures into anime are available.

Q) 3. Licensed?  What's that?  I keep hearing it.

A) When an anime is licensed, that is, when it's option to distribute in a
given country is picked up (namely the US), then it's distribution is cut off
from many of the more "reputable" means.  Until it's licensed, it is believed
that it's distribution is not hindered by copyright laws, but after it is
licensed the copyright is in effect for the country in which it was licensed.  
Personally, I'm not altogether sure that international copyright laws don't
protect anime authors... but, alas, ever forward.

Q) 4. Fine fine, I hear your warnings about licensed anime... before I ask about
downloading anime, I also see a lot of anime on eBay for hella cheap.  What gives?

A) Anime you can buy from eBay for "hella cheap" is 99 out of 100 times
bootlegs.  Just like audio bootlegs these are illegally copied and
distributed.  Some of what is distributed is not licensed, but since they
charge you a premium, many fansubbers distain this practice.

II. Fansubbing
==============


Q) 1. Fansubbers?  What's or who are they?

A) Fansubbers is the collective name for the groups that take the anime from
television in Japan (or any other country) and then send it over to America
where subtitles are laid into the video, and then copied and distributed.  
The word comes from it's obvious roots, that the subbed version is "By Fans
for Fans".

Q) 2. Subbed?  Are there any dubbed anime available on the web?

A) To my knowledge there is no readily available dubbed anime on the web, but
there may be some in the more seedy underground licensed distributions.  You
will find that a lot of fansubbers and the fans themselves prefer the
japanese audio with the english subtitles because they feel it is more pure,
even though the subtitles are obviously intrusive to the video.

Q) 3. Alright, now what's this digisub that pops up every once in a while?  Does
that mean they subtitle Digimon(tm)?

A) Nope, it's just a short form of "Digital Fansub".  That is, the video has
been taken and digitized so that it may be downloaded as a movie file on the
web.  Nowadays most fansubs are digisubs out of convenience, so the term
"digisub" has been dropped in favor of the original moniker.  As is the case
more often than not, video is encoded in japan from the television feed, and
sent to the fansubbers, and from there are subtitled and then distributed
digitally.  

Q) 4. Digital fansubs... movie files... wait, is that what these AVI files are?

A) Yes, see next question.

III. File types and quality
===========================


Q) 1. Before I begin my search for digitally distributed anime, what should I be
looking for?

A) Ahh, the first of the big questions.  I tried to break down the answer over
the next couple questions.

Q) 2. What are the types of digitally distributed anime?

A) Digital fansubs, especially over the last year, have so heavily converted
to the AVI format you can almost classify anime you find online in two
categories, Pre-AVI and AVI.

Pre-AVI:

Before the advent of high quality, and freely available video encoders(and
well, lots of people with high bandwidth and a lot of time on their hands)
video was encoded with Real's media codec(the *.rm files), MPEG's first codec
(the *.mpeg files), and Microsoft's ASF codec (the *.asf files).  The quality
on these was almost unbearable bad, though you will occassionally find one
that isn't *so* bad.  During this time fansubs still stuck with videotape
distribution because the quality loss was still less than was available with
the pre-AVI formats.

AVI:

Saying AVI actually doesn't tell you much, if anything, about the type of file
it is.  AVI is what is known as a meta format, that is, AVI is way of saying
what codec you are using instead of actually being the codec itself.

The next wave?:

Another popular meta format which may soon rival AVI is the format known as OGM.  
This format is based off the work of the now famous Ogg Vorbis creators.  It
allows for multiple audio layers to be stored in the file, as well as multiple
subtitle tracks.  Whether this will become the format of choice remains to be
seen.

What are the current popular anime file types?

To recap and clarify succinctly, here are the currently popular file types:

Video:
Audio:
Meta:

So, one may ask, is it possible to have an MPEG stream inside an AVI file?

The answer, in a word... Yes.  This goes for any meta format (AVI, OGM, etc).  
They do this so that the player only has to support the one format, and
codec programmers only have to write a video or an audio codecs, but they don't
have to recreate any standards every time.

I've heard of fourcc, is that something like AVI?

Not really.  fourcc is a standard put out by Microsoft to aide in the
identifying of file types.  Basically fourcc stands for "four character
code", meaning that somewhere in the file there is a four letter code
which says what type of file it is.  With meta formats this becomes very
helpful because it helps the player know what codec and what version of
what codec to use to play a certain file.

So how do you know you have good quality with an AVI?

Actually, you really can't, but luckily a few other things have become 'de
facto'.  Most anime is now(2002/2003) encoded with the Divx-4 and Divx-5
encoders.  These are very high quality encoders that have very little
artifacting (see below).  

AVI also lets you specify what  you want to encode the audio in, and
experiments have been made on this front.  To my knowledge most audio is
encoded in OGG and MP3 formats.

Just to recap, you can't say that because it's an AVI file that it will be
good quality.  You can, however, because of the 'de facto' standards which
have come into play this year, be fairly assured that fansubs made during
2002 and later will be very high quality.

Q) 3. Quality?  I want high quality!  Tell me more about digital fansubs.

A) Concerns for quality for digital fansubs are the same as concerns for
quality for any digitally encoded movie file.  Your major, specific, concerns
with digital anime fall most likely somewhere in the following:

Artifacting: Any part of the video where the visuals seem splotchy or unclear,
or the video jumps.  Also, any part of the audio where the sound clicks,
pops, jumps, or is otherwise unclear.  In fansubs, especially, artifacting
can be a problem because one of the first things to go is the clarity of the
subtitles.  When the subtitles become fuzzy, they become unreadable, which
makes no one happy.  Something also to consider if you ever want to pump your
anime out to your tv (since there will be some quality loss there as well)

Engrish: Though most fansubbers are pretty good about checking their fansubs
for incorrect english, this is not always the case.  It is possible that the
subtitles may have improper or incorrect english, incorrect spellings,
incorrect punctuation, or just don't make sense.  I(Jon) haven't had much
problem with the decent sized fansubber groups, most of them seem to be
pretty meticulous.

Incompleteness: One of the biggest pains is not finishing the download, or,
even worse, you do finish the download but the file is incomplete.  Many AVI
players will hiccup or even crash if the AVI file is not complete.  A way to
catch this is by checking the file you download with the size and CRC (see
below) that the fansubbers release along with the title of the anime.

Q) 4. You mentioned CRC, what's that?  What is a checksum?  Is there any way to
make sure I downloaded the complete file and that there were no errors?

A) CRC, if you want to know, stands for Cyclic Redundancy Check.  To my
knowledge that term has been around since the BBS modem days.  Basically it's
a fingerprint to the file.  If the file you downloaded as the same Checksum
or CRC number as the one it's supposed to, then it's fingerprints match, per
say, and you have the correct file.  This is a step above just matching the
filesizes to make sure they match to the byte.  If, though, you can watch the
entire episode without any noticeable jumps, and its size is the same as what
the fansubbers say it should be, you probably don't need to go to the trouble
of CRC matching.  But, it doesn't hurt either.

Some distros also include files called SFV files which serve a similar purpose.


IV. Downloading anime
=====================


Q) 1. Coolness, now, how do I get it/them?

A) Yay, another big answer to a short question:

Downloading anime from the web is actually kind of an art, mostly based on
patience and luck (and a little friend-making doesn't hurt either).  Here are
the major ways and means:

Q) 2. What's IRC?

A) IRC, which stands for Internet Relay Chat... as if it really matters ;).  
IRC has always been fairly popular for file traders.  Nowadays people use
programs called fservs which allow them to share files while they are
downloading new ones.  Another popular file sharing mechanism is XDCC.  For
more specifics there are a few faqs specific to getting anime from IRC.  Or,
you can just go into a fansubber's website, look up where they irc, join that
channel, and ask for tips.  

Q) 3. What is FTP?

A) (File Transfer Protocol... normally known as FTP servers). FTP servers
commonly only allow 10 people at a time, so they are a bit tedious to use.  
Most of them also have a time-to-retry restriction which prohibits you from
trying to connect to them more than twice in a give amount of time.  Normally
this is set between 30-60 secs, but occassionally is up to 5 minutes.  
Specifics most likely reside on the website that the person has set up to
tell you about his/her FTP server.  Once connected, downloading is as easy as
clicking the files you want.... and waiting.

Q) 4. What is HTTP?  Isn't that just like a webpage?

A) (Also known as Direct Download in the anime community)  Some sites will
let you download anime just like any other web page.  When a site is up and
you can get to the file, this is by far one of the most convenient ways of
downloading.  A word of advice, though, I do not recommend downloading anime
with a web browser.  Most web browsers do not have the download management
conveniences of packages like GetRight, so if a download fails, and you try
to start it again, the file may start anew, leaving you with thirteen halves,
but never a whole.  Since I use linux a lot, I use a program called "wget"
which allows you to put it towards the URL for the anime, and resume it if it
fails.  Download managers also have the convenience of retrying if it was cut
off (if, say, the web server was being rebooted), so they are far more likely
to actually finish with a complete episode.

Q) 5. What is Peer to Peer?  What is P2P?

A) (Peer to Peer)... there are about 101 of these things now... it started
with napster, but now there is gnutella and KaZaa and giFT and limewire and
bearshare and winmx... you name it.  Many of these, thankfully, have started
supporting partitioned downloads, that is, they will download pieces of files
from different servers and then reassemble them.  This is great for a couple
of reasons: it's faster and it takes the load off of the one server.  Going
the P2P route will take patience as members of the P2P community may log on
and off constantly, forcing you to requeue to finish the file.  I have,
however, had fairly good luck with the larger P2P networks like winmx.

What is KaZaa Lite?

KaZaa Lite is an illegal version of the popular KaZaa client.  Functionally,
it is identical to its predecessor, except that someone has taken the time
to remove all "spyware" from the original product.

What is DC/DC++ Hubs?

DC stands for Direct Connect.  Basically just another P2P, save a few very
notable exceptions.  Each Hub tends to have a theme.  You may have a hub
where anime is the theme, or sci-fi perhaps.  DC and DC++ (an open source
alternative which offers many more features) tend to be very fast and
effective.

Almost all hubs have two types of requirements: slots and share size.  Most
all require at least 5gb shared and 2 slots per hub open.  Hub robots/admins
will kick if they detect files of a certain type in the share (like .bak) to
keep you from buffering your shares in order to gain entry.

What is eDonkey/eMule?

eDonkey and eMule both run off the eDonkey protocol.  Basically it works just
the same as other P2P with a helpful exception, eDonkey links can be urls,
which allow you to click on a url in your browser and have the eDonkey client
find the file and start downloading it for you.  I personally haven't been
able to get either client working, so I can't vouch for their effectiveness.

Q) 6. What is File Swarming?

A) File swarming is like a mix between direct download and peer to peer
networking.  Basically the file download happens from a group of sources as
opposed to a single source, thereby lightening the load off one server.  As
is also customary with file swarming, once you have downloaded the first
chunk of the file, you too become a file sharer and allow others to download
from you.  A popular example of this is BitTorrent.


Q) 7. What is NNTP/Usenet/Newsgroups?

A) This, like IRC, is about as old as dirt.  
Downloading anime from Usenet almost requires a subscription to real news
server that has a bit of space, since most alt.binaries newsgroups have such
a short life for the messages... you'd never be able to finish an entire
episode because the time you got to downloading the message you needed, it
would already be removed from the news server.  If that doesn't make too much
sense, have a go at some of the newsgroup faqs on the web.  I don't recommend
this method unless  you find some trick to it that I haven't found yet.

Q) 8. What are the other programs I hear about?

A) Hybrids: Flashget, GetRight... (sometimes also known as Download Accelerators)
You'll see a lot of these programs, some of them are a hybrid of P2P and Direct
Downloads... like BitTorrent.  Others are just very refined Download Mangers that
support things like partitioning (See P2P above), like GetRight.  Be careful using
 these tools, as some sites will ban you for logging in more than once at a time,
and the tools, to speed up the download, will sometimes do just that.  

Q) 9. I've heard of trading, how does that work?

Trade: Not all fansubs are downloaded or uploaded, sometimes people just put
them onto CD-Rs and trade CD-R for CD-R.  I haven't done much of this so I
couldn't tell you how well it works.

V. Viewing anime
================


Q) 1. Yay, I downloaded some anime episodes... now what?

A) Now you need to be able to play them.  For this you need two things:

Movie Players: Windows already comes with one of these, Windows Media
Player(there is also a version for Mac OS X).  If you don't like it there are
a couple others, but I can't think of their names off the top of my head.  In
Linux there is xine, mplayer, and aviplay(which I haven't tried yet).  

Movie Codecs: Conveniently enough, if you look around on the internet (and
also given out by some of the fansub communities) is what's known as a codec
pack.  Just grab the latest one you can that looks reputable and install it.  
This should cover you for most of the anime you will find online.  For
windows I think the popular codec pack is called Nemo, for linux it's called
w32codecs.tar.gz.  The names may change over time, but there's a start.  
New codecs may not be included in the codec packs and may need to be downloaded
separately.  To see a list of the currently used codecs see here.

VI. Conclusion
==============


Q) 1. Now I have all these anime, and I've watched some of it and I'm hooked,
what do I do now?

A) If you can figure that out, let me know. :)


----------

Jonathan Turner 2002, 2003 - Distribute freely and without charge.