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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Friday, March 31, 2006
While the FX1 isn't my first pick (I'd MUCH rather see folks get the Z1U), this price is so good I had to share it. The $1995 price is $820 less than the best other price dealmac has seen. Hmm....something new coming out at NAB perhaps, and they're trying to clear inventory? Regardless, it's a helluva price, go git you one if you were thinking of an A1U or HC3.
Thanks to Paul of RoboGeek.com for sending that one in!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Blackmagic Design: Software Downloads
BlackMagic Design shipped new drivers (version 5.5) for their Multibridge Extreme, and the main new feature is support for displaying 2K images at 23.98 or 24.0 fps on a 30" LCD (Apple, Dell, etc.) These displays have 2560x1600 resolution; 2K res is 2048x1556.
The other big news is that the new drivers are in flavors for BOTH Mac and Windows, so Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 and Final Cut are both supported.
From the press release:
Software release Multibridge Extreme 5.5 includes:
- True 2K, 10 bit RGB real time playout support for Apple Final Cut Pro
on Mac OS X and Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 on Windows XP
- True 2K real time preview for popular effects and paint applications
such as Adobe After Effects 7.0, Photoshop, Shake and Combustion
- Support for 30” dual-link DVI-D displays at full resolution 2K 2048x1556,
and support for 2048x1536, 2048x1157, 2048x1106, 2048x1080 at 23.98 and
- Closed caption support in high and standard definition analog and digital
- Added Windows 2003 server support for software version 5.5 for Windows
Multibridge Extreme is ONLY for PCIe Macs & PCs (the PCI-X bridgeboard has been removed from the website, so don't expect it anytime soon, if ever), and lists for $2595.
First off, it's about time! The product was announced nearly a year ago at NAB 2005, and we're less than a month from NAB 2006 and it finally has the feature they promised at last year's NAB. While the switch to PCIe certainly is an understandable reason to delay product release (and they only have one PCIe card out, but at least it's the best one), it is frustrating to see products announced at one year's show and not see it working as promised until very nearly the next show. The Multibridge Studio, which is the bigger brother, of course has not even shipped yet. OK, enough whining, on to the cool news:
The press release states that it maps pixel for pixel, so your 2K images are likely to be overly tall - 2K scans are usually anamorphic, and at pixel for pixel, the image will be too tall. This also implies that the image does not fill the screen, but has about 250 pixels on either side of the image and a small number top and bottom of the image that are blacked out. This is the sharpest possible option, but it would be nice to scale to fill screen at correct aspect ratio. But this would involve some serious realtime math, so I'm not expecting that anytime soon.
As for editing 2K on Final Cut or Premiere, I think I read recently that Premiere Pro 2.0 can handle 10 bit 4:4:4 now (and anybody bust me if I got that wrong). Final Cut, however, much as I love it, can either do 8 bit RGB 4:4:4, or 10 bit 4:2:2 YUV, but CANNOT properly process (as in cross dissolve, color correct, or any other filter) 10 bit 4:4:4 RGB.
And both editors cannot properly interpret logarithmic data as far as I know. Final Cut definitely not, Premiere Pro not as far as I know - I've never heard this mentioned.
That is their CURRENT status however. Perhaps at NAB we'll see improvements. There were rumors of a "super" version of Final Cut Pro (Final Cut Extreme I think they called it) earlier this year on one of the rumor boards. Perhaps 2K support for Final Cut Pro is to be announced at NAB? That is complete conjecture based on rumor and this product stuff, but it'll be interesting to wait and see.
Personally, I'd be delighted to see it happen, but it would seem to be an impractical move for Apple - it is SUCH a small market to serve, and while it would have prestige, with so few customers using it for that, how well would it actually work to fit those client's needs? If there were problems, how much manpower would Apple put behind it to really, REALLY work right, rather than well enough to trumpet that they could do it? With more and more work sliding over to digital acquisition, would Apple be best served to support digital film workflows in this way, or should they be focusing on better HD support? I'd think they'd serve more customers better by putting effort into more day to day practical stuff like supporting realtime SD and HD on the same HD timeline (but I hear that would require a COMPLETE rewrite of HUGE chunks of the core code, so while I'd love to see it, I'm not expecting that this year).
But since I DO want to work on film style workflows, I'd be DELIGHTED if Apple supported 2K in FCP 6.
....is a thread over on my friend's excellent DVinfo.net site. Mike Devlin, a reader, received their F350 (the better of the two XDCAM HD cameras) and has started setting it up and will be letting readers know on DVinfo.net how it comes along.
They plan on testing 60i vs 24p resolution, HD-SDI image quality vs. recording to XDCAM disc, chroma key testing, wire removal testing, etc.
Keep checking back for more details.
Hooray! It's finally out! If you haven't put in your order, put it in now.
Whoever gets theirs and has an Intel Mac, please contact me, I'd like to post some test results ASAP.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Don't worry, this isn't like last time where I was offline for 3 weeks, this is just a day or two of running around and securing new stuff.
I'm also scurrying to secure some new office space, plotting out office configurations etc. for myself and some co-conspirators of coolness, and that's eating some time. I'll post ASAP, BlackMagic has some cool announcements about new drivers for all their products, including (finally!) 2K support on the Multibridge Extreme, and separate video and alpha simultaneous outputs on the DeckLink HD Pro Dual Link.
Already, LCoS provides the highest resolutions, the highest non-CRT Contrast Ratios, and the most artifact-free images of any display technology. For people that are sensitive to flicker and eye-fatigue, LCoS operates at the highest refresh rates (120 Hz) for the smoothest most flicker-free images. This article will be an in-depth examination of 5 LCoS HDTVs, all but one of them prototypes, in order to get an early look into this unfolding technology.
Some (OK, a LOT) of info on LCoS (that's Liquid Crystal on Silicon) display technology.
This is back to blogging at it's basics - this is something of interest to me I came across and decided to link to. I'm researching what HDTV I'll buy and this looked like a good place to start getting some info.
After recently helping my girlfriend Melissa shop for an HDTV and discovering there were NO decent CRTs for HD, I realized I'd need something non-CRT for myself as well. SED is too far out to wait for, LCD & plasma seem to have dissapointing resolution and/or low contrast and/or elevated black levels at the price point and size I'm interested in so they're out. So I'm considering projectors of some sort, either rear or front depending on how geeky I want to get (and MAYBE, if I DO end up getting an out-of-home office, if I convert the spare bedroom to a Media Room). Stop me before I parenthetically tangentialize again.
Point being, read this to start wrapping your head around what LCoS does for HD stuff - I am.
Magic Bullet is a popular choice for making video look more like film, doing 60i to 24p conversions, and other indie digital moviemaker stuff. Now with OpenGL acceleration should make a significant different in rendering speeds.
I've been horribly remiss in NOT getting my review done of Magic Bullet for Editors, I need to catch up.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Part 4 of an ongoing discussion about HD-DVD. Knox talks about the security of HD-DVD, and how if somebody cracks a disc (not the overall key, as there is no One Key that will crack everything), their personal machine can be disabled with future releases, but that everyone else should be OK.
Hmmmm....the goal is ambitious and sounds secure, but there's still this analog hole thing...
Avie Tevanian has been a key technological player for Apple. Did he get a better offer, get burnt out, have a blowout with Jobs, or what?
This causes me some concern as for Apple's future software progress. He's replaceable (most everyone is), but it is a blow.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
While I have not ever personally used the product, I've spoken and emailed with Ramona from SpecSoft (the maker) many times and have been very impressed with what they've accomplished so far. At NAB last year, Ramona explained how they could very quickly put a QuickTime wrapper around the DPX data to get it into a QuickTime format, for instance.
The new product can do SD, HD, dual link for RGB 4:4:4 and even 2K over HSDL (High Speed Data Link, an acronym I've suddenly seen popping up a great deal more of late, and expect to see more of at NAB) at up to 10 bits/channel. Anyway, on with the show...
(Oakdale, California -- March 27, 2006) SpectSoft LLC., a leading provider of uncompressed video solutions on the Linux platform, today announced RaveHD 2.0 officially begins shipping and will be showing at the upcoming NAB convention in Las Vegas.
SpectSofts newest version not only offers new features that include reverse audio, slave record, deck standby, and 2K HSDL support but the overhaul of the existing code base now takes RaveHD 2.0 to a client/server product and makes this product an extensive VTR replacement solution. The client/server implementation allows studios to control many DDRs from a single interface in addition to making the GUI modular and easily modified. RaveHD also supports both PCI and PCIe I/O boards on both the Intel and AMD platforms in addition to new support for the Nvidia products. "RaveHD is data agnostic and can now offer this same approach to the hardware it sits on", states Ramona Howard, President of SpectSoft. "All of these changes make RaveHD a great deck replacement, with a bunch of cool tools for a variety of workflows."
RaveHD supports uncompressed SD, HD, Dual Link HD(4:4:4) and 2k(HSDL) in a single system as well as hardware accelerated upconverting and downconverting. The RaveHD Xenon system features integrated RS-422 hardware that allows for both slave and master control, unlimited scalability, dual 10/100/1000 gigabit Ethernet and includes Fiber and Firewire upgrade options. Features such as the frame oriented, standard file system storage, centralized database asset tracking, embedded timecode, embedded audio, Varicam flagging, programmable cadence engine(2:3, 3:2:3, 2:3:3:2, etc) and conform capabilities all in a simple to use interface are all standard in every RaveHD system. RaveHD works natively with DPX frames but does offer some built-in tools for those working with Quicktime and other formats in addition to tools that allow embedding audio in/out of the DPX frames.
Some of the immediately apparent changes in RaveHD would be the user friendly interface and added deck functionality whereas the underlying code changes are less apparent but far more powerful. A few of the major changes in the structure is the ability to add additional hardware easily, which will be shown at NAB and the ability to pass everything around using XML. " XML has proven to be a robust way of passing everything from commands to data around", comments Jason Howard, Lead Programmer. "RaveHD 2.0 is the release that brings everything together that we have been working on for several years", adds Howard.
"The development of 2.0 has taken a bit longer than anticipated and we are excited to finally get this out there. RaveHD can be seen at several upcoming demos which include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Also based on what our customers were asking us for, this year we have taken the demos at NAB to a private suite at the Hilton", states Howard. RaveHD can be seen on the showroom floor in several booths (Central Hall C2548 and South Hall SU3819) and will be a great place for passerbys to see uncompressed video running on the Linux OS but the suite is where the hardcore demos will be done. Interested individuals can contact SpectSoft for both private and group demos.
Priced at $25,000, the RaveHD Xenon System features 6TB of local storage in a SATA array configuration(upgradeable to 9.6 and 12TB) and offers one of the highest quality video solutions on the market today, addressing many concerns seen by other systems. "This system is a great solution for not only the traditional DDR but as a deck replacement altogether", states Ramona Howard, President of SpectSoft. "The feature set we have built into RaveHD is unlike any other software package on the market today and it just keeps getting better with the development help we see from our customers."
Friday, March 24, 2006
More dated news (this from March 5th), but still interesting. Especially the part where they test 1080p H.264 playback. It does fine for 480p, OK for 720p24, but isn't QUITE there for 1080p playback in terms of rock solid 24 fps playback.
Turns out the integrated graphics (no separate graphics card) isn't such a bad thing - it outperforms the old G4 based Mini, and the tested configuration was with the default 512MB of system RAM (the Intel Mini uses system RAM for video RAM, apparently up to 80MB worth in the 512MB configs), so perhaps more RAM MIGHT help. The dual core version would probably do better as well.
I'd be very interested to know how the dual core version does, not just with 1080p24, but also 720p60 and 1080i60 footage.
If you have a PCIe Mac, this is what I recommend for budget uncompressed HD. The one catch is that it only has 4 ports, so you need a port multiplying enclosure (4 or 5 drives with one SATA cable connection).
But then you're all set.
This is more old news from about a month ago -
Highpoint makes a PCIe version of their 8 port SATA II cards. It is still all internal ports, it still has a funky driver/interface, RAID 5 is still super slow compared to RAID 0, but hey, it's out there and shipping...I'm waiting for the Sonnet stuff myself.
AppleInsider | Adobe Creative Suite 3 not due till Q2 of 2007
This is news from when I was offline a few weeks ago, just catching up.
BWF is a format used by some digital recorders, this'll get it into Final Cut Pro.
headline says it all.
Showreel article : HDV on the set of 24 pt2 The boys are back on set
LOTS of excellent info, I HIGHLY recommend ANYONE thinking about which camera to get read these closely.
King Kong will be first film to use this method on April 10th in the UK - for $35ish, you'd get a download of standard def size, a portable download size (think PSP/iPod), and they'd mail you the DVD.
All on same day the DVD is released.
AND, this is from Universal, which is one of the major studios. 35 films at first, including The Bourne Supremacy, Pride & Prejudice, Nanny McPhee (??), and Bridget Jones.
Color me biased, but I'm guessing the boy oriented titles like King Kong and Bourne Supremacy will outsell Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones by a wide margin at first. Call BS on me if you wish, but that's my prediction.
More coverage here at the ever excellent CinemaTech: More on Universal download-to-own ... HD-DVD players delayed
Boils down to this - since the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) specifications aren't finalized, and aren't likely to be until late spring at the earliest, the first HD-DVD and ALSO the first Blu Ray players will NOT be able to do Mandatory Managed Copy (the ability to legally copy high def DVDs to your home media server, for instance). There is an interim spec that simply does not include that capability, and THAT is what is going out with the first players for both formats.
Now, the interesting question is will they be able to in the future - much has been made of the ability to update the firmware on these players via Internet connection or data on discs put into them (even on commercial discs). Would it be possible to update the firmware to include this capability? Or would it require more than just firmware updates? And even if it were possible, would the manufacturers go to the trouble of enabling this feature that they fear might threaten future sales of their playback devices?
This is from a few weeks ago, I'm catching up on older news.
A nice little analysis of some of the differences inside the new Apple laptops.
They don't discuss the lack of FireWire 800, which is an issue for working professionals - it (was) the fastest laptop data bus. FW400 remains, but tops out around 35 MB/sec in most configs. The new expansion port creates an opportunity for FW800 or eSATA or other buses, but there are no products announced that I've heard of for the port. (edit - now there have been some announcements)
More news from about a month ago, but still good to know:
Avid adds support for the HVX200 to their Xpress line.
It now adds support for the following HVX200 formats:
There are other changes and fixes as well.
BTW, compatible with Xpress Pro Studio users as well.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Gluing together tidbits - WWDC is scheduled two months later than usual, now set for August 7th, and Intel's announcement that they'd ship the high speed "Conroe" chips in the second half of the year, it is likely we'll see Conroe based Intel Macs in destop tower form at WWDC.
Intel also announced a quad core chip (yep, 4 processors on one chip) called Kentsfield to ship in early 2007 - so maybe we'll see them announced at MWSF 2007, shipping in bulk a few months thereafter?
..since launch of Blu Ray is getting pushed back, that is pushing back PS3 and other Blu Ray implementations, such as for desktop/laptop computer optical drives using Blu Ray-
"one of Apple's two primary optical drive suppliers were estimating delivery of half height Blu-ray drives -- designed for desktop systems -- for the second calendar quarter of the year. However, delivery of slim slot-loading Blu-ray drives -- designed for notebooks -- was estimated anywhere between the beginning of the third quarter to the end of the year.
News of ongoing Blu-ray delays may mean that Mac users will also have to wait for the next-generation drives to show up in Apple's computer systems. Prior to this news, it was expected that the company's first-generation Intel-based PowerMac systems would be the first Macs to support Blu-ray in the form of the half height drives."
Do I need to say more? Every major OS is always late, and MS has it even harder because they have to support such an incredibly diverse variety of hardware.
In theory, this is around the time that Apple would release "Leopard", OS X 10.5. Many of the features touted for Vista are already in 10.4, so 10.5 (which we'll likely here about at WWDC which has been scheduled for two months later than the usual May/June timeframe).
Microsoft is reportedly planning six core offerings of the Vista operating system, targeting how people use computers instead of PC hardware specifications.
Three will be aimed at consumers, two at business users, and a stripped-down version for emerging markets, Reuters said. "Unlike the current Windows XP, there will be no versions designed specifically for advanced 64-bit computing, multimedia computers or Tablet PCs."
Apple Computer's iTunes music and video store on Wednesday took its first step toward a monthly subscription model with a new service called Multi-Pass that lets users buy TV shows on a monthly basis, Reuters reports.
Such as The Daily Show - get a month's worth for $9.99, or $1.99 per episode (16 original episodes per month roughly).
This ties into other evidence about Apple wanting to do a movie download service.
Rumor site Think Secret proclaims that Adobe is trying to get Creative Suite 3 (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, etc.) ready this year that will run on both Power and Intel architectures under OS X.
Photoshop CS3 purportedly with have live filters (nondestructive edting), presets for video (aspect ratio etc.), GPU acceleration, Camera RAW 4 support, video I/O, and more.
Illustrator CS3 should be faster than earlier versions, which underperform the old version 8.
More interesting, however, is the rumor that Adobe is planning a Mac version of Production Studio. They pulled Premiere from the Mac platform after Apple came out with Final Cut Pro. But with Apple switching to the Intel platform, Adobe can now leverage all of the code optimization they've done for Intel, thus reducing the cost of coming out with an OS X version. It would almost certainly be Intel only, however.
It would be nice to
1.) have a viable option on Mac to Final Cut Pro
2.) have the nice integration of Premiere and After Effects on the Mac
3.) have a second serious DVD authoring tool (from Adobe) on the Mac as well
But, this is all rumor, and not likely to be announced for quite some time.
They say it is to coincide with HD-DVD movie releases. After saying in January they'd launch in March, Toshiba is shifting to April.
Sony has also decided to delay PS3 until NOVEMBER, in part due to delays with Blu Ray.
...as in faster than Windows laptops. As in, Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro running WinXP does a better job running WinXP than other Intel Core Duo Wintel laptops.
OK, that's cool to know.
"The MacBook Pro is the fastest Core Duo laptop we've tested running the Photoshop scripts. It's faster than other laptops originally designed for Windows. This bodes very well for the performance of an Intel-accelerated OS X Photoshop, when that finally appears."
This also bodes well for Final Cut Pro and other video apps running on Intel Macs.
DR-HD100 DTE Recorder for JVC ProHD Camcorders - MarketWatch
...but you can't pull the native HDV into Final Cut Pro..yet. They're working on it.
"QuickTime HDV support for direct import to Apple Final Cut Pro will be available as an upgrade option soon"
So what good is it? Well, long recording times (longer than a tape) is one plus. The ability to just pull the files over faster than realtime is another, with clips already broken up as, well, clips, instead of footage on a tape.
"the ability to monitor DTE recorder status in the camcorder's viewfinder. When the camcorder is set to DV record mode, users can select between DR-HD100's ten different DTE Technology file formats including Avid OMF, QuickTime, Canopus AVI, AVI Type 2 and many more. When the camcorder is in HD mode, it can record 720p M2T files directly to disk, which can be directly imported into applications such as Canopus Edius Pro and Avid Xpress Pro HD. QuickTime HDV support for direct import to Apple Final Cut Pro will be available as an upgrade option soon."
$1495 for the 40GB model, $1895 for the 80GB model.
In time, the ability to shoot several hours of footage, plug the 1 lb DTE unit into the FireWire port on a laptop/desktop editing station, and pull the files over without needing a deck will be a useful thing. Then you just have to back up the files somewhere else is the catch.
-thanks to Kelly Dodds for sending this in!
Typical highly detailed report from these folks.
There's been a huge discussion on the CML (Cinematographer's Mailing List) about the new high end P2 camera, with massive asides about data migration, short and long term archiving. Someone brought up the excellent point that while you CAN dump data off P2 cards at the end of the day onto a hard drive and then wipe the cards, at the end of a long day's shoot is probably the WORST time to be in a position where you're going to wipe source media, HOPING you shot it right. And the idea of just holding onto a stack of P2 cards to dump into edit bay at end of shoot gets financially non-viable in a big fat hurry, especially at no more than 8 minutes a pop at highest resolution and frame rate.
Then somebody brought up the argument that film is the ultimate backup, destined to live for an incredibly long time.
Then somebody wisely countered that is only so if telecine/scanning equipment is around. Then I had to fire off a long response, which might well get bounced back to me, so I'll just run it here. Here's what I said:
When it comes to LONG term storage, it's time to put the concept of just needing a light source to recover the broad data stored in film to rest, and start talking about what it is we're really going to do to ensure preservation of the footage which needs preserving.
I agree - while film is, and has been, the best storage medium, when (or if, to allay the arguers) it is no longer a cost effective medium, the number of playback machines available on the market will plummet.
For kicks, a friend sent me a film trailer from the original Star Wars. It is neat, it is nifty, it is only something I can hold up to a lightbulb and make a pile on the floor without the proper tools.
Proper transfer requires a telecine machine, as Bob stated. Imagine some killer super high res, super high dynamic range recording medium comes out that isn't film. Just for sake of argument, say that happened today, and in 10, 15, 20 years, film was considered too arcane and expensive and inefficient to work with compared to Medium X at $1/minute or whatever. At what point would telecine machine development stop as a dying market? And how many years after that would it be tough to get one working? Imagine you still had that Mac or PC from ten years ago sitting in a closet. Now imagine it'd fire up. Now imagine if it wouldn't, and you had to go find a SCSI drive, Mac OS 8.whatever (or Windows 95), and get it all up and running. Ugh - be a nightmare, wouldn't it? And how different would an aged telecine machine be?
And for those that were still around, how much would it cost to get stuff done on it? (That's my point about me and my Star Wars trailer - at what cost to do anything useful for it? What if that cost is greater than the utility I'd derive from it?)
Technology is all about price point. Look at transportation - it is possible to jump in a rocket and go to the moon, it is possible to jump in a car to the end of the corner for a Slurpee - which one gets done regularly? The affordable one, to make an extreme example.
I'm not saying this will happen anytime soon. Film may continue to hold it's edge for decades and decades yet to come, both in terms of quality AND cost effectiveness. But all media that require any kind of reading device are pretty much doomed to eventual obsolesence. I'm reminded of the Sumerians vs. the Egyptians - Sumerians had baked clay or stone writing and clay/dirt houses, while the Egyptians had paper writing and stone houses. Sumerian writing survived in abundance, Sumerian architecture did not. The Egyptians were the other way 'round. (If I'm getting the details wrong pardon me, but hopefully you get the idea).
I could see virtually all of our information, data, film/video etc. being lost to future generations way down the line (one good nuclear war would certainly do it, or a widespread disease that made data migration a low priority over, say, not eating grubs to survive. Then again, who gives a damn about saving all the old episodes of The Facts of Life under those circumstances?). Everything that you can't just pick up and LOOK AT will likely be lost, except for the best of it that we want to forward migrate. Words have been forward migrated for centuries, and since it is a recreation of information, the reproduction quality is excellent. Visual art has a harder time - statues wear down, paintings fade, etc., and they are much more difficult to replicate, and certainly lose their value in the process.
I'm gettting all too many lessons about reliability and backwards compatibility these days - I'm writing this on my desktop as my laptop's dying hard drive hopefully copies off several years worth of email, pictures, etc. I've got some software eeking away at trying to rescue my data. And it is on a less than one year old drive I've been using a lot (as much as I advocate digital workflows, RAID 0 for production, etc., these suckers do fail, and it costs days when they do. And, of course, this is all on modern equipment, with software available, and I have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing. If I shelved that laptop for 10 years, how much of that would that still be the case?
I fear not.
As I wrote on HDforIndies the other year, if you're going to archive, say, Lord of the Rings source, what are you backing up? A background plate of an empty field, of which 20% will be visible in the final shot? A bunch of other shot plates of props? What about the bunch of digital assets for CG characters/actors? On some kind of digital archiving media, then two machines to retrieve it (in case on croaks), and paper instructions on exactly how to retrieve it? And then what? Two of the computer systems used to composite it, with archived installers for the correct version of the software to open the composites so that anything meaningful could be done? It gets crazy. Best I can make of it - black and white color seps of the final product - it can always be rescanned/telecined....woops, assuming that technology continues to exist.
We're all wormfood in the end, folks...and so is everything we do, given enough time.
Go write a book or carve on a cave wall if you want your work to live.
(I feel I can say this, since so much of what I spent a decade working on was CD-ROMs and the like that won't even play in current machines, or if they do now they won't in 5-10 years. Check out Bruce Sterling's Dead Media Project for a laugh.)
As a side note, I recently heard about a DI project that was revisited after a couple of years (client came back to make changes, I'm guessing for HD of some sort). They couldn't get the session to open. The software version or hardware they had two years ago was incompatible with what they presently had. What good is data if you don't have the technology to read it? It is going to take decades I think before things get standardized enough to have any serious interoperability.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Wafian recorder uses HD-SDI to capture the 24F mode from the Canon XL H1 to the Cineform 10 bit codec in 24p (removes 3:2 pulldown).
Very cool that they have all this working now.
It is definitely way better quality and much lower cost than an HDCAM deck. And arguably equal or at least in the ballpark of a $100,000 HDCAM SR deck for a fraction of the price.
Also, no reason why this recorder wouldn't work with ANY camera with an HD-SDI output (that is a standard HD-SDI anyway), or a camera with an analog component outputs run through an AJA HD10A or similar analog to HD-SDI converter. Such as a Sony XDCAM HD (the 350, the nicer one has HD-SDI), F900, F950, Panasonic Varicam, etc.
Latest gossip also indicates that Cineform is looking at being able to work with software other than just Adobe's, and that they are also looking into a QuickTime codec version of their excellent Cineform codec.
...so I get a call from a client of mine who I've consulted with on working with Varicam footage in the past. They want my advice on how to work with some HD footage.
They've shot some 24p Varicam footage (that's the DVCPRO HD based $60,000ish HD camcorder) and they need some help with workflow. I think they have Final Cut Pro HD on a G5, but they don't know how to use it. Hey, they want me to do it for them, I'll all in favor of that.
I assume they're going to cut it in Final Cut Pro.
And then, because the Spidey Sense tingles, I ask
"Whatcha gonna do with it?"
"Oh, we're going to do some After Effects with it." client says.
"On what platform?" I ask.
"On PC." they say.
Ding ding ding!
Turns out they have Premiere Pro 1.5 on a generic PC with no HD-SDI board, and they have 720p24 Varicam footage.
Suddenly, a simple FireWire capture gets a lot more complicated.
What they want me to do is capture HD on a Mac and deliver it to them for usage on a WinXP box for use in After Effects, and maintain highest possible quality.
Long story short, what I end up doing is capturing over HD-SDI into my BlackMagic Multibridge Extreme. As an interesting side note, I'd left my 9 pin deck control cable at somebody else's place I'd lent it to (wait, that isn't the interesting part, hang on), so I didn't have the cable handy.
What I ended up doing was changing the setup in the Log and Capture window to use HD-SDI for audio and video capture, but FireWire for deck control. Worked like a charm - not a problem.
Nothing is ever as easy as you think it'd be. After setting up the presets for 24p capture, I captured the whole 30 minutes worth of footage as one file (as per client request), but it kept coming out as 60p. After a bunch of testing including capturing snippets of video from various portions of the tape, I finally figured out that they'd recorded bars at the head of the tape at 60fps, but shot all their content at 24fps. Since my capture started in the section with bars, my settings were ignored and the footage captured at 60fps, since it started as 60fps on the tape (it is a bad, Bad, BAD thing to mix frame rates in a given capture, and in general it is Bad Working Practice to mix frame rates even on the same tape). After figuring it out, I started my capture after the bars and it worked fine.
Then on the second tape, there were a number of timecode breaks towards the end of the tape. Let me be clear - Time code breaks are the bane of an editor's existence. They are not the potholes but the flat tires on the highway of post. Everything has to come to a stop and you have to fix each one. (or perhaps the STDs, the Severe Tire Damage thingies that keep you from driving Out the In in a parking garage is a more apt metaphor - they CAUSE the flat tires). After it failed to capture as one big file a couple of times in a row, I had to go in and find out how many and where the time code breaks were and work around each and every one of them (or are time code breaks like land mines? I just don't like'em.) So it took longer to find and work around the time code breaks than it did to capture the other 25 minutes of footage (which worked fine and unattended up until that point).
After capturing the footage to the Apple 8 bit Uncompressed 4:2:2 codec (no point in using the 10 bit codec since the tape format is only 8 bit), I used Compressor to convert it to a good cross platform codec.
I used to use the BlackMagic codec for cross platform work, but it introduces a very noticeable shift in the luma (brightness) of the footage, so this time I tried the Sheer codec from Bitjazz. It is mathematically lossless QuickTime codec (exact match of the source material) that is usually around 40% smaller than the Apple or Blackmagic codec. Yeah, the files are smaller. Yeah, the video looks and is exactly the same. No, I don't know how it works, I just trust that it does.
(I tried to capture directly to Sheer, but ended up with half sized files (640x360). This is a known issue with BMD cards and Sheer, and Andreas Wittenstein, the developer of Sheer, is working on it.)
There is a free reader version of the codec downloadable for QuickTime (and an AVI version is under development) from the site at the link above for both Mac and Windows, thus it's cross platform.
But because they needed to read it on a PC, I used Cleaner to flatten the file (flattening gets rid of the resource forks - used to be a Mac QT file wouldn't read on a PC unless it was flattened. I haven't had to move footage cross platform in a while, so I went ahead and flattened it to be sure).
OK, so now it was time to get the file over to them. They'd sent me an MS-DOS formatted FireWire drive.
Again, I'm not sure if this is still the case, but it used to be that there was a 2GB file size limitation for MS-DOS volumes. At around 30 GB, obviously this wasn't going to work for the uncompressed Sheer files. So I reformatted the drive to be Mac OS Extended (Journalled) and told the client to use MacDrive, a PC utility that lets you mount, view, read and write files on a Mac formatted drive attached to a WinXP box. There's even a free time limited demo.
The client delivered the drive they had with a USB cable, even though the drive has FireWire 400 ports as well. Copying about 60GB of data over is time consuming, and USB 2.0 is about half or less of the speed of FireWire 400. So I used one of my own cables to speed up the process.
Got a call from the client just a little while ago - all is working well.
In the end, I spent several hours troubleshooting and doing this job. If all had gone smoothly, it should've taken about an hour and a half.
1.) It's never going to be as easy as you think.
2.) Yes you CAN use FireWire for deck control for the Panasonic 1200A deck while capturing audio/video over HD-SDI
3.) Sheer works as a cross platform codec
4.) Never assume the client has done it right - EVERY job ALWAYS has a bunch of stuff go wrong. The only question is how many things go wrong on the average job - is it 3, 5, 9? (yes this is a repeat of #1, but it bears repeating)
5.) Never assume a post workflow is going to work as expected unless you personally have done it before, or someone you have good reason to TRUST has done EXACTLY the same thing before with the exact same software and gear and it has worked for them.
6.) Always ask a zillion questions when you have to integrate with somebody else's post process. Get incredibly specific and make no assumptions - you have Software X? What version? (people have amazingly out of date software all too often...I'm still on Photoshop CS #1, not CS 2). You have a BMD/AJA card? Which one? What drivers? (Lots of PC stuff has lagged getting 720p24 support - 720p60 might be supported initially, but 720p24 often came later). So forth and so on. You might have 9 steps in your post process (or more), so be sure that there are no breaks in your chain. It only takes on weak link to fail, or cause a major workaround that eats a lot of time and budget.
7.) ...thus I try to ALWAYS charge by the hour rather than flat rate.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I just got out of V for Vendetta, and earlier today I saw A Scanner Darkly.
- involve a future where our government watches us constantly, where electronic surveillance is ubiquitous
- have a protagonist that wears a mask
- have a protagonist that suffers severe damage from an attempt by others to achieve a greater good
- involve a world where dissenting citizens are dissapeared
- involve betrayal on a massive scale by those with power against those without
As movies, I enjoyed them both. I felt depressed and glum about our future after Scanner Darkly, and at least V for Vendetta had an upbeat ending.
But both are blunt messages criticizing our current administration and it's practices.
During V for Vendetta, the audience actually burst out applauding, en masse, when V says "People shouldn't be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." As I sat there and heard the first person start applauding, I had a moment of pause, where I wanted to applaud it but was afraid to - would people think I was seditious or something? Would anyone think less of me or think me weird or a freak for doing so? It was that exact moment of fear that the movie was talking about - we shouldn't be afraid to let our voices be heard. It's that inch that matters (reference to the film). YES, it is a big loud Hollywood film with 'splosions and ridiculous amounts of fake blood, but it's got a point that resonated with me. Probably 75% of the audience sat quietly in their seats as the credits rolled through to the end, far more than at most screenings (especially so since the film started so late).
As an added touch of irony, it was at THIS film, and this film alone at the festival, that security was the tightest. No cameras (not even camera phones) allowed in the theater, and we got the full metal detector wand search on each and every person who came into the theater. What an unintentional bit of irony that our personal space was invaded and compromised so that the distributor (the one with power and money) could feel safe while watching a film discussing the risk of surrendering power for safety. As a result, the film was almost an hour late to start as they had 4 security guys to wand all 1200 or so people getting into the theater.
I hope both films are successful and that people take their messages to heart.
More later, just wanted to write that down while I was thinking about it.
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" - Ben Franklin.
PS - also saw Before The Music Dies, and that was great. More later.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Tuesday was my official day at SXSW - I was on a Mini Meeting about Digital Intermediates with Christian Zak of Technicolor and Doug Delaney of Post Logic. The meeting was lightly attended, so all those present got to get a very personal experience and with the panelists. I learned a good bit of stuff, too. Some tidbits I recall:
-overview - for those who don't know what it is, Christian gave a nice concise definition of DI (digital intermediate) - the use of digital technology to create a digital film intermediate for color correction in lieu of actual film color timing. Film is scanned in, usually at 10 bits per channel logarithmic (not linear), usually at 2K (2048x1536 or x1556) or 4K (twice those #s) which has an anamorphic aspect ratio. The imagery is digitally color corrected (and other fixes and changes made as needed such grain reduction, dust busting, etc.) and then imaged back out to film. Thus digital and an intermediate step between shot film and projected film.
-getting bids from a variety of vendors and then stitching a workflow together - scans here, conform there, DI somewhere else, filmed out elsewhere again - is probably not a good idea. At all. While you might be able to save some money skipping around here and there, the inefficiencies of moving all that data or material around, the greater difficulty of maintaining effective communication to ensure creative intent is maintained, is just asking for trouble. Even if all that went well, there's the lurking demon in the corner - if there's a problem, you're likely to get a lot of finger pointing amongst vendors, with folks saying things like "it wasn't made clear to us", or "they aren't calibrated correctly" (or not calibrated the same way you are), or just a simple "we did our part right, it must have been the other guys" is just a world of trouble you don't want. While some parts of the process, like the conform, are strictly technical in terms of being done right or not, you're just asking for trouble if you expect multiple (often competing) vendors to all work perfectly and smoothly together. PLUS, everybody has their own workflow, their own calibration system, calibrated to somebody's lab soup or somebody's color setup or whatever. So suck it up and stick with one vendor and tell yourself you're actually saving money and hassle in the long run if one facility's scans or conform costs less than the DI house's would. In the long run, the hassles, worries, running around, and redundant communication may well make it not worth it.
Doug mentioned a project where the client insisted on doing the conform somewhere else. It was wrong, and they ended up having to come back and do the DI again. Whether it was the entire thing over or a portion I don't know, or at least filming out again I don't know, but a nice example of Things That Can Go Bad.
Christian said he didn't like doing mixed vendor projects either - I'm assuming he meant because of the additional communication needs and hassles involved he just didn't want to get into it. You're putting more work on the vendor to interoperate with the other vendors, and they aren't getting paid for it (that's my assumption), which doesn't help your creative rapport any, either.
This gave me pause, as I've been cogitating on how to piecemeal stuff together. I'd called a vendor on behalf of a client of mine to get scans and was told they don't do scans for out of house projects - and I'm understanding more and more why - it creates a potential liability for them if there are concerns or problems down the line that they wouldn't want to have to get into. I'll have to do further thinking on this to come up with a more optimal solution, I dunno what that is going to be.
Any time you're dealing with a single vendor for a project, it's one stop shopping, and also one stop accountability. If it is their responsibility and something goes wrong, it's absolutely clear it is their responsibility to fix it on their nickel.
Then I went and did my Studio SX interview with Cyndi Greening of CinemaMinima.com. Studio SX is a little fishbowl they set up in the corner of the trade show and video an interviewer and interviewee. (The interview will get posted online soon, I'll link to it when it does.) Cyndi and I have done several podcasts in the past, swapped a zilliion emails and talked on the phone many times but never met face to face since we live in different states. I was taller than she expected, she was shorter than I expected, but we were delighted to meet each other. Upon seeing each other for the first time, she gave me a big warm hug - that's the beauty of the Internet and phones and whatnot - we'd established a friendship without ever meeting. They told us we'd have 10 to 30 minutes to talk, and after what felt like 8 or 10 they signalled for us to wrap it up - turns out we'd been talking for over 20 minutes but it breezed right by. Afterwards we sat down and talked about me producing some training materials. I've recently decided to reduce the amount of time I'm going to spend hands on in the color correction business and get back to more research and other stuff like I was doing 6-12 months ago. I'm definitely going to be producing some training materials for indie filmmakers, covering issues that I'm not seeing sufficiently addressed elsewhere, or fast enough. I'm pretty light on my feet when it comes to getting things done (as long as I have time, which I haven't of late).
OK, on to movies -
I hiked over to the Paramount and walked in on the opening credits of Maxed Out, a movie about the credit industry, the predatory practices they employ, and the government's collusion with them (and the government's own debt problems - did you realize YOUR part of the national debt is $88,000?). Think of it as this year's version of Super Size Me, but about debt not food. But similarities in terms of shocking corporate behavior. (Fortunately, it does NOT involve the filmmaker taking on massive debt for the movie. Oh, wait a minute, they probably did!) I don't have much to say other than this was a VERY good film, a great serious doc that I think EVERYONE should see. A lot of docs (Punk Like Me, Darkon) have been fun and entertaining or emotionally resonant, but this one is actually USEFUL in your day to day life. A film on debt? How boring would that be? Not at all in this case. If everyone in America saw this movie and read The Millionaire Next Door (excellent book BTW, highly recommend), PERHAPS we could fix our national debt problem in a lifetime or two. I have no doubt this will get significant distribution - it's just too good. Plus, they clearly have budget, as they licensed a bunch of top notch music.
I went to a couple of parties, ran into Erin of the American Film Institute that I'd had a great 30 minute conversation with last year and we caught up a bit on her life's excitement.
Then I went to go see Hard Candy with Melissa (my girlfriend). The film is about a 32 year old man who befriends a 14 year old girl online and they meet. There's all kinds of icky child stalker vibe at first...and THEN. And then the tables get turned, and you find out she's the one after him with malevolent intent. 90% of the movie takes place in his house with just the two actors, and it is INTENSE. The battle of wits and the battle for control waxes and wanes back and forth with nail biting intensity. There's a scene where she's going to castrate him, and Melissa said "I've never seen so much male squirming in my entire life." This was the most intense film I've seen in the last six months. Nothing I've seen since Fantastic Fest has caused me so much anguish to sit and watch. It is incredible filmmaking, but I don't think I'd want to sit through it again. The performances by Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page are powerful and intense. Ellen Page, who looks the part of a 14 year old girl, delivers a truly knockout performance with a quiet, feral intensity that is just frightening. Her ability to swing from dippy 14 year old to incredibly malevolent harpy of vengence is just flooring. She is DEFINITELY going places, she definitely has talent and power. It reminds me of the earliest roles that I saw Christina Ricci or Kirsten Dunst in - you say "Wow." and watch for whatever they do next.
Oh, and I'm certain the film made every guy rethink every bit of porn that he has in his home. : )
Saw Darkon which had been getting good word of mouth based on a great trailer. The doc is about a bunch of people that do LARP - Live Action Role Playing, in this case a game called Darkon that involves medieval combat with padded swords. The trailer at first invites making fun of these folks, but the filmmakers never do - they really respect these folks and what they're doing, and take an honest look at why. Some players are stay at home Dads, or overweight teenagers, or single moms still living with their moms. Folks that don't feel that they have control or power in their day to day lives, but through Darkon, they have control.
But it is still funny as hell when you see soliders in chain mail preparing for battle....and a jogger goes by, looking at them and clearly wondering what the hell is going on. Medieval nights coming out of port-a-potties is always good fro a laugh, too.
Hmm. This isn't doing it justice, it isn't a "lovable losers" kind of a thing, there are some very inspiring segments when people talk about what is the sum total of your life, where do you find value, purpose, and satisfaction, etc.
This is definitely on my short list of best films I've seen at SXSW this year.
Punk Like Me is a doc about a 37 year old guy that bluffs his way onto the Warped Tour to live out his punk rock dreams...20 years after he should have. In the end, he brings his wife on the road...and his toddler, and his in-laws. Silly and funny and still has a heart in the end as they realize they really DO want to rock and not just fake it, and suddenly their fake bank (4 practice sessions before they hit the tour on the road) wants to be real, to really rock and have that magic rock and roll connection experience with the audience. Lots of fun, lots of laughs, and something I can certainly connect to - I'm the same age and had a vaguely similar idea 10 years ago (a group of us were going to pretend to be Bom!, a Swedish super group that had been big 10 years previously and now on a reunion tour. The plan was to go to Vegas, scam our way into everything we could, have a camera crew pretending to be MTV Sweden, and hit up every has been star festering in Vegas for interviews, and see who would say "I loved you guys!", etc.). Anyway, a fun doc, one of my favorites so far.
I also saw The Oh! in Ohio, with Parker Posey, Paul Rudd, and Danny DeVito. It's about a married couple where the woman has never had an orgasm, ever. And yeah, it's a romantic comedy. The husband is depressed because he feels less of a man for not being able to give her an orgasm, she explores her sexuality for the first time, and actual hilarity ensures. I see this as an attempt at a female 40 Year Old Virgin kind of a thing, and it works. In my top 3 films I've seen so far for sure. Some fun additional minor characters like Heather Graham pop up (from under the covers even!) throughout the film.
On a lark, caught the midnight screening of District 13, and man am I glad I did! It's like a French Ong Bok. No, that's not quite it. Ever see those videos of the guys that run and jump and scale walls and jump down from buildings and roll or climb up impossible looking stuff? Imagine that. Fighting. Not much of a plot, but rockin' action scenes. Add a dosh of political commentary about racial tension in Paris, and shake it like a Polaroid. Amazingly impressive fight sequences - the first really killer move (Our Hero runs towards a locked door, leaps up, grabs the pipes on the ceiling, shoots his feet through the transom window over a door to break the glass and then flies through it in a beautiful seamless back arching movie -- the audience LITERALLY "Oh!"'d and APPLAUDED. And this at a midnight screening after we're all tired after 3 days of movies. Plot? Acting? Character development? Who cares, it ain't that kind of a movie. Not my usual genre, but every once in a while...every once in a while, a profound Kicking Of Ass is a magnificent thing to see.
(my ode to The Dude Abides)
CinemaTech: Some links from SXSW
Monday, March 13, 2006
-has thumbnail mode to find clips
-has random, non-linear access
-plug and play w/current infrastructure
-does proxy video on the fly - records high res, frame accurate proxy for the high res
-proxy is like 2mbit
-over File Access Mode or GigE, can do about 20x realtime to get the proxy off
-low res proxy quickly, conform to high res later on (video is 1.5 mbit) in a pinch can air it, better than videophone (imagine wartime Iraq phoned in video).
-what's the pixel res of the proxy? The guy didn't know
-XDCAM was introduced to take over betacam and other stuff
-XDCAM HD has 2 year "bumper to bumper" warranty
-XDCAM HD is on the heels of the SD XDCAM stuff. Sold about $11,000 XDCAM standard def stuff sold so far
-has slow shutter (three frame accumulation is what they call it, frame blending is what I'd call it)
-"keep your ears open at NAB for some significant announcements between Sony and Apple" - so yeah, expect it to support XDCAM HD
-they're using MXF - MXF is a SMPTE standard file wrapper. MXF is an interchange format. it is a wrapper to go around the internal file format standard, helps interoperability between systems and equipment.
It isn't the mechanism to DO the transfer, it is a way to HELP the transfer
-e-VTR reads all 1/2" formats, mark an in and out, and it goes out GigE as a file - that is cool. MXF is involved in this.
-AVC is for capture and control for laptop and desktop, including downconvert
-File Access Mode mounts the Blu Ray XDCAM HD disc as a disk so you can access as files to pull over the footage
-has 9 pin deck control
-can drop a memory card on a memory stick to record proxy video, is about 1 GB/hr on the SD camera
-product lineup - HDV is low end, HDCAM and HDCAM SR are the high end. XDCAM HD stuff falls into the middle between the low and high. It has similarities with both low and high end in terms of ease of use, FireWire, but also professional 9 pin integration, HD-SDI etc.
23GB single side single layer. At lowest high def data rate, 2 hours.
When dual layer comes out, expect to get double capacity
-in the future (a yearish), a 2/3" system will come out to use bigger discs (and also 4:2:2 I've been told)
3 recording modes:
1.) 18 megabit 4:2:0, 120 min or more VBR (variable bitrate)
2.) 25 megabit, 4:2:0, 25 mbit is very similar to HDV. Audio is uncompressed here, HDV is compressed audio, 90 min or more
3.) 35 mbit 4:2:0 VBR, 60 min or more
METADATA - data about the data - frame rate, camera I'm using, all kinds of metadata that is written to disc. Don't need to use post it notes on the tapes etc. - the data travels with it all the way to the NLE (if the NLE supports it), XML based
-there is provided metadata space. There are some defacto metadata, shot markers in camera, there are tools to assign flags that work with an Avid (can use for good take/bad take etc).
Q: can you do this after the fact of shooting (screenig stuff off camera or deck)
A: yes you can. Each disc can write ADDITIONAL data to add metadata. There's also a 500 MB directory on each disc to put ADDITIONAL data on the drive, it's just raw space to add whatever extra stuff you want. THIS IS GOOD AND USEFUL AS ALL GET OUT.
XDCAM HD vs. HDV @ 25mbit
-MPEG layer 2 for HDV, uncompressed 4 track on XDCAM HD
-SD video codec - DVCAM on XDCAM HD, DV or DVCAM on HDV
discs are $30 apiece - if it breaks, shrug and ditch it, unlike P2 which you'll cry about if you break one
Q: when they go to dual layer, will it work with existing XDCAM HD?
A: NO - dual layer will be for 2/3" cameras, not for these 1/2".
The PDW-F350 is the nicer camera of the two:
-2 inch B&W viewfinder
TC in/out separated
XLR audio inputs
$25,800 with NO LENS
PDF-F330 - about $17K
1.5" view finder
HD/SD component output
TC in/out switchable
-RCA pin x2 audio output
The 350 can over/undercrank to do fast/slow motion, like the Varicam can.
can shoot 60p and play back 24p
CAN'T DO 60P FOR 60P PLAYBACK (which is odd, but OK - you could do some tricks to get 60p at 60p at post though I'm sure)
Can take clips from camera and make a virtual playlist, and trim them down individually, in a non-destructive manner play'em back in order. Pre-editing stuff to in the field, on the camera.
When doing blocking, can queue up a clip, set in and outs, and flip back and forth to compare the shots - for sets or for news, saves a bunch of time without winding around on the tape (SAVES TIME!!)
-time lapse capability - set it up for a 7 hour timelapse and away you go
-both cameras have FireWire standard
-usually don't want to use cameras as decks or a feeder deck because of head wear- with optical, zero head contact, no head wear, so worth doing.
-camera uses 1/2" 3 chips, 4:2:0, 18-35 mbit, can also capture DVCAM in standard def mode. Native 16:9 chip,
native record modes:
23.98p, 25/, 29.97p, 50i, or 59.94i @ 1080 res
4 position optical ND filter
-various speed shutter, has slow shutter mode (slows down shuttering, take advantage of the light coming in - it's frame blending.
1-8, 16, 32, and 64 frame "accumulation" that blends'em together, and gotta be in 50i or 60i mode to use it
-freeze mix - lets you ghost mix a recorded frame and live feed
scene files - all the setup that you have, can save as a file on a memory stick, can save an open ended number to memory stick, or save 5 on camera without the need for a memory stick at all
-time lapse - 1 frame or 3, 6 frames, or a trigger (1 frame/sec to 1/day) ASK ABOUT THIS - 1/3/6 WHAT?
-4 to 30 in roughly one frame increments, then leaps to 60 for
-Easy Mode - does a basic simple generic setup (looks like hell out of the box, is set up for news out of the box)
-can control some basic stuff with a remote
-3.5" flippable LCD viewfinder
PDW-F70 is the recorder
Traditional A/V - HD-SDI, FireWire native, lists for $15K, player is $10Kish, 9 pin deck control, etc.
options: each board is $2K
network board - GigE
MPEGTS board - HD MPEG TS in/out conversion
Analog HD input board - HD Analog component input
SD to HD upconversion board - SD input for HD up-conversion (does it do anamorphic, center cut, and crop?)
F30 is the $10-$11K playback only unit for feeding NLEs
Expand function - from the thumbnail screen, you can take a single clip and fill the screen with stills from the whole thing. Pick one of those 12 chunks and can continue to zoom in, breaking it down to 12 more chunks to "zoom in" to a particular location on the clip, and can add markers to mark in/out for ingest into editing system. Can whittle down to just the clips you want, just the portion you want. Can zoom in 3 times for 1/1728th of the source clip.
In playlist mode it'll zero out the timecode mode, so you'd lose the source time code, so NOT RECOMMENDED for film style workflows where you'll need to match back later
Going forward for archive:
XDCAM Cart - PDF-C1080 is a big 80 disc system with up to 4 drives - $80K, room for 4 decks, 80 discs, nearline storage - proxy server and full res server
biger 600 Disc XDCAM Cart avialable later this year for a bit more
eventually a jukebox - acts like a NAS device
-bare drive for internal/external computer mounting.
SO IT LOOKS LIKE YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO POP A DISC INTO A BLU-RAY READ/WRITE ON YOUR COMPUTER, GOTTA GET XDCAM HD SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE IT IS A SHELLED, NOT BARE DISC. And there are additional issues as well beyond the physical form factor. The 500GB allocated extra space has to be dealt with for instance, so that's different firmware, for instance.
Also, lenses are likely to be $8K to around $22K - so full package is $32 to $47Kish then.
Mike from Sony gave the preso, very well done.
Thanks to Blake and esp for correcting some mistakes I made, read the comments for some further details on MXF
Wiley Wiggins talks of the first weekend - News of the dead: SXSW, the first weekend (sort of)
John Gruber of Daring Fireball talks of Interactive Panels he's on or wants to see - Daring Fireball: Speaking at SXSW
(So far, Darkon, Punk Like Me, This Movie Is Not Yet Rated, Lifelike, TV Junkie, Maxed Out, Hard Candy, Fired, Behind The Mask, LOL, F*ck, Jumping Off Bridges, Nobelity, Things That Hang From Trees and Slam Planet are on my gotta see list. Plus V For Vendetta, just so I can say I saws it before everyone else.)
Cyndi Greening is now going to be interviewing me on camera for Studio SX at SXSW, which is great, since we know each other and she's interviewed me for podcasts in the past. She's here and blogging panels as well, here's some of her coverage:
Cinema Minima: SXSW Documentary Distribution Panel
Cinema Minima: SXSW International Documentary Co-Production Panel (LIVE)
Cinema Minima: SXSW Party at Latitude 30
Cinema Minima: SXSW State of Docs in North America
GreenCine has some great coverage too with reviews:
GreenCine Daily: Austin Dispatch. 1.
GreenCine Daily: SXSW Elsewhere
GreenCine Daily: Austin Dispatch. 2.
Those folks rock.
Oh, and if you see, write, or know of any other good SXSW Film coverage, please do send it in! Feel free to add it into the Comments link below, and/or you can email me (see address at top of site) and I can cut it into here as I have time.
I went into the trade show and wandered a bit - I talked to the guys from Plus 8 and they said they have a Viper camera that's in Houston from time to time, I discussed coming down and doodling with it and they were all for it, so I jus need to get back in touch with them and arrange a time when it is in Houston and not rented out. We discussed working with it in filmstream mode and doing some direct to disk recording, that should be a lot of fun to mess with.
I wandered over and ran into David from Cineform and we knew of each other but hadn't met yet - they've been doing some very exciting things, like their intermediate codec for high quality, high resolution work. He mentioned some work on a native Bayer pattern codec under development which could certainly have it's uses, and I asked about if they were ever going to get a QuickTime codec that used all the cooleness of the wavelet based Cineform codec and he just smiled. Hmm. I will definitely have to keep closer tabs on their progress in the future and see if they have anything new at NAB and other shows this year.
Then I wandered over and found the Sony camera area. They had the tiny A1U (or was it an HC-3?), a Z1U and A-HA!!! One of the new XDCAM HD prototypes on the floor running and working. I got a rundown from the guy on some feature stuff I wasn't fully clear on. Now that it's 3am and I've had, um, more than one drink and didn't take any notes, what better time is it to run down the features?
-4 channels of UNCOMPRESSED audio, which is different from the Z1U's compressed audio
-1/2" imaging CCDs, not 1/3 inch
-three recording modes, amounting to 18 megabit VBR (variable bitrate), 25 CBR (constant bitrate, compatible with tape based HDV), and 35 megabit (also VBR)
-can record NATIVE 1080p24 (23.976 really), so no 3:2 pulldown (thank goodness!)
-forgot to ask native res of imaging chips
-records 1440x1080 like HDV, but has progressive options
-$30 for a 1000 time rewriteable Blu-Ray disc
-can shoot 60 fps for playback at 24fps
-appears to be like a Varicam in it's ability to shoot from 4 to 60 fps, BUT it actually records at native speeds (except for under/overcranking recorded at desired playback speed), so in any case NO duped frames to be worried about since recording to disc not tape - don't have to maintain a constant data rate (hooray! saves all kinds of complications and hassles in post)
-quite, QUITE likely that there will be a 50 megabit, 4:2:2 version in about a year (not official but...it's gonna happen), price point unknown. Quite likely will work with larger capacity/faster Blu-Ray discs (dual layer? Then capacity could double and record times would stay the same)
-35 megabit is VBR, so it is UP TO 35 megabit, no guarantee that it will BE as much as 35 megabit
-$25,800 list price for camera body that can do 24p, no lense included
-can use different vendor's lenses - there was a Canon on the floor model if I saw it correctly
-There will be "significant announcements from third party NLE vendors at NAB - so I'd expect to see native support of this XDCAM HD format from Avid, Adobe, Apple, and Vegas (since Sony owns Vegas now, especially). Any of those who don't support the format I'd be officially cranky with - they've all got native MPEG-2 editing now (not sure about Vegas but I think so - after all, Sony makes HDV cameras and Vegas, so why not support?)
-the DECK has a $2000 option for GigE, NOT the camera
-the camera has FireWire, but it isn't as useful as you'd think. There seems to be what some would call crippleware in how it is implemented, there are things you're going to HAVE to use the deck for not the camera. I'm looking forward to a generic Blu-Ray reader for computer and a driver to just pop it in and import and GO.
-camera has FireWire, XLRs, and HD-SDI. All good stuff.
More on this camera and workflow tomorow - I'm going to the 11am (if I can drag my butt there in time, it's 3:30 now) Sony XDCAM HD presentation panel.
This is DEFINITELY turning out to be The Year Of The Line - at the Cassidy Kids screening, Matt Dentler of SXSW pointed out that attendance (or badges or passes or some metric of people) was up 50% from last year - and I can thoroughly believe it. In years past, it was entirely possible to get out of one movie and blaze over a few blocks to get into the next at another theater, unless it was a weekend and a popular movie. NOT SO THIS YEAR. I've not made it into three movies now, including the same movie twice, when I arrived 45 minutes in advance of the screening. Didn't get into Thank You For Not Smoking's only showing at the relatively small (200 seats) Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, and missed This Film Is Not Yet Rated's TWO showings for the same reason at midnight two nights in a row. And I'm bummed because I heard the latter was really good from everyone I talked to who saw it. I had to drastically alter my movie schedule to start making sure I'd see stuff - depending on which rumors you believed, somewhere between 300 total people or 400 badges were turned away from a screening of the locally produced Jumping Off Bridges (which I did work for, but not upon, due to various complicated reasons). There are badges (highest caste), passes (second caste), and individual tickets (third caste, aka "The Hopeless"). Melissa, my girlfriend, only has a pass that she bought for $70. She hates line, so the prospect of waiting an hour and sometimes not getting in after paying for the privilidge is increasingly unappealing - when she marches off to the pass line while I wait in the badge line to get and hold seats, she announces regularly "I'm off to the Loser Line." At any popular showing (even midnight shows), individual ticket holders are truly hosenerated. Frank Reynolds, crashed out in the spare room, earlier said that the REAL trick may be to try to get on the Reserve List at screenings of your friends' films (and I'm amazed at how many folks he knows as a New Yorker here) if you don't want to camp out.
And camping out is the deal apparently so far this year - I realized that even with a badge (that costs $300 if you walk up to registration once the festival starts), you CANNOT see films back to back - at least over the opening weekend (and I hope crowds will drop during the week and then more after Tuesday once the conferences are over), I've been having to see a 2pm film, miss the 4pm round because I wasn't in line early enough, and catch a 6pm film. So every other movie slot is the most you can count on. I'll update tomorrow on this issue, won't be the weekend anymore.
OK, on with movies - saw Cassidy Kids (which I almost worked on, TWICE, but didn't get the opportunity to in the end), which was a Burnt Orange/UTFI production. What's that you say? Burnt Orange is a production company that works with the University of Texas Film Institute to produce movies in Austin but have students work on the film. A LOT of students. So they get to work on a real movie with real sets and real actors. A great idea. The film was shot on a mix of some flavor of 16mm and Panasonic Varicam. PJ Raval, an up and coming DoP acquaintance of mine, worked on the film (go PJ!). It involves storylines from 3 different time periods, with a different look for each. The plot involves a reunion of the kids that a TV show was based on from the 80s. The kids solved a murder back in the 80s, and then a cheesy Saturday morning TV show was based on them. In the present day, a DVD set is being released and the original kids the show was based on have now grown up and are brought together to be interviewed for the DVD. Long harbored secrets come out, long hidden revelations, etc. The intermingled timelines flow throughout the film, and the pace of revelation makes it interesting. Some fun local extra roles - John Pierson as a reporter, one of the Sinus Show guys plays the bad guy on the faux 80s TV show. Kadeem Hardison was elated (said during Q&A) to get to do drama and not have to smile. Judah Friedlander was great as the obnoxious bully child grown up into a total *sshole.
Hobnobbed a bit out front with some folks, then zipped over to Alamo South for the world premiere of Slam Planet: War of the Words.
Big, fat, honkin' disclaimer - this is the movie I worked on that's showing at SXSW. So of COURSE I loved it
I worked with Rita Sanders, the ever so on-the-ball editor of the film, and Mike Henry, the director and-a-whole-lot-more on the film, to help them with issues like 60i to 24p conversion, and especially the SD to HD uprez, which they loved and chose over a Teranex or Quantel eQ uprez for reasons of quality, overall price, and workflow convenience (yeah this is that proprietary thing of mine I've mentioned before). I also handled all of the technical issues to get the project to and from color correction, but I didn't color correct it, the colorist did, and he did a fantastic job -the film really looked great, and he deserves a major hat's off for the work he did on it.
Through chance, I ended up sitting next to one of the producers (Richard Kooris, also their very knowledgable Post Production Supervisor) one one side and the Team Urbana slam poets on the other, who are on camera for about half of the film as one of the primary slam poetry teams the film covers. What is Slam Poetry? GO SEE THIS FILM and find out for yourself. Even after working on the film for weeks, the slam poetry performances (much more spoken word performance art than what you'd think of normally as poetry) were STILL very moving and emotionally evocative, and the film does a great job of giving some insight into these characters inner lives, and the non-performance documentary coverage really connects you with these people. Very hard to do in a performance based documentary, and hats off again to the creative team (Mike, Kyle, Rita, etc) for the excellent work they did to pull several emotionally involving stories out of 400 DV tapes and put it in a crucible (I'd call that crucible Rita) and end up with 98 minutes of great story. Speaking of crucibles, this whole project very very nearly went up in flames, literally - a fire Jan 31st of last year destroyed the building where the edit suite was. Cripsy toasted Salvador Dali looking hard drives were pulled from the wreckage, and the data was miraculously pulled off of them. Some tapes were damaged or destroyed in the fire as well, but they were able to finish the film.
Tooting my own horn, the uprez looked great. The color looked great. And it wasn't just me - producers, editors, directors, etc. all were thrilled with how good it looked, especially considering that it was all shot on DVX100's (or sometimes lower end cameras) in 4:3 mode and THEN the center 16:9 chunk of it was cut out and scaled up to 1080p HD resolution.
Afterwards, I ended up getting on a big pink fuzzy bus (this is true, I hadn't had that much to drink...yet, and I'll post pictures to prove it), and I got to hang out with the poets (3/4 of Team Urbana came down, and Team Austin was in attendance too!) and Mike & Kyle & Rita and we all went out to celebrate. Elizabeth Wynn, Austin Mayor Will Wynn's wife, apparently is a big supporter and/or backer of the film, she was along for the ride too. If someone had told me this morning I'd get on a big fuzzy bus after midnight, complete with disco ball and backlit boas, and hang out with the mayor's wife and a bunch of poets and watch them shoot pool....I'd have bet money against it.
That's the beauty of SXSW and Austin - you just never know what fun stuff is going to happen next.
OK, 4:05am, now I've REALLY got to get to sleep.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Here's my raw notes on the panel, undedited, typos and all:
came in late -
-top 10-20 films make most of the money, 300 films a year shown, bottom 50 or 75 lose money
-looked into other models to help - Truly Indie provides a turnkey fashion for what a traditional distrib would provide in terms of marketing or advertising
-filmmaker retains all rights, 100% of box office is kept by filmmaker, there's a cost associated with using theaters and providing publicity.
Basically, the filmmaker takes the risk.
What's the difference between four walling and Truly Indie?
In Truly Indie give a brand to the release, put a marketing team behind the film, provide local publicity, arrange press screenings, cause the print advertising to be done, creative services team of Landmark is on it, leveraging the existing resources in a way they can't do any other way
Q: Difference between getting acquired by Magnolia vs Truly Indie:
A: Quinn - if a film isn't quite an exact fit but is otherwise interesting, will recommend for Truly Indie rather than straight acquisition
Wagner - hear frustration of filmmakers who show at festivals and don't get distribution - should be listening to indie filmmakers to find a way for them to get released - wanted to open up the system for those who feel shut out (but they then carry the financial risk)
Quinn - as a national distributor - outside the big 5 urban market, films may do well in other or smaller markets.
Banowsky - as a film distributor, there are certain economic conditions to make it work at a sufficient scale for Magnolia, but if not can do this to get theatrical distribution in some way.
Q: Hernandez of Indie Wire is the moderator - the bigger state of distribution - how many films are acquired a year, etc? How is the game changing from 3 or 4 years ago?
Bowles on foreign films - people's tolerance for reading subtitles is greater than it has ever been. To hear a foreign film do over $100M like Crouching Tiger was laughable and unfathomable from perspective of years ago. Foreign, docs, etc. that doesn't have the obvious marketing hook is the real challenge they have right now if it doesn't have a sexy hook.
Day and date releases - they did Bubble and Enron and War Within are not pandering to public films. They're trying to create an economy where these challenging films are financially viable. As DVD gets to be a greater and greater slice of the pie, and the profit margin is way higher on those than theatrical, why not?
(Tech has changed - theaters are as expensive as ever, but home theaters get better and cheaper and DVD, HD, etc. gets closer to theatrical technical experience)
Q: in wanting to challenge the tradition of release windows for art films, why do this and how's it going?
A: a coupla years ago (this is Wagner speaking) were feeling their way around Hollywood. If you finance movies you'll be out of biz in 2-3 years if you play by the rules of Hollywood. They are taking their time about how they get into tihis business.
Movies today are made like this: In a "normal" business, if you put in riskiest money, you get that money back first. In any business, risky money gets paid back first. In movie business, it is absolutely BACKWARDS. Prints and advertising come off the top and a fee for distribution and advertising. "First money in" gets paid LAST - so riskiest money gets least reward.
Terry Semel about 4 years ago - he knew nothing of tech, they'd sit and trade war stories "If you guys are gonna survive, you're gonna have to look like The House." Think Vegas - Studios are The House. If production costs were paid back first and advertising last, that'd change things.
Wagner looked at it like an entrepreneur - how can we change this?
-size of the budget (out of control)
-print costs - shipping reels of film around to spend money
-advertising costs (also out of control)
shoot digitally (no print costs), just have one advertising run (compress the window), and perhaps could impact budgets - shoot digitally and get more efficent.
On the revenue side, there's a proxy for the industry - the music industry. The industry ignored the consumer, Steve Jobs came in and put himself in the middle.
Sale of physical CDs has decreased, but offset by downloads and ringtones.
Look at movies - look at customer base? Instead of assuming that in 5 months you still want our product you can have the product. Do they play songs on radio and make you wait 5 months to buy the CD? There's some flawed logic - "that's how it has always been done."
If some people aren't going to go see it in theater, if we can make it an impulse buy that they'll snatch it up, why not? That's increasing the consumer base. They want to share DVD costs with the distributors. It isn't a zero sum game, it isn't someone loses. Gotta find new revenue streams. 70-80% of folks like what they're doing and say so...only behind closed doors. Exhibitor community hates this and that's understandable. But this could HELP their business. if 1-2% of DVD sales drops to the theatrical chains, it makes a dramatic change. Sell things with yield management.
In this new digital reality, gotta change
-end Wagner rant, applause-
Folks can see films when they are current and available - if a movie is showing in NYC or LA, it'll show in a few months or not at all for these limited release things. Why wait months and have forgotten about it once it comes out on DVD?
HDNet - shows 1080i - accepts 35mm or other 1080 will not do. No XDCAM HD or 720p is not acceptable. No 16mm either. It's all about good stories well told, they don't cut or edit in any way, it's a basic cable service. 5.1 audio and all 1080. The challenge in working with indies is getting them to understand they need to shoot in the right format to begin with that is TV ready. Movies shot show briefly theatrically, it has to work on a 50" TV. HBO and those guys don't buy indie films, HDNet does. It has to work uncut/unedited on BASIC cable - can't be an R rated movie. Ultimately it will live on TV for the rest of it's life. make something inthe right format to begin with, and will be acceptable for a good movie market (male 25-54 etc.)
Schizopolis has sold 13,000 DVDs. Jerry with Matt Damon sold about 30,000.
bubble was experimental in a bunch of ways - it isn't a typical movie at all, it is a cinematic experiment. Bubble has done $200K theatrically. Films of this nature haven't had a good track record.
Bubble selling 100K DVDs so far - very successful .
Hotel TV - LodgeNet - Bubble was #3 film behind Walk The Line and something else
Nobody wanted to screen Bubble because of the day and date thing.
Wagner - Fox said they were going to put high def DVD 60 days after release. The quest has begun to try to find the new model.
Q: How will VOD play into this?
A: Wagner- keep trying to add pieces to this - for Enron, didn't have DVD in place. You walk before you run, and you keep trying things.
Why are screenings the way they aare? Why 200 people in LA and then spend millions on reshoots? Why so concerned with 4 boxes and who made them? Wouldn't you rather care about guy in Omaha and woman in LA rather than the 200 folks in LA who are all actors and wannabe directors and writers?
Q: Enron on HDNet movie - it doesn't meet the criteria - will you take other media material? Why was it done?
A: Historical docs will have archival footage - the interviews and new stuff were shot at 1080.
Q: will you consider a film not entirely shot that way?
A: they will look at them, but overall in needs to be 1080. They're playing Step Into Liquid. Content over clarity - interviews were 1080, surfing was 16mm. She went up against CEO and lost - it is showing, and it looks grainy.
Q: Relationship betwen Landmark and Magnolia Pictures
A: it is just like any other (incomplete answer)
Q: Truly Indie - when filmmaker brings film to them, does the TI team provide a budget?
A: Baonwsky - depends on the markets it'll play in - LA and NYC are more than Austin or Berkeley - 5 market one week is $50K to $150K depending on which markets chosen. If the film works, there's the option to either extend the program or if it sells well, the option to transfer that into a traditional distribution market. If the film is successful, the model is there to grow and be successful.
Now with home entertainment division, the selective opportunity for a DVD or HDnet distribution option
Mundorff - when a movie plays in a theater, films become competitive with each other. If Truly Indie becomes competitive, then they'll enter into a new negociation to see whether continues on same price structure or a new.
Wagner suggested that producers set aside money in their budget to be ready for Truly Indie or whatever. ($100K or more?)
Studio system gets out of whack whenever stars ask for $20M or whatever. Hedge funds and others are dumping tons of money back into the studios - Wagner thinks this is bad, will encourage more bad behavior
Actors should get a salary cap or something - but there needs to be confidence that there will be profits at the end of the day. "Take less up front to get it on back end" is hard to trust since there are so many shady things in the accounting of Hollywood. Try to keep your costs down and if it works and there's profits you'll share.
Q: what about the vertically integrated company - how has that been received?
A: trying to find a model that will work in the business? That would work with Landmark and not go out of business? Ancillary use of content on HDNet etc. is a strong thing for them. That's part of their overall strategy. You try to make good decisions each time as best you can and you hope they build on each other. If anyone tells you they know exactly what they're doing they are a moron or a liar.
Soderbergh stuff - they did a couple of movies together, and they got friendly, and then they sat down and
Q: What's up for Truly Indie? When's it happen
A: Tennis Anyone of Donal Logue was so pleased with the experience, even though the film didn't make the money he wanted it to. Cavite is next up from the Piersons. Releasing in NY and LA in May, seattle, SF, etc. in June.
Q: Next day and date movie -
A: Herbie Hancock doc Possibilities will be day and date and digital only
That's it. Talked to the HDNet VP about an interview to discuss acceptable specs for putting on air.
I sat with Joe Swanberg (of LOL that I just mentioned) at Things that Hang From Trees, he just saw Jumping Off Bridges that I hope to catch later this week, and asked if I knew why they were screening video not film - I do know, but ahhhhh, that is another tale for another night.
Things That Hang From Trees was edited by Frank Reynolds, a friend of mine, and produced by a couple of guys named Joe I met last night that I mentioned. Turns out it is really a lovely little film, and I mean that literally. A quiet, character driven piece about a small boy in a small town in the 60s and the trials and tribulations he faces and the lives of those around him. A lot of familiar New York actors (producer Joe said he'd been acting in NYC for 20+ years, if he didn't know who the best actors were by now he was in trouble). The cast was great, the casting just dead spot on. This is one of those films that is a labor of love, and is carefully crafted over a long period of time. I wouldn't expect it to make a ton of money, but I certainly do hope they get picked up for distribution. It is quiet, with non-action action scenes and sexy but not sex scenes. But amazing performances all around, especially the child actor, whom the producers described as a non-child actor type actor. He just WAS, they said they just turned on the camera and the kid was THERE in character (or some line to that effect, it's 1am as I write this). In any case, if you're into well shot, well acted, well cut, well crafted films, this is one for you. Interesting to note that I felt the performances here were more compelling, and the characters more emotionally engaging, than Meryl Streep and crew in A Prarie Home Companion, the Robert Altman film I saw last night, that felt slight compared to this. Granted, they are very different types of film, but in my mind there's no doubt which was more emotionally engaging - and isn't that the point of good filmmaking?
As a techie/geeky aside, it was shot on 16mm and they did a DI (digital intermediate) process up in NYC somewhere (this is the film Frank wrote about on the blog some time ago, somebody remind me and I'll dig out the link for it). If I hadn't known it was shot on 16, I'd have sworn it was 35. I'm guessing they shot on the new Vision 2 stocks which have very low grain, because this looked fantastic. VERY well shot and lit, good rich depth (Hidden Blade was flat in comparison), and clearly a nice DI job as the color and exposure were spot on and wonderful. Hats off to the technical staff on this one, it looks great.
After that, we had to zip up to the Arbor for the only film feasible to catch - The Hidden Blade, which from the write up looked to be a Crouching Tiger or Hero or similar motif, but wasn't - no wire work, just reality of samurai times at the advent of Western encroachment. A good love story, a good revenge story, and some good tension. Not at Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero or House of Flying Daggers level, but a worthy film and definitely satisfactory. Melissa and I both liked it, and I think I spotted a tear in her eye. Social stratification, forbidden love, rebellion, deception, honor, dignity, changing society, practical firearms vs. honorable swords, all kinds of good stuff going on in there.
Then we headed over to the Slam Planet party at Progress Cafe, and man, even though I've worked in that same building for the last six months, I've NEVER seen the place so packed. For those who don't know, I was a post production consultant on that project, and helped in their workflow and some finishing production issues involving 60i to 24p, uprez to HD from 4:3 DV (and they picked my proprietary uprez process over a Teranex and a Quantel eQ, I'm proud to say), integration with Final Touch HD, and a bunch of stuff like that. Anyway, this was either their finish the film or launch party, not sure which, but it was great - alot of the poets (this is a movie about slam poetry) from the film were in attendance and did some performance pieces which were great, and I met the editor Rita Sanders' Mom and boyfriend. Mom had on a Slam Planet t-shirt with "Editor's Mom" printed on it, as well as Ryan, her very nice (and presumably very patient) boyfriend who probably hasn't seen much of her lately as she's slaved over finishing the film. In any case, the premiere is tomorrow night at Alamo South at 10:30pm, it's a really good film with some very compelling performances captured in it, I recommend it. And yeah, I worked on it and I have a bias, but it's actually good, I swear - you won't regret it at all if you see it.
Tried to get into This Movie Is Not Yet Rated, the film about the MPAA rating system, but couldn't get in - Alamo Downtown fills up in a heartbeat with only 200 seats in the house. Drat. My friend Frank got in, maybe I can get him to write a bit about it.
More panels and stuff tomorrow, until then, it's after 1am and I am to BED.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Behind the Scenes: Social Aspects of the business Panel
Also saw the blogging 2.0 panel, it was too tied up in how to monetize the process and talking about the basics of podcasating, thought it was boring. Too bad.
Lets people see into the other side - Bain, the moderator talks about the crazniess of it all - told if he signed with a company, he'd get a chance to sleep with Winona Ryder. A review wasn't written because
Andy Dick failed to show
Danny Leiner - "Dude Where's My Car" "The Great & Wonderful" $500K HD movie,
Moe Dick - Andy isn't here because his film is NOT here, the film isn't done, and it will screen, but not quite done yet
Maria Menounus -
Seth Carmichael - Goldcrest Film director of acquisition, The Mision, Ghandi, Room with a View, was an AD, Prod Coordinator, etc.
Working the social scenes - DJ to running events to doing PR and promotions and co-produced Brother Brother
Danny Leiner story - came from NY indie world, Shooting Gallery produced his first film, credit card feature, Jeremy Piven and Edie Falco, set in Brooklyn, shot in Carol Gardens, low budget, mob involved neighborhood, there was a social club was their catering place, they were gung ho about the film, one day an Italian actor showed up and local mob boss and freaked out, Lenny was put back in the van, "If I see that guy again I'm going to kill you." due to some theft of fiance of a mob guy. Movie was to be shut down if not, so they told'em they recast but they didn't,
Menounus - first film involved credit cards and the mob, "That's pretty much how it goes, right?" Stipulation of indie filmmaking.
Carmichael - an industry where being social is important to being successful. But as you're getting started, how do you get into the right room? The parties and stuff - how to get in? question - how'd you get in?
Collin's )- "On my knees..." "That's how I'm getting into heaven...a really good blowjob" Worked on MadTV for six years - people want to get close to you if you get some success - was in Chicago and wanted to leave and they wanted to make her exit "better" - 20-30 minutes of "hanging on" and "just stand over here for a minute" they open up the back door and dumped into a back alley all by herself - that was her special treatment.
Menounus - "I thought you were going to say Lie Cheat & Steal" - collins -
A trip to see people giving him stuff, some of which he should not have...you're handed access to things...somebody else talk"
Q: Do you HAVE to go down on her knees
A: Memounus - "No" Collins - "Yes - look at her, look at me" (Menounus is a knockout)
A: at an 18 year old went with an unfinished film, went to all the parties, from Medford Mass and didn't know squat, and met a ton of people, got a ton of biz cards and got in touch, and she's moving to a new agency and people she met way back when as assistants are now agents. No telling who's going to be what. Endear yourself to powerful people. Her assistant goes the extra mile, so SHE goes the extra mile.
So many are so overwhelmed, if you do something for them and work hard, people will pay you back....doesn't ALWAYS happen but often does
Do have to be nice to everybody since you don't know who is who or who they'll be.
Create a win-win situation for somebody
have to give EVERYTHING you have to get what you want
It is a business where you have to work incredibly hard for little pay
Collins - got off MadTV and worked 2 years for free, had to go back to the starting block, starting position, but now has a great resume with pilot presentations and short films and stuff
"If you're going to go into this business, you have to be always willing to work tirelessly" - Collins
PUtting yourself out there repeatedly pays off. Work on their movies and help network for your friends, etc.
Persevere. And ya gotta love it. Keep going at it when people keeep saying no.
Q: where's the line between badgering vs. reasonable dilligence?
A: Carmichael inundated with scripts etc. - he likes the people who are a bit squeaky. There is a clear line after which you never get calls returned. The best are those who say "am I bothering you too much?" He'll be kinder than if you don't. Be prepared for honest feedback.If you aren't open to hearing criticism and hearing no they you're in the wrong business.
Menounus - some folks are overly pushy, we're all busy - DO YOUR RESEARCH, know your common ground (do you like dogs?), find common ground to connect. Everybody wants to get to Tom Cruise or Hillary Swank or whatever, but find that little thing you can grab onto and hold onto to connect, make yourself unforgettable in some way, otherwise you'll get forgotten.
collins - with a level of celebrity, they meet a lot of people and it'll all blur together, if you see them a second time, don't put them on the spot since they probably don't remember. They don't like to be felt bad about it, be dilligent, but remind'em who you are, and realize the numbers of folks they are exposed to. Gotta find the hook so you WILL be remembered. "But other than that - see you on MySpace."
Leiner - be pragmatic. Know why you're hitting them up, and be prepared, it should be focused and thought out, not loose or first draft. People set their first impression...and then that's it. You want a way in, but you gotta be polished, and pragmatic, and what can they viably help me, etc.
Collins - some people don't want to help and are simply pricks, so just move on, that's just the reality, they're too bosy for you, move on.
Q: if interested in indie stuff, how important are connections and networking? If you have cheap tech, don't need stars, how important is it?
A: depends on what you want out of it? Knowing people helps for festivals and stuff, having champions and stuff. Do NOT drop it in the mail and hope for the best. Look at the programs over years- the same people do come back after you've been there. Bain said you CAN get picked up blind, but it is hard to do so.
Colins - Gotta have your stuff and you get after it - favorite metaphor - tap the water - this ripple effect starts from there. Starts with an idea, you tell a friend,
Don't downplay the socializing aspect - if you're doing one DV movie and that's it, but what if you meet an FX person, or an actress, etc. It is a collaborative effort.
Carmicahel - best pitch - one guy made the feature entirely by himself. And had a watchable trailer. Watched the first 5 minutes and then stopped since there was no story whatsoever.
Common theme - if you DO work on a movie, then you get networking to make a movie.
Leiner - a lot of networking is for access- scriptwriter wants it made, you need a camera, etc.
Carmichael - if you say you're going to write a script, nothing until you DO it. Gotta take the steps necessary to get it done.
Gotta get along with those folks, it's sorta like marriage. "It's like a marriage with the folks you make a movie with, and each movie is like a kid"
Film festival is a way in. If you're fortunate to get in, you'll get watched. Agencies will look at Sundance. SXSW won't be seen as well as others. Tribecca is still finding its feet.
"The double call" trick - when someone doesn't want to talk to you, they leave you a message while calling with another cell phone so it only leaves you a message.
They get calls at 10 or 11 at night, it's about going on the record to say they tried to reach you. If you answer your phone, they stutter and hang up, since they wanted to leave you a message. If you star 69 them, it's some LA office that wants to be able they say they tried to reach you when they didn't.
3 rule reschedule - they have 3 chances to reschedule with you. Can reschedule twice, if they don't make the second one, you've been dissed.
Last year Sundance at a condo, got 2000 RSVP emails. "Do we turn down Richard Gere etc." If you have a party at that condo, it's illegal to throw the party. They had to personalize a lot of responses to not offend folks
Menounus - wanted to interview Gore daughters years ago, she was working for Channel 1 educational channel. How to get Gore daughters? Everyone's wondering where they're coming in. She volunteers to help and she's wearing red shirt. At end of Gore's speech, she closes in on them and says Hi, I've been a volunteer and can I ask some questions. She got Bush after 9/11 after getting thrown down by Secret Service. Patriots Super Bowl, but had no credentials, found out how to get onto field, boo'd the RAMs, got someone to stop rolling, get her interview on THEIR camera. YOu REALLY have to try HARD and be "completely relentless"
Carmichael - great word - "blagging" is the art form of getting in where you're not supposed to - each event requires it's own access point. You're a blagger type or not. It's useful as a reporter to get in where you aren't supposed to be, and is illegal in a lot of situations, etc.
Bain - last year one of the panelists said if you find yourself at Cannes, send your contact info to all Hollywood info, and asked for contact info, and didn't get back hotel rooms
Q: how to meet and make a contact, but there's nothing to USE for now,
A: send a "nice to meet you" email, and say hope to touch base, etc., and try to follow up later. Forge friendships.
Do MySpace according to Collins, silly as it seems
Bain - a guy heard about a project of theirs, got 300 emails from the guy over the last 3 years on a project that never got off the ground. Dude, figure it out.
Collins says she'll write back from MySpace. MySpace friends? She has 1212 friends on MySpace. She gets stage shows set up, got an editor buddy hooked up on a project, etc.
Collins is hilarious, Menounus is precious (and loves pugs - talk dogs with her).
There's no one right way to get anything done.
Carmichael - If you need skills, work with some people. Don't stay as a PA or whatever else for very long - easy to get pigeonholed. hard to cross departmental boundaries from say, camera department to acting. After a few years a guy started as a PA and went to a Union Grip, had to quit and restart as an intern elsewhere.
MySpace.com movies - can do 4 movies per account
You'll get noticed if you put stuff on it.
Do something inventive with video, since there isn't much online on iTunes.
Maria Menounus - she works with first timers on all her projects, worked with'em to show'em how to get going. Hungry folks do good work. She's accepting of learning curves, because we can overcompensate due to experience overlap.
Maria - Easier to work with hungry and passionate rather than jaded people. She wants someone who'll say yes, not no.
As usual, these are my raw notes on the topic, typos and all.
It was interesting that the panel didn't get as into the guts of the topic as much as I would have liked. Of course, I could go all day on this stuff....
Here we go, notes below:
Kwiatkowski - distro guy came to DVD distro
Tim League (Drafthouse founder - woo hoo!) -
Blackwell - ??
John Sloss from Sloss law office in NYC, does consulting as well as law
Scott Weinberg - efilmcritic.com
!! Besner - VP original programming for netflix
!! Ted Mundorff - Landmark Theaters
Q: Tim & Ted - model for traditional filmmaker for theatrical distro
A: Tim - not the typical model - two models - traditional stuff for first run screens, he's a independent booker - hs a tiny bit of buying clout - on another level, constantly looking for small films to bring in and promote themselves to exhibit at their theaters - 75% new titiles, 25% oddball anything goes titles
Landmark Mundorff - more traditional market - some commercial studio stuff and speciality films, dominant exhibitor for indie type stuff - larger complexes like in Atlanta for traditional fare. have a healthy midnight movie setup too. Has worked in traditional exhibition world. How's that changing? Commerical exhibitors are trying to play more and more specialty stuff like landmark.
Porter - lot of press about changes, comparisons to music industry, as in MP3s, hope that studios will be smarter and be able to capitalize on this
Q: What do you see as the driving forces of change? What are the opportunities?
A: Kwiatkowski - non-traditional exhibition stuff, they show unsigned stuff in small venues across the coountry and worldwide, "microcinemas" in warehouses and stuff - a testbed for artists and a way to show to folks. Another way to reduce barriers to industry. VOD and iPods etc. will increase filmmaker opportunities. Don't know where will fall out
Q: Tim asks about broken for indies or big stuff? On a big level, Tim doesn't perceive a serious problem with big budget distro. Still a profitable year for most exhibitors as compared to a few years ago, on a smaller level, clearly a very small # of theaters (very indie operators who can make a decision whether a movie gets shown or not) - getting a movie into a bigger chain is virtually impossible for an indie filmmaker
Sloss would say that until recently wouldn't be broken. The indies we're talking about, the number of folks who consume these films, has been strong. At Sundance, this gave him pause - the advent of a hit driven mentality for specialty distributors. The "specialized blockbusters" is what the specialty studio distros want - makes 8-10 million. They don't want to make those any more. Makes
Putting 600+ films a year through landmark. Top 15 indie films provided by speciality major distro companies get shown in Regal.
Tim says - Regal Arbor plays as much indie fare as Dobie does - it is a 7/8 plex as opposed to Dobie's 4.
Tim tries to bring in art house projects but can't, there's an alliance with distros and Regal with the Arbor, or with landmark as a chain, are not willing to run with a true indie
Landmark guy says Dobie is not represntative
Tim says he shows Academy Award short for last 7 years, Apollo used to distro, can't be shown since magnolia and Landmark vertical alignment.
Mundorff disputes, says that Apollo still exists (which isn't a direct answer)
Indie blockbusters - talking about Sundance - films that were breakouts in 90s would have a hard time getting out. As it gets easier to make movies, it's harder for indies and foreign language films to compete. how many of the changes are driven by that hole in the market and the desire to find smaller films to promote
Self funded filmmakers are being successful using DVD distro - a few titles have sold over 50K copies (Kwiatkowski)
indies are tied up with wanting theatrical distribution, and is considered (Sloss saying this) - public exhibition mutating? The eyeballs are as healthy as ever - the middlemen are in flux, but outlets like alamo and Kwiatkowsi are valid, the specialty distros keep swinging for the fences rather than singles and doubles.
"Indie blockbusters" - NetFlix decided to move into acquiring original content a year ago - millions of subscribers into docs, foreign, etc. that wasn't served by theatrical distribution. Out of that came the ability for NetFlix to bring stuff to market that didn't get any or limited theatrical distro, and target amonngst their subscribers who might enjoy those films. those models will be essential as fewer films reach the tgheatrical market. As subscriber base grows, that audience will grow and be trained to like indie, docs, foreign, etc., that audience will grow. The collective efforts of people on the panel will be required to get consumers to find the channels to find that kind of product in this blockbuster driven mentality.
Q: If you make an indie film that festivals like it, is it considered a disappointment if it doesn't get theatrical? Is that a dissapointment? If it gets to DVD first? You want your film on big screen, is it bad to debut on DVD?
A: Sloss - most filmmakers would be dissapointed to go straight to DVD. Less dissapointing in the futre according to Besner. Theaters can't be replciated in the home. Audiences are getting accustomed to watching in the home - over time, different films will be percieved differently - blockbuster in the theater, niche stuff at home. Tim says - Theatrical run is a legitimizer for films. At least that's how it is perceived now. SOME hurdles have been overcome. It's an advertising means and word of mouth - they might have heard of it. If they haven't heard of it, "maybe it isn't so hot." Theatrical is still a legitimizer for indies. Kwiatkowski says they go the other way - poopular DVDs get LIMITED theatrical screenings at museums and campuses and stuff (obvioulsy a limited thing). Screening DVDs (but still DVD quality, not better!)
Blackwell - he's more music based, 8 years in film - what's happening now between music and film - they are coming much closer - when releasing a record, the artist wants to be able to go on tour - certain similarities - director wants theatrical release. It's costly to go on tour - depends on the demand as to whether they can support a tour. Start in small clubs and build up from there. There's similarities about film biz now. The expense of releasing a movie theatrically on a large # of screens is huge cost - it's part of the advertising process. I'm very keen on DVD, I'm keen on the release windows. In many but not all situations, day and date makes sense because the most costly thing is getting the product in front of the audience. In the film biz, traditionally you ramp up for theatrical, then 6-8 months later ramp up AGAIN for DVD. In music, ramp up for the project, and that marketing works with the touring, all done at the same time. Different because movies all over and an act one place one time, but from biz point of view, getting product to audience.
Q: Day and date release - what do you think? Based on Bubble's day and date rlease, what do you think? HDNet, Landmark theaters, DVD relase. Some theaters resisting altogether.
A: Landmark guy - trying to find the system that makes sense for today, day and date, two weeks, a month away - don't have an answer for that. it's a grand experimentation phase. Regal decided not to play anything that does day and date with DVD or any kind of broadcast (such as HDNet TV). Either no one in their org looks at it as pro-DVD or against DVD, trying to figure out how economically to get these films out into marketplace "and not have to do it twice" Joe roth said a (founder Revolution pix) few weeks ago - eventually things will setttle down to about 30 days - opens and 30 days later the DVD release. That way, the marekting and advertising becomes all one. Let's be clear why theaters are against - they are against it because fear of losing money. the jury is out.
Slosss - leaving about the epic scale of seeing movies in theaters - some folks will want to see some films in public - Sloss feels look at what happened to music industry - Napster and illegal downloading - not driven by greed, driven by a will towards convenience - getting something when you want it. The ability to download movies as fast as music, a will for convenience. The tech will blow through the artificial boundaries of the window, whether legally or illegally people want what they want when they want it. "Day and date is inexorable."
Show of hands on King Kong in theater if knew could get DVD in a month. Buncha hands. If could buy DVD same day...same amount of hands.
Weignberg - theatrical expeirence as a whole is degrading - people are ruder, cell phones are encroaching, prices are too high, moviegoers are getting tired of being treated that way. If they know it's out in 3 months, esp. if isn't King Kong you want to see on big screen. Teen can see theatrical PG-13 or wait 2 1/2 months for unrated....doesn't leave an option. is theatrical doomed? Tired of being surrounded by ignorant people.
blackwell - definitely not an end - people like to go see something when it's new and not wait (esp. the teens, gotta be on it)
Trying to keep all these businesses healthy. Like sports - some will go to the arena, some will watch from home. if can find that sweet spot that makes DVD and theatrical going, keep the economy flowing of that, there'll be more outlets for more content. 16 year olds aren't interested in same stuff I am when I vs. they see it, iPod vs theaters. It's very important to create a "want to see" and give the availability to be available and keep it healthy.
blackwell - how many more pictures are being made and can be - digital tech isn't all bad news - can make films much less expensively - like the record biz - 40,000 records made a year even if a huge # shouldn't have been. Be same in the film business - Tim's biz is like a small club - people can see an act ina "small club" and grow from there.
Tim League says - big budget and small budget scenarios - small budget film scenarios haven't changed that much in last 30 years - LA & NYC screenings, if critics like then scale up bit at a time. Brokeback Mountain was allowed time to breathe in a theatrical setting, day and date would have cannibalized to get anywhere near what it did. On those grounds alone, small films are eating away at your own ad campaign, for the end result for incereasing DVD sales, gotta go that way (which way? not clear)
Sloss - JP Morgan released a study - day and date release overall would cut box office up to 50%, would increase the bottom line revenues would more than offset. Study not terribly valid - polled people & asked about higher DVD prices on day and date. Would 40 Year Old Virgin have sold better after $100M budget?
DVDs and movie tix sell based on word of mouth. Can't spend your way into box office success (beyond opening weekend).
Kwiatkowski-theatrical vs. DVD vs iPod vs what kind of DVD. Walmart and Target and Best Buy (Baker & Taylor) who will not buy you indie DVD. If you don't get theatrical screening, be sure your distro isn't being blocked by oone of those big distro units. Some big studios who don't get their products beyond Big Box (Walmart etc.).
Q: what about interactive movies
Q: what about straight downloads? How long do you think DVD has? How will it affect theatrical? Conviction came out two days BEFORE TV broadcast?
A: conviction came out 2 days early as a gimmick (Sloss) How long will discrete disks as opposed to bits over a wire. We are headed towards a universe to see every movie ever made anytime you want. How long until? Dunno.
Sloss recommends - when licensing the rights to your movie, make sure VOD is included in TV revenue NOT DVD revenue (better money for you)
Sloss sees VOD and download as the same thing - I SEE THAT AS A VERY, VERY DANGEROUS ASSUMPTION. Subscription vs download vs watch once - different needs for different products. I'd buy/download a great movie, VOD a sports event, VOD something I'm so-so on. That's my $0.02.
Talking about how to equip a 20plex with 80-$100K projectors, margins aren't thick enough to support that. Studios are trying to find a way to help pay for since they get most of the savings.
Landmark has at least a 2.0 projector in every market. Problem they'll have is to find product to fill those projectors.
The price will have to drop substantially in order to make it cost effective for theater owners (and they won't buy until next year's price drop isn't too scary to make them wait - that's my thought again)
Q: What about integration if day and date works out? Sell DVDs at theaters or what? How are they differentiating since somebody looks to lose money?
A: some experimentation about DVDs in theaters, minor scale testing. Process of cannibalization - more formats available simultaneously, somebody's gonna loose out it the fear. NetFlix guy says that's why they looked to original stuff - not talking about blockbusters, number of markets for the water cooler chatters to hear about it is minior - by going wide with long tail in nearly real time, that's significant. In new markets and massive indies it'd be a problem.
Tim'll sell DVDs after limited release stuff
Q: somebody looknig at a revenue sharing deal in Dallas - how long to be in theater to make a profit? What to beware?
A: Sloss - the longer a film plays, the more a theater owner keeps - covering the nut of the theater and then having a split - that model has existed and that model is changing, many studios have gone to aggregate charges - all weeks are "taxed" the same amount. (Mundorff) - the film will stay in the theater as long as people come in sufficient numbers. Sloss says- historically, theater owners took a greater take on longer runs. Theaters see little the first week or two on big movies, so longer it stays better for theaters.
Q: With VOD, iPod, downloads, iFilm, etc. - what kinds of budgets mumble mumble...if this is eyeball consumption moving towards cheaper formats (less than theaters), are you violating fiduciary responsibility to investors
A: no - just manage your rights and look to how much money comes to you. DVD sells for $19, wholesales for $11, you get 20% of that, OR go direct to the eyeballs off a cheaper download - gotta chug the numbers. Don't assume you're hosing investors by going that way (to downloads). In a more efficient market, as a producer, it is out of your control.
If you sign a film because you like it, I'll go to Sundance and if doesn't work out, too bad is NOT the way to do it anymore. And these issues are more and more the producer's responsibility.
Q: If can download from the Internet, need to focus on moviegoing experience
A: some theaters might die for those that don't care about the experience (I see it as a technology issue)
Q: What about adapting moviegoing stuff? Sloss asks about beer in theaters -
A: Tim says it is state by state and how you position yourself in the permitting process
Q: Production costs have dropped, but distro costs haven't, there's more stuff trying to get into the existing outlets
A: Netflix guy says that's why they got into orignial content purchasing - isn't an issue of exhibition costs, more about space - there's more good films out there that are produced inexpensively, but is more competitive to find those eyeballs
On DVD side, local DVD stores aren't there, WalMart doesn't carry the cool indie stuff, cost of exhibition will go down over time, one guy says uses a $5000 projector for their microcinema stuff to screen DVDs
Q: Netflix guy - for DVD only stuff, are people watching at home that there's an alternative community to support stuff?
A: YES - within their network have a friends program to recommend titles and talk about 'em and stuff, it's not realtime but it is useful and satisfactory for those obsessed and want to digest and process. It isn't that they are forgoing theatrical, they are supporting them to go theatrical in some cases. Netflix had a DVD release that did well and then got limited theatrical, got DVD rlease within 45 days of theatrical relase. Puffy Chair did a different deal to help'em find their audience to see it theatrically not on DVD, if you live in a zip code close to where it's showing, netflix lets you know on those co-promotion deals (Netflix does the DVD as well).
and that's it. Another panel in an hour, gotta figure out what I'm doing tonight. SXSW has a webcal thing that helps plan, but I've got 4 simultaneous desirable events at all times after about 5pm every day.
Update - ran into Turk Pipkin, another Austinite that made the movie Nobelity that will be showing at the Paramount thursday at 7:30 (only screening) that looks very intersting - interviews with Nobel Prize winners.
talking about every big hit has tons of detractors, it has to be one person's vision - Walt Disney was told nobody wants to watch a feature length cartoon.
Lucas told American Graffiti wasn't releasable even for television
As a result, Lucas never asks studios for money, has no "normal" agent, etc. - he got burned and never wanted to go back
Recommends "Fiasco" talking about biggest losers - Ishtar, etc. Every single one of the great flops were terrible ideas going in.
Paint Your Wagon - Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin to sing - Gene Seeburg is singing, too
Fun With Dick And Jane remake - new one was 125 million or so to make, no reason why to cost so much
Remakes - if it worked the first time, maybe it'll work again according to the studios
As opposed to find best director and script and follow your gut on what's the best picture gonna be.
Stories that worked a generation ago may or may not work with modern audiences
There's a new bifurcated Hollywood - serious pictures for adults are capped around $20M a picture
the other CGI and action flicks are up around $100M
(Superman remake is north of $200M)
The big movies will suck the energy and capital - are the studios going to stick to their guns and NOT let the funds get stolen by big pictures
Godfather Returns - hope it doesn't get made
Coppola was furious that Godfather was being made into a video game. Since video games are bigger, that's the money to follow
Roll of small films - Michael Moore did help in the vanguard of proving docs can make it theatrically
Landmark is doing well with Magnolia on doc distribution - the Enron, the Walmart docs will establish a foothold in theatrical. Docs' big payoff is the DVD market.
"I think docs are big business and very exciting - the most exciting part of the film business."
Q: if a $20M movie is made, how much to market it?
A: when you see figures released by MPAA - cost of filmmaking has levelled off, the cost of marketing is soaring - went up 5-10% this year. One reason is there's a habitual quality to film marketing - gotta make huge television buy, full page ads in newspapers. Thinks people aren't imaginative enough with online marketing. Is possible to pinpoint marketing, "that's the way it has to go in the future." $12M to make an art picture, $30M to sell it, then the actors who worked for scale etc, directors and studios don't make money on it. Marketing mechanism "has to be completely re-evaluated."
Q: Do blurbs from critics matter?
A: No. Most blurbs are from fakes (interview calls'em blurb whores). Blurbmeisters are out there, Variety collects best worst blurbs. Critics matter with smaller pictures, festivals matter bigtime. Festival circuit, and critics discovering, are pivotal to these niche pictures. Sex Lies & Videotape was ignored at Sundance, Variety ran a good review, THEN distributors came in and bought it. Critics lay claim to discovering overlooked pictures, and there's some validity to that. Variety has 30 film critics around the world and they try to review everything they can, even if only online. Variety is successful, one way to give back is to cover all the festivals and stuff and find the bright new filmmakers.
Q: Talking about Magnolia docs, what about closing the window
A: He hates the idea, have a terrible effect on theatrical business. The current three month window is a legitimate window. To close it, and do simultaneous release, will have a terrible effect just when niche pictures are working. "Bubble is such a boring little picture, it doesn't prove anything to me. It played nominally in theaters. I hated it, it was just horrible. As student films go..."
Q: How did Shootout go from book to TV?
A: Chairman of Sony did Rain Man and Batman had produced, had taught at 40 yrs at UCLA film school. Bart was a guest speaker, suggested putting a book together for filmmakers. Came out with book, AMC network at that time decided to do some live programming (not just show films), decided to do a TV show based on book. Most people who see movies are outside the US, is a good reminder
Q: What projects currently working on?
A: I am definitely going to surrender my role of producer, Variety is an odd and vibrant paper (daily in NYC and LA and a weekly worldwide, plus the online presence), it's a full time job done for 16 years and enjoys, niche journalism is an exciting pocket. Variety's specific audience can be specific, but average income of Variety reader is $400K, attractive for advertisers. People don't read as much as they used to, big city papers are beginning to fade, niche papers are on the rise. Most encouraging thing, most affluent sector of papers in America is student papers - students read, advertisers buy ads. It isn't all online and video games. Newspapers, including one in Austin, don't talk to the readers with the energy they should.
Q: For new journalists, what advice?
A: Journalism is an exciting way of making a living - can ask anyone any question and expect an answer. Shocking experience as a kid - called a Supreme Court Justice as an NYTimes writer - and got an immediate answer. Start at a small paper and work your way up is his advice. #1 - best opportunity for young filmmakers since the 60's. Digital filmmaking and distribution, the internet, the chokehold of the majors for filmmaking is ending. An amazing democratization moment is occurring. Blogs are exciting - new voices in journalism. Unfortunate that as new doors open, but not enough new voices to fill it. In the 60's Vietnam, and change in music, sexual acitivity etc. Now, with a big change, (woops lost a chunk) - used to go to movies and walk out and say "that changed my opinion on that or the way I think about it" but will that still happen today? Are the filmmakers there to have the answers right?
Q: about bloggers
A: Variety tries to be an island of accuracy (or something like that). Bloggers aren't held to any acountability and that's scary says AP writer/interviewer (missed her name). Woman from Cinematical.com chimed in about responsible bloggers (go girl! I was on a panel with her last year, she's on Monday panel with Scott Kirsner on film blogging). I was going to comment out loud, but didn't get called on, about true freedom of the press - while they aren't held as accountable, they are at least free to say whatever they want (hopefully true) without pressure from vendors, advertisers, etc. Even I, at my tiny little level, have experienced pressure from folks over things I've written, with implied reduced access if I say not nice things.
Q: about the Danish cartoons and repression and freedom of press issues
A: doing a story this week pointing out the alarming impact ofthis - there's so much self editing going on now in film, TV, & newspapers. An example - Michael Winterbottom's Guantanamo picture - gave a good review (shrill politically) hasn't found a distributor yet - in every sector of the media, you feel things tightening up - pressure building on the Da Vinci Code - Catholics taking up ads etc., it's not scary in any way other than the fact that Tom Hanks should cut his hair. It is a little scary today (self editing) - if the terrorists have this impact on a free society, and that would be a very dire thing
Q: best critic today outside of AP and Variety?
A: clearly superb ones in the past (Vincent Canby in the past), LA Times makes him crazy, NY Times critics make him crazy, he finds himself in conflict with prevailing opinions of the NY media
Critics pick a favorite pick that nobody's ever seen - like it is a mark of pride to find a favorite that no one's seen
There's too many numbingly bad movies coming out today - he thinks he'd be an alcoholic
interviewer likes Joe Morganstern is good and some others
Q: nothing in February screens for the press - no press releases
Perhaps this might well be dubbed The Year Of The Line - we (myself and Melissa, my girlfriend) - arrived at the Alamo Downtown at 6:10 or so for the 7pm screening of Thank You For Smoking - and the lines (badge, pass, and buy tickets) was already much longer than the theater capacity at this small venue (two hundred seats). I happened to run into Frank Reynolds, my longtime editor friend (he cut Tromeo and Juliet as well as the Oscar nominated In The Bedroom, as well as Things That Hang From Trees that is showing today at 5pm). This was convenient, because he's staying at my house this week and we hadn't touched base yet.
I got in, but Melissa and Frank didn't, so I bailed - it'll be in theaters shortly. Someone suggested I just rave about how good it was and just wing it as if I saw it. It looks good based on the trailer, I like the wicked sense of humor...but I haven't seen it yet.
So we went to eat (Saba an hour wait, another line, Spaghetti Warehouse immediate seating - guess which is better food) and had a drink at the Driskill before the new Altman film, A Prarie Home Companion. Woops - by 8pm (9:15 start time) the lines (badge vs. passes) were both down the block in either direction. The badge line went down half a block, around the corner, the full block, and around the corner even further. Yikes! Fortunately, the Paramount is huge (1200 or 1300 seats I think), so we all got in.
I ended up sitting next to Joe Siravo, one of the producers on Things That Hang From Trees (and also plays Tony Soprano's dad in flashbacks on The Sopranos) and I had a pleasant conversation with him about their project and what they hoped to achieve at SXSW with it.
The movie is a faux doc about A Prairie Home Companion as if it were a live radio show that had been running for 30 years and this was the last night. It is typical Altman - ensemble piece, overlapping dialog, no 'splosions, character driven. For those who enjoy the Sunday radio show (count me in), it's an enjoyable diversion. For non-fans, it may be a stretch. Consensus opinion - fair. Not great, not horrible, just fair. Virginia Madsen plays an angel for no apparent reason in a way that comes in out of left field for A Prarie Home Companion's background. A lot of classic characters and motifs are done in the film, and the versimilitude of having Garrison Keillor play his own character, and the band from the show plays themselves adds charm to those who have heard the show but never seen the faces. (GK looks older than he sounds).
After that, Melissa retired for the night and Frank and I went to the opening night party at Buffalo Billiards - another 50-80 person line to wait to get in. I must be verging on Cranky Old Fart, because I was tired and felt it was all too consistently loud (it was pushing midnight by this time). We wandered and ran into some folks I knew - Joe Swanberg who is here at SXSW this year with his film LOL picked me out of the crowd (he did Kissing On The Mouth last year that I found striking, new, fresh and authentic in a way that Hollywood just can't touch) and we had an enthusiastic conversation about how quickly they got their next film out, how he'd grown and what he'd learned from the last piece (bigger cast, for instance), and how they'd done over the last year. I commented on his success of getting to be able to make another film, whereas another unique standout from last year, Four Eyed Monster got written up in the NYTimes for their ability to make a movie, get some limited critical success, and are now massively in debt with no distribution model. I didn't mention it at the time, but another small DIY film I liked last year, Waterborne, got some attention for forgoing limited theatrical distribution and going straight to Google Video for distribution. I'd consider that a success - he'll get tons more PR and media attention for that move rather than a $150K limited theatrical run that will never get any press whatsoever - the additional PR will probably help them get their next deal in a superior way to the theatrical run.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing LOL (sorry, no links, writing in a WiFi vacuum at the moment).
Took a social lap to find anyone else I knew, enjoyed The Woman In Orange Dress (actual person) who was dancing and had a wardrobe malfunction, and met Kevin Corrigan who Frank knew, who has a film here, The Champions.
After that, this old fart went to bed - it's gonna be a looooooong week. Gotta not drink much if I'm gonna make some midnight screenings.
Friday, March 10, 2006
The camera test that I've been planning for months is postponed, and the venue at SXSW to screen it has been cancelled.
For those who were planning to come and see it, I'm sincerely sorry. I wanted to see it too.
It all boils down to this - the venue at SXSW is no longer available. It was all planned and booked, then Something Changed, there was a conflict, and that location was no longer available, and since this happened so late in the game, no alternative was available or viable either. SXSW staff hated that this happened, but they have tough decisions to make about what is best for the Conference and Film Festival.
The reason why THAT cancelled the shoot is this:
1.) At least half the benefit of the test is seeing it up on a full-on 1080p projector on a theatrical screen - that way, there's no BS about "Well, on the Big Screen, if you were seeing it for REAL, those artifacts...." blah blah blah, or "Well, if the projector had enough pixels, or enough lumens, or didn't artifact from scaling..." blah blah nerdy digital blah. Now there is no such venue available.
2.) For me, a good part of the draw was about seeing it for myself on that kind of a screen.
3.) But a bigger reason for me to spend the weeks necessary to plan, shoot, post produce, analyze, prepare and present the findings was to do it in front of (hopefully) hundreds of filmmakers, some of whom would want to hire me to consult or post supervise or whatever on their projects. Without that audience lined up, and with everything else on my plate (and there's tons you folks aren't hearing about), it was Too Much to do right now.
4.) So I'll either pitch in with Chris Hurd and his crew on the shoot they are trying to line up, or I'll do mine separately at some later date. So it isn't terminally cancelled, it is just rescheduled for some later unknown date. I need to have a longer conversation with the folks doing the other shoot to see if our goals are compatible, dunno. If they'll have me, I'll most likely be helping out with the other shoot whether I do my own separate one or not.
SXSW folks were sorry that it came to this, the official response from SXSW in full:
Every year SXSW puts a lot of planning into action on panels, speakers, demonstration, films, bands etc. For any number of reasons a lot of this doesn't come to fruition. This is one of the events we were working on that we were not able to pull off. But it was one of many, each not realized for different reasons. Probably most years more things fall though than the ones that happen. The nature of the Conference and Festival business is you have to plan for far more than could be presented if they all happened because they are not all going to happen.
Unofficially, I've had several long talks with SXSW staff about this. Their heart is in the right place, they see the benefit of this, but there were tradeoffs to be made, and the presentation fell by the wayside as they tried to balance out what was best for the overall SXSW experience and what they could make happen. And I respect that choice, I'm just unhappy with that choice, as this would have been my big PR event at South By. So I have virtually no presence at SXSW this year.
In lieu of the big hour presentation, I'm now on the Digital Intermediates panel on Tuesday from 1-2 pm in 13B in the Austin Convention Center. Yes, I'm really going to be there, even though it doesn't say so in the printed manual or the online stuff. Gotta have a badge to get in, $300.
OK, time to get positive:
SO, IN LIGHT OF THE FACT THAT SXSW ISN'T GOING TO BE A VENUE FOR THIS (AT LEAST THIS YEAR), where can I take this?
I wanted to do it in Austin, my hometown, at my hometown film festival where I can just drive over with a G5, a disk array, three chords and the truth to play out my uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2 dreams and revelations, but that isn't happening this year. So where can I go? Anybody know somebody at other film festivals or HD events where I could screen the results of this now test-to-be? Comment or drop me a line if you have a serious lead.
The deal is this:
1.) Shoot with the following cameras
These are the high end current cameras, the Gold Standard of HD for indie filmmaking - until new stuff supplants them.
They'd be shown against these:
-Canon XL H1
-and, if possible, get the new Sony XDCAM HD (which I haven't reported on yet and I'm way late, apologies, in depth coverage coming). And if the Andromeda guys can come down, all the better
2.) Record in the following way:
-all cameras, all the time - side by side, all shooting same subject material. There are arguments to be made that you should swap out cameras on the same sticks and shoot one at a time, that there will be angular differences on highlights and such. This is true. But it takes 6 times longer, and a subject in motion will pass through a variety of angles and yield enough info to make this a meaningful test
-all cameras to shoot 24p, or the closest they can get to it. Since we know that the pseudo-24p of the Sony and the 24F mode of the Canon aren't as sharp as true 24p, those modes will be briefly used but 50i for deinterlacing and conforming to 24p will also be explored with the best desktop tools for the task (which is another big chunk of R&D after the test)
-all cameras to record to their native capturing format, AS WELL AS to uncompressed to disk via either HD-SDI or component analog to HD-SDI converters. This for ALL cameras, for ALL footage, not just some brief tests with each camera. This is the ONLY way to look at a given scene and compare cameras one to another shooting the same actors in the same motions, and recording formats one to another.
3.) Post shoot processing and comparisons
-all footage to be captured at 24p OR 24p to be extracted from the pulldown OR processed from 50i, depending on the camera and acquisition methodology
-all footage to be uprezzed to 1080p23.976 progressive on a 10 bit uncompressed timeline using best desktop practices (including a proprietary process we just used on a project that was picked over a Teranex or a Quantel eQ)
-all footage thus processed and/or uprezzed to be compared on broadcast HD CRT and 1920x1080 LCD for detail and motion rendering. Ideally, some critical eyes on it on an 1080p res HD projector would be cool, too, but I don't have one of those handy.
-some of the tests will be for "best in camera" results, others for "best for color correction" results. We'll grade those shots on our Final Touch HD rig and discuss what worked and what didn't, and what the limits were of each format for post processing
4.) The Showing
-this was what was supposed to happen at SXSW, but now the door is open for other festivals or events
-Projection on a major festival grade HD 1080p projector - I'm not hunting for a Sony 4K here (which would be nice!), but a full-on Barco or TI like you'd see at Sundance, SXSW, etc.
-ideally, 200+ filmmakers (and not students, or hope-to-be's...I'll be honest and say I'm doing this in part to find some clients and make it worth the massive effort)
-so what it would take at this point - an event willing to fly me and my gear out for the festival. I'm looking to screen it from the computer, since that is the only uncompressed source I have access to. HDCAM? NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I'm trying to work with best possible SOURCE material, with filmout in mind as well as festival HD projection. Acquisition format HAS to be better than distribution format to give you the flexibility to work with the footage in post. The presentation will include both raw source and corrected materials, and the point is to see the difference, not mush'em all to the same standard.
OK, end of rant. Anybody game out there?
I'm thinking I'll reach out to a few film festivals and some select individuals to see if they're interested.
first off, thanks for all the kind and supportive emails and comments I've received over the last few weeks - it's been very humbling and rewarding to see all of the good will that has come my way from supportive or concerned folks - thanks very much to you all.
The reasons why I had to sideline the blog have been put behind me and I'm moving onward and upward. Multiple business endeavors that I'd spent many many months to put together all fell apart around the same time and had to be dealt with. Frustrating and time consuming.
But I'm back now, and will be diving right back in, starting tonight - SXSW starts tonight and I'm looking forward to a week of conferences, movies, parties, filmmakers, drinking, schmoozing, and not shaving.
I've missed blogging about a lot of good stuff -
-Sony XDCAM HD
-Panasonic's price drop on the SDX900 ($10,000 off, now $16,500)
-the true res of the HVX200 - 960x540 with pixel shift in both directions
-Panasonic's new P2 based 720p/1080i camera that will be in the $26-$30K price range
-Apple's new Intel based Minis
-LumiereHD's new versions for 24p support of more HDV cameras
-and who knows what all else
I may just drop a huge blob of links to stuff I've noted but not blogged recently.
But the coming week is alllllll about SXSW.
So, I'm back, I'm rolling, and getting back to what I do best.