Archive for September, 2010

One of America’s Great Directors, Arthur Penn

Being a child of the 60’s one can’t help but think back of some of the great films that exploded from that era, Mickey One, and The Chase and of course, Bonnie and Clyde.  All were from the capable hands of Arthur Penn who cut his teeth in the golden era of (live) television drama in the 50’s and came full circle in the last ten years supervising LAW & ORDER.

Bonnie and Clyde was not an easy sell for the studios and mainstream critics but it’s youth-oriented anti-authoritarian message became a touchstone for the emerging counter culture of the 1960’s and made way for a new generation of filmmakers:

“Mr. Penn was perceived as a major film artist on the European model, opening the way for a group of star directors — including Robert AltmanTerrence MalickBob Rafelson and Hal Ashby — who were able to work with comparative artistic freedom through the next decade. The “film generation” had arrived.” quote from Dave Kehr in The New York Times

- Scott Arundale

Wookie in 3D

Lucasfilm has announced that it’s giving all six “Star Wars” movies another re-release, this time in 3-D. “The Phantom Menace” will be first on the slate, with a release due in 2012, Variety reports.

The company has been hinting for several years that it might do 3-D versions of the saga, and the recent boom in 3-D films led to the announcement late Tuesday (Sept. 28).John Knoll, the visual effects supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic, is overseeing the conversion and tells Variety that “It’s not going to look like [other 3-D conversions] we’ve seen in the past.”

“Getting good results on a stereo conversion is a matter of taking the time and getting it right. It takes a critical and artistic eye along with an incredible attention to detail to be successful. It is not something that you can rush if you want to expect good results. For Star Wars we will take our time, applying everything we know both aesthetically and technically to bring audiences a fantastic new Star Wars experience.”

One thing the new versions won’t contain is more playing around with the original trilogy’s visual effects. “Star Wars” mastermind George Lucas updated a number of effects shots for the 1997 re-release of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi, »


Sally, we will miss you

Sally Menke, the editor behind all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, died yesterday while hiking with her dog in the 113-degree Los Angeles heat. According to The Los Angeles Times, her body was found early this morning after friends alerted the authorities when she didn’t return from her hike. Her dog was found alive.

It’s always a tragedy to lose anyone at the height of their creative skill and with so much left to offer. Menke was only 56, but that goes doubly so when it’s so unexpected. Menke received her second Oscar nomination just last year for Inglourious Basterds (the first was for PulpFiction), and it’s hard to watch that film without marveling at how the editing enhances it. Think of the long takes in the opening cabin scene combined with cuts between the two actors’ faces. Think of the surprising jump in perspective in the basement pub scene, where you realize the German officer has been there all along, listening. An editor’s work must often deliberately fade into the background, but Tarantino’s films relied so heavily on Menke’s work that many consider her his co-author. It’s hard to estimate the impact this will have on Tarantino’s future work, and honestly, you wonder if his movies will ever feel quite right again.

Our thoughts go out to Menke’s family and friends after this shocking loss. If you want to learn more about this woman and her incredible career, Movieline did a great interview with her last year, just before she received her Lifetime Achievement honor at the Hamilton Behind The Camera Awards. You can also watch this video interview below in which Tarantino talks about his work with Menke, calling her his “number-one collaborator.”


Avid Demo this Monday in Orange, CA

Avid demo with editors from the hit TV series Lost:
This Monday, September 27th,  join LOST Video Editor Chris Nelson and Sound Re-recording Mixers Frank Morrone and Scott Weber as they discuss Avid’s essential role in producing one of television’s biggest hits.  Learn more about the processes behind their multiple award nominations and wins. Join us for an open dialog and see the process first hand as you are taken through each cut.  Discover how Chris, Frank and Scott work with their peers and fine tune video and audio tracks to create the final cut using Avid Media Composer and Pro Tools. The presentation will be in the Folino Theater on Monday, Sept. 27 from 5:00 – 6:30pm. Pre registration is strongly encouraged. Register at

Former Home Entertainment Champ Blockbuster throws in the towel

Blockbuster made it official today, filing its long expected Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with a line of creditors that includes its product suppliers like Fox, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros and Disney. It seems unfathomable that given Blockbuster’s supremacy at one time–think of all the mom and pop video stores that went out of business when Blockbuster set up shop nearby–the corporation could not have been more forward thinking. It could have owned the VOD and rental by mail space dominated by Netflix, and it got its head handed to it by Coinstar’s Redbox, which offered the same DVDs in supermarket kiosks for 25% of the rental prices charged by Blockbuster. While Carl Icahn is reportedly buying up Blockbuster debt and somebody might take a shot at resurrecting Blockbuster and its $1 billion in assets, it might well be too late to establish itself in VOD and as a buyer of pay TV rights for films, as Netflix is now doing at a fraction of the costs incurred by Blockbuster to maintain its 3000 stores. It’s a cautionary tale about standing pat when the sand is shifting under your feet, and Blockbuster’s woes are similar to those being felt by brick and mortar bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, which is hard pressed to compete with outlets like Amazon, serving up both paper books and e-titles without having to pay the light bill and staff the cash registers.



Blockbuster’s bankruptcy filing was a long time in coming, but is still daunting when you think back to how omnipresent and powerful the company used to be. To be sure, there has been a lot of distracting M&A and corporate drama surrounding Blockbuster over the years which no doubt contributed to its decline. Still, there have been fundamental shifts in its business that Blockbuster missed.

Specifically, Netflix has been both a catalyst of Blockbuster’s demise and also a big beneficiary. Now, with Netflix aggressively pursuing over-the-top streaming, it is inevitably going to put pressure on traditional pay-TV operators. So what might pay-TV operators learn from Blockbuster’s bankruptcy? Here are 6 things. No doubt there are more.

1. Love your customers, don’t abuse them – Blockbuster earned the enmity of its customers with egregious late return fees. Short-term that was profitable, but long-term it built up huge resentment and frustration (Netflix lore is that CEO Reed Hastings started the company in response to his own frustration over late fees). When customers feel taken advantage of, the door swings open to competitors. Many pay-TV subscribers spending $100 or more per month feel they’re over-paying for lots of channels they don’t watch. That should be a red flag to prompt changes in pay-TV packaging.

2. Don’t cling to incumbent business models – When you have a good thing going, it’s tempting to not to change. Blockbuster hung on to its store-based and pay-per-rental model and entered fixed price DVD-by-mail and online distribution late and half-heartedly. As Andy Grove famously said, “Only the paranoid survive.” The point is, the world changes and so must business models. For pay-TV providers, just because multichannel subscriptions have worked for years doesn’t mean they always will.

3. Physical infrastructure may not matter as much as hoped – It’s often the case that having lots of physical infrastructure creates a big entry barrier for would-be competitors. For Blockbuster, its network of thousands of stores was thought to be an insurmountable advantage. But Netflix avoided stores by using the mail (and building relatively few distribution centers). Similarly pay-TV operators have invested billions in their networks, but over-the-top players like Netflix are simply using the open Internet to deliver their content. While physical infrastructure often helps, pay-TV operators shouldn’t consider it a rock-solid defense.

4. What appears inferior may actually be superior – It may be a distant memory now, but when Netflix started it was actually less convenient than Blockbuster, because you had to wait to receive the DVDs a few days out, whereas with Blockbuster you could drive down the street and get something immediately (even if it wasn’t always your top pick). But Netflix turned that disadvantage into an advantage by developing sophisticated inventory software and the ability for subscribers to create/manage queues. The result was subscribers disproportionately watched older movies, largely avoiding the stockout phenomenon and financial burden that plagued Blockbuster’s hits-driven business. Similarly, today Netflix offers no live programming, making it an inferior offering to pay-TV. But with consumers shifting to on-demand viewing, not having live is becoming less important.

5. DNA and focus matter, a lot – Like human beings and leopards, it’s awfully hard for companies to “change their spots.” Blockbuster succeeded by operating a store-based model. When they tried to overlay DVDs-by-mail and online they couldn’t execute. Netflix started as DVD-by-mail only and relentlessly refined that model. It’s been extraordinary to see how seamlessly they’ve evolved to online delivery. Pay-TV operators have struggled to evolve from linear delivery to anywhere/anytime/any device delivery. Pay-TV operators mustn’t let their DNA disadvantage them.

6. Technology is a friend and must be embraced – A huge part of Netflix’s success is due to advanced technology deployed in every aspect of its business. I have a hunch that that’s because Reed Hastings is a tech guy himself, who respects and understands technology’s critical role. It’s unlikely that anyone who walked into a Blockbuster store ever felt it was high tech. My memories of being in stores are about seeing low-paid, apathetic teenagers staffing the whole operation. With pay-TV operators, many have made huge strides in how they use technology in their operations, yet too often deficiencies are obvious to their subscribers. Things that are a given on the web like self-service ordering are still rare, requiring tedious phone calls.

So there are 6 things pay-TV operators can learn from Blockbuster. No doubt there are many others as well. Netflix’s fingerprints are all over Blockbuster’s demise. Pay-TV operators need to be vigilant because they are next in Netflix’s cross-hairs.


Why Are the Big Studios Afraid of Little Ivi?

Ivi streams broadcast television programming to computers for only $4.99 per month. NBC, CBS, Fox, and Disney have a problem with that.

While Ivi, Inc., has only launched a week ago, the Seattle, Washington, startup has gotten quite a bit of attention. That’s not surprising when its business model is taking over-the-air television content and streaming it for a fee.

At the moment, Ivi (pronounced “ivy”) offers broadcast channels from Seattle and New York City, which can be viewed on any Internet-connected Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. The company plans to add additional markets every 45 days, says founder and CEO Todd Weaver, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.

After that, Ivi plans to offer an a la carte premium channel selection. Weaver won’t name names, but says the company is in talks with channel creators. Once it has a stable of premium channels, the company will offer theme-based packages of channels.

Viewers will also be able to view a range of independent channels. Ivi offers a few now, including public access, sports, and music channels, and plans to add more. The company is in talks to add pay-per-view sports channels, as well, Weaver says.

Growing Like Wild
Besides growing its channel list, Ivi has other plans that should help it spread like, well, ivy. First the company is looking to the mobile space. It’s already submitted an iPad app, and even a revision to that app. Weaver expects the app to be approved and available in the iTunes Store by mid-October.

After that, the company will offer iPhone and Android apps.

Once the mobile bases are covered, Ivi will look to set-top boxes, reaching out to makers such as Roku.

Ivi’s features will grow, as well. Currently, subscribers can pay an extra $.99 per month for Ivi Pro, which offers simple pause, fast forward, and rewind options. Look for that to grow into more fully-featured DVR controls with program scheduling.

If this all seems like fast growth, consider that Ivi was incorporated back in 2007, and only just launched its first consumer offering. It’s been using that time to build out its encryption, says Weaver. Rather than a traditional digital rights management system, which prevents sharing, Ivi has built a downloadable player that allows the subscription to travel with the subscriber.

Legal Battles Ahead
The cease-and-desist letters began almost immediately after Ivi launched. Fisher Communications and NBC Universal were first, says Weaver, followed by representatives for ABC, Fox, the CW, and several more. All alleged that what Ivi is doing constitutes copyright infringement.

The company’s defense, says Weaver, is that Ivi is a cable system transmitting under U.S. copyright laws, and that the Copyright Act authorizes this type of secondary transmission. While the law may not have caught up with online streaming yet, he says that cable operators and satellite broadcasters all had to fight the same fight in their early days.

When the first letters came in, Ivi sent replies explaining what it was doing. After it heard from more companies, it filed a letter of non-infringement in Seattle court.

Despite going up against some pretty deep pockets, Weaver is optimistic that the law is on Ivi’s side.

“It’s very much a David and Goliath competition. We’re a small company fighting for the distribution rights of consumers,” Weaver says.

While it’s the networks that are going after Ivi, Weaver says the cable and satellite companies have most to lose.

“They’re going to be the most mad, there’s no doubt. At the end of the day, we’ll be eating their lunch,” Weaver says. “Should they be worried that their subscriber base is going to be dropping? Yes, I’d say so.”


Blu-Ray 3D is like a toy in the cereal box for TV manufacturers

Disney and Sony have just announced a pact to bring Alice in Wonderland and Bolt on Blu-ray 3D exclusively to Sony 3D TV customers, adding to a tangle of exclusivity deals that is ultimately afflicting consumers.

Under the deal, people who buy a Sony 3D TV will be able to receive the Disney Blu-ray 3D titles for free. At least for the time being, these titles will not be released in stores and are not going to be available through any outlet as standalone movies.

It is an increasing trend in the burgeoning Blu-ray 3D playing field, as movie studios find it hard to stomach the cost of producing a new format for such a small audience, and TV manufacturers are eager to provide incentives to come to their side. Thus, TV makers have been paying the studios to get exclusive rights to the Blu-ray 3D versions of their films.

Samsung and Dreamworks have a tight pact, allowing only people who buy a special Samsung 3D glasses bundle to get the 3D version of Monsters vs. Aliens. Shrek will also be getting a similar treatment. Meanwhile, Panasonic offers Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Panasonic also recently scored a major coup, gaining the exclusive rights to the Blu-ray 3D version of Avatar. That deal is widely assumed to be only as a timed exclusive.

The only Blu-ray 3D title that anyone can actually go to a store and buy is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, a Sony Pictures flick. Sony 3D TV buyers do get a copy of that movie for free, but Sony decided to also make it available for other 3D customers as well. Only a handful of other titles are expected to be pushed to retail within the next several months.


3D Arcade Games emerge in Japan

SI Electronics has announced it is developing an arcade board that will support 3D displays – wait for it – without the need for wearing any 3D glasses.

The news comes during a time when manufacturers are showing off their prototype tablets, some of which are 3D, at the electronics fair, IFA 2010, in Berlin.

The board was originally announced at the AOU Amusement Expo and will use a new internally developed processor. According to SIE the processor will allow glasses-free 3D displays and still output full HD visuals while retaining a small footprint and low cost.

A video of this new arcade board will be shown at the Kaga Amusement booth at the Amusement Machine Show in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday.


3D Entertainment and Technology Festival is free to the public

The 3D Experience, New York’s first Annual 3D Entertainment and Technology Festival, today announced the presenters lineup for the Executive Forum. To kick off the three day event, key industry leaders and professionals will converge at the AMC Empire 25 Theaters in Times Square on Sept. 24 for a day packed with informative keynotes, presentations and panels encompassing the full spectrum of the 3D industry.

“The Executive Forum brings together industry pioneers and newcomers to take the pulse of the rising 3D industry and learn to navigate the ever-changing entertainment and technology landscape,” said Nino Balistreri, managing director for The 3D Experience. “3D has altered the way consumers experience digital content and will continue to push the limits of creativity. The 3D Experience will be an incubator for enduring partnerships and new revenue opportunities.”

The inaugural Executive Forum features a dynamic lineup including an all-industry address by Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, HP, followed by presentations from Ken Venturi, chief creative officer & EVP, National CineMedia, Robert H. McCooey, Jr., senior vice president of new listings and capital markets, NASDAQ OMX, Richard Gelfond, CEO, IMAX, Jim Chabin, president, International 3D Society, and David Beal, president, National Geographic Entertainment. These key industry veterans will cover the emergence of 3D in recent years, its financial impact, how to take advantage of its robust growth and thrive in this exciting, uncharted territory.

3D technology experts and industry creatives from Samsung, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, RealD, 3ality, 3D Eye Solutions, Legend 3D, Motorola, Technicolor and more will delve into a broad range of topics including home entertainment, broadcast, video games, sports, post-production conversion of 2D to 3D, 3D’s future in advertising and filmmaking. Of note, Adweek’s award-winning advertising critic, Barbara Lippert, will moderate “Getting Ahead of 3D for Advertising Professionals,” a panel geared toward marketing and advertising executives who are experimenting with 3D technology. In addition, IMS Research’s Anna Hunt, principal analyst, will present on “The Elusive Consumer and Expectations for 3D in the Home.”

The 3D Experience Executive Forum attendees will be offered unparalleled networking opportunities through the NASDAQ Opening Night VIP Reception presented by LG, VIP film screenings, dinner reception and the highly-anticipated 3D TV Test Drive. For the latest more information on the speaker lineup and panels, please visit: Speakers.

The Executive Forum is targeted at industry professionals, but The 3D Experience will engage entertainment enthusiasts and general consumers alike by simultaneously presenting the 3D Consumer Showroom at the Discovery Times Square Exposition from Friday, Sept. 24 to Sunday, Sept 26. Hosted by Best Buy, the Consumer Showroom will be free and allow visitors to interact with a myriad of 3D products from 3D TVs, gaming systems, home theatre accessories and more. Showroom hours are Friday, September 24, noon-8pm; Saturday, September 25, 10am to 8pm; and Sunday, September 26, 10am to 6pm. To enrich the festival weekend, AMC Theatres Empire 25 will feature screenings of classic and recent 3D blockbusters. For an up to date schedule of screenings, please visit:

About The 3D Experience
The 3D Experience is committed to creating large-scale interactive programs that bring together leading minds, leading products and leading experiences. Event Partners for The 3D Experience include NASDAQ OMX, Best Buy, National CineMedia, IMAX, AMC and Discovery TSX. Sponsors include LG Electronics USA, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc., 3ality Digital, Panasonic, NVIDIA, AT&T, Northern Lights Entertainment, 3D Eye Solutions, BodySound Technologies, Texas Instruments, RealD, 3DMedia, Jump 3D, Hello Charlie and Passmore Lab. Supporters include National Geographic Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Red Bull Records, IMS Research and International 3D Society. The 3D Experience is produced by e5 Global Media, a diversified company with leading assets in the media and entertainment arenas. For more information and to register for The 3D Experience visit Connect with The 3D Experience on Facebook at and Twitter at

iDailies is not a dream but a reality

Editors and Camera Operations have come closer together.  As Mike Cioni of LightIron Digital points out, moving post production onto film sets is currently a trend that has gained momentum. P3 reports on the latest trend.

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