Archive for July, 2012

Chris Nolan: “I never meet anyone who actually likes 3D”

Article by Vince Mancini

Reposted from FilmDrunk.com

Studios love 3D because they can charge more for it, but with the exception of a few who truly love it (James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese of late), most filmmakers seem like they just sort of go along with it as a compromise. “Eh, sure, go ahead and convert it to 3D if you must, just leave me alone.” Chris Nolan, on the other hand, has earned the right (read: the money) to tell the studio to suck his jeans if he wants to. And that’s why The Dark Knight Rises, the most anticipated movie of the year and probably the easiest to get people to pay a premium for, won’t be in 3D.

“The question of 3-D is a very straightforward one,” Nolan said in a recent interview. “I never meet anybody who actually likes the format, and it’s always a source of great concern to me when you’re charging a higher price for something that nobody seems to really say they have any great love for.

“It’s up to the audience to tell us how they want to watch the movies. More people go see these films in 2-D, and so it’s difficult data to interpret. And I certainly don’t want to shoot in a format just to charge people a higher ticket price.”

For some filmmakers, you could ascribe not wanting to shoot in 3D to simple laziness, since the 3D rigs are more complicated and less maneuverable (The Avengers was post-converted for similar reasons). But not in Nolan’s case.

Nolan shot nearly half of his Batman finale using bulky IMAX cameras, whose 70mm frame is about 10 times the size of standard movie film. He also insisted that distributor Warner Bros. release “The Dark Knight Rises” in at least 100 IMAX cinemas that can project it on film rather than in the digital format that has been gradually replacing celluloid. [Salon]

Basically, Chris Nolan cares, and that’s why people like him. He’s like a British Ryan Gosling in that way.

I won’t be surprised if filmmakers like Peter Jackson and James Cameron and especially Martin Scorsese eventually find worthwhile, creative uses for 3D, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s kind of just a pain in the ass. Your eyes are already doing a perfectly adequate job interpreting a 2D image to give the illusion of three dimensionality, adding another layer is only more realistic in the sense that a pop-up book is more realistic than a regular book. And even if it is infinitesimally more “immersive,” you still have to contend with a couple pretty huge drawbacks – having to wear dumb glasses for an entire movie, and a screen that’s 20 percent dimmer. I don’t want to wear glasses. What am I, a nerd? I’m a grown man who wants to spend his Saturday nights watching superhero movies, not some kind of nerd.

The State of Network Broadcasting Examined

It would appear to the casual viewer that TV broadcasting and the cable universe remains virtually unchanged in the past decade.  The Nets have enjoyed a virtual monopoly in terms of spectrum allocation by the government.  Cable and Satcasters offer (ho-hum) identical products and services much in the way consumers get to decide over Coke versus Pepsi. Sure the picture quality has improved remarkably when we made the leap to Hi definition, however with the exception of terrestrial broadcasting which is still free, the cost of receiving those transmissions has gone up.  Way up. But what about the choices? Not only does the typical consumer want to maintain the number of choices of programming (despite the wasteland of info-mercials and paid programming), and they are willing to shoulder the added costs of premium services and HD channels, but they also wish to “time-shift” using their DVR’s and eliminate or fast-forward through the commercials.  They also want to watch on a myriad of new devices including iPads and other mobile devices (even inside the home). In other words if they are forced to pay more, then they expect more.


Two separate lawsuits are winding their way through the courts that address these issues.  The first is over AEREO, the start-up created by Barry Diller which allows the consumer to re-transmit local TV stations through the installation of tiny antennae connected to their computer. A U.S District Court Judge recently refused broadcasters requests to issue a preliminary injunction. Copyright experts would argue that this is tantamount to theft and that television re-transmission requires payment to the broadcasters. Comcast, Dish TV and DirecTV among others would argue that this amounts to unfair competition and it is. But I would posit that the consumer doesn’t care as to who is providing the signal, but they are certain to feel it in their pocketbook. The consumer understands by now that it is the convenience of watching, whenever and wherever they choose to that is paramount and if it costs that much less then that is the added bonus.

‘A la Carte cable programming has been given lip service by congress but no real progress has been made in the last decade. Eyebrows were raised on the recent sale of the Dodgers to a consortium for several billion dollars and questions asked as to how many cable and satellite subscribers would have to pay to subsidize this enormous deal even if they never watch a game on TV. Add to that the erosion caused by Hulu, Roku, Netflix and other streaming services, not to mention the illegal torrents.  You would think the broadcasters would be running scared and I believe they are. So what do they do? They seek relief through the courts to protect their monopoly.

Case in point is the new HOPPER system offered by Dish Network, that automatically removes the commercials that have ben recorded on your DVR.  Who doesn’t want that feature?  In U.S. District Courts in both New York and Los Angeles, Dish is in litigation with Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal who claim that their revenue base from advertising will be eroded and that re-transmission does not allow for editing of programs to exclude commercials.

Two previous landmark decisions may provide the precedent to allow Dish to continue offering HOPPER.  Most recently was the Cablevision case in 2008 which allowed for re-transmission of programming from Cablevision’s servers. The second and most profound case was the advent of the VCR back in the seventies:

“We look forward to proceeding with this case, recognizing that it has been 28 years since the Supreme Court’s ‘Betamax’ decision held that a viewer, in the privacy of their home, could record a television show to watch later,” Dish lawyer R. Stanton Dodge made in a statement. “The Court ruled that ‘time-shifting’ constituted a fair use of copyrighted television programming. Those Betamax users could permissibly fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows – just as DVR users do today. Dish will stand behind consumers and their right to skip commercials, something they have been doing since the invention of the remote control.”

It is fair to say that innovation will always win out over protectionism and it behooves the providers to come up with more convenience and better choices. The consumers demand it.  Once video made the leap to computers and hand-held devices then the genie was out of the bottle. Networks and providers will hopefully adapt or change their business plans (let the demise of the traditional music labels be a lesson) and if it results in less clutter of advertising or lower costs to the consumer then we all win.

- Scott Arundale

Sources:

Deadline.com

TVNewsCheck.com

3D offered in major venues for the Olympics


The London Olympics this year seem to keep surprising us in 3D even before they start! Now Ultra-D 3D may be incorporated at the 3D Olympic coverage this year also.

Stream TV Networks, Inc. announced today that they choose London as the location of the first Ultra-D(TM) TV public viewing location in Europe. The Walkabout in Covent Garden at 11 Henrietta Street in London, will have installed the first ever Ultra-D display unit in the UK in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics, broadcasted live on the BBC, Sky and ESPN. Live 2D and with-glasses (stereoscopic) 3D broadcasts of the Olympic Games will be auto converted into the stunning 3D without glasses Ultra-D format in real-time, using the Ultra-D SeeCube(TM) Conversion Box. The viewing location will also host demos to highlight the Ultra-D technology’s compatibility with the iPad®, iTunes®, Appstore® and the Apple TV®. Matthew Young, European representative for Stream TV Networks in the UK said: “We chose Walkabout for the first ever screen as it’s well known as the best live sports venue in London.”

The manager of the Covent Garden Walkabout Bar, Dal Jones, states that Ultra-D is “1000% better than anything else I have seen in 3D without glasses. I am very pleased and truly excited to be the first UK bar to be able to offer this to our customers.”

Stream TV Networks is placing demo units at high traffic venues in metropolitan areas in the US, Europe, Taiwan and China to showcase the Ultra-D technology to consumer before products become available at retail. In the US, the first venue to showcase Ultra-D will be Blondies Sports® ( www.blondiessports.com ) in New York City located at 212 West 79th St., also in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ultra-D enables the seamless autoconversion of 2D and 3D with glasses content into autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D in real-time, so that virtually every kind of video feed can be viewed in 3d without glasses. The Ultra-D technology has also been optimized for the iOS® and Android® operating systems for enhanced connectivity to peripheral devices.

Additional consumer viewing locations for Ultra-D(TM) technology will be announced in the coming weeks and will include additional venues in New York, Philadelphia, London and various locations throughout China.

“Ultra-D is the first 3D without glasses solution that has been able to eliminate viewing angles and offer the high quality, glasses-free 3D experience we’ve all been waiting for,” says Matt Young for Stream TV Networks. He adds, “Being able to offer this in time for the Olympics just adds to the viewing experience and enjoyment of the games being in London.”

The Walkabout in Covent Garden is “the Home of the Awesome Spirit of Australia in Central London, and also the West End’s Premier Sport’s Bar and Party Shack!” The Walkabout is located at:

11 Henrietta Street London, Greater London WC2E 8PY

Ultra-D viewing units are available. For information regarding sales or business relationships please email contact@ultra-d.com or myoung@streamtvnetworks.com

Source: www.StreamTVNetworks.com

Quantel’s Part 2 Examination of the Rise of Digital Film

In the second part of our look at the uptake of digital technology in the movie business we explore filmmaking innovators who are taking digital filming and post production to new levels of excellence.

Filmmakers and post-production specialists are breaking new ground in visual storytelling facilitated by the increase in technological capabilities during acquisition, post and exhibition. The advances in Stereo3D are inextricably linked to developments in digital capture: James Cameron pioneered shooting on digital cameras that were custom built for Ghosts of the Abyss – the first feature length 3D IMAX production released in 2003. Then Avatar set the bar for 3D features; however Vince Pace, co-chairman of CAMERON | PACE Group recently told The Hollywood Reporter that they  “were experimenting with Avatar” and that they “could have gone further, but we wanted to make sure we found ourselves somewhere in the middle of concentrating on a good film and focusing on 3D elements. We didn’t want to compromise the actual film by taking away from the story for the sake of 3D.”

Pace continues to state that Martin Scorsese’s Hugo does far more than Avatar to showcase 3D filmmaking’s full capacity due to Scorsese not forcing elements of 3D but instead molding it to get maximum effect from the artists and the creative team’s vision. The technological advancements in S3D that have been made since Avatar also enabled the Hugo team to utilise bespoke systems and equipment to watch high quality stereo dailies, perfect the acquisition of stereo on set and finish Hugo to such a standard the stereo grading contributed to Scorsese earning a ‘Best Director’ nod at this year’s Golden Globes.

We asked Jonathan Tustain, Editor of leading website 3D Focus, to give us his take on future advances in the digital pipeline. “No doubt higher frame rate projection will become commonplace over the next few years thanks to influential directors like Peter Jackson and James Cameron filming big budget movies like The Hobbit and Avatar 2 at 48 frames per second. Cinema chains will be able to upgrade their digital projectors with a simple software update and, like 3D, the improved picture quality, particularly during fast motion sequences, will be marketed to draw audiences in.”

Digital drives quality

Stereoscopic 3D is not the only aspect of digital that is evolving on our cinema screens. As previously mentioned in part 1, 4K digital cinema projection systems are gathering momentum in the US/Europe with audiences increasingly experiencing high resolution movies screened as the filmmaker intended the scenes to be consumed in theaters.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the largest 4K movies to date, making up almost a quarter of a million frames at 45 megabytes each.  It was shot in 4.5k – 5K resolution on RED Epic MX and Epic cameras and was finished at Hollywood Post facility Light Iron on Quantel Pablo. The sheer volume of data captured needed twocolor correction systems working non stop to deliver a 4K DI 9 reels long which is the equivalent of around six 2K two hour movies. The end result, when seen on a 4K projector, is arguably another cinematic milestone demonstrating the amplified creative / visual control for the filmmaker and a higher standard of picture quality for the movie-going public.

We spoke to Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron. He explains why he feels that his data-centric post house will continue to work on more productions like The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. “My experience with most archetypes on the set has been the common desire to incase creative control. Creative control of the crew, control over the studio, image capture, performances, editing, art direction and even the overall pace of shooting are all things filmmakers tend to want to have creative control over. Yet film as a medium physically limits a degree of control in every category simply because you cannot inspect film until after it is developed. 18-48 hour delays are normal procedure for film review which presents a massive boundary around the evaluation component of creative control. In the upcoming documentary ‘Side-by-Side,’ director Christopher Nolan says ‘There isn’t yet a superior or even equal imaging technology to film.’ In my opinion, subjective interpretation of film’s benefits is not the issue that warrants discussion. From my perspective, it is becoming ever clearer that the simplicity of how work flows ultimately commands what format is adopted. For the average filmmaker this renders aesthetic opinions on the subject a lesser priority (I see this happening at all budget levels). In the hands of the masters, the apex of today’s digital cameras has breeched every measurable category that film used to champion as technically superior. In 36 months time, the gap will be so significant that this debate simply will not exist.”

The Case for Film

There are traditionalists and big names in cinema that are sill firmly camped in film’s corner. Steven Spielberg shot the acclaimed War Horse on 35mm and was recently quoted saying “I’m still planning to shoot everything on film. I guess when the last lab goes out of business, we’ll all be forced to shoot digitally and that could be in eight-to-ten years. It’s possible in ten years’ time there will be no labs processing celluloid.” Of course Spielberg has already dabbled with digital technologies and 3D with Tintin, albeit in a motion capture sense, however he stressed “It’s 100% digital animation but as far as a live-action film, I’m still planning to shoot everything on film… I love film.”

Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming conclusion to the Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in 35mm and 70mm IMAX. Nolan resisted pressure from studio bosses at Warner Bros. to shoot and/or convert the final Batman in 3D. Quentin Tarantino is passionate about working with celluloid and from his remarks in the video below, like Spielberg, is not switching to shooting in digital anytime soon.

Filmmakers still have a choice when it comes to capturing and translating their vision for the big screen. But partly due to the rapid rise in digital projection, any motion picture captured on celluloid will almost inevitably end up being  digitalized anyway. We return to Light Iron’s CEO Michael Cioni, who sums it all up most eloquently:

“I don’t dislike film, but I do dislike unnecessary complexity. I think if film could be around forever, it would be used on some level forever. Because the art of story telling has infinite possibilities, the ways in which to tell stories should not be quantified into a single format or flavor. By this, I am in favor of film being used whenever deemed appropriate by those who are most comfortable using it. That can be anything from those who are seeking a desired texture or who have a creative preference, such as Mr. Nolan. But there is a bigger question here which presents the real root of the problem: it’s not whether people have a desire to shoot film; the question is whether or not film can afford to be manufactured at all. I predict that man’s desire to shoot film will far outlast the manufacturers’ ability to produce it. Thus, the ultimate decision will be made for us.”

http://blog.quantel.eu/2012/02/the-rise-of-digital-in-motion-pictures-beyond-the-tipping-point-for-film-part-2-of-2/

CEA announces new standards for 3D at home

In an effort to bolster the 3D Home Entertainment industry, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced new standards for closed captioning, active 3D glasses specs as well as display brightness information for manufacturers and consumers.

Brian Markwalter is senior vice president, research and standards, CEA. “CEA’s standards committees are always looking for new ways to help grow the consumer electronics industry through technological cooperation.”

CEA-2038 standard will allow “active” 3D glasses to switch from 3D to 2D when content such as advertising is placed in a 3D program. Known as the “Command-Driven Analog IT-Synchronized Active Eyewear”, the new spec also opens up the possibility of two separate viewers playing a 3D game offering different images or game paths.

Another area which has been a tremendous challenge for providers and viewers is in the area of closed-captioning.  The VEA-708.1 standard provides broadcasters with information on where data should be encoded for closed captioning.  It is expected that the Society of Motion Picture Broadcasters (SMPTE) are developing their own set of standards to be released later this year.

The  CEA Industry Forum is scheduled for October 14-17, 2012 to be held in San Francisco, CA with the Annual International CES meeting to be held January 8-11, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV.

CEA press release

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