Archive for the ‘Digital Cinema’ Category

Veteran Hollywood Camera House Says Goodbye to Film

Birns & Sawyer, the oldest movie camera rental shop in Hollywood, made history last week when it auctioned off its entire remaining inventory of 16- and 35-mm film cameras.

Owner and cinematographer Bill Meurer said he didn’t want to part with the cameras, but had little choice as the entertainment industry has largely gone digital. “People aren’t renting out film cameras in sufficient numbers to justify retaining them,’’ Meurer said in an interview at his North Hollywood warehouse, where he  rents out cameras, lenses, lighting equipment and grip trucks. “Initially, I felt nostalgic, but 95% of our business is digital. We’re responding to the market.”

The auction underscores just how rapidly Hollywood is transitioning to digital. Theater chains are increasingly converting their multiplexes to digital projectors because studios are soon expected to stop releasing film prints altogether. And major camera manufacturers such as Arri and Panavision have for now halted production of new film cameras (although they are still doing upgrades on film equipment).

Today, virtually all television production and about one-third of all feature films are being shot digitally.
The auction at Birns & Sawyer marks another milestone because the shop has been a fixture in Hollywood since its founding in 1954 by Life photographer and war correspondent Jack Birns and fellow Korean War veteran Cliff Sawyer. Within a few years, it began renting equipment used on such movies as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Easy Rider” and the Steve McQueen classic “Bullitt.”

Meurer, a former cinematographer and gaffer, acquired Birns & Sawyer in 1998, merging it with his lighting and camera rental business.

Like other camera equipment suppliers such as Panavision, Birns was hard hit by the sharp fall off in the demand for film cameras and equipment. The shift to digital accelerated rapidly in 2008 when labor unrest within the Screen Actors Guild prompted a number of producers to sign deals with its sister union, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. AFTRA traditionally represented shows shot on video rather than film.

Company sales have plummeted to $5 million from a peak of about $10 million a year in 2006, Meurer said. To cut costs, Birns & Sawyer consolidated its operations, leaving a second 9,000-square-foot office space it had leased in Hollywood.

Still, unlike other service providers that have fallen by the wayside, Birns & Sawyer has survived by adapting. It was among the first camera rental houses to offer digital video cameras from Sony and Panasonic in 2000. The company also manufactures camera shoulder supports, matte boxes, lens mounts and other products that have helped to diversify its business.

In last week’s auction, Meurer sold 15 film cameras, used on such movies as “Anaconda,” “Silver City” and the original “X-Men,” to other cinematographers and camera houses. The equipment sold for $225,000 — only about a quarter of its original value.

But Meurer said he was happy with the outcome, adding that proceeds will help his company complete its digital transition.

“It was a little bit upsetting for some of the employees with the prestige of losing our film cameras,’’ he said. “But it gives us the ability to buy all these new 35-mm lenses that can be used for digital cameras.”

source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com

Apple iCloud vs. UltraViolet

Apple is working on a cloud service for movies that is set to launch late this year or in 2012, the LA Times reported.

Apple has been meeting with studio executives and is looking to finalize agreements that would allow consumers to  buy films via Apple’s iTunes and access them on any Apple device via its iCloud online locker, it said.

The news comes after Tuesday’s launch of the UltraViolet cloud service, for which Wall Street has a mixed outlook, with the home entertainment release of Warner Bros.’ Horrible Bosses.

Since Apple is not currently part of the consortium of studios, electronics makers and online distributors that launched UltraViolet, the company is considering allowing consumers who buy UltraViolet-enabled film to watch them more easily on Apple devices via apps, the Times said. BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield has said Apple’s lack of participation is a key hurdle for UltraViolet’s success.

Importantly though, movies bought on iTunes would continue to only work on Apple devices as Apple wants to keep encouraging consumers to buy its devices, the Times highlighted.

source: hollywoodreporter.com

The End of the Line for Film Cameras

While the debate has raged over whether or not film is dead, ARRIPanavision and Aaton have quietly ceased production of film cameras within the last year to focus exclusively on design and manufacture of digital cameras. That’s right: someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.

“The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared,” says ARRI VP of Cameras, Bill Russell, who notes that the company has only built film cameras on demand since 2009. “There are still some markets–not in the U.S.–where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent.”

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Mary Pickford on the beach about 1916 with film movie camera

At New York City rental house AbelCine, Director of Business Development/Strategic Relationships Moe Shore says the company rents mostly digital cameras at this point. “Film isn’t dead, but it’s becoming less of a choice,” he says. “It’s a number of factors all moving in one direction, an inexorable march of digital progress that may be driven more by cell phones and consumer cameras than the motion picture industry.”

Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala notes why. “Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world?” he says. “We wouldn’t survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera.”

Beauviala believes that that stereoscopic 3D has “accelerated the demise of film.” He says, “It’s a nightmare to synchronize two film cameras.” Three years ago, Aaton introduced a new 35mm film camera, Penelope, but sold only 50 to 60 of them. As a result, Beauviala turned to creating a digital Penelope, which will be on the market by NAB 2012. “It’s a 4K camera and very, very quiet,” he tells us. “We tried to give a digital camera the same ease of handling as the film camera.”

Panavision is also hard at work on a new digital camera, says Phil Radin, Executive VP, Worldwide Marketing, who notes that Panavision built its last 35mm Millennium XL camera in the winter of 2009, although the company continues an “active program of upgrading and retrofitting of our 35mm camera fleet on a ongoing basis.”

“I would have to say that the pulse [of film] was weakened and it’s an appropriate time,” Radin remarks. “We are not making film cameras.” He notes that the creative industry is reveling in the choices available. “I believe people in the industry love the idea of having all these various formats available to them,” he says. “We have shows shooting with RED Epics, ARRI Alexas, Panavision Genesis and even the older Sony F-900 cameras. We also have shows shooting 35mm and a combination of 35mm and 65mm. It’s a potpourri of imaging tools now available that have never existed before, and an exciting time for cinematographers who like the idea of having a lot of tools at their disposal to create different tools and looks.”

Do camera manufacturers believe film will disappear? “Eventually it will,” says ARRI’s Russell. “In two or three years, it could be 85 percent digital and 15 percent film. But the date of the complete disappearance of film? No one knows.”

From Radin’s point of view, the question of when film will die, “Can only be answered by Kodak and Fuji. Film will be around as long as Kodak and Fuji believe they can make money at it,” he says.

FILM PRINTS GO UP IN SMOKE
Neither Kodak nor Fuji have made noises about the end of film stock manufacture, but there are plenty of signs that making film stock has become ever less profitable. The need for film release prints has plummeted in the last year and, in an unprecedented move, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group and Technicolor–both of which have been in the film business for nearly 100 years–essentially divvied up the dwindling business of film printing and distribution.

Couched in legalese of mutual “subcontracting” deals, the bottom line is that Deluxe will now handle all of Technicolor’s 35mm bulk release print distribution business in North America. Technicolor, meanwhile, will handle Deluxe’s 35mm print distribution business in the U.S. and Deluxe’s 35mm/16mm color negative processing business in London, as well as film printing in Thailand. In the wake of these agreements, Technicolor shut its North Hollywood and Montreal film labs and moved its 65mm/70mm print business to its Glendale, California, facility; and Deluxe ended its 35mm/16mm negative processing service at two facilities in the U.K.

“It’s a stunning development,” says International Cinematographer Guild President Steven Poster, ASC. “We’ve been waiting for it as far back as 2001. I think we’ve reached a kind of tipping point on the acquisition side and, now, there’s a tipping point on the exhibition side.”

“From the lab side, obviously film as a distribution medium is changing from the physical print world to file-based delivery and Digital Cinema,” says Deluxe Digital Media Executive VP/General Manager Gray Ainsworth. “The big factories are absolutely in decline. Part of the planning for this has been significant investments and acquisitions to bolster the non-photochemical lab part of our business. We’re developing ourselves to be content stewards, from the beginning with on-set solutions all the way downstream to distribution and archiving.” Deluxe did exactly that with the 2010 purchase of the Ascent Media post production conglomerate.

Technicolor has also been busy expanding into other areas of the motion picture/TV business, with the purchase of Hollywood post house LaserPacific and a franchise licensing agreement with PostWorks New York. Technicolor also acquired Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp., expanding their North America footprint in Digital Cinema connectivity to 90 percent. “We have been planning our transition from film to digital, which is why you see our increased investments and clear growth in visual effects and animation, and 2D-to-3D conversion,” says Technicolor’s Ouri. “We know one day film won’t be around. We continue to invest meaningfully in digital and R&D.”

DIGITAL: AN “OVERNIGHT SUCCESS”
Although recent events–the end of film camera manufacturing and the swan dive of the film distribution business–makes it appear that digital is an overnight success, nothing could be further from the truth. Digital first arrived with the advent of computer-based editing systems more than 20 years ago, and industry people immediately began talking about the death of film. “The first time I heard film was dead was in 1972 at a TV station with videotape,” says Poster, ASC. “He said, give it a year or two.”

Videotape did overtake film in the TV station, but, in the early 1990s, with the first stirrings of High Definition video, the “film is dead” mantra arose again. Laurence Thorpe, who was involved in the early days of HD cameras at Sony, recalls the drumbeat. “In the 1990s, there were a lot of folks saying that digital has come a long way and seems to be unstoppable,” he says.

The portion of the film ecosystem that has managed the most complete transition to digital is post-production.

According to Technicolor Chief Marketing Officer Ouri, over 90 percent of films are finished with digital intermediates.

But the path to digital domination has also taken place in a world of Hollywood politics and economics. A near-strike by Screen Actors Guild actors, the Japanese tsunami and dramatic changes in the business of theater exhibition have all contributed to the ebbing fortunes of film. Under pressure, any weakness or break in the disciplines that form the art and science of film–from film schools to film laboratories–could spell the final demise of a medium that has endured and thrived for over 100 years.

Two Icons of Film above Technicolor’s new Hollywood H.Q. and below Kodak’s Rochester H.Q. built in 1914

THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT?
Until 2008, the bulk of TV productions and all feature films took place under SAG jurisdiction, which covers actors in filmed productions. In the months leading up to the Screen Actor Guild’s 2008 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG leadership balked on several elements, including the new media provisions of the proposed contract. Negotiations stalemated. Not so with AFTRA, the union that covers actors in videotaped (including HD) productions, which inked its own separate agreement with AMPTP.

“When producers realized they could go with AFTRA contracts, but they now had to record digitally, they switched almost overnight,” recalls Poster. Whereas, in previous seasons, 90 percent of the TV pilots were filmed, and under SAG jurisdiction, in one fell swoop the 2009 pilot season went digital video, capturing 90 percent of the pilots. In a single season, the use of film in primetime TV nearly completely vanished, never to return.

The Japanese tsunami on March 11, 2011, further pushed TV production into the digital realm. Up until then, TV productions were largely mastered to Sony’s high-resolution HD SR tape, but the sole plant that made the tape, located in the northern city of Sendai, was heavily damaged and ceased operation for several months. With only two weeks worth of tape still available, TV producers scrambled to come up with a workaround, leading at least some of them to switch to a tapeless delivery, another step into the future of an all-digital ecosystem.

The third, and perhaps most devastating blow to film, comes from the increased penetration of Digital Cinema. According to Patrick Corcoran, National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) Director of Media & Research/California Operations Chief, at the end of July 2011, “We passed the 50 percent mark in terms of digital screens in the U.S. We’ve been adding screens at a fast clip this year, 700 to 750 a month,” he says.

He notes that the turning point was the creation of the virtual print fee, which allows NATO members to recoup the investment they have to make to upgrade to digital cinema. (Studios, meanwhile, save $1 billion a year for the costs of making and shipping release prints.)

To take advantage of the virtual print fee, theater owners will have to transition screens to digital by the beginning of 2013. “Sometime, in 2013, all the screens will be digital,” says Corcoran. “As the number of digital screens increase, it won’t make economic sense for the studios to make and ship film prints. It’ll be absolutely necessary to switch to Digital Cinema to survive.”

REINVENTING THE FILM LAB

Can the continued production of film stock survive the twin disappearance of film acquisition and distribution? Veteran industry executive Rob Hummel, currently president of Group 47, recalls when, as head of production operations, he was negotiating the Kodak deal for DreamWorks Studios. “At the time, the Kodak representative told me that motion pictures was 6 percent of their worldwide capacity and 7 percent of their revenues,” he recalls. “The rest was snapshots. In 2008 motion pictures was 92 percent of their business and the actual volume hasn’t grown. The other business has just disappeared.”

Eastman Kodak, Chris Johnson, Director of New Business Development, Entertainment Imaging, counters that “I don’t see a time when Kodak stops making film stock,” noting the year-on-year growth in 65mm film and popularity of Super 8mm. “We still make billions of linear feet of film,” he says. “Over the horizon as far as we can see, we’ll be making billions of feet of film.”

Yet, as Johnson’s title indicates, Kodak is hedging its bets by looking for new areas of growth. One focus is on digital asset management via leveraging its Pro-Tek Vaults for digital, says Johnson, and another is investigating “asset protection film,” a less expensive film medium that provides a 50 to 100 year longevity at a lower price point that B&W separation film.

Kodak has also developed a laser-based 3D digital cinema projector. “Our system will give much brighter 3D images because we’re using lasers for the light source,” says Johnson. “And the costs of long-term ownership is much less expensive because the lasers last longer than the light sources for other projectors.”

STORING FOR THE FUTURE

As more than 1 million feet of un-transferred nitrate film worldwide demonstrates, archiving doesn’t get top billing in Hollywood. Although the value of archived material is unarguable, positioned at the end of the life cycle of a production, archivists have unfortunately had a relatively weak voice in the discussion over transitioning from film to digital.

Since the “film is dead” debate began, archivists fought to keep elements on film, the only medium that has proven to last well over 100 years. “Most responsible archivists in the industry still believe today that, if you can at all do it, you should still stick it on celluloid and put it in a cold, dry place, because the last 100 years has been the story of nitrate and celluloid,” says Deluxe’s Ainsworth.

He jokes that if the world’s best physicists brought a gizmo to an archivist that they said would hold film for 100 years, the archivist would say, “Fine, come back in 99 years.” “With the plethora of digital files, formats and technologies–some of which still exist and some of which don’t–we’re running into problems with digital files made only five years ago,” he adds.

At Sony Pictures Entertainment, Grover Crisp, Executive VP of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering, notes that “Although it’s a new environment and everyone is feeling their way through, what’s important is to not throw out the traditional sensibilities of what preservation is and means.
“We still make B&W separations on our productions, now directly from the data,” he says. “That’s been going on for decades and has not stopped. Eventually it will be all digital, somewhere down the road, but following a strict conservation approach certainly makes sense.”

Crisp pushes for a dual, hybrid approach. “You need to make sure you’re preserving your data as data and your film as film,” he says. “And since there’s a crossover, you need to do both.” LTO tape, currently the digital storage medium of choice, is backwards compatible only two generations, which means that careful migration is a fact of life–for now at least–in a digital age. “The danger of losing media is especially high for documentaries and indie productions,” says Crisp.

Hummel and his partners at Group 47, meanwhile, believe they have the solution. His company bought the patents for a digital archival medium developed by Kodak: Digital Optical Tape System (DOTS). “It’s a metal alloy system that requires no more storage than a book on a shelf,” says Hummel, who reports that Carnegie Mellon University did accelerated life testing to 97 years.

THE DEATH OF FILM REDUX
“Though reports of its imminent death have been exaggerated, more industry observers than before accept the end of film. “In 100 years, yes,” says AbelCine’s Shore. “In ten years, I think we’ll still have film cameras. So somewhere between 10 and 100 years.”

Film camera manufacturers have walked a tightrope, ceasing unprofitable manufacture of film cameras at the same time that they continue to serve the film market by making cameras on demand and upgrading existing ones. But they–as well as film labs and film stock manufacturers–clearly see the future as digital and are acting accordingly.

Will film die? Seen in one way, it never will: our cinematic history exists on celluloid and as long as there are viable film cameras and film, someone will be shooting it. Seen another way, film is already dead…what we see today is the after-life of a medium that has become increasingly marginalized in production and distribution of films and TV. Just as the last film camera was sold without headlines or fireworks, the end of film as a significant production and distribution medium will, one day soon, arrive, without fanfare.

source: CreativeCow.net

NATO Slams Sony for 3D-Glasses Charges

Reuters reports:

The National Association of Theater Owners slammed Sony Wednesday for its attempt to pass off the costs of providing 3D glasses on moviegoers and exhibitors.

The trade organization labeled the move “insensitive” given the economic woes gripping the country.

“Sony’s actions raise serious concerns for our members who believe that provision of 3D glasses to patrons is well established as part of the 3D experience,” NATO said in a statement.

NATO said Sony was reneging on a prior agreement to pay for the glasses.

But Sony spokesperson Steve Elzer said NATO gets it wrong.

“NATO’s statement that it has been ‘understood’ that distributors would always bear the cost of 3D glasses is incorrect, because there never has been any such agreement,” Elzer said in a statement. “In fact, we have been speaking with people in the industry for a long time about the need to move to a new model, so this certainly comes as a surprise to no one in the business.”

Elzer said that the studio invited theater owners to engage in a “collegial dialogue” with  about the issue at ShowEast next month.

Shares of RealD, the 3D movie company, dropped nearly 15 percent to trade at $10.42 on Wednesday after Sony announced its plan.

Sony has told exhibitors that starting in May with the release of its pair of 3D tentpoles, “Men in Black III” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” it will no longer pay for the rose-tinted spectacles.

It wants exhibitors to work out the cost with moviegoers.

In it’s statement, NATO said press reports indicate that Sony wants audience members to buy their own glasses, but in reality, the studio wants to move the expense of providing glasses off their own balance sheets and doesn’t particularly care if the cost is borne by theater owners or ticket buyers.

At a cost of about 50 cents per ticket, 3D eyeware can eat up $5 million or more for a movie that grosses over $100 million.

Moviegoers pay a premium of around $3 for 3D films, and that extra gravy is then split between theater owners and studios.

In 2009, Fox tried a similar gambit with the release of its third “Ice Age” film, but bowed to pressure from theater owners and abandoned its efforts to push off costs.

NATO said that theater owners had agreed to take on the expense of overhauling their theaters for 3D movies with the understanding that distributors would handle the cost of providing glasses.

“Any changes to that understanding must be undertaken through the mutual agreement of both sides of the business,” NATO said.

NATO closed its missive with a warning. The group told Sony that the disappointing numbers for its premium video on demand trial with DirecTV — in which the studio and others offered movies to renters eight weeks after their debuts and over the fierce objections of NATO — was evidence that exhibition needed to be on board with any fundamental business changes.

“Sony would be well advised to revisit its decision,” NATO said.

Top 50 Channels on Youtube revealed

ComScore Inc., which measures Web traffic, gave a sneak peek of its rankings of the biggest players on Google’s YouTube several weeks ago.

Today the firm released the full ranking of video-content “channels” on the world’s No. 1 video site. Some highlights: No fewer than 997 YouTube video creators get at least 100,000 viewers per month on their channels, comScore said. (Click here to see the top 50 channels.)

Some well-known names were among the top 50 in terms of number of viewers, including theAssociated Press (5.7 million), Discovery Communications (2.8 million), the BBC (2.2 million), and MovieClips.com (1.8 million). Also on the list: pioneers of original Internet video such asRevision3 (6.6 million) and comedians including Andy Samberg’s The Lonely Island (3.3 million).

The biggest name you may not have heard of: Machinima, which creates 24 shows about video games and other content of interest to young men. It also produces live-action series with high production values, including sci-fi mystery show “RCVR” and zombie thriller “Bite Me.” The Machinima channel recently feature Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat: Legacy, the first episode of which has gotten 14.3 million views.

Machinima’s channel, started in 2006, ranked third in August with 17.7 million viewers, comScore said. More importantly, it kept the average viewer watching videos for more than 70 minutes.

ComScore’s rankings “help with the advertising world,” said Allen Debevoise, chief executive of Machinima, which has 120 employees and is based in West Hollywood. “When advertisers look at numbers that are superior to those of cable TV, it starts to bring attention to it,” he said.

As previously reported in the Wall Street Journal, YouTube is looking to spawn dozens of Machinimas for different interest areas, such as Hollywood gossip or sports, and it’s willing to pay multimillion-dollar advances to content creators to do so, people familiar with the matter have said.

Some of the other YouTube channels in the top 1,000 include singer Rebecca Black, of “Friday” fame, who checks in at no. 70 with 1.3 million visitors last month. At no. 880 is Let’s Make it Up!, which gives tips to girls on makeup and hair styles, garnering 119,000 viewers, nearly as many as alternative rock band Radiohead’s channel (146,000 viewers, ranked 742th).

What about Google’s own channel, where it hosts promotional videos for its services? That channel got 606,000 viewers last month, earning a ranking of 157, just above the channel for PBS, which came in at no. 175 with 553,000 viewers.

source: Wall Street Journal

Visual Effects Bill of Rights draws a line in the sand

The Visual Effects Society, the industry’s organization of visual effects artists and technicians, today released a Bill of Rights designed to call attention to problems affecting its membership and Hollywood. The document follows an open letter to the entertainment industry by the VES, which cited a downward spiral of working conditions and benefits as well as earnings for effects pros around the globe.  “In the VES open letter, we said it was time to step up as the voice of the visual effects industry by talking to all parties regarding their concerns,” said exec director Eric Roth. “At this time we have engaged in a vigorous dialog with key stakeholders at all levels and believe our Bill of Rights lays out the vital concerns of each segment of the industry. Our next step is to focus on bringing all parties together to seek solutions.”

source: deadlinehollywood.com

While training and education are crucial to supporting the VFX and Animation industries here at home, what this bill of rights actually reveals is that much of the labor continues to be outsourced to India and China, where working conditions are not regulated and wages are minimal.  Every U.S. industry faces this harsh reality. Despite the fact that we remain the leader in creation of filmed entertainment, producers are content to have the work done in sweatshops around the world, rather than maintain a talent base here at home.

Scott Arundale

Netflix’s DVD Split Is Yet Another Self-Inflicted Wound

Update: 10-10-11 from the New York Times, Brian Stelter reports:

Abandoning a break-up plan it announced last month, Netflix said Monday morning that it had decided to keep its DVD-by-mail and online streaming services together under one name and one Web site.

The company admitted that it had moved too fast when it tried to spin-off the old-fashioned DVD service into a new company called Qwikster.

“We underestimated the appeal of the single web site and a single service,” Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, said in a telephone interview. He quickly added: “We greatly underestimated it.”

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How many self-inflicted wounds can a company take before its mortality is threatened? When it comes to Netflix, the question is taking on increasing relevance. The company that could do no wrong for the past two years first shot itself by announcing an onerous price increase without any real attempt to explain itself or soften the blow. The initial consequences of that decision came last week in the form of a 1 million subscriber downward revision and a 50 point drop in its stock price. Now Netflix has followed up with another bewildering move, announcing a re-branding and separation of its DVD by mail business as “Qwikster” complete with an independent web site. In my view this is another self-inflicted wound with even more serious implications.

When Netflix announced the price increase and discussed its intent to charge separately for DVDs, it offered a nonsensical and incomplete explanation for why it was doing so, and why now. In a new and contrite blog post from CEO Reed Hastings (and accompanying video), the more explicit explanation is “We realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

Of course there are different economics and operational facets to streaming vs. DVD by mail. But guess what – subscribers don’t care. Netflix’s business is delivering entertainment as easily as possible, over any viable means and at the most attractive price. Rather than separating streaming and DVD, Netflix should be doing the exact opposite – integrating them as tightly as possible. Netflix has given a “we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time” explanation that is irrelevant to most subscribers, and only ends up forcing them to make unappealing decisions such as paying more, getting less or doing without.

For a team that made so many smart moves, it’s hard to pin down what’s going on here. Hastings offers a hint though in his post, saying that “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.” My sense is that Netflix has too quickly fallen in love with streaming, and forgotten how critical DVDs still are to their current and future success. I’ve been a broken record in pointing out that Netflix’s key competitive advantage relative to other pure streaming services (e.g. Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, etc.) is the CHOICE that the deep DVD catalog offers plus the complimentary CONVENIENCE that streaming has introduced. Without DVDs Netflix is going to going up against far bigger competitors without much of an advantage. As to Qwikster’s prospects, marketing a DVD only service in the digital media era? Good luck with that.

Worse still is that Netflix’s access to high-quality streaming content has never been more challenging. The Starz situation is illustrative of the conflicts and reluctance big media companies have in dealing with Netflix. The awakening of Amazon, Google, Walmart and Dish to the streaming businesses means far more vigorous bidding for streaming content going forward (and by the way these Netflix blunders are only going to drive up Hulu’s value given its exclusive lock on broadcast TV programs). Meanwhile pay-TV operators’ focus on TV Everywhere, and their willingness to pay retransmission consent fees, puts a further squeeze on Netflix acquiring streaming content out of the cable ecosystem. That Netflix didn’t understand these near-term content acquisition dynamics and therefore feel the need to keep DVDs well-integrated with streaming is an epic failure of strategic thinking.

Beyond the churn in the existing subscriber base that the price change and now the Qwikster introduction will bring, the other big issue is how they will affect new streaming subscriber acquisitions. As I pointed out last week, a thin streaming content offering will make it tougher for Netflix to acquire streaming subscribers at the same rate it has. That in turn could cause a material hiccup in Netflix’s financials that could frighten away prospective content partners concerned about Netflix’s ongoing viability, especially as the company shoulders huge payments for licensed content from Epix, Relativity and other current partners. A serious downward spiral could ensue.

Long-time Netflix skeptics are no doubt feeling some sense of vindication these days. But the reality is that Netflix’s current woes have less to do with external forces than with its own executive decision-making. Netflix increasingly looks like a company that has completely lost its focus and is lurching from one ill-considered decision to the next.

by Will Richmond

http://www.videonuze.com

Sony again delivers with 3D Head-Mounted display

Technology giant Sony has unveiled a head-mounted display that takes the wearer into a 3D cinema of videos, music and games.
Future vision? The HMZ personal 3D viewer is being targetted at people who prefer solitary entertainment rather than sitting in front of a television with family or friends

Resembling a futuristic visor, the £480 ($800) device is worn like a pair of chunky goggles and earphones in one.

Officially unveiled in Tokyo today, the HMZ – which stands for head-mounted display – is equipped with two 0.7in high definition organic light emitting diode (OLED) panels and 5.1 channel dynamic audio headphone

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a 3-D wearable gaming machine that went on sale in the 1990s, bombed, partly because of the bulky headgear required as well as the image being all red.

Sony’s latest product is far more sophisticated, delivering an experience that is as immersive as sitting in one of the best seats in a cinema.

It is not recommended for people 15 years old and younger because some experts believe overly stimulating imagery is not good for teenagers whose brains are still developing, according to Shigeru Kato, a Sony vice president.

On the plus side, consumers are growing more accustomed to 3D these days, with the arrival of 3D TVs and game machines.

The HMZ uses Sony’s own OLED screen, a relatively new kind of display that relays superb image quality and colour, compared to the more prevalent liquid crystal and plasma displays used in laptops and flat-panel TVs.

Mr Kato said the major challenge had been making a very small display without compromising image quality.

The HMZ is set to go on sale in Japan on November 11; a U.S. and European release could come as early as Christmas.

The HMZ – which stands for head-mounted display – displays footage that is crystal clear.

It is equipped with two 0.7in high definition organic light emitting diode (OLED) panels and 5.1 channel dynamic audio headphone.

The gadget enables the wearer to experience cinema-like viewing, equivalent to watching a 750-inch screen from 20 metres away,

The music video on display at a Sony showcase for reporters in Tokyo was of a Japanese singer and was so clear that it felt like peering into a dolls house in which a real-life tiny singer is moving.

It seems unlikely that most people – or even technology enthusiasts – will want to buy a product that involves sitting alone and wearing a little helmet.

For this reason, the HMZ might not be Sony’s long-awaited answer to Apple’s iPod or iPad, but just another quirky device packed with cutting-edge technology that is headed for a limited niche following.

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a 3-D wearable gaming machine that went on sale in the 1990s, bombed, partly because of the bulky headgear required as well as the image being all red.

Sony’s latest product is far more sophisticated, delivering an experience that is as immersive as sitting in one of the best seats in a cinema.

It is not recommended for people 15 years old and younger because some experts believe overly stimulating imagery is not good for teenagers whose brains are still developing, according to Shigeru Kato, a Sony vice president.

On the plus side, consumers are growing more accustomed to 3D these days, with the arrival of 3D TVs and game machines.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2032130/HMZ-T1-Sony-unveils-worlds-3D-head-mounted-display-immersive-sitting-cinema.html#ixzz1WflkevM6

3ality swallows the competition with purchase of Element Technica

Marking a major shift in the 3D production technology arena, Burbank-headquartered 3D technology developer 3Ality Digital has acquired Los Angeles-based Element Technica, which is best known for it 3D camera rigs.

The deal, a combination of cash and equity, is valued at “several million,” according to 3ality CEO Steve Schklair.


Once competitors in this young market, the combined businesses will now operate as a powerhouse under the moniker 3Ality Technica. 3Ality has provided 3D production gear for such upcoming features as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Great Gatsby, Jack and the Giant Killer, and The Amazing-Spider Man; and Element Technica’s rigs were tapped for movies such as Prometheus and Oz: The Great and Powerful. The companies have also made inroads in 3D broadcasting; 3Ality has been working closely with Sky3D in the UK, while Element Technica rigs were used for such events as the 2010 FIFA World Cup and 2011 Wimbledon tournament.

in the 3D arena, 3Ality Technica’s most notable competitor is Cameron Pace Group, the 3D production technology developer and supplier founded by James Cameron and Vince Pace. CPG’s Fusion 3D rigs have been used on movies including Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. In broadcasting, its technology has been tapped for projects including the NBA Finals, The Masters golf tournament, and it will be again used on this year’s 3D coverage of the US Open tennis championship.

Earlier this year, Clearlake Capital Group made a majority investment in 3Ality. At that time, 3ality’s Schklair told The Hollywood Reporter that the investment would allow the company to grow its research & development, expand service, and cover planned acquisitions.

With the acquisition, Element Technica’s two partners, Hector Ortega and Stephen Pizzo, become senior vps of 3Ality Technica.

The Element Technica staff will relocate to 3Ality’s Burbank headquarters, which recently took on additional space.

Plans are to continue to offer both 3Ality and Element Technica 3D rigs and their additional gear. With the acquisition, the company gains in house manufacturing and design capabilities, and expanded R&D.

Element Technica rigs have already been integrated with 3Ality’s popular Stereo Image Processor (SIP).

source: hollywoodreporter.com

Final Cut is Dead! Long live Final Cut!

Apple’s Final Cut Pro is the leading video-editing program. It’s a $1,000 professional app. It was used to make “The Social Network,” “True Grit,” “Eat Pray Love” and thousands of student movies, independent films and TV shows. According to the research firm SCRI, it has 54 percent of the video-editing market, far more than its rivals from Adobe and Avid.

On Tuesday, Apple pulled a typical Apple move: it killed off the two-year-old Final Cut 7 at the peak of its popularity.

In its place, Apple now offers something called Final Cut Pro X (pronounced “10”). But don’t be misled by the name. It’s a new program, written from scratch. Apple says a fresh start was required to accommodate huge changes in the technological landscape.

Apple veterans may, at this point, be feeling some creepy déjà vu. You’ve seen this movie before. Didn’t Apple kill off iMovie, too, in 2008, and replace it with an all-new, less capable version that lacked dozens of important features? It took three years of upgrades before the new iMovie finally surpassed its predecessor in features and coherence.

Some professional editors are already insisting that Apple has made exactly the same mistake with Final Cut X; they pointed out various flaws with the program after an earlier version of this column was posted online on Wednesday. They say the new program is missing high-end features like the ability to edit multiple camera angles, to export to tape, to burn anything more than rudimentary DVDs and to work with EDL, XML and OMF files (used to exchange projects with other programs). You can use a second computer monitor, but you need new TV-output drivers to attach an external video monitor. You can’t change the settings of your exported QuickTime movies without the $50 Compressor program.

Apple admits that version X is a “foundational piece.” It says that it will restore some of these features over time, and that other companies are rapidly filling in the other holes.

For nonprofessionals, meanwhile, Final Cut is already tempting — especially because the price is $300, not $1,000. It’s the first Apple program that’s available only by download from the online Mac App Store, not on DVD. All of the programs formerly called Final Cut Studio have been rolled into Final Cut except Motion and Compressor, which are sold separately. Final Cut Express and DVD Studio Pro are gone.)

The new Final Cut has been radically redesigned. In fact, it looks and works a lot like iMovie, all dark gray, with “skimming” available; you run your cursor over a clip without pressing the mouse button to play it.

Once you’re past the shock of the new layout, the first thing you’ll notice is that Apple has left most of the old Final Cut’s greatest annoyances on the cutting-room floor.

First — and this is huge — there’s no more waiting to “render.” You no longer sit there, dead in the water, while the software computes the changes, locking up the program in the meantime, every time you add an effect or insert a piece of video that’s in a different format. Final Cut X renders in the background, so you can keep right on editing. You cannot, however, organize your files or delete clips during rendering.

Second, in the old Final Cut, it was all too easy to drag the audio and video of a clip out of sync accidently; little “-1” or “+10” indicators, showing how many frames off you were, were a chronic headache. But in the new Final Cut, “sync is holy,” as Apple puts it. Primary audio and video are always synced, and you can even lock other clips together so that they all move as one.

In fact, an ingenious feature called Compound Clips lets you collapse a stack of audio and video clips into a single, merged filmstrip on the timeline. You can adjust it, move it and apply effects as if it were a single unit, and then un-merge it anytime you like. Compound Clips make it simple to manage with a complicated composition without going quietly insane.

In the old Final Cut, if you dragged Clip A so that it overlapped part of Clip B, even briefly, you wound up chopping away the covered-up piece of Clip B. But now, the timeline sprouts enough new parallel “tracks” to keep both of the overlapping clips. Nothing gets chopped unless you do it yourself.

Source: David Pogue / NYTimes.com

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