Archive for the ‘Legacy Formats’ Category

Fuji ceases film sales as digital continues to take over movie industry

Fujifilm has decided that the time has come for it to move on from film for motion pictures after 78 years. Starting in March of 2013, the last Japanese producer of negatives (for shooting) and positives (for projection) will cease sales of the majority of its film products for movies. Specifically, that means both color and black and white positives and negatives, intermediate film, sound recording film, and processing chemicals (the latter only in Japan, for now) will no longer be available from the company — essentially a complete pull out from the market. Rather surprisingly, Fujifilm thought it necessary to reaffirm that it will continue to sell film for still photography.

The move comes in the midst of a continuing sea of change as filmmakers transition to digital cameras and a ever-growing number movie theaters stock digital projectors in place of film. As digital movie cameras like those from frontrunners Arri and RED have increased in quality, the cost, size, and convenience savings offered by digital have swayed filmmakers. There are still holdouts, and purists will continue to stick with film, but for Fujifilm it was clearly a business decision. It says it couldn’t keep production costs low enough in the face of severely dwindling demand to maintain the business.

Fortunately, Fujifilm will continue to offer its archival film — rated for 500 years — which is still one of the best ways to preserve movies for future generations. Additionally, the company will remain in the movie industry, offering its array of lenses for filming and projection as well as its on-set color management system. For those who want to continue to shoot on film, there are still options out there, but the loss of a major player isanother clear sign that the industry is moving on.

source:  http://www.theverge.com

Is the Blu-Ray disc an endangered species?

The major studios are making a concerted effort to sell classic movies on Blu-ray, but streaming is rapidly taking over from optical discs.

Friday’s USA Today Money section lays out a compelling argument that physical media, at least in the form of Blu-ray discs, may be reaching the end of its golden era. Mike Snider writes that Blu-ray is “caught in shift to streaming” and that studios will make a major effort this holiday season to release many classic movies on Blu-ray. This, says Snider, means the Blu-ray “is reaching a critical juncture in its growth process”.

Why should the Streaming Media audience care about the sales of Blu-ray? Because direct competition for content and dwindling physical disc sales are both important harbingers for the streaming industry.

Direct competition. When streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix were first envisaged, the concept was day-and-date release of blockbuster movies for streaming at the same time that DVDs and Blu-rays Discs went on sale. What’s happened, in reality, is that the majority of content on streaming services has been classic movies, a few key television shows, and movies the studios consider too niche for strong Blu-ray sales.

That may be changing. According to Snider, the studios are making a concerted effort to bring a number of classic movies to Blu-ray in time for this year’s holiday season. While the list includes the Indiana Jones franchise and the recently re-released Titanic, it also appears studios may move to release lesser-known titles.

How low will Blu-ray prices will need to drop to make disc purchases worthwhile for the average consumer? And how much will studios need to charge to push their marketing efforts forward?

The day-and-date model may not be dead: while just-released blockbusters like the first Hunger Gamesmovie — which Epix holds exclusive rights to for ninety days — may not make it to Netflix for several months, movies that haven’t fared well in theaters are starting to trickle into the streaming lineup earlier.

Dwindling sales. So just how bad do projections of Blu-ray disc sales look over the next five years?

Preliminary 2011 sales numbers for overall DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales are estimated at $8.9 billion, with a projected drop to $5.5 billion by 2016, for a loss of $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

Disc rentals were at $4.8 billion in 2011 and are also projected to fall by 2016, to $2.9 billion annually.

In all, this means that disc sales and rentals will yield $8.4 billion in annual revenues by 2016.

The surge in streaming delivery of premium content, on the other hand, is expected to grow $3.9 billion between 2011 and 2016, yielding $6.7 billion in annual revenues.

Sometime in 2017, then, revenues from streaming media delivery of premium content will exceed physical disc sales and rentals. Also, in less than a year, sometime in 2013, the number of streaming minutes for premium content will exceed the number of minutes viewed on DVD and Blu-ray Discs.

There’s a chance that the cross-over point will happen much faster than that. If Blu-ray disc sales begin to drop off between the 2012 and 2013 holiday seasons, studios will be placed in a financial predicament, where day-and-date releases to DVD and Blu-ray will yield much lower sales than equivalent streaming revenues. The cost of physical disc production and distribution, coupled with more limited retail shelf space, may force studios to abandon optical discs more quickly than anticipated.

In other parts of the world, we’ll likely see two divergent models:

For the European market, where small production runs dubbed into the regional language don’t allow the economies of scale that English-language releases provide, we’ll see streaming delivery of dubbed premium content coupled with disc-based sales of subtitled English versions.

For Africa and the parts of Asia with lower infrastructure penetration, we’ll continue to see premium content delivered by optical disc for many years to come. It makes sense, given the fact that English-language movies are more widely watched in these small markets where studios have found it impractical to create dubbed or subtitled versions of all but the biggest blockbusters.

The only caveat for emerging markets is that they have no legacy infrastructure to work around. Just like we’ve seen in the surge in mobile phone sales in Africa and India, the ability to leapfrog from limited landline availability to widespread mobile handset adoption could serve as a model for rapid adoption of streaming media, effectively putting the final nail in the coffin of the optical disc.

source: StreamingMedia.com

Kodak set to quit camera film and photo paper business

Kodak film
Professional photographers still value the unique feel that film gives to their pictures

Debt-struck photography pioneer Kodak says it may sell off its still-camera film and photo paper divisions.

The firm has already stopped making digital cameras as part of efforts to reduce its losses after filing for bankruptcy protection in January. It has also been trying to raise funds by selling off more than 1,100 digital imaging patents. It had originally planned to announce a buyer last week, but said “discussions continue” and a deal might not happen.

Apple and Google had been reported to have made rival bids for the patents, but the Wall Street Journal reports they have now joined forces and have added Samsung, LG, HTC and others to their consortium The WSJ’s sources suggested the offer price for the portfolio would be about $500m (£315m) – well below the $2.6bn estimate that Kodak had suggested it could be worth.

The company recently reported a $665m net loss for the first six months of the year, putting further pressure on its finances.

Film’s feelIn its latest announcement the US company said it had hired investment bank Lazard to help it sell its Personalised Imaging and Document Imaging businesses. This would mean an end to it making films for still cameras, photo papers, souvenir photo products at theme parks, scanners and picture print-out kiosks at stores. It would leave the business focused on printers, cinema film stock and chemicals. The British Journal of Photography said the news would concern the industry.

“A lot of professionals still shoot with film and like the quality it gives them,” Olivier Laurent, news editor at the journal, told the BBC. ”The resolution is still a thousand times higher than most digital cameras can offer so long as a good scanner is used.

“A film photograph has a different mood thanks to its grain – it’s about the love of the image and digital still has a hard time trying to reproduce that feeling.”

Debt-struck photography pioneer Kodak says it may sell off its still-camera film and photo paper divisions.

The firm has already stopped making digital cameras as part of efforts to reduce its losses after filing for bankruptcy protection in January. It has also been trying to raise funds by selling off more than 1,100 digital imaging patents. It had originally planned to announce a buyer last week, but said “discussions continue” and a deal might not happen.

Apple and Google had been reported to have made rival bids for the patents, but the Wall Street Journal reports they have now joined forces and have added Samsung, LG, HTC and others to their consortium

The WSJ’s sources suggested the offer price for the portfolio would be about $500m (£315m) – well below the $2.6bn estimate that Kodak had suggested it could be worth.

The company recently reported a $665m net loss for the first six months of the year, putting further pressure on its finances.

In its latest announcement the US company said it had hired investment bank Lazard to help it sell its Personalised Imaging and Document Imaging businesses. This would mean an end to it making films for still cameras, photo papers, souvenir photo products at theme parks, scanners and picture print-out kiosks at stores. It would leave the business focused on printers, cinema film stock and chemicals.

The British Journal of Photography said the news would concern the industry. ”A lot of professionals still shoot with film and like the quality it gives them,” Olivier Laurent, news editor at the journal, told the BBC.

“The resolution is still a thousand times higher than most digital cameras can offer so long as a good scanner is used.

“A film photograph has a different mood thanks to its grain – it’s about the love of the image and digital still has a hard time trying to reproduce that feeling.”

Source: BBC.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/

Quantel and the Rise of Digital Pt1

After 120 years of entertaining audiences, countless movies and pioneering works on the format, celluloid 35mm film looks to be on the way out as the industry picks up the pace to adopt digital for major motion picture capturing, post and distribution.

This month, the IHS Screen Digest claim that 63% of the world’s cinema screens will be digital compared to 2010 where 67% of global screens were still projecting 35mm. This dramatic increase highlights the speed at which the industry is moving toward to digital innovations.

“Since 1889, 35mm has been the principal film projection technology, however, after 10 years of market priming, movie theaters now are undergoing a rapid transition to digital technology, spurred initially by the rising popularity of 3D films,” said David Hancock, head of film research at IHS.

The rise of digital in distribution

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was the first major motion picture to be released in digital on June 1999, albeit on a limited number of screens in Los Angeles and New York. In the UK the roots of the digital incursion go as far back as 2005, when 240 digital projectors were given to UK cinemas thanks to the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network initiative. Initially, the digital uptake was slow. It was not until 2009 when digital’s prominence became apparent when, for the first time, eleven 3D productions were released and could only be screened with digital projection technology. However, in late 2009 a game-changing event changed the course of digital cinema adoption – Avatar.

James Cameron’s 3D blockbuster demonstrated that what was once a novelty viewing experience could create a viable case for upgrading theatre projection technology to capitalise on audiences’ new found appetite for 3D productions. Jean-Pierre Beauviala, founder of French based motion picture equipment manufacturer, Aaton claims that stereoscopic 3D has “accelerated the demise of film.”

2010 saw a rapid succession of announcements by major multiplex operators in the UK  switching over to digital. Vue Entertainment, one of the UK’s leading operators of multiplex cinemas, partnered up with Sony Europe to install 4K Digital Cinema Projection Systems across its estates. “The transition to all digital screens heralds a new era for cinema offering greater choice…[and will] deliver the very best possible cinematic big screen experience for our customers,” said Tim Richards Vue’s CEO.

In North America the rollout of 4K digital was announced earlier than Europe, however the conversion pipeline is estimated to take up to five years to implement. The biggest theater operators in the land – Regal Entertainment and AMC both signed deals, like Vue, with Sony to install 4K digital technology to a over 850 theaters, comprising 9,628 screens.

Digital from scene to screen

Digitalization is not only experiencing substantial growth in theaters. The progression from celluloid has not happened in isolation but in unison with the introduction of digital throughout the motion picture pipeline. Over the last few years, Digital Intermediate has firmly established itself as the standard workflow for post production. In production it’s the same story. In the last year ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have scaled down their production of film cameras and have strategically aligned their business on the innovation of digital cameras.

This industry-wide shift has affected the biggest players in the image capture business. Eastman Kodak, the iconic 133-year-old photography firm synonymous with film, has seen its profitability deteriorate due to falling revenue from traditional film. However, after unveiling a new, simplified business plan to focus the company’s efforts on its digital offering, its shares briefly rose up 46%. The strategy was not enough to keep the firm out of the headlines and in mid-January Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Ted Schilowitz from RED Digital Cinema, a camera company that has been digital since its inception in 2005 points out that “you’ve got to be respectful of what film’s brought to the industry. None of us would be at the level we are at now without Kodak, so you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.” Having said that Schilowitz continues “film is becoming less used as it’s reached its retirement age.”

In the second part of our look at the rise of digital, we examine trends in filming and post using the format and speak to industry heavyweights on pushing the boundaries.

http://blog.quantel.eu/2012/02/the-rise-of-digital-in-motion-pictures-beyond-the-tipping-point-for-film-part-1-of-2/

Competing for Gamers’ Hearts and Minds

Video game sales failed to live up to high hopes in December, with total industry sales falling 21 percent to $3.99 billion from $5.07 billion a year ago.

For the year, game sales were $17.02 billion, down 8 percent from $18.59 billion a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group.

The poor performance of video game sales in physical retail stores masks what’s really happening.

Gamers are shifting their purchases to online, social and mobile forms of gaming — dubbed digital gaming — while the retail side is shrinking fast.

The growth in digital isn’t quite big enough to offset the shrinking retail numbers.

In December, hardware sales were down 28 percent while software was down 14 percent.

Full told, the estimated total consumer spending on games includes physical video and retail games, used games, game rentals, subscriptions, full-game digital downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games. Not counting hardware, this had estimated sales of $16.3 to $16.6 billion in 2011, down about 2 percent or so from a year ago.

Hardware sales were down 11 percent for the year, as were accessories. Software was down 6 percent. New physical retail sales of portable, console and PC games were $9.3 billion in 2011, down 8 percent from $10.1 billion in 2010. Sales grew for used games, full-game digital downloads, downloadable content, and mobile gaming apps.

“Overall industry results are not entirely surprising given that we are on the back end of the current console lifecycle, combined with the continued digital evolution of gaming,” said Anita Frazier, analyst at the NPD Group. “Core gamers continue to be engaged and spend on established franchises across both the digital and physical format using multiple devices for different gaming occasions.”

Shed added, “Our overall estimate of the market continues to point toward the increased imperative for deeper visibility into digital distribution than is available today, not only in the U.S. but globally.”

NPD is working with research company EEDAR to try to come up with more accurate numbers for global digital and physical game sales worldwide.

For the full year, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 was the best-selling game, and it took the top honors in December. Just Dance 3 from Ubisoft was No. 2, followed by Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks, Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts, and Madden NFL2012.

During the year, Microsoft said it sold 1.7 million Xbox 360 consoles in December and it was the top console seller in 2011. Microsoft also said it outside the second-place player by more than 2.7 million units. It captured about 49 percent of consumer retail spending at $6.7 billion in sales for 2011. Of that, $2.1 billion was spent on accessories such as Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system.

Microsoft said it has sold 66 million Xbox 360s, has 40 million Xbox Live members, and has sold more than 18 million Kinect sensors. Microsoft said it ended the year with 40 percent share of the console hardware market.

Sony said it sold 6.5 million PlayStation 3 consoles in the holiday season.

source: http://dailybitenews.com/?p=7011

Ring in the New Year and Say Goodbye to Kodak

Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America’s corporate titans.

The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

A Kodak spokesman said the company “does not comment on market rumor or speculation.”

A filing could come as soon as this month or early February, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Kodak would continue to pay its bills and operate normally while under bankruptcy protection, the people said. But the company’s focus would then be the sale of some 1,100 patents through a court-supervised auction, the people said.

That Kodak is even contemplating a bankruptcy filing represents a final reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated its industry, drawing engineering talent from around the country to its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters and plowing money into research that produced thousands of breakthroughs in imaging and other technologies.

The company, for instance, invented the digital camera—in 1975—but never managed to capitalize on the new technology.

Casting about for alternatives to its lucrative but shrinking film business, Kodak toyed with chemicals, bathroom cleaners and medical-testing devices in the 1980s and 1990s, before deciding to focus on consumer and commercial printers in the past half-decade under Chief Executive Antonio Perez.

None of the new pursuits generated the cash needed to fund the change in course and cover the company’s big obligations to its retirees. A Chapter 11 filing could help Kodak shed some of those obligations, but the viability of the company’s printer strategy has yet to be demonstrated, raising questions about the fate of the company’s 19,000 employees.

Such uncertainty was once unthinkable at Kodak, whose near-monopoly on film produced high margins that the company shared with its workers. On “wage dividend days,” a tradition started by Kodak founder George Eastman, the company would pay out bonuses to all workers based on its results, and employees would use the checks to buy cars and celebrate at fancy restaurants.

George Eastman and Thomas Edison ca 1920

Former employees say the company was the Apple Inc. or Google Inc. of its time. Robert Shanebrook, 64 years old, who started at the company in 1967 and was most recently world-wide product manager for professional photographic film, recalls young talent traipsing through Kodak’s sprawling corporate campus. At lunch, they would crowd the auditorium to watch a daily movie at an on-site theater. Other employees would play basketball on the company courts.

“We had this self-imposed opinion of ourselves that we could do anything, that we were undefeatable,” Mr. Shanebrook said.

Kodak’s troubles date back to the 1980s, when the company struggled with foreign competitors that stole its market share in film. The company later had to cope with the rise of digital photography and smartphones.

It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the mood began to sour, said Mr. Shanebrook. By 2003, Kodak announced it would stop making investments in film. “I didn’t want to stick around for the demise,” he said.

The company and its board have weighed a potential bankruptcy filing for months. Advisers told Kodak a filing would make its patent sale easier and likely allow the company to command a higher price, people familiar with the matter have said. The obligation to cover pension and health-care costs for retirees could also be purged through bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

Those obligations—which run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year—as well as the unprofitable state of Kodak’s new businesses, have made the company undesirable as a takeover target, people familiar with the matter said.

During a two-day meeting of the company’s board, management and advisers in mid-December, executives were briefed on how Kodak would fund itself during bankruptcy proceedings should efforts to sell its patents fall short, a person familiar with the matter said.

Kodak is in discussions with large banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. for so-called debtor-in-possession financing to keep the company operating in bankruptcy court, people familiar with the matter said.

Kodak has also held discussions with bondholders and a group led by investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP about a bankruptcy financing package, the people said.

Should it seek bankruptcy protection, Kodak would follow other well-known companies that have failed to adapt to rapidly changing business models. They included Polaroid Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in December 2008; Borders Group Inc., which liquidated itself last year; and Blockbuster Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and was later bought by Dish Network Corp. A bankruptcy filing would kick off what is expected to be a busier year in restructuring circles, as economic growth continues to drag and fears about European sovereign debt woes threaten to make credit markets less inviting for companies that need to refinance their debts.

Mr. Perez decided to base the company’s future on consumer and commercial inkjet printing. But the saturated market has proved tough to penetrate, and Kodak is paying heavily to subsidize sales as it builds a base of users for its ink.

The company remains a bit player in a printer market dominated by giants like H-P. Kodak ranks fifth world-wide, according to technology data firm IDC, with a market share of 2.6% in the first nine months of 2011.

As the company works on a restructuring plan, a key issue for creditors is whether the printer operations are worth supporting, or whether the bulk of the company’s value is in its patents.

Nortel Networks Corp., a company that also had fallen behind the technology curve, opted to liquidate itself in bankruptcy court rather than reorganize, raising a greater than expected $4.5 billion for its patent trove.

Kodak’s founder, Mr. Eastman, took his life at the age of 77 in what is now a museum celebrating the founder and Kodak’s impact on photography. His suicide note read: “To my friends, my work is done. Why wait?”

Read more:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203471004577140841495542810.html#ixzz1ibOm8KV4

If a Chimp can Edit the News, then Let’s Buy more Bananas!

Video killed the radio star, now technology is killing editing and videographer jobs, at least at CNN.

by Nellie Andreeva Deadline.com

The cable news network today laid off 50 people in the Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Miami offices. The bulk of the cuts are among editors, photojournalists and librarians, and CNN SVP Jack Womack explained them with the ability for virtually anyone to edit and publish video on their computers or search for background information online and with the influx of viewer-generated video. “Technology investments in our newsrooms now allow more desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online,” he wrote in an internal email. “This evolution allows more people in more places to edit and publish than ever before. As a result of these technology and workflow changes, CNN is reducing the number of media editors in our work force in Atlanta… We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is inthe hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.”

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

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

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