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Friday, July 28, 2006

Churchill Club event...New blog on the cinema biz...`Vice' cinematography reviews...Crowd sim in `Ant Bully'

- The event last night on The Future of Movies in Palo Alto was, so far as I could tell, a hit. It was sold out, and a number of people called me throughout the day asking how they could get in. The speakers all showed up -- and they were uniformly great, though I thought Todd Wagner from 2929 and Bob Lambert from Disney stole the show. Todd mentioned, at one point, that he is a big fan of Disney CEO Bob Iger. "So am I," Lambert quipped.

Director Randal Kleiser was toting a video iPod that was capable of showing 3-D without glasses; he had a short clip from one of the `Spy Kids' movies.

When I asked for a show of hands in the audience -- how many people have downloaded movies illegally? -- only a few hands popped up. (Too old a crowd?) But Jerry Pierce of Universal bravely admitted to having done it, to understand, he said, how the process worked, how easy or difficult it was, and what the drawbacks or advantages were. He wasn't clear about whether he downloaded a Universal movie -- or one from the competition.

And Tim Partridge from Dolby said he thought the digital cinema conversion would take a long time -- but that being able to show movies in 3-D would help nudge it along.

Afterward, Wagner tweaked me for making fun of the anemic box office grosses of `Bubble' during the panel. (Only three people in our audience said they'd seen it.) He said they'd sold 100,000 DVDs, and sold the foreign rights for $3 million. Since the movie cost less than $2 million, Wagner marked it as a success.

Forbes publisher (and Churchill Club co-founder) Rich Karlgaard posted some of his notes from the event here. (He also mentions an event being put on by Forbes on media, entertainment, and technology in October.) Josh Gershmann and Ryan Lack from the PR firm Voce Communications also have a posting.

Update: here's the podcast of the panel, on Apple's iTunes Music Store (you'll need iTunes on your computer to see it; it's the podcast called `The Future of Movies.'

- Afterwards, it was fun to chat with the filmmakers and technology types in the audience. One person I hadn't met before was Benjamin Treviño, who runs an excellent blog on how the exhibition business is changing, called Movie Theater Research Central. Very much worth a look, and I'm adding it to the list of links here.

- NY Times movie critic A.O. Scott wasn't bowled over by `Miami Vice,' but he had some very positive things to say about the cinematography. (The movie was shot with a number of digital cameras, but mainly the Viper from Thomson Grass Valley.) Scott writes:

    The camera, with leisurely, voluptuous sensuality, ranges from crowded cities to the open sea, from billowy thunderheads to the rippling muscles on Mr. Foxx’s back. Like “Collateral,” “Miami Vice” was shot in high-definition digital video, which Mr. Mann, in collaboration with the brilliant cinematographer Dion Beebe, treats not as a convenient substitute for film but as a medium with its own aesthetic properties and visual possibilities. The depth of focus, the intensity of colors, and the grainy, smudged finish of some of the images combine to create a look that is both vividly naturalistic and almost dreamlike.

But Jack Matthews of the NY Daily News says that "...the digital cinematography occasionally breaks up in grainy nighttime shots..."

And the Miami Herald (my hometown paper) says, "Shot on high-definition digital cameras, the film's cinematography often looks grainy and drained of color -- a marked contrast to the vivid, MTV-slick style of the TV show."

Susan King of the L.A. Times talked to director Michael Mann and cinematographer Dion Beebe about some of the challenges of shooting digitally.

- Richard Verrier of the LA Times writes about Massive, the crowd-simulation software created for the `Lord of the Rings' trilogy, and used on `The Ant Bully,' released today. He writes:

    [Warner Bros.] "The Ant Bully" is the first U.S. animated film to use Massive, but others are coming soon. Industry leader Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar Animation Studios is employing the software for its upcoming films.

    So are the producers of the Warner Bros. film "Happy Feet," a Robin Williams comedy about penguins that opens in November, and the upcoming Miramax Film Corp. release "Renaissance," a black-and-white animated film that used Massive to create a neighborhood set in a futuristic Paris.


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