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Thursday, May 31, 2007

4K digital projectors come to LA

Cinematical and The Hollywood Reporter have coverage of Landmark Theatre's new multiplex at the Westside Pavilion in LA, which features Sony SXRD 4K digital projectors in three of its auditoriums. These, along with one auditorium at Landmark's NuArt, are the only places where average ticket-buyers can experience 4K projection in Los Angeles. (4K projectors are already in place in Landmark cinemas in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.)

But there's a hitch: there isn't very much 4K content available today, or in the pipeline (most digital movies are now released in the lower-res 2K format). From Carolyn Giardina's piece in The Hollywood Reporter:

    Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures have created select 4K deliverables, but today's digital cinema content is typically available in 2K.

    "(4K content) is being developed as we speak," [Landmark co-owner Mark] Cuban said. "HDNet [Films, one of Cuban's production companies] plans on actively using 4K for productions and for distribution of content beyond just 4K theatrical." He said that some of the upcoming films he is producing would be mastering and distributed in 4K, though he declined to reveal details.

    Citing the aforementioned 4K content from Sony and Warners, Andrew Stucker, director of Sony's digital cinema systems unit, said: "It's still an expensive proposition. While 4K is coming, we expect the majority of the content will be 2K."

Here's the official Landmark page on the new multiplex... and coverage from Variety and the LA Times. (And one more from Variety.

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Web Video Summit: June 27 & 28, San Jose

Interesting conference organized by Jupitermedia, in San Jose in late June: the Web Video Summit: Creating and Distributing Video Over the Net. They'll have sessions on video search, video production, instructional video, encoding, and "designing great pages for video."

Though full passes cost $995, there's a preview pass you can get for free (at least until June 13.)

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Thursday links: FunnyOrDie in the NY Times ... Jobs, Gates & Lucas ... Hollingshead Day is June 6th

- Today's NY Times has a lengthy piece about the creation of The site's big hit, "The Landlord," starring Will Ferrell, took less than an hour to shoot, cost almost nothing, and has been seen about 30 million times.

My questions: how long will Ferrell and site co-creator Adam McKay stay motivated, given that they're working for equity and not pay... and how eager will other vid-comics be to contribute, given that the site doesn't share revenues yet?

- Here's all the video you could want from yesterday's on-stage encounter between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the 'D' conference in Carlsbad, CA. George Lucas was also on the agenda.

- Finally, next Wednesday (June 6th) is Hollingshead Day: the 74th anniversary of the opening of the first drive-in movie theater. (The first one was in New Jersey, opened by Richard Holingshead.) So visit one near you.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The state of the VFX industry, in Variety

David S. Cohen has two pieces in Variety on the state of the visual effects industry at the start of summer movie season.

In a piece headlined 'Blockbusters take toll on f/x shops', he writes:

    ...Visual effects houses are worried about the increasing demand for more product, at higher quality, in less time. Some effects houses have been losing key workers, and a few are threatening to shutter, because of the shifting economics.

    Studios are worried about the outcome. With increasingly frantic post-production schedules, there is less time to edit, test and recut a film, and a megamillion-dollar investment is in jeopardy if the tentpole is overlong or confusing.

In a companion piece, 'ILM at center of visual effects storm,' Cohen focuses specifically on San Francisco-based Industrial Light & Magic:

    ILM is lead shop or a major contributor to four of the summer's biggest tentpoles, all opening between Memorial Day and late July: Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Universal's "Evan Almighty," DreamWorks' "Transformers" and Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The effort has to be one of the most prodigious technical accomplishments in the history of the biz.

    On "Pirates 3," ILM was tasked with 757 of the most difficult of the film's 2,000-odd vfx shots, including more shots of Davy Jones than in "Pirates 2," complex water simulations and a massive maelstrom sequence.

    Modern-day Noah tale "Evan Almighty" is split between ILM and Culver City-based Rhythm & Hues. ILM has 182 shots, including the CG ark and water. R&H has nearly the same number of shots and is animating the animals.

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Apple will add YouTube videos to Apple TV menu

From the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference today: Apple will officially add YouTube videos to the Apple TV menu of content, according to CEO Steve Jobs. (Seems like you'll get not only the most popular videos, but also the ability to search the whole library.) Jobs refers to Apple TV as "the DVD player for the Internet age." Cool coinage.

Here's the coverage...GigaOm...and here's coverage from the Journal.

Here's a link to the video; the discussion of YouTube happens at about 7 mins 30 seconds in.

(I presume this'll obviate the need for any Apple TV hackage.)

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New survey data on movie downloading behavior

Toronto-based Solutions Research Group surveyed 1,230 Americans earlier this month, and found that:

    - Only 8 percent have paid to download a movie (up from 5 percent in October 2006)
    - 30 percent of iTunes users have visited the movie section of the store. Among visitors to and, 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively, have visited the movie areas of those sites.
    - A third of all Netflix members use Netflix's "instant viewing" feature to watch movies (or parts of movies)
    - Among other movie download sites, 9 percent of survey respondents had visited, 8 percent had visited, 5 percent had visited, and 5 percent had been to

A PDF summary of the survey results is here.

(Via Movie Marketing Blog)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two from USA Today: 'Batman' in IMAX and Combatting Cinema Annoyances

Two pieces from USA Today (the official newspaper of hotel dwellers):

- Christopher Nolan will use an IMAX camera to shoot four action sequences for the next Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight,' due out July 18, 2008. From the story:

    "There's simply nothing like seeing a movie that way," Nolan says. "It's more immersive for the audience. I wish I could shoot the entire thing this way."

    Typically, the feature films that play in IMAX theaters are simply stretched out to fill the enormous screens. That can dilute the picture quality and give the movie a wide, squat look.

    Shooting on IMAX, Nolan says, will have a twofold effect. The four scenes will fill the IMAX screens, some of which are eight stories high. And in traditional theaters, the scenes will appear more vivid (think high-definition television over standard).

    Don't expect many movies to follow suit. Only 280 IMAX theaters are in operation worldwide, and fewer than 100 show feature films.

    And shooting in the format is difficult. IMAX film, which is 10 times the size of standard film stock, is costly and must be shot using bulky cameras.

- Regal Entertainment is offering some patrons at its multiplexes wireless problem-reporting device. Press 1 for a picture problem, 2 for sound, 3 for piracy, and 4 for "other disturbance." The systems will be available in 114 theaters this summer. My question: will a manager actually respond?

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MovieLabs launches technology challenge

I've got a piece in Variety today about a technology challenge announced this morning by MovieLabs, a joint venture of the six biggest movie studios. From the piece:

    The MovieLabs Technology Open Challenge, running through the end of September, will provide grants of up to $100,000 for technologists working on solutions to problems like improved security for Internet content, converting a single piece of digital content so that it can be played on various consumer devices, or developing a movie screen that works equally well for 3-D and 2-D projection.

    MovieLabs, based in Palo Alto, is a research-and-development group founded by the studios in 2005 with a $30 million bankroll. Silicon Valley tech veteran Steve Weinstein was hired to run the five-person group last July.

Here's more official detail.

When I spoke with Weinstein last week, I brought up the divide that has long existed between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Weinstein said, "One of our missions [at MovieLabs] is to show that the studios are interested in figuring out YouTube and BitTorrent, and building that bridge. Silicon Valley and the consumer electronics industry and the movie and media industries have never figured out how to work together in an open way, other than at standards levels. Hopefully, we’ll help with that."

It's a telling detail that MovieLabs' headquarters are in Palo Alto (although they do have a satellite office in LA.)

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Hollywood and Silicon Valley: Where is the love?

Having coffee earlier this week with the founders of Caachi, a nascent marketplace for independent film, we got to talking about some of the differences between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

The two industries have one important thing in common…

Silicon Valley is a magnet for people from all over the planet who want to help develop new technologies. Hollywood is a magnet for people from all over the planet who want to make important (or at least, successful) movies. In both places, you have people doing what they love, and getting paid for it.

Often, they’re paid obscene sums of money: Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise have both earned more than $30 million in a single year, and the Forbes billionaire list is studded with geeks like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

I think the main difference is one of priorities.

In Silicon Valley, tech trumps everything else. What a new technology can do is far more important than any content it carries, any businesses it threatens, any behaviors it changes. The technology, as long as it works reasonably well, should be allowed to do its job unhindered. There’s no nostalgia in Silicon Valley; life here is a headlong rush toward the new-and-improved future.

In Hollywood, storytelling trumps everything else. A great tale, well-told and well-played by the screenwriter, actors, and director, is the ultimate objective. How the story reaches the audience is immaterial, whether it’s carried in canisters to a theater’s projection booth, or beamed by cell towers to a wireless handset. Hollywood is pervaded by nostalgia: premieres still take place at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927, and many directors (including Steven Spielberg) say they still shoot on film, rather than with digital cameras, because that’s the tool their predecessors used to tell stories.

Having different priorities doesn’t necessarily create conflicts; Hollywood and the Valley work together well when they acknowledge each other’s strengths, and let the entertainment companies tell stories and the tech companies write code. What creates conflicts is when one group disses the contributions of the other...when Silicon Valley types say, “Oh, we’ll just go out and license some content,” or when Hollywood types say, “That’s not important – it’s just technology.”

When there’s an appreciation of the value of technology combined with storytelling, you get real breakthroughs like The Great Train Robbery (the first movie to tell a story), The Jazz Singer (the first feature film with a synchronized soundtrack), Gone With the Wind (the first movie in Technicolor to win Best Picture), or Star Wars (the first use of motion-controlled cameras to shoot miniatures), which marks the 30th anniversary of its 1977 release today.

And it’s a pretty diificult-to-dispute fact that if it weren’t for a fresh technological revolution every decade or two – from sound in the 1920s to home video in the 1970s to the Internet today – Hollywood wouldn’t have endured and grown as a business.

Your thoughts?

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San Francisco's Countless Film Fests

Just a note of appreciation: I saw a flyer for the Queer Women of Color Film Festival (June 8-10), and it made me happy to live in a city where such a thing would exist (and be entering its third year).

I also got to wondering: does San Francisco have more film festivals than any other city in the US? In the world?


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jaman added to list of sites that allow you to monetize Internet film and video

The guys at Jaman were kind enough to tell me a bit about how their deals with filmmakers are structured, so I've added them to my list of services that help video creators earn money from their work.

Their revenue sharing model is as follows:

    30% of the gross, paid quarterly to the content owner
    $1.99 rentals (seven day); $4.99 download-to-own
    7-9 yr non-exclusive contract
    Worldwide Internet rights

I've listed them at #10; the list now provides a look at 24 different Internet video services, along with several that are about to launch and also a handful of DVD-on-demand services. I've been using Jaman for the past few days, and have been enjoying the experience: the software works flawlessly so far, and there's some high-quality content in the library. (Plus, they're offering free rentals on many titles, presumably to build up their customer base.)

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Thursday links: Remix 'Star Wars' on EyeSpot...Streaming Media East...'Manda Bala'...and more

Just back from a one-day round-trip to Los Angeles...which is technically doable, but unwise.

Some links from this morning's news

- and Eyespot are offering up 250 scenes from the six 'Star Wars' movies for your remixing pleasure, starting Friday (not coincidentally, the 30th anniversary of the release of 'Episode IV.')

- IPTV Evangelist has some video interviews from the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York, including execs from Microsoft, Gotuit, and AOL Video.

- Cinema Minima notes that the Sundance Grady Jury Prize-winner 'Manda Bala' (which I wrote about here) has been picked up for distribution by City Lights. Look for it this summer.

- From Apple TV's sales will stall at one million units, says Forrester Research analyst Jim McQuivey. Man, this guy knows how to get attention in the blogosphere!

- Yet another Joost announcement: a deal with CAA. Joost says the agency will help bring in more content.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

'Pirates 3' will be first digital cinema release on 1000+ screens

When 'PIrates of the Caribbean: At World's End' open this Thursday night, it'll be the first digital cinema release to play on more than 1,000 digital screens, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Cool milestone.

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Dovetail CEO Jason Holloway on Paid Downloads vs. Ad and Subscription Models

I posted earlier this month about Forrester Research's prediction that "the paid video download market is a dead end."

I disagreed then, and I disagreed now. I think people will continue to be willing to pay for long-form content (like movies), and shorter serial content that's a known quantity (like a TV show or high-quality Internet series).

One person who wrote in was Dovetail.TV CEO Jason Holloway, who said:


    Other than ultra-premium content, people are not willing to pay or even go through the process of paying (i.e., if it was 1/100th of a cent, they won’t go through the process of figuring out how to pay it) unless they know the brand. They will watch ads, especially if targeted and/or short.

    They also will pay for subscriptions, since they are paying for the overriding brand (e.g., Dovetail) with the understanding that there is plenty to watch and their margin cost will be zero, plus no ads.

    I think that history is littered with companies that try the [pay-per-view model] without premium doesn’t work for consumers.

I asked Holloway to clarify a little, telling him I didn't think services like iTunes, Wal-Marts download site, or Amazon Unbox were going to go away; media companies want them to succeed too badly. Holloway wrote:

    I agree with you. I don’t think [those kind of services are] going anywhere.

    Here’s the way I see it. For simplicity there are two segments: high end (stuff that people readily recognize on its own merit) and the rest. For the rest, my theory applies. People won’t pay to experiment, so you have to have ads or subscription (once the platform ITSELF is a brand worth recognizing, people will pay for the platform, even if they won’t pay for each piece of content). People wanting content free or [as] part of a subscription would apply to the high end stuff too, except that the high end stuff (“Darn, I missed Entourage last night”) commands more value and people aren’t experimenting with buying it, so consumers are willing to pay for it. Given that, why should the owners settle for less revenue from their content? They don’t need to settle (because people will pay $1.99 or $.99 or whatever for each piece), so they will command PPV revenue model.

    I’m sure that the high end stuff would be happy with free access if the revenue per viewing/download was high enough, but you can’t show $.99 worth of ads in a TV show – just can’t do it, so they will demand PPV levels of revenue and they will get it.

    Here’s how I think that it will shake out, based on the three types of revenue for say an episode of a TV show. Each piece of content has some value. You can show ads, which generates a few cents per showing (but it is free, so you get more viewers), or you can be part of a subscription package which generates, say, $.10 per viewing (again it’s free, so you get more views, but you have to share revenue with others), or you can price the content at whatever you want, which might be $.49 or $.99 or $1.99 or whatever (BUT you have to convince people to pay before they watch --- tough without a brand). So that piece of content will have to figure out what it is worth. Somewhere in perhaps the $.10 to $.25 range (per view), the owner is going to be willing to lose viewers in exchange for PPV revenue levels.

    Thus, I think the future holds all three…but if you aren’t high end, then you have to work with ads and subscriptions.

That's a lot of writing from someone who doesn't get paid by the word. But in the end, I agree with Holloway: three kinds of models will endure:

> A la carte paid downloads (eg, iTunes)
> Monthly subscription (eg, Vongo)
> Ad-supported (eg, Revver, and now, YouTube)

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NY Times: 'Top Directors See the Future, and They Say It's in 3-D'

If you are getting weary of reading so many articles about the second coming of 3-D, don't click here. But there's a good quote in this piece about 3-D movie production from Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has committed DreamWorks Animation to releasing all of its movies in 3-D, starting in 2009:

    “I believe that this is the single greatest opportunity for the moviegoing experience since the advent of color,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, said in an e-mail message. “It has been more than 60 years since there has been a significant enhancement or innovation to the moviegoing experience.”

(I'd take issue with the 60 years comment... that leaves out stereo sound, VistaVision, CinemaScope, Cinerama, the original wave of anaglyphic 3-D movies, Sensurround, stadium seating, and cup-holders.)

Some trivia for you: in 1953, the peak year of the original 3-D boom, there were 23 movies released in 3-D, including 'House of Wax' and 'It Came from Outer Space.' (I'd be surprised if we see a half-dozen 3-D releases this year from major studios.) By 1955, there was just one movie made in 3-D.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Cool YouTube/AppleTV Hack

[ Update: Apple will add YouTube videos to AppleTV menu ]

Soon, AppleTV users will be able to watch a selection of YouTube's most-viewed and most-discussed videos on AppleTV. That's courtesy of a new plug-in called "A Series of Tubes," which isn't yet available, but which you can learn more about (and see in a video demo) here and here.

In other YouTube news (courtesy of JD Lasica's Social Media blog), an AP story about what the founders of YouTube have been up to lately.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crowdsourcing and the Entertainment Industry: `Mining the masses for the next big thing'

My monthly Boston Globe column focuses on how entertainment players like MTV and Netflix are using crowdsourcing to develop new kinds of content and software applications. The gist of the piece:

    Crowdsourcing essentially means throwing your arms open to the Internet community and inviting them to help create content or software. Often, there is prize money involved, but sometimes people pitch in for fun or glory (see The Internet Movie Database, originally built by users before it was acquired by

    Frito-Lay tried crowdsourcing last year, when it invited any wanna be advertising execs to create a Super Bowl ad for its Doritos brand chips. The company received more than 1,000 entries, and the finalists were virtually indistinguishable from a TV spot that a Madison Avenue agency would've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. The snack-maker, by dangling a $10,000 prize and the promise of Super Bowl airtime, got to pick the best ad out of a very large pack.

    Bands like The Decemberists and Modest Mouse have invited fans to craft music videos, using a library of raw footage they provide. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who owns a pair of high-definition cable channels, recently put out a call on his blog for ideas for new shows. MTVu, the college cable network run by MTV, recently doled out $30,000 grants to teams of college students who are creating new software that could eventually be integrated into the MTVu website.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Updated Resource: Sites that Pay for Film and Video

I've updated this chart once again, which lists many of the sites that help makers of film and video earn money online.

It now includes updated info about YouTube's new revenue-sharing program, along with links to newer services like Joost, Jaman, and Vuze.

Also: I heard this week that iTunes may start allowing indie producers to upload content and charge for it, sometime this summer. I'll add that if and when it happens.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Two new vid-sharing sites, both with monetization plans

Last night at an event at the Film Arts Foundation here in San Francisco, I met Tom Hicks, the co-founder of a new indie-film site called Caachi. You can name your own price for the download and keep 75 percent of the revenues, or make it free. They use BitTorrent for delivery, at DVD quality.

And Charles Baker, the content acquisitions manager for Vuze e-mailed me today. They're focusing on delivering content in high-def. As for monetization, Charles writes:

    We currently offer content creators the ability to monetize their content on a "download to own/rent" basis. We are also negotiating ad deals with Fortune 500 companies to place pre/post roll ads. Later this summer, we will offer an advanced ad/ network engine from to make much more targeted ads, which means a higher payment per ad placement.

I'll add these guys to my chart of sites that pay video producers when I have a minute.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pixar's 'Ratatouille': Using the Site to Cultivate Multiple Audiences

Disney and Pixar have decided to put a nine-minute segment from 'Ratatouille' on the movie's official site, with a nice introduction from director Brad Bird.

For filmmakers and movie marketers, this seems like a great case study on how much (and what kind of) video to present on the official site. There's always a concern that too much video will help some site visitors decide that this isn't in fact a movie they want to see, but I think the upside of sharing more video outweighs that concern.

There's material here for adults like me who're eager to see the movie, die-hard Pixar fans, cg animation wonks, and kids. There are video podcasts that talk about the making of the movie, as well as a really nice guide to all the characters.

My only complaints: there's no way to grab the videos and embed them in your own site, which would help spread this stuff across the Net, and there's no obvious way to subscribe to the video podcasts so that you can watch new ones when they're posted.

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Quick links: Digital opera a hit ... Seinfeld and Variety at Cannes

- Digitally-projected simulcasts of operas from the Met have been a hit, according to today's NY Times. Daniel Wakin writes:

    This season the Met simulcast six operas live to movie theaters across the United States, Canada and a handful of other countries and added repeats (“Encores,” in its marketing language). For the first live show, “The Magic Flute” on Dec. 30, about 21,000 people watched in front of 98 screens. For the last, “Il Trittico” on April 28, 48,000 people watched in front of 248 screens.

    In all, the Met sold 324,000 tickets worldwide at $18 each in the United States and more overseas, taking 50 percent of the proceeds and earning at least $3 million, as well as additional income from the sale of rights. Each simulcast cost $850,000 to $1 million to make. The Met had to use about $1 million in endowment money to make up the costs, but Mr. Gelb said that next year expanded showings and the sales of rights and DVDs should mean that the program will at least pay for itself, with a surplus likely.

- From Cannes, a fun LA Times piece about Jerry Seinfeld promoting DreamWorks Animation's 'Bee Movie,' out this November.

- And also from Cannes, some pre-game video analysis from Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart and editor Tim Gray. Nice for those of us who can't be there. (Disclosure: I regularly write for Variety.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

From the Google-plex: Video now included on main search page

I spent the morning down in Mountain View, at Google headquarters, where the company was holding a press event called Search-ology. I wasn't expecting much news, until Google VP Marissa Mayer unveiled Google's new "universal search," which integrates video (and books, and news, and lots of other stuff) into the site's primary search interface. As a result, I wrote a short piece about the event for Variety.

What's the impact? This, over time, will be a big deal.

Right now, there seem to be only a few video sites included in Google's search index, along with YouTube and Google Video. Metacafe is there, as is Atom Films. I asked Mayer which other sites were included, but she didn't know, and neither did a couple of Google PR people who were in attendance.

But over time, as Google indexes more of the video across the Internet (and Mayer did say the company intends to present every piece of video it discovers), it is going to be delivering millions of new viewers to all sorts of video sites. Make no mistake: this is a big bang for online video, maybe even bigger than Google's acquisition of YouTube last year. Google is the most popular Web site in the world, with more than half a billion unique visitors every month.

One interesting note, which I mention in my story: Google isn't yet integrating video from major network sites (Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC) in its search results. I didn't notice that until I'd left the Google-plex, so I couldn't ask anyone there about it. Is there a concern about wading into another lawsuit, or is Google just working with sites right now that it knows will be happy to get the traffic? What's your theory?

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Why YouTube Needs to Share the Revenues with Everyone

Lots has been written in the past week about how YouTube will integrate advertising into its videos, and start sharing the revenues with some of its more established indie content producers:

- and NewTeeVee have screenshots showing you what it looks like

- Mark Cuban weighs in

- BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal talk about how content producers will get attention and get paid. Michael Totty writes:

    It turns out that success in the new-media world depends on a lot of the same things as in the old-media universe. Just as in Hollywood, becoming a hit takes talent, effort, timing and some luck. Sex appeal is just as valuable online as off. And getting noticed by the "mainstream" press also helps build buzz.

    Most important, though, is the way Internet stars exploit the power of the Web. They employ all the social-networking tools available on new-media sites like Google Inc.'s YouTube, inviting fans to comment on their work, link to it and even copy it. And they draw on email, subscriptions and other tools to alert fans about new offerings.

    "The most popular are the ones who have really tapped into the social fabric" of the Internet, says Jamie Byrne, head of product marketing at YouTube.

- Finally, there's this take from a "former YouTube star," which accuses YouTube of trying to establish itself as a new gatekeeper, providing access to as much exclusive content as possible.

My observation: YouTube is smart to try integrating advertising into some of its videos to see how users (and content producers react). But if the site doesn't open up its advertising program to all content creators before the end of 2007, or set a threshhold (IE, once you've hit 100,000 views, you can start earning money), I think they're going to end up being seen as elitist: the message will be that only content producers who've already built a following - the A list - can make money from their work.

(Incidentally, I noticed recently that the Google search engine has completely de-listed CinemaTech. Coincidentally, this happened around the time of some reporting I did on CinemaTech and in Variety about YouTube's plans to integrate advertising. Let's just say that YouTube wasn't keen on having this topic covered in advance of its official announcement. Is this the sting of GooTube retribution?)


'Helvetica,' the documentary

Here's a doc that is getting some good buzz in the blogosphere: 'Helvetica,' about the omnipresent sans serif typeface. Four clips posted to YouTube have been seen more than 30,000 times.

What's nice about marketing this kind of pic is that there's a natural target audience: graphic designers.

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Paid Downloads on the Way to Extinction: Ads and Subscriptions are the Future

That's the word from Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. (I'll bet Steve Jobs doesn't agree with him.) Here's the alert I got from them this morning (and here's the press release):

    The paid video download market is a dead end according to a new report by Forrester Research. Forrester estimates that paid video downloads will peak in 2007, generating $279 million in revenue, up from $98 million last year. Instead, advertising models will drive the online video market.

    In the past year, companies such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart have begun offering consumers the ability to download television programs and movies to own or rent. But a recent Forrester survey showed that only nine percent of online adults have ever paid to download a movie or TV show. Furthermore, an analysis of these consumers showed they are a niche of media junkies willing to spend heavily on such content; they do not represent the vanguard of a rush by mainstream consumers. Without mainstream viewers joining the party, the video download market will not grow fast enough to support the ambitions of all the companies involved.

    "The paid video download market in its current evolutionary state will soon become extinct, despite the fast growth and the millions being spent today,” writes well-respected Forrester analyst James McQuivey. "Television and cable networks will shift the bulk of paid downloading to ad-supported streams where they have control of ads and effective audience measurement. The movie studios, whose content only makes up a fraction of today's paid downloads, will put their weight behind subscription models that imitate premium cable channel services.”

I don't agree with McQuivey's take on this -- I think media companies that crank out TV shows and movies enjoy being able to charge for them a la carte, on DVDs or as downloads, and I think they're going to do what they can to preserve that model, alongside advertising and subscription programs. They'll try to sell new, premium content as paid downloads (on Apple's iTunes and elsewhere), and make available slightly older stuff in subscription services, or free and supported by ads.

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From Release Print: 'The Still-Unsolved Riddles of Digital Distribution'

Michael Read over at the Film Arts Foundation has put out another great issue of Release Print, their every-other-month print mag. This one is dubbed the "Distribution 2.0 Reader" -- a collection of stories, case studies, and profiles focusing on the new rules of movie distribution.

There's lots of good stuff in there, including stories about Adrian Belic ('Beyond the Call'), Lance Weiler ('Head Trauma') and Luke Wolbach ('Row Hard, No Excuses'). I also contributed a piece headlined, "Mystery Cyber Theater: The Still-Unsolved Riddles of Digital Distribution."

The PDF of that story is here, with Michael's permission. The opening:

    Digital distribution, circa 2007, resembles a high-concept science fiction script: conceptually intriguing, potentially feasible, but not quite part of the fabric of reality.

    Many of the elements required for a direct connection between filmmaker and audience are already in place. The average internet user in the United States now watches more than 100 minutes of video per month, typically over a high-speed connection. According to Apple, iTunes customers have so far purchased more than 1.3 million movies and 50 million
    television episodes. Several websites, including GreenCine, CustomFlix, and Dovetail, provide free hosting for full-length features, and cut the creator in on the revenues each time a movie is viewed.

    A few filmmakers have experimented with making their work available through these new channels. Despite these forays, digital distribution still hasn’t arrived as a viable, financially sound option for independent filmmakers. This may be a transitional year, however, as more consumers rent and purchase mainstream studio movies in digital form, and install the technology necessary to view them on a TV screen. Wider consumption of digitally delivered indies may quickly follow.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

In Manhattan, on 5/18: Using the Web to Get Your Indie Short Films Out There

Formidable filmmaker Tiffany Shlain e-mailed the other day to let me know about an event she is doing later this month at the Soho Apple store in NYC. She'll be screening two of her short films, 'The Tribe' and 'Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness' at 6:30 pm on Friday, May 18th, and then talking with Sundance web guru Joseph Beyer about how the Internet is changing the rules of filmmaking.

Sounds like fun!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Can the movie theater be a multi-purpose space?

This weekend, National Amusements is using one of its LA theaters to host a videogame tournament, according to this Reuters piece.

One challenge for theaters that want to also host business meetings, gaming tournaments, and simulcast live events is that their auditoriums are designed for one purpose -- watching movies in the dark, while reclining in a semi-comfy seat. I suspect if theaters really want to be multi-purpose spaces, they'll need to be reconfigurable, with different seating arrangements, accessories, atmospherics, and chairs that aren't bolted to the floor.



Friday, May 04, 2007

YouTube and Revenue-Sharing

YouTube isn't sharing revenue with just anybody who posts a video, as of Thursday, but only a few selected creatives like LisaNova and HappySlip. So the upshot seems to be, if you're an unknown who makes the next 'Evolution of Dance,' you might still have to stand by and watch as million of people view it on YouTube -- without getting a cut of the action. Once you've established yourself, then you can get paid.

I am proud to say I broke this story in Variety two weeks ago (and also here on CinemaTech) ... and while YouTube media reps didn't supply any sort of comment for that story, they indicated to me that I was totally off-base.

Here's where I was wrong: I said it could happen as soon as the week of April 23rd. But it didn't happen until the week of April 30th.

Here's more coverage from InformationWeek and Bloomberg News.

YouTube rival Revver issued a statement that said, "Today’s announcement is further validation for the model that Revver pioneered the very first day we went live. However, Revver does not bar any potential user, big or small, from making money through our service.

Believing that all video artists and owners should be allowed to share in the revenue shifting to social media sites, we have established a level playing field for anyone who has something of value or of interest to share."

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

In SF: Apple Store Event on Distribution for Filmmakers and Video Producers

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Tuesday, June 12th I'm organizing a conversation about the new digital distribution opportunities that the Internet offers filmmakers and wanna-be viral video producers. It'll be at 7 PM, at the downtown San Francisco Apple Store right above the Powell Street BART stop.

My goal is to talk about some of the ways film- and video-makers can build audiences and earn money online, with a lot of examples and case studies.

If you're someone who's already making films (shorts, features, docs) and videos and distributing them online, it'd be great to have you come and share your experience with the group. Drop me a note and I'll make sure to work you into the presentation...

(Or if you're just interested in learning more about the topic, you're welcome, too!)

If there is enough of an interested group, we'll grab drinks nearby and continue the discussion afterward. And please, help me spread the word.

Also: everyone who comes will get a free digital copy of "The Future of Web Video: New Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers."

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday links: Netflix's prototype video player ... Comedy kills online

Getting ready to head off on a week of travel, so posting will likely be light...One of the talks I'm giving, next week, covers some of the lessons that innovators can learn from Hollywood's long history of absorbing new technologies. I plan to post some of that -- slides or notes -- here soon.

Two stories that caught my attention this morning:

- Netflix recently showed an online video player that it may soon integrate into its Web site, making "Watch Now" movies accessible to Mac users like me. (Via Hacking NetFlix.)

- USA Today observes that what Web video viewers really want is to laugh. (Via Thompson on Hollywood.)