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Monday, July 02, 2007

Animator M dot Strange Discusses His Digital Vision

I shot some video last week with M dot Strange, the director of 'We Are the Strange,' which showed at Sundance this year. He's based in San Jose -- and he is what you'd call a dyed-in-the-wool indie. Very sharp guy.

We talked about his work...how he has used YouTube to cultivate a community...the origins of his name...the importance of collecting e-mail addresses online from people interested in your work (or enabling them to pre-order a DVD)...a new kind of digital multiplex that M dot envisions...the iTunes Store...drive-ins...digital cinema...and film festivals that continue to demand 35-millimeter prints from entrants.

My favorite quote from the conversation (which lasts about 20 minutes): "No one knows the value of my media, because no one has ever done it before."



(If you'd prefer to download the video and watch it later, you can do that here.)

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5 Comments:

  • His comments about D-Cinema:

    The DCM package required to actually get a JPEG 2000 version of a "digital movie" is _far_ more cost prohibitive than a 35mm print from a digital master today. You can transfer a digital movie (either from DV, HDCam, D5, etc) to 35mm for around $25-$30K. There are a very limited number of facilities that have the capability to create a DCM from an HDCam or other digital tape, and the rough quotes I've been given are close to $70K with a delivery/showing cost per screen of around $2k on the AccessIT network of digital projectors (ie. Christie). Once you have a 35mm print, there's no additional charge to bicycle that print to another theater and thread it through the projector. This has been specifically and intentionally created by AccessIT/the Studios to be economically unfeasible for indies in the new DCI D-Cinema environment.

    He also touches on the idea of how "easy" or "inexpensive" it is to create "digital cinema" needing only an inexpensive digital projector, a space, and a media server. As it turns out, it's considerably more complex than that unless you're just doing it as "some guy". To create a viable "theater" seems very easy, but to put pieces together that can work as a business (where you aren't losing money every day) is not nearly as easy.

    The theatrical business is an extremely low-margin affair to begin with, and then factor in the difficulty in acquiring enough content to keep a theater going. ALL of the main content players - including the mini-majors such as Lionsgate, Fox Searchlight, etc., are standing firmly in the "if it's not a DCI system, you will never get our content in digital form" stance. It creates an impossible scenario for that cheap little digital projector.

    Lets be clear here. DCI was formed by the studios. The DCI specification was engineered in a very specific fashion to favor the studio's interests, and they've been quietly maneuvering with it to cut out independents and get them off of the available screens at the multiplex.

    To be fair to the DCI committee who came up with the standard, DCI actually says that in order to be "compliant", the projection/playback system should not "preclude" access for "alternative content" (ie. indie fare, concerts, etc). Unfortunately, the legal agreements put in place with most of the theaters operating under the (supposedly DCI compliant) AccessIT network prohibits the use or access of the projectors unless a "virtual print fee" is paid that is so substantial it makes it economically impossible to screen as an independent.

    There is a theater here in Portland that is entirely independent, using digital projectors, has the encoding hardware/software necessary to run a daily theater business, and they just started operations in December. Keep an eye on them... http://www.livingroomtheaters.com/

    -Steve
    http://indieproducer.blogspot.com/
    http://www.drinkmepictures.com/

    By Blogger Steve, at 7:12 AM  

  • I only found out about We are the Strange, like 5 minutes ago. I haven't seen the film yet BUT I KNOW IT'S THE BEST FILM EVER!!!

    M dot is like HellA crazy!!! and I totally don't know him.

    So, um YEAH this was cool

    By Blogger Peter Adams, at 8:35 AM  

  • I only found out about We are the Strange, like 5 minutes ago. I haven't seen the film yet BUT I KNOW IT'S THE BEST FILM EVER!!!

    M dot is like HellA crazy!!! and I totally don't know him.

    So, um YEAH this was cool

    By Blogger Peter Adams, at 8:35 AM  

  • and it's not all about the tech stuff, films are there to express thoughts and emotions and act as a mirror to are society...

    By Blogger Peter Adams, at 8:37 AM  

  • By Blogger Lorraine, at 5:56 AM  

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