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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sony wants to sell a slice of its visual effects and animation groups

From today's NY Times:

    Sony Pictures Entertainment is considering selling half of its fledgling animation studio, maker of the films “Surf’s Up” and “Open Season,” and even more of its thriving 15-year-old digital visual-effects company, which pioneered computer-generated imaging techniques in films like “Stuart Little,” “The Polar Express” and the “Spider-Man” movies.

    Sony Pictures, a unit of the Sony Corporation, has hired the investment bank Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin to assess the value of the two divisions. An outright sale of both, which is possible, could bring around $500 million, according to people involved in the discussions.

    All told, Sony has invested more than $400 million in the animation and effects businesses over the years.

According to the story, Sony Pictures ImageWorks now rivals ILM and Weta Digital in size.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ed Burns' next feature: Exclusively on iTunes

Not sure how I missed this story last week in the NY Times, but it's a big deal: Ed Burns is giving his new feature, 'Purple Violets,' exclusively to iTunes.

It played at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, but didn't spark much interest among distributors.

This is the first exclusive release of an indie movie iTunes will offer, and I think it'll be something to watch.

From the story:

    Releasing a feature on iTunes carries its own risks. Mr. Burns’s producing partner, Aaron Lubin, said that video distributors had offered lower-than-expected advance payments for the film’s DVD rights out of fear that its availability on iTunes would cannibalize home-video sales. But he and Mr. Burns said they hoped that the novelty of being the first movie to go out on iTunes would generate more publicity for “Purple Violets” than if it had opened on a few screens in New York and Los Angeles.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

U2's 3-D Concert Film Has a Release Date ... Hulu, Almost

- I'm looking forward to the release of U2's 3-D concert movie, just set for late January, according to Variety. National Geographic is handling the distribution. No word yet on the number of screens.

- This Wall Street Journal piece makes it sound like, the NBC/Fox joint venture, just launched. But the site is very obviously still in a limited beta. Rebecca Dana and Kevin Delaney write:

    Late Friday, Hulu closed deals with Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Television and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. to distribute some of their content as well. The venture's flagship site, Hulu, will initially be open only to users who request an early glimpse of the site.

    Some of these shows had been available already on network Web sites or via video-download services. Neither of NBC and Fox's two main network rivals, CBS Corp.'s CBS and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, has gone as far in making their content available online. That could change, however, as CBS has held talks with Hulu about providing the network's TV shows to the venture, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

MySpace has Wes Anderson's interview with Owen Wilson

Cool concept: a video interview of Owen Wilson, conducted by Wes Anderson, his long-time friend, collaborator, and director of 'The Darrjeeling Limited.' It'll go up on MySpace tonight at midnight, as part of their Artist on Artist series.

Of course, everyone wants to know whether Wes and Owen will talk about Owen's recent suicide attempt. (I think probably no.)

(Thanks to Anne Thompson for the link.)

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Devil Music's Halloween Tour: Live Music for Spooky Silents

The guys at Devil Music Ensemble just e-mailed to let me know about some October shows where they'll be performing original soundtracks to silent movies. They're mostly doing 'Nosferatu' (one of the scariest movies ever made, if you ask me), with a little 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' thrown in.

They'll be in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts this weekend; in New York City for Halloween; and in Pennsylvania and Delaware in early November. Full schedule here.

Here's a taste of their score to 'Nosferatu'...and other samples are here.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Hollywood Editors Working on PCs

One of the things that movie editors love about PC-based software for editing is that they can work on a laptop while they're on the road -- just like all the rest of us.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today headlined 'Editing on Big Films is Now Being Done on Small Computers.' That's only news to folks outside the industry, and the piece doesn't capture the sea change that I think is happening right now -- big-name editors shifting from Avid's software to Apple's Final Cut Pro. (Am I wrong? Walter Murch edited 'Cold Mountain' on Final Cut back in 2003, and I've only been hearing more about Final Cut since then.)

Lee Gomes writes:

    ...[E]ven relatively low-end personal computers, laptops included, are now so powerful that Hollywood pros have joined student filmmakers and indies in taking advantage of them.

    It's one more example -- along with music recording and graphic design -- of the way cheap computers are blurring the distinction between professional and amateur tools. Not that just having software makes you good at something, as a quick trip around the Web makes clear.

    ...[T]he typical Hollywood feature film these days is an analog-digital hybrid. Reels of film might be developed at a lab such as Technicolor, but then $1.5 million scanners digitize them and put them on a $100 generic USB hard drive. From there, it's on to the editors.

    Editing on computers is so much easier than editing physical film that it's how nearly all movies are now cut. USC's film school once had 50 editing consoles; now it has only two. Indeed, editing may have become too easy. "You can easily recut your movie 10 times a day," says Matt Furie, who teaches editing at USC. "Some students go off the deep end and cut, cut, cut. We tell them they need to discipline themselves to push away from the desk, drop the mouse and just think."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

IMAX's Digital Plans ... Shorts on iTunes

- IMAX Corp. has started to say more about its plans for a ginormous digital projection system to serve the world's 290 IMAX theaters. From the press release:

    [IMAX has] moved up the launch date of its digital projection system in development to the second quarter of 2008 from its previously announced timeframe of the end of 2008 to mid 2009. The highly anticipated IMAX(R) digital projection system will further enhance The IMAX Experience(R) and help to drive profitability for studios, exhibitors and IMAX(R) theatres by virtually eliminating the need for film prints, increasing program flexibility and ultimately increasing the number of movies shown on IMAX screens.

    Under the current roll-out schedule, the Company anticipates that three digital IMAX prototypes will be installed during the second quarter of 2008. Shortly thereafter, IMAX expects to install three additional prototypes. Once these prototypes meet performance specifications, IMAX expects to proceed with a full rollout during the second half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter of 2008.

No word on who IMAX is working with as partners ... I suspect this is not all technology developed in-house. In a survey IMAX conducted, 46 percent of respondents said they preferrred the digital IMAX projection to film.

- The San Francisco Chronicle has a piece about how iTunes and Web sites are fueling new interest in short films. It focuses on Tiffany Shlain ('The Tribe'), Jon Bloom ('Overnight Sensation'), and Jesus Beltran ('The Grass Grows Green'), among others. From Joe Garofoli's piece:

    Creators of short films (40 minutes or less) have finally found an audience through such online sites as iTunes, and San Francisco's Frameline Films and, which specializes in distributing independent films. And those sites are even starting to bring a revenue trickle to older shorts that audiences are unearthing online.

    Shorts haven't had this kind of exposure since before 1950, when pre-TV-owning audiences saw shorts on the same bill with features and newsreels at the local movie theater. Now, when Oscar viewers hear about a handful of really cool-sounding short films that screen at one the world's 5,000 film festivals, they can actually see them.

    "We are at the beginning of a transitional moment" in the short-film industry, said David Straus, CEO and co-founder of, an 8-year-old Los Angeles outfit that has helped 150,000 independent filmmakers market their films using the Internet. "It's not just that people can download them and see films online, it's that filmmakers are learning what they can do to reach out to audiences themselves."

Beltran says he has made "a couple thousand dollars" over a few months of having his film up on iTunes. (To clarify an earlier post, Mediastile is handling the distribution of 'The Tribe' on iTunes.)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

SneakerNet TV from SanDisk

The Wall Street Journal writes today about a new device from SanDisk designed to help in getting Internet videos from the PC to the TV. It's a "sneakernet" solution, meaning that you physically carry a USB drive from your PC to the television. SanDisk will also open up a content marketplace called Fanfare. CBS and Showtime are the two biggest content providers at launch.

From Nick Wingfield's story:

    With TakeTV, users plug the device into a USB port on their PCs, load it with video files and physically shuttle the device to the TV, where they plug it into a cradle connected to the standard video ports on their television sets. TakeTV has a remote control for navigating among the videos stored on the device. The product sells for $100 for a model with four gigabytes of storage, capable of holding about five hours of video, and a $150 eight-gigabyte model with room for about 10 hours of video.

    The device is essentially a souped-up version of USB drives, which use data-storage chips known as flash memory and are used to store and transport all types of computer documents and files. ...

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

AMC Installing More than 50 of Sony's 4K Projectors

AMC Theatres will install 54 of Sony's 4K digital projectors, at new multiplexes in Dallas, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Riverside, CA. The theaters should be open by the end of the year.

From the release:

    The motion picture industry recently announced that it is working with major cinematographers to start production on 4K originated features, and the industry has accelerated development of 4K cameras in recent months. [Sony VP Gary] Johns said that Sony also intends to build a complete system of digital cinematography production equipment, including 4K acquisition, storage and infrastructure solutions.

But as far as I know, we haven't yet seen any major releases at 4K resolution - only 2K. (But according to Wikipedia, "As of July 2007, there are some cinemas in Singapore showing digital 4K films to public using Sony's CineAlta 4K digital projector.") So it's unclear when these new Sony projectors will have true 4K content to play...

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Internet Publicity: Control Versus Chaos

Last month, I wrote about some comments made during a panel discussion at the IFP Filmmaker Conference by Mark Urman, head of theatrical distribution for THINKFilm.

The gist of that post was that I thought Urman was underestimating the power of blogs, niche movie review sites, podcasts, and video reviews to help promote THINKFilm's releases. One indicator of that attitude: THINKFilm requires that anyone who wants to access press materials enter a username or password, but doesn't explain how to get one in the first place. That's not friendly to someone in Schenectady who runs a movie review Web site, and might potentially promote a THINKFilm release.

Urman sent me an e-mail shortly after that; he didn't agree, and wanted to explain his position. I asked if he'd post a comment on the original blog entry, but his preference was to talk by phone, which we did a couple weeks later.

I didn't take notes during the chat, but Urman said his company was doing outreach to blogs and movie sites, but that THINKFilm wanted to be able to vet site editors before giving them press access, and it was important for the company to keep tabs on where people were talking about its movies, and what they were saying.

I tried to explain to Urman that the old model of promoting movies was to pick your shots, focusing on the media most likely to write about a given picture (Premiere magazine, the New York Times, Variety, etc.); according to the new model, you need to let the media pick you, making it easy for them to cover your stuff. Why not provide the same movie clips to some video blogger in Seattle who reviews one art-house release a week as you do to 'At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper'?

Urman didn't seem swayed: controlling and monitoring how THINKFilm's movies are written about still seems preferable to him than submitting to the chaos of the Web -- which always produces unanticipated results, sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

I also tried to tell Urman that as a working journalist, I usually don't waste my time applying for passwords to "press areas" on Web sites -- too often, you're on deadline and can't wait for the reply. The call ended with Urman telling me that it was easy to get a password -- just call up the New York office of THINKFilm. (Not so easy, of course, for a blogger in Capetown or Sydney or London...)

I took that as a challenge.

Day One: Poking around the THINKFilm site, I found the number for their office in New York, and called it around 5:30 on Friday, October 5th. The receptionist wasn't quite sure what sort of password and username I was asking for, but after putting me on hold for a few minutes, told me that I should e-mail someone named Alex Klenert, and gave me his e-mail address.

I e-mailed Klenert immediately: "I'm a blogger, and hoping to get a press password for the THINKFilm Web site. I'm especially interested in blogging about 'In the Shadow of the Moon.'" I didn't send a link to my blog.

I also, just for comparison, e-mailed the press contact at Sony Pictures Classics, a competitor of THINKFilm's; they also require a password to get your hands on press materials. (But unlike THINK, they actually give you an e-mail address on the page, without forcing you to dial New York during business hours to request a password.)

Day Four: By Monday morning, a Sony Pictures Classics person had e-mailed me back the password.

Day Seven: It wasn't until the following Thursday, October 11th, that I double-checked my notebook and realized that I had mis-spelled Alex Klenert's last name when I sent my original e-mail (my mistake), so I sent a new request that day to the correct address. I heard back from Klenert pretty quickly, asking me what my blog was. I sent the URL. (Klenert, it turns out, is vice president for publicity at THINK.)

Day Eleven: By October 15th, more than a week after my initial phone call to THINK, I still hadn't heard anything, so I e-mailed Klenert again.

Day Fourteen: On October 18th, I finally got the password to THINK's press downloads page. (Klenert apologized, and said they'd been having e-mail problems at THINKFilm.)

I suspect THINK is not going to change its position on this topic, but let me ask you indie filmmakers, producers, and distribution execs out there: should you make it that hard for someone who wants to write about your movie to write about your movie?

(The photo posted up top is my trophy from this whole effort -- a publicity still from the recent THINKFilm release 'In the Shadow of the Moon,' a really wonderful re-telling of the Apollo story.)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Next Friday: Power to the Pixel!

Just a quick note about the "Power to the Pixel" conference, being held next Friday (10.26) in association with the London Film Festival. The subtitle is, "The Digital Distribution Forum for Independents."

Liz Rosenthal, one of the great minds behind the late, lamented Digimart gathering in Montreal, has put it together.

The speakers are great (Matt Hanson from A Swarm of Angels, director Lance Weiler, Ira Deutchmann of Emerging Pictures) and so is the price: L35. (That's 35 pounds sterling.)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blu-ray and HD exclusives aren't so exclusive overseas

The Wall Street Journal discovers an interesting loophole that's being exploited by the brave owners of HD DVD or Blu-ray disc players: apparently, some discs that are exclusive to one format in the US are available in the other format in international versions.

From Sarah McBride's story:

    ...Several dozen titles out in the U.S. exclusively on Blu-ray are available overseas on HD DVD. While studios like Sony, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Co. tout their unswerving allegiance to Blu-ray stateside, in other countries titles like Sony's "xXx," Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and Disney's "The Prestige" are available on HD DVD.

    No overseas travel is necessary to tap into this stream of alternative discs. A visit to a site like does the trick, albeit typically at a higher price than in the U.S. For those reluctant to pay shipping costs from Europe or Asia or worried about currency conversions, gray-market U.S.-based sites such as offer selections.

    The loophole lies in distribution. Studios often farm out DVD sales in other countries to a patchwork of companies with expertise in those markets. Those partner companies sometimes have arrangements to use a high-definition format different from that of the U.S. studio.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

YouTube launches new content-tracking tools

Was working today on a Variety piece about YouTube's new content filtering system, dubbed "Video ID." It's intended to help ferret out copyrighted content on the site, zapping it within minutes.

The story is here. Disney, Time Warner, and seven other media companies have been involved in beta-testing it. From the story:

    “We are looking to build working relationships with media companies,” says David King, YouTube’s product manager, “to give the rights owners control, and to maximize their choices.” While YouTube has previously licensed technology from Audible Magic to look for infringing music on the site, it decided to build the Video ID service on its own.

You can see YouTube's sign-up page for the Video ID program right here.

CNET has a very good piece here. The Reuters story is here. The official Google blog entry is here.

What will be interesting is whether Google/YouTube considers this vast database of copyright content it is now building to be "proprietary." IE, this could become a major competitive advantage -- one that prevents other sites from effectively competing with YouTube. I asked King whether YouTube would consider making the database open to other video players, so that they could use it as a reference, as content was uploaded to their sites.

"Consistent with most Google products, we're building this with the idea of making it more generally available," Zahavah Levine, YouTube's general counsel, told me. "We would like to make it available to third-party sites."

That's a cool approach...we'll see how it plays out.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Reinvention of the Drive-In?

I have a piece in Variety on MobMov, a new organization I've been hearing a lot about. Here's the opening:

    The inventor of the drive-in, Richard Hollingshead Jr., has been dead for three decades and is mostly forgotten. Bryan Kennedy, a 27-year-old Web designer, has never been to a drive-in. But with an online initiative called MobMov, the San Franciscan is reinventing the ozoner for the YouTube generation. -- MobMov is short for "mobile movie" -- serves as a kind of digital clubhouse for about 160 "chapters" around the world, from L.A. to Hyderabad, India, that organize impromptu outdoor screenings. Projection booths usually consists of an LCD projector perched atop a car, a DVD player and an FM radio transmitter for the soundtrack.

    But in a fresh twist on this old-fashioned exhibition form, two independent filmmakers have given MobMov chapters the right to screen their latest movies for free, in hopes of building buzz and spurring DVD sales.

(One fix to the story: Lance Weiler's "Head Trauma" is actually screening next Saturday, October 20th.)

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Film Arts Workshop on Digital Distribution + Marketing

Thursday's workshop at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco was a lot of fun. We had a dozen participants, and two guest speakers: documentary filmmaker Jim Kerns, and distributor Alex Afterman of Heretic Films. Both were *hugely popular* with the students.

Jim talked about his experience selling DVDs of his doc "Destination: Bangalore." He has targeted universities, since the movie is about outsourcing and globalization. He has been disappointed by an arrangement that has put his movie on Jaman, where it is one of the most popular titles; he has seen no payments so far. His next movie is about Shell Oil's attempt to build a pipeline in the northwest of Ireland, and the towns that aren't wild about the prospect.

Alex said that shelf space for indie DVDs at big retailers like BestBuy has been getting "tighter and tighter." But he said he is optimistic that "digital distribution is the future of independent film." Selling DVDs involves manufacturing costs, graphic design, the risk of returns. A $19.95 DVD might generate $8.50 for Heretic, which then takes out its operating expenses and does a 50/50 split with the filmmaker.

Digital may produce more, even at lower sticker prices, he said. "I call it 'closing the loop.' There are all these social networks where people congregate who might be interested in your movie. They can immediately click and buy the film [digitally], and it's easy and affordable. That is where the future of independent film is going."

One movie Heretic distributes is Joe Swanberg's 'Kissing on the Mouth.' He said that an Internet video series that Swanberg made for, "Young American Bodies," was watched by more than half a million people. That helped to propel sales of the 'Kissing' DVD.

I'm talking with people now about doing the workshop in other places; let me know if you'd like to bring it to a town near you. Here are the slides (if you re-use them in some way, please credit CinemaTech and include the site's URL):

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Aguru Images commercializing USC's Light Stage technology

When I was at USC earlier this week, Elisa Wiefel and Krisztina Holly of the USC Stevens Institute happened to mention Light Stage, a technology developed at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, which I've been following for a while. It's an LED lighting array that basically lets you film actors on a stage, and then once you digitize the footage, adjust the lighting to mimic any possible environmental condition. So if you find you need to have a bright highlight on the right side of the actor's body, because they're about to be hit by a comet, you can do that. It has been used on 'Spider Man 3' and 'Superman Returns,' most recently.

Elisa and Krisztina mentioned that a company in Virginia, Aguru Images, has licensed the technology from USC, to better market it to studios and visual effects houses. (Aguru has also recently picked up some technology from NYU.)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quick links: 3-D, WGA blogging, Kerner Optical

Just about to head out for a packed day of meetings in San Francisco.... so some quick links:

- Gregg Kilday of the Hollywood Reporter covers a panel on digital 3-D moviemaking in South Korea, which includes some interesting thoughts on how filmmaking methods may change:

    Filmmakers working in 3-D are likely to favor longer shots, [Matthew DeJohn of In-Three] said, since in 3-D, "you can look around (in the frame) and every image is more interesting than a 2-D image." There will probably be less rapid editing, so that the viewer can take in all the information on the screen, and filmmakers will also have to consider the "question of breaking the edge of the frame."

- WSJ has a story about a blog that's proving to be an important window into the Writer's Guild contract talks. From the piece:

    The blog,, is showing the ways in which the Internet can become an important public sounding board in union negotiations that largely take place in private. Run by screenwriters Craig Mazin, who co-wrote "Scary Movie 3," and Ted Elliot, who co-wrote "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," the blog is watched by both Writers Guild of America leadership and the studios as a gauge of opinion among the guild's 12,000 voting members.

    Hollywood is looking for signals of how strongly guild members feel about a strike. After months of bluster, starting over the summer, negotiations for a contract between Hollywood studios and the Guild got tough last week: Some bargaining sessions collapsed and the union set a strike authorization vote deadline for Oct. 18. It seems an unscripted writers' strike in Hollywood could happen sooner -- perhaps by the end of this month -- rather than later.

- Great piece in fxguide about Kerner Optical, the model shop that spun off from ILM. This is the first comprehensive piece I've seen on what they're up to.

- I'm excited to add two guest speakers for my workshop this Thursday on digital distribution and marketing: Alex Afterman of Heretic Films and documentary filmmaker Jim Kerns.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

From the World of Online Video: News on Advertising, Picture Quality

- Google seems determined to play a big role in the business of inserting ads into online video. I covered an announcement they're making today in Variety. From the story:

    "Video units" -- essentially Internet video players that can be integrated into a website -- will display two different kinds of advertising, both pegged to the content of the site and the subject matter of the video itself. Content in the players will come from YouTube, the video-hosting service Google bought last year for $1.65 billion. The resulting revenue will be split three ways, with the site owner, content owner and Google all taking a slice.

    The video units are part of Google's AdSense advertising network, which generates a big chunk of the company's revenues, $1.35 billion in the second quarter alone.

    Google had earlier begun placing video ads on the thousands of sites that are part of the AdSense network, and YouTube recently began to test ads that played during its videos.

- And Brightcove has announced that it is working with BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer distribution system, to improve the image quality of its videos. From the Forbes piece:

    "It's going to be a very significant shift," contends [Brightcove VP Adam] Berrey. " We've seen an explosive growth in short-form video clips, and this will allow longer format files as well. It's definitely a significant step in the evolution of Internet TV."

The Journal's story about the Brightcove deal also mentions a new company called Move Networks, which is also working to improve video quality. Peter Grant writes:

    Move Networks, based in American Fork, Utah, has developed a technology that streams video at the fastest rate possible based on the user's computer, broadband connection and traffic on the network. Move Networks and its customers also are able to deliver high picture quality because content is stored on numerous servers throughout the country rather than at one central location.

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Andy Serkis on Mo-Cap

The current issue of Wired has a Q&A with Andy Serkis, generally regarded as the Sir Laurence Olivier of motion-capture actors.

Two really interesting questions from it:

    Wired: What's on your wish list as a digital actor?

    Serkis: The environment you're working in for performance-capture is very clinical. There's no stimulation from sets or costumes; you're working in a black box with lots of lights around you. I want to be able to shoot a scene in costume instead of a Lycra suit. We need motion-capture studios that let directors use lighting, back projection and other forms of stimulation to help the actors feel immersed in the world of the film.


    Wired: You got dissed by the Academy because Gollum was considered a collaboration with the animators at Weta Digital. Will a CG character ever win an Oscar?

    Serkis: For The Elephant Man, a whole team of prosthetics artists worked on John Hurt's character to help him create that performance. Whether or not the Academy can learn to see ones and naughts as a digital form of prosthetics — that is the question.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

3-D in Asia ... Movie Gallery Heads for Bankruptcy Protection

- The Hollywood Reporter has a piece that focuses on the emerging market for 3-D screens in Asia. The two players doing the conversions (or hoping to) are Real D and IMAX. From the piece:

    "Asia is somewhat in the same position as Europe is in," [Real D CEO Michael] Lewis said. "The digital business arrangements have not been worked out, and you are dealing with more indigenous content, which means that more of the digital projector has to be paid for by the exhibitors."

    Lewis estimates that 3-D digital cinema installations include roughly 14 installations in Korea, 16 in Australia and three in Japan. Other sources put the number of 3-D screens in Korea, where chains like CGV and Lotte have led the transition, as high as 20.

There's also a passing mention of In-Three, a company that wants to "dimensionalize" conventional movies. They still haven't announced their first project, despite having launched in 2005. About time, guys?

- It's not a great time to be in the video store business. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Movie Gallery (which owns Hollywood Video) is about to file for bankruptcy protection, hoping to emerge in early 2008. You'll recall that Movie Gallery bought the MovieBeam set-top box service back in March.

MovieBeam's Web site, interestingly, has been down for maintenance for almost two weeks. That must mean the service is doing really well. From the site: "Normal operation will return no later than the end of the day on Wednesday October 3rd."

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

New Gig-Oriented Site:

Dave Williams e-mails this week to let us know about a new site he has launched, It's a bulletin board where filmmakers can post ads looking for actors and crew, and anyone can post headshots or video samples of their work. Some of the features are free, but for many, you'll have to shell out for a $19.95 for a monthly membership.

Of course, there's always Craigslist.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Film Financing Event in Boston, This Thursday

I'll be giving a short talk about "Digital Distribution for Indies" this Thursday, at a Boston meeting of the Institute for International Film Finance. The rest of the agenda looks pretty jam-packed, too. Registration is $50 for non-members, $35 for members (but the prices go up the later you register.)

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CinemaTech Filmmaker Q&A: Brett Gaylor of Open Source Cinema

At the IFP Filmmaker Conference last month, I had a chance to sit down in the speaker green room with Montreal-based documentarian Brett Gaylor.

We talked about his current project, a doc tentatively titled 'Basement Tapes,' which focuses on the changing concept of copyright -- and which is being made collaboratively. Brett is in the vanguard of people who are exploring the way large communities of people interested in a topic can work together on a film (in much the same way people work together to create Wikipedia.) Here's the video of our conversation, pretty much uncut...

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Ridley Scott on 'Blade Runner' ... Will Fans Set Reasonable Prices for Radiohead's New Album?

- Wired has a lengthy Q&A (in text and audio) with 'Blade Runner' director Ridley Scott, on the occasion of the movie's 25th anniversary (has it really been that long?) From the interview:

    Scott: ...With digital the painting book is unlimited, and there are advantages and disadvantages, you know. The world in, say, Lord of the Rings would have been nothing like as impressive as that 30 years ago, as it is today where he can literally do anything. Although I must say Star Wars was one of the first — the one that George [Lucas] directed is still, honestly, the best by far. There was the beginning of some interesting digital thinking in that one. [Stanley] Kubrick really showed the way with 2001: [A Space Odyssey], where he had some very simple variations and versions of digital work. It was not digital so much as computer-driven shots. And that was [Douglas] Trumbull. Trumbull was working with Stanley. They got through that pretty magnificently. That was the first of the really great science fictions, where I went, "Wow, that works." Everything up to that one, I always felt, was a bit too much fantasy and not enough reality.

    Wired: But that's digitally controlled cameras, which is really — I suppose the mechanical precision is related to current CGI. But today you have a plastic universe. You generate it the way you want it to look.

    Scott: You can't say it's not as good, because good things have come out of it, like the variations of some films where they've really used it discerningly, I think is the best way of putting it, rather than going to massive overkill, which is when it becomes the end, not the means. And that's OK, because there are audiences who want that, right? I still have to have the story, so the digital is purely not the end. It's the means to the end.

- Radiohead will offer its new album, 'In Rainbows,' only on its own site, and the band will let fans set the price they want to pay, according to the Wall Street Journal. From the story:

    By letting consumers dictate what they will pay for a digital copy of the album, the band will test theories of online pricing that have been the subject of much speculation in recent years -- most notably, the notion that fans will pay a fair price for downloads if given the freedom to do so on their own terms.

    At the same time, the digital-sales setup goes against the grain of the standard set by Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, where music is generally priced at a uniform 99 cents a song and $10 or so an album. Radiohead hasn't made its music available for sale on iTunes, apparently because the band wants to sell only full albums and not let users pick and choose songs.

That'll be a cool experiment to watch.

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