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Technology News

Dolby Atmos momentum.jpgIt can take a while for new technologies to become the norm in the global film marketplace. Take multichannel sound, for example. While many people think that stereophonic sound didn’t exist in movies until the release of Star Wars in 1977, the truth is it’s been around since RCA and Walt Disney Productions invented Fantasound for the 1940 roadshow release of Fantasia. In 1975, Dolby introduced the technology of four-channel sound (for left, center, right and surround) on an optical soundtrack for the movie Lisztomania, and branded it as “Dolby Stereo” a year later with A Star Is Born. But even after Star Wars’ tremendous success motivated exhibitors to invest in Dolby Stereo equipment, it still took several years before stereo mixes became standard. Since the introduction of Dolby Stereo, there have been a number of advances in cinema sound to lead us to the current standard of 5.1 channel audio, which is usually presented via sound processors from Dolby, DTS or Sony.

dolby3d-1l SMThe Holy Grail for 3D enthusiasts is to be able to shed those cumbersome glasses, especially in the home environment. Technology pioneers Dolby and Philips have now teamed up to make glasses-free 3D commercially viable for home entertainment. Dolby has been demonstrating the new technology for quite a while, most recently at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Variety’s 3D Entertainment Summit. The advancements made since those events allowed Dolby and Philips to strongly promote the Dolby 3D process at the 2013 NAB Show. The presentation included an endorsement by James Cameron and an announcement of a formal working relationship with the Cameron Pace Group (CPG).

cameramanThe UK-based Guild of Television Cameramen (GTC) recently announced its 2013 award winners at a presentation during the “Day in the Country” event in Aynho, Oxfordshire.  The GTC is an independent, international non-profit organization with over 1,000 members in the UK, Europe, Australia, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and the United States. The majority of its members work in television jobs ranging from documentaries, narrative productions and corporate video to live events, current affairs, news and sports. Run by a council of volunteer television professionals, the GTC offers a channel for manufacturers to consult with working cameramen when designing new equipment.

nbc_logo_2011Now is the busy season for network executives as they order TV pilots to fill their schedules. NBC has ordered three single-camera comedy pilots: The sitcom “Assistance” (from Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, Owen Burke, Jessica Elbaum and Adam McKay) tells the tale of a working girl assistant who’s pulled between her colleague and real-life fiancé as she tries to manage a demanding boss; “Donor Party” (from Lionsgate Television, Media Talent Group and Universal Television) follows an irresponsible man who’s forced to grow up when he discovers that his sperm-donor past has spawned several children; and an untitled Greg Daniels/Robert Padnick comedy will show the trials and tribulations of 20-something dating.

odyssey7__smConvergent Design introduced a solution for those cinematographers struggling to record a viable image while untangling the cables that link recorders, monitors and microphones to the camera. The new Odyssey 7 is a 7.7-inch OLED monitor that can eliminate one set of cables as it doubles as a 4K capable recorder — pretty remarkable for a package that barely weighs more than an 8-inch flatscreen field monitor. While there have certainly been high-end data recorders with built-in monitors, the Odyssey 7 has been designed with 1280 and 800 resolution; a wide RGB color range with true blacks and minimal motion blur; and an impressive contrast ratio of 3400:1. It also includes Waveform, Focus Assist (Peaking), Vectorscope, Zebras, LUT Support, Histogram and False Color.

f5-and-f55_smSony recently launched PMW F5 and F55 CineAlta cameras, which both record full-4K resolution and lower-resolution formats. Ubiquitous throughout NAB 2013, both models are in demand by the camera-support industry as the latest and greatest cameras to accessorize for commercials, TV production, indie features and other projects. While the F5 and F55 have been heavily marketed as twins with distinct personalities, when push comes to shove, Sony is keen to accent the superior capabilities of the F55.

final-draft-logoScreenwriting software company Final Draft, Inc. launched a wide-ranging partner program aimed at technology providers, production companies, distributors, film schools, drama departments, writers’ associations, festivals and qualified industry professionals with the intention of increasing cooperation on techniques and technologies for scripted media. “Final Draft has always worked with both the industry and individual writers to improve our software functionality and integrate with production workflows,” says Final Draft Founder/CEO Marc Madnick. “But with the rapid evolution of media technologies and our integration into ‘cloud’ infrastructures, we know we need to create a more formal solution. Our goal is ambitious: to build a collaborative community which can help strengthen and guide the development of scripted media production around the globe, while enabling a vibrant partner ecosystem.”

the projectAs gas prices rise, your first thought probably isn’t, “I wonder if another ship has been pirated off the coast of Somalia?” But maybe it should be — Somalia and its surrounding seas are some of the most comprehensively failed nation-states in the entire world. Directors Shawn Efran and Adam Ciralsky plan to bring that information to light with The Project, their new documentary screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), the first-ever Somali-born-and-bred counterforce to piracy. Featuring interviews with controversial Blackwater Founder Erik Prince and the U.N. arms embargo monitor Matt Bryden, and with shocking firsthand footage from filmmakers embedded with the PMPF, The Project takes the viewer on a sad, scary ride to a place all but forgotten on the map, except on the occasion when an unfortunate American gets captured by pirates.

project1_2It seems that 4K resolution is becoming the new go-to standard in both image acquisition and exhibition.  Not surprisingly, Sony is leading the charge when it comes to 4K in theatres. 

pieA few months ago, I saw some advance footage of Ang Lee’s new movie Life of Pi at Variety’s annual 3D Entertainment Summit.  It was stunning, to say the least, especially in 3D.  Not surprisingly, the movie has been getting rave reviews for its visually rich story about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger.