button-digitaledition-new

SubscriptionBanner

 

Gordon Meyer

Gordon Meyer

Tuesday, 27 December 2011 01:58

The Gizmo Guy's Salute to Sound Designers

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I love Awards Season screenings.  In addition to the opportunity to catch up on, or catch in advance, some remarkable films, the Q&As that often follow can be fascinating.  Case in point some of the recent screenings I was invited to via the Digital Cinema Society featuring the creative artists behind the soundtracks of some of 2011’s higher profile studio features.

Even though I’ve been in the business for a very long time, events like these serve as important reminders that, in spite of their star billing, a film’s director is but one of a small army of artists whose talent and creativity serve the stories told on the big screen.

In order to create the audio effects for images that bear no resemblance to anything in the “real world,” sound designers become experts in thinking outside the box, collecting sound samples of just about anything and everything they find interesting, even if they aren’t yet sure how they’ll ultimately use those sounds. 

I remember in my college days hearing stories about Ben Burtt, hired by George Lucas fresh out of USC as a sound editor on the original “Star Wars” and some of the oddball things he used as source material for what ultimately became iconic sounds for things like the laser guns (banging on the steel cables anchoring power line towers) and the light sabers (motors for the old 16mm interlock projectors at USC as they got up to speed).

Today’s generation is just as creative.  At a recent screening of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” one of the sound designers speaking told a story about how he wanted wild baboon sounds for the film.  Forgive me for failing to mention the sound designer by name, but I wasn’t in a position to note who he was at the time. 

The sound designer didn’t know exactly how he was going to use the baboon cries initially, but knew they would prove useful so he went to a place that rescues primates and arranged to encounter a baboon to record the ape’s sounds. Unfortunately the baboon silently just looked at him until his trainer suggested that he nonchalantly hold his keys out, then drop them on the ground and pretend not to see the trainer, who proceeded to “steal” the keys.  The baboon promptly howled out of outrage at the apparent injustice and the soundman got what he needed.  That baboon howl became the foundation for one of the Decepticon sounds.

That’s how it works and it’s very cool.  Sounds that most people would think of as mundane noises magically morph into the roar of strange creatures, ray guns, light sabers and more.  It’s a part of the creative process that isn’t acknowledged nearly often enough.

Many years ago, I produced a tribute to Albert Whitlock, an Oscar winning visual effects artist who specialized in matte work where live action footage is seamlessly combined with paintings on large sheets of glass to create a whole new image.  The late Alfred Hitchcock presented the award to Whitlock following a screening of a number of striking before and after shots. 

Hitchcock said, “You know one of the great tragedies of this business is that the better a job Al does, the less people know he’s been there.  What we really need is for audiences to come out of the theatre saying ‘My, what a great matte.’ But since I can’t wish your more recognition Al, all I can wish you is more …money.”  (had to simulate the trademark Hitchcock pause.)

Like Hitchcock and his friend Al Whitlock, while I can’t wish these audio magicians more public recognition, I wish them – and all below the line artists – more gigs and more money.  The movies literally would not be the same without you!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 22:05

The Artistry of Yore

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A year ago at this time, I was living in my friend’s guest house, located in a gated community near Hancock Park.  Several times a year, this 80 year old house, which looks a lot like a French chateau, is used as a location for movies, TV shows and commercials because of its unique look.  In fact, just a few months ago, it was featured in a Citibank commercial, doubling as the location of a Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp.

I bring this up because during the summer of 2010, a location scout came to check out the house for this really bizarre sounding feature, a silent French film about silent movies.  How the hell were they going to pull that off as something more than an art house curiosity? 

As you’ve probably guessed by now, my friend’s house was one of many period locations used for the now critically acclaimed movie, “The Artist.” And what do you know?  They really did pull it off.  Although “The Artist” has its lulls, I have to say that I admire the chutzpah* that French writer/director Michel Hazanavicius showed in making a silent film in the 21st Century.  

Like “The Muppets,” it’s also a throwback to a simpler, more innocent form of cinematic storytelling, which is definitely part of its charm.  And yet, as old-fashioned a film as it is, “The Artist” nonetheless connects with contemporary audiences because of the very human pathos and hubris of its central character, George Valentin.

By making a film with virtually no spoken dialog and very few dialog cards, Hazanavicius reminds us that, at its purest, film is still primarily a visual medium. Even more importantly, you don’t necessarily need all sorts of cinematic pyrotechnics to tell an engaging story as long as you have a strong script, great actors and a director who knows how to let the images speak for themselves.

Back in the day when I was in film school at USCinema, before production majors were even allowed to make films using synch sound and dialog, we made a “310” film, which was black and white and could use synchronized music and sound effects, but no spoken dialog in order to teach us the importance of telling our cinematic stories as visually as possible.  

I don’t know if USC or any other major film school still requires this kind of project, but if they don’t they should.  And “The Artist” is a joyous reminder of how powerful and effective old school cinematic storytelling can still be – even when using techniques and visual styles developed over 80 years ago.

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Back in 1995, a not so quiet revolution was about to take place with the release of “Toy Story,” the very first feature length film that was made entirely using computer generated imagery and rendering.  It put Pixar on the map and began an unparalleled track record of box office success.  Almost immediately, pundits erroneously credited the film’s success to the technology behind it, declaring the pending end of traditional cell-based animation.

What the pundits ignored, but director John Lasseter and writers Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft, Alec Sokolow, Joel Cohen and Joss Whedon knew that, more than anything else, a successful movie has as its foundation a solid script built around believable characters the audience cares about. The technology used to execute the story is simply the means to an end.

A few years ago, when “Toy Story 3” was in the works as a feature conceived and created in 3D, Disney converted the first two films in the franchise to 3D for a limited run theatrical reissue.  Now the three films are out on 3D Blu-ray and I was reminded of just how good the storytellers at Pixar are.  The “Toy Story” 3D Blu-rays came out November 1.

The thing that strikes me about all three “Toy Story” movies is, in spite of the fact that the main characters are supposedly inanimate objects; there is a deep underlying humanity to them, showcasing qualities of ingenuity and loyalty.   All three movies are essentially about rescue missions where the toys team up against impossible odds to save their friends.  Even though the basic template for each film remains similar, by focusing on that humanity and human qualities, they’ve created a trio of classic movies that Walt Disney himself would have been immensely proud of.

As for the Blu-rays themselves, as has become standard issue for Disney, the three titles come as multi-disc combo packs with separate discs for the 3D BD, 2D BD (including bonus content), DVD and digital download.  All the bonus content is on the 2D disc and the DVD.  The 3D disc is strictly the feature.  As has been Disney’s practice in putting out 3D BDs of movies previously released on BD, they simply added another disc with the 3D version.  So if you already have the 2D Blu-rays of these movies, you’ve already got all the bonus content.

Like other Pixar releases, the bonus content is top notch, especially the “making of” featurettes on all three titles.  They are insightful, informative and really good primers on how to make a successful movie.

The 3D itself, both in “Toy Story 3,” which was produced in 3D, and the 3D conversions of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” is excellent.  Of course in converting a CG film from 2D to 3D, the folks at Pixar had the benefit of being able to go back to the original computer files which created a 3D universe already. At that point, it was just about rendering stereoscopic views.  However as simple as that may sound, there were still judgment calls to be made in terms of depth and how much of the imagery should come “in front” of the screen. 

Here’s another arena where the filmmakers at Pixar prove themselves to be masters.  Lasseter and his team follow the same “window onto another world, rather than things coming out of a window” vision that James Cameron embraces. All three films use 3D to effectively immerse the audience in their respective worlds in ways that enhance the viewing experience without getting gimmicky. All three movies serve as great titles to show off your 3D system as well.

All three films were reviewed using my standard test platform of a 64 bit Windows 7 computer system with a Plextor Blu-ray drive, NVIDIA GeForce 480 graphics board with 3D Vision processing, CyberLink’s PowerDVD 11 software and LG W2363D 23” widescreen monitor.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011 16:15

Variety is the Spice of Life

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Over the past few years, Variety, that iconic trade publication has expanded its business model to get into producing some of the most informative business conferences in the industry.  And now we’re hot and heavy into Conference Season.

In late September, they sponsored the 3D Entertainment Summit at Hollywood & Highland which featured panels and keynotes from 3D innovators in motion picture, television and gaming production, distribution and exhibition, including a riveting keynote conversation with James Cameron and Vince Pace about the effective use of 3D camera equipment in production.  Cameron and Pace have been collaborators for years and are now partners in the Cameron Pace Group, a company that provides 3D production equipment and resources for filmmakers. 

During the interview with Variety editor David Cohen, Cameron talked about, among other things, what he called the “hype cycle” and why, even though the initial audience excitement about 3D has waned because it’s no longer a novelty, in his opinion 3D is here to stay and now it’s time for filmmakers to learn how to use this technology as an effective storytelling tool.  In other words, Cameron was preaching a lot of the same message I’ve been saying for years.

Earlier this month, Variety presented its Film Marketing Summit at the Universal City Hilton where executives from both the studio and indie worlds discussed at length the challenges and, equally important, the opportunities the world of online communications and new media have affected marketing strategies through all delivery platforms, including theatrical, packaged media, the new “cloud” technologies and more.

Variety editor Peter Caranicas moderated an enlightening panel focused on new opportunities for indie producers thanks to digital cinema technologies and companies like Cinedigm, which both helps theatres acquire and install digital cinema equipment and actively acquires and distributes alternative content.  Brad Carroll, Cinedigm’s VP of Business Development was joined by Nikkole Denson-Randolph, VP Specialty and Alternative Content, AMC Theatres, Marian Koltai-Levine, EVP of Film at PR powerhouse PMK*BNC, Scott Mansfield, President and Managing Partner at monterey media and Sean McNamara, Director of “Soul Surfer.”

The panel discussed how, thanks to digital cinema, companies like Cinedigm and AMC’s initiative to showcase indie product in select venues, it’s actually easier now for indie films to get screen space around the country.  They also talked about the importance of using social media as a grassroots means of promoting those films when the kind of multimillion dollar campaign dollars studios often spend are simply not in the cards.  Now, more than ever, film marketing executives need to adapt and embrace new technologies and strategies to build buzz.

The folks at Variety aren’t done yet.  This year’s conference season includes a back to back pair of summits dedicated to Film Technology, the Future of Film, on November 7 and 8, followed by Entertainment Apps, Entertainment Security and the Variety’s participation in the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It’s a smart move on Variety’s part to present these live events.  Not only do they leverage their brand at events that are both highly informative and incredibly valuable as networking resources, they also give themselves additional content that reinforces their image as the must-have information resource for the entertainment industry.

Monday, 24 October 2011 21:34

Learning from Pixar

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a really fun media event presented by Sony Pictures Animation at their historic Culver City lot.   Christmas came early at this event, with real snow on the ground, Victorian carolers, and lots of comfort food as Sony gave members of the press an advance look at their CG animated holiday feature, “Arthur Christmas,” which opens November 23.

This is Sony’s first joint production with the British animation house Aardman Animations, the creators of the successful “Wallace and Gromit” series.  While most of the production work was done here in California, significant elements of the film were created at Aardman’s studio in Bristol, England.  Thanks to the wonders of technology, the US and UK teams were able to seamlessly collaborate on the film using shared files.  You’ll be able to read more about this in the December issue of P3 Update.

At the media event, Sony showed the first 30 minutes of the film (in 2D, darn it, even though the completed feature will be in 3D).  If that first 30 minutes is indicative of how the rest of the movie will play, I think they’ve got a solid hit on their hands.  Call it, for lack of a better term, the “Pixar Effect.”

When the first “Toy Story” came out over a decade ago, pundits excitedly proclaimed its success was because it was visually exciting as the very first computer generated animated film.  But they missed the point, the same way these same “experts” said “Avatar” was a hit because it was in 3D.

Audiences flocked to both films because John Lasseter and James Cameron are first and foremost STORYTELLERS.  They crafted solid stories featuring very human characters (in spite of their non-human forms) that audiences cared about and became emotionally invested in.  Because Lasseter and his team at Pixar put a huge emphasis on making sure they have the foundation of a great story and three dimensional characters in all their films, their films all do gangbusters business at the box office.

I bring this up because those first 30 minutes of “Arthur Christmas” indicate that writer/director Sarah Smith and co-writer Peter Baynham obviously come from the same school of storytelling.  While it’s not appropriate for me to review the film based on a partial screening, I will say that I saw a lot of heart along with the humor and a film that effectively uses the CG medium as a storytelling tool.

So why am I bringing this up in a publication aimed at below the line professionals?  Because successful movies mean more jobs for everyone.  And it’s helpful to remind everyone that the most successful movies of all time, regardless of their genre or format, are stories superbly written.

Kudos to the creative teams at Aardman and Sony.  Keep up the great work!

By Gordon Meyer

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ever since Disney began promoting their line of 3D Blu-ray titles, “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas” has been one of the titles they’ve been promising.  After almost a year of promises, it's finally here and well worth the wait.

While originally produced as a 2D movie, Disney did an early conversion to 3D about six years ago and has been playing the film in 3D as an annual event ever since.

As an aside, here in the Los Angeles area, it’s scheduled to play at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard for a two week run at the end of October in what Disney refers to as a “4D” experience, which will include theme park-like sensory effects, including wind, snow and fog, according to the El Capitan website.

But as I write this, it’s the end of August.  And for some strange reason, Disney chose now to release this highly seasonal movie on 3D Blu-ray.  It’s been a number of years since I’ve seen “Nightmare” and this was the first time I saw it in 3D.  Here’s a great example of a 3D conversion done right.  As Oscar winning producer Jon Landau (“Titanic”, “Avatar”) uses as a mantra, the 3D for “Nightmare” was a window on a world, much more so than things coming out of a window.  The effect helps make the viewing experience much more immersive, yet sans gimmickry. 

As for the film itself, if you haven’t seen it, director Henry Selick was a colleague of Tim Burton’s at Disney in the late 1970s during the transition period between the original “Nine Old Men” who worked directly for Walt in creating the early animated classics, and the new guard of animators that would go on to create modern era classics like “Beauty and the Beast.”  While the story and basic visual design came from Tim Burton, Selick and screenwriter Caroline Thompson fleshed it out (no pun intended) and made it the classic that it has become.

Longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman provides both the often operatic score as well as the singing voice of Jack Skellington, the leader of a mythical place called Halloween Town where all the scary sights and sounds of Halloween are planned and executed by a ghoulish crew.  Jack feels something is missing though.  And when he accidentally discovers Christmas Town, led by a large fellow named “Sandy Claws,” he decides to co-opt Christmas for himself with near disastrous results.  Selick keeps the story tight, visually striking and riveting.

Although stop motion animation had been around since the 1920s, it was always used as an effect for select sequences.  Not only was “Nightmare” the first studio feature to be made almost entirely using this painstaking process, it also pioneered the use of computer-controlled cameras with stop motion so that the kind of cinematic camera moves typical of live action films could be used for “Nightmare.” Because of the painstaking process, up until Mr. Selick and his team made this film, typically stop motion sequences used entirely static camera angles.

As for the Blu-ray, the transfer is stunning. Again, the 3D effect is beautiful.  Normally, I like to point out specific sequences that you can use to show off the 3D effect in a film, but frankly with “Nightmare,” the entire film is great to show off.  As has been typical of most of Disney’s 3D Blu-rays released to date, the 3D disc contains no special features.  All of those are on the 2D Blu-ray and apparently recycled from the earlier Blu-ray release.

Those special features include two early shorts that Burton directed when he was under contract to Disney in the early 1980s – “Vincent” about a little boy who fantasizes about being Vincent Price (Price himself narrated) and a 30 minute live action short called “Frankenweenie” about a boy who uses Frankenstein like technology to bring his dead dog back to life.  The latter is in development as a full feature.  You’ll also find an interesting treatment of the original poem, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” that became the basis for the movie.  This short is narrated by Christopher Lee and is a lot of fun to watch.

As for what I like to call the “Film School” aspects of the bonus section, Disney has included a wealth of material including a better than average “making of” featurette and audio commentary by Selick, Burton and Elfman.

No question, this is one of the better 3D Blu-rays released to date and a great candidate as an early stocking stuffer.

Thursday, 01 September 2011 01:00

The Gizmo Guy: Now Hear This

By Gordon Meyer

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There are a handful of audio companies that can be said to set the standards everyone else aspires to, whether it’s in the professional or consumer arena.  Sennheiser is one of those companies, beginning with their professional microphones (Fritz Sennheiser is credited with inventing the shotgun microphone) and soon branching out into headphones.   So when a company like Sennheiser announces a new model of high end wireless headphones, I was anxious to check them out. 

I often work out of my apartment, not only writing pieces like this, screening Blu-rays of movies whose structure I want to study, and editing my own video projects, including doing rough audio mixes.  At the same time, I like to be on good terms with my neighbors, so I can’t always crank up the sound as loudly as I’d like.  Yet one of the reasons I do want to crank up the sound is so I can get a more realistic idea of how what I’m editing and mixing, or for that matter screening, will play in the intended environments.  Well engineered headphones not only help me stay friendly with my neighbors, they can also often let me hear things I might not catch through conventional speakers, unless they are really high end.

The Sennheiser RS 170 headphones are full sized, over the ear headphones that deliver on their promise of ultra-high fidelity audio.  There are even options for both a bass boost and simulated surround sound via the Dolby Headphone algorithm.  More on the latter in just a bit. 

So, let’s begin with the most important question.  How do they sound?  As far as 2.1 channel audio is concerned, these $370 headphones deliver the kind of clean, well-defined audio you would expect from a $1,000 speaker system, especially when the dynamic bass boost is activated. Whether it’s dialog, sound effects like explosions, or the subtle nuances of a string quartet, the RS 170s deliver terrific 2.1 channel sound.

The Dolby Headphone option, which claims to accurately simulate 7.1 channel sound is another story. The RS 170s use a standard analog stereo cable with no option for multi-channel digital audio input and then process that two channel source into pseudo-multichannel audio.  While there is a sense of audio wrapping around you, the actual audio imaging or placement leaves a lot to be desired.

There’s a segment from Disney’s “Fantasia 2000” I like to use to test surround sound imaging because when it works right, you distinctly hear Mickey Mouse’s voice as he walks off camera to the left side of the audience, then behind, to the right side and ultimately right front.  In other words Mickey’s voice almost completely encircles the audience.  But with the surround feature enabled, there was, instead, only a vague front to rear to front movement. I didn’t distinctly hear Mickey’s voice around and behind me the way I would with discreet external speakers.   

Because the 170s are wireless, they use a pair of AAA batteries, which are installed in each ear cup.  Sennheiser includes a rechargeable set.  The Kleer wireless technology is rated at 260 feet, assuming a clean line of sight between the headphones and the transmitter base.   Going from one of the rear bedrooms (where my workspace is located) out to the front resulted in sporadic reception, no doubt due to the walls.  Still, within the confines of my workspace and the immediate surroundings, it was nice to be able to move about without being tethered to my desk.  The range was definitely acceptable.

Here’s the bottom line.  As long as your audio monitoring requirements don’t extend into surround sound, the Sennheiser RS 170s are really good for listening to dialog and monophonic or traditional two channel stereo tracks, especially if you want the freedom to walk around while listening.  And when you want to take a break from your Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut screen, they’re pretty good with an MP3 player as well.

Monday, 08 August 2011 19:02

The End of an Era

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Yesterday, 20th Century Fox announced that, as of January 1, 2012, they would no longer supply 35mm prints to theatres in Hong Kong and Macau, shifting exclusively to the digital cinema format.  From a business/bottom line perspective, I can absolutely understand this.  After all, the cost of a digital “virtual print” is pennies on the dollar compared to 12,000-15,000 feet of 35mm film for most features plus shipping.  And with the quality of today’s digital cinema projectors, not only is the picture pristine, it stays that way through the entire run of the movie since there’s physical print to get scratched up from hundreds of runs through a projector that may or may not even be properly maintained.   I get it.

Still, allow me to wax a bit nostalgic here.  Film has been the standard medium for projection for over a century.  During interviews with even the most ardent supporters of digital technology, the consensus remains that film is still the “Gold Standard” when it comes to image quality and durability.   OK, admittedly the instability of early Eastmancolor dyes have resulted in thousands of titles fading to pink.  Still, properly stored, even these prints are reportedly much better for archival purposes than their digital counterparts.  Why?

First of all, there’s the whole analog vs. digital argument that’s been going in with both consumers and pros since the introduction of the compact disc in the early 1980s, with most people perceiving warmer, more “natural” colors and imagery when the movie is shot and projected on film.  As for the purpose of an archive, digital storage formats come and go, requiring constant transferring of assets to the new storage formats.  Otherwise, you risk having your archive for posterity stored in an obsolete technology that nobody can access.  Kind of defeats the purpose of archiving, doesn’t it.  Film, on the other hand, is a century old standard.  Even if the time comes when film completely goes away (and I hope that time never comes), you can still use film prints by scanning the frames and optical tracks.

Now on a purely sentimental basis, I have to also say that, even though most of the time these days when I see movies in theatres or screening rooms, I see digital prints, it puts a smile on my face to see those circular cue marks in the upper right corner of the screen every 20 minutes, reminding me of the glory of analog 35mm motion picture film – and better yet, 70mm film, the ultra HD format of its time.

Fox’s decision to supply only DCI virtual prints to the Hong Kong and Macau markets is just the beginning.  As more and more of the world’s theatres convert to digital, we’ll see fewer and fewer 35mm screens.  And while I’m far from being a luddite, there’s something almost subliminal, but none the less very real, about the quality of 35mm film that digital is not likely to duplicate.

Sunday, 31 July 2011 23:59

The 3D Summer

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I recently went to see the final chapter of the “Harry Potter” series at my local Cineplex – and, of course had to do so in 3D.   Warner Bros. made a big deal about how “Deathly Hallows, Part 2” was being presented in 3D.  As many remember, Part 1 was also supposed to be presented in 3D, but both parts were initially shot in 2D.  Although I have yet to see any documentation of this, I suspect the decision to convert Warner’s most lucrative franchise finale was made by corporate honchos well after the film went into production.

Last year, Warner Bros. had another high profile fantasy release that was initially produced in 2D, but converted to 3D to make an extra buck  - the remake of “Clash of the Titans.”  By all reports (I have yet to see the movie in either a flat or 3D format), it was a poor conversion that pissed off audiences paying a premium for the 3D experience.  When it looked like the conversion of “Deathly Hallows 1” was going to be similarly underwhelming, Warners wisely decided to scrap the 3D release, but continue with plans to convert Part 2 to 3D. 

Many of the industry’s 3D supporters were banking on “Deathly Hallows 2” to help revive the public’s support of 3D as a premium format.   But since the film was never designed for a 3D presentation to begin with, although the conversion itself was respectable, Mr. 3D here walked away feeling like I would have enjoyed it just as much in 2D.  Even a sequence like the roller coaster type ride through the underground vaults of Gringott’s bank, which should have been a 3D showcase, came off as just OK in 3D.

In contrast, “Transformers 3,” which was planned, designed and shot in 3D to begin with, made much better use of the technology as an enhancement of the audience experience.  Though once again, as effective as director Michael Bay was, to me this film once again demonstrated that Hollywood is still in Learning Curve Mode when it comes to 3D cinema.  In this case, the design of the robots themselves and their spacecraft would have been much more effective and easier on the eyes to follow had their designs been streamlined.  Of course here, Bay and his team also had to deal with the legacy designs of the two previous films.

Meanwhile, there was Disney/Pixar’s “Cars 2” which once again demonstrated Pixar’s filmmaking prowess.  Even though, story and character-wise, this was arguably the weakest of the Pixar features, it still demonstrated that when you put the emphasis on story and character and THEN design, shoot and edit your film with the intention of giving audiences a 3D experience that, as producer Jon Landau often said, “is a window into another world, instead of things coming out of a window,” you have a formula for success.

Meanwhile, according to film-releases.com, there are at least another 18 3D features slated for release between now and the end of the year and at least 34 films slated for next year.  The question is, will the studios and exhibitors continue to use 3D as an excuse to charge an extra $3 or $4 at the box office or, in response to growing consumer backlash, come up with a different business model? 

Back in the late 1970s, when the first “Star Wars” movie put Dolby Stereo on the map, exhibitors used this new technology as a way of giving audiences an experience they couldn’t get at home to put more butts in seats.  Their investment in the audio equipment paid off because, by giving audiences a better overall experience, they sold more tickets, meaning more butts in seats, which in turn translated into more revenue at the concession stand where most of their profits came from (and still do).

There’s almost always a honeymoon period when a dramatic new technology like 3D is such a novelty that people will go just to experience the technology.  But sooner or later, the novelty wears off and then audiences go back to the only really valid criteria for choosing a movie.  Is it any good?

At the end of the day, good movies sell tickets.  Great movies sell a lot of tickets.   Just as with “Star Wars” 34 years ago, and “Avatar” a year and a half ago, people will first choose to see a movie because of strong positive word of mouth that it’s a really good movie.  Then, if the new technology really enhances the experience, as was the case with those two movies, audiences will then choose where to see the movie based on which theatres offer the best presentation.  

Sunday, 31 July 2011 23:58

Hand Made Movies

By Gordon Meyer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I was talking recently with someone involved in producing a couple of film festivals.  Because so many up and coming (and even seasoned) filmmakers are now using consumer products like cell phones and inexpensive palm-sized camcorders like the Flip for at least supplemental, if not principle photography, she’s seriously considering creating a category for next year specifically for films shot with these supposedly consumer products.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic, JVC and Sony all demonstrated 3D video cameras that would retail for under $2,000, making stereoscopic videography accessible to hobbyists and professionals alike.  You Tube even has a dedicated channel for 3D content.

Now, Sprint and mobile phone maker HTC get into the act with a new cell phone that not only has a built-in 3D 5 MP still/video camera, it boasts an autostereoscopic display, so you can watch 3D video and games on the phone without glasses.

I have yet to get my hands on one for extensive testing, but according to the user’s manual, the HTC EVO 3D can capture 30 fps 3D video in 720p resolution using MPEG 4 or H.264 encoding, making the footage easily exportable into Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or any number of other professional editing systems.

Given what pros have already been doing with so-called “consumer” gear, it’s just a matter of time before we see footage shot with products like the HTC EVO 3D showing up in 3D commercials, music videos or even features, if it’s not in progress already.

Page 7 of 9
Advertisement