(Image: Presenting his new film ‘Twixt’, Francis Ford Coppola tries on an Edgar Allan Poe mask that contains 3D glasses.)
The Past Week(s) in Review: For August 22 and August 29, 2011
This edition of TPWR covers the past two weeks of news.
We search for the more interesting and provocative news and views of the past week…just so you don’t have to.
This week we share the good news about local production, learn about a filter that can save you from DSLR headaches, and find out that an older, established filmmaker is more experimental than ever.
Upbeat about Production
More good news on the growing number of prime time TV shows filming throughout the five boroughs. According to a recent press conference held by Mayor Bloomberg, we have some 23 shows now shooting regularly; eight of them were selected from 20 pilots shot in the city earlier this year.
Bloomberg made the announcement from the Steiner Studios stages of Sony Pictures Television’s “Pan Am”, set to debut on ABC this fall. Steiner, based in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, is now expanding to double its size. It is already the largest soundstage production facility on the East Coast, with the expansion adding some 2000 jobs to the 2200 jobs at throughout the Yard.
In a release, Steiner Studios Chairman Douglas C. Steiner thanked the Bloomberg administration for its continued support of the entertainment industry. “This onslaught of film and television production is a direct result of the mayor and other elected officials working together to make New York City competitive and hassle-free,” he said. This was taken from an article in The Hollywood Reporter, which you can read here.
Variety credits recently enacted long-term tax incentives granted by the state. An improvement over the previous year-by-year incentive extensions, the five year term offers a more stable environment for the studios for budgeting and other planning. The Variety article says that business boosters, including local studio heads, have learned to be “savvy in lobbying for production incentives at the state capital.”
Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, won the director the fest’s Directing Award. Major prize talk continues to build for Durkin as well as actors Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes well in advance of the film’s October 21st release. But there also seems to be a good bit of interest in Fox Searchlight’s use of QR (quick response) codes on early posters to trigger the trailers.
The gimmick here is that the previews aren’t available any other way online–you really do have to use your smartphone to scan the QR codes on posters you might find on the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Los Angeles–to get to these specific trailers. Entertainment Weekly’s Inside Movies claims to have had the scoop on the first use of these smart-phone-only posters.
Seems that it’s not the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that garners interest these days but the “iPad like” TV notepads two of the astronauts on the Jupiter probe use. Samsung indeed cites these objects in the movie–they’re the size of a notepad and feature a functional video screen–as an example of prior art in its court case against Apple, who claims the Korean manufacturer has infringed its patented iPad design. You can read further details on Foss Patent’s blog here.
Following the lead of personal media, John Clancy, CEO at Azuki Systems, writes on Mashable that the future TV is “all about personalization.” We all knew that, and Clancy’s company makes platforms for mobile phones enabling cable companies and others to offer a good video experience on the go.
The basic argument isn’t new either: Since viewers no longer make plans to sit down and view specific content on a regular basis–we all want content whenever and wherever we happen to be–cable companies and channels like HBO want to offer video service alternatives that keeps up with their viewer’s habits.
While content creators and service providers are “making a mad dash to get screen time on mobile and other connected devices”, these new delivery options are stumbling because experience is not seamless when using the various devices. Azuki, of course, provides the one item Clancy says is lacking–the “key ingredient for success — personalization.” Metadata behind the video is used to split longer shows into smaller chunks so that viewers can catch clips on the go. Worth a read if just to learn how much control can be exerted over your distributed video.
Over at Studio Daily, editor Beth Marchant offers a quick take on SIGGRAPH 2011. Top tech presentations at the show in Vancouver, says Marchant, included Nvidia’s Project Maximus (a graphics technology that allows users to access and scale different parts of the GPU as needed) and Amazon’s “Cluster GPU Instance for its EC2” –this service allows smaller facilities to rent processing power to render scenes. Meanwhile, BlackSky Computing ups the ante on cloud computing schemes like Amazon’s EC2 cloud by claiming it isn’t very effective beyond the capability of working with short sequences. BlackSky may enter the market for high-performance processing and rendering with its own competing service.
Augmented reality may offer a whole new way to use smartphones, or it could just be a gimmick for gamers. With that conclusion still up for grabs, you might take a look at an intriguing video “Roadmap of AR and the Vision of an Augmented City” to get a better idea of what the latest developments offer. Created by the Media Processing Division of chipmaker ARM and the R&D department of German-based AR company metaio, the video shows how more powerful smartphones capable of realtime 3D motion tracking will provide real-time contextual, digital information overlaying urban scenes.
You have to wonder why they haven’t offered this already since the Munich-based company has been around for much of the history of cinema, but ARRI CSC has launched its own Expendables Online Shop. Found at arricscstore.com, the store offers all the items you’ll need for handling camera, lighting, and grip work.
In an area within MIT’s student cafeteria, you can find a Plexiglas dome that sits over a video screen. You can find the exact similar setup in Stanford University’s cafeteria. What is it? First, consider that there is an always on, high-speed link between the two conversation areas. (The plexi dome acts as a chamber to funnel audio while not disturbing others nearby.)
Meant to make realtime long-distance interactions casual and arbitrary, the designers of the system act all science-fictioney by calling the link a wormhole. See if it heralds the future of long distance interactive communication by reading the the rest of the article on the Boston Globe’s site.
Over on the GigaOM site, reporter Stacey Higginbotham offers us an inside look at content delivery specialist Akamai and the “scary future of streaming video.” Seems that within two to five years, the throughput requirement for certain single video events will reach some 50 to 100 terabits per second.
That is about the equivalent bandwidth of what it takes to distribute a TV quality stream to a large prime time audience today. Problem is that this is an “order of magnitude” beyond the largest online video events held today, according to Higginbotham, and that’s without adding all of bells & whistles of interactivity, which many claim we desperately want. See what you think by reading the article here.
The LA Times interviews Pixar’s Brad Bird for an article entitled “Hollywood isn’t Brave Enough to Copy Pixar’s Process”. While Pixar has become “the gold standard among popcorn films”, Bird opines, Hollywood studios are doing everything to copy the famed animation studio except actually taking the time and effort to really, truly develop a good story first. A good storyline is a central tenet of the vaunted Pixar process. Read more about Bird’s thoughts on current trends in animation by clicking here.
In short review/article on his site, DSLR enthusiast Philip Bloom claims a new anti-aliasing and moire filter from Mosaic Engineering solves the two most serious problems–aliasing and moire generation–you will face when shooting with Canon’s 5DmkII. It seems the filter removes the interference patterns on details that are generated by the camera’s line skipping. Is this a simple cure for what Bloom calls the “bane of shooting with DSLRs and the single biggest problem”? Read it here and decide.
Fast and efficient Flash memory rules in the world of consumer computing (i.e. iPads, smartphones, digital cameras). Except in limited cases, the price of solid-state storage has remained too high to allow it to move into the world of large-scale computing like data centers. Now, Pure Storage, a new start up, says that it can use consumer level flash storage along with its software to pull the price of Flash storage down to less than that of hard drives. That’s a mighty achievement if true. Read more here in Steve Lohr’s article in the Times’ Bits blog.
There have been plenty of testimonials to Steve Jobs on his resignation from Apple. At least read one of them from someone who has something to do with our industry: Here’s a note from George Lucas, who sold Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division to Jobs, a sale which famously created Pixar Animation Studios. But of course that only came after a number of years of development and many millions invested in the new operation. Read more of Nick Wingfield’s article in the reporter’s Wall Street Journal blog by clicking here.
Francis Ford Coppola brought Val Kilmer and the composer of his latest film Twixt to the recent Comic Con convention for a talk. What made that panel more than just the usual dog and pony, says reporter Jason Adams on JoBlo.com, is that this original horror tale-said to be inspired by one of Coppola’s own dreams–will be presented as a live performance. That’s right–Coppola claims to be returning to the early days of cinema when things weren’t so locked down to present some of the “magic and spontaneity of live performance art”.
Coppola, working with electronic musician and soundtrack composer Dan Deacon will “change the experience to suit the audience” in real time. Read more about the ever experimenting FFC and his new idea for presentation by clicking here. Twixt premieres at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival.
As an aside: If you would be curious to see how an earlier, eager Coppola marked up a page from “The Godfather”–and a heavily marked up page it is with “Hit hard and bloody!!” among the exhortations he made to himself–then click here.
Raul Ruiz, the little heralded filmmaker (at least in the U.S.), passed away recently. (If you haven’t had a chance to see one of his many intriguing works, check out his transfixing Mysteries of Lisbon, which is still showing at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center.)
Producer James Schamus posted a touching remembrance on Scott Macauley’s IndieWIRE blog, calling the director/author “one of the truly great, idiosyncratic and visionary voices of world cinema.” Both Schamus and Macauley—along with a raft of downtown notables of the time including Christine Vachon, Michael Kirby, John Zorn, Kathy Acker, and Jim Jarmusch—worked or acted in Ruiz’s 1987 film The Golden Boat, a goof on the New York art scene at the time.
This bit from AP’s obit sums up his career neatly: “A favorite of cinephiles, Ruiz rebelled against the conventions of moviemaking in an extensive, varied body of work that didn’t result in a widely-known masterpiece, but left behind a vast, labyrinthine collection of experiments, curiosities and innovations.”