(Image: George Kuchar and Marion Eaton in Kuchar’s “Thundercrack”. The filmmaker passed away on September 10, 2011.)
The Past Week in Review: posted on September 14, 2011
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 check out new technologies that could topple leading companies, consider if New York production incentives are fair, and bid farewell to two pioneering filmmakers.
Sony’s F65 CineAlta
Sony Kills Arri & Red?
One reviewer on the EOSHD site wonders if Sony “just killed the (Arri) Alexa?” with its announcement at the IBC last week that the new Sony F65 CineAlta will deliver with a list price of $65,000. While that question brushes aside the great popularity of Arri’s digital camera system, it’s not a fatuous remark. Sony has instantly reshaped the high-end of digital cinematography via this relatively low-ball pricing strategy.
The successor to the Sony’s CineAlta F35–which cost in the vicinity of $250,000 on up–the F65 bests it in many areas, including its ability to record 16bit RAW from an 20MP 8K sensor and a claimed higher-than-film dynamic range of 14 stops. The F65 offers true 4K resolution too–not available on the $50,000 Arri Alexa. Meanwhile the “4K” $55,000 Red EPIC isn’t a full 4K camera since it lacks the F65 imager’s dedicated green photo sites (pixels).
Meanwhile, Andy Shipsides over at the AbelCine blog notes that not only will a rotary shutter version of the F65 be available (this removes the potential jello effect of the CMOS imager) but that the company will be selling a discounted bundle of the camera and its support system until the end of the year.
Wim Wenders used Iridas’ 3D technology to do post on his tribute to Pina Bausch. Photo credit: Laurent Philippe
Adobe Ups the Ante
You can’t say Adobe isn’t serious about taking its NLE Premiere Pro to expanded markets. Would it be to capitalize on the decidedly mixed response to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X? Yup. To many users, Apple turned away from the pro market with this completely reworked NLE.
At the IBC convention Adobe said that demand for professional video creation tools helped its creative suite package to grow 22-percent year-over-year. Growth on the Mac platform meanwhile grew 45-percent over the past year, “in part fueled by the large number of Apple Final Cut Pro customers switching to Adobe Premiere Pro.”
At the Amsterdam convention Adobe backed up this news when it announced the purchase of the IP assets of Iridas. The Munich-based company has been a well-respected name in digital color grading tools over the past decade. Iridas also developed tools for stereoscopic post as well as HDR video.
Enhanced color grading, says Adobe, is a “top requested feature by our Production Premium customers” and that’s where the technology will be appearing, probably by NAB 2012 if the company keeps to its regular series of Creative Suite upgrades. This blog post by Peter Salvia gives a good sense of what the pro world is thinking about this move by Adobe. Not too much guessing to Salvia’s feelings: his blog is titled adobe + iridas = fcp dead.
I’m also including comments that Iridas founder Lin Sebastian Kayser sent out in a letter after Adobe’s IBC announcement. I think it gives a good sense of how exciting this development is for Kayser, an innovator who stuck with his concept when few thought he could take on heavyweights in the color grading industry, the team at Adobe and for future Premier Pro users:
Over the years, many companies have offered to acquire IRIDAS and we always said no; successful acquisitions are a challenge to execute, so when Adobe approached us I thought “We are doing fine, we have a plan, why should we be interested?” But there are a couple of things that are different about Adobe as a company.
First of all, Adobe is a company that has indeed successfully integrated products from many companies it bought ≠ products like After Effects are central to their leadership. Also Adobe is a true engineering company not only investing massively in pure research, but also bringing it to market ≠ Premiere’s Mercury Playback Engine and After Effects Warp Stabilizer being only two examples. Many recent research results in HDR or new camera concepts coming from Adobe research truly impressed our team.
We also see a convergence of trends, as RAW High Dynamic Range image capture comes to the broader market the need for tools such as those IRIDAS developed is exploding; but our company was sized to service a specialist market.
After many discussions we realized that bringing IRIDAS technologies into Adobe was the correct path forward for both companies.
Adobe has hired both our engineering and our support teams. Patrick Palmer and I will also be joining to ensure success.
There are a number of changes that will come with the move, so we have put up some information on www.iridas.com to keep you informed.
Patrick and I both look forward to exciting products that combine both IRIDAS and Adobe technologies to meet the challenges of the future.
All the best,
Lin Sebastian Kayser
Director Engineering, Adobe
Founder of IRIDAS
Scorsese releases his 3D version of Brian Selznick’s graphic novel ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ later this year.
Will Better 3D Save the Studios?
Dave Kehr in the Times notes that the future of 3D movies remains uncertain, as audiences are not flocking to 3D movies like they did previously. But unlike the feared replay of the death of 3D that went down in the 1950s, directors are better adapting to shooting with that extra dimension because of improved technology such as the Cameron-Pace Fusion 3D camera system.
Kehr also notes that 3D may not fade this time as big-name directors including Scorsese and Spielberg will soon release films employing the technology. Meanwhile major TV manufacturers including Samsung, Sony and Panasonic are pushing the technology by building it into their high-end units by default.
However, nothing much seems to be stopping the slide in North American movie attendance over the summer, according to an article by Brooks Barnes in the Times. Films led by A-list stars flopped again and neither the Smurfs or Harry Potter were enough to push projected domestic box-office revenue beyond 1-percent of last year’s total according to Hollywood.com’s stats. Overall, sales were projected to lag 4 percent for the year.
Only solid sales from foreign box offices made the current season less than a debacle. As Barnes has it, “Hollywood has now experienced four consecutive summers of eroding attendance, a cause for alarm for both studios and the publicly traded theater chains.”
DSLRs Go Anamorphic
Ever consider shooting anamorphically with your DSLR? Andrew Reid, who runs the website EOSHD.com, thinks you should. Reid calls his e-book a “comprehensive cookbook for achieving a epic anamorphic look to your DSLR movies.”
This 2nd edition of Reid’s $20 downloadable book includes information on shooting 4K (3840 x 1080p) anamorphic DSLR footage and a comprehensive anamorphic lens buyer’s guide based on “real hands-on experience and testing”. The author claims the information is applicable to DSLRs from all the major players as well as video cameras such as the Sony FS100 and Panasonic AF100.
Selling Film, Not Souls
Film Courage is the oddly named website out of LA that features “film interviews that inspire”. This weekly mix of filmmakers and producers–you can hear it live on LA Talk Radio–takes you through the trials and travails of creatives as they produce and distribute production their work.
What may be most interesting for anyone hoping to make their own independent work is a recent show featuring Jon Reiss, Sheri Candler and Jeffrey Winter from The Film Collaborative, a website of a nonprofit group that’s “committed to distribution education and facilitation of independent film”.
The trio are on Film Courages’ episode number 128 to discuss their book “Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul”. As a book it probably doesn’t have very many surprises for anyone who’s been plowing in this field for any length of time–why filmmakers should be paying attention to Kevin Smith and Ed Burns and whether VOD is a viable source of income for filmmakers–but it seems like a good introduction to the services of the not-for-profit group The Film Collaborative.
Upstate Getting Left Behind?
The large recent state tax incentives passed by Albany might bring joy and some additional production to New York City, but that doesn’t ring such a happy tune upstate according to this recent article by Joseph Spector, Gannett’s Albany Bureau chief.
In his article Watchdog report: Critics rap film tax breaks which appeared on the Democrat and Chronicle website, Spector says that “upstate business groups have questioned the effectiveness of the film-tax credit”, an issue that becomes an issue since there is competition for those funds.
Spector quotes Brian McMahon, executive director of the state Economic Development Council, who said that “It’s an extraordinarily lucrative credit for the businesses, but it is benefiting primarily out-of-state companies that come into New York state, primarily New York City, for a few months, make a movie and leave.”
The amounts of the tax breaks are difficult to pin down South reporter since Empire State Development, the agency that manages the program, hasn’t disclosed the amount of “taxpayer-funded breaks that each project has gotten” even after Gannett says that it “filed a Freedom of Information request in May seeking those details.”
Governor Cuomo as said upstate business development would be a key effort of his administration, but the article notes that tax breaks for beleaguered businesses from the state’s Empire Zone program–revamped in 2010–provides only $50 million in new money each year compared with the $420 million annually for the film program.
You can read the rest of Spector’s investigative report here.
Andy Lampert (left) in a post-screening talk with Joel Schlemowitz at UnionDocs.
Take Me to the Cinemateque
We go to the Times again for a Dennis Lim article on Choosing Cinematheque Over Cineplex. Lim is a good example of a committed writer who straddles the worlds of the “engaged, site-specific programming” of alternative spaces to the studio distribution scene. He urges us to trace the history of the movies by noting how alternative cinemas evolved, “to consider, in other words, how an inventive approach to showing films can foster a new way of understanding them.”
The reporter gives a quick overview of some of the rich history of alternative cinema spaces in the city while touting the continued excitement engendered at venues such as Light Industry and UnionDocs.
An image from Jordan Belson’s Allures
Two filmmakers who passed away recently embodied the DIY style of independent filmmaking key to making Indie cinema in the 60s, 70s, and beyond. The earlier range–let’s say up to the mid 70s–was the golden age of American underground cinema in which both played key roles.
George Kuchar worked in 8mm and 16mm with his twin brother Mike to put the Bronx on the map as a hotbed of camp cinema. Acknowledged by John Waters and David Lynch among others, the two came up with intriguingly off-kilter films such as Moshulu Holiday, I Was a Teenage Rumpot, and Hold Me While I’m Naked. As John Waters wrote in the introduction to the Kuchars’ memoirs “Reflections in a Cinematic Cesspool”, “The Kuchar brothers gave me the self confidence to believe in my own tawdry vision.”
The much more abstract work of Jordan Belson will be remembered for his development of a cinema based on hypnotic use of light color and movement. Belson, who also lived in San Francisco, was 85 at his death. Belson’s work was celebrated on the site Center for Visual Music. You can read his obit here.