Is Darren Aronofsky the most recent indie director who’s learned to say ‘no’?
We search for the more interesting and provocative news and views of the past week, just so you don’t have to.
We take a look at a break-through camcorder, Apple on a roll, and a local director who learned to say no after a big payday.
I know the plaint: another week, another breakthrough camcorder. To name just two of the more recent faves, you might choose the Panasonic AG-AF100 or RED EPIC M8. It’s just that kind of year. So hold on. In less than a month, much more is coming from the NAB show. Lucky you, we’ll have some sharp reports from the show floor, so keep tuning in.
In any case, Sony’s NXCAM Super35 FS100 is drawing raves for all the right reasons. For starters, the squat, single sensor camcorder will price under $7000. You might consider its large sensor, which yields a quality, low-noise image in low light conditions. Meanwhile its Hasselblad-like form factor means it fits into tight spaces as well as an HDSLR—which really seem like a target–so watch out Canon.
DP and author Jon Fauer praises “the refreshingly well-executed design and thoughtful features.”
A Brit, Den from F-Stop Academy, got a pre-production model in enough time to do this even keeled presentation while pulling off a music video of a fetching new London singer.
Another Brit, Nigel Cooper, offers a very thorough first look here, and delivers some of the first slams on “cheap feeling” plastic parts and frustrating ergonomics. In part an answer to that, remember that while today’s digital production technology delivers much more for much less, top manufacturers with expensive R&D and huge factories see no other solution than to cripple their lower priced gear in order to protect the margins on their pricier gear. That’s one reason a small upstart like Red can cause so much turmoil in the industry: the owner’s deep pockets and singular vision have upended the status quo quite thoroughly.
Finally, visit Sony’s website for the details.
One more chance for gear geeks to swoon this week comes via an unboxing of the new DaVinci Resolve control surface. If you don’t know, taking gear out of a newly delivered box is now an expected part of such swoons, with cardboard box by cardboard box lovingly unpacked and thoroughly documented.
But this is more than the usual geek love of gadgets, as the product has real significance. New color correction software and hardware continues to up-end facilities ensconced in high-end markets, much like the arrival of NLEs hollowed out the mid-range, do-it-all facility. The new gear delivers unquestionably quality results—if a good color corrector is at the helm, that is—while costing much less than just a few years ago. Apple Color, a software only product, is one example. The path to the new DaVinci is a bit more round about: the lauded, Florida-based maker of color correction gear went belly up a couple of years ago. Bought by innovative, Melbourne-based Black Magic Design, the software now sells for under $1000 while running on relatively standard Mac and Linux boxes.
The new DaVinci Resolve control surface isn’t cheap—it lists at $30K—but the old DaVinci system required an outlay of at minimum about $100K. Of course anyone doing color correction as their job will want a suitable control surface—mouse clicking and dropdown menus won’t do.
Here’s a post on Mike Most’s blog from last year that gives a sense of why Black Magic Design’s lowball pricing on a high-end product is so disruptive.
As for the actual unboxing? Here’s color grader Alexis Van Hurkman showing us each box and connector as he has at it.
In an earlier post, we noted comments about–tragedy aside–how the Japanese earthquake and tsunami might affect TV production in the US. Many U.S. networks have standardized on Sony’s SR tape system for mastering and archiving, and it’s Sony’s Sendai plant, near the quake’s epicenter, that was hit hard. Sony’s statement on the quake’s effects is here.
Terence and Philip, who blog on the ProVideo Coalition website, devoted a recent podcast to the tape shortage crisis and took on broader questions of just what it means for the production and post industries. Making the point that “No one ever voluntarily changes their workflow”, the duo go on to chat about file-based delivery, archiving non-tape sources, and more.
If you’ve recently bought a MacBook Pro, you should update to 10.6.7, the latest version of Mac OS X. While it’s a minor update, it fixes many of the issues that recent buyers have encountered.
It also might be a good time to buy Apple stock. In a posting on the Fortune magazine site, reporter Philip Elmer-DeWitt quotes Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty on her belief that Apple stock is still greatly undervalued. Huberty reasons that there is still a lot of upside to the stock since Apple is expanding distribution in China, will produce a lower-priced iPhone in 2012, the tablet market will grow even more with Apple dominating, and we should expect a new Smart TV product from the company by 2012-13. More here.
If you’ve created a short film in the hopes of making it into a calling card while considering the usual film festival route for distribution, you might want to read Janko Roettgers interview with filmmaker Andrew Allen on the GigaOM site. Entitled “Filmmaker: Forget Festivals, Go Online Instead”, Allen offers up an interesting comparative list of the benefits of attending a film fest versus posting online. Seems the online world wins here, though no mention of the hobnobbing that can sometimes offer important introductions that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
In any case, Allen is quoted as saying “The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that giving something away to earn people’s trust and build a fan base makes selling future creations much much easier—be it a feature film, web series, or even merchandise.” More here if you’d like to pick up on that discussion.
Of course filmmakers like Allen don’t come to such conclusions out of thin air. Each week brings news of deals being made for new types of online video distribution, kicked off in part by Netflix’s fast rise as a distributor to contend with as it moves into the distribution of recent TV and movie titles. This past week the LA Times Business of Movies blog stated that Miramax was sitting down with Netflix and other video services (Amazon, Hulu and Google) to distribute its 700-film library online. More here.
Talking about the rapid development of online distribution deals doesn’t compare to the speed at which the combo of smartphones and social media are evolving. Last week ballyhooed start-up Color launched a new app for iPhone and Android devices that allows users to instantly see photos, videos and comments of friends in the same physical vicinity as they upload to Facebook and other sites.
While us more cautious types (okay, older) might just see Color as the next step towards some rather creepy conglomerate future, this LA Times article highlights the cool factor, as well as the fact that top Silicon Valley VC company Sequoia Capital et al have already propped up Color with $41 million.
Jordan Crook at Mobile Burn, however, calls it a fun but impractical idea.
The ever-entertaining Robert “Scobelizer” Scobel posted this rant of an audio podcast about the “hypefest” over Color and speculated that no matter how much money was behind it, the company wouldn’t succeed since it isn’t highly rated enough in the one place it counts for success: “Where are the droves of new users coming from? The featured lists in app stores. iTunes has become a DOMINANT way for apps to get more users.” Scobel’s podcast appears here.
Scobel’s website, where the above quote appears is here, The quote appears approximately half way down the current page.
Finally, the question of the hour, or at least as Ray Gustini has it in his Atlantic Monthly column, is whether or not Darren “Black Swan” Aronofsky is now “too rich to direct Wolverine?” The story, as Gustini relates it, is that the Brooklyn-based director was originally set to direct The Wolverine sequel for 20th Century Fox, but last week he bowed out, as per this Hollywood Reporter article. Aronofsky states that he wasn’t comfortable being away from his family for the length of time it would take to shoot the film, which he claimed would be “almost a year.”
But Gustini says that Aronofsky, the “famously finicky art house director”, doesn’t need the expected $5 million fee since Black Swan became one of the more unlikely hits of recent years, raking in some $271 million in worldwide box office grosses so far.
I don’t know that I would fault Aronofsky from making such a reckoning, if that is what he did. But the reporter goes on to say that the director’s success is one way to sidestep the usual “‘one-for-you, one-for-me” career path of successful indie directors. See what you think by clicking here for more.