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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

HD Expo Attendees Discuss Digital’s Industry Influence

A recent panel discussion at the HD Expo in Beverly Hills may have seemed to meander among different topics but to a careful listener a common thread emerged how digital equipment was making dramatic and yet subtle changes to the entertainment. Panel member Terry Brown told a story that illustrated that point. Several years ago Brown visited the set of “After the Sunset” to deliver digital equipment for viewing dailies of the film. Because of the high quality of the equipment, director Brett Ratner noticed problems with the actors’ makeup that he hadn’t noticed when viewing the dailies on film. “This is going to change how we do makeup and build sets,” said Brown, senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer of Creative Services at Technicolor in Burbank. The use of high definition cameras on a television or movie shoot does bring a better quality picture yet shifts how cinematographers do their jobs, puts more affordable equipment in the hands of amateurs, and raises the question of archiving and storage of digital media for viewings decades in the future. As the availability of feature films and television shows through online streaming video and downloads to cell phones and iPods gains traction, filmmakers can no longer ignore how their work will look on the really small screen. “As they realize it will be on an iPod, they will have to start to pay attention and build it into their (the cinematographer’s) supervisory role,” said Richard Greenberg, executive vice president with Lightning Media, which has three area locations including a DVD replication and storage facility in Valencia. “The manufacturers must take it into account when making their equipment,” added Brown. The thrice-annual HD Expo brings together entertainment industry professionals and vendors for a day to see and handle the latest cameras, editing systems and other related equipment, and discuss how that equipment changes the way those professional do their jobs. While the standing room only crowd was wowed by modern filmmaking during the presentation by Chris Watts, visual effects supervisor for “300,” the Warner Bros. release about warriors in ancient Sparta, it was up to Brown and others on the panel discussions to make sense of the challenges those filmmakers will face in using digital equipment. High speed cameras used for filming slow motion action in films and commercials evolve at a “breakneck speed” with one manufacturer putting out four new cameras in one calendar year, explained Jeff Silverman, of Inertia Unlimited. “High speed is not profitable because it is fast moving,” Silverman said. “But it is a lot of fun because it is fast moving.” One area yet unresolved is the archiving of content so that it can be viewed decades or even centuries in the future and Brown predicted it would be a big issue. If he were to hold up a 35mm film, he would still be able to see images but that cannot be done with magnetic tape, Brown said, asking how many films from the 1980s and 1990s stored on magnetic tape were endangered because the oxides were falling off the tape. “A magnet is the enemy,” Greenberg quipped. Any discussion about digital content will not let its participants get away without asking the million dollar question of how quickly the transition from film to digital will take place. Film is far from dead and is very much alive, said Curtis Clark, a cinematographer and chairman of the American Society of Cinematographers Technology Committee. For economic reasons, Technicolor’s Brown said that exhibitors the movie theater operators will move away from film before the filmmakers do. “You can watch a digital print for a month and you will never see a scratch on it,” Brown said.

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