By Art Edmonds, CSO, Second
Star Group. Art can be reached at email@example.com
A dichotomy exists and has always existed in the Entertainment Industry
in general, and the Movie Industry in particular. That is, while the creative
teams that have brought us such blockbuster movies (known to the insiders
as: "Boffo hit" or "This pic has legs, man") as the Terminator Series, The
War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and yes,
even Team America are considered to be state-of-the-art productions,
they still use analog recording technologies, print film (haloid/silver emulsion)
and some high-definition (HD) digital technologies. The latter is done primarily
on digital tape. In short, the Movie, Cable, and Network TV Production Houses
are a very conservative group in light of the fact that their ideas and creative
works are avant garde.
This is the source of the dichotomy: the Entertainment Industry adopts
new technologies very slowly, even though a measurable ROI & TCO
can be demonstrated to them.
Why is this so? Are the current advances in digital capture on storage
media unknown to these creatively cutting-edge movie people? No.
Does the Movie Industry understand that they could preserve their creative
work over the decades better, cheaper, and faster? Yes.
Does the Movie Industry want to incorporate leading-edge storage technologies
and sometimes 'bleeding-edge' methods? A qualified and guarded Yes.
The main question is: Is the Movie Industry interested in using new
technologies for the movie creation-production-distribution cycle followed
by the preservation and archival needs of protecting creative works over
the ages? DEFINITELY.
Then why isn't the use of digital media used in every aspects of the
creative, capture, production, and distribution processes of the movie-making
cycle? Now that is the $64,000 question.
Here's the answer: the hurdle for anyone promoting digital storage technologies
or ANY new, but unproven to them (keep this in mind. It is a key point)
is not an economic one. It is not an education hurdle. It is none of
the well-understood objections a salesperson needs to overcome with a
prospect in order to make a sale.
It turns out to be due to basic human traits and learned behaviors:
comfort zone, tried & tested methods, routine, trust and more. What
is meant by all this is embodied in the old phrase: "If it ain't
broke, don't fix it" and "It's worked that way I know before,
and it will work again".
As an example that we in the IT Industry can grasp & understand,
the above behavior pattern in the Entertainment Industry is exactly the
same as when we used to manage Data Centres in the 1970's & 1980's,
e.g.: "I chose 'Big Blue' (IBM) because it works. But most importantly,
I picked 'Big Blue' because it is the tried-and-true, SAFE decision.
If something goes wrong, it's IBM's fault, not mine. I'm not putting
my job on the line."
The Movie Industry works due to similar old-school values: Reputation;
Trust; Ability to get the job done & get the job done well; and Recommendation
of Others Known to the Recommender (Director or Producer, Actors, Production
or Locations Managers, etc.).
So, how does this relate to digital technologies and digital distribution
methods being adopted by the Entertainment Industry?
How and when will digital storage technology become mainstream rather
than used every now and then or sometimes here and sometimes there?
How do we in the Storage Industry get the Movie Industry to buy Digital
Storage Technology Solutions when movie makers are creative yet extremely
How do we get the Entertainment Industry to listen to us long
enough to trust us long enough to buy, use and recommend our technology
offerings (remember - this is a 'you bet your job' thing)?
We in the Storage & Digital Media Industry CAN transform the Entertainment
Industry to these technologies, and the transition MUST be done following
the 'rules of engagement' (above) and MUST be done is small, evolutionary
steps, and CANNOT be accomplished in quantum leaps.
Before I give you some insights that will maximize your success with
the Entertainment Folks, I'll summarize the previous discussion with
"Any Digital Technology Company that is going to introduce new
technology, either disruptive or evolutionary and do it successfully,
has to understand the underpinnings of how the relationships between
each other, creative pressures placed on all members, trust, memory of
the people staffing up new projects, and the reputation factors of the
Entertainment Industry works".
With this quote in mind, where do we start? ROI & TCO considerations
resonate with the Entertainment Business Decision Makers (i.e. the Producers & Director)
just as much as they do with the CFO and CEO in our world, the IT Industry.
Without further ado, here are the numbers that reveal the reality of how
thin and how shallow (breadth & depth) Digital Technologies have penetrated
the Movie Industry to-date. The data points include:
i) Location & Sound Stage Filming;
ii) Video Village;
iii) the Dailies Editing Process;
iv) the overall Editing Process Cycle;
v) Final Cut & Final "Print"
(note that the old terms will never die, by the way. "Clear The
Gates", which is meaningful only for film cameras was originally
a command used to remind the Cameraman to check for dust, film fragments
and any other foreign body in the lenses & sprocket assemblies that
will mar the print. This call-out is still used on the set by Production
Staff before "Cameras Rolling" followed by "Action/Clapboard" usage
for digital cameras, where the warning is meaningless);
vi) Movie Theater Distribution;
vii) the Archival & Preservation Process.
The data points are:
1) The majority of Cameras used to capture TV, Cable, and Movies is
still film-based; and High-Definition (HD) Camera Technology is closing
the gap to 50-50. Current HD Tape camera penetration is 1% and rapidly
growing. It is expected that HD Cameras will be used in 50% of all productions
2) Of the HD Cameras used in the field & on-location, almost 100%
are HD Tape Technology. Blu Ray is virtually unknown to Hollywood.
3) The use of Digital Cameras is expected to gain market-share very
rapidly beginning 4QCY05 and through all of 2006 due to one pivotal event
that occurred recently: George Lucas and Star Wars II: The Attack
of the Clones. Lucas fully intended Star Wars II to be digital from
the start. Everyone knows Lucas and his works. He is, in the Movie Industry
a great Producer/Director and, like Steven Spielberg, a bellwether in
the Industry, or so goes Lucas & Spielberg, so goes the Movie Industry.
A little known additional fact about George Lucas is that he is unparalleled
in the Technical side of making movies. His understanding of cameras
far surpasses many of the camera manufacturers in the world. Lucas designed
and executed a digital camera and digital process that made it possible
for him to realize his dream of a 100% digital production. Star Wars
II is already a tremendous success; and it is start-to-finish a digital
film. He put icing on his own cake by licensing his technology (just
like he did with THX Ltd. which revolutionized cinematic presentation)
4) HD Tape Cameras are currently being successfully deployed and, more
importantly being used in long-running TV shows such as "Monk" on
USA Channel. It is also being used on other cable stations for soon-to-be
released series on HBO, ShowTime, StarZ, and Cinemax. However, the penetration
is still small as mentioned in 1) above.
5) The Video Village, as known in the Movie Industry is a very important
step in setting up the next shot or scene. As in painting a room, where
90% of the time is prep-time and 10% of the time is used to actually
paint the room, the same goes for the Video Village. The Director and
Cameramen sit in a trailer 90% of their time setting up and prepping
for the next scene. Once the shot/scene is set up satisfactorily, it
is actually shot & wrapped for the Editors to mix sound, both from
library & location (Foley), and other visual feeds for the Dailies
6) The Dailies are finished before the next day's shoot and is usually
sent via courier on DVD Format. Both the Director & Producers review,
comment, make changes, and approve the previous day's shoot material.
Then, after reviewing the Dailies, the Director sends back the DVD (usually
created by the Editing Companies) in lower resolution in the interests
of turnaround time and cost) with instructions to keep or delete or modify
certain tracks. These tracks will be corrected, modified, updated, and
placed in the Editor's storage devices, usually HD Tape, and some storage
devices (spinning media).
7) Once the Dailies are integrated using digital sound boards and an
admixture of film & digital visuals, a 'cut' is made and sent to
the Director & Producers. Upon review, decisions to call it a 'Final
Cut' is made. Usually, the output reveals continuity issues that require
the First Unit or Second Unit to create re-shoots or additional 'footage'
(again, anachronistic terms still used).
8) The Final Cut is called by the Director. Distribution to the Theaters
is approved. Here's where it all gets interesting. Even though the movie
may have been created digitally, only 1% of all Movie Theaters have Digital
Cameras. That number is growing, but very slowly. Why? Digital Cameras
are very expensive and the Film Cameras are already in place and are
still used side-by-side with the newer Digi-Cams. What this means for
the Editing Houses is that they are not done with the Final Cut that
was placed on digital technology. Editors are required to reverse print
the film on standard film from DVDs for eventual wide distribution of
the Cinematic Production. This adds hundreds of thousands of dollars
to the distribution process (> $100,000) or about 5-10% of the overall
film budget, whichever is higher.
9) Archival is an even bigger ROI/TCO motivator. Due to environmental,
space, and stewardship costs, keeping and preserving film in special
climate-controlled warehouses costs 3x - 5x the cost of preserving digital
films. This gap is ever increasing.
What is the overall cost-savings of creating a TV show or Movie on digital
media (including tape, HDDs, Solid-State media types) versus traditional
film (haloid, silver-based film development processes)?
It is estimated that if digital film production and distribution were
used throughout, over 20% of a film's budget would be saved over using
traditional film capture, editing, and distribution processes. This percentage
is a compelling factor for Producers and Directors; and the percentage
is growing. This percentage does not include the archival and preservation
process which could add over 5% to the overall cost. But the focus should
be on the production/Distribution Cycle, as not all films are marked
by the MPAA for archival.
So, positive ROIs can be demonstrated and TCOs become less when digital
technologies are used. Overcome the hurdle of "If it Ain't Broke,
Don't Fix It", and digital technologies will become widely accepted
by the Entertainment Industry. This domino effect has already begun with
Lucas' successful digital release of Star Wars II, and the New Zealand
post-production house, WETA's work on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
To us positive-minded folks, all this means that the Entertainment Industry
is not anywhere near heading towards a steady-state. The Entertainment
Marketplace represents a HUGE opportunity; it is a so-called 'green field'.
But our success (and theirs, ultimately) won't come easy. Overcome the
'traditional' momentum, and you'll gain more market-share in this Industry
with your digital wares. I believe that we in the Storage & Digital
Media Industry need this market segment just as much as the Entertainment
Industry needs us. With some education on our part as to the rules of
the road to success, the building of relationships, and trust-building
between us and Hollywood coupled with educating the Entertainment Field,
we'll both win and will both realize greater revenues for our respective
companies, efforts, and productions.
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