H. Livingstone – Neurotic-Records.com http://www.neurotic-records.com Tales from the darker side. Fri, 19 May 2017 17:34:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Zoetrope Was A Classic Literary Journal http://www.neurotic-records.com/zoetrope-was-a-classic-literary-journal/ http://www.neurotic-records.com/zoetrope-was-a-classic-literary-journal/#respond Thu, 17 Dec 2015 17:41:23 +0000 http://www.neurotic-records.com/?p=14 zwacljLast May 2, a little-known literary quarterly knocked the New Yorker–not to mention a clutch of other magazines–off its perch when it took home the National Magazine Award for best fiction. Published in newsprint, the journal, Zoetrope: All Story, was launched less than five years ago by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. In the insular world of New York media, the victory was a shocker, and came with a price.

As it turns Out, Adrienne Brodeur, editor in chief of Zoetrope, has a story with a fairy-tale quality all its own. After prep school and Columbia, the blond, willowy Brodeur moved to San Diego and married young. She worked in local government, rising to chief of staff for the county …

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zwacljLast May 2, a little-known literary quarterly knocked the New Yorker–not to mention a clutch of other magazines–off its perch when it took home the National Magazine Award for best fiction. Published in newsprint, the journal, Zoetrope: All Story, was launched less than five years ago by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. In the insular world of New York media, the victory was a shocker, and came with a price.

As it turns Out, Adrienne Brodeur, editor in chief of Zoetrope, has a story with a fairy-tale quality all its own. After prep school and Columbia, the blond, willowy Brodeur moved to San Diego and married young. She worked in local government, rising to chief of staff for the county …

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Success To What? The Grass Valley Group Story http://www.neurotic-records.com/success-to-what-the-grass-valley-group-story/ http://www.neurotic-records.com/success-to-what-the-grass-valley-group-story/#respond Sun, 06 Dec 2015 11:39:57 +0000 http://www.neurotic-records.com/?p=12 gvgsHow GVG got involved with the movies is a story close to any exhibitor’s heart. “With some of our products, we have long been connected to the post-production side of filmmaking,” explains Beth Bonness, GVG’s director of digital cinema. “Working on the high-definition version of our Profile digital-video server, one of our engineers, who had been reading up on the latest developments in digital-cinema projection, suggested that we develop this technology further and leverage it for this emerging sector.” As it turned out, the person responsible for this insight used to be a projectionist of good old-fashioned 35mm film. As an engineering student, Dr. Jim Clark worked in college theatre booths, running tandem projectors with synchronized-transition, 5,000-foot reels and even …

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gvgsHow GVG got involved with the movies is a story close to any exhibitor’s heart. “With some of our products, we have long been connected to the post-production side of filmmaking,” explains Beth Bonness, GVG’s director of digital cinema. “Working on the high-definition version of our Profile digital-video server, one of our engineers, who had been reading up on the latest developments in digital-cinema projection, suggested that we develop this technology further and leverage it for this emerging sector.” As it turned out, the person responsible for this insight used to be a projectionist of good old-fashioned 35mm film. As an engineering student, Dr. Jim Clark worked in college theatre booths, running tandem projectors with synchronized-transition, 5,000-foot reels and even carbon-arc light sources on some of them. How could he not miss celluloid? “It was a second job for me,” he says, “so it was a fin challenge to show up for a new movie with 30 minutes to spare and get everything spliced together correctly What I miss is running individual reels and synchronizing the transition from one reel to the next.”

Many experiments and technical upgrades later (including digital upgrades), the Emmy Award winning GVG Profile XP Media Platform now accommodates full-length feature films on a single server, with enough storage capacity to run movies of Titanic-size proportions. No more juggling of reels–or even computers, for that matter. While previous digital presentations for multiple screens have featured several servers routing the same signals to different theatres, Jurrasic Park III plays from a single Grass Valley digital-cinema server. The technical key is that up to four channels can be routed to as many theatres in an appropriately networked multiplex.

With an average compressed density of 80 to 100 Gigabytes per film, the GVG Media Platform employs ten hard disks with capacities of 72 Gigabytes each, eight of which can be used for content storage. Coming from the broadcast industry, where a glitch in airing an advertising spot during the Super Bowl or Academy Awards becomes a matter of someone’s life or death, the GVG server offers proven reliability and safety features. “The information is stored across multiple disks in such a way that any one disk can fill without losing data, because the lost data can automatically be recovered from the remaining drives,” assures principal engineer Mike Bruns. “Modem RAID units [Redundant Array of Independent Disks] are so sophisticated that the failed drive can be simply slid out and replaced with a new unit-while the disk system continues to send out data continuously. The new disk is then automatically programmed as the system continues operation. In other words, the system heals itself after the disk replacement. GVG RAIDs run with five disks in a group and redundant power supplies. In cases of multiple RAID drive failure, we tend to automate the recovery if possible.

These disks capture high-resolution digital audio and video that can be accessed in a variety of compression formats. Beth Bonness explains how this “enables exhibitors to program alternative content and advertising all on the same server. While film uses higher-quality compression and those standards are still experimented with, other digital entertainment could already be in place, starting to generate revenue. Our multi-format server will not become obsolete, but can be upgraded as the ultimate cinema presentation standard becomes available. As you retain 90 percent of your investment, it simply becomes a question of a new board and software.”

Jurassic Park III uses MPEG+ compression that is based on the same format that we know from the MPEG2 standard of many consumer applications, including DVD. “For the first time in the release of a major motion picture, very high-quality images can be scaled to varying bit rates and file sizes,” Bruns states. Warning that there is still no compression standard that allows interoperability between competing device manufacturers, the project’s principal engineer explains that the JPIII initiative means an enhanced picture quality with a widely deployed format. “MPEG+ uses the standard MPEG2 toolkit, but removes the constant bit-rate restriction and allows the compression to focus on constant quality instead. More complex scenes use more bits than simple scenes. In a constant bit-rate scenario, less complex scenes get more bits than they need, and complex scenes may not get enough, thus resulting in lower overall quality. Thus, the size of a Constant-Quality MPEG compressed file of a film will depend on the visu al complexity of the various film scenes, not just on the length of the film. Also, since a given quality level can be guaranteed, the specific run of an MPEG+ encoder can optimize quality versus file size for a given application.”

Driving for even more interoperability, all equipment during the Jurassic trial used the emerging Digital Theatre Interim Mastering format (DTIM). “The DTIM standard relates to the resolution and color depth of the digital master that the studio releases,” Bruns explains. “In this particular case, the digital master was 1920 x 1080 deep, but the projector was only 1280 pixels wide. The projector electronics performed the down conversion, and the projector optics expanded the image back to the correct aspect ratio.”

“This interchange format enables one digital master to be played on multiple projectors from different, manufacturers,” says Universal’s Pierce, describing the advantages that make DTIM suitable for digital-cinema field trials. “Designed to be supported within current post-production system architectures, the DTIM sets the resolution of how images are captured off film, and ensures that proper color spaces are defined so that the final product is true to the original material.”

How long this material stays with the cinema operator is more “a question of business model in the relationship between exhibition and distribution than it is one of technology.” Bonness addresses the issue of conditional access diplomatically. “It’s a hotly debated topic with clearly drawn lines. Exhibitors want to retain as much control as possible to let the show go on, when and where, no matter what. On the other side, the studios prefer to authorize each showing individually. As an equipment manufacturer, Grass Valley would like to respond to whatever policy the industry can agree upon and provide the best possible infrastructure.” At the end of the digital engagement, physically speaking, data of the old film will be deleted while preserving the changeover-night tradition of readying the new film while the current program is still playing. Several software applications are already at work, beginning with the simplest level of actually starting the projector, reaching across networking and scheduling ca pabilities on the theatre level, to wide-area booking and delivery interfaces such as the one provided by Hollywood Software. Currently, exhibitors are masters of their multiplex domain, once the print is in-house. Future contracts will most likely include authentication models and address access issues that involve digital watermarking, signal scrambling, self-erasing and other such finely tuned programming code.

There is one thing, however, that everyone can agree on. “The industry does not want a closed, proprietary system,” Bonness continues. “They may want a turn-key system, but they want a choice of qualified manufacturers. Free enterprise and universally accepted standards will make the transition to digital projection possible.” Envisioning the future while drawing from events as they developed in the broadcasting industry, in her opinion, “we are looking at another year or two of experimentation, private demonstrations and full commercial try-outs. More vendors will be competing and offering their latest technology both on the projector and the server sides. In addition, we will see movie plexes where more than one screen is equipped for digital projection, so that exhibitors and distributors gain more experience as they follow the commercial life cycle of a film. Business models will finally be agreed upon. At the same time, interoperability questions will be worked through as quality standards are achieved and costs come down. All this will have to be resolved–and it will be–before we see installations surging to thousands and thousands of screens.”

Remembering what the original Jurassic Park did for the launch of digital sound or Star Wars Episode I for Dolby Surround EX or, further back The Robe for CinemaScope, Beth Bonness rightly foresees a wild card in the release of Star Wars Episode IT. “George Lucas has been known to want to see his film on more than just the existing digital installations.” May “the Force” indeed be with us all.

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German Films Get Serious http://www.neurotic-records.com/german-films-get-serious/ http://www.neurotic-records.com/german-films-get-serious/#respond Tue, 01 Dec 2015 14:25:56 +0000 http://www.neurotic-records.com/?p=8 Statistically, the film board counts openings resulting from both new construction and reopenings after upgrade and remodel. Nevertheless, only 108 new screens were added from January to June (236 in 2000, 448 for the full year). In the old Bundeslander of the West, a mere 68 opened (188 in 2000), while the Eastern federal states counted 40 over 48 screens. Of the 4,738 screens, 3,813 are located in old states and 925 in the Neue Bundeslander of the East. Closings remained stable at 153, with a slight shift from West (133 vs. 135 in 2000) to East (20 vs. 18). Broken down by size, only five new multiplexes opened with 44 screens and 10,735 seats as opposed to 13 that …

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Statistically, the film board counts openings resulting from both new construction and reopenings after upgrade and remodel. Nevertheless, only 108 new screens were added from January to June (236 in 2000, 448 for the full year). In the old Bundeslander of the West, a mere 68 opened (188 in 2000), while the Eastern federal states counted 40 over 48 screens. Of the 4,738 screens, 3,813 are located in old states and 925 in the Neue Bundeslander of the East. Closings remained stable at 153, with a slight shift from West (133 vs. 135 in 2000) to East (20 vs. 18). Broken down by size, only five new multiplexes opened with 44 screens and 10,735 seats as opposed to 13 that …

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Aussies Go Wild At Film Convention http://www.neurotic-records.com/aussies-go-wild-at-film-convention/ http://www.neurotic-records.com/aussies-go-wild-at-film-convention/#respond Fri, 27 Nov 2015 08:02:59 +0000 http://www.neurotic-records.com/?p=6 agwafWhile the night is all about congratulating distributors on their success, the convention is perhaps more about distributors thanking exhibitors for helping them attain that success and encouraging the partnership to continue. There are always a lot of good-humored digs at colleagues and competitors alike. Said UIP Australian managing director Mike Selwyn during his presentation to exhibitors: “UIP is committed to the whole exhibition industry, even those we think should be committed.” Said BVI managing director Alan Finney–and current MPDAA chair–during his: “No, Monsters Inc. is not a documentary about the MPDAA companies.” Or take this expression of thanks to the awards sponsor and the company Australian managing director of Columbia TriStar Films, Stephen Basil-Jones, regularly has to negotiate terms …

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agwafWhile the night is all about congratulating distributors on their success, the convention is perhaps more about distributors thanking exhibitors for helping them attain that success and encouraging the partnership to continue. There are always a lot of good-humored digs at colleagues and competitors alike. Said UIP Australian managing director Mike Selwyn during his presentation to exhibitors: “UIP is committed to the whole exhibition industry, even those we think should be committed.” Said BVI managing director Alan Finney–and current MPDAA chair–during his: “No, Monsters Inc. is not a documentary about the MPDAA companies.” Or take this expression of thanks to the awards sponsor and the company Australian managing director of Columbia TriStar Films, Stephen Basil-Jones, regularly has to negotiate terms with: “It is important that you kiss the feet that are attached to the legs that are attached to the arse that you have to kiss next week. So thanks to Hoyts.”

This year, the convention attracted over 700 people to the Royal Pines Resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast between August 14 and 18. Each of the major distributors spent several hours presenting trailers, talking about upcoming product, and then screening a feature. Those shown were UIP’s Rat Race, BVI’s The Others, 20th Century Fox’s Legally Blonde (the debut feature from Australian-born Robert Luketic, who was in attendance), Columbia TriStar’s America’s Sweethearts and the independent feature Peter And Vandy.

While there was much excitement about getting a 26-minute sneak preview of The Fellowship of the Rings, there was amusement about the security check and grumbling that everyone had to first sit through the Rush Hour 2 evening screening. The emerging U.S. results had already indicated that the Jackie Chan film will make a lot of money, but that didn’t mean that exhibitors admired what they saw. While cinema is unashamedly a business in these circles, many commented that the film would not be winning any awards for the quality of the filmmaking, the cleverness of the comedy or the values underlying the story. The relationship between box-office returns and the nature of a film is a fascinating thing. One afternoon is reserved for the non-MPDAA distributors to show up to three trailers each and present awards to exhibitors. Best independent country cinema was Mt. Vic Flicks; best independent urban cinema was Dendy Opera Quays and Nova Carlton; best major was Hoyts Fox; and best local cinema campaign went to Gala Twin, Warrawong, for Mullet. Dendy’s Amelie and Footprint Film’s local film The Bank were then screened simultaneously in adjoining cinemas.

For people who think about these things, it is impossible not to come away from the Australian Movie Convention without pondering the effect of mainstream movies on audiences. There were probably 75 trailers shown at this year’s event. Seen en masse, these selling tools pack in a lot of violence and perfectly formed (by Hollywood definitions) longhaired women serving little purpose other than to be ogled. By the fourth day, the experience can somewhat mess with one’s perception of the real world. Once outside the cinema, it would not seem entirely unexpected to see a dozen big-breasted young women in colored lingerie cause a dramatic car accident from which a gang of uninjured men emerge with machine guns.

A Australian films and Australian-born directors had a high profile at this year’s convention, with local films Moulin Rouge and The Dish applauded for earning over A$10 million. At the “Australia On Show” opening night, Eric Bana (Chopper) won Australian star of the year–he said thank you from the set of The Nugget via video–and Phillip Noyce was honored for filmmaking excellence. The Reading Cinema in the Perth suburb of Belmont won the Kodak Marketing Award for Australian films, for its campaign for Moulin Rouge. The night also saw exhibitors Jim Sourris, from AMC Cinemas, and Ken Kirkley receive life membership in the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association of Queensland, which stages the annual event. Noyce spoke extensively about Rabbit-Proof Fence, the first film he has made on Australian soil for over a decade. It is based on the true story of three part-Aboriginal girls, aged eight to 14 years, who were forcibly removed from their families in the 1930s to be trained as domestic servants, then pursued 2,000 kilometers after their escape. These women are part of the so-called “stolen generation,” one of many facets of the black/white relations issues that will not go away in Australia. There is a perception that films with indigenous themes don’t work for audiences and Noyce cleverly invited exhibitors to help him prove otherwise. REP and Ocean Pictures jointly release the film in February 2002.

On the final night, Geoffrey Rush was crowned this year’s international star of the year and Bryan Brown was presented with a lifetime achievement award, giving him a chance to heavily promote Dirty Deeds, which he is currently producing and starring in. Producer Ben Gannon spoke to delegates about a third unfinished Australian film, The Man Who Sued God, during BVI’s presentation. The comedy stars Judy Davis and Billy Connolly, who plays a character immensely frustrated when his insurance company refuses to replace his boat after a bolt of lightning hits it. The title says the rest. Producer David Hannay also said a few words about the children’s film Hildegarde.

Arts Minister Peter McGauran drew applause at the convention for what he called a “clear and unequivocal” confirmation that Australia would not be lifting the parallel importation restrictions on films, as it has over the last three years on books, CDs, business software and computer games. This means it will remain illegal to import videos and DVDs before a film has screened theatrically. These laws were not retained in New Zealand (see “Around the Globe” in this issue), to the detriment of the industry. Shadow Arts Minister Bob McMullan, speaking during the same seminar, said that while he did not doubt McGauran’s sincerity, the issue was at “serious risk” of being revisited because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was “obsessed” about it. Indeed, Commissioner Ross Jones told delegates 24 hours earlier that the ACCC wanted restrictions lifted.

Seminars were also held on digital cinema, classification guidelines for films and the current review of the voluntary code of conduct, which is now three years old and has 220 signatories.

I con Distribution held an official launch of its arrival in Australia. Local chief executive Mark Gooder treated about 50 exhibitors and media members to 10 minutes of footage from the first four weeks of the shoot of the Icon/Wheelhouse production We Were Soldiers. A video message was sent from its star, Icon co-owner Mel Gibson, while his business partner Bruce Davey was there in person. Gooder emphasized that Icon would be delivering quality over quantity, from blockbusters to a few specialized releases, and no more than 15 films per year. “As exhibitors, I expect you are asking yourself, ‘Will Icon make any money for me?'” he said. “I bloody hope so.” Acquired to date for Australia are Company Man and The Assumption. The other distribution newcomer is Hoyts, which recently confirmed it will be re-entering the business next year with both international and local film product. The head of the new division is Robert Slaviero, previously of 20th Century Fox Film Distributors. What part Hoyts would play in th e release of the film product of the Nine Network has been much discussed since Australia’s highest-rating broadcaster announced it was moving into film production last November. The companies have ownership links. Hoyts handled several huge hits during the 1980s, including the first two “Crocodile” Dundee films, Dances With Wolves and The Man From Snowy River, but has not been involved in this side of the business for some time. Hoyts Cinemas has 352 Australian screens at 43 sites and is headed by Paul Johnson. It has extensive cinema interests in North and South America.

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