Is HD technology sending film the way of the Concorde?

Sean Mota

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Interesting article...

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By Jeff Blauvelt - January 18, 2004

It was in October, 1947 when Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager, a man with the Right Stuff, piloted the very first supersonic flight in a Bell X1 aircraft. It took 29 years for the first commercial application of this technology to launch in 1976. Then on an early 24-carat golden morning of October 24th, 2003, the British Airways’ Concorde took its final flight from New York to London. Area residents who had endured its bracing roar (at least twice as loud as any other), cheered as they watched from Cross Bay Blvd and Beach Channel Drive. Service between NY and London and Paris lasted only 27 years, and now the remaining SSTs are to be exhibited in museums including New York’s the Intrepid Museum. There was no single technology that enabled supersonic flight, just as there is no single technology that has transformed imaging science from being chemically based to electronically generated.

It used to be simple. Entertain an audience with moving images and sound. Technology was really just about film. Film had the clarity with more than twice the resolution of digital HD video, and the Concorde flew more than twice the speed of other commercial jets. A seat on the Concorde could cost 10 or 20 times more than a standard airline ticket, and film can cost from 10 to 20 times more to shoot and, using a similar multiple, to make a print. Is film going to have the same fate as the supersonic transport?

Digital content creation and delivery allows such a multitude of different experiences that no one really knows what to expect. Currently, there are a vast number of ways to view moving images and sound that are created for our entertainment. How will indie filmmakers and distributors meet the new challenges of this technology? Change is happening so quickly we can only absorb the headlines and not really understand how it will impact on us.

For feature films, from production through distribution, its creators now have to be tech heads and learn an arcane code of model numbers, hardware specifications, software versions, mixed with brand names and other nomenclature in order to do the job.

Discovery Communications has recently held seminars to explain that 35mm film, HD D5, HDCAM, HDCAM SR, and DVC Pro HD are the required acquisition and post formats for programs destined for Discovery HD Theater and the Discovery Channel. Now DV and even 16mm film are not acceptable. Both feature and documentary filmmakers, who prize the right topic, structure, form and content more than technical considerations, have to deal with those requirements as well.

The question of how to best deliver high-resolution images through servers—whether using MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Sorenson compression, Microsoft Windows Media 9, the Apple Quicktime Pixlet codec (in the new Panther OS X)—is now a concern of both filmmakers and film festival programmers.

Distribution has its own complex technological issues. Since a theatrical release is usually not a given accomplishment, filmmakers now need to navigate a complicated path to generate revenue in order to pay back his investors. The industry combines a technical shorthand with proprietary branding, inventing new names to describe the services that offer distribution opportunities.

Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment makes its content available in HD and SD through both pay per view and subscription on demand via the online network Movielink, satellite networks (DISH On Demand and DirecTV Pay Per View), and cable networks through iN Demand and TVN Entertainment.

Voom is a new DBS satellite service which started up in October 2003. Offering 39 high definition channels, it requires a receiving dish and set-top box like DirecTV and EchoStar DISH services. But Voom is owned by Cablevision, a major cable network that brands the service as Rainbow DBS. iN Demand is a pay per view service, as is MovieBeam, Disney’s new service that is “on demand” but not via cable. iN Demand is available on Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast and other cable networks, and the HD content will offer image quality superior to DVD, at least until the battle over proposed HDDVD standards is settled. HD Video-on-demand will also be available in HD via HBO, Showtime, Fox Sports Net NY; MSG Network. HD subscription services via cable will offer indie movies on specialty channels such as Bravo HD.

TiVo and Replay TV will now record in high definition, and will allow the viewer to “personalize” his television viewing using a Wish list (TM)feature, “enhancing the extraordinary HD experience by finding the content the viewer wants the most” according to their press releases.

So as these developments continue to emerge, the question has to be asked--how long before today’s HD digital devices are museum pieces, and what will our viewing experiences be like then? Unlike the Concord, I predict we’ll all be able to at least afford the ticket price.

The author is the founder and co-owner of HD Cinema™, specializing in HD24p technology for independent filmmakers. He may be reached at jeff@hd-cinema.com.

http://www.hd-cinema.com/
 

madpoet

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"TiVo and Replay TV will now record in high definition"

They will? Funny, my Replay sure won't :). Found the rest of it interesting though.
 

Sean Mota

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Interested that Discovery HD, have decided not to accept 16mm film.

"Now DV and even 16mm film are not acceptable. Both feature and documentary filmmakers, who prize the right topic, structure, form and content more than technical considerations, have to deal with those requirements as well."

There's debate whether 16mm film when transfer to HD will have less of details than 35mm film. Discovery HD seem to feel this way while the NFL does not. All NFL Game of the Week were filmed in 16mm film and then transfer to HD.
 

hd_SDI_1080i

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Feb 9, 2004
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I heard that Discovery HD will not accept regular 4:3 - 16mm, however 16:9 "super 16mm" footage is fine - depending on the film XFER process.

Super 16mm has tons of advantages especially with some of the new stocks that Kodak is producing such as Eastman EXR 7245 . The biggest advantage for me is that my base S16mm element is usually transferred to “universal” or the D5 format and my client can have either DVCPRO Varicam or HDCAM clones, making it very flexible in post.

Most broadcasters are really more concerned about the final HD delivery format which hands down seems to be HDCAM except for ABC / ESPN / FOX who prefer 720P VariCam.
 

Sean Mota

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What's the resolution of 16:9 "super 16mm" compare to 4:3 "16mm"? I am trying to understand if 16:9 "super 16mm" comes close 35mm.
 

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