Posts Tagged ‘film’

Reviewing the 2011 Summer Movie Season

August 1, 2011

The summer of 2011 has provided movie audiences with a full roster of feature film entertainment. We’ve enjoyed no less than 10 big-budget, action-packed films that, collectively, have provided entertainment for virtually all ages. Our previous blog posts about TRON Legacy and Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides have helped bring to light some of the technical considerations of modern filmmaking. But now that the blockbuster season is winding down, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on what we’ve experienced this summer to see what trends currently dominate the Hollywood production process.

We’ve had the opportunity to experience an array of different filmmaking techniques and movie styles over the past few months. Film, digital, 3D, 2D, IMAX, RealD 3D, Dolby Digital 7.1, live action, animation, super heros, westerns, action and sci-fi all graced our local cineplex screens. For the movie fan, it was a cornucopia of visual and auditory information overload. And for the cinemas, it was a profitable summer of popcorn and Coke sales. But is there anything for us film buffs to learn after laying down our hard-earned cash or running up our credit card balances to see all these films? Well, a few things may surprise you.

IMAX display for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Let’s take a look at the production details of the biggest films this summer. Following is a summary of the camera systems, aquisition formats and presentation configurations of 10 big-budget movies released during May, June and July. If the technical details of film production and presentation are of limited interest to you, we’ll summarize after the list.

Thor
Camera systems used: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL (film), Panavision Panaflex Platinum (film), Arriflex 435 (film), Photo-Sonics 4ER (high-speed film), shot in anamorphic
Theater presentation formats: 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (via post conversion), Real-D 3D and IMAX 3D

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Camera systems used: Red Digital Cinema Red ONE (4K digital), Red Digital Cinema Red EPIC (5K digital, for pick-up shots)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (via stereo production), Real-D 3D, IMAX 3D and IMAX 3D DMR 70mm

Kung Fu Panda 2
Camera systems used: 3D Computer animation (via InTru3D)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39: aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (original production), Real-D 3D, IMAX 3D

Super 8
Camera systems used: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL (film), Arriflex 435 (film), Arriflex 16 SR3 (16mm film), Beaulieu 4008 ZM4 (Super 8mm film), Bell & Howell Eyemo (film), Canon 1014XLS (Super 8mm film)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D, IMAX Digital

X-Men: First Class
Camera systems used: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL (film), shot in anamorphic
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D

Green Lantern
Camera systems used: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 (film), shot in Super 35
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (via post conversion), Real-D 3D

Cars 2
Camera systems used: 3D computer animation (2K resolution)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (original production), Real-D 3D, IMAX 3D, IMAX 3D DMR 70mm (1.44:1 aspect ratio)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Camera systems used: Panavision Panaflex Platinum (film), Arriflex 235 (film), Arri Alexa (3.5k digital), Red Digital Cinema Red ONE (4K digital), Silicon Imaging SI-2K (2k digital), Sony CineAlta F35 (1080p digital)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (mostly via stereo production with some post conversion), Real-D 3D, IMAX 3D, IMAX 3D DMR 70mm

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Camera systems used: Arricam Studio (film), Arricam Lite (film), Arriflex 235 (film), shot in Super 35
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (via post conversion), Real-D 3D, IMAX 3D, IMAX 3D DMR 70mm

Captain America: The First Avenger
Camera systems used: Panavision Genesis (1080p digital), Panaflex Millennium XL (film), Arriflex 435 (film), Arriflex 235 (film), Arri Alexa (3.5k digital), Canon EOS 5D Mark II (1080p digital – used for vehicle POV shots)
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D and 3D (via post conversion), Real-D 3D

Cowboys & Aliens
Camera systems used: Panaflex Millennium (film), Panaflex Millennium XL (film), Panavision Panaflex Platinum (film), shot in anamorphic
Theater presentation formats: 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema, 2D, IMAX Digital

IMAX Digital press brochure

So, after sifting through all of that technical production and presentation information, what can be concluded? Quite a few things, it turns out.

First, note that every single film listed above was presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (also known as Scope, Anamorphic or Widescreen). Traditionally, there are far more films released in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio than the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This is simply because 2.39:1 aspect ratio films generally result in higher production costs because of the production processes required. It’s true that action films or big-budget films are often released in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio but, for fans of widescreen presentation, it’s a welcome situation to see so many directors and cinematographers embrace the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Shooting a scene for Harry Potter using Arri 35mm film cameras on dolly tracks

Secondly, notice how many of the movies utilize traditional 35mm film cameras as their aquisition format. If you remove the two computer animated films from the list, only one of the remaining nine films was shot completely digitally. Every other film was completely or mostly captured using 35mm film systems. In this age of digital filmmaking (heck, digital everything, really), it’s really interesting to see how well 35mm film is represented this summer. I’d venture to guess that this summer represents the highest percentage of film-based movies we’ve had in the past 5 years. The film production vs. digital production situation will be interesting to keep track of in the coming years.

Thirdly, with 3D supposedly being all the rage right now, note how few films were produced the dual camera stereo 3D process…only two. And three of the nine live action films weren’t even offered in a 3D presentation format. Of course, the two parts of the Harry Potter finale were shot at the same time and the filmmakers only found out towards the end of principle photography that Warner Brothers decided to release the final film in 3D. Still, it would appear that Hollywood has perhaps cooled off a bit – at least for the time being – about shooting everything in 3D.

DP Matthew Libatique uses Panavision 35mm film cameras to shoot Cowboys & Aliens

While we still have a few more big-budget films scheduled for late summer, the next big movie season is the holiday season. On tap are several action films, a few animated films, some super hero films and even some remakes and re-releases. We’ll keep track of these releases and provide an update on the production and presentation trends throughout the rest of 2011.

In the mean time, we invite you to leave a comment about what you thought of the summer 2011 movie season. We’d love to hear your thoughts on 2D vs. 3D, Real-D 3D vs. IMAX 3D, 2.39:1 aspect ratio vs. 1.85:1 aspect ratio, film production vs. digital production, film projection vs. digital projection, stereo production 3D vs. post conversion 3D or any other thoughts you have on the current state of movie production and presentation.

We appreciate you taking the time to read and respond.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides…which 3D version is better?

May 28, 2011

The summer movie season is upon us and the next three months should provide lots of exciting entertainment for movie goers. Thor kicked off the season in early May and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is now making its run in several 3D formats. I was invited by Disney to a press screening of Pirates on May 19, the day before its official release. The film shown at the screening was presented in RealD Cinema 3D on a medium-sized screen at the Regal Citrus Park 20 in Tampa. I saw Pirates a second time at the renowned Brenden Theaters and IMAX at The Palms in Las Vegas in the IMAX [Digital] 3D format. While I’ll leave a review of the film to other movie sites, I’d like to offer some comparisons between the two digital 3D presentations.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Theatrical One Sheet

After seeing the RealD Cinema 3D showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which was shot primarily using Red Digital Cinema RED ONE cameras with pickup shots captured on RED EPIC cameras, I was left with the impression that visually, the film was dark, somewhat dull and lacking in detail. I know cinematographer Dariusz Wolski – who  framed all three previous Pirates of the Caribbean films – would not choose to deviate from the vibrant, sharply-focused and detailed image present in the prior chapters of Jack Sparrow’s adventures, so I was a bit disappointed in this particular 3D presentation. In actuality, the RealD Cinema 3D system, which makes use of a stereoscopic projection system that utilizes a special silver screen and a lens and glasses polarization technique, is known to produce an image that’s about one-third the brightness of a standard 2D film projected on the same screen. A darker projected image means that the viewer won’t experience a picture with the level of contrast (the difference between the darkest black portions of the image and the brightest white portions of the image) expensive cinema cameras can record.  RealD 3D films are projected using a single digital projector that presents both the left eye and right eye images as alternating polarized pictures to create a three-dimensional effect. While a polarized projection system is less susceptible to distortion when a viewer moves their head about, it also halves the resolution of the recorded image since half of the total pixels are used for the left eye and half for the right eye. Thus, the RealD format is not only darker, but less detailed. On a positive note, most viewers tend to prefer the look and feel of the RealD Cinema 3D glasses over other systems.

Sample "Pirates" image at full brightness and contrast

Sample "Pirates" image at 35% brightness and contrast

The IMAX [Digital] 3D showing at the Brenden Theaters at The Palms in Las Vegas was a completely different experience. First, let me note that the Brenden chain of movie theaters, which was founded by CEO Johnny Brenden, grandson of Ted Mann, founder of Mann Theaters, is known in the industry as a theater chain that takes great care to provide their audiences with high-quality picture and sound. Most of their theaters are THX-certified and make use of the latest cinema technology. The Brenden Las Vegas is a 14-screen, all-THX cinema with auditorium 9 featuring a full IMAX screen and IMAX [Digital] projection. This is where I saw Pirates the second time. The IMAX auditorium at the Brenden Las Vegas is actually a hybrid IMAX system. The movie screen is the traditional, five-story, squarish IMAX screen – no doubt originally installed for presenting standard 70mm IMAX films – but the projection system is the new, dual projector 2K digital IMAX system. The combination actual works quite well since the huge screen allows for pristine presentation of IMAX 3D films.

Palms Casino - location of Brenden Theaters Las Vegas

Brenden Theaters box office displaying THX and Dolby Digital plaques

Brenden Theater lobby with prominent Pirates of the Caribbean display

The IMAX 3D version of Pirates was full of contrast, detail and clarity. The blacks were deep and inky and the whites were bright and clean. Colors popped in sunlit scenes and the dark, dingy locations below the decks of the ships were full of subtle detail. The close up shots of Barbossa’s face properly showcased the special, albeit gaudy, makeup treatment reserved for British officers and the tight shots of Blackbeard allowed one to count the hairs extruding from his face.

The sound system in this particular IMAX auditorium was a bit of an oddity, too. Since the screen was the traditional, large format IMAX screen, I can only assume that the sound system installed behind the screen is the traditional, multi-channel IMAX sound system used for the 70mm film presentations. However, since we were viewing a new digital IMAX presentation, which normally utilizes a different type of sound system, I’m not sure how the two sound formats were adapted to work with one another. Additionally, the theater is listed with THX and other resources as a THX-approved theater. Well, THX-approved theaters don’t include IMAX screens with IMAX sound systems. Again, I have questions as to how this traditional IMAX sound system can be listed as a THX-approved system, unless some special adaptations were made to meet the criteria of both systems. I’ve contacted both THX and IMAX about these issues; I’ll post an update should I hear anything back from either company.

Dolby also produces a digital 3D system named Dolby 3D. Although Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has been released in the Dolby 3D format, I’ve yet to have the opportunity to visit a theater showing this version of the film. I’m anxious to audition a Dolby 3D film to see how it compares to RealD Cinema 3D and IMAX [Digital] 3D. The XPAND company also manufactures a 3D cinema system as does the Master Image company. I’ve yet to see a film in either of these formats. Note that Disney Digital 3D is simply a trade name applied to Disney films released in the 3D format; Disney does not manufacture any type of 3D projection system.

So, in conclusion, be aware that not all 3D is created equal. I’ve mentioned before how impressed I’ve been with the IMAX [Digital] 3D system and this recent direct comparison between the IMAX system and the RealD Cinema system validates my initial findings. Check your local theater listings to see what version of 3D digital projection they offer; most movie listing sites like Fandango will indicate which digital projection and 3D formats are available near you. If IMAX [Digital] 3D is an option for you, I highly recommend it. And once you’ve seen a 3D presentation of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, leave a comment sharing your experiences with the presentation.

Top 5 Tips For Producing Your First Web Video

April 20, 2011

I started producing web videos back in the early days of streaming media before we had YouTube, Vimeo or Hulu and when a 300 kbps video stream was considered high bandwidth. Today, streaming video services are accountable for almost 40% of all Internet traffic and broadband connectivity has allowed video producers to offer high definition, cinematic-quality productions.

Video is everywhere. It can be a valuable tool for communicating or entertaining and is continually becoming easier to produce and access. If you work in a marketing-related job, are a small business owner or otherwise have a need to communicate to an online audience, you may be considering increasing your online video offerings or perhaps testing out video for the first time.

With so much online video available today, how do you create something that will stand out or at least be effective in sharing your message to your targeted client group? Well, gone are the days when simply having video on your website was unique. You need to be a little more savvy than that.

In our nearly 15 years of traveling the world producing video for online viewing, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and have learned valuable lessons and gained specific insight into how to produce the most effective style of video for a given industry or audience. To that end, we present our Top 5 Tips for Producing Your First Online Marketing Video:

1. No one cares about what you think…they want to know that you care about what they think. Yes, I know that’s a bit harsh and was admittedly partially written to serve as an attention grabber. But the point is this: you need to present your message with your audience in mind, not your own corporate fiscal objectives. Time is valuable to most people. They don’t have even a few minutes to waste watching a hard sales pitch, a series of commercials or something that’s not what it was advertised to be. Unless you offer something so unique that it sells itself, you need to present something of value to your audience in your online videos. This doesn’t mean you can’t use video as a sales tool. It is, in fact, a great sales tool. It works like this…if you consistently present something of value as it relates to your business, organization or area of expertise, you can begin to become a trusted resource for a particular topic. If you own a shoe repair business, for instance, consider creating a video about what types of shoe polishes you’ve found will help shoes last longer. Are you a financial planner? Perhaps a video that introduces the basics of various types of investment products would be useful to potential clients just getting started in investing. An experienced video production company can help you develop an effective script or outline. Over time, you become the person that comes to mind when a conversation about shoe repair or investing arises.

Way back in late 2000 we were asked to produce a promotional film about the brand new Raymond James Stadium. The film was to be distributed to 65,000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans as a give-away to those attending an NFL game at the new stadium. Obviously we knew we had a target audience of Bucs fans, football fans and Tampa Bay-area residents. Working directly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers marketing staff, we made sure to include script and visual elements that would be of specific interest to our audience…

2. Be short and to the point. We’ve already mentioned that people value their time. This is especially true of web surfers. The internet is a source for quick answers, instant gratification and almost unlimited options for finding what you need. Your videos should follow suit. Remember, your information is probably not 100% unique. You’re likely not the first and you probably won’t be the last to present video about your topic. So, make sure that your video is the most effective one by providing information quickly in an easy-to-follow manner. Your video – especially if it’s your first video – should provide the intended information within the first 30 seconds or so. Supportive or explanatory information can follow. Most video viewers have an attention span for a maximum of 2-3 minutes. If your video is boring or doesn’t quickly provide the information the user is expecting, you’ll be lucky if someone watches longer than 15-20 seconds. One of the first tasks we often tackle when producing a video for a client is to edit their script. An outside point of view by someone who’s created lots of online videos can often be the tweak you need to help your video go from good to great. So don’t be afraid to let your script be massaged a little. You can always direct viewers to more in-depth videos, brochures, web pages, etc. if you feel you have more information to share.

Tony Michaelides is a record-promoter-turned-publicity-coach who was in need of a short video to help launch his new business venture, an organization that assists rock bands, artists and corporate executives in building their brand. Being a former band publicist, Tony loves to talk. Getting Tony to think in 1-minute sound bytes was quite a challenge but necessary if we were to create an effective introduction to his services. We wrote, produced and edited the following video for Tony’s EPK website..

3. Remember to accurately represent your brand. Your online video is just a single component of your overall brand; it should work in coordination with the rest of your brand elements to put forth what you hope positively and accurately represents what your company, group or idea is all about. There are some facets of your brand identity that are simply out of your control. You don’t have much of a say over what a journalist writes about you, what someone in the grocery store line overhears about you or what feedback someone writes about you on a website. This makes it all the more important to use the elements of your brand within your control to present a clear, strong message. If your company brochure, yellow pages ad and website all talk about how your company stays on top of the latest trends and utilizes the latest technology in your product and service offerings, you certainly don’t want your online videos to look like they were produced with equipment found at a garage sale. I’m not saying that an effective web video has to be expensive; I’m just saying that your videos are a visual representation of your brand – make sure what viewers see is in alliance with what you say your brand is. If you want your brand to be fun, exciting and energetic, then guess what – a bland, boring video doesn’t support your stated brand. Likewise, if you want to promote a brand that can be described as serious and strictly professional, then create a video that showcases those ideals. A simple but effective exercise we often ask our clients to complete is to write down the 4 or 5 core elements of their brand and then compare that list with their video script or outline. Does one support the other? If not, some reworking may need to be done. Seeing visual evidence in the form of an online video that you are who you say you are can go a long way to developing a strong brand identity and can build trust between you and your audience.

The S.S. American Victory is a World War II-era merchant marine ship that is now serving as an historical tourist attraction, educational facility and event location. The non-profit organization asked us to produce a promotional film that would give website visitors a taste of what they would discover upon a visit to the ship, which is docked in the Port of Tampa. Our goal was not to provide a complete overview of the ship but to entice viewers of the video to want to come see the ship in person. According to the organization’s staff, board members and retired military volunteers, we hit the brand essence nail right on the head…

4. Be visually, topically or personally interesting. You’re not going to develop a reputation as a master of online video by creating mundane talking head videos about topics few care to hear about. You need to be able to capture a viewer’s interest. If you have an outgoing, likable personality and enjoy speaking in front of an audience, use that charisma to its full potential. Be known as the geeky guy, the crazy girl, the wordsmith, the funny man or the southern belle. Having a “hook” will get people to watch; providing them valuable content will get them to watch again. If strong presentation skills aren’t what make you who you are, then be interesting by using your writing skills, your superior subject knowledge, your vast experience or your ability to provide statistics. Find a way to stand out using your strengths. Everybody’s good at something; find a way to incorporate what you’re good at into your videos. And if you’re afraid your weaknesses will be difficult to disguise on camera, then work on becoming better at what’s holding you back. We provide many of our clients with presentation skills training which help them become better video makers. The goal is not necessarily to become a master orator but to simply to become more comfortable presenting. Watching yourself on camera and getting constructive feedback will go a long way to becoming a better video maker.

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is an annual free jazz concert weekend held every October at Coachman Park in Clearwater, Florida. The event has been going on for over 30 years and we were asked to create a promotional piece for the 2010 event. Not being able to use actual recordings of the performances, we had to come up with an interesting way to present the essence of the event using picture and sound. We decided that a tilt-shift time-lapse technique would provide interesting visuals while showing viewers what the concert was all about…

5. Create opportunity for follow up. Advertising professionals always encourage their clients to include a call to action in traditional advertisements like television commercials and billboards. Ads can tell viewers to stop by a store, call a phone number or visit a website. With online video, we have so many more options for follow up. We can tell viewers to subscribe to a newsletter, to become a Fan on Facebook, to follow us on Twitter, to read our blog, to send us an email, to tune in to more videos…the list goes on and on. Always encourage your viewers to follow up with you in some way. And make it easy for them to do so. Make sure links to your contact information and all of your social media sites are on the same page as your video. Have a way for viewers to sign up for an email newsletter. At a minimum, take a moment in your video to tell the viewer to check back next month for a new video or a follow-up news article.

I’m sure you’ve been bombarded by online video pitches over the past several months. Well, it’s for good reason. Video can be a powerful tool in communicating to your online audience. Just this week I received a call from a client for whom we produced a promotional video showcasing her vacation rental condominiums. She’s had such an increase in business – in no small part because of the video – that she’s now able to purchase an additional property! She’s asked us to now go back and update the video to include the new location. Online video works!

But just having any old video on your site likely won’t bring you riches. It needs to be an effective video. Consider these 5 tips and partner with a video production company that has the experience, skill and knowledge to produce something that will bring results.

Thanks for reading. We welcome all comments and questions. And good luck with you online video efforts!