By Michael R. Barnard
Exclusive to ReelGrok.com
This week, the fabulous NAB Show (http://NABShow.com) has taken over Las Vegas. The convention of The National Association of Broadcasters (see http://www.nab.org and http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=nationalassob) has been one of the largest events in the city for decades. The organization is for radio and television broadcasters and at the convention are nearly 2,000 venders showing all the equipment, business opportunities and techniques for creating, transmitting and distributing radio and television.
As digital cinema has taken over the filmmaking industry, the television camera, production and post-production areas have exploded and grown to include filmmakers (see http://www.nabshow.com/2012/event_highlights/for_filmmakers.asp), which now are 12% of the nearly 100,000 attendees.
This year’s NAB Show’s Digital Video Production day for digital cinema had sessions of tips, tricks, techniques and equipment for lighting outdoor shots; how to choose the right audio equipment to save money and time creating a full-featured audio production kit; how to successfully scout locations; how to design sounds, stingers, bumpers, transitions and other audio effects to support and enhance your project; simple tricks for successful green-screen shoots, and even how to “run and gun.”
It was at the meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961 that then-new FCC Chairman Newton Minow—under President John F. Kennedy—made his famous and always-relevant pronouncement, “But when television is bad, nothing is worse … I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.” (See http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/newtonminow.htm)
My background was in broadcast television production, which I worked in since high school, and the issues back then were whether 2/3” Saticon camera tubes could be sufficient when compared to 1” Plumbicon tubes for television broadcast, which was solely standard definition of about 400-500 lines of resolution and a ratio of 3 by 4 and a frame rate based on 60 Hz (or 50 Hz if you went overseas). We now evaluate a variety of 35mm camera sensors and varieties of 4K and 5K resolutions and completely variable frame rates on display at this week’s NAB Show.
The first professional camcorders for broadcast news came out back when I was young: the RCA Hawkeye, a monster based on VHS tape cartridges, and the Sony BetaCam, based on its more reasonable Betamax tape cartridges. (RCA, a mammoth company in the history of American broadcasting dominance, shriveled up and blew away in the 1980s, not too unlike what KODAK is facing today.) Like you and your kids, I now have in my pocket a camcorder (mine’s a FlipCam Micro HD 16×9) that is more powerful than everything I just described. (That’s not considering the lens; although we like to think digital images are great, the real issue is the lens, and that hunk of glass is still ruled by the laws of physics, not computer chips.)
Then, videotaped programs had been on 2” tape recorded on huge machines larger than office desks, live programs had been recorded as Kinescopes (16mm filming off of TV screens), and the exciting new format was 1” Type C video tape. My cell phone now has a 16 GB microchip that holds as much video as a 15 pound reel of 2” tape once held.
These are samples of the breadth of technological progress that the NAB Show has introduced to the world, and will continue to introduce. The leaps in technology that directly affect you as a filmmaker often first show up at the NAB Show.
For instance, I saw at the 2007 NAB Show a prototype RED digital cinema camera which was originally red in color (later, it became black as actual use showed that the camera could pick up the glow of its own red color). The tremendous buzz around the RED was one of the more exciting moments at NAB Shows.
The 2012 NAB Show has a lot of buzz continuing to build around 3-D. It’s certainly not universal excitement, as many older viewers complain about 3-D. Film critic Roger Ebert is one of the most prominent complainers about 3-D; see his notorious article “Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)” at http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/04/30/why-i-hate-3-d-and-you-should-too.html.
In spite of the division of opinions about 3-D, there are many brand new products for 3-D production showing at the NAB. There is not yet anything new that has replaced the clunky Rube Goldberg-style 3-D camera rigs to get filmmakers excited, but the show is full of tools for 3-D production of television shows: switchers, routers, and editing systems that are more mundane than exciting.
For instance, “3-D Workflows with Grass Valley” had filmmaker Al Caudullo talking about his experience shooting in the rugged highlands of western Mongolia using an entirely 3-D-based workflow with Grass Valley’s new NLE software. James Cameron and Vince Pace’s new CAMERON-PACE Group presented “The Secrets of Making 3-D Profitable” and later, TITANIC producer Jon Landau and others presented “Titanic to 3D: 279,360 Frames,” talking about the painstaking work to convert TITANIC into 3-D at Cameron’s high standards.
“We gave snippets of TITANIC to several different 3-D companies four years ago,” Landau said, “to see if anyone could create a 3-D conversion acceptable to James’ notorious high standards.”
Stereo D then brought together more than 450 people who worked for 60 weeks on each of the 279,360 frames of the film, setting up a “director’s station” to allow full control of the inter-ocular and depth adjustments to each frame. Cameron’s Lightstorm created a beautiful restoration of the film onto a detailed 4K digital master for Stereo D to work with.
“The hardest scene,” said William Sherak of Stereo D, “was the dinner scene. Fortunately, James was able to recall the placement and sizes of all the individual elements of each of the shots and make precise adjustments to each frame.”
“At the end of the day,” summed up Landau, “movies are all about the close-ups. That’s where the narration, the story-telling occurs, which is what the audience needs.” That’s where the 3-D conversion needed to be the most detailed.
With the Domestic Box Office Gross at $44,723,819 and Foreign Box Office at $157,100,000 (a new record for a 3D re-release) for TITANIC 3-D, the $18 million conversion was a good investment.
The 2012 NAB Show is focusing on Content. As technology and distribution redefine the concept of “radio and television broadcast,” the theme of content is becoming more central.
At Monday’s session “International Distribution of Movies and Television,” Variety’s Ted Johnson, Entertainment One’s Valierie Cabrera, STARZ’s Gene George, Echo Bridge Entertainment’s Dan March, and Image Entertainment’s Steve Saltman talked about the booming market for film and television. Of particular interest to filmmakers, they agreed that the programming potential of 25 to 30 countries around the globe is underserved, and that those broadcasters are more likely to buy indie and television movies rather than blockbusters from studios.
March said that the genre most commonly wanted is the action/crime genre, especially the traditional procedural that starts with an incident, leads to an investigation, introduces a surprising twist, and then wraps it up with a tidy ending.
“Dramas are tough,” added March. “They are very difficult sells in Asia and Latin markets, although more acceptable in various Europe markets.”
One surprising genre that is showing popular acceptance worldwide is the Teen slice-of-life drama, such as the cable series DEGRASSI on Nickelodeon’s TeenNick. Another series seeing success in the worldwide market is SPARTICUS, a violent and sexual original series from pay service STARZ.
“Free TV in worldwide markets needs a sanitized version,” said George, “and what is important is that when you remove the splattering of blood and the nudity, it is still a good story. The world is looking for shows that have an international feel, for ‘popcorn’ series.”
Later, I will tell you about one of the most fascinating things at the 2012 NAB Show that I came across. It is a fascinating marketing tool for filmmakers, and its cost is equally fascinating: FREE. It’s from Autonomy, an HP company, and I will be getting to try it out on Tuesday.
I’ll also be sorting out and looking into some of the thousands of products that will be interesting to filmmakers.
MICHAEL R. BARNARD
Writer | Producer | Director
Producer of Marketing & Distribution
444 E 10th St #104, New York NY 10009
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