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#1 chris kempinski

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 07:09 PM

Not to date anyone here,

but I was curious...... can someone compare the introduction to Beta in the late 70's and 80's, to the big
push towards HD today? :unsure:
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 07:52 PM

Not to date anyone here,

but I was curious...... can someone compare the introduction to Beta in the late 70's and 80's, to the big
push towards HD today? :unsure:


Well, it's not exactly the same thing -- the intro of 1/2" videotape for camcorders and home use wasn't designed to overturn existing NTSC and PAL, just create a more portable tape format for those systems.

The "push towards HD" covers both the changeover to HDTV at the home and shooting HD material for HDTV display, so I'm not sure what you're asking about. The introduction of the professional HD camcorder formats in late 1990's/early 2000? The introduction of HD consumer formats a few years ago? The impending shutdown of analog NTSC broadcast? When you say "beta" are you referring to the betacam-SP pro tape format or the obsolete betamax consumer tape format?
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#3 chris kempinski

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 08:01 PM

Well, it's not exactly the same thing -- the intro of 1/2" videotape for camcorders and home use wasn't designed to overturn existing NTSC and PAL, just create a more portable tape format for those systems.

The "push towards HD" covers both the changeover to HDTV at the home and shooting HD material for HDTV display, so I'm not sure what you're asking about. The introduction of the professional HD camcorder formats in late 1990's/early 2000? The introduction of HD consumer formats a few years ago? The impending shutdown of analog NTSC broadcast? When you say "beta" are you referring to the betacam-SP pro tape format or the obsolete betamax consumer tape format?



I guess my question was more geared toward the threat of betacam-SP and what is was going to do to the film community at that time.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:38 PM

Betacam SP was only one format in the long history of televison recording media (and cameras, for that matter). Prior to Beta SP there was Beta (not the same as consumer betamax), 3/4" Umatic and its SP variant, among others for field production (anyone remember the term "minicams"? ;) Unfortunately I do...). 1" video tape was (and sometimes still is!) used for studio-bound recording. And of course video as an aquisition tool started replacing film in television productions much earlier than that.

You have to understand that standard definition video never posed any serious threat to film for theatrical motion pictures, because it wasn't up to the resolution, and it was all interlaced. For television shows, tape obviously found its place beside film (studio-bound sitcoms, variety shows, news, etc.) far prior to BetaSP.

I'm sure others here are more familiar with the prognostcations of the "death of film" dating back to the early days of tape.
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#5 Dominic Case

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 11:29 PM

Not to date anyone here,

Well I might as well admit that I remember (early in my time, admittedly) our local Agfa sales rep (they also supplied videotape) sometime in the late 70s, bemoaning the fact that "they" were starting to accept one-inch tape as broadcast standard. Two-inch was obviously (in his mind) the only acceptable guage - this was the beginning of the end of the world as we knew it, even worse than shooting 16mm for television!

The progress from 2" to 1" to 3/4" (Betacam then SP, then Digi) was all about maintaining the same basic PAL or NTSC TV standard on smaller tapes, and increasingly portable cameras and decks. As a substitute for film as a professional format, it wasn't relevant in the feature world, but it did (obviously) impact seriously on news, documentary and corporate productions when the cameras finally became portable.

As far as "the film community" is concerned, I'm not sure what sort of threat you are talking about. A new technology arrives, you evaluate it, you observe the demand, and if it looks like flying, you adopt it. Looks more like an opportunity than a threat B) . The sectors I mentioned aren't usually so concerned about the aspects of image quality that "film" afficianados hold dear: convenience, speed and cost are usually higher on the agenda for shooting news and corporates.

Entrenched providers like stock manufacturers and labs have issues of course, but they are only one part of the "film community".
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 11:41 PM

What's interesting is that so few indie features even attempted to shoot with a betacam camcorder ("Signal 7" was a rare example), compared to a few years later when consumer DV cameras came out.

You could attribute this partly to the low cost of ownership of DV cameras, but the truth is that many of these DV movies could have rented a betacam instead, or borrowed one.

I think the introduction of home editing systems like FCP had a bigger impact on enabling people to shoot video for a feature because they weren't limited to finding an AVID to cut it on. Combine the NLE revolution with new film recorders to transfer video to film, and a growing acceptance among art house audiencs to seeing low-rez video features, and all video formats started to become viable options for shooting material traditionally shot on film. So I don't think the limitation was the quality of beta-SP camcorders alone. Back when beta-SP was introduced, I don't think the production costs of a feature film, when a film-out to 35mm was factored in, made it more financially attractive than shooting in Super-16, where a traditional optical blow-up was easy to arrange and not too expensive.
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#7 Dominic Case

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 12:09 AM

I think the introduction of home editing systems like FCP had a bigger impact on enabling people to shoot video for a feature because they weren't limited to finding an AVID to cut it on.

Not so much an Avid :unsure: . There was no non-linear ediing until about 1990, so for a decade (Betacam was 1982-ish I think), any attempt to produce a traditional long-form feature meant that editors were restricted to the old, clunky, tiresome linear tape editing systems. OK for throwing a news item together, but a nightmare for finecutting a feature.

I even remember that there was a system introduced by a Swedish guy, Tomas Dyfverman, where the videotape was transferred to film with burnt-in edge numbers, which was then used as a workprint for conventional film cutting (remember that?). The final cut was then used to generate an edl to edit the tape on-line. Almost the exact opposite of the approach introduced in the 90s, transferring film to tape and then into Avid.
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#8 chris kempinski

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:17 AM

As far as "the film community" is concerned, I'm not sure what sort of threat you are talking about. A new technology arrives, you evaluate it, you observe the demand, and if it looks like flying, you adopt it. Looks more like an opportunity than a threat B) . The sectors I mentioned aren't usually so concerned about the aspects of image quality that "film" afficianados hold dear: convenience, speed and cost are usually higher on the agenda for shooting news and corporates.

Entrenched providers like stock manufacturers and labs have issues of course, but they are only one part of the "film community".


So would you say that HD is the new Beta, or the new broadcast standard? Or do you think film will survive? I love film and would hate to see film go away, but with Kodak laying off staff, and still cameras embracing digital, how long do we have? It bothers me to see the average viewer "happy" to have everything in focus, all the time. Most people don't care.
That makes me sad.
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:20 AM

So would you say that HD is the new Beta, or the new broadcast standard? Or do you think film will survive?


No offense, but you're really confused here. Betacam SP is a tape format; HD is a video standard (encompasing several actually), and film is film. They are three completely different things.

I think what you're getting at is that HD may become the new "standard" resolution, colorspace, etc. by which all motion picture images are judged. That's not really happening.

For "broadcast" production, standard def video is starting to fall away in favor of High Definition images. But "HD" can mean a very wide variety of frame sizes, frame rates and display methods, including images shot on 35mm film.

For theatrically released movies there is still a demand for image size and quality that exceeds what HD can deliver. Digital Intermedites are currently done at a resolution and color space that exceed HD specs (2K or 4K data compared to HD video signal). And new digital cameras are being designed that also exceed HD specs.

I love film and would hate to see film go away, but with Kodak laying off staff, and still cameras embracing digital, how long do we have? It bothers me to see the average viewer "happy" to have everything in focus, all the time. Most people don't care.
That makes me sad.


It's not as bleak as all that. For one thing, higher-end digital motion picture cameras use 35mm or 2/3" video optics, not the 1/3" chip optics found on consumer HD cameras. And film isn't going to die immediately. In reality, motion picture technologies are more diverse than you may fear, and in some ways, more diverse now than they ever were before.
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#10 Thomas James

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 04:28 AM

I think that film will eventually die. Not because film is low quality but it costs too much to distribute film. For movie theatres to be competitive with the home theatre they will have to offer the Showscan format which basically is 65mm film at a 60 frames per second. But this Showscan format has never been proven to be cost effective because of the high cost of each film print. With the introduction of digital 4k cameras and projectors high quality Showscan movies can be distributed for a fraction of the cost of film.
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#11 Dominic Case

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 07:00 AM

I guess this thread has normalised to the "is film dying or dead?" groove quite quickly.

Don't confuse Kodak laying off staff in their consumer photographic division with their relatively strong Entertainment Imaging division (that's motion picture stuff) which is actually making more film stock each year.

Maybe your original question is really: "will HD cameras have the same impact on 35mm feature production that Betacam cameras had on 16mm corporate, news, and documentary production twenty years ago?"

That's an entirely different question to anything about the cost of film distribution which has also been raised here.

I guess the answer is "maybe" but there are so many different factors in play now that it's hard to draw anything useful out of the analogy.
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#12 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 02:32 PM

I even remember that there was a system introduced by a Swedish guy, Tomas Dyfverman, where the videotape was transferred to film with burnt-in edge numbers, which was then used as a workprint for conventional film cutting (remember that?). The final cut was then used to generate an edl to edit the tape on-line. Almost the exact opposite of the approach introduced in the 90s, transferring film to tape and then into Avid.


'Laugh-In' was edited like that in the 60s. Except it was 2" tape & instead of an online edit the 2" was conformed by cutting it with a razor blade and splicing the bits together with adhesive tape.
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#13 chris kempinski

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 08:31 PM

Maybe your original question is really: "will HD cameras have the same impact on 35mm feature production that Betacam cameras had on 16mm corporate, news, and documentary production twenty years ago?"


I guess the answer is "maybe" but there are so many different factors in play now that it's hard to draw anything useful out of the analogy.


That is exactly what the loaded question should have been. Thank you.
Just checking, through history, what's to happen next.
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#14 Dominic Case

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:26 PM

Just checking, through history, what's to happen next.

Always a good thing to do.
(WIth the proviso that the situation is never the same the second time around).
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#15 Walter Graff

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:01 AM

It's a good question Chris. About the biggest difference comparing the two is in marketing and availability.

First availability. Today equipment has become more available to teh masses. Back then, expensive equipment performed differently than what the masses could obtain. So the professional world was smaller. But marketing has changed things today and more importantly the internet has fueled marketing hype. When Sony introduced Betacam it was hoped by Akio Morita that it would replace film. They were sure it would. But at the time marketing practices didn't drive sales as they do today and while Sony's dream was to concur film with Betacam, they never did, nor even got close. And even later on with the invention of HD cameras, Sony failed to capture the market until they added the gimmick of 24p.

A funny side note. In the eighties Sony was producing a in-house video about the history and tradition at Sony. It was a $million budget being shot on film. When Morita found out, he made them throw out the nearly complete shooting and had them do it all over on Betacam.

One of the gimmicks that has helped video move into the world of film is the blur effect known as 24p. It is not really new. I used to use a camera manufactured by ikegami back in the eighties (82) that created a film look. It was a camera well ahead of its time. called the EC-35 it was also shaped to look more like a film camera physically, along with many film style accessories that folks didn't associate with video cameras until only five years ago. But as I said earlier the professional market was smaller and not driven by hype so not many folks used it, or got to see it although full page ads ran for some time promoting the camera. And a big big factor is that in those days there was not such a drive to make video like film or 100,000 people with prosumer HD cameras all thinking thy were filmmakers as technology has allowed to happen today. Those that worked in video aspired to shoot film and never did and those that worked in film thumbed their noses at video people for the most part.

And that brings me to marketing and the web. It is tough to separate the two as manufactures rely on word of mouth that the web gives them. Today we also have more availability of equipment to the masses. By that I mean anyone can use a camera labeled HD these days meaning the importance of the tool has often overshot the artistry of filmmaking. Back then equipment was not stressed as it is today. There were differences but mostly a few choices in cameras and brands. Today its a buffet of equipment that feeds the hype, and the web fuels it.

Take away the hype of today and the introduction of HD would be what it was when it was first introduced nearly a decade ago initially without the hype that marketers had to turn to because it wasn't catching on- a niche form of acquisition. Betacam was more a standard of acquisition as it became the defacto method of recording most everything in video at the time. Today HD which was originally driven by the manufactures of TV sets has finally see more integration by broadcasters hoping to cash in on some sort of revenue form the change over, but to this day most are not, and I see it's future as simply being regular old TV once there eyes get used to the higher contrast ratios of the sets they watch, for those who will have it. For many others, it will be the sets they have now for some time to come. FUnny thing is that only a small portion of teh 24 million HD sets out there today actually get HD signals, but most who shelled out all that money think they do. The current marketing hype about to kick in is to tell folks they have to actually get a service to see HD or they simply own an expensive Tv that looks better because it is of higher contrast ratio, the biggest reason why you think a picture looks sharper.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:22 AM

24P is not a gimmick -- progressive-scan is a valuable tool for electronic cinematography. The word "gimmick" suggests a lack of true value or usefulness. A 24P option will continue to be implemented in all future digital cameras that are intended to simulate a 24 fps film look, for the simple and logical reason that if you want to simulate a film camera capturing whole frames 24 times per second, then you should design a digital camera that captures whole frames 24 times per second.

What you call a gimmick I would call a must-have feature for any digital camera meant to simulate a 24 fps film look.
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#17 Walter Graff

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 08:20 AM

What you call a gimmick I would call a must-have feature for any digital camera meant to simulate a 24 fps film look.


In the context of my post, 24p was the gimmick that got the film community interested. PERIOD!

If you recall when HD was introduced by Sony in the form of the HDW700 sales were less than stellar. In fact many saw that Hd was dead in the water. People saw what it did, said wow, it's sharp looking video, now what? Folks were less than thrilled with the potential. To create a buzz in the film community Sony introduced the same 24p effect they gave Lucus and suddenly a method of capture that had few fans became legitimate overnight. Morita's and Ohga's dream was finally realized because the one factor that Sony overlooked (not just a sharper picture but an aesthetically appealing picture like film) was what they had forgotten all those times they thought such formats as Betacam would overtake film.

That story was told to me by a former CEO of Sony while I was producing a television program on the history of Sony. So while you and I as cinematographers appreciate what 24p represents and how we need it to make video legitimate as a film style acquisition method, it was the introduction of 24p that gave legitimacy to video and hid the fact that video by itself wasn't enough. The term 'gimmick' was said to me by that CEO in describing what Sony needed to do to get folks attention at the time, and I have used the term ever since.

So yes, as an acquisition style HD is useless to the film community without 24p as you admit. And as Sony made the same mistake before (thinking that higher resolution pictures alone would be enough) they learned real fast that if you wanted to look like film then you had to 'look' like film. One of the chief reasons Sony 'forgot' is the same reason why Sony's cameras up until the latest one being introduced look and act like a video camera ergonomically. Sony wanted film folks to pick up their cameras, but they had little experience in the culture of film so didn't really understand what it took to make Morita's dream a reality; making a camera that acted like a film camera. And they are still learning that for the most part. Sony traditionally is stubborn in changing their ways. It always costs them speed coming out of the gate but in the end they always win market share.

They learned that lesson too when they started making an effort in the 1980's to sell professional cameras. You could not give away a Sony camera at the time. The market was owned in the US by Ikegami whose cameras made more lifelike picture. And there were other manufactures people turned to for cameras before even considering Sony. Sony's solution was two-fold. First they created their own bank so that they could finance anyone interested in a camera taking away market share from those others that manufactured ENG style cameras, but who you had to get a loan from a regular bank institution to purchase. Second they eliminated the competition by telling them that the tape decks Sony made for the competitions cameras would no longer be made available. End of story for the competition. In the US that was Ikegami, a company that invented much of the camera technology made and who owned nearly 80% of the market share at it's peak.

Panasonic made one of the smartest moves of their history in hiring the two top designers from Ikegami who created the Varicam and Panasonics succeeding camera technology mimic the look and feel of Ikegami cameras. A look that pros have always said was more lifelike and color accurate compared to Sony's more pastel look.
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#18 Thomas James

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 09:53 AM

In the past most sets were HD ready and very few of those televisions actually received an HD signal. But as of this year all HD televisions sold have HD recievers built in so they have the capability of recieving free off air HD broadcasting. And as of this year HD televisions have about 70% marketshare and have broken the $500 price barrier so it can be said HDTV is a very mainstream technology.
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#19 Walter Graff

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 11:02 AM

But as of this year all HD televisions sold have HD receivers built in so they have the capability of receiving free off air HD broadcasting.


And how many people do you know today that use rabbit ears or a house antenna on their TV? Most all TVs these days are connected to cable and satellite and most all of those sets are not receiving HD signals even though people think they are. You need to have the services to get HD, not just because you have cable or satellite. Most are not aware of this and hence why the new push to inform people of this. In a study by the Leichtman Research Group it was concluded that close to one-half of the 24 million households with HDTVs (13.6 million sold last year) don't actually watch high-definition programs because they haven't obtained the necessary hardware from their cable, phone or satellite operators. And about one half of those viewers - about six million - don't even realize they're not watching HDTV.

The failure of so many HDTV owners to figure out what they've actually bought is bad for everyone. After years of dragging their feet, TV networks finally are investing heavily to produce shows in high definition. But these investments aren't going to pay off anytime soon if 50 percent of the HDTV owners aren't set up for HD viewing. Retailers and manufacturers complain of unacceptably high rate of returns, though they won't disclose specific figures.

And part of the problem is the misinformation being supplied. In the heat of battle, information is often the first casualty. Take the current TV commercials with the "Back to the Future" theme being broadcast by DirecTV. It boasts that the satellite operator has a "future" of 150 channels and soon will have three times more high-definition capacity than cable. It neglects to say that in many smaller markets, DirecTV subscribers still won't be able to get HD signals from local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates unless they set up an over-the-air antenna. Still the amount of watchable HD available to most folks, or should I say lack of it, is making it tough for folks to shell out the money for a 16x9 set.


As for your 70% quote, good marketing hype, but far from reality. Sales of tube sets are still quite brisk and manufactures are still introducing new tube sets to market. In fact while many may believe that the newfangled sets sold real well over the Superbowl weekend the fact is that direct-view tube TV easily outsold any other model, including flat-screen LCDs and Plasmas. NPD, the research company that released the numbers reports that unit sales of the old-style tube TV jumped 61 percent in the week before the big game. Direct-view revenue increased 46 percent during the week. (The numbers are compared to the week leading up to the 2006 Super Bowl.) The direct-view category includes both high-def and non-HD sets. LCD unit sales rose only 40 percent with revenue rising 37 percent before the Super Bowl. Plasma unit sales increased 23 percent and revenue rose 25 percent. Projection TV units increased 25 percent with revenue up 27 percent. NPD said the average direct-view set was priced at just $183, which proved irresistible to many consumers. The average price for a flat-screen set exceeded $1,000. LCD sets over 32 inches -- and direct-view TVs under 32 inches -- experienced the largest unit gains during Super Bowl week. The reality is that price is always more importnat than any promise of 'better' pictures to most consumers.
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#20 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 08:11 PM

Quote from Ron Dexter's site:

"Film is primarily photography and grew up around sets, actors, sound, departments, studios. Video began in the TV studio with electronics the beast that wagged the dog. Much time was spent waiting for the technicians to tune the tools and then they shot live with no ability to edit out their mistakes. They were good. Camera operators pulled their own focus and zoom and pushed their own dollies. They had limitations though that kept their quality of imaging down. They needed a lot more light than film at the time. The camera were very heavy and couldn't be hand held and exterior locations gave lighting problems difficult for early video systems. Dealing with contrast was a constant problem."

Because you asked what the early days were like, not which is better or whether film is dead.
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