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Dalsa/Arri Deal's Off


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#1 John Sprung

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 05:40 PM

Per this report:

http://news.therecor.../article/472250




-- J.S.
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 05:05 AM

Per this report:

http://news.therecor.../article/472250




-- J.S.


Not a huge range of other camera manufacturers out there - Panavision? Panasonic trying to get into the digital cinema market? Silicon Imaging together with Cineform?
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#3 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 02:51 PM

"When its digital cinema division was operating, Dalsa made its own cinema cameras, known as Origin and Evolution. The cameras received many plaudits, but failed to win over the movie industry, which remains attached to film cameras."

Very funny, they should have asked about RED and Panavision Genesis cameras, hardly anyone uses them :P . . .

Last I heard Aaton was working on digital magazines for the Penelope model, that could be an option for Dalsa . . .
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#4 Keith Walters

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 07:43 PM

"When its digital cinema division was operating, Dalsa made its own cinema cameras, known as Origin and Evolution. The cameras received many plaudits, but failed to win over the movie industry, which remains attached to film cameras."

This whole "With my marketing skills and {Insert company name}'s engineering resources (and - cough - shareholders capital) we'll make an electronic camera that you can use in place of a 35mm movie camera and take {Insert company name}'s share price and proftitability to dizzying new heights etc etc" has been going on for well over 20 years now.

A slack handful have gained industry recognition, but almost entirely as the TV cameras they actually are. I don't know if any have actually turned a bottom line profit, nobody seems to want to comment on this too much.


The painful facts are that
A. The movie making market is not all that big anyway
B. The image acquisition cost of any movie likely to be commercially successful is only a small part of the total production cost and
C. Of that the cost of the actual camera component is a even smaller part.

Yet time and again, non-technical boards of directors seem to be desperate to get suckered into diverting company funds into projects where the numbers simply don't add up, financially or technically. I think it's the word "Digital", right up there with "natural", "green", "eco-" and "organic"....

For me the the most interesting thing about the RED is that it shows what can be done when the engineering company is a fresh sheet of paper where people are hired for their demonstrated ability to fit into the proposed project structure, rather than having the project structure "massaged" to suit the talents (or more likely lack of them) of {Insert company name}'s management structure :P

Edited by Keith Walters, 25 January 2009 - 07:44 PM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 08:09 PM

A lot of this is just timing, whether a particular technology takes off or not. Look at the Widescreen Revolution of the 1950's -- half those cameras were built for a failed Widescreen Revolution of the early 1930's that never took off, mostly thanks to the Great Depression. 65mm, VistaVision, CinemaScope, all were developed twenty years before they actually got used seriously (and most of those didn't last more than five years or so in Hollywood -- most were dead by 1960.)

Look at the Viper -- uncompressed 4:4:4 LOG HD out, minimal processing... hardly got used due to the lack of uncompressed 4:4:4 HD recorders out there, and didn't take off seriously until Sony invented the HDCAM-SR field recorder, the SRW1. Same goes for the Arri-D20.

The Dalsa was waiting for the day when uncompressed 4K RAW data was practical for production, and the truth is that it STILL isn't practical yet. RED has been a lot more successful because REDCODE compression, like it or not, makes the camera practical to use, plus the low cost of the camera meant that a lot of units were sold, and suddenly post facilities HAD to deal with RAW footage conversion issues, unlike with Dalsa, which generated so little footage that they had to develop the RAW conversion tools in-house and offer those services in-house. In comparison, almost every post house around has been dealing with RED footage, so there is a certain synergy taking place to make RAW data camera technology more and more practical.

The irony is that someday 4K RAW uncompressed recording will become practical and someone will build a camera just for that market, long after Dalsa has gone. Maybe ARRI, maybe Aaton, who knows.

Regardless of the good arguments for shooting film over digital, the truth is that the transition is happening, right or wrong, and nothing is going to stop it. I fully expect to be hit more and more with the news that I have to shoot digitally as I go out on interviews for TV shows or smaller independent films. I even expect to start hearing that for medium-budget movies. Even on "Jennifer's Body", shot for Fox Atomic, I was hearing that Fox Atomic wanted to encourage more productions to shoot digitally, even though our producers pushed to shoot on film.

I expect to hear more of that in the future for smaller studio productions, especially if odds are high that it will go directly to home video.
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#6 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 08:27 PM

Regardless of the good arguments for shooting film over digital, the truth is that the transition is happening, right or wrong, and nothing is going to stop it.

I expect to hear more of that in the future for smaller studio productions, especially if odds are high that it will go directly to home video.



:(

All I can say is: The king is dead, long live the king!!!
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 08:29 PM

So what happens to the physical assets?

The pictures were glorious.

P
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#8 DS Williams

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 10:22 PM

These are shifting times indeed. The Origin, while funny looking, made amazing pictures; it's a shame it wasn't used more often for feature film movie making
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:18 AM

I agree with David that the key to RED's success has been the REDCode rather than the 4K sensor. This has enabled the post to be handled by a lot more people than the same material simply being outputted as uncompressed RAW. Although, the data recorders are now there to handle this, for most productions this still requires too much grunt in post production. The RED business model also helped more rental houses worldwide to buy the RED, rather than having producers relying on one LA rental house. Even the "prototype" D20s seemed to be more out in the rental houses worldwide on a rental only basis.

I know Dalsa ran some tests with Cineform and I was surprised they didn't seem to follow it up. The Evolution looked like they were addressing the Origin's issues.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 26 January 2009 - 05:20 AM.

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#10 Alan Lasky

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 12:58 PM

Having worked at DALSA for a while during their initial push into the Hollywood camera market I have a bit of a different view on the failure of the Digital Cinema Division and the Origin Camera.

Yes, the camera did have potential. Yes, it did at times produce stunning images. The Origin, like all other currently available digital camera systems, also had some fairly hideous problems that were never really fixed. That is not to single out DALSA's system; look deep enough at any digital camera system and I guarantee you will find a problem you will have to hide from the producer. Yes, it was too damn big and too damn heavy; my shoulders remind me of that every time I do military presses at the gym. Yes, efficient, cost-effective uncompressed 4K workflow is at present a pipe dream, no matter how hard the sell from the post guy.

However I do not believe any of these factors were the true cause of DALSA's failure. In my opinion it was a failure of fundamental business case analysis. Someone, somewhere in the distant past was tasked with providing a market analysis of the high-end digital motion picture camera market for DALSA. That individual or group either did not perform a true analysis or wildly over-estimated the true potential revenue of the digital camera market, especially using a purely rental model. Everything subsequent to that initial failure of business case analysis was pretty much inevitable.

Being seduced by the 'consensual hallucination' of Hollywood as a real business is nothing new. Hell, I worked for Silicon Graphics in the late 1990's and saw from the inside what happens when an entire company ignores a market's true revenue in favor of taking out advertisements that say: "Look, we worked on (insert big VFX movie)." Much like the digital camera business the visual effects/digital post industry was a low margin business with extremely 'difficult' customers who often did not want to pay for anything. Ask DALSA for some bottom line analysis on how much they had to kick in for post on the jobs they did do, I think you will see the same pattern at work.

DALSA's core business is pretty strong. They have some very good technology in CCD's. MEM's and other areas and some very smart people running the ship. Although their adventure in Hollywood was predictably painful in the long run they will survive and thrive. I am only sorry they had to go through so much typical Hollywood bullshit before they realized it was time to scuttle the ship. Oh well, live and learn. Just about now another company is pulling into town with grand plans and dreams of technical Academy awards. That cycle will continue, although the current economic conditions make it mercifully harder than it was before to justify.

Alan Lasky
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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 11:17 PM

Someone, somewhere in the distant past was tasked with providing a market analysis of the high-end digital motion picture camera market for DALSA. That individual or group either did not perform a true analysis or wildly over-estimated the true potential revenue of the digital camera market, especially using a purely rental model. Everything subsequent to that initial failure of business case analysis was pretty much inevitable.

Bah.

I rather think you will find that said individual or group had a very clear idea of what results they needed to find, if they knew what what was good for them.

You would be amazed how quickly you can go from from being a respected feet-on-the-ground no-nonsense pragmatist, to a visionless, hidebound curmudgeon who needs to marginalized out of the corporate structure as quickly as possible, once some talentless hack in upper management starts swilling the digital Happy-Ade as a mechanism for extending his lacklustre tenure.

Rather reminds me of the Matsushita MII Happy-Ade of the mid-1980s, actually. Most of you will probably not even remember the format, much less the names of its critics.
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#12 Alan Lasky

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 03:29 AM

I rather think you will find that said individual or group had a very clear idea of what results they needed to find, if they knew what what was good for them.


Conspiracy? Stupidity? I honestly don't know, nor do I really much care. I can not tell you the number of times while working at big companies I have heard the following exchange:

"I have had a look at your revenue projections. Where did these numbers come from?"

"I pulled them out of my ass."

No assessment of agenda, intent or motivation alters the fundamental liability. The bottom line is still the bottom line and no matter who requested, served or drank the Kool-aid a massively irresponsible market analysis led to a great deal of frustration, wasted time and lost capital. No problem if you have a privately funded company and an endless pile of cash to burn through; much different if you are publicly traded and must answer to shareholders.

As for: "talentless hacks in upper management who swill the digital Happy-Ade as a mechanism for extending their lacklustre tenures," welcome to Hollywood. :rolleyes:

The great thing is when the poop starts hitting the fan you can sit back and watch the 'talentless hacks' shank each other in the back, just like the yard at Pelican Bay.

Lasky
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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 05:21 AM

If I dare swing this back toward the technology...

It appeared to me that the Origin camera was huge because it had a BTX-sized server motherboard in it.

Assuming that was true...

I'm surprised it was necessary to do that at the time the thing was designed. At least one of the recorders which was capable of recording the images was also based on said style of hardware and they didn't have any need to do that, either. 400MB/sec is not that difficult to shift these days, especially if you're not debayering or recording it. It certainly hasn't been necessary to go for enormous server boards to do this for at least several years, and if you were doing that now, you could probably do it at least on some little µATX board, if not one of the many very well specified miniature boards which Silicon Imaging used for their prototypes or the embedded type they use in production cameras (not that the cameras are that technologically comparable, I'm just using it as a size comparison).

This is presumably where Evolution came in - the same thing, made out of miniaturised hardware.

So why did it take so *!@#ing long to do it? It's a sensor, presumably a custom piece of hardware to drive and interface that sensor to a suitably high speed bus, and a bunch of off the shelf computer components. What on earth was the hold up? I was waiting for the thing to shrink every month after it was released.

P
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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:06 AM

The great thing is when the poop starts hitting the fan you can sit back and watch the 'talentless hacks' shank each other in the back, just like the yard at Pelican Bay.

But you know, that never really seems to happen.
In no time at all the same useless arseholes seem to be able to set up shop with somebody else and it's business as usual.

It doesn't matter how right you are, or to how many decimal places you can prove it to, if your expertise tells you something the Kool-Aid drinkers don't want to hear, your expertise suddenly becomes no longer required. Being able to say "I told you so" doesn't seem to count for much on your resume.
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#15 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:16 AM

So why did it take so *!@#ing long to do it? It's a sensor, presumably a custom piece of hardware to drive and interface that sensor to a suitably high speed bus, and a bunch of off the shelf computer components. What on earth was the hold up? I was waiting for the thing to shrink every month after it was released.

As this forum's #1 registered practicing curmudgeon/cynic, could I theorize that once they removed all those impediments, they MIGHT then have had the difficult task of explaining to their directors why nobody still seemed to want to rent the *!@#ing thing.... :lol:

Rent it for enough per day and enough days to actually turn a profit at any rate.

They will probably wind up in the hands of Panavision with 950 magazines bolted to their backs :P
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 07:55 AM

if your expertise tells you something the Kool-Aid drinkers don't want to hear, your expertise suddenly becomes no longer required. Being able to say "I told you so" doesn't seem to count for much on your resume.


Oh boy, did I hear that.

P
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#17 Emmanuel Lariviere

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 05:18 PM

,
Regardless of the good arguments for shooting film over digital, the truth is that the transition is happening, right or wrong, and nothing is going to stop it. I fully expect to be hit more and more with the news that I have to shoot digitally as I go out on interviews for TV shows or smaller independent films. I even expect to start hearing that for medium-budget movies. Even on "Jennifer's Body", shot for Fox Atomic, I was hearing that Fox Atomic wanted to encourage more productions to shoot digitally, even though our producers pushed to shoot on film.

I expect to hear more of that in the future for smaller studio productions, especially if odds are high that it will go directly to home video.



I agree with what David wrote, I didn't expect it to happen this fast. If you look at all the things that have shot digitally in the last year and are being shot now, it looks like it's an accepted way to go. Look at the films on the U.S. top 10: Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Underworld:Rise of the Lycans, My Bloody Valentine, Benjamin Buttons and Slumdog Millinaire. Even though we can tell the difference, to 80% plus of the public it looks like film. If the public is paying to see it that's all the studios care about.
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#18 David Auner aac

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:32 AM

Rather reminds me of the Matsushita MII Happy-Ade of the mid-1980s, actually. Most of you will probably not even remember the format, much less the names of its critics.


Oh, I do remember that format. Austrian TV got the brilliant idea to use MII as their primary acquisition format for much of the 80s and 90s. Along with maybe 2 other TV stations around the globe. One of the others being in Japan, one in Aussie land IIRC. With the larger recorder they had and the larger battery pack that thing weighed a ton! I have heard a story of a camera op knocking out a cop with one of them! While doing a whip pan or something! ;)

Cheers, Dave
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#19 Keith Walters

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 06:15 AM

Oh, I do remember that format. Austrian TV got the brilliant idea to use MII as their primary acquisition format for much of the 80s and 90s. Along with maybe 2 other TV stations around the globe. One of the others being in Japan, one in Aussie land IIRC. With the larger recorder they had and the larger battery pack that thing weighed a ton! I have heard a story of a camera op knocking out a cop with one of them! While doing a whip pan or something! ;)

Cheers, Dave

Actually NBC went gaa-gaa over MII, at the behest of a certain Mike Sherlock, who incredibly, is still in charge! However, they weren't going to be satsified with it just for acquisition, oh no, they were going to replace all their 1" and 2" composite VTRs with MII studio machines.

Now anybody who properly understands the principles of NTSC (and PAL) encoding knows that that can only work if the entire studio is re-wired for component operation; if even once in the chain you have to encode to composite and then re-encode back to component there's a massive drop in picture quality. Do that a couple of times and you're down to VHS quality in no time. Plus the fact that virtually everything that would come into the studio would be composite video. Strangely enough 20 years on, not a lot seemed to have happened!

But the biggest insanity was Matsushita trying to market MII as a competitor to SP Betacam.
The quality and features offered were about the same, the tapes cost roughly the same, MII was a bit cheaper but not fantastically so. The only "slight" advantage that SP Betacam had was that there was already a huge installed user base of regular Betacam equipment and footage, and if you put an oxide Betacam tape in an SP machine, it behaved exactly like a regular machine. Put in an SP tape, it records as SP. The signals that come out and go in are exactly the same.

MII machines would only play MII tapes. Can't understand why it wasn't more successful!

Edited by Keith Walters, 30 January 2009 - 06:16 AM.

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