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Interesting Article about Panavision


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 07:55 AM

Panavision's future is in need of focus

Most of the Financial information is uncomfortably accurate, although a lot of people here will simply refuse to believe it.
The implication that a large slice of Panavision's current woes are the result of inroads made by the RED is arrant nonsense.
I'm sure there are people losing work to the RED, I just don't think it's them.
Besides, in most rental packages, the camera itself makes up only a small part; they've still got lots of other stuff to rent, which is where the money really is
Plus if PV really felt they needed a fleet of REDs, they'd have them.
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#2 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 08:35 AM

But demand for film cameras has steadily declined in recent years. Although filmmakers still debate the merits of shooting on 35-millimeter film versus shooting digitally, the switch to digital equipment has been dramatic, especially in television, where studios have been pressuring producers to cut costs. Virtually all the TV pilots were shot digitally this year.

Panavision rents digital cameras, including its well-regarded Genesis, which it developed with Sony Electronics.

But that camera is older and generally costlier to rent than rival digital models such as the Red One, which was developed by Jim Jannard, founder of eyewear and apparel company Oakley Inc.

Interest in the Red camera soared after it caught the attention of filmmakers like Soderbergh and "The Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, who used the camera to shoot a short war film, "Crossing the Line."

In addition to renting the camera, Red Digital Cinema sells its camera and accessories for about $30,000, making digital cameras affordable for filmmakers. By contrast, Panavision cameras aren't for sale and typically rent from $10,000 to $60,000 a week.

"Suddenly the camera that nobody has access to, everybody has access to," said Brook Willard, a digital imaging technician who works with the Red camera and served as an advisor on "Southland" and "ER."

Bevins acknowledged that Panavision needs to more quickly adapt to the changing marketplace. To that end, the company recently acquired 15 Sony digital cameras for $35 million and is developing a new line of digital cameras.

"We've decided to redouble our efforts to develop product for the digital marketplace," he said. "We can't rent what people don't want."


And this comes as a surprise to... anyone? This is exactly what many of us have been predicting publicly for years.

Panavision is an amazing company, but obviously they have dropped the ball now. If Panavision was smart, they would invest heavily in Red's new DSMC Epic.
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#3 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 08:43 AM

Panavision has the expertise, for example, to quickly put together an amazing set of cinema primes and zooms for full-frame 35mm (Vista Vision), which IMHO is clearly the way that things are headed. Red might be building the camera, but Panavision can provide everything else.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 10:30 AM

On the one hand, you have to keep in mind that every vendor in Hollywood has seen a major decline in revenue in the past year due to slumping production, so Panavision isn't unique in this regards. The debt burden is something else, one of those problems in today's world of corporate buy-outs and whatnot, the Los Angeles Times / Tribune has a similar problem of inherited debt that really isn't their fault.

And I think Panavision's method of being rental-only still makes sense for Hollywood. Despite the low cost of Red cameras, most productions are one-time only temporary entities for liability reasons and they don't want to start owning a lot of stuff.

But as for the transition to digital, that's going to be tough for Panavision simply because digital cameras are not really something you can completely develop and manufacture in-house. And the R&D costs are higher and the returns are lower because the darn cameras will be obsolete several years after they are released, unlike a Panaflex.

It's the same problem Kodak is going through, once they move into digital, they will just be one of several major companies doing that work and their profits will be much slimmer due to competition.

I don't think just buying a bunch of Reds is going to help Panavision either though; they are quite picky about quality control and performance and aren't going to be satisfied by other company's decisions regarding choices of lens mounts, OPLF, color filters, etc. They did a lot of re-working of the F900 when they bought them. And Sony incorporated a lot of the ideas of Panavision and Clairmont when they built the F23 and F35 to meet the higher standards of cinema production.

Panavision is in a similar boat to ARRI, which is how does a film camera company switch over to a radically different type of technology that involves electronics and sensors that can't be manufactured in-house? Do they re-invent the wheel or keep partnering with other companies like Sony (Panavision) or the Franhoufer Institute (ARRI)?

Let's face it, building lenses for Red's FF35 line is not going to save Panavision, that's not enough.

Given that the move to digital is inevitable, Panavision sort of has three options: (1) keep doing what it is doing, which is building more Genesis and buying more F35's and adapting them when tape is dead to become data cameras, basically relying on whatever Sony develops; (2) partnering with another digital camera company than Sony (maybe Canon?); (3) spending a lot of capital and going into more debt to set-up an in-house digital camera design and manufacturing company, perhaps only going outside for the sensor.

Probably what they should do is design a digital cinema camera from the ground-up that is modular enough to allow upgrades to the sensor and processor while retaining the body, etc. Basically a digital Panaflex I guess. But there's no way around the fact that Panavision will probably have to shrink a bit and become leaner.
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#5 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 10:51 AM

Yeah, but if they designed their own modular digital camera from the ground up, they would probably be reinventing the same wheel that Jannard has been hard at work on now for years -- with a huge head start. Red has been quiet for over 6 months now, but this is simply the calm before a huge storm. IMO, Panavision would be wise to pivot on a dime and embrace DSMC as one of its platforms. Why fight what's coming? A lot of people dismissed claims that Epic would be the ultimate "film slayer" but I doubt there are many skeptics left.

I do think you make a great suggestion, though, David, with respect to Canon. Canon has the ability to compete quickly with Jim Jannard. They possess incredible technology and resources.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 11:24 AM

Yeah, but if they designed their own modular digital camera from the ground up, they would probably be reinventing the same wheel that Jannard has been hard at work on now for years -- with a huge head start. Red has been quiet for over 6 months now, but this is simply the calm before a huge storm. IMO, Panavision would be wise to pivot on a dime and embrace DSMC as one of its platforms. Why fight what's coming? A lot of people dismissed claims that Epic would be the ultimate "film slayer" but I doubt there are many skeptics left.

I do think you make a great suggestion, though, David, with respect to Canon. Canon has the ability to compete quickly with Jim Jannard. They possess incredible technology and resources.


Panavision may opt for that, but as I said, they are pretty picky and I know they won't be happy with some of the choices Red makes in terms of color mosaic filters, IR filtration, OLPF, metal used for lens mounts, etc. -- things that make the Red affordable to own, but things that a rental only camera doesn't need to compromise on. Panavision has done a lot of testing of the Red One and I think they feel that a lot of compromises were made in order to get the manufacturing price down to where it is. The sensor, for example, seems to have been made for industrial use and picked for its resolution over its color response, which seems to be sub-Rec 709, particularly weak in the blue-purple range, which is one reason there is so much noise in those colors when you expand the saturation back out. I mean, I can only conclude that the reason the Red One is one of the most sensitive cameras on the market for IR pollution is that it would have made the camera more expensive to put a better IR filter in it (or maybe it would have made the camera less sensitive.)

But maybe the performance of these upcoming DSMC cameras will exceed expectations. But then Panavision will just be one of hundreds of rental houses with the same gear, just as Technicolor became just another Kodak ECN/ECP plant once they dropped their dye transfer system.

I still can't agree that the Epic will be a "film slayer" -- every new camera about to be released is called that by someone, so until it actually happens, it's a bit silly to place so much faith in a non-existent camera. I'm sure that the next generation of digital cameras will continue the process of transition away from film, that's about all you can be sure of.

I mean, think back three years to how much faith people had that the upcoming "4K" Red camera was going to destroy Panavision, ARRI, and Sony.... on paper, it looked formidable. Now all the folks at RedUser who said those things are saying it again for the DSMC line. Eventually they'll be right, I guess that's one way to look at predictions. Or you could say that they have always been wrong.

I remember the guy that used to post here in 1999, 2000, 2001, etc. that film was dead and that every home would have HDTV in it by the next year. And every upcoming camera was "the film killer". He even called the DVX100 a "film killer"! After four years in a row of making those predictions, the guy basically disappeared. But you know, eventually he'll be right and then he'll reappear to say "I told you so! Film is dead and every home has HDTV in it!"

But getting away from the prediction game, the question is what will make Panavision a unique company and label if they just rent other people's digital cameras? Lenses alone aren't going to do it.
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#7 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 11:32 AM

I guess unique lenses, service, top-notch cameras.... there are a lot of things to admire about Panavision. But their model will probably have to change. Maybe chapter 11 could clear their books, for starters. I don't know.

In all fairness, I never thought or predicted that Red One was the film slayer. Going back years, I have always maintained that Red's second offering, Epic, would be the nail in the coffin for film. But of course Genesis, Viper, Arri, and Sony's offerings have all been pounding away at this. It was interesting to read in the article how quickly digital has taken over TV shows.

I think Epic and DSMC's impact on the business will be far greater than many are even predicting right now. I could be wrong. We'll see.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 12:22 PM

I think Epic and DSMC's impact on the business will be far greater than many are even predicting right now. I could be wrong. We'll see.


Well, they certainly look cool. I'm not sure when they will be delivered though.
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#9 Michael Most

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 12:52 PM

It was interesting to read in the article how quickly digital has taken over TV shows.


Even more interesting to note that the vast, vast majority of those shows are going to Genesis, F35, F23, and some use of 900s (and their successors) and Panasonic. I might be wrong, but I don't know of any network shows other than Southland going to Red. Some cable series have (Leverage and The Cleaner come to mind), but not network programs. That's not to say they won't, just that as of now, they haven't.
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 02:05 PM

Even more interesting to note that the vast, vast majority of those shows are going to Genesis, F35, F23, and some use of 900s (and their successors) and Panasonic.


Yup. We have one cable show on Red. The rest of the lineup is network, and as the season starts up, there are 7 on Genesis, 2 on F23, and one each on F35 and Panasonic. Some had been talking about Red, but interest in it just evaporated a few weeks ago.

Edit 7-23: One of the Genesis shows has changed to F35, because the Genesis bodies are all booked.





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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 07:13 PM

It was interesting to read in the article how quickly digital has taken over TV shows.

Yeah, but for reasons of cheapness, and political issues with actors' contracts and so on.
NOTHING to do with quality.
Panavision's F900 CineAltas are all nearly 10 years old.
They're the same cameras now as they were in 1999.
Meanwhile film stocks have improved considerably.
Yet, F900s are replacing film in a lot of shows.
But presumably they weren't good enough ten years ago.
Apart from the usual one-size-fits-all response that the production people are all idiots, (AKA "No True Scotsman") can you explain this?
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#12 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 07:17 PM

Going back years, I have always maintained that Red's second offering, Epic, would be the nail in the coffin for film.

"Going Back Years?"

The RED project has only been going for three years
The Epic was only announced late last year.
The RED One was also supposed to "make obsolescence obsolete"...

Explain?
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#13 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 07:29 PM

Even more interesting to note that the vast, vast majority of those shows are going to Genesis, F35, F23, and some use of 900s (and their successors) and Panasonic. I might be wrong, but I don't know of any network shows other than Southland going to Red. Some cable series have (Leverage and The Cleaner come to mind), but not network programs. That's not to say they won't, just that as of now, they haven't.

Given the amount of Hype, it would be surprising if nobody thought the RED was worth a try.
But that doesn't mean they're not going to try other formats as well.
There have been surges of interest in the use of video acquisition in the past, but people still drifted back to film when the Hype failed to match the reality.
I still think the real dealbreaker is going to be the sudden consumer uptake of large-screen HDTV sets.
In the past I would have been saddened to see shows like CSI relegated to the final indignity of video origination, but the scripts have become so awful lately that I just don't care anymore...

Oh well, Dance Your Ass Off premieres here tonight.
Talk about your ultimate Format Agnostic product... :P
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 07:35 PM

Panavision's F900 CineAltas are all nearly 10 years old.
They're the same cameras now as they were in 1999.


IIRC, they did some firmware updates on the F900's, I remember a version 3 -- but not sure if it could be loaded into the older cameras.



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#15 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 08:51 PM

I remember the guy that used to post here in 1999, 2000, 2001, etc. that film was dead and that every home would have HDTV in it by the next year. And every upcoming camera was "the film killer". He even called the DVX100 a "film killer"! After four years in a row of making those predictions, the guy basically disappeared. But you know, eventually he'll be right and then he'll reappear to say "I told you so! Film is dead and every home has HDTV in it!"

Was this forum here ten years ago?

Anyway, long before the Internet became mainstream, most people's sources of such information consisted of Glossy "Industry" publications which were mailed out unsolicited to anybody they thought might be interested. The SMPTE journal used to periodically publish a complete list of the names and contact details of all its members, and every time they did that, there would be another onslaught of Broadcast-video-related "Junk Mail" in my letterbox.

Some of the articles were interesting, but it was painfully obvious that 99% of the editorial content was really "Adver-torial", to please their advertisers.
Film was well and truly dead (again) in 1988, everybody would be watching NHK's "MUSE" analog HDTV system by 1992 and so on.

There are a few stellar examples of this that I know I've got stored away somewhere. One was the 1985 article that said basically: "Don't buy Betacam!. All-digital solid-state video recording will be here by the middle of next year! "(As you say, this prediction eventually came true, about a quarter century later :-)

Another was a certain UK publication that marked its first ten years of operation with a retrospective article on the predictions it made in its very first issue. Every single one was 100% wrong, and they seemed proud of the fact....
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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 06:08 AM

Oh well, Dance Your Ass Off premieres here tonight.
Talk about your ultimate Format Agnostic product... :P

What the hey ... ?
It's in 4:3 format!

What's wrong with you people?!
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#17 Serge Teulon

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 06:47 AM

In all fairness, I never thought or predicted that Red One was the film slayer. Going back years, I have always maintained that Red's second offering, Epic, would be the nail in the coffin for film.


Hey Tom,

Don't you think that your claim about the Epic is a big presumption with no physical and factual information proof? Unless you do have some.....?!
I do remember a lot of ppl saying that the Red was going to make film obsolete.....it hasn't and as we all know now, it won't.

It seems that the results at the BSC Evaluation show, which I didn't attend due to work, completely snatched the carpet from under the Reds' feet....

My thoughts are that with the Reds' ethos of making their products affordable to everyone, I therefore doubt that the Epic will compete with the F35's and Genesis's level of components etc...

Edited by Serge Teulon, 21 July 2009 - 06:49 AM.

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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 10:12 AM

The Epic is priced much higher than the Red One, and I think the intent is to make sure it is well-built and professional, hence the higher costs.
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#19 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 11:48 AM

I have always maintained that Red's second offering, Epic, would be the nail in the coffin for film.


Given that Kodak's print sales volume vastly exceeds negative sales, it won't be a digital camera that kills film, it will be digital projection.
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#20 Tom Lowe

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 01:03 PM

I'm not sure why people are directing criticisms of Red One toward me. Why? I have never had much interest in that camera, and I am fully aware of its limitations. I don't own one, don't shoot on one, etc. I have always thought R1 was really a prototype, and that Jim's second offering would be the game changer -- the "film slayer." The fact that Jim could put out a prototype and make this much impact speaks volumes about what he's going to do with his first fully realized offering -- Epic and DSMC. He's being quiet about it and taking enough time to get it right. Believe me, this is the calm before the storm.

The initial Epic was announced quite some time back, and several of us at Reduser spent significant amounts of time and effort lobbying for various features, not the least of which was full-frame 35mm -- what we called then "Digital Vista Vision." Many people mocked the idea of digital vista vision. They are not mocking it any more.

People started posting about the Red at DVXuser back in 2006, Keith. Yes, it's been "years."

Rival companies will underestimate the impact of Epic at their own peril.

To me, it' as clear as a sunny day right after it rained the night before -- the future of motion cinema is 6K+ FF35 RAW.
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