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A Blast From The Past


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 06:18 AM

I'm afraid I really did "Laugh Out Loud". :lol:

I was just reading a magazine article where the writer was commenting that it was exactly 10 years since:

"Sony then developed an HDTV recording and editing system, which was loaned to Hollywood as a replacement for film. But Hollywood didn't buy, finding film cheaper and easier to use with better picture quality"

Nothing unusual there, I hear you say.

Yes, but the magazine in question was the April 1994 issue of the now defunct publication: Electronics and Wireless World, that I found during a cleanout at work. He wrote that 15 years ago!

So it's hard to believe, but it's been more than 25 years since Sony et al first declared that film shooting and processing would henceforth no longer be required.

In 1984 Betacam for all practical purposes didn't exist. Most TV studios still used 2" quad videotape machines, although 1" C-Format was making inroads.

The company I worked for used JVC KY910 3-tube cameras and Ampex VPR20 portable C-Format machines that were the size of a small suitcase and weighed a ton (or so it seemed).

The miracle of the age was the Quantel Mirage, a 7-figure video effects effects machine that could just about do a quarter of the effects I can do with Windows Movie Maker, but not as well.

But, Digital Cinematography was ready to go....

As a wise man once said: "The technology has evolved beyond all recognition, but the B.S. remains firmly rooted in the 1980s..."
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#2 David Auner aac

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 06:24 AM

So it's hard to believe, but it's been more than 25 years since Sony et al first declared that film shooting and processing would henceforth no longer be required.


Hi Keith,

when my camera tech started his apprenticeship as a film camera technician at the precursor of the SWR in Germany, he was told by many not to do take up that job. They all said that video was just around the corner and would kill of film really quick. Nothing spectacular so far, right? But that was in 1951!!!

Cheers, Dave
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 06:43 AM

What I often wonder about is, what happened to all the analog HDTV Post-Production equipment that so many companies proudly announced they had just installed in the early 1990s.

Their press releases sound eerily like those of companies who have more recently invested big in a certain acquisition format that is currently getting a lot of sand kicked in its face :rolleyes:
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 01:05 PM

Their press releases sound eerily like those of companies who have more recently invested big in a certain acquisition format that is currently getting a lot of sand kicked in its face :rolleyes:


What format is that, S16?

Digital has been here to stay for FIVE years now. It has become firmly rooted in the dramatic TV market. *Over half* of the movies playing at the local multiplex are digitally-originated.

How much does your boat have to sink before you stop taunting the school of circling sharks???
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 02:17 PM

*Over half* of the movies playing at the local multiplex are digitally-originated.


I'm not doubting you per se Karl but do you have hard data for this figure?

I'm just wondering where you get your data from?

R,
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#6 John Holland

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 02:28 PM

Karl think you may have got your facts wrong there !! from a " A Blast from the Past "
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 03:39 PM

What I often wonder about is, what happened to all the analog HDTV Post-Production equipment that so many companies proudly announced they had just installed in the early 1990s.


At least here in LA, there really wasn't all that much of it. The post houses didn't invest big until the Spirits and HDCam.




-- J.S.
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#8 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:10 PM

I'm not doubting you per se Karl but do you have hard data for this figure?

I'm just wondering where you get your data from?

R,

I fear Karl's Medical Insurer may be forced to impose a limit (or an excess) on Proctological Repair procedures, if he keeps posting as vigorously as he has been on this forum. I believe Tom Lowe faces a similar restriction :lol:

In any case Karl, why don't try to read people's posts more a bit more carefully before risking more personal sphincter damage.

The big prediction of a quarter century ago was the imminent replacement of film-based production techniques with what was basically nothing more than souped-up TV production equipment. It only took about *15-20* years but yes, most cinematic release feature films are now post-produced electronically, the so-called "Digital Intermediate". Which is essentially the same way things had been done in TV studios for decades, admittedly only at SDTV resolution.

The big joke is not the prediction that one day these things might eventually happen, but that so many people at the time were thoroughly convinced that the technology of the day was good enough. Which simply says that the commentators were either straight-out wannabe's or insignificant Industry players, who simply had no idea what they were talking about. Some things never change....

*Over half* of the movies playing at the local multiplex are digitally-originated.

Yeah? Name them.

Edited by Keith Walters, 06 November 2009 - 04:12 PM.

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#9 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:29 PM

At least here in LA, there really wasn't all that much of it. The post houses didn't invest big until the Spirits and HDCam.

-- J.S.

It's true weren't that many, but there seemed to be at least one outfit in every major city around the world where TV production was "clustered", who proudly proclaimed that **THEY** were getting in on the "ground floor" of Analog HDTV and therefore should henceforth be taken seriously.

Same ol' same ol: Somebody footed the bill for all this, who as like as not knew nothing about TV production but was sucked in by the usual hyperventilated Fanboy-speak, and lost their shirt :lol:
Everybody else probably thought they could afford to wait and see what happened, which was precisely squat.

It's too long ago now, but I particularly remember reading all the breathless articles about truly truly riveting (non broadcast) projects they were working on, as they were going down for the third time. Car shows seemed to be a particular favourite for some reason, Music Videos, not so much....

A generation on, not too much has changed.
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#10 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:52 PM

How much does your boat have to sink before you stop taunting the school of circling sharks???


My boat? WTF are you talking about now? :blink:

In any case, sharks don't circle, they just sort of hang around in a group. What would be the point of wasting energy swimming in a circle?
They're nowhere near smart enough to associate a sinking ship with a food source either.
And they never swim with their dorsal fin poking out of the water like you see in the movies.
Only dolphins do that.
Sharks rarely attack living people. Statistically, that almost never happens. Crocodiles kill far more people, but drowning kills far more people than either one.
Most sharks appear to mistake live humans for dolphins, which are extremely dangerous to sharks, so the usually keep well away. (Fortunately dolphins also seem to mistake us for other dolphins).
Most of the incidents of human body parts found in shark stomachs are simply the result of sharks scavenging the bodies of people who have drowned.
The vast majority of shark species are completely harmless to humans.
So lay off sharks.
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#11 Dominic Case

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 05:12 PM

So it's hard to believe, but it's been more than 25 years since Sony et al first declared that film shooting and processing would henceforth no longer be required.

But this pales into insignificance by comparison with the Variety headline "Film is Dead". (Oh how often that has been quoted!).

That was published in 1956 (+/- a year, can't be sure offhand). It headed the announcement of

Ampex's

first video tape recorder.

So I don't think there was anything original about the Sony position in the 80s.
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#12 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 07:08 PM

But this pales into insignificance by comparison with the Variety headline "Film is Dead". (Oh how often that has been quoted!).

That was published in 1956 (+/- a year, can't be sure offhand). It headed the announcement of first video tape recorder.


I've written a number of historical articles for electronics magazines, and I find there is absolutely no substitute for ferretting out books and magazines that were actually published at the time the events took place.

I've tried for some time to track down a copy of the original Variety article on the Internet and it seems to have completely evaporated, whether by accident or design I'm not sure.

However the Google News Archive search function has turned up quite a few related stories from 1957, and I'm now beginning to wonder whether this whole "Film is Dead" thing might have been due to a complete misunderstanding of the terminogy.

There were certainly a lot of other "Film is Dead" type news articles written in those days, but they were all specifically referring to the replacement of the "Kinescope" recording system, that is, shooting a film copy of a TV program off a TV monitor. (Until videotape came along, that was the only practical method of recording live TV programs).

Kinescopes at their best still gave pretty diabolical results, and so even the earliest VTRs were a vast improvement, and eliminated the need for processing, darkrooms etc. It's easy to see why broadcasters would be so enthusiastic about this change, but since very few people outside the TV industry would even understand what a Kinescope actually was, it's also easy to see how the original story may have been misinterpreted.

They may have actually meant: "Kinescopes are Dead"! They are, and good riddance.

So I don't think there was anything original about the Sony position in the 80s.


But the 50's stories still at least sound like something written in the 1950s.
What was comical in this case was that I was able quote something verbatim from a magazine published 15 years ago, that sounded exactly like it could have been written yesterday.
It's sort of like those desk calendar quotes that sound like a modern politician sounding off, but were actually written thousands of years ago.

I thought it was rather cute when Lemac first started renting RED cameras, they had a mock headline on their site: "Videotape is dead!!!"
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#13 K Borowski

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 08:06 PM

I'm not doubting you per se Karl but do you have hard data for this figure?

I'm just wondering where you get your data from?

R,


The local multiplex down the street was, as of last Thursday, playing digital movies on almost 60% of their screens. This has since changed, but I don't see HD movies as disappearing guys, sorry.

That's wishful thinking I can relate to, personally, but is still wishful, nonetheless.

"Zombieland" a bunch of CG cartoons, two screens playing of "This is It", & "Paranormal Activity" rounded out the order.

That number is going to go down with the big holiday blockbusters coming out, and my local theatre's playlist is arbitrary, but that's the highest I've ever seen the prevalence of digital movies go. I've *never* seen a theatre with more than half its screens playing digital movies before.


The list of dramatic television shows in the U.S. I have, from last season, had only 45% opting for S16 and 35mm film. The number has, I think, since gotten lower.


I've come to expect Keith's grandstanding, but I don't' get your post on this one, John. I'm just trying to say that an article from 14 years ago has no relevance today.
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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 10:25 PM

The local multiplex down the street was, as of last Thursday, playing digital movies on almost 60% of their screens. This has since changed, but I don't see HD movies as disappearing guys, sorry.

That's wishful thinking I can relate to, personally, but is still wishful, nonetheless.

"Zombieland" a bunch of CG cartoons, two screens playing of "This is It", & "Paranormal Activity" rounded out the order.


Hmmm, I was kinda hoping for an official chart published by the MPAA, that showed title and format.

Your approach isn't really all that "scientific". ;)

R,
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#15 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 11:49 PM

Hmmm, I was kinda hoping for an official chart published by the MPAA, that showed title and format.


Mr Boddington, you have this appalling habit of wanting to bring FACTS into the discussion all the time. You know how that upsets people.
Facts should be kept firmly where they belong: In Hollywood movie scripts and on daytime chat shows.

Anyway, can't talk now. Yesterday we had two inches of rain here, hence I've just realized (using the Borowski theorem) that our annual rainfall must be 730 inches (734 if it's a leap year), so I have to make plans for the flood that's sure to come :rolleyes:
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#16 Thomas James

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 12:31 AM

The problem with Sony's implementation of HDTV in 1984 as an alternative to film was not that it was not a good idea but that it used inferior 1080i interlace scanning which was very difficult at the time to compress digitally. Had Sony chosen the fully progressive 720p format and insisted on a fully digital implementation they could have made a lot of inroads a lot sooner. Unfortunately most people do not consider 720p to be a legitimate high definition format even though it outresolves both 1080i, 1080p and 35mm film for its temporal resolution.
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#17 Ruairi Robinson

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 05:23 AM

The problem with Sony's implementation of HDTV in 1984 as an alternative to film was not that it was not a good idea but that it used inferior 1080i interlace scanning which was very difficult at the time to compress digitally. Had Sony chosen the fully progressive 720p format and insisted on a fully digital implementation they could have made a lot of inroads a lot sooner. Unfortunately most people do not consider 720p to be a legitimate high definition format even though it outresolves both 1080i, 1080p and 35mm film for its temporal resolution.



Why do you keep banging on about 720p? Its too bloody soft. Its not good enough.

R.
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#18 Keith Walters

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 06:42 AM

The problem with Sony's implementation of HDTV in 1984 as an alternative to film was not that it was not a good idea but that it used inferior 1080i interlace scanning which was very difficult at the time to compress digitally. Had Sony chosen the fully progressive 720p format and insisted on a fully digital implementation they could have made a lot of inroads a lot sooner. Unfortunately most people do not consider 720p to be a legitimate high definition format even though it outresolves both 1080i, 1080p and 35mm film for its temporal resolution.

Erm ... how exactly can 720p outperform 1080p?

Actually the original Sony system used 1035 active picture lines out of a total of 1125 lines.
Their first attempt at HD cameras using Saticon tunes were pretty useless, since doubling the resolution of any camera tube will produce at minimum a 16-fold (4 stop) reduction in sensitivity. They only obtained workable results in the late 1980s with their so-called "HARP" (Hybrid Amorphous Rushing Photoconductor) Saticons, which used avalanche breakdown in a selenium layer to try to improve the sensitivity.

Apart from the fact that they readily admitted that they really didn't understand how the HARP mechanism worked, the tubes had a very short operational life, produced terrible comet-tailing, and could be fried by pointing them at an overly bright studio light. Basically they were sh!thouse cameras.

"1080i interlace scanning which was very difficult at the time to compress digitally."

Extremely difficult, particularly since DCT-based image compression as we know it wasn't even invented until 1988.
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#19 K Borowski

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 06:45 PM

*Over half* of the movies playing at the [EMPHASIS ADDED]local multiplex[/EMPHASIS ADDED] are digitally-originated.


Richard, Keith: My original statement, nonetheless, is perfectly factual.

I'm sorry, I would have no idea how to get access to an unbiased chart of every movie playing in the U.S., broken down by number of screens for each film, or what?

While television is easy to break down, and I do have a chart of that, but there are many many different ways of breaking down the number of films shown on different screens in different parts of the world.

Even an objective breakdown of the movies playing in the U.S. wouldn't be fair to Canada, Mexico, Australasia, U.K., Europe etc, etc.


So if someone wants to do go ahead and do an objective breakdown taking into account play week, number of screens, regionality of market, and geographical location, go for it. I am afraid I simply haven't the time.


While my analysis is far from authoritative, and I haven't kept regular track of the local multiplex's digital penetration on a regular basis for the past two years, I have never observed, once, more than 25% of its movies being digital.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 07 November 2009 - 06:46 PM.

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#20 Keith Walters

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 08:04 PM

Richard, Keith: My original statement, nonetheless, is perfectly factual.

What are you, a defence lawyer?

We're talking about the "forever imminent" replacement of film cameras with video cameras.

"One off" brief events in microscopic multiplexes don't count.

Animated features don't count.

"This is it" is an accidental project cobbled together from footage never intended for public consumption

Including multiple screenings of the same feature in your count of "digital" features broke the needle on my Dumb-o-Meter.

Your statement is a classical example of statistical abuse.

It's like there was a severe winter and 10 people died. Five were over 90 years old, the others were babies under 12 months old, so therefore the average of age death was 44, even though nobody aged anywhere near 44 actually died.

Edited by Keith Walters, 07 November 2009 - 08:05 PM.

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