Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Documentary Colorist Reel

Important: for optimal viewing in full screen mode, turn scaling off.   Trust me, it won't look like it should otherwise.

I uploaded one of my colorist reels yesterday.  This reel is focused on more meat and potatoes type of corrections particularly pertinent to documentary films (especially footage shot under less than ideal conditions) rather than more flashy Hollywood-type effects or putting a subtle sheen on really well shot and lit footage.  I understand and do that type of work as well but will showcase that on a separate, narrative reel. 

My next couple of posts will focus on working with a colorist, well working with me as a colorist.  There is no one approach to color grading. Working with a colorist can encompass a wide range of experiences from  paying $600/hour in a high-end house to working with someone in their bedroom, and a whole world in-between.  The thing that is important for me is that people understand what to expect when they start the process and to be able to make intelligent choices.  

I am very interested in getting feedback on the reel and also hearing questions/topics filmmakers would like me to talk about with regard to the process of color correction.  Please feel free to email/IM me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free the Bits

Is there latency in your packet shaping, or are you just glad to see me?

It has been speculated for years that bandwidth providers (that'd be phone and cable companies) in the U.S. are slowing innovation and capacity increases on their networks.  Don't take my word for it, even the conservative Wall Street Journal is finally on board.  Why would they want to do that?  It seems mostly like a waiting game, trying to put off the day when entertainment users can download content as easily as music lovers were able to download mp3's back in the day.   These companies fear the day that their lucrative (and in the case of cable companies, local monopolies) businesses models that have served them so well are changed.   The companies that own the pipelines and distribution are increasingly the companies that own the content,  say NBC/Comcast or Time Warner.

What does that mean, besides the fact the people pay huge cable bills and still cannot pick (and only pay for) exactly what content they want delivered?  Now there's a radical idea, not paying for the Golf Channel because you don't want it.   For one thing, it means that innovation in new media forms are being stifled.  There are people out there with ideas out there that cannot be tried because they just are not feasible given data constraints.  It is in the interest of these companies to keep you passively watching cable TV and at best letting you DVR it so you can watch it on your schedule.  Forget interactivity, forget mob-sourcing, forget just about anything that isn't pretty much just a sickly derivative of the same stuff that's we've been watching for the past 60 years.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years, especially with regard to decreased innovation.  Why is this important?  Culture is big business in the U.S.  It is a huge export product as well as being a political tool.  Will Hollywood become like GM and lose it's market share and profitability to other foreign producers through willfully slowing innovation and clinging to dying business models in order to control (slowly dwindling) profits?  Remember, in the 1960's it seemed inconceivable that Japanese cars were anything other than oddities to American consumers.   People laughed at the cars, their size and their quality.  With the democratization of media production, isn't there a whole world full of people out there now with their own media creation dreams?

The U.S. currently ranks #28 in Internet access speed and and "is not making significant progress in building a faster network."  The average download speed in Korea is four times faster than it is in the U.S.  And upload speeds, key for interactive media, those are even slower, usually by an order of 2-3X.  How long will consumers raised on interactivity and the belief that they are all media creators be willing to live with that?  And given the recent performance of U.S. mobile broadband providers like AT&T, will the future be more of the same?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Good Old Days are Gone

Interactive,  multi-media experience circa. 1973

Nice short article here in Advertising Age with observations about how media consumption patterns are going to change, quickly, with the coming generation of infants that are immersed from birth with multi-touch, interactive media tools.  The human mind is a plastic thing, malleable, and many people are predicting the demise of the type of deep thinking that we typically associate with reading and, well, reflective thinking.  Interestingly, there's a decent NY Times article here today that explores the effects of immersing the human brain in an increasingly digital environment.  It pays to remember that  generally TV and most film never induced a deep-thinking type of brain activity, so I guess the difference is the length and type of media immersion that we are experiencing.

We don't understand the long term evolutionary impacts due to changes to the format, interactivity or length of media experience.  But, I think it is safe to say that media creators need to be thinking hard about what they're doing.  The old dominant command and control structure of large media companies seems even more vulnerable as young consumers search for more personal and, well, interesting media experiences rather than the one-size-fits-many approach that is still surprisingly prevalent today.  Or, it is possible that alternatively the bulk of society will be feeding their children slightly modified interactive marketing intended to create lifelong brand loyalties from infancy, delivered through ever cheaper e-waste produced offshore.  Only time will tell the story on that.

It should be a really exciting time to be a young media creator.  Many of the constraints of the past are being thrown aside and the people who can visualize the future will be the new powers.  Media creation is more decentralized, less "heavy industry" and more nimble than it used to be.  People starting small production companies now should have relationships with developers and information architects as well as with camera people, electricians or animators.  They will also require new types of creatives.  People who understand how to create satisfying and intimate experiences for the users (note, not consumers) of their media.  Personally, I think it's good and that there will be some real pioneers in the next few years who breakthrough in reaching people in a way they've never been reached by media before.  I think it's reasonable to expect that in the not-too-distant future, the kids of today will be laughing (hopefully) at what we accepted as entertainment.

We're ready for the future here.

Will the future of media production be more "boutique-oriented"?  There will probably be an element of that start-up type culture, which will eventually grow into a more complex, mature industry.  Disruptions to the current model are just beginning and people who are waiting for things to get "better" may be disappointed.  I can't help but wonder whether the schools that are churning out "film school" graduates, particularly the 1 year or 6 month certificate-type programs, are preparing their students for careers in 1995 Hollywood.   It seems to me that the future media maker is going to have to be more and more nimble and manage their career in ways that unionized workers never had to consider.   But, if you're young and smart, you should be excited because your time is coming and our environment will be more media saturated than ever.   Those who don't adapt may be relegating themselves to a never-ending life of low paying, non-unionized freelance work, with no benefits and scrambling even for that work.  

I'd really love to hear other people's thoughts about what the future is going to bring to media creation.  People seem to be getting so distracted by things like 3D and new cameras (and learning endless workflows that seem to become obsolete in a year) that I worry they are not seeing the bigger picture.