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#1 of 59 Robert Harris

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Posted July 19 2011 - 01:50 PM


Lab pact heralds twilight of film

Deluxe, Technicolor agree to combine film services

The death knell for 35mm film production has just gotten a lot louder.

Citing collapsing demand for film prints as theaters shift to digital projectors, lab giants Technicolor and Deluxe have struck subcontracting agreements that edge them toward an end to their century-old competition in 35mm release printing.

Under the agreements, Deluxe will take over 35mm release printing for the major studios in the U.S. and Canada beginning this week. Technicolor will exit the 35mm print business in those territories and Monday shuttered its print plant in Mirabel, Quebec, resulting in the loss of 178 jobs. It will retain its print lab in Montreal for small orders. (The new Technicolor plant in Glendale, Calif., will specialize in 65mm and 70mm prints.)

Deluxe will exit the film print distribution business in the U.S., contracting that work out to Technicolor facilities in Ontario, Canada, and Wilmington, Ohio. As a result, Deluxe will close its print distribution depots in the U.S. in September. Once the deals are in full effect, almost all U.S. film prints will be struck at a Deluxe lab but distributed by Technicolor.

Outside North America, Technicolor's Thailand plant will take over release printing for Deluxe in the territory, ending Deluxe's existing relationship with a local affiliate; and within a week Technicolor will take over front-end processing of 35mm and 16mm film negatives for Deluxe in the U.K. That processing will be done out of Technicolor's Pinewood facility.

Deluxe said in a statement that the move comes "as a result of digital image capture overtaking film capture."

"There is still a very good business on the release print side in North America," Cyril Drabinsky, prexy-CEO of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group told Variety, adding, "35mm release printing in Europe is still very, very healthy."

Drabinsky predicted film printing will continue to decline but that the decline will flatten out over the next five years.

Technicolor, which is governed by French securities laws, is under a quiet period in advance of its July 28 earnings report and could not make its executives available for comment.

However, both companies stress that these are subcontracting agreements, and that they are not forming a new joint venture. In effect, each of the long-standing rivals becomes the other's client in a narrow part of their business.

And those areas are indeed narrow. Technicolor and Deluxe continue to have rival printing operations, at least for now, in London, Rome and Spain. Deluxe has a print plant in Australia serving the Asia-Pacific region; Technicolor serves that region from its Thai facility. Companies will also continue to offer competing front-end services such as color grading and mastering.

The companies cited the rapidly diminishing demand for film prints as the driver behind the deals. They expect more than half the screens in North America to be digital by the end of 2011.

Both companies have been shifting their business away from photochemical processing and printing and diversifying into post-production and digital services. The deals do not affect production or distribution of digital cinema packages.

Both companies' plants will continue to use both Kodak and Fuji print stock and the companies say they are committed to maintaining the same quality their clients are used to. Deluxe and Technicolor expect their existing studio deals to continue unaffected by these subcontracting arrangements.

The studios were not apprised of the deals in advance, nor were Technicolor's employees at Mirabel, who got pinkslips Monday.

Contact David S. Cohen at david.cohen@variety.com


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#2 of 59 JohnMor

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Posted July 19 2011 - 06:08 PM

I totally understand, and I realize it isn't vanishing completely (yet), but it's still sad to me. There's just something about the physical medium of film that I find so romantic and, of course, historic.  Sigh.  


#3 of 59 Rick Thompson

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Posted July 19 2011 - 10:56 PM

The fact is, digital will never equal the resolution of continuous-tone film. Hollywood will go the path of "good enough is good enough." Whatever digital resolution is chosen for feature films, it will never be better once originally filmed. (Note how we can keep scanning film at high and higher resolutions as displays improve. That won't happen with, say, the Star Wars prequels.) And heaven help something shot in a no longer supported format! But hey -- it'll save a few bucks. All hail the future of (not quite) high resolution movies!

#4 of 59 Worth

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Posted July 20 2011 - 02:32 AM

The fact is, digital will never equal the resolution of continuous-tone film. Hollywood will go the path of "good enough is good enough." Whatever digital resolution is chosen for feature films, it will never be better once originally filmed. (Note how we can keep scanning film at high and higher resolutions as displays improve. That won't happen with, say, the Star Wars prequels.) And heaven help something shot in a no longer supported format! But hey -- it'll save a few bucks. All hail the future of (not quite) high resolution movies!

Speaking as someone who still prefers film over digital, that's complete nonsense. Digital has made huge strides in the last decade and I have little doubt that it will equal and eventually surpass the quality of film in all objective measures. And I don't think you'll find many people arguing that you need to scan 35mm film at anything beyond 4K to capture everything the negative is capable of resolving. Even now, 2K digital projection offers a significant improvement over standard 35mm release prints in most areas.
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#5 of 59 Scott Calvert

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Posted July 20 2011 - 02:55 AM

Speaking as someone who still prefers film over digital, that's complete nonsense. Digital has made huge strides in the last decade and I have little doubt that it will equal and eventually surpass the quality of film in all objective measures. And I don't think you'll find many people arguing that you need to scan 35mm film at anything beyond 4K to capture everything the negative is capable of resolving. Even now, 2K digital projection offers a significant improvement over standard 35mm release prints in most areas.

I see stair-stepping and pixels in my digital cinema experiences. Something about those artifacts drives me up the wall and takes me out of the movie. Like I just spent $12 to watch a big TV. I dunno if those were 4K presentations though.

#6 of 59 Eloyloy

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Posted July 20 2011 - 03:13 AM

I am not a fan of digital either in music nor in movies.. I do not like the glossy, flat look of digital films.. Unfortunately, the majority of new films are shot digitally and released using digital film projection. Standard 16, 35, and 70 MM have a look that is special and unique. Thankfully, 1080P Blus show film grain if authored correctly. Deluxe and Technicolor are 2 great companies that have given us thousands of grand film prints. I am looking forward to viewing the future works of Deluxe as this transition occurs. Can you list some releases from 2010/2011 that were shot on film using the Deluxe or Technicolor process?

#7 of 59 Worth

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Posted July 20 2011 - 03:15 AM

Film projection still has the edge in dynamic range and colour resolution, but digital already offers superior resolution and stability, and there's no degredation over time - no scratches, fading etc. (though long term storage is another issue). Give it a few more years and it will equal film in those other areas. That said, there's something about the "look" of film that I like and will miss when it's gone.
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#8 of 59 Worth

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Posted July 20 2011 - 03:18 AM

I am not a fan of digital either in music nor in movies.. I do not like the glossy, flat look of digital films.. Unfortunately, the majority of new films are shot digitally and released using digital film projection.

Actually, most film and television production is still shot on 35mm, though theatrical exhibition is increasingly going digital.
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#9 of 59 TravisR

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Posted July 20 2011 - 04:44 AM

Actually, most film and television production is still shot on 35mm, though theatrical exhibition is increasingly going digital.

My understanding is that most TV shows have gone digital.

#10 of 59 Worth

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Posted July 20 2011 - 05:24 AM

My understanding is that most TV shows have gone digital.

Sorry, I should have specified television dramas. Here's a list of shows shot on film, though it's from last year and some things may be out of date by now - I think House has since gone digital. 16mm Film: Burn Notice - USA Chuck - NBC Degrassi: The Next Generation - CW Eastbound and Down - HBO Friday Night Lights - NBC Heartland - CBC In Plain Sight - USA Men of a Certain Age - TNT The Middle - ABC One Tree Hill - CW Psych - USA Saving Grace - TNT 35mm Film: 30 Rock - NBC Big Love - HBO Breaking Bad - AMC Castle - ABC The Closer - TNT Desperate Housewives - ABC Entourage - HBO Flashpoint - CBS Fringe - FOX Glee - FOX Grey's Anatomy - ABC House - FOX Hung - HBO Mad Men - AMC The Mentalist - CBS Private Practice - ABC True Blood - HBO Two and a Half Men - CBS
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#11 of 59 Vincent_P

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Posted July 20 2011 - 06:12 AM

I saw THE TREE OF LIFE in 4K digital at the Landmark Sunshine in NYC, and while the image was razor-sharp, steady, and incredibly detailed, I noticed that I could almost pick out when they changed film-stocks. You could see the changing grain pattern between shots and I found it kind of distracting. I saw the film again in 35mm and the process of going to dupe negative and print seemed to equalized the grain structure to where it looked consistent. I think one thing they need to work on with digital projection is making sure it all looks more consistent. Scanning straight off the negative gives great detail but it also brings out those difference between film stocks that gets "smoothed over" during the traditional photochemical process- or at least, that's what it looks like to me. I also noticed the changing grain structure when I saw BLADE RUNNER projected digitally at the Ziegfeld back in 2007. Oh, for the film lovers- according to IMDB (not always entirely reliable I know), Paul Thomas Anderson is shooting his new film in 65mm. Vincent

#12 of 59 Worth

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Posted July 20 2011 - 06:16 AM

You could see the changing grain pattern between shots and I found it kind of distracting. I saw the film again in 35mm and the process of going to dupe negative and print seemed to equalized the grain structure to where it looked consistent. I think one thing they need to work on with digital projection is making sure it all looks more consistent. Scanning straight off the negative gives great detail but it also brings out those difference between film stocks that gets "smoothed over" during the traditional photochemical process- or at least, that's what it looks like to me.

That's an issue with blu-ray, as well. There are things that jump out at you that you don't notice when you see the same movie projected on film. I had the chance to see 2001 in 70mm recently, and the backdrops in the prelude with the apes look completely seamless on film, but stand out on blu-ray. I also think it's why some people have an issue with grainy films on blu. There's a harshness to it with digital that you don't get on film, even with an equally grainy image. Film smoothes it over.
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#13 of 59 TravisR

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Posted July 20 2011 - 06:53 AM

Sorry, I should have specified television dramas. Here's a list of shows shot on film, though it's from last year and some things may be out of date by now - I think House has since gone digital. 16mm Film: Burn Notice - USA Chuck - NBC Degrassi: The Next Generation - CW Eastbound and Down - HBO Friday Night Lights - NBC Heartland - CBC In Plain Sight - USA Men of a Certain Age - TNT The Middle - ABC One Tree Hill - CW Psych - USA Saving Grace - TNT 35mm Film: 30 Rock - NBC Big Love - HBO Breaking Bad - AMC Castle - ABC The Closer - TNT Desperate Housewives - ABC Entourage - HBO Flashpoint - CBS Fringe - FOX Glee - FOX Grey's Anatomy - ABC House - FOX Hung - HBO Mad Men - AMC The Mentalist - CBS Private Practice - ABC True Blood - HBO Two and a Half Men - CBS

Thanks for the info. I'm surprised the list is that big. I watch maybe 25% of those shows and I knew that Breaking Bad, Mad Men and True Blood were still using film but I didn't realize that 30 Rock does. And I had thought that 16mm shooting for TV had gone away with The Shield.

#14 of 59 Scott Calvert

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Posted July 20 2011 - 07:12 AM

Changing grain patterns was always noticeable with films (opticals/low light scenes, etc). I don't think it really has that much to do with digital presentation.

#15 of 59 cafink

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Posted July 20 2011 - 07:28 AM

Surely the process of creating a print adds another layer of grain over the whole thing, perhaps not eliminating, but a least masking the difference between the changing patterns of grain. A digital presentation, on the other hand, is more transparent to its source, more clearly resolving those patterns and the differences between them.
 

 


#16 of 59 Scott Calvert

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Posted July 20 2011 - 07:52 AM

Surely the process of creating a print adds another layer of grain over the whole thing, perhaps not eliminating, but a least masking the difference between the changing patterns of grain. A digital presentation, on the other hand, is more transparent to its source, more clearly resolving those patterns and the differences between them.

Perhaps but I don't think it is some pronounced difference. Adding a generation by printing would add a layer of grain to "non-grainy" scenes but would do the same for scenes which were already grainy to begin with. There's still going to be a difference. Once you start to get maybe 8-9 generations away then yeah I guess it all turns to fuzz but I hardy believe there's an appreciable difference between new theatrical prints and digital screenings as far as noticeable grain variations are concerned.

#17 of 59 ahollis

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Posted July 20 2011 - 10:19 AM

"The new Technicolor plant in Glendale, Calif., will specialize in 65mm and 70mm prints. "



This remark is what I find very interesting.  The rest of the news release was more or less expected and I find it hearting that both companies will essentially remain in business, though I do feel some sadness in the Technicolor is more or less leaving the lab work except for small orders and the above lab.  I was worried that the large format would go away, and I guess that it will some day.


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#18 of 59 Brian Kidd

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Posted July 20 2011 - 01:37 PM

Frank Darabont also made a point of having THE WALKING DEAD shot on Super 16 because he liked the graininess of it. Personally, I prefer film. However, I realize that it will be gone, sooner rather than later. I'm sad in that film, as a technology, is relatively simple and elegant. People in the future would find it far easier to figure out how motion picture film works than digital copies in obscure, copy-protected formats. More movies and shows are likely to be lost to neglect. We can still see films that are over a hundred years old because of the genius and relative durability of the format. Electronic media are not nearly so durable; case in point, obsolete videotape formats. I know I'm just spitting into the wind. I just find it sad.
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#19 of 59 Vincent_P

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Posted July 20 2011 - 05:35 PM

Changing grain patterns was always noticeable with films (opticals/low light scenes, etc). I don't think it really has that much to do with digital presentation.

I'm sorry but I know what I see, and with digital presentations of movies shot on film the changes in grain structure are much more pronounced and distracting IMO. Hell, we're not even talking about "opticals" anymore these days since any "optical" will be done digitally. Vincent

#20 of 59 Scott Calvert

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Posted July 21 2011 - 01:50 AM

I'm sorry but I know what I see, and with digital presentations of movies shot on film the changes in grain structure are much more pronounced and distracting IMO. Hell, we're not even talking about "opticals" anymore these days since any "optical" will be done digitally. Vincent

Fair enough. I don't really have that experience. As far as opticals go of course yes they are now created in a computer, I meant "back in the day". But I still see wildly variable photgraphic anomolies in prints, just like I do with digital presentations. Only with digital presentations you also get electronic video artifacts such as visible pixels and stair-stepping/shimmering issues on top of that. I know with prints you have dirt and gate weave but I can live with it if it's not too bad. Honestly, from the late 90's to the present my 35mm experiences have been uniformly excellent. Not sure what happened around this time but things got noticeably better....around here at least.