Category Archives: Trade Shows

Was CineAsia Right to Honour Indonesia’s Cinema 21?

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Should success at any price be celebrated? Because when it comes to cinema in Indonesia it is hard to escape accusations that ‘success’ is linked to unsavory business practices, tax evasion, rent seeking, crony capitalism and corporations tainted by links to the world’s most corrupt dictatorship.  At least according to most of the resources we could find during our research for this post.

Last week the CineAsia 2014 “Distributor of the Year” award was handed out to Indonesian film distribution company Cinema 21 Group. The award was introduced and handed over by Imax’s Andrew Cripps and received by the company’s Founder and Chairman Benny Suherman, as well as Harris Lasmana (Vice Chairman) and Suryo Suherman (President), and Sacheen Lasmana (Vice President).

The original press release published in FJI announced the award’s recipient with the headline ‘CineAsia to salute Indonesian distributor Cinema 21′ stated:

“Cinema 21’s progressive and amazing growth over the past couple of decades has made them the leading distributor and cinema exhibitor in Indonesia,” stated Robert Sunshine, co-managing director of CineAsia.

Cinema 21 Group started as a film distribution company in 1969, and since 1991 has been the distributor for all major Hollywood films in Indonesia. In 1977, the group expanded into the cinema exhibition business, making Cinema 21 the largest cinema chain in Indonesia.

So what’s wrong with celebrating success? When that ‘success’ is built on a nepotistic monopoly, links to a late genocidal dictator and involved an embezzler and fugitive wanted by Interpol, then the definition of “success” starts to become strained.

The timing of this award might also be seen as poor, coming as it does a year after the success of multi-award winning documentary “The Act of Killing” and just after Indonesia got its first president without ties to its brutal political past.  Our research into Indonesia’s motion picture exhibition took us back in time to Cinema 21′s early days.

Benny, Bambang and Sudwikatmono

Cinema 21 was indeed set up 1969, but the press release offers just the most cursory and airbrushed corporate history version of the Cinema 21 organisation.

The founders were Benny Suherman and his brother Bambang Sutrisno together with Sudwikatmono, the cousin of then President Suharto who had seized power in a military coup four years earlier. We wondered why Bambang or Sudwikatmono weren’t mentioned or honoured as the founders of Cinema 21?

Could it be because Bambang fled Indonesia and is now wanted by Interpol? Bambang Sutrisno embezzled Rp1.5 trillion [USD $128 million] from Bank Surya for which he was convicted of in absentia in 1999 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He fled to neighbouring Singapore where he is safely hiding with little fear of extradition.

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CJ@IBC ‘Immersive Audio – from the big screen to the small screen’

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Julian Pinn (Julian Pinn Ltd.) says the industry in embracing immersive audio at a fast rate, at least if compared to the uptake of digital audio in cinemas in the 1990s. He invites the panel to stage in turn and opens up the session. No powerpoints. Instead Julian promises to be a ‘fair’ moderator and give each speaker his turn. (The balance between Atmos, Auro and DTS is fair, in terms of time, though Skywalker Sound is given the most time.)

“There is a real hunger that people are prepared to pay for a premium cinema experience,” which includes better audio, says Pinn as he kicks off the panelists’ five minute each.

Brian Claypool (Barco BV) says Barco is not known for audio, but once digital cinema projector deployments were well underway they asked cinemas what was next. Atmos and other Barco initiatives (Escape et al) is what the result of that feedback was. “We don’t want to re-invent the wheel, we want to create something tangible of value to exhibitors,”  says Claypool of Auro. “We need to keep the interest of cinema at the forefront of what we do. Not many people have Barco projectors in the home.” [Do I etect tension with Auro in the home?] Stresses importance of unified workflow.

Stuart Bowling (Dolby Laboratories) stresses that “audio is our background and we had different approach” to immersive audio. “5.1 is not enough. Creatively the movie makers we spoke to felt it was holding them back.” He goes on an elaborates, “With digital cinema we had greater bandwidth and uncompressed audio, which gave greater potential. We had to create tool sets, we had to create new ecosystem.” The starting point was with a ProTool plug-in and worked with mixers.

Gerard Loupias (DTS) – Pinn asks if DTS didn’t exit cinemas and why is it getting back in? Loupias says “we want to do immersive audio without restrictions and by ‘restrictions’ we mean costs. This is why DTS is offering an ‘open’ format.” He says if a cinema has 20 screens it cannot afford to make them all immersive because of the cost. Points out that all of them on the panel “love sound”. Says that Auro and Atmos “are the same idea.” Emphasizes that this is aso an issue for broadcast and the home. Says that their tools are available from the likes of Fairlight.

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CJ@IBC ‘Doug Trumbull Keynote – An Odessey of Cinematic Innovation’

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“There is no more appropriate visionar than Doug Trumbull to have as our keynote,” Julian Pinn says as he opens the IBC Big Screen Keynote session, listing Trumbull’s many cinematic achievements, ranging from being responsible for the groundbreaing visual effects for ’2001 a Space Odessey’ and ‘Star Trek the Motion Picture’  to writing and directing ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Back to the Future: the Ride’.

Trumbull begins by thanking the team behind the scenes. (I know that this presentation was particularly bleading edge and that the last 48 hours had been frantic in getting it all together.) He talks about his life-long fascination with science-fiction and how he liked panoramic paintings, but got frustrated that they didn’t move – hence he got into film.

From the beginning it was always the largest of screns that held the greatest fascination for him. “I was disapointed when the giant screen experience went away and they got chopped into multiplexes. 70mm production largely ended,” and this was tough for him, Trumbull admitted. Anyone who has seen a 70mm presentation of ’2001′ can probably understand his sentiment. He then switched his focus to World Fairs and Expos as a substitute for he big screen experience.

The Life and Times of a VFX Wizard

By way of introduction to his body of work and cinematic vision he then screens a short film and history which charts his journey from ’2001′ all the way to his Magi process and Trumbull Studios, with cameos by the likes of Roger Ebert, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner extolling his virtues. He then switches back to explaning how he arrived at the 70mm Showscan process in the late 70s/early80s, which he had wanted to use for his film ‘Brainstorm’, and how this in turn then led him to Magi in the present day.

“We lost track of something a long time ago when we transitioned from silent films with hand cranked cameras – we called them ‘the flicks’ for the flickering – to 24fps to accomodate the optical soundtracks. We have never insreased it since then,” Trumbul bemoans, even as color and other innovations were added. “Unfortunatelly people are now migrating away from the cinema experience, because the convenience of tablets outweighs the inconvenience of going out to the movies.”

He says that the Hollywood studios think they have the tiger by the tail… so they prefer a commonality of formats that works for cinema and television. But Trumbull sees this as a false economy if it dilutes the cinematic experience. Studios also don’t invest in R&D, prefering to leave that to manufacturers, he observes. This left him in a quandry.

Trumbull Studios

“My wife and I decided we have to do it ourselves, so we had to build the stage, bum every camera and light we could get our hands on and put together this UFOTOG film as cheaply as possibly,” Trumbull explains, bringing us into the present with his latest work. “Instead of the two cameras shooting in sync, they shoot sequentially, [and thus] they achieve 120fps for the same price as 60fps.” It is the same (Threality) rig that Jim Cameron and Peter Jackson use, with Cannon cameras. “This captures 100% of the action that goes on in ront of the camera and 120 frames of unique fields of action,”Trumbull explains.

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CJ@IBC EDCF Global Update

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The EDCF annual IBC gathering is a smorgasbord of information about the latest developments in the digital cinema industry. More speakers than time, so without further ado, Dave Monk kicks it off handing over to the first speaker.

David Hancock (IHS) – “9 1/2 years I’ve been doing this slide,” Hancock said, “and in 12-18 months there won’t be the grey bar any more because analogue will be gone.” There are still a handful of territores where there is analogue (Turkey, Baltic States, Latin America). “Technlogy is now the currency driving cinema,” and that’s what he is focusing on today. Hard drives dominate still, even though some territories like Fance it only accounts for 1/3. But that’s all set to change. Most of the focus for DCP delivery today is on broadband, but that and satellite co-exist.

Ymagis takeovers of dcinex and Smartjog has created one major entity. That’s the biggest change in the last year. “The market is concentrating down to a few players,” such as Deluxe, Unique and Ymagis. “But as an exhibitor, how many suppliers do you want i your site?” Some countries have just one supplier for all sites.

Laser projection – some consumers cite lack of brightness as reason for not going to see 3D. It has not been proven to work, “but what we have now is the first generaton and not what it will be shipped to cinemas.” IHS predicts 100-200 this year and 400-500 in 2015, but mainly smaller projectors. “Laser is inectricably linked to the replacemnt [cycle] of the first generation of digital cinea projector.” Business model is needed for replacement machinery – there is no VPF for laser replacement, Hancock highlights.

Audio – “Recently the sector has re-discovered competition after a decade of lack of competition.” 1,500 screens equipped with Atmos or Auro by the end of 2014. But there is now focus on the home evironment, as well as markets such as automotive (cars). Where does it all lead, ancock asks. Premium cinema, particularly large format, is the answere Hancock notes. “Technology pushes the premium experience,” he observes. 1.,401 PLF screens 1h 2014 with IMAX capturing 45%. Conclusion: may you live in interesting times.

There is a tension between technology and cinema. “The cycle of technology does not match the technology of cinema.” Last observation particularly interesting: “physical decline [DVD etc.] ups cinema in Europe: the value chain increasingly underpinned by cinema.”

John Hurst (Cinecert) – First slide asks ‘Is Ten Years Too Long’ but his topic is the state of [digital cinema] equipment in the field. It looks like cinemas here in Europe are better maintained than cinemas in US in temrs of receiving SMPTE DCPs. You have to keep your software up to daye in your digital cinema server to take advantage of all new features – not just bells-and-whistles ad-ons.

He then calls Rich Philips from Arts Alliance (AAM) up to stage. AAM have spun off most of their digital cinema business, but they still have the digital cinema software technology. The message from Richard is that verisoning is not too bad in Eurpe, but that education is an issue, with most exhibitors clueless that there is another hurdle that needs to be jumped through. “That’s all I have to sya really.”

Chris Witham (Disney) is then called to stage by Hurst. He jams through it in two minutes. “For people to keep coming back to cinemas, we have to offer the best experience possible.” He then discusses Disney’s transition plan to SMPE DCPs with 2015 the target date.

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CJ@IBC ‘Life of Pi’ in Christie 6P laser 14 ftL 3D with Dolby Atmos

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The IBC movie night screenings have always been an opportunity to showcase the latest advances in big screen technology, while also giving IBC attendees a bit of blockbuster fun. This year was a technology world first that made a big impression on everyone attending.

Thanks to tremendous support from IBC’s technology, integration and content partners, we were treated to a 3D presentation of an unsurprassed quality. Thanks to the use of Christie’s new 6P laser-illuminated projector, over 40 speakers from QSC, Dolby Atmos immersive audio and a DCP of 20th Century Fox’s multi-Oscar winning ‘Life of Pi’ graded especially for 14 footlamberts (ftL) 3D brightness, projected onto a 1.0 gain matt screen, it showcased something that no public audience had yet seen before, as IBC Big Screen Experience producer Julian Pinn explained on stage.

Two years ago Christie first showa ased its laser projectors at IBC with a secial screening of ‘Hugo’, but that was off a silver screen with an 1.8 gain. Back then there was no immersive audio (either Atmos or Auro), so this presentation raised the bar in several regards. While not new, the film was an excellent choice, not least given that it had won Academy Awards for best Cinematography, Visual Effects and Music.

Watching it I was not so much immediately struck by the brightness but by the colours, details and clarity. It is a cliche to talk about ‘looking through a window’ but that is what it felt like as the camera panned through the Pondicherry zoo over the opening credits. Yes, it was bright as you would expect a sunny day in southern India to be, but the brightness felt natural. But brightness is only something that you consciously appreciate when it is not there – as will be the case with future 3D films I watch in regular cinemas.

The audio was equally impressive, not least because of a terrific mix that was as nuanced in the stormy sea scenes with the ship sinking as the quieter moments that picked out individual sounds of animals. The combines effect was such that almost nobody in the audience (who filled the big RAI Auditorium) got up to leave once the film had started. For a Saturday night in Amsterdam, that is truly impressive.

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CJ@IBC ‘Tri-focal Camera Systems – Will Hybrid 3D prove to be the ultimate 3D?’

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The war between stereoscopic purists who insist on filming with two cameras and those that prefer the control and convenience of 2D-to-3D conversion could soon draw to an end with the best of both worlds in the form of the hybrid Tri-focal camera system, which IBC Big Screen audiences were offered a sneak peak of.

Howard Lukk (formerly with Disney & Pixar, now Director Pannon Entertainment, USA) bounced up to stage to give  brief introduction and why when he was at Disney they got into it. Having worked on the tech side of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus they quickly became aware of the problems and limitations of shooting native 3D. “I was awfully jealous of the guys at animation who could render it out in 3D,” he confessed.  “Is there a new paradigm,” he asked, and that is what lead to it.

At the same time Fraunhofer was working on a camera that pointed the way to hybrid 3D, with a prototype Arri with two side cameras. The Gen 3 camera was the one taken out into the real world (Berlin, if you will) and shot the short film that we were about to see.

Johannes Steurer (Principal Engineer, Arri Cine Technik, Germany) next took to the stage to explains how Arri came around to “stereo unaware” solutions with hybrid 3D based on the Alexa camer. Primary camera = established cine style digital camera. Two auxiliary cameras = small leightweight non-intrusive.

Synchronized recording of all three camera streams was critical. Coarse alignment by mechanical adjustment, fine alignment took place by stereo analyzer software (STAN). (Too much technical detail to do it all justice. Hopefully Arri will publish a white paper for those interested). He concluded with a picture of the camera, which at 10 kg wasn’t (yet) significantly more elegant than native 3D cameras.

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CJ@IBC ‘Event Cinema – more than just TV on the Big Screen’

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The burgeoning field of event cinema (nee ‘alternative content’) is highly topical for the IBC Big Screen Experience, as the larger IBC conference straddles the worlds of content produced, distributed and displayed for all size screens. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the co-producers for this session, though more credit should go to my co-producer Peter Wilson who did the greater job of assembling the crack team of speakers and practitioners.

The session was developed in close co-operation with the Event Cinema Association (ECA), which in the last 18-24 months has become a major force for the event cinema industry in terms of giving it a voice, focus and profile internationally. ECA has its own event on 16 October in London, so IBC was very fortunate that Peter and Melissa made time so close to their own big day.

The session is chaired by event cinema legend Mark Schubin (Schubin’s Cafe, USA), who has been the technical Wizard behind the curtains (actually in the OB van) of the Metropolitan Opera since its first live cinema transmission and also the world leading expert on the history of electronic opera (and its relation to baseball).

The session has several distinguished speakers, lots of content and (of course) barely enough time to do it all ful justice, despite Schubin doing a great job of keeping everyone to their time. Please pardon spelling errors as I’m doing tripple duty of reporting, tweeting and floor managing at the same time.

The session was opened by Melissa Cogavin (nee Keeping, Managing Director, Event Cinema Association, UK) who played the event cinema trailer that showcased the range and depth of what’s been in cinemas in the last 12 months: ‘Your Cinema – Event Cinema’. She began by asking what “alternative is, givent that event cinema was previously known as ‘alternative content’.'  She noted that 1,500 cinemas showed Doctor Who and grossed over GBP 10 million. “Event cinema is the fastest growing category at the box office. It is headed for being a billion dollar business,” she said. “For something considered ‘alterntive’ that’s pretty amazing.” She talked about ‘demystifying’ the process, to which end they (ECA) are publishing the technical handbook this autumn. 

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CJ@IBC ‘Big Screen and Second Screen – can they coexist peacefully and profitably?’

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This IBC Big Screen session looks at how to turn the No. 1 irritant of modern cinema into something that enhances both revenue for cinema operators and enjoyment for the greater audience.

Given that there are people who have been shot and killed for using their smartphone in a cinema, this is a highly topical discussion, with some leading practitioners and experts assembled to give their view and demonstrating some cutting edge innovations.

Expect this session to go beyond the customary “now please tun ON your phone” jokes , though sadly there won’t be any demonstrations of the cinema ‘barrage’ types of big screen interactivity that have been making waves in China and beyond recently.

Chaired by Julian Pinn (of Julian Pinn Ltd.) he promised that the IBC Big Screen Experience would be “digging into the art, science and business of not just the big screen but also home and second screen.” He pointed out that for a long time we talked about digital cinema, “but now we will be talking about ‘disruptive cinema.’” (Then comes the ‘turn ON your phones ‘ joke – no escaping it.)

“How did we get here?”

Julian asks each of the panelists, “How did we get here?” not least given that cinema advertising was always about reels of 35mm ads. DCM’s Evea starts off by saying that “now that cinema have gone digital, they have become much more relevant for brands.” And with the advent of mobile, “it means that custmers can take the experience back with them.” He also stresses that cinema is the ultimate social medium. Mike from UK competitor Pearl & Dean observes that cinema audiences are not distracted and receptible to brand communication already in the cinema lobby.

Scarratt from Yummi says that apps and platforms like Yummi add value to the advertising experience. Shazam’s Weedon points out that using smartphones in cinemas is a “natural evolution of consumer behavior, starting with consumers having one screen. Now there is an intelligence between the first and second screen. This word, engagment, makes me wonder what we ever did without it” The formal presentations then started.

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CJ@IBC ‘High Dynamic Range imaging – contrasting views?’

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The quest for better-(not-just-more)-pixels is a big theme at this year’s IBC conference – primarily for television but with major implications for film and cinema too. For anyone thinking of buying a 4K/UHD TV, this is the session that tells you to wait until more than just the resolution of the big television sets improves.

Session chair Alberto Morello (RAI, Italy) calls this one of the “most interesting development in the evolution of video.” He singles out (more) pixels, (higher) frame rate and HDR (high dynamic range) as the things that “will give pleasure” to our viewers.

Touradj Ebrahimi (EPFL, Switzerland) goes up to the podium first to present an overview of the topic. He starts off by confessing to being an IBC virgin, but being ‘impressed’. Prof Ebrahimi stresses the importance of being able to measure to quantify improvements such as HDR.

Tests used Dolby Pulsar Display 42″, calling Dolby their “good friend” who “defined past, present and probably future” of high quality innovation. For content they “begged again” and Dolby provided that as well. Test material was shown sequentially and side-by-side in four different grades/mappings (4,000, 1,000, 400 and 100 nit). Appropriately one of the pieces of content was “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, but he wasn’t authorised to show that to us.
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IBC 2014 Big Screen Experience – Q&A With Exec Producer Julian Pinn

 

Douglas Trumbull

Keynote speaker Doug Trumbull (not Julian Pinn)

With digital cinema conversion completed in most of the world, this year the IBC Big Screen Experience (running 12-15 September in Amsterdam’s RAI) has be re-vamped extensively to focus on the latest issues facing the industry. Sessions such as EDCF have been moved from their traditional slot (now Sunday evening, followed by drinks) and new areas of coverage introduced.

Significantly the Big Screen Experience conference strand will be completely free to anyone attending the IBC trade show, which means that anyone can come and hear leading industry experts discussing the issues affecting the industry today and tomorrow at no extra cost. There is also the traditional Hollywood blockbusters, only this year it’s Apes with both Atmos and lasers, also free (thanks to 20th Century Fox) as part of #IBCbigscreen

Celluloid Junkie caught up with industry veteran Julian Pinn (founder and consultant for Julian Pinn Ltd) who is the Executive Producer for this year’s Big Screen conference, to ask him what those planning to attend should make room for in their no-doubt packed IBC diaries.

Celluloid Junkie: This is the first year that IBC’s Big Screen conference stream is free to all attendees of the show, what’s behind this change?

Julian Pinn: For IBC registered delegates, the IBC Big Screen Experience is indeed a free-to-attend programme of carefully curated, editorially lead conference sessions, exhibitor product demonstrations, and Big Screen movies. The minimum IBC registration one needs to gain access to the Big Screen Experience is an Exhibition Visitor Pass, which itself is free if booked before 21 August 2014. This is an initiative by IBC to add value to the overall IBC experience and to remove barriers and complexity to those who are looking to make the most out of their busy schedule during the entirety of IBC2014.

CJ:  Is there a theme running through all the sessions?

JP:  IBC Big Screen in recent years has focussed on the transition to Digital Cinema. With Digital Cinema done and dusted in most parts of the world, this year’s IBC Big Screen conference is looking at the disruption taking place in cinema and the wider industries:

- disruption due to a wealth of scientific innovation that digital has unlocked, and what that means to the artists’ abilities to create new stories and to move their audiences in more powerful ways, and

- disruption due to the new entrants, new commercial realities, and new ways of doing business not only within the cinema business but within the wider industry from big screen to small screens.

CJ:  What new issues and topics will be discussed at this year’s Big Screen?

JP:  Not a quick answer I’m happy to say! The conference kicks off this year on Friday afternoon when we will be asking for the first time if the Big Screen and Second Screens can coexist peacefully and profitably—experiencing first-hand the technologies from Shazam and Cinime.

Saturday will feature a mixture of sponsored sessions, from Red and ARRI, with a couple of editorial sessions new to IBC in recent years. The first is on Event Cinema—a new sector to the business that is predicted to grow to 5% of the overall global cinema box office by 2015; we will be seeing examples and discussing important questions about the challenges of merging the two disciplines of broadcast and cinema from technological, artistic, and commercial perspectives.

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