Tag Archives: Technicolor

Film Enters Its Vinyl (not Final) Age; Deluxe Closes Denham Lab as Cinelab and i-dailies Step In

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Deluxe Lab Denham 1970s

The news that Deluxe is shutting its Denham lab on the outskirts of London is not so much  another nail in the coffin of film as the announcement of the door-closing-ceremony long after the horse had bolted. Deluxe Denham had allegedly not been processing original camera negative for some time (as part of the world-wide agreement with Technicolor), while Technicolor shut down their processing operations at Pinewood in April 2013. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse was in fact one of the last major Hollywood studio films to be processed there.

Yet film lives on as two London boutique labs are now set to take centre stage, following Deluxe and Technicolor’s withdrawal from this market.

The formal closure of Deluxe’s facility on North Orbital Road in Denham, near the London suburb of Uxbridge, will be this Friday 21 March. The announcement was anticipated and comes just a week after the news that Deluxe is closing its Hollywood lab on 9 May. The e-mail notifying Deluxe’s clients went out on 19 February, but caught nobody by surprise, as the lab had already gone from three shifts to one. Industry sources say that Deluxe’s Denham staff were put on 30-day notice late last year, with redundancies in two waves in December last year and 14 February this year.

The Denham lab handled front-end processing rather than release prints, which Deluxe shifted to the Deluxe lab in Rome and Barcelona several years ago. It is likely to continue operating Deluxe Barcelona for at least a couple more years, as it is the company’s most state-of-the-art facility and capable of handling around 40 prints per day. This is probably the most that is needed in an ever-dwindling 35mm release print market as digital cinema roll-out approaches completion in most European territories.

While the closure of the 78-year old lab will unleash a wave of nostalgia and pontifications about the ‘death of film’, those of us who worked for Deluxe [full disclosure: I had my employment interview in the Denham building] knew that the company had been wanting to sell the building even before digital became a serious challenge to 35mm. Deluxe is rightly proud of its heritage, but has never been sentimental about bricks and mortar. The move also does not heralb the death of film, as we will soon see, only the end of Deluxe’s association with the lab business in the UK.

A Real-Estate, Not Film, Announcement

Deluxe has been looking to move out of Denham for a long time and sell off the land to property developers in what is now a prime area of suburban London. There were just two problems; the building was just too historic and the ground too polluted. How historic? John Pardey Architects know:

The DeLuxe (formerly Rank) Film Processing Laboratory is a Grade II listed building designed in 1936 by Walter Gropius [!] and Max Fry that will become redundant when Deluxe move their facilities to purpose-built digital facilities at Pinewood. The design proposed a new residential development on the site.

JPA in fact published a plan (called Denham DeLuxe – PDF link) for converting the Denham lab several years ago, with a contract value of GBP £42 million, where they set out:

The masterplan generates 62 houses and 136 apartments whilst the existing building is converted to contain 48 apartments. This project, as with the Oaklands College building conversions has allowed us to develop ways of making valuable listed modern buildings gain new life through subtle interventions that provide accessibility and energy efficiency – a ‘look no hands’ approach that retains architectural integrity of the original yet reveals a new layer within.

The scheme gained listed building and planning consents as far back as April 2008.

The writing was on the wall in 2011 when Technicolor and Deluxe announced an unprecedented tie-up to merge film processing facilities world-wide, which also involved the closing of Deluxe’s Soho Lab in London, in the face of the growth of digital film cameras and projectors. As Deluxe’s operations and engineering manager, Colin Flight, is quoted in  GetWestLondon, “It’s not unexpected, and it has been a steady process getting to this stage.”

So why the long wait? Moving film out was comparatively easy; it was making the site ready to be sold that presents more of a challenge. As an industrial facility with tons of chemicals used every year the ground and soil in Denham supposedly suffered significant pollution. While today’s processing chemicals are safe and Deluxe has not violated any environmental norms, it must be remembered that the lab has been operating for 78 years. Back when the lab first started, health and safety standards were far more lax.

Not The End of Film

Film labs closing is sad but won’t come as a shock to anyone working in the industry. Film is doomed as a distribution medium, but far from dead as an acquisition medium. The news from Deluxe comes at a time when film enters its vinyl age, one where it is being kept alive by enthusiasts and directors who feel that there are aesthetic reasons for shooting on film. And we don’t just mean Christopher Nolan, who presented the Scientific and Technical Oscar to the world’s collective film lab technicians last month.

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Technicolor’s Film-Based 3D Format Expands

Technicolor 3D.pngOne question I am asked repeatedly by exhibitors is about the success of Technicolor’s 35mm film-based 3D solution. Rather than being asked by those in an exploratory phase, it oftem seems as if the question is being posed so that I can confirm someone’s doubts or decision not to install the technology. Usually I simply point people to an August press release Technicolor issued announcing they had deployed the system on more than 250 screens.

Two weeks ago during ShowEast, Technicolor shed a little more light on the subject with two additional press releases. The first detailed an agreement the company had reached with the Milwaukee, Wisconsin based Marcus Theatres to install their film-based 3D system on at least 15 screens. It also contained the following paragraph which, depending how you read it, may help answer the question about the format’s success:

Technicolor 3D is currently installed on more than 300 screens in North America, and has recently launched internationally in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. The format was initially launched in theatres in March 2010. To date, nine films have been released in the format, including features from DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., and The Weinstein Company. Upcoming titles planned for release in the Technicolor 3D format include “Jackass 3D”, “Saw 3D”, “Megamind”, and “Yogi Bear”.

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Travis Reid Departs DCIP To Head Up Screenvision

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Travis Reid

Last Thursday Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP) announced that Travis Reid, their CEO, had resigned. That same day on-screen advertising giant Screenvision announced that Shamrock Capital Advisors, a private equity fund founded by the late Roy Disney, had finalized the $160 million purchase of the company and had appointed Reid as its new CEO.

At ShowEast, which was just wrapping up at the time, many industry folks I spoke with were surprised to hear the news, though looking at it objectively, the move is somewhat inevitable.

Reid has had a long career in motion picture exhibition that includes his stint as the President and CEO of Loews Cineplex for which he worked from 1991 until 2005 when the chain was acquired by AMC Entertainment. In 2007 he joined DCIP, the deployment entity formed and owned by North America’s largest exhibitors; AMC, Regal Entertainment and Cinemark. Reid has also sat on the boards of Cineplex Galaxy, Yelmo and Fandango among others. As Shamrock’s Managing Director Steve Royer said in Screenvision’s press release:

“Travis has an over thirty-year history in the exhibition space having operated chains and most recently, pioneering the digital revolution for the cinema exhibition industry. He was our ideal candidate.”

Reid led DCIP through a challenging period in its formation and development. Not only did he successfully oversee the companies protracted negotiations with major studios for virtual print fees (VPFs), but just as it seemed digital cinema was taking off, the financial meltdown caused funding for rollouts to dry up for more than a year. Reid and DCIP persevered and in March of this year he secured $660 million in funding from a consortium of banks.

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Technicolor Jumps Into Content Creation

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Berkeley Breathed making his mark at Technicolor. (LA Times)

If I mention the name Technicolor what is the first thing that comes to mind? Chances are you’ll think of the company primarily known as a film processing lab and the world’s largest DVD replicator. Original content creation is probably not a concept most would associate with the company.

That may be changing soon, as Richard Verrier reported in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. Technicolor has purchased the rights to “Pete & Pickles”, a children’s book by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed with the intent of adapting it into an animated television series. The book focuses on the Mutt and Jeff friendship between a playful circus elephant and a prim-and-proper pig. Breathed is probably best known for his comic strips “Bloom County” and “Opus”.

Continuing the trend of sending animation and effects work overseas to India, most of the show’s production will be done in Bangalore, where Technicolor built a computer animation studio with partner Dreamworks Animation in 2007. Technicolor has since taken full control over the facility and renamed it Technicolor India. About two dozen artists will work in the United States on key frame drawings before the work is sent to India, where skilled labor is less expensive. The studio plans to have a staff of 1,200 by the end of the year working on projects for a range of clients, including Electronic Arts and Nickelodeon.

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Panavision Heads Into Theatres With Hybrid 3D System

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When one thinks of Panavision, what immediately comes to mind is all of the motion picture camera systems they have manufactured since the mid-1950s, ubiquitous on the sets of countless hit movies and television shows. The thought of 3D, be it digital or on 35mm, is probably the last thing any industry professional would ever associate with Panavision. Well, that’s all about to change and I’ll explain why.

On Friday of last week, the European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF) was kind enough to let me tag along on their annual pre-ShoWest industry tour through Los Angeles. When we arrived at Panavision I was a little baffled why a group of exhibitors and digital cinema manufacturers would want to visit a company better known for what happens on a movie set rather than a movie theatre. After a quick tour of their Woodland Hills, California facility, the group was ushered into a screening room and it became immediately obvious why were there.

We were greeted by John Galt, Panavision’s Senior Vice President of Advanced Digital Imaging, who gave us a very brief PowerPoint presentation on a project he’d been working on since the middle of 2008. Turns out while the media was busy hounding Panavision with stories about how labor strikes and production slowdowns had adversely affected the company, they have quietly been working on a 3D system for both film and digital projection. That would explain the reusable 3D glasses we were handed.

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Bow Tie Cinemas Selects Technicolor’s Film Based 3D System

bow-tie-cinemas.pngNew York City based Bow Tie Cinemas will be one of the first theatre chains to deploy Technicolor’s film-based 3D system. Technicolor 3D will be deployed at each of Bow Ties 18 theatre locations in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Virginia and on 25 of Bow Ties 150 screens.

Rather than install digital cinema equipment which can run upwards of $80,000 (not counting any 3D technology), Bow Tie is choosing the less expensive option of equipping their existing 35mm film projectors with a specially designed lens which splits the projected images for the right and left eyes.

The system requires a special 35mm film print in which each frame has two images, one on top of the other. This over/under technique was first introduced by Technicolor in 1963 as Technicscope. According to Technicolor, advancements in film stock and digital intermediates improve the image quality delivered by their new system. Technicolor uses a special patent-pending digital process to enhance the image on the special film prints. We first reported on the system when it was announced by Technicolor back in September of 2009.

Bow Tie will need to install silver screens to increase the brightness of the images delivered by Technicolor’s 3D system, however those screens can also be used for digital 3D. Technicolor will be supplying the circular polarized glasses required to view the content in 3D. The first film Bow Tie will show using the system will be Dreamworks’ “How To Train Your Dragon”. Ben Moss, CEO of Bow Tie Cinemas was quoted in the press release Technicolor distributed earlier today:  Read More »

Katzenberg Keynotes 3D Entertainment Summit

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Jeffery Katzenberg suggested that if exhibition doesn’t grab the 3D opportunity, “it will go down as one of the real great misses of our time.”

He shared his thoughts about 3D, both for the theater and the home, Thursday at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles, during a keynote discussion with Bob Dowling, Summit co-producer and conference chair.

On theater pricing, he said: “Exhibition has been incredibly timid about (pricing). Every piece of research we did showed the consumers felt they got a valuable experience at a $5 premium and almost no one adopted (the premium).”

The Dreamworks Animation CEO commented: “I find it amazingly curious how slow the live action business has been at jumping on this opportunity.” And the 3D champion also admitted that he perhaps went too far in predicting that all content would go 3D, adding that it “dampened his credibility.”

Commenting on Technicolor’s 3D approach, he said: “I’ve seen it in a controlled environment. I’ve yet to see it in a large theater, but the early demonstrations looked pretty good. It’s not ideal but we are in an economy unlike anything we faced in our lifetime. So to me, that’s an interim step.”

Katzenberg noted that theater owners have had a few years head start, but “rollout into the home is going to pick up serious momentum next year.”

During the well attended event, he predicted that sports and games would drive 3D to the home faster than other types of entertainment. As to broadcast, Katzenberg noted that with Disney’s work in the 3D arena, he expects “real leadership” from ESPN.

The two-day event at the Hilton in University City featured a conference program and exhibits from companies including 3Ality Digital, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Sensio and NVidia.

Technicolor Goes 3D With Film Based System

TechnicolorWith the demand for digital 3D films at an all time high, Technicolor has decided to jump into the fray with what they are calling an affordable, alternative solution that has stirred up intense debate. The leading motion picture service company is introducing the Technicolor 3D Solution, which will allow exhibitors to use their existing 35mm film projectors to project 3D releases without upgrading to more costly digital cinema equipment. And there’s the rub; rather than using digital content Technicolor’s solution is film based.

Even though the technology relies on celluloid, rather than bits and bytes, Ahmad Ouri, Technicolor’s Head of Strategy, Technology & Marketing, on Wednesday assured roughly 400 members of the industry that the technology was not old or steeped in the past. Sitting on a panel titled 3D’s Impact On Digital Deployment at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles, Ouri explained, “It’s actually new technology that we’re introducing that’s perhaps based on an older concept. A lot of people have experienced 3D on film historically. We’re introducing a system that is basically an over/under film based solution that’s two-perf based on a format that Technicolor brought to market decades ago called Techniscope.”

Techniscope was first introduced in 1963 and used by the likes of spaghetti-western filmmaker Sergio Leone in an effort to find more economical ways to shoot. By halving the size of each film frame less film stock could be used, though the image quality was less than that of the four-perf (or four sprocket hole) format. Technicolor 3D Solution uses a special split lens that can be mounted to a conventional 35mm projector which then assembles the left eye and right eye images as the film runs through the projector. Read More »

Digital Cinema Integrators Continue to Bleed Money

There is a standing joke in the industry that to make a small fortune in digital cinema you need to start with a large fortune. Sadly, this sentiment seems to be vindicated by the latest quarterly figures from Cinedigm (formerly AccessIT). The company’s scorecard is impressive enough:

Cinedigm Digital Report Card

And the revenue has been going up year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter, as the press release proudly trumpets:

Access Integrated Technologies, now doing business as Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. (“Cinedigm” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: CIDM), reported a 10% increase in year-to-date revenue to $65.1 million, and a 6% increase in revenues, to $22.7 million for the fiscal 2009 third quarter ended December 31, 2008, versus the year-ago periods. The Company posted an Adjusted EBITDA (defined below) of $11.0 million or $0.40 per share, an improvement from the fiscal 2008 third quarter of $8.4 million.

But is there any profit? No, the company is still burning through money. $17.4m in losses in the most recent quarter to be precise. What are the implications of this? The 10-Q transcript makes for grim reading; Read More »

Is this how MDA persuaded Technicolor to set up shop in Singapore?

As previously reported Singapore has been working for several years to turn the country into the digital hub of Asia. Earlier this month the Technicolor announced that it would set up a facility in Singapore to service digital cinema needs throughout Asia. The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) was one of the groups responsible for convincing Technicolor to move to Singapore, and watching the public relations video, one can see why they are so irresistible.