The end of the world did not happen in December so I think it’s safe to say that we can look ahead, at least to 2013, and try to see what’s around the bend. From what we’ve been through in 2012, I’m going to guess that post production, independent filmmaking (as we currently know it), and the way we make and watch content will continue to change dramatically. We are in the eye of the storm.
Technology continues to improve and innovation continues to surprise us. As filmmakers, the tools we are accustomed to using keep getting smaller and more efficient. Image quality is beyond good — it’s great —and for what the world is watching movies/tv shows/webisodes on these days (tablets, tablets, tablets), many simple, affordable digital cameras will suffice as an acquisition format. Even if your goal is a theatrical release, audiences today are becoming more and more sensitized to the digital image, which makes just about any digital camera on the market fair game for feature production.
Here’s a brief recap of what we saw in cinema cameras over the last year. Canon introduced its consumer-friendly but incredible image-quality Canon C100 (1920×1080 full HD), that has a price point independent filmmakers can really consider (around $7,000 without any lenses), or for the high-end professional market, the C500 (4K). Canon, listening to its market and end-users, designed a more ergonomic camera that meets the needs of filmmakers who have been trying to get used to shooting with the sometimes clunky DSLR’s. There has also been a lot of buzz about the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera (listing around $3,000, and apparently a 2.5K image), but it’s just buzz at this point because production problems delayed its release until the very end of 2012. On the higher end of the spectrum, Sony released the F5 and F55, both above $30K if you want to shoot 4K. And on the lower end of the spectrum, but one of the most fun cameras to work with for sports and action shots, GoPro released its Hero3 camera capable of recording 4K video and even smaller-sized and lighter than its predecessor. The Alexa and Red cameras are still being used in full force in the feature and television world, but it was rumored mid-year that Jim Jannard was looking to sell his company and move into retirement, so the future of Red, some believe, is in question.
With all the innovation occurring in the digital world, what’s going on in the motion picture film world? Well, celluloid lovers can still run film through a camera today, but it’s only a matter of time until the last roll of film will actually be produced. In September, Fuji sent shockwaves through the film community when it announced its plans to stop producing motion picture film by spring 2013. And it was exactly one year ago, Kodak filed for Chapter 11, further reducing its manufacturing footprint as film sales disappear. Yes, the end of an era is very close. With Kodak selling off its patents to some of the biggest technology firms that include Apple, Google, Facebook and Samsung, and trying desperately to make a digital transition (albeit the last one on the block to do so), my prediction is that unless someone comes forth to purchase Kodak’s film manufacturing business within the next year, we’ll hear a similar announcement from Kodak for plans to stop manufacturing motion picture film by the end of 2014. Again, that’s just my prediction.
In the post world, editors have been lamenting the release of FCP X since the beginning of 2012, and we will slowly see a turn of the tides (again, my prediction) to Adobe Premiere as well as a return to AVID. Post houses continue to struggle to make their own transition to data-centric workflow, but it is not without pain. We heard about layoffs at Technicolor and Deluxe, while Digital Domain announced their own bankruptcy this passed year, having since been purchased by China’s Galloping Horse. With conglomerate, more traditional companies like these in trouble, it has opened the doors of opportunity for entrepreneurs in the film industry. Boutique post facilities have popped up all over Los Angeles, as starting a business in the color correction sector is financially within reach, especially if your costs don’t include hefty legacy tape machines. There’s a diverse option of choices these days for indie filmmakers to have quality color and finishing work done with a whole new crop of businesses that want to cater to the filmmaker. File formats are the new delivery and DCP’s are here, get used to it.
But, where do we go from here? What should filmmakers be aware of for the year ahead? What is important to know? It makes sense to be aware of the new tools and to stay on top of the technological changes, but only so much as to figure out what is the best route for you to make your film. Find talented people to work with in the areas of sound, color and VFX, they are accessible and within reach now more than ever. Take a step back, and really think about if making a feature film is the best way to tell your story. The future is tablets and mobile devices. We’re already seeing an explosion of really creative web series work as an alternate genre for the filmmaker. Cross-platform, interactive spaces continue to push the envelope of the entertainment experience as well. And if thinking about the future isn’t for you, then go grab yourself a roll of film and rent a camera that’s gathering dust at Panavision (I guarantee it’s going to be a cheap rental) and make us all some very pretty pictures to watch because it may be your last chance.