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2011: The Year In 3D


…we are plunging headlong into the fray to take a look back at what 3D did for 2011 at the movies, and what 2011 did for 3D.  …

Beginning And End Of Year Snapshots
Firstly, it should be noted that we leave 2011 in much a much better frame of mind towards 3D than we entered it: January’s big 3D release The Green Hornet” was a mess, and displayed the worst excesses of both a post-conversion cash grab, and a substandard generic January release. Spin forward twelve months and we get Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo — everything ‘Hornet’ was not — shot in 3D, lovingly designed for the format, and a celebration of its dramatic potential that detractors (like us) hadn’t really glimpsed. While perfect for grandeur and spectacle, even “Avatar” arguably didn’t immerse us in the dramatic texture that Scorsese demonstrated in “Hugo.” Perhaps this is why James Cameron himself started doing the press rounds with Scorsese, clearly impressed with what a true artist and auteur could bring to the medium.

The Emergence of Arthouse 3D …

Let’s Not Get Too Excited …

(Credit) Crunching The Numbers
If such additional revenue is actually to be had. And here’s where we get into the choppy waters of trying to analyze 2011’s 3D box office stats without our heads exploding.  …

Sequels Make Money, 3D Or Not
So bearing in mind that there exist more sophisticated matrices of market analysis than ours (which consists of Box Office Mojo, a calculator and a tub of mango yogurt for sustenance), what is the 3D bottom line for 2011? As far as we can make out, 3D movies, year to date, brought in approximately $3.175 billion domestically: a little over a third of 2011’s $9.244 billion domestic overall total.  …

Michael Bay To The Rescue …

National Treasure Declares Format Dead …

Cynical Casher-Inners Cash In, Cynically
Maybe it’s a hangover of the sense of possibility that “Hugo” left us with, and to a lesser extent, Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and the last ‘Harry Potter,’ but even we have to admit grudgingly that on rare occasions, 3D can genuinely add something to the filmgoing experience that might be worth a few extra quid (though maybe not the further added charge for glassesthat Sony is threatening us with). Absolutely not, however, in the case of the aforementioned goddamned reissues. “Top Gun 3D”? Really? And let’s not forget to lay a wreath at the graveside of George Lucas’ integrity, as he goes back to the “Star Wars” well for the gazumpteenth time to 3D-imify and re-release those hideous prequels.  …

The Nostalgia Cash-In …

We Can’t Beat Them, So We Join Them (Sorta)
If you sense a certain resignation in our demeanor, you’d be right. While we’re as wary about some of the mooted 3D projects as ever (we’re um, curious to see how Baz Luhrmann makes longing and heartbreak boing off the screen into our laps in “The Great Gatsby 3D,” for example), we’ve also been given more reason than before to be hopeful that the format may yet yield a few further gems (Alfonso Cuaron’s epic spacy odyssey in 3D, “Gravity,” we’re looking at you and to a slightly lesser degree, “The Hobbit”). And since we can’t expect ‘Avatar’s 2 and 3 until 2014 and probably 2015, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like a cessation in 3D moviemaking before then (never, ever bet against Cameron). So, you know, we have serious reservations, but also a dose of cautious optimism that we absolutely didn’t feel this time last year. Yes, we no doubt have yet to suffer the worst that 3D is going to literally throw at us …, but maybe for every ten bad/mediocre efforts, we’ll get a good one. That ratio, after all, is not so very different from that of the standard-format movies that we deal with every day, and it hasn’t dimmed our enthusiasm for those, now has it?

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5 Video Game Moments that Defined 2011


1. The Next Generation of Consoles

This year introduced tons of new consoles and systems. Nintendo launched the 3DS, a handheld system that provided glasses-free 3D visuals, as well as the Nintendo Wii U, a console that features a tablet-like controller and asynchronous play. Nintendo has always pushed the boundaries of gaming and is almost always successful (cough, Virtua Boy). The Wii U will let users interact with a screen by using the tablet interface or pair the tablet with Wii controllers. One example had players throwing digital stars from their lap to the screen and another showed a golf game controlled by placing the tablet on the ground like a tee and swinging the Wii controller like a club.

The 3DS was a bit of a bust, sales-wise, for Nintendo. This might be due to the high sales of the DS and the pending launch of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, a powerful handheld with two touchscreens, an array of internal sensors and a graphics engine that can trounce any other mobile device.

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Studio Technology Leaders Dinner 2017

The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California held its 2017 Studio Technology Leaders Dinner at NeueHouse in Hollywood. Sponsored by Western Digital, HGST and Equinix, the event honored former Sony Pictures CTO Spencer Stephens with the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award. The evening featured a panel of studio execs discussing new directions in film production, and a screening of “Wonder Buffalo,” the third R&D short produced under the auspices of ETC@USC’s Project Cloud to explore and test next-generation production processes. 

“Wonder Buffalo,” a coming-of-age story, was made possible through ETC’s 2016 Technology Award to filmmaker Christine Berg, who wrote the script with Simon Shterenberg.

The duo developed the project at the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project, with the support of Disney/ABC Television Group, Warner Bros., NAGRA Kudelski Group, Technicolor, 8i, Realtra, Equinix, Sony Electronics, Amazon Web Services, the Creative Visions Foundation, The World Building Institute and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was also executive produced by Erik Weaver, HGST global director of M&E strategy and market development and former head of ETC’s Project Cloud.

ETC executive director Ken Williams noted that the short tested not only cloud production and post production technologies, but was also processed entirely in HDR, and tested volumetric capture, photogrammetry, ambianic sound and interactivity, via a room-scale virtual reality component. “Wonder Buffalo” was shown at Sundance and invited to SXSW.

Williams (below left) presented the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership award to Spencer Stephens (below right), whose early career involved data communications and photography.
ETC_Williams_Stephens_AwardStephens joined Disney TV Animation in 1997, as the company transitioned from traditional to digital production. He later joined Chris Cookson’s Technology Operations at Warner Bros., ultimately building the 4K production capability for Warner’s Motion Picture Imaging post house, which he then ran. He followed Cookson to Sony Pictures where he became CTO. He’s left Sony, but is not retired.

Walden Pond chief executive Wendy Aylsworth, a previous Bob Lambert Technology Leadership awardee; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior vice president Richard Berger; and former Sony Pictures Technology president Chris Cookson all spoke about Stephens’ achievements.

“If I’m in a crisis, I want Spencer by my side,” said Berger. “The scope of his knowledge knows no bounds.”

Stephens thanked Williams, the ETC board and Dean Elizabeth Daley of the USC School of Cinematic Arts for the award, and Cookson for hiring him twice. He also recalled his close connection with Lambert, who recommended him for the Disney job and then introduced him to Cookson.

Last, ETC hosted a panel of studio executives, including 20th Century Fox CTO Hanno Basse, Sony Pictures Entertainment CTO Don Eklund, Paramount Pictures EVP Anthony Guarino, Warner Bros. Technology EVP Justin Herz, Walt Disney Studios CTO Jamie Voris and Universal Pictures CTO Michael Wise. Moderated by Williams, the panel addressed pain points in the production process, significant opportunities opened up by technology, and how studios are handling change.

Panelists described the challenges of handling thousands of VFX shots from multiple cameras with differing resolutions, color spaces and formats, and putting it all together under increasingly tight deadlines. They noted that “Wonder Buffalo” has helped to shine a light on the issues, which also include the sheer size of files and massive number of deliverables. They also identified security as a “huge issue.”

New technologies have produced automated workflows and enhanced global creative collaboration, as well as significantly accelerated real-time rendering. Panelists noted that physical media isn’t going away any time soon, and that consumers are the big winners in an era in which there are so many platforms and distribution is not getting in the way of finding and enjoying content.

They also underlined that the studios have gone through many technology changes over the decades and that their resilience in managing change bodes well for the future, even as viewers redefine entertainment.

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