Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Work: the History of VFX

Have been commissioned by Red Shark to write a six part series on the history of VFX. This is the link to Part One, which tracks the developments in the industry from the birth of cinema in 1895 to one of its greatest masterpieces in 1941.

The History of VFX - Part One: From Mary Queen of Scots to Citizen Kane

Work: Vegas musings - here come the Ultras

[I was asked by Harris to contribute a couple of articles to their blog regarding general industry trends in the run up to this year's NAB. This was the first piece...]

Undoubtably one of the big themes of this years NAB will be the rise of everything to do with 4k/Ultra HD. Long considered to be just over the horizon, the past 12 months have seen several significant events occur that has given the format the impetus it needs to really breakthrough to mainstream production… and broadcast not long after that.

Indeed, so far 2013 has seen several significant 4k stories emerging each week; everything from the BBC Natural History Unit starting to film in the format, to major sales to hire companies, to Japanese plans for commencing 4k broadcasts during next year's World Cup in Brazil. Momentum it seems is unstoppable, and NAB is probably going to be a fecund area for the format.

This far out, companies are keeping their efforts under wraps, but persistent rumour suggests that the price of 4k cameras is going to drop significantly across the board at the same time as the range of models is ramped up to cover multiple pricepoints. Partly this is due to the relative lack of interest in stereo 3D models, with the manufacturers desperate to make new sales. Back during IBC, no less a person than James Cameron said he thought 3D and 4k were locked in a struggle for resources, and at the moment that's a battle which looks like having only one winner.

This is especially true given the impetus that the adoption of HEVC, the next generation codec that is set to supersede MPEG-4/H.264, is giving to 4k broadcast. It was always assumed that 4k would become a production format in the next few years, but what is surprising is the speed with which the industry is heading towards 4k to the home. And with HEVC (which is at the Final Draft International Standard stage) already suggesting that it might be possible to squeeze 4k transmissions into ‘very nearly’ current satellite bandwidths, a bevy of production tests underway, and rumours already swirling around some high-profile pay-TV broadcasters looking to introduce a service perhaps even sooner than the Japanese one, that speed is only accelerating too.

Again, much of this is due to the lack of penetration of stereo 3D. Nature might abhor a vacuum, but the broadcast industry abhors a gap in the market even more and the industry is proving to be very quick at changing horses. The CE manufacturers have sets out in the marketplace, albeit at eye-watering prices, and expect to see many glue products in particular featuring HEVC-capable chipsets at NAB as the manufacturers look to establish a 4k production chain in a hurry.