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Issue: December 1, 2005

HD SWOT

By: By Mark Polyocan, Cineworks Digital Studios, Miami

STRENGTHS: For motion pictures, HD allows productions to screen dailies and rough cuts in HD, which offers better quality than the Digital Betacam they used to use. Mastering onto HD enables independent producers to get their movies to the film festival circuit faster, and to have them projected in HD for greater visual impact.

As a lab, we have been busy transferring film to HDCAM for many film projects, including Hoot, produced by the Kennedy Marshall Production Group; and The Reaping, produced by Joel Silver, starring Hillary Swank and distributed by Warner Bros. Also, we did the HD transfer for The Way Back Home, an independent film from Sanford Films that stars Ruby Dee, Michael King and Julie Harris, as well as the HD-DI (Digital Intermediate). Our pipeline includes a Sony Vialta telecine and a Kinetta film recorder.

WEAKNESSES: As people begin shooting in HD, there's a misperception that it's going to be like shooting SD video. It's not a simple thing. You have to really know what you’re doing, and carefully monitor what you are recording on the set.

Another misperception is that shooting HD is going to be cheaper or easier than shooting film. But if you shoot HD with skillful lighting and all the ancillary production equipment you need, the cost is going to be as much as film.

OPPORTUNITIES: Today's filmmakers definitely want to have creative control over the look of their films. And they want control over the nuances of their images, something they couldn't do in the lab. Today's color correction systems enable them to isolate every aspect of each frame, and colorists bring experience and techniques they use in the commercial world to feature films.

THREATS: As more and more projects are done in HD, with electronic color correction, film labs will be threatened. Today there are fewer than 15 major film labs in the country. Also, HD itself is being threatened by the constant introduction of new HD formats and HD equipment. Because of this technical competition between vendors, people are afraid to get make an investment in HD equipment for fear it will be obsolete in six months.

Overall, since consumers are just starting to buy HDTV, there hasn't been a compelling reason to shift to HD production for commercials and some broadcast projects, and this is likely to continue until we see a critical mass of HDTV sets in the market.

OUTLOOK FOR 2006: Over the last 10 years, I've seen a slow but steady increase year after year in the use of HD. While film will continue to be used for movies well into the future, people are finding wonderful ways to incorporate HD technology into their filmmaking. We expect to see continued growth in both HD and the HD-DI process here at Cineworks (www.cineworks.com).