Re: [Frameworks] The Digital Video Exhibition Problem: And An Offer To Address It

From: Aaron F. Ross (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Dec 04 2010 - 11:56:48 PST

Blu-ray is the obvious choice for festivals and
distribution. It's a solid format that poses no
significant technical hurdles beyond those of
standard DVD authoring. So I don't know what the
fuss is about, or why it's being adopted so
slowly. I've been waiting for this since the
80's, now it's here, and people aren't using it. What up with that?

This business of using Quicktime or iTunes for
exhibition is really not a good idea. I
understand it's cheap and convenient, but
festivals and museums should have higher
standards than that. There are about a billion
variables when playing multimedia files on a
computer, I won't bore anyone with all of them,
but suffice to say it's a minefield of problems for everyone.

If we want our work to look good, we should be
using Blu-ray. End of story. But in my recent
volley of submissions to festivals, the only ones
I saw that accepted Blu-ray were 1) HDFEST, and 2) Cannes Independent.


At 12/4/2010, you wrote:
>Based on a number of conversations on and off
>list, I’ve come to the conclusion that our
>community is facing a systemic problem in
>distributing and screening work (whatever its
>origination) in the new digital forms. I also
>think I happen to have the ability to offer a solution.
>The Good News:
>Digital video technology now offers the
>possibility of creating very high quality copies
>of moving image work at low cost, and the
>ability to play these copies on low cost hardware.
>The Bad News:
>This is creating what the kids would call a
>‘cluster#$%*’. There are no widely accepted
>standards, too many options. Too few makers, and
>staff at festivals, schools, galleries etc.
>really understand how the new technologies work.
>So they fumble with the tools and make needless
>mistakes. The parties wind up making
>unreasonable demands of one another: e.g. the
>exhibitor expects the maker to submit work in
>format X (say HDCAM), which will cost the maker
>an unreasonable amount for a dub, OR the maker
>expects an exhibitor to be able to screen the
>work in format X (maybe the HDCAM she was forced
>to make by the last exhibitor), which the
>exhibitor doesn’t have and would cost thousands
>to acquire. Almost everybody (except for Bart
>Weiss) is way behind the technology curve,
>dealing in specs that are not only costly, but
>all-but-obsolete (HDCAM, Digibeta). Attempts to
>resolve these technical issues on a case-by-case
>basis produce massive wastes of time and mental energy.
>So what happens is that: A) too often showings
>default to the lowest common denominator, the
>plain old SD-DVD. The result being playback in a
>mediocre quality that is still subject to
>problems if the makers don’t know to avoid the
>many sub-standard blank discs on the market, or
>don’t know how to use their compression,
>authoring and burning software without running
>into the little hidden traps. Or B) stuff simply doesn't get shown at all.
>How to Fix It:
>It has to start with the exhibitors. They can do
>this individually, but it would be better if as
>many as possible banded together for the sake of
>efficiency and standard setting. They would
>obtain the services of a savvy consultant, who
>would A) help them set up their playback
>facilities to accompany a reasonable range of
>cost effective, high quality digital formats, B)
>help them create clear and precise guidelines
>for makers on what formats are acceptable, what
>specs need to be met etc., C) create clear
>tutorials for makers on how to produce copies of
>their work in the appropriate forms, using
>common tools (like Final Cut Studio) and/or
>tools that are free or very cheap (MPEG Streamclip, Quicktime Pro…)
>Who Could Set This Up:
>Well, me, for one. For a teacher/maker/scholar I
>have a lot of geeky tech knowledge, and I’ve
>dealt with all these issues successfully in
>terms of running screenings at my old school,
>and sending out HD shorts to various festivals
>that have been in various states of confusion
>about this (again props to Bart for having the
>Dallas Videofest on the tip…). That is, I've
>actually done the stuff I'd be proposing, so I
>know it works. I also happen got be in a
>position where I can take the time to do this,
>since I’m out of teaching due to health problems
>that prevent me from keeping up with the regular
>grind, but wouldn’t preclude working on something like this.
>What Would It Cost:
>Alas, I’m not in a position to do this pro bono,
>but I wouldn’t be looking to make big bucks,
>just get my expenses covered basically. What
>that would amount to would depend on how much
>someone would want me to do, and would be
>cheaper if indeed several exhibitors pooled
>their efforts, since a certain amount of the
>work (creating tutorials; putting info on the
>web) would be redundant. You would need a small
>budget for some new equipment, probably just a
>few hundred dollars (the whole point being good
>results can now be ached on the cheap if you
>know how). An exhibitor might want to upgrade
>their video projector or sound system, which
>would not be cheap, but would be optional. I
>would, of course, stand behind anything I would
>do, and provide follow-up to address any kinks that might arise.
>How Long Would The Solution Survive Before It Becomes Obsolete:
>Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I figure
>the basic HDTV spec is good for at least 10
>years, and once effective and inexpensive means
>are established for working with those
>parameters, the arrival of some new gadget won’t
>upset the fundamental apple-cart. The most
>important thing, IMHO, is to end the chaos NOW,
>but I do think an effective system will not only
>do that, but stay functional for quite awhile.
>Why Am I Putting Myself Forward:
>Basically, I find the situation frustrating and
>annoying even from a distance; I am confident I
>have the ability to make things better; it would
>give me personal satisfaction to solve problems
>for a community I care about; it would give me
>something to do and get me out of the house; I’m
>in a position to do this for less than any sort
>of ‘AV professional’ would charge (and I’d do a
>much better job); I not aware of anyone else
>making any effort to address the issue… These
>factors would make up for the fact that the work
>involved isn’t necessarily fun, and can be quite
>frustrating. Which is why I’m not willing to do
>it absolutely for free. But my intent here is anything but mercenary…
>In Conclusion:
>Please pass this msg. along to anyone you think
>might be interested. Anyone with an interest, or
>with questions, please contact me off-list at (address suppressed)
>FrameWorks mailing list
>email suppressed


Aaron F. Ross
Digital Arts Guild

FrameWorks mailing list
email suppressed