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5th Anniv-Tech and Post

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As we reflect on our own five-year anniversary here at Below the Line, it’s kind of fun to flip through old issues for a chuckle. It’s a bit like flipping through an old photograph album looking for cheesy mullet hair cuts or plaid bell-bottom pants. I remember the days when Commodore dominated the home computer market and the 300-baud modem was the fastest thing on the market.
But if we look back just five years ago, on the one hand, it’s remarkable how far the industry has come, and yet on the other, how little it has changed.
The hype around mobile video these days reminds me of the old “streaming media bubble.” Back in the old days, I interviewed countless people who told me that streaming was going to “change the world.” Most of them were out of business within a year.
To be fair, streaming media did have a big impact, but it came nowhere near the expectations that it would be “the death of TV” and that we would all be watching TV, on-demand over the Internet for free, (without commercials) by now.
And in many ways, the current emotional debates about Red’s 4K camera hearken back to the early days of digital cinema when various industry groups were fighting tooth and nail over a spec.
Of course, in the heady world of 2002, analog TV broadcasts would be shut down in 2007 because there would be no one left watching them. That was the original plan at least. Now it’s slated for 2009. Interactive TV platforms came and went in the interim including systems like Wink, and even standards like ATVEF.
Do you remember Media100’s 844/X? It was a $60,000 uncompressed SD editing system introduced in 2002 that (almost) ended up being the last nail in Media100’s coffin. The company invested over $30 million in R&D developing the system and sold less than a dozen systems. Media100 was later sold to Optibase, who sold it to Boris Effects, and yes, it’s still out there, but it’s certainly not the editing powerhouse that it was in the old days.
2002 was the year of Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, the first big feature shot entirely with Sony’s CineAlta 24P camcorder, a camera that has become a commodity in the industry these days. That was right around the time that James Cameron and Vince Pace were pioneering stereoscopic 3D systems with Sony for Ghosts of the Abyss.
It was Episode II that prompted George Lucas to make his legendary proclamation: “I think I can safely say that I will probably never shoot another film on film.”
Of course, film survived Lucas, but the production techniques for film have undergone some radical changes over the last five years with the advent of the digital intermediate. Some of the first 4K DIs were done in 2002 on films like Stuart Little 2 and of course, today DI is the norm rather than the exception.
Quantel launched its GenerationQ initiative in 2002 – which lead to iQ, eQ and Pablo. Apple acquired Nothing Real, (makers of the Shake compositing system). Back in those days, Discreet products ran on expensive SGI platforms that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
2002 was the year Sony VFX was quietly developing a compositing system called Socratto in conjunction with a little known London-based company called Nucoda (later to be absorbed into Digital Vision).
Then there was 5D, whose intellectual property later became part of Discreet, who later became Autodesk Media and Entertainment. But 5D went out with a bang—a fantastic IBC party that lives in our hearts and minds forever—just a few weeks before being pushed into bankruptcy by an unexpected tax liability.
2002 was also the year Thomson unveiled it’s Viper Filmstream camcorder, as well as its Spirit 4K.
Of course, the impact of Moore’s Law over the past five years has been impressive, but it has an exponential effect, which makes you wonder how far we might go in the next five years.
With new cameras like Red, Silicon Imaging and GS Vitec’s NOX camera be the bell-bottoms of 2012? Will we discard 2 GB USB drives the same way we throw out old zip disks? Will compositing and editing systems just be part of the Windows operating system? Will 2K be obsolete?

Written by Scott Lehane

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