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Indie Technology at Sundance

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By Bob BaylessEvery year in February tech companies make the pilgrimage to the Sundance Film Festival to showcase their latest and greatest, in the hope of to reeling in indie filmmakers while they’re young and fresh. It’s not the only place to catch the first glimpse of a brand-new product, but it’s a great opportunity for filmmakers to see what’s new without spending two grueling days at a conventional product show like NAB.Here’s a roundup of what was in store for the indies at this year’s Sundance.Intel delivered the first ever movie premier over a high-speed wireless link, WiMAX, showing the dance-music documentary Rize by David LaChapelle. It was streamed in Microsoft Windows Media 10 format from the Intel facilities in Oregon and projected in hi-def. The screening went so well that most viewers didn’t know it was being sent over the internet 1,000 miles to Salt Lake City, then relayed the last 55 miles to Park City and up to the ski lodge via a wireless link. WiMAX provides connectivity speeds of up to 75 megabits per second and can be used to transmit signal as far as 30 miles. It could be the wave of the future, when movie distribution switches over to digital. Intel was also pushing its Centrino chips, which, when used in laptops are fast enough for HD editing with up to four hours battery life.Sony was there promoting its line of video cameras. Of course they showed the new HD series cameras ranging from the top-of-the-line HDWF-900 to the popular PD-170 and the HDV version, the HVR-Z1U. Also there was the new XDCam series of optical disk products (popular with reality TV shows) that utilize blue-violet laser technology for high data-transfer rates and longer recording times. The series consists of two high-performance camcorders, two unique decks and a drive unit. Sony also showed its software products: Acid Pro 5, Vegas 5, Vegas + DVD, Sound Forge 7.0 and CD Architect 5.0.Panavision, as it does every year, offered its New Filmmaker Program to wannabe filmmakers. The company was showing its version of the Sony HD-900F (modified to accept Panavision lenses) and Genesis, its Panavision-branded new Super 35 digital cinematography camera system. It features a 35mm, 12.4 megapixel true RGB sensor, shoots one to 50 frames per second, has full bandwidth, dual link 4:4:4 HDSDI output, and utilizes all existing spherical 35mm lenses, including Primo Primes and zooms.HD and portability were the key words at Avid’s stand, where the Avid Express Pro HD software and Avid Mojo accelerator were available for try-out. Avid Express now features native DVCPRO HD editing (with native HDV editing coming soon), real-time multicam editing, powerful new film and 24p tools, and way too many other features to mention here. The Mojo is its low-end accelerator/breakout box, which allows capture and edit on a laptop with only the addition of a TV monitor and camera or playback deck. It’s available at a price well within the budget of an indie filmmaker. While learning the basics of film-based projects in Avid Express Pro HD, filmmakers could get hands-on with latest in affordable digital filmmaking at the Hewlett Packard/Avid Filmmaker workshop conducted by editor Norm Hollyn.Speaking of HD software, Adobe showed Premier (now HD capable) and After Effects. Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor on The Aviator was drafted to promote After Effects, a product he lauds for its wide availability, affordability and ability to interface well with other programs. Ron Ames, visual effects producer on The Aviator, added that he likes working with Adobe because of the company’s excellent outreach to filmmakers and level of tech support.Fujinon showed its new HD Cine Super E series zoom and prime lenses and its lightweight and compact HD Cine Compact C series lenses, along with its inventory of regular TV lenses and accessories.For the staging and large venue permanent installation markets, Digital Projection showed its HD DLP Projection line, which includes the Mercury, a three-chip DLP, 1,600 ANSI Lumens HD home theater projector; the HIGHlite professional series (8,000 and 12,000 lumens DLP HD projectors for medium to large venues); and the Lightning 35 HD projector (18,000 lumens) and MMS 1000 Multi-Media Switcher, which can support any analog, digital video, HD or computer source. Nearly everyone had some new products created, upgraded or at least aimed for the HD market, and HD was definitely the buzzword at Sundance.

Written by Bob Bayless

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