AMD hinting at XBox One and PS4 price drops soon

ps4 cesOne bit of news that emerged from CES 2016 came out of the CES round-table sessions.  Attending the session was AMD’s CEO Lisa Su, who mentioned that going forward into the new year many of the consoles would be entering mid-life while the AMD chips found in them would be going into the next generation.  This means cost reductions for the base chips used in many of todays consoles – but primarily the XBOX One and the PS4.

She wouldn’t be drawn on a timescale for moving to the next generation of more cost effective chips but made it clear it will be happening this year.  Of course it then comes down to either Microsoft of Sony to drop the retail prices for their individual consoles.  It has obviously been proven with past generations of consoles that dropping the price will increase the sales.  With past generations this has usually meant a small redesign also coinciding with a major price drop.  Something seen quite obviously with the history of the PS3.  The PS3 by now must be getting to be a thorn in the side for Sony.  Once it was hacked it was on the out as far as they were concerned – the PS4 would be the savior.  However with the current PS3 jailbreak 4.80 still allowing users to connect to their network it would seem the platform just will not die.  Hence the need for Sony to migrate everyone over to their PS4 console.  With the Christmas buying frenzy behind us now the only other option left available to bolster sales is a substantial price cut.  It remains to be seen yet though if the recent rumors of a PS4 Jailbreak exploit will be taken seriously by the company – something that may impact on any future plans of a price cut!

Another disappointment for Sony fans at this years CES was the absence on any real news on the PlayStation VR headset.  Sony choosing this year to instead focus on TV’s and the more mainstream consumer hardware.  This was to be expected of course but that couldn’t stop many from hoping to get some sort of update – especially as the Oculas Rift has now gone on sale (huge price though!)

Games got an even poorer showing with only the usual suspects being represented.  Sony have announced that 2016 is going to see an “unprecedented rush” of big releases for the PS4.  We can only wait and see if this is to turn out true.  Everyones looking forward to the release of The Last Guardian and Soul Saga but other up-comming titles such as Rime and Ray’s the Dead have met with much cooler responses.




George Lucas on Film Formats

george“I think I can safely say that I will probably never shoot another film, on film.” George Lucas at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, April 2001

…..In “An Interview with George Lucas”, Carolyn Giardina reported that George Lucas was very happy with directing and finishing his latest “film” totally in HDTV. The article appeared in the June 2001 issue of Film & Video Magazine. It was peppered with Lucas?? quotes extolling the virtues of HD video for theatrical releases.

“I love film, but there are limits,” he commented.

…..Film as insurance you didn??t have to use “There was absolutely no film at all used in the shooting of the film (Star Wars, Episode II). We did have probably a case of film and a Vistavision camera. We never had to use it. We never had a problem with the camera and we shot under unbelievably difficult conditions.” Lucas compared having the Vistavision to insurance that you never had to use. He also compares resistance to the adoption of the HD medium to the resistance people had toward digital non-linear editing.

…..Coppola and Cameron are next According to Lucas, his pioneering has led to others trying High Definition, “Frances [Ford Coppola] has bought a Sony camera and he’s shooting his next film that way; so is Jim Cameron.” (A Sony spokesperson only confirmed Cameron’s decision.) Lucas stated, “It??s a personal decision.”

…..The Look of HD Video “It really has more to do with the cinematographer, the art of cinematography, and lighting, more than technology. That??s an art.” For Lucas, the incentive came down to storytelling capabilities, not technology. “I??m not a technician; I??m a storyteller,” he said. “If it looks good to me on screen, I??m happy?? I definitely feel that in terms of my own look at the movie, it is indistinguishable from anything on film.

…..On HDCAM digital camera “The positive side was huge, the negative side really comes down to some annoying inconveniences and changes in thinking??”

…..Time savings lead to better creative “Ultimately, I can only look at [the shoot] from a storyteller point of view. I move much faster. I didn??t have to change the loads that often.” He credits saving time on re-loads to helping him get better performances from actors without interruptions. Saving time also came in not needing to process film for dailies.

…..Cost Savings In the article, Lucas also talks about cost savings. For Episode II, Lucas reported that the team shot 61 days (the schedule called for 65). He said they averaged about 37 setups a day, compared with 26 for Phantom Menace. “It??s very small stuff but it adds up,” he commented.

…..On Post Production In general, the director said the differences were more noticeable on the postproduction side, “because the mediums are more malleable.”

…..“I come out of postproduction and I??m used to manipulating images with an editor, moving things around?? what I do in filmmaking is edit. And I wanted to increase that capacity.”

…..But for Lucas, there were other pluses. “You can blow [the image] up to a greater degree than on film and manipulate it more easily,” he said. “We??ve done tests?? We are blowing [digital images] up 50-60 percent on top of it already being blown up to be widescreen and getting an absolutely beautiful image.

…..On Creative Freedom “I knew until we went digital, I wasn’t going to be able to go where I wanted to go. It was just too impossible.” And, “the digital revolution has democratized the medium, which I am a big proponent of.”

“All of this is great for the independent filmmaker, because this is going to loosen the gate keeping capability of some large corporations.”

—George Lucas

There’s more good stuff. Check for yourself.

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Should I always shoot in HD?

No, we’re not kidding. It’s finally a legitimate question that rational people can ask about a technology that has been around for more than a hundred years. In most areas where film used to dominate, the answer is both obvious and clear – film IS dead for the majority of users.

…..This fact isn’t even news anymore. Most news crews haven’t used 16mm film in more than 25 years. Home “movies” stopped using Super 8mm film more than a decade ago. Electronic still cameras are enjoying huge sales growth at the expense of traditional film cameras. Corporate training “films” became videos as capabilities rose. And the web seldom sees any film product at all.

…..In three areas, however, 35mm film continues to dominate as we enter the 21st Century. Episodic television, theatrical films, and national commercials still remain a mostly film world.

…..But that is changing too.

…..With the release of the latest 24P HDTV production cameras from Sony this fall, a number of pioneering producers in commercials, episodics and feature films have begun to switch from film to HDTV

…..More than a year ago, when Post Effects built the first HDTV on-line bay in Chicago, we were asked many questions about our decision and when we thought producers should start thinking about exploring this new technology. We wrote down some answers to the most frequent of these questions and an earlier version of this article was published in Chicago’s Screen magazine as an introduction to the world of HDTV. With some appropriate updates, here is that article…..

1. When should I start thinking about shooting or editing in HDTV?

…..Now. Your competition started thinking about HDTV yesterday. Doing tests. Learning lessons. But while almost everybody else has been “waiting” for HDTV, here is what has happened. All three major television networks aired significant HDTV programming last fall. NBC has been airing the Tonight Show in HDTV for more than a year, and recent word is that Saturday Night Live is next. Monday night football went high-def last season on ABC. Almost 75% of CBS??s primetime schedule was in HDTV last fall. The Discovery Channel is soliciting programs right now for a cable HDTV service. HBO and Showtime is already transmitting two HD channels via satellite. Feature films are being show in special theatres across America in HDTV without a film projector in sight. The business communications industry is love with HDTV as the ultimate attention-getter in trade shows and meetings. The audiences are still small, but the wait for HDTV is finally over.

2. Isn??t shooting in HDTV really expensive?

…..No. In fact, HDTV can actually save you money in many production situations. It??s true that basic HDTV camera rentals are slightly higher than renting a Digital Betacam. But take the time to analyze your total cost for a shoot day in NTSC or in 35mm film. For a standard definition shoot, the daily production cost for stage, crew, cast, lights and camera gear might be as low at $5,000 a day for a budget video, or as high as $50,000 (or more!) for a high-end commercial film. Shooting in HDTV will add only $300-$500 a day in comparison to a typical video shoot day (less than 10%) and shooting HDTV instead of 35mm film might actually SAVE the high-end production company $3,000-$5,000 per day in reduced film stock cost, lab processing, dailies transfer, elimination of the video assist package, etc.etc.

3. Isn’t editing in HDTV really expensive?

…..No. Off-line editing in an Avid still costs the same that it always did, and most of your budget often goes into that part of your budget. The “on-line” conforming of your creative cut can now be handled in a “traditional” linear or non-linear HDTV edit bay – at an hourly rate that is only about 10%-20% higher than a D-1 or Digital Betacam room. It is no longer necessary to spend a $1,000 an hour to edit in HDTV. In particular, a HD Flame or Fire at $1200/per hour is probably not the most economical or fastest way to edit in HDTV.

4. Arent graphics more expensive in HDTV?

…..Maybe. Computer graphics, animation and special effects in HDTV require more time or faster computers to work with the larger image size and greater detail of HDTV. For example, a typical frame of D-1 video is about 1 Meg in size. A typical frame of HDTV is about 6 Meg, which might take 6 times longer to render or transfer around a facility. Luckily, however, most graphic time is spent by artists being creative – not rendering – so your effects budget does not increase by 6 times. In fact, HDTV has so much visual impact from its wider aspect ratio and increased resolution that many people believe that the importance of special effects and graphics will actually diminish in HDTV – saving money in post. For budget purposes, we suggest planning on an increase of 50% in HDTV graphics budgets.

5. Does HDTV really look better than regular NTSC video?

…..Yes. Spectacularly so. The Sony HDCAM cameras that Post Effects, Fletcher Chicago and others are using are simply the finest imaging systems ever made. The sensitivity is greater than ever before – HDCAM cameras are rated at an effective ASA of 400. The contrast ratio is astounding, with the Sony cameras pulling details out of shadow areas that would be lost in both video AND most film stocks. And even the HDTV color spectrum is wider than the spectrum of a standard NTSC camera, so it is now possible to capture colors that I have never seen reproduced before – in food, in products and in nature photography. Looking at HDTV on an HD monitor is like looking into a moving 8×10 transparency – it is awesome – cool – and will captivate audiences instantly.

6. Is HDTV as good or better than film?

…..That’s the wrong question. HDTV is certainly better than video, but entirely different from film. In the past, producers have had the choice between only two formats for mass entertainment – film and video. Now there are three choices – video, film and HDTV. My personal belief is that many people will continue to choose film as their primary shooting format – at least for a while. But I also believe that a growing segment – maybe even a segment that includes the very highest end commercials, tradeshows and feature films ?? will begin to adopt HDTV as a new, cutting edge “look” that will help them attract the audiences that they seek.

7. Does HDTV look better even when viewed on a regular TV set?

…..Yes. This is the most important lesson we learned over the last 18 months of working and experimenting in HDTV. If you shoot and edit in HDTV, many of the radical improvement in picture quality are still visible when the HDTV signal is “down-converted” to NTSC and viewed on a regular NTSC monitor. That means there is no reason not to shoot and edit in HDTV – even if you are only delivering a “standard” definition commercial, documentary or TV show. If you think about it, almost anyone in our business can tell whether a show was shot on film or tape, even when watching a rental VHS tape from Blockbuster. This is because the inherent quality of film survives the dubbing process – and that??s why so many people love the “film look.” The big news is that the “HDTV look” survives this dubbing process too. Score!

8. Do I have to worry about which HDTV format will “win” in the marketplace?

…..No. Absolutely not. It’s true that television is once again in the middle of format “wars” like the ones we saw with the introduction of the D-1, D-2 and D-3 digital VTR??s in the late 1980’s. Like then, Sony feels it has the best product. So does Panasonic. And JVC. Even the TV networks can’t agree whether 1080i or 720p or some other format will be the best for them. So my advice is to ignore the controversy and shoot HDTV – any HDTV in any format – with a supplier you know and that you trust. The truth is that there will never be a winning HDTV format, just as there was never a winner in NTSC. Most facilities currently support more than 12 NTSC formats. In comparison, supporting 2 or 3 HDTV formats will be child’s play. Waiting for a winner is a fool??s game.

9. Do I have to change how I work to produce HDTV?

…..No. And if someone attempts to describe to you ways to work around the supposed “limitations” of HDTV, then that is a clue to find someone else to work with who has more knowledge and experience. Shooting, editing and creating effects in a well-designed HDTV facility should be a nearly identical process to NTSC. The only truly new skill that is required is the ability to master the effective use of the new 16×9 aspect ratio of HDTV and to anticipate how a 4×3 version of your material will look when down-converted. Everything else about HDTV is a new freedom. The freedom to shoot in lower light, with less fill, greater contrast – and with better looking images.

10. How do I begin to get experience in HDTV Production?

…..First, attend the HDTV seminars put on by Sony, Fletcher, RentCom, Post Effects and others. There is a wealth of experience already out there and it’s possible to learn important lessons just by asking. Secondly, start shooting and editing HDTV in Chicago now -even before you absolutely have to. In most cases, the budget increases are small – if any -and the resulting picture quality is superb.

…..And remember that if you were planning to shoot NTSC video anyway, then shooting HDTV will give you a stunningly better product. If you were planning to shoot film, then HDTV will probably save you money and give you a brand new high-end “look.” If you are doing tradeshows or meetings, then HDTV will deliver more impact per dollar than any other format. And if you are creating television shows or documentaries for future distribution, then you will protect yourself against future losses in income when your “low-res” 4×3 NTSC video begins to look as “dated” as a 1950’s B&W sitcom

Post Effects


Jacks%20Big%20Show%20WSPost Effects is a full service post production facility working with advertising, corporate, broadcast, and interactive clients from all over the United States. In addition to its editorial department, Post Effects maintains an innovative animation and graphics division complete with special effects directors. Its shooting department includes motion control services, stage, and video rental packages. Post Effects’ diverse client base includes companies like Leo Burnett, Motorola, Lois/EJL, Harpo Productions, Foote Cone & Belding, J. Walter Thompson, IBM, Ogilvy & Mather; WMAQ-TV, Buena Vista, Kurtis Productions, Live Marketing, DDB Needham, WGN-TV, AT&T, Columbia Pictures, Intel, T. Engel Productions, Nickelodeon, Kraft, and Polaroid to name a few. Conveniently located in Chicago’s River North district with its wonderful restaurants and galleries, Post Effects is just west of the Magnificent Mile, right off the Ohio/Ontario feeder ramp. Founded in 1984, Post Effects began as the brainchild of Mike Fayette, a successful Chicago editor whose entrepreneurial spirit envisioned a facility that could provide beyond-the-edge creativity in special effects, computer animation and post production services.

What began as a small basement operation with a staff of three now occupies five floors of a River North renovated loft facility with a staff of 40 and enjoys a healthy share of the agency, broadcast, corporate, and interactive markets both regionally and nationally. The variety of its services is what makes Post Effects unique. The company is sought for its expertise in location and studio shooting, as well as motion control to high-end special effects graphics and animation, to creative editorial and sophisticated digital post production. Post Effects tackles projects such as the creative cut and film-to-tape transfer on national commercials for a wide variety of advertisers and their agencies, and motion control and time-lapse production for feature films such as “Flatliners” and “Blink”.

Other projects include multi-layered special effects for broadcast opens and promos for various network and syndicated series, multi-screen videowall presentations for a special installation for Coca-Cola, and weekly editorial for syndicated shows like “The New Explorers”. In the past three years, the company has ventured into the interactive markets with the production of Viacom New Media’s popular video games, “Are You Afraid of the Dark – Orpheo’s Curse” , “Club Dead”, and in 1997, it produced a series of 4 CD-ROM electronic textbooks based on “The New Explorers” . Throughout the years, the talented staff at Post Effects has repeatedly enjoyed recognition and awards for their originality, creativity and technical expertise, winning top honors in The Emmys, The Clios, The International Monitor Awards, The Mobius Awards, The New York Film Festival, Siggraph, The Telly Awards, Philo Awards, and the AMI International Festival among others. In 1996, Post Effects underwent a major renovation and technical upgrade. In 1997 it became the first company in Chicago to offer virtual studio design with CyberSet in addition to adding talented new creative staff, ensuring its place as an innovative leader for the future.

Larger than Life

Bulls_6.“Larger than Life” is the title of the new TV campaign for the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Tribune’s Jim Kirk calls it, “the most entertaining local pro team advertising campaign since the White Sox introduced ‘Good Guys Wear Black’ in the early 1990s.”

…..The spots feature current Bulls players Jalen Rose, Jamal Crawford, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Trenton Hassel, Marcus Fizer, Eddie Robinson and newcomer Jay Williams, the number 2 pick in the recent NBA Draft.

…..Brett Thomas, Vice President and Creative Director for the Bull’s advertising agency, DiMeo & Co., said “The idea was to take these great players and make them truly larger than life, so we have them doing amazing things on billboards and the sides of buildings.”

…..The DiMeo & Co. campaign was produced in HDTV at Post Effects with Teresa Wysoglad, “We shot on HD 24p, and setup a 25ft white cyc on location at the Berto Center to shoot the players. We additionally shot some of them on plexiglass and performing dunk shots. The morning after Jay Williams was drafted, we re-set the cyc at United Center to add him into the spot.”

…..Another memorable part of the campaign was that it was the first commercial for Jay Williams. “He tried his hardest.” Praised director Christopher Jones of Cadillac Productions, “As good as he is at basketball and as charming as he is in person, this guy was hard working He will do well.”

…..The spots show the players coming to life from outdoor billboard images throughout Chicago into live action as the players dribble, shoot and perform other basketball feats, to the awe of a young boy in a passing car.

…..To do this, the footage of the basketball players was matted into the scenes of billboards shot in HD 24p around Chicago. Director Christopher Jones created mini-storylines, letting the visuals tell the story for these dialogue-free commercials. “It was completely breaking new ground for me and a lot of fun. We matched the best looking billboards with the best looking backgrounds. In many ways it was like shuffling a deck of cards with the Bulls in one pile and the backgrounds in the other and matching them all up.”

…..Rich Dziagwa composited the images, “Working in HD gave me more freedom to blow-up and reposition the images to make it all work seamlessly and sell the illusion of the billboards coming to life.”

…..Music and sound design was also done at Post Effects by Mike Salvatori in a “stomp” fashion, to mimic drums to the sound of basketballs bouncing.

…..Editor Marilyn Wulff gave the commercials pacing and movement so that the choreography of images enhanced the athleticism of the players.

…..“What was great about working at Post Effects was once I was in the door I could run around and get what I want. Everyone was on the same page and I’ve never had that experience before,” said director Christopher Jones, “Teresa was there to help it all come together. She was a really good producer. She gave me a lot of latitude to be creative. When we hit a snag-time, money—whatever, she would throw a completely different idea out and it would work to bring it all together. She protected this project like she was a Mama Bear protecting a cub.”

The History Channel

.Although pleased with its growing audience and critical acceptance, The History Channel continues to search out new production companies to fill out a growing array of national and international cable channels, Carl Lindahl, vice president of historical programming, told a gathering of 50 Chicago producers at Post Effects last week.

…..Lindahl, who serves as the primary contact for new program development, said The History Channel is now entertaining new program “one offs” for a two-hour time slot every week and consecutive one-hour series – like the recent “History of Sex” – that can be programmed across four nights.

…..“There’s no particular area we are looking for,” Lindahl said, “but if you want to know something not to suggest, I’d stay away from The Civil War.”

…..The History Channel is one of the major outlets for documentary programming in America. Because it is commercial-based, it’s extremely responsive to audience ratings and demographics, which Lindahl described as a primarily male, 25 to 54 year old viewer. (the mean viewer is in his late 40’s.) Programs are usually commissioned rather than acquired and tend to be produced for hour time slots and not -hour segments.

…..To submit program ideas, Lindahl suggested sending a single page program one-sheet instead of a long proposal and/or demo tapes. (“The heavier presentations tend to fall to the bottom of the pile,” he said.) If there is interest, The History Channel will follow up with a request for more information on the production company and initiate discussions about program treatment.

…..“I’ve only been there since December,” Lindahl said – previously, he was director of non-fiction programming at Turner Broadcasting – “so I tend to go see Joe, who runs our scheduling and has been with The History Channel since it was started. Sometimes, Joe will say “no, we’ve done that show six times before.” And sometimes Joe will say, “we’ve done that show six times before and it’s drawn good ratings. Let’s do it again.”

…..Lindahl appeared in Chicago as part of the Post Effects Gateway project to introduce independent producers to national programming executives. Previous guests have included Alyce Myatt, midwest vice president of PBS, and Michael Sullivan, executive producer of Frontline.