Friday, February 14, 2003

Happy Anniversary!

HD Vision Celebrates First LA Anniversary
High Definition Pioneer Randall Dark Expands His Operation in Hollywood

Randall Dark, who worked on some of the earliest movies shot in HD, completed his first year of operation in Los Angeles last month. “I’m new to Hollywood but I’ve got to tell you I love, love being in Los Angeles, being where the pulse is,” he says. “I think my timing is perfect.”

Dark was born and raised in Canada and got into production there. “I started in high definition up in Canada in 1986 working on Chasing Rainbows for the CBC. I was the high definition mobile operator,” he recalls. “And then I moved to New York City and I was doing high definition work out of the Ed Sullivan Theatre.”

In the early Nineties, following the first wave of excitement over HD, Dark made a decision. “I decided that high definition was going to fall away unless someone started doing multi-camera work,” he says. “That’s when I decided to open up in Dallas and get the HD Vision truck so that we had the ability to show sporting events and concerts.”

For the next decade he was one of a handful of people in the country who produced and directed high definition projects. He did a lot of work for corporate clients and supplied programming to various cable outlets. In January 2002 Dark moved his business to Los Angeles and changed the name to HD Vision Studios.

Dark says, “We wanted to create a broadcast center and who better to run it than Tom Martinez? One of the big futures of high definition is not just television it’s transporting high-resolution, digital widescreen images around the world. And Tom is one of the leading experts working in this field.” Martinez says that since Hollywood has such a strong film tradition many people in the industry have never seen HD before. He says they’re invariably impressed when they finally get a high definition demo.

“Whether it’s a 1080i image or a 24p image we blow them away on a 15x9-foot screen in 5.1 Surround Sound,” Martinez explains. “The first reaction that we always get is, ‘Oh, my God!’ Seeing is believing. We can talk about film forever and the different film techniques and different film lenses and the projectors but when you start projecting off a cinema grade DLP and then we let them know the costs, it sells itself. You don’t have to do a whole lot. We’re letting technology speak for itself.”

Martinez continues, “It’s not only filmmakers, it’s broadcasters and people that are shooting in a 4x3 aspect. Those are the people who are also blown away by high definition. Whether it’s a film producer or a broadcaster from ABC or CBS that comes in here.”

Dark says many actors are wary of HD because they’ve heard horror stories about how unflattering the crisp image can be. “A lot of times it’s the first time they’ve seen themselves in high definition,” he says of the people who visit his studio.

He says the side-by-side comparison impresses them. “Part of Tom’s mandate and part of my mandate is we want to educate and compare apples to apples,” Dark says. “Everyone can say this and say that but seeing it is truly believing it. We want people to judge for themselves. There is a huge resistance but what we’re finding is there’s an incredible craving of knowledge. Sure we’re a high definition house but we also want to show what 35mm transferred to HD looks like and we also have examples of that, what 24p looks like and what 1080i looks like with the best toys available.”

“ We want people to make the decision,” he continues. “And, to be honest, if they come in and say, ‘Randall, we love the look of 35mm film transferred to HD,’ as a subjective art form it looks better than 24p or 1080i, we embrace that. Our job is not to change people’s minds. Our job really we feel is just to illustrate because it’s subjective. Film is an art form. I don’t want to replace film. As an artist I prefer using high definition because I can create a much better story with it as my tool and I have much greater control over my story.”

His message to Hollywood executives is simple. “If you get an image and if the general population embraces it and it costs you less, well isn’t that a win-win scenario?” Dark asks.

Dark can envision a time when commercials, trailers, even features are instantly transmitted to theatres via fiber optics, satellite or the Internet. He cites Barbershop as an example of a surprise hit that could have done even better financially if it could have been shown in more theatres in the opening weeks of its first run.

“We can [distribute HD] overnight,” he says. “We have the fiber or satellite. What we try to do is service our client’s immediate needs whether it’s standard def or high def. We see this company as a gateway for the future so that when digital cinema happens and Boeing or whoever else gets involved there’s a company already out there that can deliver information to the locations they need.”

HD Vision Studios is also involved with original production and has just completed the first of a 13-part documentary series titled, Artist in the Round. The series focuses on accomplished artists and the major obstacles they’ve overcome to reach the levels of achievement they’ve attained in their careers.

The first documentary, Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark introduces viewers to the Canadian sculptor, who daily triumphs over dyslexia. Raised in a time where public schools didn’t even know the word dyslexic, Shayne was never diagnosed and therefore, was simply regarded as a slow learner. Consequently, as an adult, he reads and writes at a second grade level. The documentary explores Shayne’s battle to overcome this life long learning disability, becoming a contemporary artist with international recognition.

Artist in the Round was shot and posted in high definition by director, Dark, producer, Kristen Cox and editor Jayme Wing. The footage was captured using a Sony HDC-700A camcorder and posted at HD Vision Studios using a Snell & Wilcox switcher, Sony BVE-9100 editing system and a Graham Patten 8000 audio mixer.

That Shayne Dark is Randall Dark’s brother only made the project more special. “The new series is near and dear to my heart,” Dark says. “We need to create programs that are inspiring and uplifting.”

Productions and co-productions are a key part of the business mix. “We’re always looking for new projects, new partnerships,” says Dark. “We see the independent filmmaker as a very important client.” He believes his second year in Los Angeles will be even better than the first. “I’m neutral. I’m pro film. Film is fabulous. I’m not out to replace it. All I want to do is let you see the world where it is at a technological level so that you don’t feel threatened.”

“What I love about HD is that it helps level the playing field,” Dark says. “The cost of 35mm production has historically been very expensive. Movies, because of the way they are imaged and distributed can only be created with a substantial amount of money invested. This system is now going under constant review and changes. The independent producer can finance a production with less up front costs. HD offers previously impossible savings. Money that was initially earmarked for hard costs can now be allocated in front of the lens.”

Dark understands that we are in the midst of a transition era and that many uncertainties lie ahead. He remains certain about one thing, however. Says Dark, “The future is digital high resolution widescreen, period.”

©2003 Digital Cinema Report, Inc.