• Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020
Filmotechnic USA unveils 3 new camera car platforms, adds regional facilities
Filmotechnic's new camera car resources being put through their paces at Willow Springs Raceway.
LOS ANGELES -- 

Filmotechnic USA, a provider of high performance camera car systems to the entertainment industry, follows up a record 2019 with three new car platforms and additional regional facilities coming online for 2020.

Thom Tanton, head of Filmotechnic USA sales, said, “We’ve doubled down, adding three new vehicles to the fleet, coupled to the latest and only authentic Russian Arm tech. We’re also opening up additional rental facilities around the U.S. Today’s filmmakers need to go everywhere for their projects. Filmotechnic will be there for them.”

The three new camera car platforms added to the largest fleet in the market are a completely new fabricated Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Toyota Tundra TRD PRO and supercharged Toyota 4 Runner TRD. 

All the new camera cars were put through their paces last week at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. In addition to Filmotechnic USA camera cars and flight heads, drones from aerial cinematography company XM2, a helicopter from Pursuit Aviation and Teradek wireless video systems were all integrated for two days of non-stop testing in real world, high speed scenarios.

The Tundra TRD comes with a 381 HP V8 AWD before Filmotechnic modifies it with oversized tires. For additional horsepower, a TRD Supercharger was already added to the 4-Runner. New Rental Facilities

The last two years has seen Filmotechnic expand to all areas of the U.S. Originally located in L.A. and Detroit, Filmo has opened facilities in filmmaking hotbeds across the country. This year is no different, with camera car system rentals now coming online in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Currently, Filmotechnic also has offices in Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando and Honolulu.

  • Monday, Feb. 17, 2020
Facebook VP of Messenger chat app discusses privacy 
In this undated image provided by Facebook Stan Chudnovsky, the vice president of Messenger at Facebook, poses for a photo. Chudnovsky heads the messaging app that's used by more than 1.3 billion people each month and recently spoke to the AP about his work and views on privacy. (Facebook via AP)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

At Facebook, Stan Chudnovsky oversees the Messenger chat app that's used by well over 1 billion people each month. He's playing a key role in helping Facebook integrate that app with its other chat tools, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.

The massive project has already gotten pushback from regulators worried about Facebook's size and power. Government officials also worry about Facebook's plans to extend end-to-end encryption to Messenger. Once that happens, Facebook wouldn't be able to respond to law enforcement subpoenas because it wouldn't have a way to unscramble messages.

Chudnovsky, who moved to the U.S. from Russia in 1994, joined Facebook in 2015. He spoke recently about his work and views on privacy. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What are the biggest roadblocks in bringing end-to-end encryption?

A: It's technologically hard to move from the system that is alive and functioning and has billions of messages being sent every day to where it's done completely differently architecturally. We also need to figure out how to do as much as we can on safety, while being the leaders on privacy. We are trying to go through that process slowly and very responsibly while talking to everyone. 

Most messages in the U.S., where (Apple's) iMessage is leading, are already end-to-end encrypted. We want to make sure that we get to the point when we lead very strongly and we do as much on safety as we possibly can given the constraints of end-to-end encryption. 

Q: How do you ensure that people are safe when you can't see bad things people are doing?

A: We are going to continue to work very closely with law enforcement on whatever we can provide. We also have connectivity to social networks. Whoever is a bad player on social networks, we will be able to see if those bad players exist on messaging services. 

I don't want to go into details on how we are thinking about approaching that stuff. But we're just going to invest heavily in identifying threats earlier, 

Q: You can send things in a private message that you can't post on Facebook, right?

A: Definitely. You should be able to send whatever you want to send in a private message. 

Q: What if it's illegal or hurting someone?

A: Generally we believe that conversation between people should be private. We don't make a difference between the conversations that are happening in the living room or on the phone and conversations that are happening in a private chat.

Q: What if you try to sell a gun, despite Facebook's ban?

A: If you're trying to sell a gun, you are probably trying to sell a gun to many people. When someone reports that and someone provides the messages that from the point of that person are illegal, then definitely we will be able to look at that.

Q: What are the biggest things that you have to figure out before interoperability becomes reality?

A: Generally, just a features compatibility in the sense that, if I "like" some message on one app, how does it manifest itself in another? Or will I be able to also call people, not only send messages? 

Q: Do you think scrutiny of Facebook will ease any time soon?

A: We have a lot of responsibility. And the criticism, sometimes it's accurate. Sometimes it's not accurate. At the end of the day, what it means if everyone's talking about you positively or negatively or both, is that you're important. We just need to continue to deliver value to people. And as long as we are building products that people like. I think it's going to be fine.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020
AJA ships HDR Image Analyzer 12G with 8K support
HDR Image Analyzer 12G
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. -- 

AJA Video Systems is now shipping HDR Image Analyzer 12G, the powerful, real-time HDR and WCG monitoring and analysis platform featuring 12G-SDI connectivity. Developed in partnership with Colorfront, HDR Image Analyzer 12G supports up to 8K/UHD2 HDR monitoring and analysis for high raster content over 12G-SDI, with the simplicity of single-cable connectivity for higher bandwidth workflows.

HDR Image Analyzer 12G fuses AJA’s production-proven video I/O technology with powerful HDR and WCG image analysis tools from Colorfront, including waveform, histogram and vectorscope monitoring and analysis of up to 8K content over 12G-SDI for broadcast and OTT production, post, QC and mastering. Within a compact 1RU chassis, HDR Image Analyzer 12G provides users with a comprehensive toolset to monitor and analyze SDR and HDR formats, including PQ (Perceptual Quantizer) and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). Additionally, the HDR Image Analyzer v2.0 update introduces configurable windows support for increased user flexibility for both the HDR Image Analyzer 12G and original HDR Image Analyzer models.

Additional HDR Image Analyzer 12G features include:

  • 8K/UltraHD2, 4K/UltraHD, and HD 60p over 12G-SDI inputs
  • UltraHD UI for native resolution picture display over DisplayPort
  • Configurable layouts for placing desired tools in the preferred window
  • Remote configuration, updates, logging and screenshot transfers via an integrated web UI
  • Remote Desktop support
  • Support for display referred SDR (Rec.709), HDR ST 2084/PQ and HLG analysis
  • Support for scene referred ARRI®, Canon®, Panasonic®, RED® and Sony® camera color spaces
  • Display and color processing lookup table (LUT) support
  • CIE graph, vectorscope, waveform and histogram support
  • Nit levels and phase metering
  • False color mode to easily spot pixels out of gamut or brightness
  • Advanced out of gamut and out of brightness detection with error intolerance
  • Data analyzer with pixel picker
  • Line mode to focus a region of interest onto a single horizontal or vertical line
  • File-based error logging with timecode
  • Reference still store
  • SDI auto signal detection
  • Three-year warranty

HDR Image Analyzer 12G is now available through AJA’s worldwide reseller network for $19,995 US MSRP.

  • Monday, Feb. 3, 2020
Dan Castles returns to Telestream, named CEO
Dan Castles
NEVADA CITY, Calif. -- 

Telestream, a global provider of digital media tools, quality monitoring and workflow solutions, has brought back Dan Castles, one of the company’s original founders, as CEO to lead the company through its next phase of growth. Scott Puopolo, who has served as CEO of Telestream since 2017, has decided to step down. Puopolo successfully developed and advanced Telestream’s strategy, which will drive the company’s growth in the years ahead.

Eli Weiss, managing director of Genstar Capital, Telestream’s majority shareholder, commented: “Scott has been a great partner to Genstar in our efforts to grow and expand Telestream. As we embark on a new decade which promises to bring fundamental changes to the broadcast industry, we are excited to have Dan rejoin Telestream to help drive its growth strategy and continue to lead the industry.”

Under Castles’ 20-year leadership, Telestream experienced consistent year-on-year revenue growth, and strong profitability. 

  • Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020
New documentary cloaks anonymous sources in "face doubles"
This undated photo provided by HBO Documentary Films shows a scene from "Welcome to Chechnya." In documentary film, the anonymous source has often been reduced to a shadowy, voice-distorted figure, or worse, a pixelated blur. But the new documentary premiering Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at the Sundance Film Festival has with the aid of advanced digital technology gone to greater lengths to preserve the secrecy of its sources while still conveying their humanity. (HBO Documentary Films via AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

In documentaries, anonymous sources have often been reduced to a shadowy, voice-distorted figure — or worse, a pixelated blur. But a new documentary premiering Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival has, with the aid of advanced digital technology, gone to greater lengths to preserve the secrecy of its sources while still conveying their humanity. 

"Welcome to Chechnya," directed by David France, is about an underground pipeline created to rescue LGBTQ Chechens from the Russian republic where the government has for several years waged a crackdown on gays. In the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia ruled by strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, LGBTQ Chechens have been detained, tortured and killed. 

France, the filmmaker behind "How to Survive a Plague" and "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson," worked in secrecy with the Russian LGBT Network, a group formed to help save gay Chechens and find them asylum abroad. But France had a dilemma. He couldn't reveal the identities, or the faces, of his main characters. Their lives depended on staying anonymous. 

Yet France still wanted to faithfully show the trials they were enduring. That meant none of the old methods of cloaking anonymous sources would work. 

"They were dehumanizing," France said in an interview. "I believe one of the reasons we haven't been hearing about this ongoing crime against humanity in the south of Russia is because we haven't been able to hear from the people and see the people who have suffered this unspeakable torture. When the only testimony of a crime of this magnitude comes from people who are behind a curtain, it lacks the empathy of the public that this story truly deserves."

France didn't know how he would resolve the issue, but he promised those he shot that he would somehow disguise them. After searching and testing a range of approaches, France settled on a novel one: In "Welcome to Chechnya," the faces of all the LGBTQ Chechens have been replaced using artificial intelligence. It's a little like the documentary answer to "The Irishman" or a more altruist version of a "Deepfake." 

The faces seen in "Welcome to Chechnya" belong, in fact, to 22 volunteers whose faces were superimposed on the people in the film. Most of them are LGBTQ activists in New York. The "face doubles" were shot on a blue screen stage and converted into algorithms that, with machine learning, could digitally mask the subjects of the film. Different voices were substituted, too. 

"Nobody had ever really attempted this before," said France. "And most people said it was impossible. It turned out it was pretty close to impossible but not impossible."

The technology was developed by software architect Ryan Laney. And its implementation was decided through a study organized by Dartmouth College professor Thalia Wheatley, an expert in brain sciences. She showed 109 students different visual effects options of "Welcome to Chechnya" to determine which one conveyed empathy the best and avoided an "uncanny valley" effect. (Another less successful option was using filters to render the film's individuals cartoon-like caricatures.) 

Still, adding the face doubles throughout the film was a grueling, months-long process that only concluded a week before the premiere of "Welcome to Chechnya," which HBO will release in June. "The Irishman," by comparison, altered its actors' faces in highly planned scenes with carefully orchestrated camera movement. France's documentary was full of erratic movements of both camera and people. 

Every step of the way, France and his editors worked on encryption drives, and never let their original footage with real faces touch the internet or even a computer that had previously been connected to the internet. They edited in what France calls a windowless bunker in Los Angeles. 

"It added a lot of time to our work," said France, "But it reminded us everyday what the stakes were and what it meant to be the people whose lives were shared with us and entrusted us in sharing their lives with a wider audience." 

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020
ARRI delivers under its Signature
ARRI Signature Primes
MUNICH -- 

ARRI’s entire range of Signature Prime lenses is now available and shipping. Known for capturing warm, smooth skin tones, with exceptionally soft bokeh and delicate flares, the ARRI Signature Prime lenses are the first full range of large-format lenses designed specifically for digital cinematography. They feature 16 focal lengths ranging from 12 mm to 280 mm. The Signature Primes cover all image circles, up to 46 mm, making them compatible with any ARRI or third-party camera with an LPL mount.

In a recent interview with ARRI, cinematographer Roger Deakins CBE, ASC, BSC explained, “the image that the ALEXA LF and the Signature Primes produces, seems to me, more like what my eyes see than anything else I have experienced so far.”

Since their launch, the ARRI Signature Prime lenses have been used on the set of high-profile feature films and television series including 1917 with Deakins CBE, ASC, BSC, Emily in Paris with Steven Fierberg ASC, Just 1 Day with Chris Doyle, HKSC, Outlander (season 5) with Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC, and The Invisible Man with Stefan Duscio ACS. Cinematographer Adam Kimmel ASC has also used the Signature Primes on commercials for Audi, MG, Mercedes-Benz, and Jeep. 

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020
Digital Garden shows Resolve for Drama Series "Eren the Southpaw"
A scene from "Eren the Southpaw"

Tokyo’s Digital Garden has graded Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS) MBS/ Tokyo Broadcasting System’s (TBS) drama series Eren the Southpaw with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio. The live-action show, based on a manga series by artist Kappy, includes hundreds of shots per episode graded with an advanced collaborative workflow at Digital Garden using a mix of DaVinci Resolve Advanced Panel, and DaVinci Resolve Mini or Micro Panel.

Digital Garden’s Masahiro Ishiyama and Osamu Haga are the main colorists for the series, with one handling grading for the present and one for the past. The series follows Koichi Asakura and Eren Yamagishi, who met each other while in high school and continue their relationship as Koichi becomes a designer and Eren becomes an up and coming painter in NYC. “To those who could not become a genius” is the catch phrase for this series and the story depicts the people and environment in the art industry and at an ad agency based on the manga author’s actual experience.

For Digital Garden, best known for color grading TV commercial work, Eren the Southpaw was one of its first long form drama series. The show’s DP, Akiyoshi Yoshida, wanted to use Digital Garden’s commercial expertise and asked them to grade the drama as if they were grading a TV commercial, while at the same time creating two different looks between current and past scenes. To do this, he shot in two different aspect ratios -- 4:3 for past and 2:1 for current.

 

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020
Utah Scientific tabs John Schilberg for new post
John Schilberg
DALLAS -- 

Utah Scientific, which provides mission critical equipment to content creators, distributors, and broadcasters, has appointed John Schilberg to serve as director of product development and technical marketing.

Schilberg’s main focus will be product development by working with industry professionals, the in-house engineering team, and current and potential customers. He will help in the design and release of Utah Scientific products and serve as the company’s technical spokesperson. In addition to his product management responsibilities, he will develop and deliver engineering presentations, consult on improvements to Utah Scientific’s web presence, and lead other marketing efforts.

Schilberg has been with Utah Scientific for two years as a regional sales manager.  Schilberg will report to Brett Benson, Utah Scientific VP of strategic accounts, and will continue to work out of his Dallas area office.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020
Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence
Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai addresses the audience during an event on artificial intelligence at the Square in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Google's chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also negative consequences. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
LONDON (AP) -- 

Google's chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also "negative consequences."

Sundar Pichai's comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

"There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this," Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there's an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, "international alignment" of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals. 

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU's powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. She's also due to meet Microsoft President Brad Smith separately on Monday. 

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai's comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach U.S. authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

"Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities," he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe's tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for "nefarious reasons" which he didn't specify. 

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.

Pichai was also due on Monday to meet Frans Timmermans, the EU commissioner overseeing the European Green Deal, the bloc's plan to fight climate change by making the continent carbon neutral by 2050, including through technology. He's then scheduled to head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. 

  • Monday, Jan. 20, 2020
James Dean revival spurs debate on raising the digital dead 
This Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, photo shows a bust of actor James Dean at the Griffith Observatory in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. Travis Cloyd, who is leading the revival of Dean for his appearance in "Finding Jack," says his company will eventually offer the late actor's digital likeness for a range of roles in movies, TV and video games. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The men bringing James Dean back to life for a forthcoming film are aiming not just to give his digital likeness a role, but a whole new career.

Dean's planned appearance in the Vietnam War movie "Finding Jack," and the possibility of future parts, comes as digital de-aging and duplication of real actors has tipped from cinematic trick into common practice. And it's giving new life to old arguments about the immortality and dignity of the dead.

"Our intentions are to create the virtual being of James Dean. That's not only for one movie, but going to be used for many movies and also gaming and virtual reality," said Travis Cloyd, CEO of Worldwide XR, who is leading the design on the Dean project. "Our focus is on building the ultimate James Dean so he can live across any medium."

Legally, they have every right to do it, via the full agreement of the Dean estate and his surviving relatives. 

"Our clients want to protect these valuable intellectual property rights and the memories that they have of their loved ones," said Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, the legal and licensing company that has long owned the title to Dean's likeness. "We have to trust them. ... They want to see that their loved one's image and memory continues to live on."

Dean is an obvious candidate for revival with his embodiment-of-Hollywood image and the brevity of his life and career — he died at 24 and made just three films: "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant." 

Roesler and Cloyd have not obtained the rights from Warner Bros. to use footage from those films, but they have a large trove of photos and Dean's dozens of TV roles. 

"There are thousands of images that we do have to work with," Cloyd said. "What we typically do is we take all those images and videos and we run them through machine learning to create that asset."

That will be added to the work of a stand-in actor using motion-capture technology as commonly done now with CGI characters, along with the overdubbed voice of another actor. 

The announcement of the role last year caused a quick backlash, with responses like that of "Captain America" star Chris Evans on Twitter: "Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes. The complete lack of understanding here is shameful."

"I think there's definitely something cynical and what feels like a little bit distasteful about bringing especially long-dead actors back to life," said Terri White, editor-in-chief of film magazine "Empire." "The reaction to the likes of the James Dean news has actually shown that I think most people don't really want that."

For the people behind the Dean project, the negative reaction is as inevitable as they believe the eventual acceptance will be. Cloyd foresees a Hollywood where even living actors have a "digital twin" that helps in their work. 

"This is disruptive technology," Cloyd said. "Some people hear it for the first time and they get shaken by it. But this is where the market is going." 

The revival of the dead, often done clumsily, has been happening for much of Hollywood's existence. 

Footage of Bela Lugosi, combined with a double holding a cape over his face, was used in 1959's "Plan 9 From Outer Space," released after the horror star's death. Bruce Lee's film "Game of Death," left unfinished before his 1973 death, was completed using doubles and voice overdubs and released five years later. "The Fast and the Furious" star Paul Walker died in 2013 before shooting was done on "Furious 7." His two younger brothers and others acted as stand-ins so his scenes could be finished. 

Even Lennon, and many other dead historical figures, were digitally revived in 1994 in "Forrest Gump." 

But the technology of recreation and resurrection has taken a major leap forward in quality and prestige, with the extensive de-aging and re-aging used in Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman"; a young Will Smith digitally returning to play opposite the current version in last summer's "Gemini Man"; and Carrie Fisher, whose younger self briefly returned digitally in 2016's "Star Wars: Rogue One" and appeared again after her death, in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." 

These instances have elicited scattered skepticism — both of the quality of the technology and the propriety of the revivals — but audiences have largely accepted them. 

Guy Williams, visual effects supervisor at filmmaker Peter Jackson's Weta Digital, said the possibilities do offer a moral dilemma. 

"The question isn't so much if you use somebody's likeness to bring them back or to create a digital version of them, it's what you do with it and the respect that you show to it," Williams said. "So that, to me, is the more important question." 

Pablo Helman, the visual effects supervisor behind the de-aging of Robert De Niro and others in "The Irishman,"  said he considers that moral dilemma in his work. 

"The main question that you need to ask yourself is why do it?" Helman said. "You know, just because you can do it doesn't mean you should, you know? That would be one thing that I'm always questioning: Is it in service of the story?"

Ethical considerations are likely to give way to market forces if viewers decide they find digital versions of dead actors plausible, and palatable.

"I think the moral question is going to be decided by the audiences and society, whether they want to see that," said Bill Westenhofer, visual effects supervisor on "Gemini Man." 

Dean will be playing a supporting role in "Finding Jack," which is now in pre-production. The limited screen time is, at this point, as far as those recreating him want to go. But they hope the digital avatar can eventually carry a movie, possibly even playing James Dean himself at different ages. 

"At some point there's going to be the James Dean biopic," Cloyd said. "I think the technology is not necessarily there today to take the risk."

Kemp reported from London. 
 

MySHOOT Company Profiles