A view of Cine Gear 2019 at Paramount Studios.
Video/digital cinema production in 2019, to me, feels as if there are some groundbreaking changes underway. I’m not sure if you have felt this lately, but I definitely have.
Seismic Change #1 – Has Ai Finally Arrived in Editing?
As you may or may not be aware of, Blackmagic Design had major new product announcements recently. Buried within those new announcements was word that Resolve 16.1 public beta has been released. Contained within Resolve 16.1 is the new Smart Indicator. The new cut page in DaVinci Resolve 16 introduced multiple new smart features, which work by estimating where the editor wants to add an edit or transition and then allowing it to be applied without the wasted time of placing in and out points on the exact locations of the clips. While I’m not positive, I believe that the language Blackmagic Design is using indicates that these new features are at least a basic form of Ai, in that the software anticipates some editing decisions that the editor might want to make and then does them.This is supposedly faster because the software guesses what the editor wants to do and just does it by adding the inset edit or adding a transition to the edit closest to where the editor has placed the CTI. The problem is in complex edits, where it’s hard to know what the software would do and which edit it would place the effect or clip into. This is where the new smart indicator provides a small marker in the timeline so customers get constant feedback on where DaVinci Resolve will place edits and transitions. The new smart indicator constantly live updates as the editor moves around the timeline.
The other feature notable in Resolve 16.1 is the Boring Director. DaVinci Resolve 16.1 introduces a new Boring Detector that allows the whole timeline to be highlighted where any shot is too long and would be boring for a viewer to watch. The boring detector can also show jump cuts where shots are too short as well. The analysis is constantly showing which parts of the timeline are boring so as editors work and add shots to their edit, they can see the remaining parts of the edit that are considered boring. The boring detector is great when using the source tape, as editors can perform a lot of edits without playing the timeline, so the boring detector will be an alternative live source of feedback.
The question is, how do you feel about your editing software functioning as a sort of Ai powered assistant versus a passive tool? For me personally, I’m all for it. If I’m editing a piece, in the end, all that matters is if the edit works and if the visual and narrative story is engaging. I don’t really care that much about the process of how I got there. All that matters to me is if my clients and the audience like what they see. However, keep in mind, editing, for me, is a means to an end. I’m not a full-time editor who only edits for a living; it’s just a component of what I do. If I was a full-time editor, I might feel differently. Or I might not. How do you feel about this development from Blackmagic Design?
Seismic Change Number #2 – The Death of the Camera
If you haven’t heard about this, you will be soon. I won’t go into all of the detailed analysis because that would probably be pretty boring to read, but let me glean a few headlines for you about what’s been happening in our industry:
- Since 2010, the worldwide camera industry has dropped off 84 percent in sales volume over the past 9 years.
- There was a 24 percent drop in the number of cameras shipped in 2018 from 2017.
- Canon and Nikon saw camera sales fall more than 17 percent for the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018.
- Global digital camera shipments in February 2019 came in at only 935,148 units compared to the 1,001,398 shipped in January 2019. This is a more than a 30 percent decrease year-over-year.
What conclusions can we draw from these numbers? Keep in mind that these statistics and numbers are global and that they focus more on consumer cameras than professional digital cinema cameras. It’s obvious that the majority of the camera market hasn’t disappeared, but it has changed platforms, obviously to smartphones. A lot of buyers who would have previously just bought a digital point-and-shoot now are just using the increasingly capable cameras in their phones. The cameras in the highest-end smartphones especially have grown to be better and better as far as image quality and features.
As a consumer of professional cameras, why should all of these numbers concern me? The problem is, we have a trickle-down effect at work here. Canon USA recently laid off a sizable amount of its workforce and closed their Jamesburg, New Jersey, service facility. Sony has been dragging their feet, not introducing any new digital cinema camera in 2019, although they did introduce the Venice in 2018. Panasonic did introduce a new mirrorless 6K camera, the S1H, at CineGear 2019, but no new digital cinema camera from them this year either. Nothing but a $6k price reduction on their older Varicam LT.
As you can plainly see, the massive shrinking of the consumer camera market is affecting the professional digital cinema camera market as well. We’re also seeing the encroachment of the Chinese into the pro digital cinema camera market with new cameras like the Z Cam E2 and the Kinefinity Mavo. Both of these manufacturers are offering features and specs that were recently only available on the very top of the line cameras like the RED lineup, but for a fraction of the cost.
Is the camera market actually dying? I guess that depends on how you view the camera market. For traditional camera manufacturers, yes, this is a very difficult time as sales volume has dropped off tremendously. For professional users, we’re facing much longer product refresh cycles compared to the frantic pace of new cameras and innovation over the last few years. For some of the newer and smaller players, the camera market worldwide still presents opportunities to flourish, but the rules of the market and what the customers expect are changing rapidly. Witness Blackmagic Design who just introduced their new Pocket Cinema 6K camera at $1,500 less ($2,495) than Panasonic’s S1H 6K camera that isn’t even shipping yet. Stay tuned to see what craziness will envelop camera buyers next.
Seismic Change #3 – What’s Happening to Filmed Entertainment?
In a nutshell, consolidation, competition and streaming ascend. Consolidation is really all about the D-word, Disney. Is there anything that the Disney monolith hasn’t yet swallowed? Star Wars? Check. Pixar? Check. Marvel? Check. Fox? Check. Next up is the launch of the Disney Plus streaming service that will go head to head in the marketplace with Netflix and with Apple’s upcoming TV Plus streaming service. The players are changing as traditional studios like Sony, Paramount and Warner Bros. are being somewhat passed over by these new streaming monoliths. Sure, the old “traditional studio” players will still be around and providing content for the new players, but the days of theatrical and episodic television over broadcast being considered “Hollywood” are drawing to a rapid end.
What does all of this mean for us content creators? It’s hard to say. All three streaming services will have a huge appetite for new original and derivative programming, which is good for us. The competition is intense, though, as almost everyone is now more interested in pitching content to the new players than the older established studios, so it’s not like there’s a huge welcome mat on the front door of each streaming service inviting you in to pitch your series, movie or web series.
I predict a wholesale shakeup in the kind of programming that will be popular though. In the era of streaming, it feels as if the audiences will have more to say about the kind of content they watch since they’re more in charge than they were in the previous era. Audiences today aren’t afraid to activate a streaming service just for watching a particular series or event, then turning their subscription to that service off before moving on to the next show, series or outlet. There’s very little loyalty to a single streaming service like there used to be for watching “must-see TV,” so the landscape is becoming more fractured and individualized.
There have been some bright spots: The global theatrical and home entertainment market generated $96.8 billion in 2018, a 9 percent increase on 2017, according to a new report from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). As you’re probably aware, gaming surpassed filmed entertainment about 15 years ago and ever since then, filmed entertainment has been on a long, slow downward trend, so seeing that much year-on-year growth is encouraging for us all. Here’s to that number increasing!