ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC has selected filmmakers Hannah Bang, Margo Sawaya and Sabina Vajrača to receive the 2020 Innovative Technology Award for their virtual production-based project, “The Ripple Effect.” The trio developed the futuristic live-action project with the aim of testing the limits of virtual production. “With Unreal Engine, we can minimize on set crew and provide better controls for talent and staff,” explained executive producer Erik Weaver. “We want to get people back to work while keeping cast and crews safe.” Continue reading ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

AMC, Universal Ink Pivotal Deal to Shrink Exclusivity Window

Hollywood film studio Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres, which operates more than 8,000 screens in the U.S., signed a historic multi-year agreement to allow Universal’s films to launch on video-on-demand only 17 days after their theatrical debuts, breaking the long-standing industry norm of 90 days between the two releases. Universal may, however, let tentpole movies play exclusively in movie theaters beyond 17 days. According to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chair Donna Langley, “the theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business.” Continue reading AMC, Universal Ink Pivotal Deal to Shrink Exclusivity Window

ETC Publishes Specification for Naming VFX Image Sequences

The Entertainment Technology Center (ETC@USC) VFX Working Group has published a specification for best practices naming image sequences such as plates and comps. File naming is an essential tool for organizing the multitude of frames that are inputs and outputs from the VFX process. Prior to the publication of this specification, each organization had its own naming scheme, requiring custom processes for each partner, which often resulted in confusion and miscommunication. ETC’s specification, which aims to standardize the process for media production, is available online for anyone to use. Continue reading ETC Publishes Specification for Naming VFX Image Sequences

‘Trolls’ Sequel Tests PVOD Model While Theaters Are Closed

“Trolls World Tour,” produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures, was due to release in movie theaters on April 10. But when the coronavirus pandemic closed theaters, Universal decided to release it as a $19.99 digital rental on platforms including Apple TV, Amazon and Comcast’s Xfinity. Three weeks later, “Trolls” has generated almost $100 million, more than the original 2016 movie. That has encouraged Universal execs to consider digital release as a real alternative to postponing a theatrical release. Continue reading ‘Trolls’ Sequel Tests PVOD Model While Theaters Are Closed

Studios, Filmmakers Create Virtual Movie Events via Twitter

As movie theaters remain shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, some studios are coming up with new and creative ways to enjoy the virtual cinema experience. Twitter is now offering an unofficial, informal screening series of Twitter Watch Parties that evoke the same exciting atmosphere of previous Live Watch tweeting events that grew organically out of “Game of Thrones” or “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Film-reviewing app and social network Letterboxd did a Watch Party with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” and pop culture platform Nerdist gathered users for a “watchalong” of the 1985 comedy “Clue.” Continue reading Studios, Filmmakers Create Virtual Movie Events via Twitter

Coronavirus: Theater Owners Request Government Assistance

With movie theaters shuttered across the U.S. due to the coronavirus, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) asked Congress and the Trump administration for loan guarantees and tax benefits to help pay workers and keep theater chains afloat. The top 10 theater chains in the nation have already or will shut down their theaters, representing 89 percent of U.S. screens. NATO represents 33,000+ screens in all 50 states. The Trump administration is considering similar benefits for the airline industry. Continue reading Coronavirus: Theater Owners Request Government Assistance

Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

As the coronavirus fuels a rise in online sales, Amazon plans to hire 100,000 more workers and raise pay for all employees in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour. The company’s starting wage is currently $15 per hour in its U.S. fulfillment centers. In the U.K., wages will rise £2 ($2.45) per hour and approximately €2 ($2.24) an hour in many European Union countries. At end of 2019, Amazon employed almost 800,000 full-time and part-time workers. Other companies are also seeing increased online sales as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

Coronavirus: AMC Is Latest Theater Chain to Close Locations

In response to precautions being taken to avoid spread of the coronavirus, AMC Theatres announced that, as of yesterday, it is closing its U.S. locations for at least 6-12 weeks while remaining flexible to comply with CDC and government guidelines. “AMC Stubs A-List members will automatically have their accounts paused” for the period of closure (without billing or payments), while film fans “are encouraged to continue the AMC movie-watching experience through AMC Theatres On Demand.” AMC joins Regal Cinemas, which announced earlier that it would be closing all its theater locations “until further notice.” Continue reading Coronavirus: AMC Is Latest Theater Chain to Close Locations

HPA Tech Retreat: Universal Unveils New Production Workflow

Like any movie franchise installment, Universal Pictures’ “Fast & Furious 8” (also known as “The Fate of the Furious”) relied on footage and data from the sequels that were produced before it. This movie was the proof of concept for Production 3.0, a new platform enabling quick access to assets like 3D VFX models for use in sequels, as well as theme park and AR/VR experiences.“Our production asset archive isn’t organized enough and doesn’t hold all production assets,” said Universal VP of creative technologies Annie Chang, who headed the team that developed it. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Universal Unveils New Production Workflow

HPA Tech Retreat: Latest From Academy Software Foundation

In 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established the Academy Software Foundation, with the mission of increasing the “quality and quantity of open source contributions … [to] lower the barrier to entry for developing and using” it. Its genesis was a survey conducted by the AMPAS Science and Technology Council that found 84 percent of those in the media & entertainment industry used it — but had challenges. At HPA Tech Retreat, ASWF executive director David Morin updated the group’s activities. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Latest From Academy Software Foundation

Universal, Warner Bros. Plan DVD Distribution Joint Venture

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment inked a deal to form a joint DVD distribution venture in North America, for library titles, TV content and new releases. The pact, slated to be operational by Q1 2021, will last through 2031. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president Eddie Cunningham will lead the venture, which will include executives from both studios. The two studios also signed license agreements for DVD distribution in countries outside of North America. Continue reading Universal, Warner Bros. Plan DVD Distribution Joint Venture

Mobile Games, Home Entertainment Strong Earners in 2019

Mobile games and home entertainment were big in 2019. Sensor Tower reported that Android and iOS mobile game players spent about $61.7 billion in 2019, up 12.8 percent from 2018’s $54.7 billion total. Mobile gaming also represented 74 percent of mobile spending for 2019. That year, home entertainment grew 8.4 percent to $25.2 billion, a record-breaking number. According to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the greatest areas of growth were digital, subscription streaming, and digital movie sales and rentals. Continue reading Mobile Games, Home Entertainment Strong Earners in 2019

Comcast to Invest $2 Billion in Peacock Streaming Service

Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh announced that the Philadelphia-based telecom giant plans to invest $2 billion in NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock during 2020 and 2021, with the expectation that it won’t be profitable for five years. Cavanagh, who spoke at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York City, added that the spending will represent, at its height, only about 1 percent of Comcast’s annual revenue. Comcast pay-TV subscribers will have free access to Peacock, scheduled to debut in April 2020. Continue reading Comcast to Invest $2 Billion in Peacock Streaming Service

ETC’s Latest Quarterly Newsletter Is Now Available Online

The Entertainment Technology Center’s newsletter covering new and ongoing projects over the course of the past fall quarter is now online. Among the key announcements: finalists are revealed for ETC’s Fall Immersive Media Challenge; coverage of ETC’s video series from its 5th annual virtual conference, vETC; an update on the Adaptive Production project, whose Archiving and Blockchain subcommittees published white papers on fixity and Consortium Shared Identity, respectively; highlights of ETCentric journalist Debra Kaufman’s reception of an ICG award; director of immersive media Phil Lelyveld’s interview at the Canadian Film Centre; a feature of new member company RWS Moravia; following up with a USC and ETC alumnus, Universal Pictures’ Lindsey Townley; and the announcement of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts course, “Hacking for Hollywood,” involving ETC CEO Ken Williams. Continue reading ETC’s Latest Quarterly Newsletter Is Now Available Online

Holoride, Ford, Universal Partner for In-Car VR Experience

Tech startup holoride has teamed with Ford Motor Company and Universal Pictures to create an immersive VR experience called “Universal Monsters Presents Bride of Frankenstein holoride.” The complimentary ride is being offered during select dates from October 14 to November 9 at Universal CityWalk Hollywood. “They are rolling it out at the theme park, but it could be featured anywhere because it is GPS-based,” explained ETC’s Phil Lelyveld, who recently previewed the ride with colleague George Gerba. “It adjusts to the location and the route. So it could be a touring experience, could be offered at store openings, etc.” Continue reading Holoride, Ford, Universal Partner for In-Car VR Experience

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