mann-scorsese

Two film tech tidbits for you: First up, we’ve caught word from the Italy-based blog screenWEEK that Michael Mann is apparently very interested in doing a 3D feature at some point. In a recent event with Mann regarding Public Enemies, someone in the crowd asks him about shooting in 3D. Mann responds:

Yes! I’d love to shoot a 3D movie, it’s something that fascinates me! The more the audience is immersed the better it is!

This should be no surprise since Mann has a history of embracing new film technologies, much to the chagrin of some purists out there. In the same piece, Mann discusses how he decided to shoot Public Enemies digitally, and I think it also speaks to his stance on 3D.

We were supposed to shoot on film but then just before the beginning of the shooting we had a test. On a rainy night we took a car from the ’30s and some people dressed as those days, we put them in front of a wall and shot both with a film camera and with a video camera. When we watched the result, the film images looked like a period movie, the digital ones looked like today.

Even though I don’t consider Public Enemies one of his better films, I stand behind his decision to shoot it digitally. It added a unique texture to the film that was different than any other period piece I can think of. Similarly, I’d love to see what Mann could do with a 3D feature. I can already imagine one of his glorious shootouts with added depth. If these technologies are to mature we need directors like Mann out there taking chances. They may not always be successful, but they pave the way for the future of cinema.

Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese had more than a few kind words to say regarding Blu-ray at the recent Blu-con 2.0 symposium. “Blu-ray is going to extend the lifetime of a movie,” he told the crowd via video, and also went on praise Criterion’s recent remaster of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. “It’s like experiencing the film for the first time again. It’s not just the details of the eyes or such; it creates a completely different experience.” He also mentioned that Blu-ray films have a “film-grain quality”, and that Blu-ray “allows the film to be seen as closely as possible to how it was intended to be.”

High praise indeed, but I don’t think the Blu-ray folks should be counting their lucky stars just yet. Scorsese’s praise focused on the visual quality of Blu-ray, he made no mention of next-generation audio formats or special features. Blu-ray is certainly the highest quality way to see films right now, but as broadband speeds increase and video codecs become more efficient it’s going to become increasingly possible to get the same quality streamed to your television and computer.

I won’t argue that current 1080p streaming technology is as good as Blu-ray, because that’s certainly not true. Blu-ray discs are high bitrate, and feature next generation surround sound formats whereas DVD-level surround sound is still not a standard among video streaming providers. These deficiencies will all be remedied over time however, which is bad news for Blu-ray.

Ultimately, Blu-ray’s weakness lies in its inability to change. The format is pretty much locked in, and aside from 3D Blu-ray discs coming god knows when, it won’t be changing much other than by getting cheaper. Meanwhile, streaming technologies are constantly evolving and aren’t locked into hardware as much as Blu-ray.

Streaming may not outright kill Blu-ray anytime soon, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Blu is the last video disc format we’ll see on the consumer market.

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