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Filmart 2004 talks Digital at inaugural session

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HONG KONG: Digital. The entertainment industry is rapidly swinging to the beat of this trend. Hence it was no surprise that the Filmart 2004 conference in Hong Kong was kicked off by this key issue that is concerning the industry.

Four key industry experts shared their insights on digital technology. Among them Robert Minkoff, the director of Stuart Little and Lion King, spoke on the topic of "The Digital Technologies in Storytelling: a case study on Stuart Little. "

During the session, Minkoff recounted the evolution of Disney animation and spoke passionately on how digital technology brought in the crossroad in animation.

"Because of the technology, it is possible to make the characters more amazing, more real in terms of thinking and feeling," said Minkoff. "It breaks that traditional wall that exists between a 2-D animated movie and its audiences."

Minkoff was especially excited about the new frontier of animation. He pointed out that as there were at present just a few animated films or features made, there could be more genre of animated films like comedy, or features on sex and violence (though not of his personal interest).

While his session was interspersed with clips from Stuart Little - behind-the-scenes footage and computer modeling, Minkoff finally stressed that digital technology was nevertheless just a tool and it eventually required a good animator to create great work. His presentation also touched on the differences in the process of animation versus live-action and how they influenced each other.

With high definition (HD) production becoming the future trend of filmmaking, filmmaker and author of best-selling books Shot by Shot and Cinematic Motion, Steven D Katz elaborated his views on the source of many myths and misunderstanding of electronic cinematography.

Under the topic "Creating HD Content: From Pre-Production to Post-Production", Katz provided his insider's advice on when to use HD, where at present budget is among the premier concerns. He also analysed the advantages and disadvantages of using HD at various production stages, touching on technical issues encompassing lighting, special visual effects, resolution, editing, and finally on the digital intermediate (DI).

With DI becoming the single most powerful innovation in the production process, Katz highlighted its revolutionary ability to change colour, lighting and composition of images, as well as introduced various types of DI for different production budget.

Another speaker, Dr Man-Nang Chong, Chief Executive Officer of GDC Technology brought forth how the new digital technology in Digital Cinema Multiplex was revolutionising the way worldwide audiences enjoy entertainment such as films, concerts and live events.

Providing an overview on the current state of digital cinema solutions and their existing worldwide installations, Dr Chong stressed that digital cinema was able to deliver knockout pictures as well as stunning sound quality again and again. He also laid out the other advantages of digital cinema solutions from the producer's and distributor's perspectives.

"With no physical media to steal, there's no privacy problem. Moreover, the interface of delivery is reliable and secured, and it allows centralised control for managing content delivery," concluded Chong. GDC Technology pioneers in digital post-production, delivery and presentation technologies. Committed to innovative engineering work, quality products and state-of-the-art technology, GDC Technology offers solutions on film transfer, post-production, delivery and presentation of digital content.

Hong Kong's Information Technology (IT) flagship project at the Cyberport was introduced by Dr Krates Ng, Centre Manager of the DMC from Hong Kong Cyberport. "The Digital Media Centre (DMC) is a uniquely state-of-the-art digital multimedia creation facility located at Cyberport, set up to help startup companies by providing the latest digital technology and services at an affordable price."

Ng provided a comprehensive recap on the set of facilities offered at DMC, highlighting three key technologies, which could enhance the industry in outputting their next digital production, 3D Scanner, Motion Capture and Rendering servers. With vivid demonstrations and case studies, Nang also illustrated the technology involved, the process behind and the uniqueness of these systems and technology.

The conference ended with a panel discussion, with all the speakers exchanging their views on hot topics encompassing whether digital technology has reduced the barriers to entry and democratised the film industry, and if Asian animation was changing film aesthetics and consumer taste.

And the unanimous answer was yes. "The sad part is that distribution has not been democratised," said Katz. "While anybody with a DV camera can make a movie, the small time independent movie maker still does not have a window to show his work as distributors prefer to work with big studios and names."

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