Welcome to the first news roundup of 2020. CES 2020 just concluded, and of course, this means there’s a slew of new products and new announcements.
So let’s get started!
Filmmaker Mode was launched back in August of last year, and this year’s CES is the perfect time for products supporting the mode to be demonstrated, and for new announcements to be made by the UHD Alliance about the new viewing mode.
For a quick catch-up, the intention behind Filmmaker Mode is for cinema lovers to have a quick and easy way to turn off all the post-processing features found in modern TVs. While these may improve TV viewing, most will end up making films look very different from what they’re supposed to look like. Things like motion smoothing, digital noise reduction can make movies look unnatural. Filmmaker Mode will be an easily turned on (and off) option that will remove all the unnecessary processing, to make the film presentation on the TV as close as possible to the cinema experience.
This solves the annoying problem of having to hunt down settings to turn on and off, or in some worst cases, not having the option to disable annoying post-processing.
Back in August, Filmmaker Mode was supported by LG, Panasonic and VIZIO, as well as the Directors Guild of America and The Film Foundation. At this year’s CES, the UHD Alliance announced more supporters for the initiative, including CE firms Samsung and Philips, as well as the American Society of Cinematographers and the International Cinematographers Guild.
The original supporters, Panasonic and LG, also made announced in relation to Filmmaker Mode at CES 2020. LG announced that all of their 2020 range of 4K and 8K TVs will support the mode, while Panasonic will support the mode on all of their 2020 OLED HD 2000 series TVs.
Samsung says their 2020 TVs will also come with Filmmaker Mode, but the company was more keen to promote their MicroLED technology, which will make ginormous screens with perfect contrast and color control a possibility. They demonstrated a 292-inch 8K MicroLED wall TV at CES, and plan on making MicroLED TVs commercially available this year. They won’t be cheap though!
If CES 2020 had a theme in terms of display technology, then 8K is that theme, with Samsung also releasing a range of 8K TVs. 8K content is still very, very thin on the ground (might start putting a few 8K demo clips on our YouTube channel though), but with new formats and the chicken/egg conundrum, it’s always easier to have hardware in people’s homes to drive content, as opposed to having content first and then waiting for people to buy the TVs.
So it looks like 2020 will be the year that 8K start making a real impact, which is just as well because with most new TVs being 4K, there will always be a need for something new to drive future sales (the fact that 4K Blu-ray isn’t enough to stop the decline of Blu-ray sales could also point to an 8K disc format in the future – and to be honest, with the bandwidth 8K requires, optical discs may still be the best way to deliver content to viewers).
That’s it for the week. See you again soon!
Posted in General | Comments Off on Weekly News Roundup (January 12, 2020)
And just like that, 2019 is nearly over. Or maybe already over by the time I post this because, a) this thing took longer than I expected to finish, and/or b) you live on one of the Line Islands and you’ve reached 2020 earlier than everyone else on the planet.
So I guess this is as good a time as any to review 2019 and summarise everything that has happened over the last year. Or at least the things that I can remember right now.
And don’t forget to enter our 20th anniversary competition, where you can win some cool prizes simply by finding a codeword that we’ve hidden in a news article, or maybe even in this very article 😉
As with our usual “weekly” roundups, let’s start with the copyright stuff.
Torrenting is down as expected, but that’s not because of the effectiveness of all the anti-torrenting laws and measures, but because people have moved onto other ways to get their piracy fix. Piracy streaming is now the go-to for people because streaming technology and people’s broadband speeds have improved to the point where HD streaming is possible and easy. Direct downloads are also making a comeback via private forums and chat groups, encrypted and password-protected download links, coupled with decent download speeds even for free hosting services. The downloader benefits from these two methods because they’re largely free from monitoring, and there’s little chance of a nasty email from your IPS informing you that you’ve been caught.
The response from the other side? Sites continue to get taken down, operators sued, new laws passed. So basically the same old, same old game of whack-a-mole.
With access to even faster download speeds, Blu-ray rips and 4K downloads, once the domain of the most hardcore due to their 25 to 100 GB downloads, will become more popular. At least for those that are still bothering to download stuff.
Unless you’re somehow immune to our cross-promotional efforts, you should know that we now have our own YouTube channel. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the years to focus on the niche of 4K upscaled (and sometimes, native 4K) content, mostly trailers, but also behind-the-scene clips and even music videos of our own creation. I can confidently say that our 4K uploads are some of the best you’ll see on YouTube, and that’s largely down to the effort we take to upscale the content from the best possible sources. None of this ripping from a muddy YouTube HD upload and then doing a simple bilinear 4K upscale, with so-called 4K uploads looking worse than the original HD version.
We’ve also learned a lot about not just how YouTube works (and how channels that focus on quality often lose out to channels that focus on speed), but also how the whole trailers game works (it’s way way more complicated than what I originally thought – there’s a real art to how to best promote a movie, and some studios are simply better at it than others).
And some trailers are just better than others, and here’s our top 10 for the year:
Moving away from shameless self-promotion, the home video landscape remains in flux as streaming takes over everything and anyone who is anyone is coming out with their own streaming product (and at the same time, taking their stuff off Netflix).
But the one that has the best potential to disrupt Netflix is probably Disney+ and so far, it’s going to take a while for this to happen, if it happens at all.
The Mandalorian is probably the best Star Wars anything since the original trilogy (okay, Rogue One was pretty good too), but with the first season now over, there’s nothing really on Disney+ that’s a must-see. The other Star Wars shows, and the Marvel originals are months if not years away, and in terms of catalogue content, only a tiny fraction of the Disney and Fox library is on there (and Disney is not in a hurry to add more).
At the same time, Netflix is releasing about 1,362 new shows and original films every month. And while many of them are completely missable shows, many are really quite fantastic. I just hope Netflix doesn’t run out of money soon, because their production costs are enormous and without theatrical runs for their movies, they’re missing out on a potential billion dollars in box office takings.
The current big debate over original IPs versus more and more superhero movies involves Netflix and other streaming outfits too. One side argues that Hollywood (and cinema chains) is too focused on the next Avengers phase or Star Wars, and not giving movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ a chance. The other side argues that superior movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ and ‘Uncut Gems’, both in cinemas right now, just don’t make economic sense when the inferior ‘Star Wars’ is obliterating them in terms of ticket sales. In the case of ‘Richard Jewell’, I know for a fact that Warner Bros. did promote it as much as its other movies (in terms of trailers, promotional clips, etc…), but moviegoers are just not biting.
The question that some have asked is that would ‘Joker’ have made so much money if it had been simply called ‘Arthur’ and was not based on DC Comic’s IP? Most likely not!
So can you really blame Hollywood for being unoriginal when unoriginal is what pays the bills? The same for cinema chains, who will always show more love to an uninspired Marvel film over a film like The Irishman.
I’ve uploaded some great trailers for some really interesting films this year, but they will never get as many views as says a Top Gun 2 trailer or a Wonder Woman sequel. The only exception is Christopher Nolan, who’s original films are more anticipated than even the most anticipated franchise titles.
The other raging debate is over the apparent focus testing of movies, and how it’s ruining creativity and originality. The re-designed Sonic is what started this debate, with many believing that the original design, as bad as it was, would have made a weirder and less mainstream film that would have lived on as a cult classic. A movie so bad, that it’s good.
But then the horror movie known as Cats happened, and its director Tom Hooper appears to have ignored all calls for focus-testing and character re-designing, and well, we now know that perhaps some changes should have been made. If Paramount can avoid what happened to ‘Cats’ with a re-designed Sonic, as pandering as it was, then I think they would believe that it was a change worth making.
And finally, disc sales continue to slide, as even 4K Ultra HD can’t save physical media from being made obsolete by digital and streaming. I had promised to write our 2018 disc sales analysis almost a year ago, and it’s almost time to write another 2019’s. I’ll probably combine the two together, and I’m not making any promises, but hopefully, that analysis will be uploaded soon. Spoiler alert: Blu-ray disc sales have fallen, not as much as DVD sales, but still quite alarming despite the increasing popularity of 4K.
I haven’t covered gaming news as much in 2019, but the three big stories are the continued success of Nintendo’s Switch, and the two new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, the funnily name Xbox Series X and the PS5.
While I can go on about ray-tracking, 120 FPS gaming and SSD storage, but what interested me the most was the fact that Sony’s PS5 will finally support 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, having skipped it in the PS4. I guess you can surmise that Sony now realise it was a mistake to not include UHD disc playback with the PS4, although they will argue that the cost of the drive and the fact that games are getting bigger and bigger were all factors in Sony deciding to jump aboard the UHD, and BDXL train. While I haven’t found any concrete information on what kind of disc drive the Xbox Series X will be using, but I would be very surprised if it turns out to not support UHD Blu-ray playback.
On that note, we come to the end of this roundup, and (almost) 2019. Hope you all have a great time celebrating the new year, and may this new year be your best yet!
Yeah, that it was another long break again. To be fair, I’ve been fairly busy with Digital Digest Trailers, and some of it isn’t even Star Wars related!
Thought it was time to do another newsletter, and so scrapped up some news, and here we are!
If you’ve never watched a single episode of An Idiot Abroad, you should do yourself a favour and watch one now. You never know if the star of the show, Karl Pilkington, is actually just being himself or playing a character and in on the joke from the start. Either way, he is one funny guy.
I haven’t seen his new show, ‘Sick of It’ yet, but the fact that he plays two characters in it suggest that the “Idiot” was definitely more of an act. And if you haven’t seen an episode of this new show, maybe because it’s not widely available around the world at the moment, don’t fret, Karl has some suggestions for you: pirate it!
When people ask Pilkington where they can see his show, he’s sending them a link to a Vimeo video where they can watch a full episode. The only problem? The video is a pirate upload.
And he’s not just done that once, he’s done it multiple times, he’s done it every time someone has asked about how to see the show.
Not sure how the show’s network, Sky, will feel about this, but as the creator of the show, Pilkington must feel that informing people about the merits of his show is more important than silly copyright issues.
That’s pretty much it for now. To celebrate both the 20th anniversary of Digital Digest and our new YouTube channel which just hit 1,000 subscribers, we’re going to be giving away some prizes soon. Check our Facebook page or Twitter feed for details soon.
Never have so many people so disinterested in the NFL watch Monday Night Football with such anticipation before. That’s right, the whole synergy things between Disney and Disney owned ESPN meant that the new Star Wars trailer was shown during half-time on MNF.
I myself took part in the craziness by trying to get a really good quality 4K upscaled trailer to the masses as soon as possible, even live-tweeting the entire process.
And I guess I got caught up in the madness (and yes, I’ve already pre-booked my movie ticket), and subsequently uploaded a French/Canadian version of the trailer, a dialogue-free music version of the trailer, and just yesterday, the original studio released 4K version of the trailer.
No more The Rise of Skywalker uploads, I promise.
While big-budget Hollywood blockbusters are usually the ones that get all the attention, the video streaming industry has quietly overtaken Hollywood in terms of revenue just this year, globally.
And this is why every other media conglomerate is launching their own streaming platform these days, and so it makes total sense that the two rather large non-Disney ones, Warner Media and NBC Universal, would be launching their own as well.
Nobody really wants to directly take on the behemoth that’s Netflix though. Amazon has long said that Prime Video is really just a way to sell Prime memberships and get people addicted to shopping on Amazon. Hulu has focused more on TV and catch-up content, although it’s starting to take Netflix head-on. And Warner’s HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock will also be avoiding direct conflict with Netflix by going after cable subscribers, with both offering free subscriptions to this demographic (and perhaps the most likely to not have a Netflix subscription), providing a transition from cable to streaming without people having to spend their hard-earned.
It’s a good strategy because asking people to spend money on yet another subscription service is going to be hard, especially when any one of these services would have more than enough content to keep you entertained (although not necessarily *all* the content you may want to watch).
But that also points to another problem. Is there such a thing as too much content? Too many new original shows and movies from too many platforms, even if some of them are “free”, that you just don’t have time to watch it all? I myself am still catching up on shows that I first added to my watch list three years ago, so I guess things are only going to get worse.
And this whole Golden Age of Television™️ thing isn’t helping! Why does everything have to be so good?!
Well, the only solution I can think of is to spend more time watching stuff, which is what I’m going to do right now. See you next time!
So the Rise of Skywalker trailer didn’t materialise last week, but I promise that it’s coming this (U.S.) Monday. I’m sure this time because ESPN, of all people, actually posted a video announcing the release of the trailer, which will be shown for the first time during Monday Night Football.
Well, if ESPN can post a video promoting a Star Wars trailer, I can certainly do the same!
Still not a huge amount of news, but we do have some (and by some, I mean one story), so here we are …
It’s not a great time to be Netflix right now. They’ve largely managed to see to the threat of Amazon and Hulu, despite the latter spending more and more on content. But they now have to contend with new offerings from Apple and Disney, namely Apple TV+ and Disney+.
To make things worse, two new players have announced they’ll enter the market, with Warner Media’s HBO Max and NBC Universal’s Peacock, both trying to tap into the lucrative streaming scene.
But is Netflix worried? Nah, say the company’s bosses. CEO Reed Hastings was a bit too casual with his statement last month that November, when Apple TV+/Disney+ launches, will usher in a “whole new world” for streaming – and the market interpreted this as a suggestion that things are going to change (and not for the better) for Netflix. Never mind that Hastings was clearly trying to use an “Aladdin” reference to have some fun with the whole Disney+ thing, but the truth is, Netflix perhaps should be worried.
With Warner, Universal, Disney, three of the largest studios, going their own way and taking their content with them, it leaves Netflix increasing dependent on their original productions. Productions that, without a theatrical and home video sales run, are almost never profitable in any meaningful direct way. Our sister site Streambly has been monitoring the binge-watching bahaviour of Netflix subscribers and the most popular shows on Netflix are not the ones you think. They are shows like ‘Friends’ (NBC), ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (NBC), ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (CBS) and ‘The Office’ (NBC). Shows that, in time, will probably no longer be allowed to have a home on Netflix. And that’s not to mention all the blockbuster movies that will no longer be made available on Netflix.
So while Hastings may have been just joking around with the “whole new world” statement, what he says is actually quite true. We are entering a whole new, fragmented world of streaming that won’t be a friendly one for Netflix. For the consumer, we will have access to more streaming content than ever before, but only if we’re willing to pay the price, and when combined, the price won’t be cheap. Some of these offerings will probably fail to impress and will die away naturally and we will see some consolidation again, but before then, things will be more complicated (and more expensive) than they need to be.
That’s it for this week. Come back on Monday night (Tuesday afternoon, Australian time) for the Rise of Skywalker trailer, one of the biggest trailers this year. And maybe I’ll see you this time next week again, assuming we have something interesting to talk about. Until then …