Archive for Film

For anyone who has read the new Steve Jobs biography and enjoyed the stories of how he bought and changed the direction of Pixar, this Friday’s Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, should be a real treat.

This year’s keynoter is Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. A computer graphics pioneer and two-time Academy Award winner, Smith joins a great lineup of other speakers for the annual Boulder event, whichs runs 1 to 6 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel.

DiMe seems to be getting better each year, with other scheduled speakers including Boulder entrepreneur Paul Berberian, CEO of Orbotix, a new startup that’s created Sphero, a robotic ball you control from your smartphone; Ben Long, founder of Noise Buffet and; and Carla Johnson, CEO of EarthvisionZ, a Boulder company creating interactive 3D geospatial platforms.

The list of speakers goes on with Harris Morris, president of Harris Broadcast Communications; Andres Espineira, CEO, and Melissa Hourigan, v.p. of marketing for Pixorial; Rob Schuham, co-founder of FearLess Revolution; J. Erik Dyce, CEO of In Demand Bands; Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphicly, another Boulder startup that’s brought the printed world of comics online; and Joel Swanson of the University of Colorado/Boulder.

Returning as moderator again this year is Don Hahn, producer of the animated feature films “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and others.

In 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion, Steve Jobs became the Disney Company’s single largest shareholder, owning about 7 percent of the company. I would be surprised if there wasn’t some discussion of Jobs’ history at Pixar at DiMe.

DiMe really is part of the kickoff of the 2012 Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Thursday, Feb. 16 through Sunday, Feb. 19. If you don’t live in Boulder, BIFF is the perfect reason to come up to the city this coming weekend and catch some of the movies as well as conversations with the directors, producers and actors.

Advance tickets for DiMe are $50 or $40 for students with ID. Tickets will be available at the door of the symposium for $65 so make your reservations now! DiMe as well as the Film Festival really are highlight events of the year here in Boulder, and when I realized I had booked a trip to Arizona on the same weekend, I was really disappointed. I’ve attended and reported on the DiMe for the past two years, and always run into a lot of Boulder friends at the different events.

So go and enjoy both DiMe and the films at BIFF this year for me! I’ll just have to settle for the reviews.

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Joshua Greer, right, is president and co-founder of RealD, a Boulder-based company developing 3D technologies.

It’s the story, stupid.

Forget for a moment, if you will, all of the latest 3D excitement and new media technologies. If there’s one thing nearly every panelist could agree on at Boulder’s 2nd annual Digital Media, or DiMe, Symposium, it’s that those who can still tell the best story ultimately will come out on top.

“Brands (another name for money) seek out the good content,” said former Saturday Night Live writer Andrew Steele, now creative director for the very edgy “Funny or Die” website and HBO series.

Steele was one of five media experts discussing the topic “Digital Distribution and Monetization.” And for every YouTuber, blogger or independent moviemaker searching for answers to that oh-so-elusive monetization question, panelists offered some encouragement.

“You should be making some noise,” said David Slayden, executive director of the Boulder Digital Works learning program at the University of Colorado. Students in the program believe “they can become famous,” he said.

“You are the broadcaster,” said TV and web personality Shira Lazar, co-founder of the Disrupt/Group. As a digital correspondent for, Lazar discovers some of the rising stars on YouTube. New media technology, she added, “enables you to find your audience and your audience to find you.”

Don Hahn, producer with Stone Circle Pictures, shares thoughts with DiMe attendee.

But can you break into the big time of film and TV from smaller cities like Boulder or Austin?

Much still depends on who you know and meet, said Steele, and for independents, the real networking side of the entertainment world continues to be New York, L.A. and Chicago. But everyone now has the “means” to get attention, and very talented people are emerging from the smaller media savvy communities.

“Artists want to collaborate,” Lazar said. “A lot of YouTubers are moving to L.A. just so they can work together.”

At last year’s inaugural DiMe, the talk was all about James Cameron’s new 3D movie “Avatar,” and how 3D would begin to change the movie industry.

At this year’s DiMe, an entire panel was devoted to The Future of 3D, and the talk was still about “Avatar,” but everyone agreed 3D is here to stay, especially as the new 3D high-def TVs are adopted by consumers.

In the St. Julien Hotel hallway, attendees gathered around two 3D TVs set up by RealD, a Boulder-based company in the forefront of developing 3D systems. One one, game players blasted a machine gun as opponents jumped out in 3D; on the other, a 3D demonstration film showed ski jumpers twisting in the air, gold fish swimming around your head and colorful excerpts from the popular opera “Carmen,” the first opera to be staged in a 3D movie. Carmen, screened at the Boulder International Film Festival, opens in theaters on March 6.

The cycle for 3D adoption, panelists said, will be similar to the conversion to high-def TV, with a good three to five years to go. This difference this time, panelists said, is the transition is “on steroids.”

The first 3D cinema advertising is now being released, said Kurt Hall, CEO of National CineMedia, which runs ads on some 17,000 screens across the U.S. And companies like Comcast are learning “on the fly” how to broadcast events like the Master’s and the World Cup in 3D.

Shooting in 3D, with higher costs and challenging camera setups, remains a steep learning curve, experts agreed, and getting enough 3D content will be a challenge. Some 35 3D films are in development for this year.

Oh yes, and there’s the story thing again, too.
“We’re seeing an evolution of story-telling,” said Joshua Greer, president and co-founder of RealD. 3D movies won’t succeed without a good story.

Directors are learning to use 3D to let viewers look inward, moving beyond the effects that just “punch you in the face,” said Don Hain, producer with Stone Circle Pictures with the Disney films “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” in his credits.

Next year’s DiMe is expected to be expanded after receiving a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative program. DiMe organizers, including Project Coordinator Sue Salinger, Kathy Beeck with BIFF and Mary Ann Mahoney of the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, accepted the check between DiMe panel presentations.

The Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, returns for its second year in Boulder on Friday, Feb. 18 with a great lineup of national and local panelists weighing in on new digital media. Tickets at $50 are on sale at

DiMe recently received a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative (ABC) grants program, and the funding will help support the expansion of the symposium into a multi-day event with workshops, digital art exhibits and opportunities for collaboration.

The DiMe, which starts at 1 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder, takes place during the?Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 17-20. DiMe is an initiative of BIFF, the Governor’s Office of Creative Industries and the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Two panels will fill the afternoon event covering “Digital Distribution and Monetization” and “The Future of 3D.” A full listing of panel members are on the DiMe site, but panels will include Andrew Steele, a TV and cable writer with “Funny or Die,” and Don Hahn from Stone Circle Pictures, a Los Angeles-based animation and 3D film producer.

DiMe is a great event not only to learn more about new digital media technologies, but following the event you can mingle at a cash bar reception starting at 5 p.m. with local leaders and artists in Boulder’s growing sector of film, broadcasting, gaming, mobile and other entertainment-based digital media.

 Mary Ann Mahoney, left, director of the Boulder Convention and Visitor's Bureau, with Heather Clisby, project coordinator for the inaugural DiMe symposium at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder.

Don Hall, left, producer of Disney's The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, was a panelist for DiMe. He also directed Walking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary being shown at the Boulder International Film Festival. 

Who's a creative? Just about everyone, a panel of exceptionally creative people agreed at Boulder's DiMe Digital Media Convergence Symposium — the inaugural year for the event that helped kick off the Boulder International Film Festival weekend.

But the emergence of a plethora of easier-to-use and often mobile technologies and media is widening how many people, including many children, are starting to put themselves into the rather loosely defined category of "creatives." 

The huge acceptance of blogging and social media now makes millions of people across the globe into published writers. "I think self-publishing has widened the world" of creatives, said David Rolfe, a producer with Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder. 

The symposium, organized by the Colorado Governor's new office of Film Television & Media and the Boulder Convention and Visitor's Bureau, packed the St. Julien Hotel room with about 200 people to hear a panel of eight experts talk about what's hot in the fast-changing world of new media. Robert Reich, founder of Boulder's OneRiot who also has grown the Boulder Denver Tech Meetup from about 50 to 5,000 registered users, moderated the panel.

With the success of the 3-D Avatar movie, the topic of how quickly 3-D will be adopted was high on the list. Calling the hit movie a "significant event," Rolfe said the movie has changed viewers attitudes from whether they thought it was a good movie plot or not to "Wow, that was quite an experience."

Theaters are now in a catch-up mode, said Don Hahn, a producer with Disney, to jump on the more profitable 3-D movie experience. "It's a real game changer," he said, adding that there are now about 80 3D theaters being installed each week. The 3D theaters, he said, generate about 50 percent more profit than standard movies. 

The panel also debated whether the new Apple iPad would be another "game changer." Boulder-based venture capitalist Jason Mendelson, a partner in the Foundry Group, had his doubts, saying he wasn't that sold on it yet, although he certainly was going to buy one. 

But other panelists, including Aidan Chopra, with Google's Sketchup office in Boulder, and Krista Marks, one of the founders of Kerpoof that was bought by Disney Interactive Media Group in 2008, quickly disagreed, saying the iPad 's tablet functionality will start to change the way people can access both entertainment and games as well as their work. 

The more ways kids can start to use creative platforms like Kerpoof on the Internet, the more they will continue to expand their skills to become the future technologists and engineers, Marks said. 

Life is not all roses with so many emerging technologies, the panel agreed, citing how different platforms — everything from the Apple iPhone to Google's Android and the new Palm Pre — fracture the the playing field for software developers. 

Brian Robbins, a game developer who started his own company Riptide Games, says his goal is to attract attention quickly in the very crowded world of mobile game apps, but getting each game to work on the different platforms makes his business much tougher. 

Competing against some 30,000 to 40,000 game apps right now for mobile phones, Robbins said, "If you're not looked at in the first 30 seconds to a minute, they're (the user) are gone."  

Other conclusions by the panel included: 

* Internet users may have to realize that not everything is going to be free on the Internet. "We need to teach people to pay for stuff again," Sketchup's Chopra said. Sketchup has grown rapidly since its acquisition by Google because a "free" version is offered. But the company also sells a "pro" version with more features. 

* No matter the media, the story and content is still critical. "Storytelling is in our caveman genes," Hahn said. 

* The DVD format could soon be in trouble, as more people begin to download their media. Younger people are downloading more movies, and "they are totally satisfied," said Michael Brown, founder of Serac Adventure Films and Film School. 

The panel f
orecast that it won't be long before the movie industry will offer new releases in DVD format and download formats on the same day as the movie is released. Piracy is one of the factors creating change. "If you don't give consumers exactly what they want, they will just take it," Mendelson said. 

After the symposium, Mary Ann Mahoney, director of the Boulder Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said there's a good chance that DiMe might be expanded next year, perhaps to include some interactive workshops and more presentations.

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