Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your Feature Film Tape Deliverables as of 2012

I remember the first time I saw a deliverables list for a film. It scared me. I didn't understand what most of it was and it all sounded super expensive.

Now that I've delivered a few films to distributors, I understand each item and I know the general costs. Yes, deliverable lists still scare me, but I can usually find a way to deliver a film, even with little funds available.

I thought I would discuss and comment on the current tape deliverables. I am showing a real and recent list from a popular digital distribution distributor. (Look for my comments in parens and blue.)

Note that this list does not address the fact that many films are being projected from blu-ray and DCP (digital cinema package) in theaters. The below only addresses tape delivery.

Here is a current deliverable list for your tape masters for a feature film: 


    Feature (HD or high definition):
    Tape Format: HDCAM SR (HDCamSR is your master video tape of your film. An SR tape is recommended for an HDCam master of your film as it allows for the highest picture quality and 5.1 sound. An HDCam tape that is not SR is more economical but lesser quality and only has 4 channels for sound. It is typically used for screening your film. HDCamSRs can be screened as well but the theater must have the right (costlier) deck for projecting an SR. Most theaters will only have the ability to screen from an HDCam as they won't want to rent the more expensive SR deck. Typically, you have an SR as your master for your film and then have HDCams (not SRs) made from your SR tape. Here is a good blog entry from Binary Banton that explains the differences and even discusses the lesser used D5 (D5 used to be the industry standard master tape until the higher quality HDCamSR appeared on the scene): 
    Standard: 1080P (23.98) 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 (Your post house will know what this all means. Don't be afraid to ask them to explain it all. 1080P is a high resolution. 23.98 is the requested frame rate. The other frame rate you will see is 29.97, which is a broadcast frame rate. 23.98 is typically preferred if you are finishing on film or for anything other than broadcast and 29.97 is preferred if you are going to broadcast. If you aren't sure, many recommend 23.98 as it is thought to give a little more of a film look to your movie. Don't worry, your 23.98 film can be converted for a 29.97 broadcast. And often your distributor will accept either frame rate at delivery.
    4:4:4 and 4:2:2 is very techie. My eyes glaze and my brain mushes a bit thinking about it. But I know it has to do with color quality. 4:4:4 has equal luminance and chroma, whereas 4:2:2 has less chroma in order to save on bandwidth. As a producer, I know the current standard is 4:2:2 and the picture quality is still strong at 4:2:2. And most cameras will only output 4:2:2.  The human eye supposedly has a hard time discerning the difference between 4:4:4 and 4:2:2. But if you want your HDCamSR master to have the highest quality components then it's often recommended that your master be in 4:4:4 if your camera was recording in 4:4:4. You can learn more about the mind-blowing 4:4:4 and 4:2:2 at this Wikipedia page:
    Aspect Ratio:16x9 1.78 FF w/cc (FF = full frame and cc = closed captioning. Since many independent films do not do theatricals, this aspect ratio is often preferred by distributors as it is full frame and viewers do not have to see the black strips on the top and bottom of a letterboxed frame. If you only have a letterboxed version of your film and your distributor demands full frame then you will have to manipulate your picture by cutting off the sides etc in order to get your film in full frame. An economical way is to have an editor manipulate the electronic file of your film in your editing software and then output that version from the hard drive to tape. And yes, you will have to have a company create closed captioning for your film if your distributor requires it. Ideally, you have every film you make in closed captioning so hard of hearing audiences can enjoy your film as well, but there may be some pictures with budgets that don't allow for cc.)
    Aspect Ratio:16x9 2.40 Letterbox w/cc (Most DPs and directors love shooting in this ratio as it allows for that amazing wide screen motion picture experience you get in the theater. However, when delivering a 2.40 ratio on tape, it will be letterboxed with black strips on the top and bottom and distribs don't like that. They prefer full frame viewing for their outlets. They don't want their audiences to have to see the black strips on the film. Converting your 2.40 letterbox to full frame hurts as it will require manipulation of the picture - not as bad as going to 4x3 but there is still some cutting off of the sides of your frame.)

    Audio Configuration:
    Channels 1&2 English Stereo Left/Right
    Channels 3&4 Stereo M&E Left/Right (if available) (An M&E is the "Music" and "Effects" of the original soundtrack only. All of the English language dialogue is removed for foreign language dubbing.)
    Channel 5 Left
    Channel 6 Center
    Channel 7 Right
    Channel 8 Left Surround
    Channel 9 Right Surround
    Channel 10 LFE (subwoofer)
    Picture/Audio must start @ hour 1 (
    Closed Captioning must decode properly and be free from any errors
    Recorded with continuous time code
    Picture must be fully color corrected with proper color, shading and density as is customarily required for exhibition

    Feature (SD or standard definition):

    Tape Format:Digital Betacam Standard: NTSC (Digibeta are standard definition tapes. They are used for standard definition distribution outlets and some festivals still screen from Digibetas.  However, if your film is in HD, do what you can to present it in HD as the quality of the picture will be much higher. Blu-rays are often used for screenings as the blu-ray players are affordable and easy to project and the filmmaker can show the film in HD. The downside to a blu-ray is that they aren't as reliable as an HDCam. Skipping can be a bigger issue when screening on blu-ray. NTSC is the American standard. PAL is an international standard.)
    Aspect Ratio:16x9 1.78 FF w/cc

    Audio Configuration:
    Channels 1&2 English Stereo/Left Right Channels 3&4 Stereo M&E Left/Right (if available) (Digibetas do not have the channels available to include 5.1 on separate channels. Supposedly you can have your 5.1 compressed into a Dolby E [I've never done it], but most festivals don't have the ability to read the compression so it may not be a useful thing to do.)

    Recorded in “DFTC” (or Drop Frame Timecode; Non-Drop Frame Timecode means that for every frame of video there is a corresponding timecode number. DFTC, or Drop Frame Timecode, is used with NTSC video that has a frame rate of 29.97 in order to compensate for the fact that it is .03 fps slower than the nearest whole number of 30fps. Timecode numbers are presented in whole numbers, therefore, some numbers need to be periodically skipped in drop frame timecode.)
    Picture/Audio must start @ hour 1 (

    Closed Captioning must decode properly and be free from any errors
    Recorded with continuous time code
    Picture must be fully color corrected with proper color, shading and density as is customarily required for exhibition

    Feature (SD or standard definition):
    Tape Format:Digital Beta cam
    Standard: NTSC
    Aspect Ratio:4x3 1.33 FF and/or Pan/Scan w/cc (Your DP and director and even the producer will likely cry when they realize they need to deliver their film in 4x3. Get the tissues ready. There are still a lot of people who own 4x3 TVs so distributors like to have all of their films in this ratio. In fact, On Demand outlets often show their films in 4x3. In order to convert your film to 4x3, you will have to manipulate your picture big time. This is where the crying comes in. Have your editor go scene by scene and move the image around so the most important visuals [i.e. your actors' faces] fits in the 4x3 cross hairs. It will slaughter the look and feel of your film, but it is usually required. Then save the file and output to tape from your hard drive.)

    Audio Configuration:
    Channels 1&2 English Stereo/Left Right Channels 3&4 Stereo M&E Left/Right (if available)

    Recorded in “DFTC” (drop frame time code)
    Picture/Audio must start @ hour 1 (
    Closed Captioning must decode properly and be free from any errors
    Recorded with continuous time code
    Picture must be fully color corrected with proper color, shading and density as is customarily required for exhibition

    When features are available in 5.1 Dolby Surround, please supply a separate audio element as follows:

    Audio Deliveries:

    Protools Sessions on DVD-R 5.1/2.0 English Printmaster .wav file
    24 bit Running Film Speed NDFTC

    48 hrz
    w/out SR Encoding
That's all folks! Happy holidays! And happy delivering!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sundance Institute Announces Grants to 25 Documentaries

Sundance Institute Announces Grants to 25 Documentaries
Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the 25 feature-length documentary films that will receive $550,000 in grants from its Documentary Film Program and Fund (DFP). Grantees were selected from 696 submissions from 104 countries.
Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund said, “As we enter a new cycle for political leadership in the U.S. and abroad, documentary filmmakers continue to seek out stories that elucidate the conditions of our lives. Their reach is global, and their stories connect and inspire a new generation of independent documentary filmmakers and audiences.”

Granted filmmakers reflect a range of experience, including five first-time feature filmmakers as well as noted documentarians Fred Wiseman, Sam Pollard and Jehane Noujaim. In-country filmmakers include those in Africa (Ghana), India and China, and additional countries of production include Afghanistan, Nepal, Senegal and Egypt.

Awarding grants is a core activity of the DFP, which provides year-round creative support and funding to nonfiction filmmakers globally. Proposals are accepted twice a year, and submissions are reviewed by a jury of creative film professionals and human rights experts, based on their approach to storytelling, artistic treatment and innovation, subject relevance and potential for social engagement. Submissions for the next round will be accepted beginning in late December, with a February 5 deadline. More information

The DFP celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2012 and since its inception has awarded grants to more than 450 documentary filmmakers in 62 countries, including the projects announced today.

Boomtown (U.S.)
Director: Beth Murphy
A modern day Grapes of Wrath story is playing out across America as families pack their bags and head to North Dakota in search of the American Dream.
Bukom Fighter (Ghana)
Director: Makafui Zimrani
A nine year old boy from a shanty town in Ghana tries to create hope for himself using the only resource at his disposal; the power of his fists.
Chameleon (Canada / Ghana)
Director: Ryan Mullins
Africa's most famed investigative reporter, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, takes us deep undercover for his own brand of brazen journalism.
Perry vs. Schwarzenegger (U.S.)
Directors: Ryan White and Ben Cotner
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that challenges California's ban on same-sex marriage. Perry v. Schwarzenegger, filed by two couples with an unlikely legal team, has now reached the nation's highest court and is poised to be the first ruling on the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry.
Rise and Fall of ACORN (U.S.)
Directors: Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard
In 2009 a national community-organizing group was destroyed. The complex story of ACORN involves a journalist posing as a pimp, embezzlement, and voter fraud.

99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (U.S.)
Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Krstic
The Occupy movement erupted in September 2011, propelling economic inequality into the spotlight. In an unprecedented collaboration, filmmakers across America tell its story, digging into big picture issues as organizers, analysts, participants and critics reveal how it happened and why.
After Tiller (U.S.)
Directors: Martha Shane and Lana Wilson
Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, only four doctors in the country provide late-term abortions. With unprecedented access, After Tiller goes inside the lives of these physicians working at the center of the storm.
At Berkeley (U.S.)
Director: Frederick Wiseman
A world renowned, public university strives to maintain its academic excellence, public role, and the economic, racial and social diversity of the student body in the face of severe budget cuts by the California Legislature.
A Blind Eye (U.S. / Afghanistan)
Director: Kirsten Johnson
A one-eyed boy struggles to hide what really haunts him. A bold teenage girl defies convention, out running her nightmares of the Taliban, but still too afraid to show her face in a film. A U.S. Military surveillance blimp in the sky over Kabul tracks their every move.
Dirty Wars (U.S.)
Director: Richard Rowley
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.
The Faun Experiment (U.S.)
Directors: Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright
He expected to be in a wheelchair by age 40 with cerebral palsy. Instead, Gregg Mozgala embarks on a dance project with choreographer Tamar Rogoff. As art overturns science his life is forever changed.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (U.S. / Nepal)
Directors: Amy Benson and Scott Squire, Co-Director: Ramyata Limbu
Shanta is an Untouchable Nepali girl with a rare opportunity to break her family’s cycle of poverty, through education. But, a year from graduation, Shanta falls victim to globalization’s new epidemic: suicide.
The Kill Team (U.S.)
Director: Dan Krauss
An American soldier attempts to expose U.S. war crimes even more heinous than Abu Ghraib and then is himself charged with premeditated murder.
Mr. President (U.S. / Senegal)
Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
President Abdoulaye Wade challenged Senegal’s constitutional term limits and ran for re-election. The election and pro-democracy movement is seen from both sides, ultimately documenting a chapter of African Spring.
The New Black (U.S.)
Director: Yoruba Richen
The New Black uncovers the complicated and often combative histories of the African-American and LGBT civil-rights movements.
Powerless (India)
Directors: Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar
In a city with 15-hour power outages, a nimble young electrician provides robin-hood style services to the poor. Meanwhile, the first female chief of the electricity supply company is on a mission to dismantle the illegal connections, for good.
Provenance (U.S.)
Director: Amie Siegel
Artist and filmmaker Amie Siegel traces the journey of Le Corbusier and P. Jeanneret designs in reverse — the economic circuit and life of objects, revealed across three continents. Without interviews, actors or voice-over, these coveted items are the protagonists of this story.
Regarding Susan Sontag (U.S.)
Director: Nancy Kates
The late writer, activist and public intellectual Susan Sontag was a study in contrasts; a courageous public figure who remained a closeted lesbian. The film examines her contributions to culture and her views, as a thinker and activist, on war, terrorism, torture and other contemporary issues.
Rich Hill (U.S.)
Directors: Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo
Rich Hill is the coming of age story of kids in a dying American town who find strength in unlikely places
Running in the City (China)
Director: FAN Jian
More than 240 million migrant workers who labor inside China aren't acknowledged as urban residents due to China's household registration policy. This is a story of one family’s rebellion.
The Shadow World (U.S. / Belgium)
Director: Johan Grimonprez
This feature documentary explores the international arms industry: a business in which wins and losses are counted in human lives.
The Square (Egypt / U.S.)
Director: Jehane Noujaim
What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation?
Solarize This (U.S.)
Director: Shalini Kantayya
In a city where oil spills, ecological red-alerts, and poverty are commonplace, Solarize Thisasks the hard questions of how a clean energy economy may actually be built, through the stories of three unemployed American workers seeking to retool at a solar power jobs training program in Richmond, California.
Uranium Drive-In (U.S.)
Director: Suzan Beraza
A proposed uranium mill gives an economically devastated mining community in Colorado hope of jobs for the first time in decades. When environmentalists step in to stop the uranium, pro-mill advocates are enraged. Is uranium worth it?

Dear Mandela (South Africa / U.S.)
Directors: Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza
When their shantytowns are threatened with mass eviction, three 'young lions' of South Africa's new generation rise from the shacks and build a strong social movement to challenge their government in the highest court in the land, putting the promises of democracy to the test.
The Audience Engagement Award for Dear Mandela will support strategic exchanges between international human rights defenders, diplomats and law students poised to take action on the issues of evictions and housing rights, and a screening tour featuring a youth leadership initiative for shantytown dwellers in affected countries including Haiti, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, India and Brazil.

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund is made possible by generous support from Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, The Skoll Foundation, The Charles Engelhard Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Hilton Worldwide, Cinereach, Wallace Global Fund, the Joan and Lewis Platt Foundation, The J.A. & H.G. Woodruff, Jr. Charitable Trust, Time Warner Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and Candescent Films.
Twelve films supported by the Documentary Film Program and Fund will screen at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. In the U.S. Documentary Competition: 99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, from directors Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read and Nina Kristic; After Tiller, from directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson; American Promise, from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson; Citizen Koch, from directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin; Dirty Wars, from director Richard Rowley; Gideon's Army, from director Dawn Porter; and God Loves Uganda, from director Roger Ross Williams. In the World Cinema Documentary Competition: Fallen City, from director Qi Zhao; The Square, from director Jehane Noujaim; and Who is Dayani Cristal?, from director Marc Silver. In Documentary Premieres: ANITA, from director Freida Mock; and When I Walk, from director Jason DaSilva.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sundance Institute Announces 10 Films and Art House Theaters for Sundance Film Festival USA on Jan. 31

Sundance Institute Announces 10 Films and Art House Theaters for Sundance Film Festival USA on Jan. 31
Ann Arbor, MI | Boston, MA | Brooklyn, NY | Chicago, IL | Houston, TX | Los Angeles, CA | Nashville, TN | Orlando, FL | San Francisco, CA | Tucson, AZ

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute announced today the films from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival that will screen in 10 independent theaters in cities across the country on January 31 as part of the Sundance Film Festival USA initiative. Audiences in 10 cities will have the opportunity to share in the excitement of discovery of a film fresh from the  2013 Festival as well as hear directly from the filmmaker about their work.

Each of 10 filmmakers will travel to one of the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Boston, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Tucson, AZ. Their travel is courtesy of Official Airline Sponsor Southwest Airlines. In each city, the filmmaker will introduce and screen their film and participate in a Q&A with the audience.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, “Sundance Film Festival USA celebrates the theaters and audiences that are an integral part of supporting and encouraging the work of independent filmmakers. By extending the Festival to these 10 cities, we will create a larger shared experience and dialogue around the issues of our time, as explored in these films.”

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “The independent film community is thriving, and we attribute that in part to the work of independent theaters across the country that are engaging film-loving audiences throughout the year. Their support encourages artists to continue pushing boundaries, knowing that audiences are open and excited to connect with their new work.”

Tickets for each screening will be available through the theatre’s box office.

Ann Arbor, MI – The Michigan Theatre
The East / U.S.A. (Director: Zal Batmanglij, Screenwriters: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling) — An operative for an elite private intelligence firm goes into deep cover to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective attacking major corporations.  Bent on apprehending these fugitives, she finds her loyalty tested as her feelings grow for the group's charismatic leader. Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson.

Boston, MA – Coolidge Corner Theatre
The Lifeguard / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Liz W. Garcia) — A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager. Cast: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, David Lambert.

Brooklyn, NY – BAM
Kill Your Darlings / U.S.A. (Director: John Krokidas, Screenwriters: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas) — An untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that led to the birth of an entire generation – their Beat revolution. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHann, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen.

Chicago, IL – Music Box Theatre
Touchy Feely / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.” Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais.

Houston, TX – Sundance Cinemas Houston
Ain't Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine.

Los Angeles, CA – Sundance Sunset Cinemas
Afternoon Delight / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jill Soloway) —  In this sexy, dark comedy, a lost L.A. housewife puts her idyllic hipster life in jeopardy when she tries to rescue a stripper by taking her in as a live-in nanny. Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch.

Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theatre
Mother of George / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriter: Darci Picoult) — A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage. Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Tony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi.

Orlando, FL – Enzian Theater
A.C.O.D. / U.S.A. (Director: Stuart Zicherman, Screenwriters: Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman) — Carter is a well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. So he thinks.  When he discovers he was part of a divorce study as a child, it wreaks havoc on his family and forces him to face his chaotic past. Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke.

San Francisco, CA – Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
In a World... / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lake Bell) — An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation. Cast: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed.

Tucson, AZ – The Loft
The Spectacular Now / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber) — Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment; Aimee is the introvert he attempts to "save." As their relationship deepens, the lines between right and wrong, friendship and love, and "saving" and corrupting become inextricably blurred. Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler.