Digital Tape is Dead: Bidding “Adieu” to the HDCAM (and its cousins)


Jeffrey Winter, writing for the Film Collaborative:

…in the current independent marketplace –especially in the United States — the BluRay rules far and away above all others. And this is NOT because we are forcing BluRays on venues….in every case we tell Festivals and venues what formats we have AVAILABLE, and largely let them make their choice. And for ALL of our films, we have at least two HDCAMS available….they just aren’t getting used for almost anything!

From a festival perspective, I must agree that HDCAM isn't a format we hope to see ever again at the Atlanta Film Festival. We only screened one film on HDCAM this year, and if we hadn't been able to borrow a deck for free, we would have played the film on DVD. It doesn't surprise me that smaller festivals flock to Blu-Ray with DVD as a backup: it looks great, and 90% of the time it plays like a champ. 

It's that other 10% that makes larger festivals like ours nervous. Running a medium like Blu-Ray in front of a paying audience is a recipe for disaster – a disaster we experienced first hand when a distribution house (who should have known better) sent us a Blu-Ray of one of their films with no backup copy. The film began skipping in the middle and we refunded the entire house. A bad experience for the audience, and a bad experience for us. 

That said, we had issues with some of the Quicktime files we were sent too. DCP seems to be the only rock solid exhibition format out there, but given that the projectors run in the tens of thousands of dollars, that's what you'd expect. This all reminds me of the distribution days of B-Side, when we'd ship an Apple TV (one of the original hard disk models) with a film loaded on it to a venue. It was one of the only bulletproof digital delivery methods we could find.

Expect the festival exhibition landscape to continue to evolve. With any luck, it will evolve away from spinning disks of all kinds.  As DCP (hopefully) becomes cheaper to achieve, I expect more and more venues – and therefore festivals – to adopt it.

Tip of the hat to Cinekink's Lisa Vandever for the link.