Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Coming Soon To A Cellphone Near You

(I posted this on my personal blog and thought it fit the topic over here too...)

Want to watch a movie on your cell phone? Well, maybe not a movie, but perhaps a short film or music video? One Hollywood company is banking we will (at least kids will).

The New York Times has a good piece on News Corporation's new cell phone entertainment company Mobizzo.

In what is the boldest venture yet by an established media company to insinuate itself into millions of cellphones, the News Corporation has created a mobile entertainment store called Mobizzo and a production studio to focus exclusively on developing cellphone entertainment in much the same way that 20th Century Fox creates movies and television.

Analysts predict that the number of global mobile phone customers will double to four billion in five years. And that has spurred a wireless gold rush among media companies that, as in the early days of the Internet, do not want to be left behind.

This is to me the obvious next step in the "new world of distribution". I have actually encoded the movie trailer for my new film "Killing Down" to play on my Motorola Razor phone (soon I'll post it to my movie's website for anyone to download). It's very cool technology.

Only problem is most people in the U.S. don't have video capable phones yet. A lot of folks in Europe and Asia do though. And I never understood that? Why does most of Europe, often Korea, Japan, etc. always get the newest toys and technology before the United States? Don't we invent half this stuff? Didn't Al Gore invent the Internet (or that's what he claimed - although his new "invention" Current TV is doing some cool things). In Korea they have web bandwidth double or triple the speed we have. I know it's actually their governments that embrace and make this newer technology available, but it still is odd to me that we (the United States) often lag behind these other places when it comes to the latest and greatest techno toys. But, I digress...

Mobizzo looks like a pretty good idea. They are going to sell content directly to consumers, in lieu of going through a third party company such as the cell phone service provider. You'll be able to download content directly to your phone on a per use basis (for $1.99 to $2.99 per show) - or subscribe to the service for $5.99/month. This pricing structure is very new and I'm sure will change, as I'm sure the entire model will too as it's embraced or not embraced.

I'm sure too that sources will come about (if they're not already there) allowing indies to make content available for mobile phone download.

Of course as a filmmaker I find it rather ironic that all the latest "distribution" opportunities are coming in the form of the small screen. We all tout the unbelievable high resolution picture quality of HDTV and all the acquisition formats to achieve this look (HDCAM, HDV, DVCPRO HD, and even 35mm film). But where are most of the newest outlets for distribution popping up? Places like Google Video, Apple's iTunes, Sony PSP and now Mobizzo. All interesting models, but with one main thing in common - a small screen to watch your "HD wide screen production". Note though that Google Video actually does play it's content "full screen" - but it's streaming and is definitely not high resolution - albeit not the size of an iPod Video screen or a mobile phone (and to me, PSP screens are actually pretty good size and the image quality is great).

Maybe in the future indie filmmakers will not dream of seeing their movie on the "big screen". They'll dream of seeing their movie throughout the entire world on a "billion small screens". Maybe even simultaneously? Man, talk about a wide release. :)

-Blake

7 comments:

Eric Maconaghie Rogers said...

A few months ago when Verizon came out with their V-Cast technology, I contacted them to see if there was a way submit content to them for their customers to download. My thinking was that I'd submit a trailer of my film as a sort a viral marketing tool. They said there was not a way to do it but that they liked the idea and would present it to their marketing folks. As far as a I know it's still not possible, but perhaps this company you've mentioned might be a better option anyway.

Sujewa [Blog Admin] said...

Playing on "small screens" can be a stepping stone to playing on big screens, for the content makers as well as the distributors. The theatrical cinema experience is never going to go away (it survived television & the web, eclipsed all other popular public entertainment options), relatively few people in the world can afford a large screen home theater system, plus the glitz of the big screen is something that most filmmakers & distributors will always lust after. But for us indie filmmakers, all available routes can be used to build up our individual "brands", build up DVD sales, get licensing revenues, and then that money & exposure can be used to create movies for theaters & theatrical distribution.

Sujewa
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Blake Calhoun said...

Sujewa - You say theatrical cinema has "survived television and the web"... i would argue that the web is just NOW starting when it comes to movies. And it really hasn't even begun (give it another year or two).

TV has been around awhile obvioiusly, but not with Video-On-Demand. It too is really just starting. Truth be told, it is yet to be seen if theaters will survive (at least in their current form).

I for one HOPE they do, but I'm also very interested in all the new ways to distribute movies, and based on what's happening right now "small screens" will be a lot more than stepping stones. They'll be the highway.

-Blake

Sujewa [Blog Admin] said...

Hey Blake,

I seriously doubt it. But we'll see what happens. Theatrical exhibition has survived home video & DVD also. All these other new distro methods - VOD, cell phones, web casting, etc. are a variation on home video & television. Granted, there will be periods where watching a movie in a theater may be less popular then at other times, but ever since large scale theatrical distro began oh probably in the silent film days in the US, that industry has adapted well against all competition. Even if the impossible happens & the movie theater biz goes out of style, part of it will be preserved as stage theaters, opera houses, etc. have been preserved. Really, w/ the vast amount of entertainment already available through television & cable (all these other new distro developments are similar to getting your entertainment through the TV), if such home entertainment options were cabaple of putting movie theaters out of business, they would have done so by now. Either way, good movies will continually be needed no matter where people choose to watch them. My choice # 1 for watching is at a movie theater. Except there hasn't been anything good in the theaters for the last couple of months (save The New World), I bet that'll change in Spring.

Sujewa
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Eric Maconaghie Rogers said...

When this is available for a reasonable price, then there's no telling how this new video pod/cell phone distribution might take off:

A few years from now, you might be able to carry a home theater system in your pocket.

Finland's Upstream Engineering is working on an LED (light-emitting diode) projection system that potentially could, because of its small size and relatively low cost, allow manufacturers to put projectors inside MP3 players, cell phones or other portable electronics for a few dollars.

Instead of passing around a phone to show off a video or a picture, the image (or video) could be blasted onto a wall. The picture brightness won't be as high as that of standard projectors, but it would let pictures on phones and music players escape the confines of the small screens on those devices.


Link

Blake Calhoun said...

Interesting stuff on the LED.... I've said all along as soon as you can download a movie to a video iPod (or whatever), then play it on a larger screen in high res it will be gold.

Sujewa, I agree with your analysis. Movie theaters aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

I just think there are a lot of ways to make it a more enjoyable experience, which in turn will allow them to compete with the myriad of choices we have today (i.e. home theater, DVD, Internet, Playstation, etc.).

And all these new distribution avenues will soon redefine what we know as "traditional distribution" - for indies as well as Hollywood - thus democratizing it which is nothing but good for filmmakers like you and me. :)

-Blake

Sujewa [Blog Admin] said...

Hey Blake,

Re:"And all these new distribution avenues will soon redefine what we know as "traditional distribution" - for indies as well as Hollywood - thus democratizing it which is nothing but good for filmmakers like you and me. :)"

Indeed. The gates are slowly opening. Slowly, but opening. We should keep an eye on the next generation of filmmakers who will grow up w/ multiple distro options
& digital production as a given to see how we may want to re-caliberate (sp?) our views on what may be possible & how.

On our side is the experience & discipline required to make movies on 16 MM! (that way of working seems so difficult now, compared to the digital way).

This is a very good time to be an indie filmmaker, as u may have said in one of your blog entries.

Sujewa
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