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Old June 29th, 2012, 08:48 AM   #1
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Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

Now that we're approaching the end of post production for Gentle Spirit I'm starting to look around for festivals we'd like to submit to for possible screening.

This has introduced me to a strange phenomenon: standard definition submission formats. It seems most festivals, or at least the last 20 I've looked at, ask for a preview copy of your film on DVD. A standard definition format. Wait a sec, are they seriously not able to handle a bluray disk or HD digital copy? So I shoot on Full HD, painstakingly edit and encode to 25 frame progressive 1920 X 1080 sized Full HD so that the film looks it's best and you want to see it crunched down to standard definition, interlaced frame rubbish? This is not acceptable in this day and age in my opinion. Come on, youtube does full HD, vimeo does full HD, Sesame Street is screened in full HD for heavens sake.

I emailed a couple of festivals including BIFF or the Boulder International Film Festival, which is one festival I'd love to go to let alone screen at and here's the response (indicative of a number of festivals by the way):

----------------------------------------------------

FROM BIFF :Hi,



Thanks for your interest in BIFF. Iím sorry, but we only accept DVD for submission preview.



Please let me know if you have any other questions and best of luck on your film.



BIFF Staff

Boulder International Film Festival

1906 13th Street, Suite 301

Boulder, Colorado 80302

303 449-2283


Sent: Friday, June 22
To:staff@biff
Subject: Film submission format

Hi,

Iím preparing to submit a film for the next festival but I have a question regarding submission screener format. The film was shot in full HD and is intended to be viewed and screened as such. I noticed in the list of submission formats you refer to older, non-HD formats such as Digibeta or DVD. Am I able to submit on bluray? Thanks.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Digi Beta is a standard def format showing 720 X 576 of resolution. HDCAM is 1440 X 1080 which is HD but not full HD. For full HD (1920 X 1080) you need HDCAM SR. But none of the festivals I've looked at ask for, or seem able to handle that.

Check this out from the Napa Valley film festival:

SUBMISSION COPY FORMATS
Online
Secure Online Screener
DVD Video NTSC PAL SECAM
DVD
REGION 0
REGION 1

EXHIBITION FORMATS
DVD Video NTSC PAL SECAM
BLU-RAY
REGION 0
REGION 1
Digital Video NTSC PAL SECAM
HDCAM

What the? You will screen them in high def but want to preview them in standard def?! Oh and by the way, asking for a NTSC Blu-ray makes you look a little silly as there's no PAL and NTSC in a blu-ray world.

Everything from an ipad or tablet (or some phones now!) can play HD video, blu-ray players cost $60 and you can get a full HD TV for a couple of hundred dollars: so why can't a festival selection panel watch stuff the way the filmakers intended it to be watched to work out whether they want to screen it or not?
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Old June 29th, 2012, 09:35 AM   #2
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

It is my limited experience that Festivals and contests like 48Hour FIlm Fest, just don't have the technical backing to move their screening to high def, let alone actually preview in high def. In many cases, if you submit in a high def format, someone will take your film and prepare it for exhibition by transcoding to a format they can show. So your best shot, to get it to look like you want, is to transcode to what they use to exhibit when you send it in.
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Old June 29th, 2012, 09:57 AM   #3
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

I suspect the reason for wanting standard def DVDs for the submissions stage is that it means that the selection panel members don't need blu ray player in their homes. Not everyone has blu ray, so it means there won't be any viewing problems for the selectors.

It's no big deal, festivals used to select 35mm films by viewing on VHS.
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Old June 29th, 2012, 06:50 PM   #4
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos View Post
It is my limited experience that Festivals and contests like 48Hour FIlm Fest, just don't have the technical backing to move their screening to high def, let alone actually preview in high def. In many cases, if you submit in a high def format, someone will take your film and prepare it for exhibition by transcoding to a format they can show. So your best shot, to get it to look like you want, is to transcode to what they use to exhibit when you send it in.
Fair comment but I'm talking about festivals that are asking for HD formats for screening. Including Digital Cinema Prints which means they can handle pretty advanced stuff. The smaller festivals I can cut some slack but world renowned, high budget festivals? Gimme a break, they need to move into the 21st century.
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Old June 29th, 2012, 06:53 PM   #5
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
I suspect the reason for wanting standard def DVDs for the submissions stage is that it means that the selection panel members don't need blu ray player in their homes. Not everyone has blu ray, so it means there won't be any viewing problems for the selectors.

It's no big deal, festivals used to select 35mm films by viewing on VHS.
:) true. Equally ridiculous now I think about it.

If I had the money for a professional DVD like the studios make, or in old speak a very expensive telecine to DVD, then I wouldn't be as unhappy. But as an indy I'm spending the time and effort making the best HD output I can and then I'm going to have to crunch it down to dvd and hope they can see forward enough to realise what it will look like in full HD.
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Old June 30th, 2012, 02:11 AM   #6
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

In selecting films they're also looking for things other than the image quality. Standard def DVDs look pretty good and quality photography can still shine through, but the selectors are also looking at how the story is told, the quality of the performances and if the film's content fits their festival's agenda. Selection can be a pretty subjective process, but multi award winning festival films tend to be at the sweeter end of the spectrum, rather than the darker side.

It wasn't just studios who had to get their films telecined, every independent filmmaker had to, or still does if they're shooting on film (which some still do).

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; June 30th, 2012 at 03:13 AM.
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Old June 30th, 2012, 06:18 AM   #7
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

As you proceed through the festival experience you'll find many more things that will upset you a lot more than submission formats...
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Old June 30th, 2012, 07:17 AM   #8
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Re: Film festival selection: standard def in a high def world?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Spahr View Post
As you proceed through the festival experience you'll find many more things that will upset you a lot more than submission formats...
Ouch, I hope not but you're probably right.
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