The Null Device

HDTV is killing the blockbuster

Cory Doctorow argues that high-definition television might kill special-effects-heavy blockbusters, by amplifying the way that Moore's Law keeps increasing audience expectations and making last year's special-effects extravaganza look like so much cheese:
It's a good reason to go to the box-office, but it's also the source of an awful paradox: yesterday's jaw-dropping movies are today's kitschy crap. By next year, the custom tools that filmmakers develop for this year's blockbuster will be available to every hack commercial director making a Coke ad. What's more, the Coke ads and crummy sitcoms will run on faster, cheaper hardware and be available to a huge pool of creators, who will actually push the technology further, producing work that is in many cases visually superior to the big studio product from last summer.
It's one thing for a black-and-white movie at a Hitchcock revival to look a little dated, but it's galling -- and financially perilous -- for last year's movie to date in a period of months. You can see what I mean by going to a Lord of the Rings festival at your local rep-house and comparing the generation-one creatures in Fellowship of the Ring to the gen-three beasts in Return of the King.
Where does HDTV come into this? Well, until now, yesteryear's blockbusters could make back some of their mammoth production costs on the long tail of DVD rentals and TV licensing; thanks to the inherent poor quality of TV, consumers were more forgiving of their dated effects. With HDTV, this may not be so, and the long tail may be decimated, making mega-blockbusters uneconomical to produce.

There are 1 comments on "HDTV is killing the blockbuster":

Posted by: gusset Mon Nov 27 14:41:09 2006

Interesting, but the majority of CGI-fest blockbusters already look crappy on a normal TV anyway. I think it may be more down to colour balancing not being done properly for DVD releases rather than constantly pushing boundaries. Adding another factor like HD may exacerbate the problem though. A recent DVD release like one of the Lord of the Rings films don’t look anywhere near as good on a normal def TV as they did in the cinema (from an effects quality point of view). Compare that to something painstakingly cut by hand, the fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is my favourite example, and you'll see that the CGI still isn't up to scratch. It’s more about care and attention that the technology in my opinion.