Criterion Cinematheque

Criterion Cinematheque

This is a technical blog. My goal for this project always has been to centralize video engineering information that is mostly of interest to camera department people working in the film and TV industry. Every once in awhile I have to step back and remind myself why we care about all this mumbo jumbo in the first place. Yes, we cram all this very specific information into our brains so that we can be useful to productions and can continue to work and get our rate but what our knowledge really allows us to do is facilitate a filmmaker’s storytelling. That’s what we’re doing. Visual storytelling. That said, I’ve always been a massive fan of the Criterion Collection and their mission and WOW, there are some super exciting things happening over there.

For $5 you can now view select films from the collection online and they are also having monthly advertiser sponsored online “film festivals” where fresh assortments of films will be viewable for free. It seems they’ve embraced the paradigm shift in the way media and entertainment is consumed. Criterion, like other smart media distribution businesses, has recognized that the consumer preference has moved from the traditional hard copy most likely purchased at a national chain like Best Buy or Barnes and Noble, to a high quality digital download delivered directly to their home or device.

Throughout their 20 year history, Criterion has fulfilled a very niche market and have maintained their goal of presenting great works of world cinema in the highest quality possible and in the filmmaker’s preferred aspect ratio. Not to mention their beautiful DVD packaging, great documentaries, archival materials, and insightful filmmaker commentaries. I actually think that I learned more about filmmaking and storytelling by listening to Criterion DVD commentaries than I did in 4 years of film school. The Criterion Collection has almost single handedly brought renowned film classics into the living rooms of people who would have never had the experience otherwise and now it’s instantly accessible around the world.

I think among the many great things Criterion has done for film enthusiasts, they have perhaps somewhat accidentally created a very active community around their brand. Now in 2008, they’ve smartly taken the emphasis off their DVD’s and put it on the community they’ve created. The website has a ton of new content – it now provides a wealth of the information collected from their DVD releases, RSS Streams, comments and feedback, and now an official social networking hub, “The Auteurs”, for the Criterion community to call home.

It’s interesting to see how forward thinking companies – Criterion, Netflix, Apple, etc. – have recognized where the market is going and how their product will be delivered while others – the music industry – have done nothing but fight the inevitable tooth and claw. It’s really pretty ridiculous how the big record companies have tried to exert their will over the consumer populace. As is evident with the failure of Tower Records, Circuit City, and the shuttering of other big box stores all over the country, they seem to be fighting an uphill battle. Kudos to Criterion for staying current and ensuring that film lovers will continue to have access to the legacy of world cinema they’ve made available.