The Story of Computer Graphics Distribution Plan and Process


This memo seeks to summarize the distribution plan for the movie The Story of Computer Graphics and commit to writing the shared understandings of those involved.

The primary goal of the distribution is to educate a broad audience about the history and impact of computer graphics.  The secondary goal is to use it as a tool to generate enthusiasm and interest in the ACM SIGGRAPH organization and its affiliated professional chapters.  A tertiary goal is to secure recompense for the organization's expenses in the making of the film when reasonable.

The intent of the group is for the movie to have three forms of distribution:  1) via film festivals and events sponsored by professional chapters; 2) via Television/Cable Broadcast;  and, 3) via direct sale on video.  Each of these is discussed separately; the first form in the most detail.

Production Status

Prior to discussing the distribution plan, there are some details of production to be noted.  Although the film's primary production and post-production are complete, several fixes continue.
  1. There are some sound quality issues with the film.  Frank Foster, Joan Collins-Carey, and Steve Silas conducted a quality control session in LA the week of 29Nov and identified a number of specifics, including the ones mentioned by ACM SIGGRAPH EC.  A proposal and budget for fixing this is underway by Joan and Steve.
  2. The ACM SIGGRAPH opening credit is in production for all versions.
  3. The 35mm print of the movie has credits which are close to illegible due to 30frame->24frame conversion issues.  A plan is being developed amongst Joan, Frank, and Leo for re-producing the credits at minimal cost for film.

Film Festivals and Professional Chapter Events

The earliest form of distribution is the showing of the documentary as part of an 'event': either a film festival that covers the documentary as part of its focus, or an event that involves computer graphics such as a chapter meeting or affiliated society meeting.

Whether an event is showing the film via 35mm film or HDTV videotape, the event will be expected to cover shipping costs for the return of the print/tape, and any expenditures for the appropriate projection equipment.  We generally do not intend for the film to be shown in low-fidelity formats (e.g., NTSC tape) during the festival/event run, although specific cases may warrant exceptions.

For a period of approximately one year (August 99-August 2000), the film will only be shown through this distribution channel, primarily because the value of the film in this channel drops significantly if it has been distributed via broadcast or videotape.

For a requested showing to be approved, four conditions must be met:

  1. A print or HDTV tape must be available (i.e., not already committed)
  2. If the event is a festival and there is a SIGGRAPH Professional Chapter in the area, they must have been consulted regarding the request.
  3. The movie-producers group must have had a period of a week to evaluate the request.
  4. If there are differences of opinion in the movie-producers group, the Director for Communications makes a final determination in favor of showing the movie.

Inquiries that come in from outside should be directed to Carl Machover for questions.  Joan Collins-Carey will send the group a standard set of questions regarding desired format, venue, and so forth.  Once this information is available, the showing can be mailed out to the movie-producers group for evaluation. The movie-producers group is also responsible for checking if there is a professional chapter in the area of the showing via the online chapter directory.  If there is a chapter, the chair of the chapter and the  Director for Professional Chapters will be contacted via email  for their evaluation as well.

If the showing originates within the group (a film festival that one of us wants to see the film submitted to, or a professional chapter event), it should be mailed to the group similarly.

Joan Collins Carey will keep the master schedules for the prints and HD tapes of the film.  When a request is sent out, she will check the calendar and respond within a week as to whether a copy of the film/tape is available (and 'pencil in' the request under discussion).

After a week, the final decision can be made, with the Director for Communications responsible for verifying the final decision.

At that point, Joan Collins Carey will enter the showing onto the calendar for the appropriate print or tape, and will periodically ask Q Ltd. as appropriate to update the web page on to include the new showing.  In the first year of the event run,  we will contract Silas Entertainment to handle shipping and receiving of the tapes and prints; they will work from Joan's schedule of where the tapes/prints are supposed to be.

Event-related showings will not, of course, end with when other presentations begin; they will continue as long as there is interest. However, as the interest dies down after the film becomes available on video, we will most likely move the handling of the tapes and prints to ACM.


In service of the publicity mission, we will seek to secure broadcast commitmants for The Story of Computer Graphics from appropriate outlets.  Our primary targets are high-quality documentary-friendly networks such as PBS or Discovery Channel in the U.S. and similar broadcasters in countries outside the U.S.  In addition, we would like to encourage the broadcasting of the documentary in High-Def when feasible; this is probably mostly a matter of ensuring that broadcast deals do not exclude other high-def showings.

We are receiving a proposal from Ablaze Entertainment to agent the film to these channels worldwide (except Japan where we have pre-existing contacts). The level of advance funding required for the agenting activity is very low, and will be covered by an NSF grant.  We hope to see broadcast events scheduled in fall 2000.

Video Release

We intend to sell The Story of Computer Graphics as a special issue of the SIGGRAPH Video Review premiering at SIGGRAPH 2000 on VHS NTSC tape.  We will also investigate doing a VHS PAL version, although currently mastering costs for that format are unknown (significant mastering costs will be incurred for the VHS NTSC version as it is pan-and-scanned, which will be needed for either broadcast or video releases).  At this time a DVD version of all material in the film is not permissible due to rights issues.

Prerelease letterboxed VHS NTSC versions are available only for internal, marketing and distribution uses.