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Author Topic: Digital Cinema at Showest
Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1033
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 03-21-2006 03:21 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
At the risk of drawing out the Digital Cinema haters, I wanted to share my perceptions of the DC presentations and equipment at Showest, and gather comments from others. Hopefully, we can avoid vitriol...

A recap of the digital cinema presentations:
(Jubilee Theatre, Bally's Hotel & Le Theatre Des Arts, Paris Hotel)

Tuesday, 3/14 9:15am "Salute to the $100 Million Films of 2005"
Montage of Blockbuster Films

Tuesday, 3/14 10:30am "Akeelah and The Bee"

Tuesday, 3/14 6:00pm "Cars"

Thursday, 3/16 11:00am "Over the Hedge"

Thursday, 3/16 2:30pm "The Big Picture... Goes Vegas"
Clips from Poseidon, Superman Returns, Lady In The Water, Happy Feet

The film presentations:

Monday, 3/13 6:00pm & 9:00pm "An Evening of Independent Film"
"Kinky Boots"
"On A Clear Day"
"An Inconvenient Truth"
"Friends With Money"
"Confetti"
"Hard Candy"
(Century Orleans 18 Theatres, Orleans Hotel)

Wednesday, 3/15 4:00pm "A Prairie Home Companion"
Wednesday, 3/15 8:30pm "Take the Lead"
(Jubilee Theatre, Bally's Hotel & Le Theatre Des Arts, Paris Hotel)

Digital Cinema Equipment
The digital cinema presentations I attended were absolutely fabulous. My seating distance ranged from near the back of the theater (probably more than 2 screen heights away) for Akeelah and the Bee to the booths near the front of the theater (approx. 1 screen height away) for Cars. The screen in the Jubilee Theater was 55' wide, according to the technician working the control station (my guess was 60'). This was where I viewed Cars, Take the Lead, Over the Hedge, and the Big Picture clips.

The clips shown during the Sony SXRD 4k presentation were also very good. They were reported to be 2k-sourced and upsampled by the projector to 4k resolution.

Granted, CGI animation is going to look very good, but the live action material also looked very good. In comparison, it felt like a bit of a letdown when viewing Take the Lead on film. I was sitting in the row just ahead of the control station, and there was a slight amount of jump in the film, but it was probably better than many 35mm presentations I've seen here in the Milwaukee area. I didn't notice much in Prairie Home Companion in the way of jump or weave. The prints were in very good condition.

While it may be true that there was a crew of technicians monitoring the digital cinema presentations (I don't know for sure), whomever was doing the 35mm projection was no slouch either.

The sound in both theaters was incredible! From what I recall, the sound systems were installed for the shows, so this was not the result of a permanent installation. I remember the montage of $100 million movies being too loud for comfort, to the point of being shrill, but the other presentations did not have that problem.

During Cars, the "NASCAR" race sequences literally vibrated the seat! If you don't have good subs in your theater, start taking up a collection for them, because you will need them to properly convey the rumble of the exhaust of race cars going around the track at 190mph!

Does anyone know the dynamic range of digital cinema LPCM vs. Dolby Digital and DTS?

I wanted very badly to walk down to the front of the theater during the $100 million montage to see if I could notice any artifacts, but the theaters were always very full, and I felt awkward about being the only such person to do so, so I chickened out.

On the showmanship front, it was nice to see curtains used again. It's been so long, I can't remember the last time I attended a theater that used curtains to begin the presentation. I miss that simple enhancement, and I wish that theaters would consider what they can add to the moviegoing experience. (It might make for a good separation between the ads and the feature, and therefore, make the ads more acceptable)

Walking the trade show gave people a chance to see the physical enclosures for the digital cinema projectors and systems. The Sony booth was the most memorable in the fact that the projector sat upon this large enclosure on wheels. It made for quite an imposing sight! I recall a comment during the SXRD presentation that the enclosure was added to comply with DCI requirements, presumably for the server equipment. While a little ungainly in appearance, the concept of having everything contained in one piece should be compelling.

NEC had a small demo in a separate room, but I wasn't very impressed by what we saw. It's not that the quality was poor, but it was just too confined a space to adequately demonstrate such a system in my opinion. I should hope a monster project can display a good 15' wide image! The digital projectors used as part of their advertising system were more impressive. I've seen these things project onto a 30' wide screen in a theater, and it made the ads I saw look better than any ads I've seen on a variety of systems in other theaters.

One theater owner I talked to said that he preferred keeping the pre-show stuff running on a smaller, less-expensive-to-operate projector. This way, he would put the hours on a cheaper bulb, and the advertising was also completely separate from digital cinema system, and the independence that provided was appealing. I would have to agree.

Many theater owners that I talked to were seriously considering digital cinema. No one was dismissing it out of hand, but most had concerns about equipment from disparate manufacturers working together properly, even though everything is supposed to be standards-compliant. That's a logical concern, and at this early stage of everything, I wouldn't purchase the parts without knowing for sure that everything was going to work properly.

Speaking of purchasing, it sounded to me that the deals were going to be structured in such a way that theaters would not have to purchase the digital cinema systems. Rather, there would be a lease agreement, where the studios would pay a leasing company a virtual print fee for each movie, which would cover the lease payments for the equipment. That's about as much detail as I got, but that makes it sound as though there are few impediments left to getting these systems installed and operating. All that's left is the paperwork! [Smile]

Most importantly, I think, viewing the presentations last week made me want to see more movies on the big screen. During the montage of $100 million movies, ignoring the sound volume issue, it made me regret not seeing more of those movies in the theater. (However, I know that my enthusiasm will be dampened once I go back to reality and have to sit through what constitutes the norm in our area. The excitement I felt will not be there, and I'll probably continue making value judgements about which movies are "worth" going to the theater to see.)

Anyone have opinions to share?

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9460
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-21-2006 05:49 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Scott said" Rather, there would be a lease agreement, where the studios would pay a leasing company a virtual print fee for each movie, which would cover the lease payments for the equipment. That's about as much detail as I got, but that makes it sound as though there are few impediments left to getting these systems installed and operating. All that's left is the paperwork!
"

Hmm but does it increase the cost for the exhibitor or is the distributor eating the cost and are they prepaired to absorb the same costs for all exhibs big and small ?
If memory serves Western Electric ran into problems with anti trust laws in Canada and the UK over leasing soundheads so that may still be an issue

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Ian Price
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1714
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-21-2006 06:20 PM      Profile for Ian Price   Email Ian Price   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I know that the Baraka clips in the Sony 4K demo were scanned at 4K by Chris Reyna specifically for the Sony Demo. They looked great, I sat in the second row for those clips. I felt that the Sony projector might have been a little less bright than I would have preferred. A Sony tech told me they hit 14 foot Lambert's which is what they were aiming for.

If you were talking to a tech in the Theatre des Arts it was probably Russel Allen of Dolby. Chapin Cutler of Boston Light and Sound brings in the projection and sound systems every year for ShoWest. He uses a line array (think rock concert) not movie theatre speakers for those two rooms due to the coverage challenges a line array would be prohibitively expensive in a movie theatre.

I have noticed that the $100M clip show has been harsh sounding before. Mainly when I have sat in the ballroom right in front of the speaker system. The ballroom isn't the ideal presentation environment.

They do a full rehearsal of each film before they show it to the delegates That usually means 20-hour days for the theatre techs.

I saw a couple of the films the week before at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. My favorite was Kinky Boots. I heard that it really helps to be a NASCAR fan for Cars.

I heard that the Sony 4K system wasn't DCI compliant, then Sony tells me that it is. Mostly compliance was the encryption system.

Fox says that all of their films this year will be available Digitally. They say that they went from 2 titles with digital intermediates last year to all titles with digital intermediates this year.

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Joseph L. Kleiman
Master Film Handler

Posts: 378
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Apr 2005


 - posted 03-21-2006 06:24 PM      Profile for Joseph L. Kleiman   Email Joseph L. Kleiman   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Both Cars and Over the Hedge looked fantastic and, from the distance I was at, looked better than SONY's 4K presentation. Cars was a JPEG2000 encoded film and I believe Hedge was as well. Baraka also looked better than the Batman clip during the SONY presentation. But then that's comparing something scanned from 35mm to something sourced in 65mm.

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Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1033
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 03-21-2006 07:24 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Gordon McLeod
Hmm but does it increase the cost for the exhibitor or is the distributor eating the cost and are they prepaired to absorb the same costs for all exhibs big and small ?
I got the impression it was going to be zero-cost for the exhibitor, at least for the capital cost.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 16221
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-21-2006 07:42 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Gordon McLeod
Hmm but does it increase the cost for the exhibitor or is the distributor eating the cost and are they prepaired to absorb the same costs for all exhibs big and small ?

Yes this is pretty much it except you left out the service agreement that the exhibitor will HAVE to get in order to get his free equipment. Granted not even that 10 year service contract would cover the cost of equipping a 6 plex for D-Cinema.... but there is going to be at least some definate expense to the exhibitor. Also not just any technician will be able to work on the equipment. Technical people will have to be certified by attending manhfacturers training to work on most of the D-Cinema equipment going in.

This will indeed spell the end for some equipment dealers and many ancillary film equipment manufacturers in about 5 to 7 years time, and especially those dealers that just sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Good riddens Goldberg Brothers!

The original Christie AIX plans called for 2500 installations by I believe 2007 with an ultimate goal of 10,000 screens by 2010 as equipment manufacturing is stepped up. However, Carmike alone acounts for 2300 of those so expect that number to more than double by 2007. Its all going to happen pretty darn fast.

Scott, You left out the Ultra Stereo D-Cinema Server!!

Mark

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Richard Fowler
Film God

Posts: 2389
From: Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA
Registered: Jun 2001


 - posted 03-22-2006 12:49 PM      Profile for Richard Fowler   Email Richard Fowler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It appears from talking to some technical and service supervisors, Barco and NEC are going through established service vendors for install and maintinance. Christie plans to do it "in house" with a proposed team of 100 techs on their payroll....Sony???

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Pete Naples
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1546
From: Dunfermline, Scotland
Registered: Feb 2001


 - posted 03-22-2006 03:21 PM      Profile for Pete Naples   Email Pete Naples   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
That's definitely true of Barco. The three largest installers in the UK were appointed a 4-5 years back by Barco, and engineers have been attending factory training courses ever since.

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Aaron Haney
Master Film Handler

Posts: 265
From: Cupertino, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 03-22-2006 06:04 PM      Profile for Aaron Haney   Email Aaron Haney   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Jentsch
The clips shown during the Sony SXRD 4k presentation were also very good. They were reported to be 2k-sourced and upsampled by the projector to 4k resolution.
In addition to the Baraka footage, Sony has had at least two recent films with 4k digital intermediates:

http://efilm.com/spotlights_detail.php?id=27

Were any of the clips from Stealth or Spider-Man 2? If so, were they from effects-heavy sequences, or dialog scenes?

Also, was there any mention of Sony's GxL laser projection system that was shown at Expo 2005 Aichi?

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Joseph L. Kleiman
Master Film Handler

Posts: 378
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Apr 2005


 - posted 03-22-2006 08:44 PM      Profile for Joseph L. Kleiman   Email Joseph L. Kleiman   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I asked about the GxL projector at their booth and was told it will not see production soon because of safety concerns over the laser.

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Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1033
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 03-24-2006 06:03 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mark Gulbrandsen
Ultra Stereo D-Cinema Server
I didn't get any information from them, and their web site doesn't show anything about Digital Cinema. Do you have a link to their information?

quote: Aaron Haney
Were any of the clips from Stealth or Spider-Man 2? If so, were they from effects-heavy sequences, or dialog scenes?
None of the SXRD clips were from Stealth or Spider-Man. My memory is already fading (didn't take notes), but I recall that most of the scenes were slow pans across large groups people and architecture. I didn't see any artifacting during those clips, and there were plenty of opportunities for the image to break up if it was going to (overhead shots of groups of people moving in unison, interior pans of a diamond/jewel encrusted cathedral/museum that sparkled).

The biggest downside to the Sony 4K SXRD system was its light output. If I recall correctly, the higher end unit (SRX-R110) could throw a 14fL image onto a maximum of 38' wide screen. The literature I picked up says "The SRX-R110 is specified at 10,000 ANSI Lumens and is generally appropriate for screens up to 40 feet wide."

Based on what I saw of the 2K presentations on a 55' wide screen, I'd take the 2K if it were able to project onto a larger screen at the same or lesser cost.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 16221
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-24-2006 08:58 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Jentsch
I didn't get any information from them, and their web site doesn't show anything about Digital Cinema. Do you have a link to their information?
I have a cut sheet on it they were handing out. Should be available in 5 to 6 months time...takes time to ramp up production of this sort of thing. No price projection yet.

Mark

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