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Author Topic: New "Theatres Going Digital" article
Evans A Criswell
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From: Huntsville, AL, USA
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 - posted 12-24-2003 10:43 AM      Profile for Evans A Criswell   Author's Homepage   Email Evans A Criswell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I noticed this on CNN this morning:

Link to CNN article

"The digital image is brighter, sharper, the colors are more crisp and the image is a bit steadier" -- That sentence let's us know how well-researched the technical aspects were. A bit steadier, yes. Sharper -- if they mean visible pixels and artificial sharpness by edge enhancement, probably so. Brighter -- it depends -- isn't the recommended minimum brightness for digital 12 foot-lamberts rather than the 16 for film? Colors more crisp? Depends on the film print quality vs. the digital mastering job. For movies originating from digital sources, maybe, but for movies originating on film, probably not.

Article text (as required by forum rules):


Movie theaters going digital
Report: Number of theaters showing digital flicks expected to double

Wednesday, December 24, 2003 Posted: 10:15 AM EST (1515 GMT)

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Grab the popcorn, cinemaphiles. You may be about to sit through one of the best movie sequels in years: digital cinema.

"The digital image is brighter, sharper, the colors are more crisp and the image is a bit steadier," says Patrick von Sychowski, an analyst with Screen Digest, the British-based media research firm.

After years of Hollywood hype, 2004 could truly be a watershed year for digital cinema. A recent surge in investment by theater chains and technology companies means the number of digital projectors in cinemas will more than double to over 400 in the next 12 months, Screen Digest reports.

There's no guarantee the technology will make the next Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck film more watchable, but at least the final product will look better.

As always, whenever art and technology collide, snags emerge. Installation costs for cinemas are high and the major studios are slow to churn out fully digitized blockbusters until technology standards and anti-piracy measures are resolved.

But cinema operators, eager to show off their new digital projectors to the public, aren't waiting for Hollywood. A host of European chains have begun to show digitized rock concerts, documentaries and features from independent filmmakers.

"The new technology, we see, gives the local filmmaker the chance to exhibit to a bigger audience. Those films that do not get a chance under the 35-millimeter distribution model, will get a fresh chance," said Steve Perrin, deputy head of distribution and exhibition of the UK Film Council.

The film council has committed some $39 million (20 million pounds) to pay for the roll-out of 250 digital screens across Britain by 2005.
Blockbuster on demand

Since the mid-1990s, champions of digital cinematography such as George Lucas and Steven Soderbergh have hailed it as a triumph over the 19th Century breakthrough of celluloid film.

Stored as a digitized image file, the technology offers a better medium to enhance special effects, and playback quality will not deteriorate over time.

A digital film can be beamed to theaters via satellite, optical discs or fiber optic networks, potentially eliminating that exasperating several-month lag overseas viewers must endure for a big Hollywood production. And subtitles can be swapped in and out minutes before show time.

At the theater, a digital film is stored on a computer server connected to a digital projector. The projector is equipped with a state-of-the-art computer chip that cleans up the image -- capable of showing 35 trillion color variations.

Since the Lumiere brothers and D.W. Griffiths pioneered the medium 100 years ago, filmmakers have had to live with the reality of scratches and hairs marring some frames, and hisses and pops distorting the sound.

Digital cinematography promises to remove these headaches. What you will get is ear-popping digital surround sound and crisp images. "It's great for your standard Bollywood song and dance," von Sychowski said.

It's not surprising then that India has embarked on one of the most ambitious digital cinema investment programs. Mukta Adlabs Digital Exhibition Limited and Hong Kong-based Global Digital Creations Holdings Limited this year have teamed to wire up an average of 20 Indian cinemas per month.

New investment is also under way in China, Britain and Sweden, making it likely that Europe and Asia will quickly surpass the United States -- the early digital cinema pioneer -- as the new world capitals.
Rewriting the Hollywood script

The biggest advantage for the movie goer, says Peter Wester, project manager for Swedish cinema chain Folkets Hus och Parker, will be most visible not on the marquee -- not necessarily the screen.

A cinema can download a digital version of the film on a computer hard drive and show it as long as the audience shows up. No longer are theaters bound to the major studios' distribution schedule, he said.

"The average rise of income for us is 25 percent after one year," he added.

It can cost thousands of dollars for a cinema to get a Hollywood blockbuster film at or near the release date. A theater operator, therefore, often has little choice but to show the movie as often as possible before returning it to the distributor.

A digital version, because it can be easily reproduced, shipped and stored, costs less than $20 per copy, according to cinema exhibitors. It also allows the cinema operator to free up their viewing schedule, perhaps opening up the odd week-night slot for an art-house title.

And, the build-out is expensive. It costs a cinema operator an estimated $125,000 for the equipment and installation of a digital projector and server. The costs are decreasing, with widespread roll-out expected to halve deployment cost.

The biggest obstacle though is Hollywood. The Walt Disney Co., through its partnership with Pixar Animation Studios Inc., and Warner Bros., are the only studios producing blockbusters in digital film.

The Disney-Pixar film "Finding Nemo" and Warner Bros. "The Last Samurai" were two of a handful of big digital releases this year. (Warner Bros. is a division of CNN's parent company Time Warner Inc.)

"That's the big unknown," von Sychowski said. "It's a matter of how much will the major studios commit to this."

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Tim Reed
Better Projection Pays

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 - posted 12-24-2003 11:27 AM      Profile for Tim Reed   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's all over.

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Kevin Baglow
Expert Film Handler

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 - posted 12-24-2003 06:09 PM      Profile for Kevin Baglow   Author's Homepage   Email Kevin Baglow   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
at CINE ASIA convention -all the movies were shown with the new 2K chip, except for a screening of RUNAWAY JURY & MATRIX 3 in IMAX which i enjoyed. I did not enjoy any digital movie i saw.
The picture quality was not good either.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 12-24-2003 06:40 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As more and more "digital cinema" articles get published the more I think the press is overrun with amateurs who have no justification working in that field.

Did any of these press assholes ever consider a thing called RESEARCH!!!??? Idiots!!!!

Balance that stupid CNN article with the events like that scumbag over at the New York Times who got busted for publishing news stories with details he just made up!

I wonder if any respectable film critics read any of the threads on this forum. Roger Ebert, are you out there? It is high time some film critics with at least a modicum of technical knowledge came in and cleared up a bunch of this bullshit! "D Cinema" or "digital projection" or whatever over-balleyhooed term some dicklick idiot comes up with next is nothing more than a cost cutting compromise against quality. I want to give the writer of that CNN article such a smack with a ball pean hammer.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

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 - posted 12-24-2003 07:21 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
See the 'Filmophobia' thread started by William Hooper, which quotes a post by me on another forum talking about the Film Council and their digital cinema initiative.

From the article posted by Evans it would seem that they now realise that they've blown millions of our tax pounds on a fundamentally flawed technology which the industry and anyone who values the 'gold standard' of 35mm (in comparison with current and short-term-forthcoming electronic projection systems) is rejecting, and are getting mighty defensive... [Roll Eyes]

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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 - posted 12-24-2003 10:16 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'd say the guy that wrote that article is a boob at best. Sharper image....ha? It just ptoves that as long as you're at least two years old you can write for a major news organization

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Mike Blakesley
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 - posted 12-25-2003 10:04 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A cinema can download a digital version of the film on a computer hard drive and show it as long as the audience shows up. No longer are theaters bound to the major studios' distribution schedule, he said.
This is crap. The reason studios force six or eight-week commitments for supposed "blockbusters" is because they don't want to see their screen count decrease after one or two weeks. This will not change. If you want to play the latest Star Wars or whatever on your D-Cinema, you'll still have to commit all showtimes on that screen to that movie for some ungodly period of time.

Oh sure, they may allow some schedule juggling now in the "promo" stage, but that will disappear as soon as (and "if") the studios have paid for the industrywide rollout of digital.

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Bill Carter
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 - posted 12-26-2003 10:22 AM      Profile for Bill Carter   Email Bill Carter   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
On these forums, we often discuss the decline in quality in the exhibition industry. The same trend exists in journalism. Except for the very highest level, you have mostly inexperienced and poorly paid college grads expected to produce content by the pound.

I spent 14 years in the TV news business, and saw it decline right before my eyes. As federal regulations and business models changed it became all about cost control and efficiency, instead of being all about serving the public interest.

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Scott Jentsch
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 - posted 12-26-2003 12:01 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Wouldn't, then, the best reaction be to show people how good 35mm projection can be?

I'm probably preaching to choir because those here who work the booth obviously care about the presentation, but there are many theaters out there that can't get film done right.

A recent showing of LOTR at Marcus Westown in Waukesa, WI is evidence of this. The image not only jittered vertically (common and to be expected from many theaters in this area), but it also jittered horizontally. It was slight, but it gave a soft look to everything on the screen and was just tolerable enough to prevent us from walking out and demanding our money back. The credits were pretty much unwatchable.

When questioned about it, we were told that a new projector had been installed three weeks before and they were still "working out the kinks" in the system. A part was on order, but not due until this weekend.

So, yes, digital cinema can look sharper if it means that it's not jumping all over the place while you're trying to watch it. In my experience, the lack of jitter in the digital presentations were very welcome and an improvement in the image I am accustomed to seeing.

So long as there are presentations like the above, articles such as this have merit.

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Kamakshipalya Dhananjay
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 - posted 12-27-2003 11:51 PM      Profile for Kamakshipalya Dhananjay   Email Kamakshipalya Dhananjay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Anyway, I am not at all surprised to read that article. It is indeed true that the number of digital venues for 2004 is well expected to breach the 400 mark.

I disagree with much of the discussion in this forum that has to do with rating film as better over digital. Also, there are a number of other people in this forum who also feel that digital is far superior to film.

Such disagreement alone should be sufficient enough to lend enough validity to articles such as these.

I wish the article explored further on whether some of the Hollywood majors who do not currently support dlp standards have definite norms that they want the standards to meet before they too debut on the dlp or whether such studios are overwhelmed by fear or ignorance of the dlp cinema.

There were a number of independent films in 2003 and the media, particularly the film critics, for what they resent the studios' control over Hollywood (it is increasing by the day, for most critics to target a studio executive for the finality that a film reached), may only be expected to lend more voice and support to the dlp cinema.

Europe and Asia are going digital with full throttle and at the end, I do not really think Hollywoods' aceeptance of the dlp cinema is going to be at the heart of worldwide acceptance for this medium.

Like Hollywood has always done, it will initially pretend to be under full control, deny with all of its powers and will eventually, when it fully realises there is not much it can do, quietly come along.

As such, with so many precedents to suggest that Hollywood's position over anything is not completely thought through but is more like a knee jerk reaction to stick through, it is equally unsurprising that the said article does not even suggest that the reluctance of the other major studios to release in digital is anything significant at all.

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Jack Ondracek
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 - posted 12-28-2003 09:48 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Like Hollywood has always done, it will initially pretend to be under full control, deny with all of its powers and will eventually, when it fully realises there is not much it can do, quietly come along.

As such, with so many precedents to suggest that Hollywood's position over anything is not completely thought through but is more like a knee jerk reaction...

Could you cite some specific examples?... also the precedents you mention above. That would be interesting to consider as well.


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Scott Jentsch
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 - posted 12-29-2003 02:06 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Don't forget, most theaters presented at least two films digitally this year:

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Once Upon a Time in Mexico

and four if you count these:

Finding Nemo
Brother Bear

(not sure what the source resolution was for these two, but I'm pretty sure that the first two were the same resolution as digital cinema projectors are right now)

Does this mean that, if all digital cinema sucks in the quality department (a position I do not agree with), all theaters had lousy presentations for the weeks they were showing these films? [uhoh]

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Aaron Sisemore
Flaming Ribs beat Reeses Peanut Butter Cups any day!

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 - posted 12-29-2003 06:58 PM      Profile for Aaron Sisemore   Email Aaron Sisemore   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Don't forget, most theaters presented at least two films digitally this year:
Ummm, no. Most theatres presented these titles on film, not digitally. Digital origination does not 'digitally presented' make.

Scott, there is a vast difference between digital origination and digital projection. Usually (but not always) the resolution of the originating hardware is far higher (but not as high as film) than any of the DLP projection stuff currently out there. 'D-Cinema' as the article and many of us are arguing about is specifically referring to the projection aspect of the medium.


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John Hawkinson
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Evans criticized the characterization of "brighter, sharper, the colors are more crisp and the image is steadier." I would urge some more caution in the criticism.

Yes, the recommended brightness is 12fl for digital, but that is because it is measured differently. For film, we measure it open gate, with no film (16fl target). With transparent film stock, it should be about 12fl. And of course, von Sychowski is giving you his opinion, indirectly through Reuters' quotation. If you want to know what he really thinks, and the context he said it in, perhaps you should call him up and ask.

Sharpness and crispness, I think, are attempting to express the lack of visible grain and image degredation that digital has to offer over film. You can debate what the terms should mean, but I think that's what he is expressing.

And of course, digital wins in image steadiness.

If you're going to criticize digital, and pro-digital articles in the press, I think a lot more technical accuracy could be accomplished. But realistically, I'm not sure what customer-visible areas film beats digital on other than resolution and color depth.


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Bruce Hansen
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It would be my guess that the reporter was quoting someone who has money invested in digital, and will go to any length to "sell" it.

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