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Author Topic: Public Perception of Digital
Martin McCaffery
Film God

Posts: 2259
From: Montgomery, AL
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-20-2010 09:04 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We had a special showing this evening of To Kill A Mockingbird. 35mm reel-to-reel print. Since is was sponsored by the Alabama Humanities foundation, I gave a little pre-show speech. Had about 263 people in a 350 seat house. Just to be snarky, I mentioned we were the only theatre in town that could show this movie because "All of the other theatres have downgraded to digital."

I was expecting confused silence, or maybe a snicker, instead I got laughter and a big round of applause.

It seems, at least among a certain crowd, there is a negative perception of digital. I know there is a negative perception of the other theatres in town, but I'm not sure that is what caused the reaction (though may be a catalyst).

Anyway, maybe there is hope.

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Elise Brandt
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 160
From: Kuusankoski, FIN/ Kouvola, Finland
Registered: Dec 2009


 - posted 05-20-2010 11:10 PM      Profile for Elise Brandt   Email Elise Brandt   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hmmh. I can understand the negative perception, I used to think that too before I knew what digital really was. I was proud of the "old ladies" in the booth and I do love them, I grew up around them. It really hurt to think, ten years ago, that someday we would have to go digital and abandon the faithfully working beautiful machines that seemed to be the centre of the whole theater. There IS something in film that isn't there in any other format, I think everyone here might agree. (one of the retired ladies was dragged to be shown at our entrance, she welcomes people in... most of them see her for the first time after enjoying her work for two decades)

Saying that, you have to look at this from the customers' point of view. Fact is, not very many of them know the difference let alone care. It's all in how you sell it. If you talk about downgrading and being the only theater to be able to offer something to them that they want, they see it as a very positive thing and go home thinking why the heck does everyone go digital... if you give a speech before the movie and ask them to note the sharp image, the scratch- and dirtfree picture that is stable and enjoyable all through the movie and say how technology today will change the face of the movie industry and now they get to be a part of it... I seriously think the reaction will be what you were after.

It's all in how you sell it.

We all might have our perspectives and we love, like, dislike or hate the new or the old technologies but eventually they will grow on us no matter what we thought at first. This is my view, and I don't kid myself into thinking I'm necessarily right [Big Grin]

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 05-21-2010 02:21 AM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
To be honest, I don't think the public really cares what's upstairs. As long as they get to see the movie on the big screen. The only time I ever get comments about presentation is when we have a scratched print, and even then it's only if the scratches are major.

While a 35mm house may be the only one who can show a 35mm print of To Kill A Mocking Bird, all those digital houses could show it with a DVD player and put the sound through the theatre sound system.

In the last few months I've gone round and round with various platter problems - including scratched prints which I talked about in another thread. I know digital won't eliminate maintenance issues, but at least it won't ruin a print when something goes wrong.

I've been projecting film for nearly 15 years. I know this won't be a popular opinion here, but I actually look forward to the day I don't have to deal with film any more. For what it's worth, I do love the movie business; I just don't have a love affair with 35mm film.

The other thing I'll add is that most of the public thinks theatres are using some digital media anyways. Almost every time someone asks me a question about the projection room, they just presume the movies come on a DVD now days. They are usually surprised to hear it's still film.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-21-2010 07:52 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My highly non-scientific research suggests that most people (at least 2/3) don't notice or care, as long as everything looks and sounds reasonably good. Some people have very low standards for this, unfortunately, and don't really notice film damage or bad sound. Among those who notice presentation issues, most seem to be more sensitive to sound issues than picture issues.

The only time when these people start to care is if they are truly blown away with quality or if a particular show is hideously bad. One of my favorite overheard comments ever was from an adolescent who was sitting behind me during a screening of Lawrence of Arabia; he said "you really can tell a difference with that 70mm thing"--he didn't know or care what it was, but he knew that it was better than what he normally sees in theatres.

Among those who care, I would say that most prefer film (this especially applies to fans of classic films). In some cases, this may be that people like the "idea" of film (in a Cinema Paradiso way), not that they actually have a preference for the aesthetics of the image. There is a small but vocal minority that really doesn't like film at all and has a strong preference for [dlp] . I suspect that many of these people have legitimately had bad experiences with "film done wrong." Others are "filmmakers" who turn up at festivals with badly shot movies made with handycams and who insist that "the story is what matters." I've seen these people get excited to be told that they would be watching SD video instead of 35mm. Idiots.

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Manny Montes
Master Film Handler

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From: United States
Registered: Feb 2010


 - posted 05-21-2010 11:41 AM      Profile for Manny Montes   Email Manny Montes   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I feel that once something goes wrong (and it will no matter how great you are in booth) people hate film, and when nothing goes wrong, people generally don't care if its a brand new NEC series 2 digital projector up there, or a 40 year old strong chugging away.

One thing I love about digital is the ability to "rewind" the film effortlessly. To the patron that's one huge advantage

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Martin McCaffery
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From: Montgomery, AL
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 - posted 05-21-2010 11:48 AM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In all honesty, I think it is a perception of how people feel about the way they are treated at chain movie theatres, and digital is just the marker that signifies those chains.

On other threads I have noted how bad the digital presentation has been in this area, not as bad as their film presentation, but part of the trend. So last night's audience may just have been reacting to something they couldn't articulate.

Yes, they will sit through a DVD presentation and not say a word, we've done it several times. A good B&W DVD can look quite good.

I did give them a bit of a warning about how sound has changed since 1962, so no complaints about that. One member did come out and say, "They can make the films with digital sound all they want, it doesn't matter if there's no story."

As far as handicams and whatever. Loved The Celebration. Cameras are tools, you can use them to make something good, great or crappy. That's what art is all about [Wink]

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Monte L Fullmer
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From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
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 - posted 05-21-2010 11:57 AM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Interestingly enough, I ran the same movie in March, in a changeover Theatre for a library event with almost 600 people which also have digital, but a smaller Christie unit that sits away from the booth about halfway down in the auditorium, yet can still project a very good picture on the screen.

When I was leaving after the performance, some of the patrons recognized me as the projectionist and complimented me on how they did like seeing this coming from film than from the digital unit - just had more personality.

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Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-21-2010 12:03 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
Some people have very low standards for this, unfortunately, and don't really notice film damage or bad sound.
That's for sure. I remember one time, we got a print with a HUGE yellow scratch right down the middle of the whole print from start to end. Of course it was a last minute shipment, one week booking so there was no changing prints. I explained the situation to everyone who came in and was standing there ready to receive complaints when they exited...and the most common comment I got was, "It didn't bother me once I got used to it" and some people even said they didn't notice it at all!

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Monte L Fullmer
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From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
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 - posted 05-21-2010 12:52 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This shows that the people in Mike's area don't let things bother them that are not important to their lives, thus are more forgiving of the errors of mankind.

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

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From: Waukee, IA
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 - posted 05-21-2010 01:21 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Martin McCaffery
I was expecting confused silence, or maybe a snicker, instead I got laughter and a big round of applause.
Given the film and the demographic, you were probably playing to a very anti-digital crowd in the first place. They probably still have their LP's.

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Victor Liorentas
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From: london ontario canada
Registered: May 2009


 - posted 05-21-2010 01:33 PM      Profile for Victor Liorentas   Email Victor Liorentas   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I will never stop missing film done right! I used to point out great looking prints and images to staff in the last days of needing a projectionist licence.
Some understood what i was pointing at and others didn't care but it was that group of people who first destroyed the film done right theater's we had around here when they took the reins.

It has only gotten worse since then and the sloppy digital installs around here have not made up for it!

My heart is broken. [Confused]

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Michael Brown
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From: Bradford, England
Registered: May 2001


 - posted 05-21-2010 01:52 PM      Profile for Michael Brown   Email Michael Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
That's for sure. I remember one time, we got a print with a HUGE yellow scratch right down the middle of the whole print from start to end. Of course it was a last minute shipment, one week booking so there was no changing prints. I explained the situation to everyone who came in and was standing there ready to receive complaints when they exited...and the most common comment I got was, "It didn't bother me once I got used to it" and some people even said they didn't notice it at all!
About three days ago I had to run a show of Iron Man 2 with the processor in bypass.
I rang down to the manger to let them know that they might get some complaints after the show, but they got nothing, granted it was a weekday show so there were only a few customers, but not one single complaint.

For your average multiplex customer, so long as there is picture on the screen and sound of some sort coming from the speakers they will be happy. In my opinion it's a shame but it's true.

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Tony Gallimore
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From: Willis, Virginia, USA
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 - posted 05-21-2010 04:36 PM      Profile for Tony Gallimore   Email Tony Gallimore   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I know I'm an old die hard, but I agree with Martin... for years theatres have been in the process of downgrading in one form or another. I started in the theatre business as a fifteen year old projectionist back in the 60's. In those days we gave a "presentation" even at the drive ins. The film was checked carefully for any bad or out of frame splices. And these were cement splices not the fast tape splices of today. After the feature was checked, we "built" the presentation reel which consisted of a cartoon, sometimes a travel logue, sometimes both depending on the feature or features, yes we had double features regularly. To the cartoon we added our trailers preceeded by a date strip announcing when the movie would be playing... usually within the next two weeks. We NEVER ran a trailer that wasn't booked to play on our screen. Now I realize that the trailer assault is a contractural boondoggle from the film distributors. We never assaulted our customers with "ten-in-a-row trailers for your viewing pleasure". Maybe it's time for theatre's to renegotiate their contracts to run only those trailers that are firmly booked for their screen. As far as digital goes, I have spent most of my life in the electronics field... I've been through the digitization of radio and television, and yes there is some good to be said for digitalization. However, I have noticed that in digitizing the TV signals many customers who received their signal through an antenna can no longer receive anything even after purchasing the digital conversion box. The signal just isn't as stable. The same has occurred with radio. I owned a station back in the 80's and 90's. We had the digital transmitter, etc. and still experienced the atmospheric drawbacks inherent to broadcasting. Digital just didn't clean things up the way we were promised by the Federal Communications Commission. They didn't tell us that we'd have to stay within five miles of the transmitter to experience all the wonders of digital. In other words, we get what we get, like it or leave it. Now we see the theatres converting to digital which in my opinion is pretty lame. First patrons are assaulted by the twenty minute back-to-back trailer fest. Sometimes the sound decoder transfers from source to source as it's supposed to and then sometimes the projectionist has to manually force it into whichever mode is called for... then sometimes the projectionist doesn't give a !@#$^% and does nothing, so the patron endures whatever he gets. The picture is really my greater concern, though. 35mm definately presents differently on the screen. Even the carbon arc I started out on in the 60's was miles ahead of the flat look of digital. The light and colors of a film presentation are warmer and don't just hit you in the face when they hit the screen. Digital on the other hand gives you a face full of not so small dots (pixils) and these little dots are very active as the color and picture changes. Not only are they active, but they are very annoying too! Now I realize that many in the general public have never focused a picture tube nor worked face-to-face with the lowly pixil, and don't really know what it is they're seeing, therefore it must be good. After all, it is digital, and all the hooplah says digital is better... right??? I know of two families who ask what the format of the movie is before buying a ticket. Theatre's that have converted solely to digital don't get any money from us, anymore. And I certainly am not going to pay even more for the privilege of wearing those not-so-functional 3D glasses that make my head throb. I don't know where it is headed, but I don't really see the patrons being in the mix. The film distributors seem to have the attitude that what they want to give the patrons is adequate... patrons just need to fork over the money, sit back and be quiet. Unfortunately, I've run into several die hards like myself who will do without rather than conform to digital.

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Michael Brown
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From: Bradford, England
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 - posted 05-21-2010 07:10 PM      Profile for Michael Brown   Email Michael Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think it has much to do with digital being better. The issue is that your average member of the public doesn't notice\doesn't care. They just want to watch a movie.

When some one like me or Tony or Victor or anyone on film-tech goes to see a film we sit there scrutinising the picture and sound quality as well as watching the film. But people like us are the minority of film goers. Most people who go to the cinema are ordinaly folks, they work a 9-5 job during the week and on a friday or saturday night they want to left of steam by watching whatever the latest big blockbuster it. They are going to watch the film - they are interested in weather the story is any good, how are the action scenes?, how is the dialog? and so forth. For most people movies are not either their hobby or part of their professional life, just something to do occasionally on the weekend.

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Caleb Johnstone-Cowan
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From: London, UK
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 - posted 05-21-2010 07:50 PM      Profile for Caleb Johnstone-Cowan   Email Caleb Johnstone-Cowan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The issue isn't the format for the public, it is making sure we're doing it right both downstairs and upstairs to create a relaxed experience. You could have the best presentation ever with Carbon arcs, 70mm and perfect sound but if the toilets haven't been attended to in hours your guests will remember that more. On the other side take Mike's example of the scratched print above, part of why his guests probably didn't notice or mind was because they were looked after at a well-run Cinema.

I prefer film, but as I see most films a few weeks after their release digital has been a good thing for me.

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