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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Digital Cinema: The Saving Grace of Movie Theatres?

ShowHype: hype it up!
Sorry about the long hiatus in blogging (almost 2 whole days!), but it was my birthday weekend, and my friends would not let me spend it strapped to my computer blogging, as much as I would've liked to! ;-).

Here's a question for our moviegoers out there: Does digital cinema affect your decision when you go to the movies? How about 3-D digital movies?

Personally, I thought that it wouldn't until this weekend actually. The girl and I were driving around in this behemoth of a car (Honda Element) that I had rented. We ended up by a Jordan's Furniture, which happened to be showing Harry Potter 5 in digital. I had heard great things about it, with something like the last 30 minutes (or 15) being completely in 3-D. I really wanted to go, though the idea was squashed by the girl pretty quickly, as it would entail paying for a movie, which neither of us have done in years. That was ok with me, but it really got me thinking.

The theatres that I have worked at have mainly been traditional, 35mm film based theatres. Digital projection wasn't something that was considered, as they were expensive and apparently didn't create much more traffic. As the years pressed on (I sound old right now), I noticed that more and more people began to inquire if movies would be playing in digital. When the theatre I worked for finally got a digital projector, I did notice some people asking specifically for showings in digital, and did see part of a cool 3-D movie, but there were some problems.
  • It wasn't in our biggest theatre. In fact, the technology did not allow it to project onto our largest screen. It would've become too pixelated to cover the whole screen.
  • Unless you were a big time cinema buff (or watching a 3-D movie), you couldn't really tell the difference between a traditional and digital movie.
  • One of our movies expired halfway through, causing us to shut the particular theatre down.
  • It cost way more to see a movie in digital 3-D.
The last one wasn't a huge issue as it only happened once. But it did bring in a problem that you might not have with traditional cinema. Of course, there are many reasons why it would be beneficial for theatres and production companies to switch to digital cinema.
  • No more cost of shipping films to theatres.
  • No more cost of printing films to ship out. (These first two cost nearly 1 billion in 2003)
  • Less staff required to run the projection booths.
  • No more projectors shaking through movies.
Then I read this article in Wired about how digital cinema can help prevent bootlegging of movies. (From Wired Article)Traditionally, movies are protected in a few ways (even I didn't know about this):
  1. Tones in movie soundtracks that are out of traditional hearing ranges. (old school)
  2. Speeding up the refresh rate of frames and adding in frames. Not viewable to the human eye, but it can mess up the sensors of recording devices.
  3. Other encoding techniques to show what reel and movie are playing (again undetectable to human eyes)
The techniques are much more complicated than what I've stated above, but not much is written about them since part of their usefulness is lack of knowledge in how they work. Digital cinema can aid in the effectiveness of these techniques. Besides the ones used above, there are ways to encode what movie, what location, and even the time of the show onto the screen in an invisible manner, only detectable to cameras. This will make it much easier to track down where bootlegs come from.

Christie, a leader in digital cinema, plans to deliver 4000 units to theatres by the end of 2007. Who knows, your local megaplex may already have one!

This is obviously beneficial to theatres. But what about the benefits of digital cinema for the moviegoer? The images are definitely clearer and brighter. And 3-D digital cinema works much better than traditional 3-D movies. Some benefits and other things to know about digital cinema are discussed in this post from Some good points are made here, especially about cost of transition and the feel of movies.

I know a lot of people don't go to the movies anymore. Does digital cinema create the kind of buzz people need to get out of their homes and into theatres? I think that movie quality will always matter the most, but with less cost into printing, the movies just may get better on the same budget. Only time will tell, but I think the transition into digital cinema will make the experience better for everyone.

4 Comments Posted!:

Calista said...

Digital cinema?!
I support modern technologies and inventions.
Maybe now it appears expensive, but soon it will be common thing (I predict).

It's All Good...Gossip! said...

Happy Birthday!!

Prin said...

It depends. There are technologies out there that can lower the noise in digital images and make the images nearly flawless with super crisp detail. You may not notice it when you're watching it, but if you could shut it off for a few minutes and go back to film, you'd see the difference.

But all that doesn't just come with digital. You have to have add-on stuff to clean up the signal properly.

Victoria love digital cinema said...

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