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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old January 18th, 2002, 01:02 AM   #1
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Digital Cinema Is Coming Fast

While many of us spend great energy making our video footage look like film, such efforts may soon be for naught. Leveraging on the weak economics of running film theaters Boeing, a new neighbor here in Chicago, is working very hard to adapt their formidable satellite network to deliver content directly to theaters digitally where it will be projected digitally.

Boeing's DC website is a short but interesting read.
http://www.hsc.com/cinema/

Note particularly this week's news on the site:
http://www.hsc.com/cinema/cinema_press/02_01_14_caa.html

There are one or two comparable competitive initiatives also under way.

Within the business investment community the economics and flexibility represented by filmless theaters have made such a conversion an assumption for quite some time.
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Old January 18th, 2002, 04:07 AM   #2
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Digital Cinema will still run at 24 frames per second and most movies will still be shot on film.

The DLP projectors do not yet even have half of the resolution of film, but most people watching them are not video/filmphiles and wouldn't notice the difference between a puddle and a lake. Some people may think DLP looks better than film because it is steadier (no bouncing around in the projector gate) and that sharpening thing they do with video around the edges. Film can achieve a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and DLP just got it to about 1,000:1 or something like that.

Bottom line: You won't be able to use your camcorder and shoot movies for exhibition any easier than you would now. Different data, different reality.

Oh yeah... converting theaters to digital video is VERY costly. VERY VERY VERY costly! In fact, no one is sure who's going to pay for it all yet. The transition will happen slowly, and film will be around for a log time. And then once better imaging and technology comes around, theaters will have to pay out of the a$$ to upgrade their video machines! So while it will eventually happen and all theaters will eventually be running video instead of film, it is not "coming fast" except to a few prime locations to do public tests and to show it off, etc.
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Old January 18th, 2002, 08:17 AM   #3
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Yeah but can you imagine the duplication and distribution savings from both a time and materials basis?

...and Bluetooth Technology was going to take the world by storm in 2001.
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Old January 18th, 2002, 10:23 AM   #4
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The current issue of DGA magazine has a whole section devoted to independent directors using DV and MiniDV for their films. One even has an XL-1 in his hands. DGA (Directors Guild of America) is sent to DGA members but they have a web site. I'll see if I can find the article.
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Old January 18th, 2002, 12:50 PM   #5
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Joe,

Why do you believe that "...most movies will still be shot on film" and that "Digital Cinema will still run at 24 frames per second ..."?
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Old January 18th, 2002, 01:09 PM   #6
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Ken,

Perhaps because I work within the cinema and film industry. I don't mean to sound "elite" but I do know quite a bit about digital cinema and film. I hope I'm not rubbing anyone the wrong way here with my 'tude :) Digital Cinema will definitely take over someday, and those machines will probably be able to run all sorts of frame rates. But for now people actually enjoy the "look" of film more than they enjoy the "look" of video. Plus theaters have to have a back up copy of the data in case the main drives crash, so 24 FPS saves a bit of space. Also, delivering the data to the theaters via satellite or broadband are, right now, super duper costly. Most digital cinemas in operation now load the movies by way of multiple DVDs, which is the best way, IMO. That way you always have a backup and can reload it, unless the hardware crashes or you scratch the discs. By the way, these DVDs won't play in your DVD player or computer. Encrypto-mania!
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Old January 18th, 2002, 02:25 PM   #7
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Joe,
I really appreciate the insights from someone with your background; you're not rubbing me wrong at all.

I do not have a film industry background. My background is in the institutional investment technology world (recently retired) so, perhaps, my perspective is somewhat tainted by investment economics. When I look at the future of cinema, art nuances aside, I see (1) smaller clustered theaters, (2) shorter features, (3) lower admission prices/higher seat turnover, (4) completely digital end-to-end production and distribution, (5) a wider variety of distribution channels, and (6) shorter theater release times / quicker to direct-distribution. And I see much of this significantly taking place well within this decade (if some 10 yr. commercial paper offerings are any indication).

The costs of converting theaters from film projection technology to digital projection will be, at most, incidental and financed principally through fixed income money market issues.

Personally, I'm not sure if the balance of this change will be tipped towards better or worse. On the better side it may offer more filmmakers more opportunities for public viewing venues. On the worse side it will provide the multimedia giants with an even more powerful platform for ccross-marketing.

Where will the "art" of film land amidst this sea of change? Where the art of any endeavor has always landed; creative, imaginative individuals will find a way to express themselves.

Anyway, that's my $0.05, admittedly from a different and somewhat distant viewpoint.
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Old January 18th, 2002, 06:16 PM   #8
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Don't expect theaters to lower admission prices. Theaters only make their money off of the concession items, which is why they are priced so high. The money from a ticket goes 99% to the studio who owns the movie. Expect prices to keep rising upward :( However there is hope for independant and art theaters which are not as controlled by the studios.
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Old January 20th, 2002, 10:58 AM   #9
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DV Magazine Article

This month's issue has an interesting, although somewhat tech-heavy and business-light, article on this subject.

http://www.dv.com/magazine/2002/0202/wright0202.html
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