Blog Directory CineVerse: Move over celluloid (part 2)

Move over celluloid (part 2)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(This is part 2 of a 2-part article on digital movie theater projection; part 1 published yesterday.)

by Erik J. Martin

Under ideal circumstances and using the best equipment, digital movies projected on a big screen can produce extremely bright, crisp, colorful images. There are no film-grain artifacts, jerky projector movements or reel-replacement delays to interrupt your moviegoing experience. Unlike film, which can intersect with the shutter 48 times a second, light from a digital projector is always hitting the screen, arguably yielding a more pure, robust picture.

A movie studio or distributor can send a theater its e-movie on a portable hard drive that stores the images as digital files that can be played through a digital projector, beam the film directly to the theater via satellite, or transmit the information in real time through fiber optics or over the Internet. That means the production cycle - from shooting the feature to getting it in theaters - will be shortened, possibly allowing moviegoers to see a new release months earlier than today's distribution process allows.

But despite digital advantages, e-movies face a number of hurdles before corporate and consumer acceptance can be assured. For one, while the picture is vibrant and robust, it still can't boast the same contrast ratio as film. Dark colors and bright images set against black screens aren't rendered quite as true, which can limit a cinematographer's vision and compromise a film's artistic scope.

What's more, the transition costs from film to digital projectors in theaters are staggering. Digital projectors cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. And because there is no trade group or regulatory agency to enforce digital-cinema standards, a flurry of competing projection technologies could confuse the motion-picture marketplace and set back the evolution of digital movies for longer than industry experts anticipate.

Texas Instruments’ popular line of digital light processing projectors are used to display first-run movies on nearly 5,500 screens across North America. In an effort to compete with Texas Instruments, Sony recently inked a major deal to install its 4K digital projectors in all AMC Entertainment theaters (nearly 5,000 screens).

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