Am I crazy, or is the image in theaters blurry?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jonny K, Dec 31, 2003.

  1. Jonny K

    Jonny K Second Unit

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    Whenever I go to a movie theater I find the action always looks blurry. The only time I get a clear look at an actor's face is during an extreme closeup when the head takes up the whole screen and there is little movement. Otherwise, I always find the image to be unclear or unfocused, especially during quick action. And I'm not talking about simple little theaters either, this is at the major Cineplex Odeon and Famous Players cinemas in the city.

    But I don't find this at home. DVD is always clean and crisp (with my display properly calibrated too). So what's causing all this blurry action at the theater? Is the film blown up so large to fill a big screen that you end up with the blur? Am I just crazy? I know the film is only running at 24 fps which certainly contributes to the problem, but that can't be all of it.
     
  2. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Jonny,

    It's a combination of worn prints and poor projection. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater that looked as good as the dvd of the same movie on my relatively humble widescreen rptv/progressive player setup-probably Titanic back in '97. The last time I heard decent bass on a movie in a theater was the original Matrix.

    Pirates of the Caribbean was virtually unwatchable in the "THX Certified" theater I saw it in, nasty print poorly focussed and no LFE to speak of.

    Theaters just want to pack in the bodies and don't care about quality presentation any more.
     
  3. Jonny K

    Jonny K Second Unit

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    I always thought that theaters maintained high levels of quality, perfectly tuning the sound and picture. I though that going to one of the big theaters was the ultimate experience.

    You're telling me that's not the case? How dissapointing. The question becomes, are there any theaters that do it right?
     
  4. Aaron Garman

    Aaron Garman Second Unit

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    Unfortunately, not all theaters maintain the ultimate experience. It seems nowadays that the theaters are in the business to sell advertising space and sell food. Not to say there are not good theaters out there, but many many theaters just stink. We still have a descent place, but nowhere near what it should be. It's sad to say that the film exhibition industry is hurting really bad now and may eventually die with the advent of greater technology for the home. I sure hope something happens that will wake the industry up and it's not D-Cinema.

    AJG
     
  5. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Hey Jonny, I notice the same thing too! The Coliseum in Calgary recently has gone majorly downhill in projection quality...The Last Samurai and Return of the King were both out of focus, particularly during movement. It clears up a little when the movement stops, but when subtitles appear you definitely notice the lack of focus. My screening of Kill Bill there would have been out of focus if I hadn't complained to them.

    However, the Silver City up in the northeast of the city is good so far (knock on wood). My second viewing of Return of the King there was in perfect focus. Always clear even during action scenes. It is a night and day difference compared to the Coliseum theater...it was like watching the movie live through a window!

    I am thinking of writing a letter to the managers of the Coliseum theater (in the far south of the city) and tell them they suck pickled donkey eggs when it comes to projection.
     
  6. Jonny K

    Jonny K Second Unit

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    I remember when the Coloseum used to be the best...
     
  7. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Even since Regal Cinemas took over from Hoyts, the projection quality has gone right in the shitter. Return of the King was horrible; Paycheck was even worse.

    By comparison, the locally-operated theater The Spectrum has uniformly excellent projection with such clarity and detail that it almost makes your eyes hurt
     
  8. Kami

    Kami Screenwriter

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    I had almost forgotten what good projection looked like til December 8th when I was lucky enough to attened the Canadian premiere of ROTK. The volume was a little low, but the picture was mind-boggling. Now the quality just stinks when I see it in other theaters. You wouldn't think it would be THAT hard to focus your projector every once in a while, or keep them properly maintained so the prints don't get ruined.

    Prices keep going up (waiting for the day when $15 tickets are standard) and quality keeps going down.

    My DVD's always look better. I just wish my screen was bigger....50" isn't enough [​IMG]
     
  9. Jonny K

    Jonny K Second Unit

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    Well I paid 14 dollars (Canadian) and waited just over an hour in line to see Return of the King yesterday...and it was a blurry mess.

    Perhaps I'll e-mail the nice people at Famous Players and see what they say. I bet I won't get a response.

    EDIT:

    Ok, I sent them a big e-mail asking them a bunch of questions. Let's see what they say...
     
  10. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    Return of the King in a THX certified theater and there was NO surround sound even after I complained to the manager. SDDS blows anyway but my home theater could do better than what I experienced. A severe disappointment.

    THX used to have a contact point on their website to let them know if a theater wasn't living-up to their certification standards. That link is now gone. Seems to me they're more interested in selling their certification than caring about what it stands for.
     
  11. Jonathan_E

    Jonathan_E Agent

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    Ok, here I go trying to defend theaters a bit (I'm a projectionist, so I feel its my duty).

    First of all, if the theater you're going to has a bad blurry image, a shaking picture, or other problems, go tell the management that the projectionists need to start doing their job and maintaining the projectors. I work at a 16 screen theater, and we take very good care of our projectors. The only issues at my theater are issues that we are not qualified to handle, like fixing masking motors or calibrating the sound systems. But, for the most part, if the presentation is out of focus, it just means that the projectionists there are doing a crappy job.

    Second of all, the average projectionist gets paid between $8 and $10 an hour. That is complete crap for the amount of responsibility that is placed on them. Our theater, on a busy day will bring in between $20000 to $30000 in ticket sales. For a projectionist to be taking care of 16 projectors all running at the same time, making sure things are running smoothly and correctly, we are really under-paid. So in some regards, I can't really blame projectionists for doing such a lousy job when they get such lousy pay.

    Lastly, as a personal request, if you ever happen to be in the position that you see a bad presentation of a movie and have the chance to talk to the projectionist about it, try to get past your rage of anger and listen to the explanation if it cannot be fixed by them. I recently had a run in with a customer who would not let me explain what so ever about a masking problem that we cannot fix ourselves (we have to have techs come out, and as in any business, the corporate office is always very very slow). This customer just went off on this long rant about how he has been watching movies longer that I've been alive and this should have been fixed during the movie (not possible without stopping the movie). He would not except any explantation what so ever, even though I've been a projectionist for several years and sure as heck knew a lot more about movie projection than he did. Even though he got complimentary passes for his inconveniance (which consisted of about 3 inches of the top of the picture being projected onto a curtain, causing the very occasional tops of heads being chopped off), he would still not give me the light of day to explain the problem to him and continued to blame us, where it is actually a problem with corporate being slow to send out techs to fix long recurring problems.

    Anyhow, I'm going to stop ranting now, but please be a little nicer to the management if you speak to them. Theaters get some of the worst customers and the staff quite often gets treated badly, which doesn't exactly contribute to us trying to do a better job to please the anal retentive customers, which I'm sure none of you are.

    -Jonathan

    Jason: I agree, SDDS does really blow. We have one projector that uses it, and it frequently has problems. It also will interfere with the standard dolbly digital backup, so the movie will drop all the way down to analog, which is what you were watching the movie in. Sony has essentially abandoned SDDS and theaters are slowly getting away from it, hopefully.
     
  12. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    Jason,

    I have to disagree with you about the masking problem. What you describe is one of the most basic issues in movie projection

    I'm sorry to hear that the customer was uncivil to you, but I'm equally sad to hear that you "passed the buck."
     
  13. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    You should write it exactly that way! Just put "pickled donkey eggs" between quotes, describe WHY the projection sucks "pickled donkey eggs" and you're done! At the same time, send a copy of the letter to the theater's head office if it's part of a major chain.
     
  14. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    Unless there are autofocus projectors nowadays (are there?), the quality of the focus depends on the quality of the projectionist's eyesight. And unfortunately, the projection booth is the worst location for judging the focus, because it's so far away from the screen.

    I haven't noticed any focus problems at Regal's Crossgates 18, although it could certainly vary from screen to screen. I agree that the Spectrum consistently has very good focus, although it could be slightly better.

    It takes a really sharp presentation to make you realize what you've been missing. When I saw Bad Boys 2 in Redmond, it was probably the sharpest focus I've ever seen. I'm usually very picky about focus, but my jaw dropped when I saw that movie.
     
  15. Chuck Stephens

    Chuck Stephens Stunt Coordinator

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    Ain't that the truth. I've never seen people bitch and moan so much as people coming to the movies. Granted, they expect a good presentation every time but most people don't realize that it's not up to the theater staff most of the time. We once went for 2 YEARS!! without having any lubricant for the projector path(projectionists will know what i'm talking about) because the home office decided that it cost too much. The best advice that I can give people is if you have a bad experience try not to get too mad at the theater staff but instead direct any complaints about projection or service towards the company themselves. Almost all of the theater chains have websites these days that you can email and this will do a lot more good than blowing up at the high school kid working the weekend shifts to pay for gas money.
    (Steps down for rant tower)
     
  16. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Maybe I've just had a bad run, but 18 used to be consistently decent, though not excellent. The last few flicks I've seen there have been super poor, however. Return of the King was by far the worst, and I've noticed it ever since. One of the smaller screens (I forget which) has a masking problem for a while, but fortuneately that did get fixed.
     
  17. Jonny K

    Jonny K Second Unit

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    I certainly don't intend to get upset at the projection people about a poor showing, but I do intend to make them aware of it.

    By the way, I also e-mailed Cineplex Odeon and asked them about their quality levels too.
     
  18. Aaron Garman

    Aaron Garman Second Unit

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    Very true about the quality of presentation going down for some years now. I also agree that most of the time, it neccesarily is not the local theater's fault. We have problems now that we've noted and told to the proper people but our tech just doesn't fix the problems. When he comes in, he sits in the office most of the time and talks with the managers. We have several auditoriums in need of work and he just ignores the problems. It sucks too because we are the ones that deal with the customers when these problems begins effecting them. Sure, many theaters need a beter trained projection crew, but the corporate offices and so called "techs" need to get on the ball too. I've said it before and I'll say it again, movie theaters are in the business to sell ad space and food now. It's so frustrating and sad to see this happening too. If only there were some more people out there to revolutionize this industry and bring it back to its former glory. For further reference, check out Film Tech.

    AJG
     
  19. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    How about a 60 ft wide screen with a 3ft scratch in it. While most of the time it's not distracting, if the color projected onto the area with the scratch is white, it really stands out.

    And yes, I do understand that repairing or replacing a screen is not an easy or inexpensive task, but you'd think it would be fixed after a couple of years. It's the main reason I rarely ever go to that theater anymore, since many new films are shown on that screen.
     
  20. Kenneth Harden

    Kenneth Harden Screenwriter

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    OK:

    Theaters usually make very little money. Because of that, they cut back on quality. People notice that and stop coming to the theater. They loose even more money.

    As someone who is interested in business:

    'You need to spend money to make money.'

    Am I a moron, or are the people running theaters morons? When Apple was about to go out of business, they poured on all the capital they could, and they are back from certain death. Gateway was about to fold, but they revamped their product line and started selling plasma TV's. GM sucked pickled donkey eggs (or whatever) and their quality has been getting better and better, now, their new modles (as in, this year) are not a joke anymore. Anyone notice a trend?

    Imagine a megaplex with good-great sound and picture all the time. You don't give people anything to complain about, and they keep coming back year after year. They bring their friends and their friends bring theirs. The customer base will grow.

    It doesn't seem them hard...
     

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