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Discussion in 'Movies' started by cineMANIAC, Apr 6, 2014.
The Wizard of Imax doesn't not perform for an audience!
They probably didn't want you to see that the operating system running the show is Windows 95.
At the climax of "Looper", the digital system stuttered and froze. The manager apologized, got the system restarted, and gave us all free tickets for a free viewing of any future movie.
Overall, I prefer digital. The problems have been much less. I don't have to worry about the dusty, mildly scratched print just a week after opening.
They said something about it possibly hurting our eyes which I can't see a reason why that would be.
Nah, they just don't want to have to deal with people bitching and moaning so they would rather clear everyone out. Free tickets are always nice but, personally, I'm going to be in a rotten mood if the film I came down to watch isn't gonna happen. Going out to the movies feels more like a chore nowadays.
I'm a realist and I realize that film is gone for all intents and purposes. Too expensive, too many problems, yada, yada. It's too bad because for me, film had a wonderfully organic quality about it. When film would physically pass before a lens and a shutter at 24 fps, the images on the screen took on a luminescent quality that I have yet to find with digital.
Digital for Blu-ray is just fine, but my someday dream home theater will have not only a ginormous screen with a digital projector set-up, but also a 16mm film component and a collection of some of my favorite celluloid from years gone by. That would be amazing. The collector geek within me would go crazy
And of course with reduced costs and paid ads showing before the movie you'd think prices would go down, but instead they just keep going UP!
When I did my taxes and tallied all my admission tickets to the movies last year, I realized that every ticket had a two-digit price. That may be the first year that's ever happened.
Digital is saving money only in a couple areas of movie production and exhibition. It does cost less copy a JPEG2000 d-cinema movie to a reusable hard disc drive than make a 35mm print. Some savings can be had in shipping costs (but not necessarily; I've seen complaints from theater managers about shipping bills for hard discs cost just as much as they paid for film prints). A multiplex might be able to further reduce staff by way of automating digital projector operations. With 35mm or 70mm projection someone had to be in the booth to thread and start each show. With digital the "projectionist" (gm, assistant mgr., etc.) doesn't have to be in the booth. Shows can be programmed to start and stop at certain times. The projectors and servers can even be operated remotely via Internet connection.
The projection equipment for d-cinema is far more costly than film projection. And far more disposable. A good 35mm film projector could easily last 30 years or more if properly maintained. Replacement parts are fairly standardized. D-cinema hardware has a life span similar to that of a personal computer. You're doing good if you can get 10 years of use out of it.D-cinema projection is fixing to enter its 4th generation of hardware. 1st gen was 1280 x 1024 resolution DLP gear (and a couple HD resolution JVC LCOS installations). 2nd gen was 2K DLP. 3rd gen was 4K DLP. Now laser-based projection is being introduced. There is a lot of 2K DLP based d-cinema installations getting very long in the tooth. A bunch of that stuff is going to go into the land fill and recycle scrap heaps along all the 35mm equipment that has been trashed.
Digital has done little if anything at all to lower costs in movie production. People in Hollywood have joked for many years that 35mm film stock was the cheapest thing on a movie set. A lot of budding movie-makers buy new DSLR cameras thinking they're going to make professional looking stuff for cheap. DSLR camera bodies have serious limitations due to their CMOS sensors (rolling shutter problems, moire from down-rezzing to 1080p or 4K, etc.). DSLR still camera lenses suck for video use. A person wanting to digitally shoot a movie and do it right has to spend a LOT more money on better cameras, cine lenses and lots of other specialized stuff that isn't cheap at all. So much for digital democratizing the "film-making" process. Archiving the finished results isn't cheap either.
I loved reading how (non-Hollywood) people always get all bent out of shape over "This director did 20 takes!", etc., when I agree, the film stock is probably the cheapest thing. Renting a studio (or location), building sets, renting camera, lighting and sound equipment, paying a cast and crew, all of that costs money. When you've already paid for all of those things and you're there on the set, to my thinking, it's silly not to do the extra take if you think you need it. Stanley Kubrick was one of many directors who I've read quoted as saying basically that.
As an aside, and obviously it's not on the same scale, but I remember when I went to film school, at the beginning of the classes, it seemed like film stock and processing was going to be the biggest headache and expense -- but I don't think that ever turned out that way. Whether it was getting a location or getting a cast, those things always took so much more time and usually cost more, so when we were actually on a set, the film stock cost was probably the least expensive item of the day. If anything, you wanted to roll extra because it would be almost impossible to get all of the equipment and people back again for a reshoot.
My gripe is that there aren't any projectionists anymore. And employees at the cineplex I frequent are not allowed to go anywhere near the projectors. Several times in the last year there have been issues with poor focus. I quickly scoot out to the concession stand area and inform an employee of the problem. They get a manager and he tells me that they are aware of the problem and a technician is on the way. WTF? There's nobody that knows how to adjust focus anywhere in the theater? He says they just have a single technician to cover every theater in the district (about 75 screens). They aren't allowed to touch the gear, period. So, until the technician arrives, they go ahead and sell tickets for an out-of-focus movie anyway!
Needless to say, I got a refund (including a refund for my beverage and popcorn) and went to a different theater chain to watch the movie.
Customer service in America has gone in the trash!
I remember in November seeing the Thor marathon at the AMC Empire 25 in NYC, on their ETX screen - so in theory, it should have been the best auditorium in the building, and with it being a special event, a little bit of care should have been taken. The first movie, "Thor" was slightly out of focus for the entire film - I suppose not a huge deal, but especially when it's a 3D presentation, the focus needs to be right. In between films, I went to the customer service desk and mentioned this. The first question they asked me: "Thor is a 3D movie, were you wearing your 3D glasses? Sometimes it doesn't look right without them." However, to the guy's credit, once I promised him I had been wearing the glasses, he radioed up to the manager or projectionist or whoever was in charge, and the second film was actually in focus.
I really think all of these giant multiplexes that aren't going to hire a projector for each booth need to at least designate one person per shift whose only responsibility is to walk from auditorium to auditorium to spot check focus, lighting levels and to make sure that the sound from neighboring auditoriums isn't bleeding in. In my college years I would have done that job for free! (Even nowadays, on top of a regular job, I'd take that on for a day or two at a pretty low wage.) People in the auditoriums shouldn't have to get up and complain. I almost never get up and complain during a movie, because if you do, you're guaranteed to miss 5-10 minutes at minimum, and chances are it won't get fixed anyway.
I definitely do think the lack of projectionists is a problem. I don't see why theaters can't hire someone for every 9 screens for lets say $15/hour who goes to the start of every show to make sure that it starts correctly with proper sound and picture and can adjust it when necessary.
Regarding movies out of focus, I think some of that is done on purpose. I particularly suspect that in all large screen auditoriums. Currently all Hollywood movies produced in 3D are only 2K in resolution. 2K blown up on something like a 70' wide screen is pretty freaking coarse and low in resolution. With razor sharp focus viewers are going to clearly see that pixel grid and "screen door" effect. Maybe the situation will get better as 4K laser-based projectors start getting installed in movie theaters and Hollywood starts supplying them with native 4K 3D content.
Basically, if you want clearly focused, sharp 3D: watch the movie on a more modest sized screen. Right now I consider IMAX digital and all these other premium priced giant screen concepts to be a joke, and a waste of money.
Although there are obvious advantages to having a dedicated projectionist in the booth, even with digital-based equipment, such employees in multiplex theaters are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Some newly built theaters don't even have a projection booth. The projector is in the auditorium, either lowering down from a cubby hole in the ceiling or tucked away in some small storage space in the back of the room. The server, cinema processor, automation, amplifiers, etc. are stored elsewhere.
Dedicated projectionists will only return if audiences demand them in widespread nature by voting with their dollars. Most audience members don't know and probably don't care about the details that go into good presentation quality at a movie theater. Most people merely drive to the nearest theater to watch movies rather than drive farther to the better theaters.
One of the things I really don't like about new theater designs is too many have common width screens. That includes IMAX branded theaters by the way. The "flat" 1.85:1 aspect ratio is bigger than 2.39:1 'scope. I've criticized common width screens for many years, often saying they make Driving Miss Daisy bigger than Die Hard. In 35mm, the 'scope format was the biggest format. It used all of the 4-perf 35mm film frame. It often delivered better image quality than cropped 1.85:1 imagery. With d-cinema everything has gone into reverse. Scope is now the smaller format. It has fewer pixels (2K scope is 2048 X 852 and 2K flat is 1998 X 1080). D-cinema projectors are only geared for single lens use since their imagery chip crop 'scope. There is no true anamorphic solution for 'scope in d-cinema. With the combination of hardware and the market growth of common width screens I predict use of the 2.39:1 aspect ratio will start dramatically falling off before this decade is finished.
Saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night at the Regal/Edwards Irvine Spectrum in the RPX auditorium, in 3D and Dolby Atmos. Throughout the entire film, at random times, there would be these rows of specs that would appear on screen for one or two frames, then disappear. There would also be a white speck that would travel left to right across the screen at a high velocity. Finally, there was this shifting line in the upper right corner that reminded me of a dropout or scratch on a VHS tape that was visible during darker sequences.
I mentioned this to two managers as my wife and I were walking out. The one manager seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, and did not want to discuss it with a lowly patron like myself, but offered to discuss it with the other manager. Instead, he told me to go to the customer service counter and they would take care of it. After waiting five minutes for someone to show up at the customer service desk, we were given 2 free RPX passes for a future movie.
This is the second movie in the same auditorium that exhibited this issue in the last few weeks, but it was much less distracting on Divergent. In some ways, it reminded me of how the studios used to watermark their 35mm prints to combat piracy, but that was usually restricted to a small portion of one reel, not the entire film.
I disagree that IMAX digital is a joke, although I feel that way about the other so-called "premium large format" auditoriums. When you see something at an RPX or an ETX or whathaveyou, you're seeing the same digital copy of the movie that they're showing in the non-premium auditorium next-door. It's literally the same copy of the film, usually with the RealD 3D projection standards. It's nothing special to me. Now, those are the rooms most likely to have new Dolby Atmos systems, but I'm more of a picture guy than a sound guy, and none of the Dolby Atmos presentations I've seen have wowed me away from Digital IMAX. (If a movie doesn't get an IMAX release, then I might consider going Dolby Atmos.)
What even digital IMAX has going for it is that a) the films are still remastered for a larger screen and b) their dual-projection system. IMAX's DMR process does, in my viewing experience, make a difference - there are several films that I've seen in both IMAX digital and RPX (Regal)/ETX (AMC), and IMAX won out every time for me - sharper picture, brighter image. IMAX's dual projectors, even when it's digital and not 15/70 film, still look better for 3D to my eye than a single RealD projector. Your milage may vary, of course. I go with what looks best to my eyes.
I don't think 2.35:1/2.39:1/2.40:1 filmmaking is going anywhere anytime soon. When you take away the IMAX and other faux-large-format theater screens, most of what I'm seeing in newer theaters are screens still designed for 2.35:1 when opened to their fullest. Most of the new movies I go to see are in the wider format. While the days of grand movie palaces with giant 2.35:1 screens are over, I don't think that actual aspect ratio will be disappearing. Agree to disagree and check back in ten years?
The only advantage IMAX digital has is brighter 3D through use of dual projectors. That's all. IMAX digital isn't the only big screen concept using dual projectors. And their advantage of brighter 3D will elminated as new laser-based projectors arrive in competing theaters. Barco & Christie both showed off new "6P" laser projectors at the recent Cinemacon convention. They're featuring a new implementation of Dolby 3D boasting much greater brightness than any existing system. IMAX is planning on deploying its own laser-based projection system (IIRC it's something actually made by Barco), but their laser conversions may end up happening slower than those in competing premium priced theaters.
IMAX may get special DCP virtual prints output for their dual projection system, but you're not seeing any extra pixels of detail in an IMAX DCP versus that of any regular d-cinema DCP. IMAX' digital projection system is is only 2K resolution. For 2D they're just doubling the same 2K image with a little bit of Photoshop style filter work applied to one of the images. Meanwhile there's thousands of regular priced theaters that can show 2D movies in 4K.
Unless a movie is filmed with IMAX 15-perf 70mm cameras it isn't really IMAX. There's a lot of movies shot on 35mm film or with digital cameras from Arri, Red, Sony, etc. When I see the "see it in IMAX" tag applied to those movies I just roll my eyes. Interstellar will be justified in using the "see it in IMAX" tagline (provided if there are at least some theaters showing it in 15-perf 70mm and they still have projectionists who know how to handle 70mm prints instead of trashing them).
I've never been a big fan of IMAX' sound systems even when its theaters were all film-based. The speaker enclosures seem more suited to a basketball stadium than a movie theater. IMAX' idea of surround sound is sticking only 2 speakers in the upper rear corners of the room. I'm not sure if their audio is really 5.1 or really 5.0. They can't do 7.1 surround despite thousands of standard priced theaters supporting 7.1. IMAX doesn't appear to even be trying to compete with next generation audio formats like Dolby Atmos and Auro 11.1, much less have any road map for supporting the "Open MDA" object based sound format being promoted by DTS/Datasat.
With film use rapidly disappearing from movie productions and most new movie theaters installing common width screens I'm just not optimisting on the 'scope format surviving in the long term. Quentin Tarantino has criticized digital cinema as being "TV in public." The digital cinema cameras and new theater screens are being tailored to the 1.77:1 HDTV aspect ratio. Lots of casual theater customers don't pay all that much attention to the differences in aspect ratios. They just want 100% of the screen filled. Movie producers will want to make those people happy at the expense of the small minority of people (such as us) who know the differences.
I'd say brighter use through dual 3D projectors is a huge advantage -- again, I'm only speaking my personal preference here, but I notice a huge difference in light output at a digital IMAX 3D presentation over a Regal RPX or AMC ETX of the same. There is an almost night-and-day difference in the 3D experience. When I watch a film using the RealD 3D projection standard, it's almost always too dim for my eyes, and that causes the 3D effects to not register as clearly or as engagingly as they do in a dual-projector system. Laser projection is coming, and that may be a game-changer -- but IMAX is planning on doing dual-projector installs when they use laser projection, so I think that still has potential to be better than a single-projector doing 3D.
I understand that digital IMAX uses two 2K projectors, whereas some (perhaps many) auditoriums use a single 4K projector. I can only tell you what my eyes experience and that's that the IMAX projection looks better to me (most of the time) than a single projector, even if it's 4K. It's about more than just resolution, although resolution obviously matters. When I go to see a digital IMAX presentation, the image isn't misframed, it's not too dull, it's not out of focus, and it does not appear pixelated when I sit very close (the one exception to that being the presentation of "Gravity" that I saw). I'd prefer that every IMAX release was on 15/70, but even though that's not the case, I find an IMAX presentation to me more pleasing than a theater-branded fake large format screen or regular screen.
IMAX films are remastered for the larger screen; ETX/RPX etc aren't in any way different. I don't think it's really right for ETX or RPX to offer itself as a new technology or a new brand, when it's simply taking the exact same DCP that's showing in every other auditorium, and just running it on a different projector to a slightly larger screen. I think it's OK to announce it as a premium experience if it's mixed in Atmos and the theater supports it; but if there are still "premium large format" screens out there that comprise simply of a 4K projector and a slightly larger screen, I don't think that's anything special and shouldn't be considered a different format. Even if a film isn't shot in IMAX, it's remastered in IMAX's proprietary DMR system, which ETX and RPX can't claim. I know that I'm not getting any extra picture information for most releases, but to my eyes, whatever tweaking they do for the larger screen does make for a more pleasing experience to my eye.
I mentioned this, I think it was in the Atmos thread, but I'm much more into the images than the sound. I appreciate good sound, but I prefer to sit very close to the screen, and when you do that, you lose almost all of the extra bang that comes with 7.1 surround or Dolby Atmos. So give me IMAX with its brighter projection over an Atmos room where I need to sit much further away than I'd ever want to just to even have a chance of noticing the extra speakers. Sitting in the third, fourth, fifth row, I simply cannot hear the difference that having 11.1 sound has over 5.1. And I'm not willing to sit in the back rows of the auditorium just to pick up the extra sound, at the expense of not having the kind of visual experience I enjoy having. IMAX is definitely more focused on the visual than the audio, and that aligns perfectly with my preferences.
IMAX' use of two 2K projectors and an IMAX-specific DCP in 2D operation is more about hiding the pixel grid than anything else. To me it seems more like the operators just nudge the projector a little out of focus to blur the image a little bit. This goes for all giant screen d-cinema theaters. The IMAX specific DCP isn't all that special for 2K. And it's no different for dual projector 3D. Again, IMAX doesn't have the only dual projector 3D system in operation.
Viewers aren't seeing any more image detail in IMAX than they would in another theater. When it comes to 2D they might be seeing less if the movie was produced in 4K. The only exception is when a movie, such as Skyfall, has a taller image that fills the entire IMAX screen while the other theaters get a vertically cropped 2.39:1 version of it. However, in the case of Skyfall, that movie had a 4K digital intermediate and 4K DCPs (uprezzed from Arri Alexa 2.8K cameras). For 2D movies, I consider IMAX a waste of money unless I'm watching a real 15-perf 70mm IMAX movie in 2D.
I'm not going to say the digital projection in competing premium priced big screen theater concepts is superior to IMAX' d-cinema projection. I'm just saying IMAX' digital stuff ain't all that great.
Please note, I flatly refuse to call any of this d-cinema stuff "large format." A bigger screen does not automatically make a d-cinema process "large format." It is no more large format than someone pointing an ordinary 4-perf 35mm projector at a 15/70mm IMAX giant screen and projecting a 35mm print on it. 15-perf 70mm film projection is a real large format process, especially when the material was originated on 15-perf 65mm negatives. 8-perf 70mm is a legitimate large format process. I might even be willing to go so far as calling classic 5-perf 70mm a large format process.
For me to call a d-cinema system "large format" it has to do more than offer the same old HDTV resolution image blown up on a bigger screen. I want the movie shown in 6K or 8K resolution with native resolution to match that high level. If they shoot the movie on 5-perf 65mm film offering a 6K or 8K digital intermediate would be no problem. Some digital cameras can do 6K or 8K. All the commercial cinema systems currently max out at 4K for 2D and 2K for 3D.
Back on the audio side of things, IMAX is falling behind even in terms of speakers behind the screen, not just the surround sound.
Dolby Atmos allows for 5 speaker towers behind the screen, just like the classic Todd-AO 70mm system (and the not often used SDDS-8 layout). Since Dolby Atmos is object based it wouldn't be much trouble for more speaker channels to be added behind the screen.
The Auro 11.1 format has its standard layer, height layer and ceiling layer. While it only has 3 primary channels of audio behind the screen, all 3 of those channels have height layers added to them. So it's really like three pairs of audio channels placed behind the screen.
IMAX just has three speaker enclosures behind the screen -just like all the standard priced theaters.
I'm usually OK with common width screens, but the closest Regal RPX has gone too far. Masking comes down from the top of the screen and scope films are shown on the bottom of the screen meaning that most of the audience has to look down at the screen.
I also do see an improvement in 3D with digital Imax over the other "large format" screens such as RPX. If it is in 3D and in IMAX, I most always see it there.