Dean Devlin Feels It's Time for Digital Cinema to Blow Up

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Joe_Pinney, Jul 13, 2004.

  1. Joe_Pinney

    Joe_Pinney Stunt Coordinator

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  2. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    He's talking about 85 highly-tweaked projectors running in the entire country when he says "It's the same every time." He's wrong - I've seen virtually every digital show in the New York area and they *never* looked the same from theatre to theatre. Wait until the suburbs get the cheaper DLPs and they start turning the power down to the lamps (not to mention the dead mirrors).

    Remember, this is the guy who wrote the script for "Godzilla"...

    EDIT: We hear that failure rates for DLP showings are hovering around 10% (1 in 10 shows cancelled due to hardware/software failure). Reasonably well-maintained 35mm projection has a less than 1% failure rate (at least in our company). Which is more reliable?
     
  3. Joe_Pinney

    Joe_Pinney Stunt Coordinator

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    That's if the studios would LET the suburban digital cinemas turn the power down to the lamps, Peter. Like he also said, they'll be able to tell which movie's playing on how many screens exactly, they'll know the print quality, and so forth - doesn't it stand to reason that they'd also want to know whether or not a print's being underlit? Sure, now in the NY area picture/projection quality may vary from house to house (is it possible that we're not talking about exclusively DLP projectors, or projectors from different manufacturers?), but eventually, once digital cinema gets the big push, you think that information isn't going to be centrally accumulated and analyzed? Eventually there will most likely be a standard for theatrical presentation, and the studios will want to enforce quality control at each theater.

    Just because there are currently bugs to work out and the prices are too high doesn't mean that eventually things won't work to where the quality ratio and cost-efficiency will become too attractive for most theater owners to pass up.

    Personally I'm interested in how this could affect presentation of older films. It could make film restoration an even smarter financial decision. I'm dying to see Casablanca or Singin' in the Rain digitally projected.
     
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    If the studios want to pay for everything - more power to them. They won't.

    The control over the print is the great "secret" of the digital transition. Very few theatre owners want to let the studios know what they do to that degree. Let's say you book Devlin's latest disaster and it tanks the first day. With a 35mm print, you move it to the small house and let it die. With "digital", Fox would have the chance to penalize the theatre for moving the print and force them to keep an underperformer in a large house. It's the same reason why many theater owners told George Lucas to "f-off" with his 12-week minimum run for Attack of the Clones, everybody took a bad hit when Phantom Menace underperformed and virtually every theatre had to buy out the last weeks of their contract to get it off their screens. With digital, they'll have the opportunity to force the theatre to keep playing it.

    The more control the studio has - the less theatres will want to play ball with them.
     
  5. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Why would the studios not "let" cinemas show substandard digital presentations when they're perfectly happy to allow it to happen with film?
     
  6. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    I wonder what service this guy is with.. certainly not one I know of. "Could you repeat that? I'm going into a dead zone, etc." [​IMG]

    That having been said, the studio cost with digital should be far less, and the delivery cost far less.. it's a long term big win for studios.
     
  7. Michael St. Clair

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    [​IMG]

    I've seen plenty of DLP and there's no real benefit to the moviegoer. The theaters that let prints get scratched up due to cheaping out on proper projector maintenance will surely let their DLPs go to hell. The theaters that show film properly already look better than DLP, so there's nothing to gain.
     
  8. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Thank you for saying it better than I could in my post!
     
  9. Joe_Pinney

    Joe_Pinney Stunt Coordinator

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    *shrug* I've only seen Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones in DLP at the Grauman's Chinese, but I was impressed enough with it to want to see more (no reel change markers, no print degradation, no need for resplicing broken film - what, there's something negative about that?).

    I agree that the theaters that currently are very lax in handling their prints and don't care about proper projection would also likely treat DLP with the same "so-what" kind of attitude. However, DLP systems COULD (theoretically at least) allow a greater amount of control over the end product by the studio/distributor, "freeing up" the exhibitor from various print maintenance duties that currently exist (such as threading the film, physically transferring the prints from can to platter, correcting focus, etc.)

    Also, even with the best theaters, you occasionally will see a print of a film (usually an older film) that's faded or has dirt or other defects on it simply due to the ravages of time. I can recall seeing a 70mm print of Apocalypse Now in Hollywood (at the Cinerama Dome) in 1996 and a 70mm print of Raiders of the Lost Ark here in Houston (at the AMC Studio 30) in 2000, and although they didn't have much damage, they didn't have that "fresh from the soup" look to them. I can only assume that those theaters had been sent older prints, which had been kept in storage by the distributor or studio, and had aged. As I understand it, a digital print wouldn't be affected by the aging process, at least not so soon.
     
  10. Michael St. Clair

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    Nah, the negatives have to do with the reduction in detail.
     
  11. Phil L

    Phil L Supporting Actor

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    I'll generally choose a DLP showing of a movie I want to see over a print, especially if the movie has been out for a while.

    DLP certainly isn't perfect, I can still see pixelization of credits and such but generally gives a bright, crisp and clear picture.

    I also think DLP handles digital sources better: I saw ATOC twice, once on DLP and once on film. In the asteriod scene with DLP I noticed that some of the space shots were too bright, not black enough. On the film print, those areas looked like video noise.
     
  12. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    I forget who said it, but he was right -- why is everyone in such a hurry to watch TV in a movie theater?
     
  13. Grant H

    Grant H Cinematographer

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    Because a lot of us have TV's that look better than our crappy local cineplex when fed the right source.

    Most of the time when I see a movie it's in its first or second week run and the prints already look like shit. Even at my brand-new theater they're far from flawless. And, now that they have those stupid anti-piracy tattoos all over them things are even worse.

    Then there are the old big-ass reel-change markers and mis-matching color with all the reel changes.

    If the biggest complaints about DLP are reliability and lower resolution that ain't saying much. All technology improves over time. It will become more reliable and incredibly more detailed faster than anyone can predict. There are a lot more arguments against using digital all the way than there are for just presentation purposes. All it has to accomplish is a reproduction of the already-captured film image. Sure, it's not perfect yet, but it will get there. And it won't take long before the benefits outweigh the shortcomings long before it's reached perfection.

    Film technology has improved too, but now we're at the point where to really improve things dramatically you'd have to use twice as much of it from the get-go and then all the way through presentation, and that's pricey. For DLP, prices will come down. Film will always be expensive.

    I feel very confident DLP will eventually match film on the presentation end in terms of resolution, color depth, and reliability. Just give it a few years. Film sure has had it's fair share of years to grow up. Why should DLP be ripped apart when it's an infant technology by comparison?
     
  14. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Because it's being touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Because it's being touted as *already* being better than film (when, frankly, it's not even close). (As an aside: I'm still trying to figure out why people think that focus won't be an issue with DLP - it runs off the same lamphouse and through the same lens as a film projector and somebody will still have to eyeball the focus and get it right.)

    I welcome the technology maturing and becoming better in quality and more reliable, as well as it getting cheaper than film projectors (although economies of scale will probably prevent that), but to hear supposed "professionals" such as Devlin say it's better than film *right now*, when it's clear it's not, bothers me.

    I still look forward to the day when I see a DLP presentation that equals or surpasses properly presented film.
     
  15. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Something else about the "continuing improvement" of digital technology...

    Remember CDs, remember how they continued to improve the quality past the first few years until they could actually present greater resolution than analog vinyl?

    Me neither.

    It took nearly 20 years just to get this recent step into DVD-A and SACD, and even there we aren't exactly seeing a lot of support for the technology.

    So just maybe this increase faster than anyone can imagine isn't about to happen. Maybe the problem is that some people are imagining a lot more happening with the technology than we should expect.

    I think Devlin tells us everything when, as Peter points out, he presents it as "good enough right now". Cheap distribution, greater control over prints and print copies, average audiences already satisfied or actually in awe of the "new and better" technology...why in the hell would anyone fund the further improvement just to impress the elitist snob viewers who prefer the higher resolution of film?


    CDs were better because of convenience, not actual resolution. Proper vinyl presentation can still outperform a CD, but a CD travels well and tends to reproduce better over time...of course I've had tons of CDs go bad, get damaged, and skip/rapid repeat. CDs brought a new paradigm of music listening.

    The very second that DLP/digital projection makes film seem like a pain in the ass, the improvements will end and DLP will take over. I don't think we are that far away from that right now.


    And audience discretion...let's just look at the overwhelming demand for HD content on all the fancy new TVs. I think "good enough" comes to mind here too.
     
  16. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    But its advocates are claiming it's "good enough" already. So where is the incentive to improve it? The studios hate spending any more money than they have to, movie theaters in general are hardly quality control freaks, and the movie going masses don't demand the best either.

    On what basis is it going to improve?
     
  17. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    I have seen a lot of really bad film presentations, and my big complaints have been prints scratches, colour fading, and sound dropout. Digital presentation would eliminate these specific bugbears, and that's what I want. Yes, there is a loss of resolution, when dealing with a pure well-done film source; but with so much digital editing going into pictures today, that is less and less common. Frankly, I would be happy to see 35mm go away completely and be replaced my a combination of HiVision [for the general audience] and 75mm projection -- I think that every city could support a 75mm house if the widespread use of video-based projection brought costs down and audiences up in the multiplexes. Of course, that may only be a dream...
     
  18. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    "Because a lot of us have TV's that look better than our crappy local cineplex when fed the right source."

    I prefer the look of film. I prefer film grain, I prefer the 24fps film rate. I don't prefer the processed look of video.

    "Most of the time when I see a movie it's in its first or second week run and the prints already look like shit."

    Not me. I saw Fellowship months into the run and it looked fine.

    "Even at my brand-new theater they're far from flawless. And, now that they have those stupid anti-piracy tattoos all over them things are even worse."

    I don't need flawless. For me, reel change dots, film grain -- these things ARE film. These ARE the movies.

    "If the biggest complaints about DLP are reliability and lower resolution that ain't saying much."

    Well, on the other hand, if the biggest complaints about film prints are film grain, reel change markers and the little bump in film color from reel to reel, that isn't that big of an issue either, you know?

    "All technology improves over time. It will become more reliable and incredibly more detailed faster than anyone can predict."

    But its not there yet. It's just not.

    "And it won't take long before the benefits outweigh the shortcomings long before it's reached perfection."

    When digital projection can reproduce the detail of a 35mm film image, can replicate the look of film, then it will be an adequate replacement. We're just not there yet.

    "Why should DLP be ripped apart when it's an infant technology by comparison?"

    Why should it be accpeted and embraced with it is an infant technology inferior in quality to what we have now?
     
  19. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    It's also worth noting that the upgrade cost for a digital projector is higher than for a film one. Finer-grained film can be played on the very same projector, thanks to the simplicity of the concept, but increasing the resolution of a DLP system would involve replacing the most expensive component every time.
     
  20. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Making it that much less likely that it will be upgraded, and therefore keeping people stuck with the same old "worse than film, but good enough for some" resolution.
     

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