Digital Movie Theatre Projection Scam

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by MitchellD, May 14, 2002.

  1. MitchellD

    MitchellD Agent

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    We are being scammed. Digital, by itself, does not mean better, especially in large screen (over 30') venues with the technology that is currently available. While there are certainly advantages for movie theatres to switch over from 35mm film to DLP, there are a lot of disadvantages for the viewers. The proponents of digital projection point to their rock steady image and the lack of picture degradation during the length of the run. What they forget to tell you is that current video projection technology has a resolution that is only 1/4 of 35mm, far less gray scale (contrast), far less color range, etc. They also forget to tell you that 35mm film, when run though properly maintained equipment, will not only out live the theatrical run of the film, but probably out live us without any serious degradation. There is no reason other than operator incompetence or poor projector maintenance for film to get dirty and scratched, ever.

    The proponents of digital theatre projection also don't tell you that all DLP panels degrade with time, develop dead spots, and alignment issues. While this takes a long time to happen on a home unit with a 250 to 500 watt bulb, theatres are running 7000 to 9000 watt bulbs, causing DLP degradation much sooner. In theory, that is when the theatre calls in the service tech to replace the worn out parts (if still available), but in fact as anyone who ever worked in a theatre knows, the service tech will not get called until the picture is totally dead.

    Another issue I have with digital projection is the source media. DVD's, by their manufacturers own specifications, have a life span of about 100 years. Modern motion picture film has a lifespan of about 1500 years. Then there is the matter of format. Any one try to get any information off of an old 5 1/4 floppy recorded 15 years ago. Even if you could find a drive, the disk may be unreadable. The projectors and disk arrays used 3 years ago for SW Ep.1 are already obsolete, and for the projectors, many parts are not available.

    I supposed what got me started on this rant is seeing the amount of 1 sided propaganda in the media of late. The final straw was hearing about a tv news report comparing a badly scratched piece film to the "superior" DLP. The problem was, the scratch was such that it could never have occurred in normal film wear and tear, and the damaged film was compared to a good DLP, not a damaged one. That is like comparing apples to oranges, and declaring that the orange had more orange color to it, so it was better. They must think people are stupid. I think they are just uninformed.

    What all this does is it prevents an honest discussion of the pros and cons of digital projection, and what work needs to be done so that it will become not only just as good as film, but better.

    /Mitchell

    PS.

    Although I have not seen it yet, their is a rumor that "Clones" was purposely made to look terrible on film, so that the digital version would look better. If this turns out to be true, I will be boycotting the movie.
     
  2. Paul W

    Paul W Second Unit

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    Yes, and the pentagon bombing was a hoax too.
    [​IMG]
    Sounds a little too conspiracy theory to me.
     
  3. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    While I may not agree with the rumor about the "degraded" 35mm prints of Clones - I'll reserve judgement until I see it on the best screen I can find - Mitchell is pretty much on target with everything else. DLP video projection in theaters is inevitable, but not until it gets better than 35mm film. It's not even close, yet.
     
  4. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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  5. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Seeing Spider-Man at the National in the Westwood area of LA reaffirmed for me that a pristine film print with proper proper projection (which is exactly what I saw) is superior to any DLP presentation. The contrast, spatial and color resolution and color saturation were simply tremendous.
     
  6. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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    I agree that digital projection is inevitable, but I don't think the current crop of DLP projectors is what will take us there.

    At NAB this year JVC had a private room showing off their QXGA D-ILA projector (2048 x 1536 resolution - nearly two and a half times the resolution of the DLP D-Cinema projectors). This is the projector that Kodak is going to be branding as their D-Cinema solution.

    They showed scenes from AMELIE, THE SHIPPING NEWS, and one other film who's name escapes me on a 30' wide screen. The image was jaw droppingly gorgeous. They claim a contrast ratio of greater than 1000:1.

    The projector is still expensive as hell (over $100,000). Curiously, they told me that they already had eight on order to go into home theaters...

    -greg
     
  7. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Who said the worst digital is superior to the best celluloid?

    Points I pulled out of your comments:

    * "35mm film, when run through properly maintained equipment" … "no reason other than operator incompetence or poor projector maintenance for film to get dirty or scratched" Uh … I hate to break it to you, but perhaps you live next to a theater that takes such things seriously; I don't. None of the theaters in the Metro-Atlanta area I've attended take such things seriously. They use teenagers and hirelings to run their systems, leave blown speakers sometimes, don't repair damage in the screens, etc… Since by your own admission a celluloid system requires intensive maintenance and care to keep functioning at the perfection anti-Digital folks always point to, and since hardly any theaters bother with such trivial details when they could be focusing on concessions sales and arguing with the studios over their cut, I'll choose the seemingly more idiot proof Digital, thanks.

    * "Degrade over time" I haven't looked into the degradation, but everything does. I didn't assume Digital was any different. I find it interesting, however, you point out regular care makes celluloid better than digital in your first paragraph, then in the second point out theaters won't provide regular maintenance for digital if they get it. Which is it, again?

    "Source media: DVDs" Um … and? ****I**** don't have any 35mm projection equipment, I'd have to open the yellow pages to find some. I suspect I'm like the vast majority of folks in this country; 35mm projectors exist solely for the movie industry and exist primarily in movie houses. Yet everyone else has moved past them to other systems; even as industry continues to service the rather sizable needs of the movie industry. In other words, what makes you think all the civilian companies that fill the needs of 35mm projectors and film, plus everything else required for production and display of said films, will all be gone when Digital shows up in the majority of theaters? Again, you seem to be applying double logic (that 35mm is legacy but okay, and digital is destined to be legacy and will be screwed).

    Here are the pros of Digital as I seem them, in no particular order:

    ** Ease of distribution - studios don't have to budget several million dollars solely for film print costs; they can spend literally a tenth of that for dvd striking and use FedEx/UPS (which they currently use for 35mm print shipping) to deliver said DVDs to theaters. They can also tap into satellite systems to upload/download files to theaters on the network. That's all peanuts compared to overnighting 3500+ copies of a film out across North America, to say nothing of eventual world-wide releases (yes I agree NA will go digital before most movie markets in the world will).

    ** Ease of use in theater - Theaters can install a LAN to link their multiple Digital theaters into their server, and can then change which theater a movie will show in instantly. A manager could literally look at his ticketing graph and see his 4pm Spider-man II is filling up rapidly, while his 4:20pm "Adult Drama" in a 200 seat larger theater is 25% open. Button push, button push, both instantly switch minutes before the show, and the teenage ushers tell everyone "hey, go to the big theater for Spider-man" Hell, these days all my Theaters use electronic signs on each theater; if they do it before the current shows end, they can change the signage just as easily and the customers won't notice. Result, better use of available resources for the theater.

    ** Less impact/damage to the presentation - as a consumer, it torques me off to go to an opening night show and see damage, or missing frames. When I saw the Star Wars: SE Re-release, opening night, there was a HUGE jump in the Death Star explosion, where the theater employees had all spliced out frames of the explosion to keep or whatever. I also regularly see scratches and audio drops opening night when I attend. I rarely bother to see films after they've been out a few weeks precisely because I'm a spoiled consumer who is used to the excellent quality DVD offers me, and to see a film on a big screen with damage just makes the damage very noticeable.

    ** Digital-to-Digital transfers from many of my favorite film genres - I'm a big Action/Effects movie fan, and also am about a big of an Animation fan. A transfer that is digital at all times comes through better. I've seen the proof of this with my Pixar DVDs, three of which (ABL, TS, TS2) are all digital-to-digital discs that are absolutely fabulous to view. I saw all three films in the theater and they look better on my 27" Sony than they did off a screwed up 35mm Print in a teenager operated theater.

    ** Cost savings/Creative Quality Improvements - lower costs in production, distribution, and display, of my favorite movies means they are profitable sooner, means more of them are made, means obstacles to their eventually reaching my eyes as a finished movie are fewer. The Spawn commentary has some excellent comments about $$$ impacting a film, where the Director and Producer were doing clever money tricks with the production to free up extra cash for FX; just one quick example. Further, creative quality improves in a digital production environment; Lucas filmed with Digital cameras and could watch what they'd just shot instantly on 60" Plasma displays. Many articles I've read indicates the entire cast and crew often looked at their work on-the-fly in this manner, and that they were able to make adjustments and retakes with a lot of creative power resultantly. Vs the celluloid method of shooting, thinking about what you just shot, deciding to reshoot or not, then overnight the film goes to be developed and the next day everyone takes time to go watch daillies for a few hours. Wasteful and inefficient. People wonder why it takes years to make films; things like that are why.

    Is Digital the be-all/end-all? No one really knows, I personally think it's simply the next iteration in film technology. Yes I expect the 'film' label will stay around even when it's all digital and computer memory, much as 'records' and 'albums' are what we refer to CD recordings as. Generation Y has almost certainly never listened to an actual LP Record and most of them probably have had to ask their parents what 'record' means when the radio people or the bands refer to their discs that way.

    There are lots of positive reasons to go with Digital, and the bottom line is it offers improved viewer quality and durability at a lower production and distribution cost for all involved. I think the studios should look at their print costs for the next 3-5 years of releases and split the savings for digital projection with the theaters that jump onboard to help them realise the digital advantages. Money saved is cash that goes on-screen, or that stays in my pocket by keeping ticket costs lower.
     
  8. Neil S. Bulk

    Neil S. Bulk Screenwriter

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  9. MitchellD

    MitchellD Agent

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    Hi Dave,

    You make some interesting points, but I think you misunderstand my concerns. I am not opposed to DLP in the theatre, I am opposed to the mis-representations of the capabilities of the formats by the pro DLP camp.

    perhaps you live next to a theater that takes such things seriously; I don't. None of the theaters in the Metro-Atlanta area I've attended take such things seriously. They use teenagers and hirelings to run their systems, leave blown speakers sometimes, don't repair damage in the screens, etc… Since by your own admission a celluloid system requires intensive maintenance and care to keep functioning

    Unfortunately, I also do not live near a theatre that presents film at the state of the art. I have to go out of my way to see a good presentation. While motion picture film equipment requires more regular maintenance than video, it is not what I would call intensive. The maintenance I am talking about is nothing more than oiling the projector and rollers, and checking clean the film path when needed. It is when it comes to something expensive like a new screen that theatre owners cut corners. If they won't spend the money. If theatre owners won't spend the money for something inexpensive as a new driver for a speaker, I shutter to think of what will happen when the very expensive DLP array starts to deteriorate.

    I find it interesting, however, you point out regular care makes celluloid better than digital in your first paragraph, then in the second point out theaters won't provide regular maintenance for digital if they get it. Which is it, again?

    See above response.

    35mm projectors exist solely for the movie industry and exist primarily in movie houses. Yet everyone else has moved past them to other systems

    Yes, this discussion is regarding movie theatres, not home screening rooms. As such, I don't understand your point about everyone else moving beyond them. If you are referring to home theatre, what everyone has moved beyond is VHS, Laserdisc, and 16mm film, not 35mm film which was never a home format.

    I tend to agree with most your pros of digital projection, so I have no real comment on them, accept for "improved viewer quality and durability". The fact that many theatres do not present a state of the art presentation is a good reason for them to upgrade their staff, but not a good reason to downgrade the format to a mediocre, but consistent state.

    /Mitchell
     
  10. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Of course there is the more difficult problem that no one seems to be talking about.
    Joe's Local Cinema can go out and for, say, $10,000 get lenses, a projector, a lamp-house, and a basic platter system for 35mm projection.
    Tell me that Mr. Joe can go out and get a D-Cinema system for anything less than $250,000 for media transport and projectors.
    And now tell me that Hollywood is going to subsidize the conversion to digital projection.
    For reference, 18 months ago, where I work in the daylight hours, we bought 4 Christie DLP projectors, each claiming 400:1 ANSI contrast, 12,000 ANSI lumens, and 1000 hour bulb life. Each projector has 3 XGA panels - 1024x768.
    Discounting the fact that we're getting a typical bulb life of 750 hours before they will not start (and this is turn on in the morning, run for nine hours, and then shut down for the night; not turn on for two hours, shut down for ten minutes, and then restart.)
    We paid $125,000 for each projector.
    That was the projector only.
    Leo Kerr
    Lkerr1@alumni.umbc.edu
     

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