By Bob Lamm
Got up at 9am to go check out the Digital Cinema demo at the Framingham General Cinemas on December 9. There was a side-by-side comparison of film versus digital clips of The Perfect Storm. I was surprised: Neither was clearly superior: Film was sharper (the digital projector only goes to about 1280x1024), but it had jitter and weave that the video didn't have.
The panel discussion that followed centered on business issues. None of the speakers seemed to think that digital projection is going to displace film prints anytime soon: The entire distribution infrastructure would need to be changed and issues like copy protection of the digital files haven't been resolved. And most of the distribution chains are in tight financial straits (many are in bankruptcy) and don't have the neccessary capital to fund this kind of change.
I should also mention that the General Cinemas concession stand is truly something to behold: Forget popcorn and sticky sodas: You and your better half can now decorate the auditorium floor with pizza, chicken nuggets and all sorts of designer drinks. This is the true profit center and it shows. As one speaker put it: Exhibitors are in the food business and the film is just a way to attract hungry customers. Unless someone convinces them that digital projection will attract more people, they aren't going to make the digital investment.
The longer term is less clear: The cost of digital gear is expected to decline and the images will improve too. And maybe some new digital services will be developed that will appeal to people. A prototype advertising system was shown, the appeal to exhibitors was clear! So don't hold your breath: Digital projection is gonna come, but it'll be slow going...
Bob Lamm is Manager at CYNC Corp., a video dealership that sells video/multimedia production equipment. He can be reached at 617-277-4317, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: 6 February, 2001
Robert Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor