Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I can't really comment on the technology phase shift investment costs being enormous - but it is an interesting read.

What interests me is how digital cinema/audience relationships might change. One aspect is that front line cinemas will not be able to hog the first prints, and secondly that instead of flogging one print to death in multiple sequential daily shows, it becomes possible to show niche movies in the daily schedule. That will increase customer choice, but also create a promotion problem: how is the potential audience informed of more complex scheduling?

In Finland, there are 2 main languages: Finnish and Swedish. But there are also lots of people who like to watch movies in their original language - often English, but also there are plenty of Russian speakers in Finland. These sub-niche audiences can also be catered for.

I am also hoping that greater interactivity with the audience is created, such that audience demand can also influence movie scheduling and selection.

And perhaps cinema presentations might not be limited to 'movies'. 3D Olympics might be fun to watch with others.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 10:05:52 AM EST
I'll have to ask around, but a couple years ago there seemed to be some self-segregation, i.e., even though a 3rd tier facility had gotten digital equipment, it was left from first run plays because the chain it was owned by didn't want to disturb the way things were at the time. (They also owned competing cinemas in towns not far away.) These deals are also part of the negotiations between distributors and exhibitors, whose dealmaking (as I'm sure you know) makes the Classic Steve Jobs iTunes/Music Industry story pale in comparison.

But you are correct, if the exhibitors can figure out the method(s) to market to their multiple audiences, they can keep their rooms full in a lot of interesting ways. Instead of being empty during a week when there is heavy sports, there is no reason that they can't make deal that puts sports people into seats...especially in the facilities that get a license to serve beer to the sports patrons and Champagne to the Opera goers. And in America, they can film, and sell the rights to, the fights that break out between the 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin fans and the Traviata fans...maybe even pipe the fights around the country live.

In the states the early complaints were that no one cared and that digital didn't put any butts in seats. But in Italy where I installed a lot of early systems, the cinemas figured out how to educate and inform their audience to the point that I saw kids telling parents that they would come back the following week when the digital print of a movie was coming in...and the cinemas with digital were achieving 4 and 5X the patrons than cinemas in the same village who they normally split patrons with at 1:1.

The technology for all those subtitle concepts, and movies bleeding in from different markets, are possible but 'works in progress' as well. The methods for handling them in the projection room are available in concept, but need to be smoother. And the people at the deal-making side need to apply the First Rule of Einstein Marketing Theory - Imagination is more important than knowledge. They have to get beyond everything that has been tried and failed in the past.

I will also poke around and see if there are announced plans for 3D sports from the Olympics. You might be right; the theater experience might be better than the home or bar experience for some Olympic events.

As I will detail in the Part II, 1) there are some not so obvious problems in presuming that a 3D big screen event and 3D TV event can use the same material, and 2) The market will be changed by then. Certainly there has to be some long-term thinking to BSkyB's decision to unilaterally go into 3D before a market exists. And technology problems like different convergence points for different seating considerations can be solved with even more technology if given enough time and dosh.

There was an experimental Usian Bolt 3D piece that was shot (at great expense) after the last Olympics that turned out absolutely brilliant. There was an experiment shooting the Running of the Bulls that was not so brilliant, but which exposed a lot of the problems. (Such as there is little natural 3D past a certain distance, so you have to shoot close, and that you can't make fast cuts, especially when the focal point is at different distances, without making the audience confused (at best) or sick (at worst.) Last month there was some successful and well received live 3D basketball games broadcast to theaters and to cable. So, it will march forward.

There are hundreds of technical papers on 3D, but a good synopsis of  concepts is served up in the center column named "3D Helpings" at The Schubin Cafe Mark Schubin blends experience, knowledge  and a writing style that gives me hope...if I work at this for several life-times.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 11:53:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps you could flesh out the 'wprk in progress' on subtitling and other presentation customizing. Or links to useful sources?

The rest of the world is rather interested in subtitling ;-) And even the US market might benefit when the audience is 50% Spanish-speaking.

And if you have any info on China? Are they agreeing to the international standards, do they have technical capabilities to develop their own digital cinema system? Are the Chinese, in general, cinema-trained, or is it all pirate DVDs at home? China is one mother of a market ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 12:05:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Briefly, since this is mentioned in Part II, the evolution of subtitles has been:
Film and video = burned into the material, thus several or dozens of distinct versions shipped around the world.

Early DCinema = Server has separate text file that the TI or Sony rendering chip can place on the screen with the picture. This relies upon several standards being complied with, not all of which could be predicted, so that dozens of versions of digital prints were made with the subtitles 'burned in.'

Full SMPTE Compliant DCinema | being implemented starting this month and projected to take a (long) year = Subtitle file (xml) sent with graphic file and rendered by chip. This goes hand in hand with the objective of one file for all movies in distribution.

PS - If you haven't seen sub-titles in digital, you are missing a great quality experience. The first time I saw them I walked up to the screen (at the Palais in Cannes, which is a pain to get to from the projection room) and touched them. They are stable and crisp and it is possible to put them in different positions.

Side note: Hearing impaired standard calls out for two possible languages choices. But there are 16 audio tracks in the audio package, of which 8 might be used for standard audio (7.1), plus 2 for HI and 1 for VI. This leaves many channels that a distribution company could spell out to the projection staff...Please patch these channels for use into your equipment if you have the equipment and the audience for W, X, Y and Z languages.

I'll get the pertinent links that detail this. But what you are interested in is the packaging aspects of the mastering phase of the process. I'll get details of some of that as well.

China (mainland) is quite compliant in their cinema theater installations, and have been from the beginning. This, despite their  constant, long-running battle with the major studios on other issues. One of the companies who are a major supplier of servers is a Chinese company, GDC.

For a while, China was neck and neck in world-wide installs with a significant share (of a small gross number), in what appeared to be a plan to take a measure of the market by buying some of everything. They slowed down for a while, but seem to have picked up again. (Disclosure: I spent a week as part of a 3 team squad who installed 15 of some of the first systems in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing (among other cities) in 2002.)

Side note to China question - It was actually the Indian market that tried to go with what is termed as e-cinema, which is virtually the same equipment (often from the same vendors) but without the security features (at a much lower cost.) Their logic is that most of their market is in their own films which have a quick turnover. A huge audience sees the movie in the theater, then is ready to see the next one, I guess with a smaller interest in DVD sell on.

But in the last year, even that market is going d-cinema and following the specifications that the conglomerate of studios the DCI group) laid down as the minimum that they would consider.

I was thinking of doing market share for Part III, especially since I just got the statistics from a presentation given last week.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 02:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 03:13:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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