Digital cinema refers to the use of digital technology to distribute and project motion pictures. A movie can be distributed via hard drives, optical disks (such as DVDs) or satellite and projected using a digital projector instead of a conventional film projector.
Digital cinema is distinct from high-definition television and, in particular, is not dependent on using television or HDTV standards, aspect ratios, or frame rates. Digital projectors capable of 2K resolution began deploying in 2005, and since 2006, the pace has accelerated (2K refers to images with 2,048 pixels of horizontal resolution).
To match or improve the theater experience of movie audiences, a digital cinema system must provide high-quality image and sound.
Additionally, theater managers require server controls for managing and displaying content in multiple theaters, and studios want their content encrypted with secure delivery, playback, and reporting of play times to the distribution company.
Digital Cinema is a complete system to deliver ”cinema-quality" programs to “theaters” (including consumer homes) throughout the world using digital technology
What is a Digital Cinema?
To understand the concept of digital cinemas, we need to understand about the film based cinematography – In a large number of cases (even today), the pictures are shot using analog film based cameras, then converted in to digital format for editing, mixing, re-recording and adding special effects and converted back to analog films for projecting them through the analog film based projectors.
Digital Cinemas use digital processes end to end – right from the capture (digital movies are shot using digital CCD based cameras with high resolution), storage (they are stored in digital tapes, hard disks or flash drives), processing (editing, mixing, re-recording, sound, special effects etc are handled in the digital format), display (digital cinema is displayed using digital projectors which are controlled by industry standard servers with management software in the theatres) and distribution (digital cinema copies are mostly transmitted electronically over the Internet or satellites or even hard disks).
Digital Cinema – Advantages
Digital Cinema is much more than using a digital projector to display the cinema… In this article we will have a look at the advantages/benefits of Digital cinema over the analog film based cinemas to understand why so many theatres/production houses in the world are converting to digital cinemas and we will also see some limitations of digital cinemas – why the film based cinematography is still popular in this near to digital world!
Advantages of Digital Cinemas:
¤ The films used in analog cinemas (based on vinyl records) degrade with time, but digital images do not. And even if a DVD is scratched, it could easily be backed up in a hard disk or another DVD, for example.
¤ Digital cinemas can be shown and managed in the theatres by unskilled labour (with minimal training) as the management terminal is PC-based and simple to handle, unlike analog film based cinemas, which need dedicated personnel for receiving, prepping, showing, dismantling and returning the movie tape films.
¤ Distribution of digital cinema’s (electronically via Internet, satellites or even hard disks) are simpler, fast and in-expensive than the time taken and cost incurred for the shipping and handling of heavy film tapes.
¤ Supply rarely matches the demand in the movie industry – suddenly a picture might become a huge hit and the demand for showing it in additional screens might arise. It is much easier and faster to distribute additional copies for digital cinemas in those situations.
¤ Addition/deletion of scenes after the movies have been released is easier/cheaper with Digital cinemas.
¤ Piracy could be more effectively monitored with robust copy protection, encryption and water marking processes for digital cinemas. The chances of introducing a new anti-piracy technology is higher in the digital format.
¤ The solid state projectors used with Digital Cinemas are smaller and occupy less space than their analog counterpart.
¤ The digital tapes/external hard disks used in digital cameras (camcorders) cost much lesser than analog film based cameras – the same scenes can be shot many more times till the director is satisfied without worrying about the cost of the film tapes.
¤ The scenes can be previewed immediately after they are shot with a digital camera – so the director can immediately judge if a change in lighting conditions are required or a re-shoot is required etc.
Digital Cinema – Limitations
Limitations of Digital Cinema:
¤ Even though the digital data may not get scratched/grained etc, the digital projector pixels would break/degrade over time.
¤ The quality of digital projection is comparable with analog film based projection. Some people feel that the quality of analog film based projection is better than digital projection and the image reproduction is more natural. But digital technology is improving everyday.
¤ Most of the theatres are equipped with film based projectors and to replace them entirely with digital projectors would involve a lot of cost and re-designing for the theatre owners.
¤ Digital data always has a higher risk of getting pirated than their analog counterparts.
¤Digital technologies are prone to technological obsolescence. With newer technologies/improvements introduced so fast, the existing digital equipments might get outdated faster and some of them may not be upgradeable to newer technologies, introducing a higher risk on investing in them.
¤ Analog/film based cameras are even today considered better for outdoor/day-light shoots as digital cameras produce inconsistent images when exposed to high brightness environments.
¤ If the digital camera uses 4k resolution to capture digital images for good clarity, the cine projector displaying that image also needs to support 4k resolution to display the images at that clarity. But , there are a very few 4k projectors installed in theatres around the world.
¤ The digital standards of recording/playback keep changing and hence many digital cinemas are converted to analog films for storage and archival.
¤ Some Analog high-quality formats like IMAX etc, cannot be achieved by their digital equivalent cameras/ projectors.
¤ The chemical process of exposing film to light is well documented and understood by cinematographers. It also produces reliable images, based on film-stock. In contrast, each digital camera has a unique response to light and digital treatment processes are not mastered fully by cinematographers.
DIGITAL CINEMA STANDARDS
• Efforts from various bodies to ensure interoperability while retaining competitiveness
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)
Motion Pictures Association (MPAA)
Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG)
Entertainment Technology Center (ETC)
• Still concerns in the industry that standards still allow confusion and interoperability uncertainties
Re-programmable FPGA solutions would remove some of these concerns
• Standards from existing technologies may need to be used to keep costs down (e.g. TDES Encryption)
• DLP - Digital Light Processor
• DMD - Digital Micro mirror Device
• AMLCD - Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Display
• LCOS - Liquid Crystal On Silicon
• D-ILA - Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier
• GLV - Grating Light Valve
DIGITAL CINEMA PROJECTION SYSTEM
DIGITAL CINEMA: TRUE BENEFITS TO EXHIBITORS?
Before Digital is in every cinema screen, digital will be a calling card and there is some exciting new product which is about to be released in digital only. In addition, the major studios and the indie distributors are expecting to pay a weekly digital fee to play digital film verson film prints. And once the digital systems are paid for, the upkeep/updating is inexpensive.
Digital Cinema certainly offers advantages to all stakeholders including exhibitors and audiences. These advantages include perfect picture and sound, show after show, and greatly increased flexibility with advertising and other pre-show material. The only downside is the cost of conversion.
Now that there are various Integrators such as Access IT, Technicolor, DCIP and CBG coming up with Virtual Print Fee (a fee from the distributor for every feature played digitally in a multiplex) based solutions to greatly reduce the outflow from exhibitors, it would be foolish not to take advantage and upgrade, at least as part of the early majority when the deals are likely to be good.
Digital Cinema is inevitable. So the real question is how to manage the transition best for your needs and get the best deal for yourself.
Digital Cinema isn't quite like some of the earlier new film technologies that had a clear benefit for the consumer. The difference between silent and sound movies; Academy frame black and white movies and color, widescreen epics with stereophonic sound; or surround technologies is something that's very obvious to the customer - they know they're getting a new experience when they go to the theater.
For most cinemas, it seems the real benefits would be in the time and bother saved in setting up and maintaining prints for shows. Even there, the cost savings may be minimal since just about every theater has gone to platters and don't have staff projectionists to pay.
hether it's wrestling, car racing any other popular sport, the main show can be that can be combined with themed (and money making) additions to the plain old show (such beers and dogs a la tailgate for football coverage as an example).
The opportunity for smaller operators such as the ones you describe in your question could be to identify hotspots of fans for not-so-mainstream sports that can be syndicated for a not-so-mainstream price.