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class="Paragraph" style="margin-bottom: 0">Digital Projection

Published : 25th May 2004


Since everyone seems to be talking about film preservation vs digital preservation, I was wondering what some say about digital projection. I’m asking this because of the new advertisement I saw in the latest issue of American Cinematographer (October – Kill Bill.)

It’s an advert from Texas Instruments featuring the director Brian Singer (X-men etc.) He is quoted saying “It’s to the point in certain theatres where quality is so diminished, people might as well wait and see these things on video. The industry’s got to get with it, digitally, and actually make the movie experience, a movie experience.”

I’ve only been to one digital screening (Spirited Away – great film), but really can’t rate the experience since I was at the El Capitan in LA sitting in a seat 179’ from the screen in the nose bleed section.

So what are other peoples takes on digital projection, or feelings on adverts like this. I’ve read what Roger Ebert had to say about digital projection (speaking of – what’s happened to MaxiVision) and I’ve noticed that not to many theatres seem to be going with digital projection (where
as three years ago some people made it seem like they would all be digital
by next Tuesday.)

If seeing a film projected digitally is anything like being at home
watching a DVD, you can count me out. So what are some other thoughts out
there?

Have a nice day,

Joe Zovko
AC
LA, CA



Check out the Hollywood Reporter White Paper on Digital Cinema.
Interesting analysis.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/index.jsp

Steven Poster ASC



>While 30P, as a higher sampling rate, is a more accurate representation >of reality than 24P, it does not necessarily follow that it is more engaging >to the viewer.

However, I don't think this is an all or nothing phenomenon -- 30P would have similar effects as 24P, but look smoother. I don't think there is a dramatic difference on how it affects the viewer until you start talking about 48P and higher. 24 can't be some magical number that we stumbled upon by accident.

My only objection to 30P is that it does not convert well to 24 fps for transfer to film, nor to PAL. Since I shoot features mainly, my work has to be able to be sold internationally on home video plus be able to be projected theatrically if necessary. And it's not that 30P can't be converted into 24 or 25 fps -- it's just that it's not a smooth conversion.

By the way, the Region 1 DVD of "Oklahoma!" was transferred from the 30 fps 65mm master and looks fine, not "video-ish". Just smoother, no pulldown hiccups -- almost reminds me of watching a movie on a PAL TV!

Someday it would be interesting to select frame rates for a movie the way we select film stocks or aspect ratios -- an action film shot at 60P or 72P, maybe a turn-of-the-century movie shot at 18P, etc. But I do contend that the more hyper-real the process becomes, the harder it becomes to "fake" anything.

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles



David Mullen wrote :

>24 can't be some magical number that we stumbled upon by accident.

I agree, it's just a point on the scale (which happens to be used around the world at present). You could also go the other way and reduce sample rate, and, as you suggested, match the rate to the content.

Another very important aspect of film (to me) is gate shake. The motion, which is so clearly evident in most theatres primarily due to bad projectors, clearly (to me) adds a certain energy to the material.

My guess is that this reaction to movement is hardwired in us from long ago looking for food/predators. If it moves, it could be dangerous/delicious. Certain species rely primarily on movement for recognition. With digital projectors, we may have to add some shake to keep the audience awake.

Noel Sterrett
Baytech Cinema
www.baytechcinema.com



David Mullen ACS writes :

>Someday it would be interesting to select frame rates for a movie the >way we select film stocks or aspect ratios -- an action film shot at 60P or >72P, maybe a turn-of-the-century movie shot at 18P, etc.

With digital acquisition~projection there is no reason that we couldn't do this quite simply.

Brilliant concept.

Scott Billups



>With digital projectors, we may have to add some shake to keep the >audience awake.

Or they could start writing better scripts...

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles



>Another very important aspect of film (to me) is gate shake. The motion, >which is so clearly evident in most theatres primarily due to bad >projectors, clearly (to me) adds a certain energy to the material.

Noel baby! Were you at the StEM screenings?

The best that film could be went up against some soon-to-be-last-generation digital projection. I didn't hear one comment from anyone with regard to how much they enjoyed the gate weave .... although I do seem to remember an ardent audiophile mentioning that he missed the pops and "texture" of vinyl records.

Scott Billups



> 24 can't be some magical number

Actually, 24 frames per second is indeed a magical number. In film, 24 frames per second corresponds to a flicker rate of 48 per second. Under typical conditions, the human Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency - the threshold number of flickers per second across which an intermittent visual stimulus stimulates a discrete versus continuous sensation - is around 48 flickers per second.

This number depends on all kinds of factors, including properties of the stimulus such as its brightness variation and size, as well as characteristics of the viewer such as age, iris color, and state of medication.

Andreas Wittenstein
Founder, BitJazz Inc.
http://www.bitjazz.com/sheervideo/



>With digital projectors, we may have to add some shake to keep the >audience awake.

Most of the brilliant members of this forum will no doubt keep the audience awake with thought provoking content instead. Many thanks for all the vibrant thought and discussions contained herein.

Jeffery Haas
Freelance Editor/Camera Operator
Dallas, TX



>...how much they enjoyed the gate weave

I first saw _Alien_ in an old theatre on Bleaker St. in NYC. I have not been so terrified before or since. I searched for years for an explanation, and then realized that the projector gate weave was so bad that it literally put me off balance. The film did the rest. Nice special effect!

Noel Sterrett
Baytech Cinema
www.baytechcinema.com



Noel Sterrett writes :

>I first saw _Alien_ in an old theatre on Bleaker St. in NYC. I have not >been so terrified before or since. I searched for years for an >explanation, and then realized that the projector gate weave was so bad >that it literally put me off balance.

Just think if it had been shown digitally at 60 fps, you would not only have been less scared, but scared for a much shorter
time.

I first saw Alien an a new theatre with a new projector, at 24fps. It worked for me.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



If theatres can't properly maintain 35mm film projectors, how are they going to properly maintain digital projectors?

How automatic and self correcting are they going to be?

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



At last November's SMPTE DC Conference here in NYC we connected a Viper directly down a single HD-SDI channel to a 2K JVC D-ILA Projector and did a live tabletop demo in the DC environment.

The feeling of reality was astounding at 24P, 30P and 60i even with changes in the moving objects in the scene. Since there was no tape related compression we really got to see what the camera could do.

When one looks at what is on the screen you really have to look at ALL the things that make that image happen along the chain.
I think that simplifying things to just 24p or 30p or 60i does not really make sense when things such as equipment types, compression schemes and codecs are added to the mix.

Mark Forman
Mark Forman Productions, Corp.
http://screeningroom.com



David Mullen ASC wrote :

> Or they could start writing better scripts...

As an ASC member, you should know that it's considered bad form to criticize WGA members...

Jeff "but you can criticize SMPTE members with impunity" Kreines



>Someday it would be interesting to select frame rates for a movie the >way we select film stocks or aspect ratios -- an action film shot at 60P or >72P, maybe a turn-of-the-century movie shot at 18P, etc

Sounds like the MaxiVision concept.

Steven Poster ASC



Jessica Gallant writes :

>If theatres can't properly maintain 35mm film projectors, how are they >going to properly maintain digital projectors? How automatic and self >correcting are they going to be?

As to self correcting, these projectors will be fault free, so correction will be unnecessary. Don't you read the sales literature.

Also, they will be so automatic that you won't even have to go to the theatre to be charged for the experience. Your bank account/credit card will be automatically debited.

As has been pointed out many times, there is no other way that these projectors will be economically viable.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



>If theatres can't properly maintain 35mm film projectors, how are they >going to properly maintain digital projectors?

Film projectors come from a time when there were craftsmen called projectionists. Now we have candy kids who's only qualification is that they'll work for minimum wage. The new digital projectors seem to be built with this in mind.

Scott Billups - LA



>Now we have candy kids who's only qualification is that they'll work for >minimum wage. The new digital projectors seem to be built with this in >mind.

Where do you pour in the syrup? And what about the butter substitute?

Can you clean the lens with that?

Jeff "how about nachos with that?" Kreines


David Mullen, ASC writes :

>By the way, the Region 1 DVD of "Oklahoma!" was transferred from the >30 fps 65mm master and looks fine, not "video-ish". Just smoother, no >pulldown hiccups -- almost reminds me of watching a movie on a PAL >TV!

David,

Bravo!... ASC works well after your name.

65mm masters are absolutely beautiful, so then why do films like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "2001: A Space Odyssey" not get granted this same treatment. I have seen flawless 70mm prints of both of these and the DVD's they put out are from grainy 35mm Reduction Interpositives.

Eric Adkins
Director of Photography
Los Angeles



Scott Billups writes :

>Now we have candy kids who's only qualification is that they'll work for >minimum wage. The new digital projectors seem to be built with this in >mind.

True enough. Which is why they should all incorporate well designed autofocus systems and some self-calibrating means of standardizing house audio volume.

This wouldn't be rocket science.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



David Mullen ASC Writes :

>Someday it would be interesting to select frame rates for a movie the >way we select film stocks or aspect ratio

Scott Billups writes :

>With digital acquisition~projection there is no reason that we couldn't do >this quite simply. Brilliant concept.

Ultimately, digital technology can allow everything to be infinitely scalable, and this is probably the way things will go in the future. But until that happens, we'd better not let too many standards proliferate or increasing numbers of post-production people will be taken away in straitjackets, foaming at the mouth and shouting
"Pull up!... Pull down!! Drop! Non-drop!!!"

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin writes :

>Ultimately, digital technology can allow everything to be infinitely >scalable, and this is probably the way things will go in the future.

Only in relation to the size of the pipeline. It's a dollar and cents issue. The higher the frame rate the more bandwidth it takes. You must always consider bandwidth a commodity.

Steven Poster ASC



Steven Poster ASC wrote :

>Only in relation to the size of the pipeline. It's a dollar and cents issue. >The higher the frame rate the more bandwidth it takes. You must always >consider bandwidth a commodity.

How true.

It's always a trade-off -- resolution vs. frame-rate -- unless you want to use compression or filtering.

Jeff "there's no free lunch, unless Sony's buying" Kreines



Scott Billups writes :

>Now we have candy kids who's only qualification is that they'll work for >minimum wage. The new digital projectors seem to be built with this in >mind.

[The implication seemed to be that untrained personnel will operate this self-maintained & calibrated video projection equipment]

Let us not forget that just a few days ago, a posting appeared on this list because someone's video originated and projected movie got butchered in playback. The problem's source seemed to be the (common) confusion of the old 7.5 IRE black standard, and the newer Zero IRE black standard.

I remember when broadcast TV cameras first started delivery with "diascopes" (Internally projected gray scales) and automatic setup. The video engineer's (controller, DIT, geek, whatever you want to call us) job was supposed to go away with that invention.

That was 20 years ago, and I'm still working. I/we have seen this all before. "Auto Setup" isn't always what its cracked up to be.
Lew Comenetz
HD Video Enginner & DIT



>Film projectors come from a time when there were craftsmen called >projectionists. Now we have candy kids who's only qualification is that >they'll work for minimum wage.

Can you make a reference to any particular models that would support this belief? This isn’t a challenge, it's an attempt to reckon your experience with my own. I only have a nodding acquaintance with the DLA-QX1G but I have installed dozens of other models in environments ranging from home theatre to corporate and industrial and I have not seen any "dumbed down" user interface.


The only shortcoming I notice seems to be a lack of flexibility until one moves into the upper end models.

Respectfully,
Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, TX



>I have installed dozens of other models in environments ranging from >home theatre to corporate and industrial and I have not seen any >"dumbed down" user interface.

Jeffery,

Having installed a number of projectors, I'm sure you'll agree that "magic set-up button" doesn't exist. The accommodations that I referenced deal more with the ease of the initial set-up and the ability of the projector to maintain it's settings longer.

(Begging your indulgence for a topic related flashback) Back in the early '70's (while still in High-school) I helped build a production studio with my good friend Chuck Mellone (now Chief Engineer / National Telecommunications and Information Administration).

As a hobby, he had rebuilt an old Ediophor Projector that we used to project the Clay/Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" bout off of the ubiquitous upstate New York cloud cover. Just a bunch of guys, laying around on lawn chairs, drinking beer, watching a good fight. My recollection is that it took several weeks to calibrate that beast and after the bout it didn't work well for almost a year. Ain't technology grand?

Scott Billups - LA



> You must always consider bandwidth a commodity.

You're so right.

A friend of mine works for a major Canadian cable network. They were, as always, looking for ways to cut expenses. Apparently they could save a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year by decreasing their satellite bandwidth a bit. Despite the objections of the technical staff, the suits decided to go ahead and cut the bandwidth.

Now, it just so happens that in Toronto, where all those major Canadian cable network suits live, the cable company gets their signal by fibre-optic link directly from the master controls of most of the networks...NOT by satellite.

One day, the fibre system is taken down for maintenance, and the cable company switches over to the satellite feed. My friend gets a call from his boss - "what's wrong with our signal?" The suits had been watching their cable TV in Toronto, patting themselves on the back for saving some bucks with no noticeable decrease in signal quality, while not understanding that the REST of the country was getting a crappy signal.

To their credit, the bandwidth was immediately restored to the previous level, once they could see in their own homes what the decreased bandwidth was actually doing to their picture. But there are a LOT of channels that either don't care as much about their picture quality, or can't/won't spend the money required to deliver that quality.

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



Lew signed his post :

Lew Comenetz-HD
Video Enginner & DIT


Hmm just wondering, is an enginner a beginner engineer?

Michael "in a pre nab haze" Bravin
Chief Spelling Officer
Band Pro Film & Digital
www.digiprimes.com