Digital Cinema

The theatrical film medium has remained largely unchanged over the last fifty years. While systems used in the production of theatrical film content have become increasingly digital and computerized, the actual image playback systems for movies have mostly remained analogue. This is possibly because film provides a consistent, quality viewing, is globally recognised and its standard 35mm projectors are low cost and very reliable. While ‘old cinema’ provides a high quality, globally accessible and very reliable vehicle it remains a costly, laborious and largely unsecured process.

Digital or ‘New cinema’ provides an alternative to analogue, expanding the realm of cinematic possibilities. It will revolutionise the way cinema is produced, but its primary advantage is the impact it will have on the distribution of films. WHAT IS DIGITAL CINEMA ‘Digital Cinema is a system to deliver full length motion pictures, trailers, advertisements to theatres throughout the world using digital technology. ‘It is arguably the most astonishing technology innovation in the film industry since the introduction of sound in films in 1926.

‘1 The Digital Cinema system delivers motion pictures that have been digitized, compressed and encrypted to theatres using either physical media distribution (such as DVD-ROMs) or electronic transmission methods, such as via satellite multicast methods. ‘2A digitally produced or converted movie can be distributed via satellite, optical discs, or fibre optic networks. Theatres can store these digitized films in hard disk storage while still encrypted and compressed.

When these programs are shown the digitized information is retrieved via a local area network from the hard disk storage, then is decrypted, decompressed and displayed using cinema-quality electronic projectors featuring high quality digital sound. PRODUCTION There are two main advantages of digital cinema production as opposed to analogue production. These being a massive reduction in overall cost and increased user flexibility. Film is hundreds of times more expensive than digital video, which requires virtually no processing before the editing stage. Tapes can also be re-used multiple times, for those filmmakers on a more modest budget.

An example of the comparative cost of film and digital tape is the production of George Lucas’ “Star Wars- Attack of the Clones” which cost $16,000 for 220 hours of digital tape. Had it been shot on film it would have cost the production company about $1. 8 million just for the 220 hours of film. 3 For the filmmaker, the most exciting element of digital technology is how easy it is to use. Most filmmakers have already switched to digital editing systems which means they have to convert the footage to a digital format for post-production and then back to film again for its theatrical release.