Digital Cinema Standards Announced

posted by Ross Melnick on July 28, 2005 at 5:02 am

Digital Cinema Initiatives has finally announced “its final overall system requirements and specifications for digital cinema,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to Walt Ordway, chief technology officer of DCI, these specifications “will allow manufacturers to create products that will be employable at movie theatres throughout the country and, it is hoped, throughout the world.”

For more information, read The Hollywood Reporter and Reuters articles.

Comments (10)

Patrick Crowley
Patrick Crowley on July 28, 2005 at 8:16 am

This is pretty interesting news. With a common standard, I’d expect to see a much more pervasive rollout of digital projectors.

KenLayton on July 28, 2005 at 12:44 pm

And this “standard” will be in effect for how long? Everyone talks about the ‘benefits’ to the studios, but the real workhorse of the industry is the exhibitor who gets shafted by the studios. Will this video projector lower the film rental cost? NO. Will this video projector lower ticket prices? NO.

I say forget about digital video projectors and stay home. At least at home you can skip the commercials and hit mute.

superdude480 on September 13, 2005 at 9:36 pm

And dont forget about the loss of jobs for projectionists.

TheaterBuff1 on November 2, 2005 at 8:22 pm

If I as the theater owner and operator of a digital cimema pledge never to run commercials at my theater at any time, guess what folks: You can rest assured you’ll never see any commercials ever when you come see movies at my theater. And as for the arrival of digital cinema representing a loss of jobs for projectionists, not so under my watch. Rather, if they come to work for me they’ll operate the digital equipment instead — that is, same pay (if not better), same benefits (if not better), but for a job that’s suddenly become a thousand times easier for them!

And let me also say this: Anyone who owns a digital theater and opts to run commercials at it has got to be a total idiot businesswise, since one of the biggest things people look forward to when they see films in theaters is that the experience will be commercial-free. So unless such owners are secretly working for the TV manufacturers, etc., while posing as theater owners, those who opt to show commercials at their theaters clearly have a screw loose somewhere!

KenLayton on November 3, 2005 at 6:17 am

It’s still a digital video presentation. Why would I as a customer go to your building to watch a video when I can watch videos at home? Film belongs in theaters and video belongs in your living room IMO.

TheaterBuff1 on November 19, 2005 at 8:33 pm

Sorry for my lateness in getting back to you in response to your question, while I hope you’re still tuned! (Cinema Treasures sends me e-mails letting me know somebody just replied to my commentary, but I must have accidentally deleted the one with a link to this page by mistake.)

Anyway, to get on with answering your question, the reason why someone would prefer seeing a movie at a theater as opposed to at home has to do with the movie theater going experience — that is, seeing the movie on the giant screen, in the setting of many others watching the movie at the same time, and so on. And let it be said that some movies are specifically directed to be seen in this context.

As for the difference between film projection and digital cinema projection, if you’re seated out in the audience, you couldn’t tell if what you’re seeing is being projected from a film projector or from a digital cinema projector, particularly if it’s made to look like like it’s on film. Add to this that the theater going experience is one thing that cannot be pirated.

And from the movie theater operator’s perspective, the advantages of digital cinema over conventional film projection are tremendous! And aside from overcoming high film dstribution costs. Unlike how it is with digital, film wears out. Not only that, but it can break suddenly, causing dark screen in the middle of a presentation. Furthermore, there’s very little that can be done to enhance the image that’s being projected from film, a universe away from how it is with digital cinema. With digital cinema, suddenly the projectionist has the power to increase or decrease color saturation, adjust the contrast, etc., to enable the customers to see the movie at its absolute best. In brief, the projectionist becomes part of the art making process in that sense. A luxury film projectionists never had.

Also, the advent of digital cinema makes neighborhood theaters suddenly practical once more. No longer having to wait till first run movies get done playing at the first in line theaters first, which can take up to 6 weeks, they can now present the same movie at the same time, and with the same level of quality, if not better. And this just at a time when countless Americans all over the U.S. are begging for the return of neighborhood movie theaters once more.

Finally, as you likely know, ALL movies being produced today, even though they may be shot on film initially, are transferred onto digital for editing purposes, adding special effects, etc., before then being transferred back to film just before distribution.

So hopefully that answers your question. And again, sorry in the delay!

KenLayton on November 20, 2005 at 7:21 am

“And from the movie theater operator’s perspective, the advantages of digital cinema over conventional film projection are tremendous!”

Will it lower ‘program’ rental costs? NO! Will it lower ticket prices? NO! Will it make the story or acting better? NO!

“And aside from overcoming high film dstribution costs. Unlike how it is with digital, film wears out.”

With proper handling film can last a long time. Many lost classic films have been saved thanks to someone finding a film print that had been squirreled away somewhere. Motion picture film standards have been in place for 100 years and those same standards are constant throughout the world. Video standards & formats change from minute-to-minute and standards are different in different countries.

“Not only that, but it can break suddenly, causing dark screen in the middle of a presentation.”

And the video server can lockup, skip, strobe the image, crash, or just plain die at anytime during a show.

“Furthermore, there’s very little that can be done to enhance the image that’s being projected from film.”

Keep the film clean, keep the projector clean, keep the booth clean, make sure the lamphouse has the proper wattage bulb, keep the reflector clean and adjusted properly, clean the lenses, clean the porthole glass, monitor the audio volume.

“With digital cinema, suddenly the projectionist has the power to increase or decrease color saturation, adjust the contrast, etc., to enable the customers to see the movie at its absolute best. In brief, the projectionist becomes part of the art making process in that sense.”

Oh great, now the ‘projectionist’ is a censor/editor. Now he/she/it can blur out things the projectionist thinks I would be offended seeing. Or the projectionist could cut out words I shouldn’t hear. Or the projectionist could ‘remove’ the cigarettes that the characters are smoking on screen.

Video in theaters——NO THANKS.

TheaterBuff1 on November 20, 2005 at 6:50 pm

Thank you for your very thoughtful and concise response to my enthusiasm over digital cinema! I very much appreciate your taking the time you did! And while I’m not going to say that any of the points you made aren’t valid — for I believe they’re all valid — my ultimate goal is not to promote digital cinema projection technology per se, but to bring classic old neighborhood theaters back to life once more, provided they haven’t been torn down, or so reworked as buildings that they could never hope to become theaters again. I’m currently trying to develop the concept of “gourmet theaters” as opposed to the “McTheaters” now so common place at major shopping malls throughout the U.S. My reasoning is that if in our neighborhoods we can have fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, yet also have upscale four-star restaurants in these same communities as well, why not the same principle with theaters? And the answer till now has been because reliance on conventional film projection did not make this possible or practical. In the last phases of traditional old movie theaters trying to stay afloat, not only were they faced with the challenge of attemting to lure customers to see films that were no longer at the forefront, but to make such movie fare alluring they had to really reduce ticket costs, and far more than they could afford to while staying sustainably fiscally solvent at the same time.

Yet let it be said that there’s no comparison between grabbing a quick bite to eat at a McDonald’s restaurant (where the food in question isn’t even actual food) and dining in style at a four-star restaurant. And if gourmet theaters, such as I’m proposing, were to be brought into existence, how could the McTheaters, which are now commonplace at the malls, begin to compare? I mean, it’s something you really wouldn’t even try to compare, as McTheaters are one thing and gourmet theaters — if they could be brought into being — would be something else entirely.

And it appears to me that the advent of digital cinema does make that a possibility.

Meantime, to touch on the excellent point you made about the projectionist suddenly being able to become a censor, given digital cinema’s range of flexibility, while your point is totally fair and 100% valid, that was not along the lines of what I was thinking. Rather, in my vision I’m seeing the projectionist as a DJ. A skilled DJ is one who can present music at its absolute best, and if he can’t he won’t be around very long. And the same principle in my vision would carry over to digital cinema projectionists. And I think of you as being the perfect test customer. For as the digital cinema projectionist I’m listening to you; I’m hearing your every word. I’m like a top line chef in that sense, knowing full well that if the food I cook for you is to your disliking, you’re not going to come back to my restaurant. But the challenge is convincing you that I can provide you exactly what you want to see using digital rather than film projection.

There was a long stretch of time that Gary Kasparov was the greatest chessplayer in the world. He was so great that not even the fastest, most advanced computers could beat him. But as was inevitable, a time did come when this was no longer the case. And if it hasn’t happened already, that day is inevitably coming with digital cinema technology as well. And the big positive I’m seeing in that is that it will allow the wonderful old movie theaters that still exist here and there to come back to life as movie theaters once more. For think of it this way: If a grand old mansion was standing in your neighborhood, you’d probably be upset as most people would, if it were converted to be a McDonald’s Restaurant, and with whatever history it contained being treated as neither here nor there in the process. But on the other hand, if it was taken over (as opposed to being demolished) to be made an ultra-classy four-star restaurant which played up the old mansion’s history and wonderful architecture to the hilt, I believe most people would regard that as being very positive. McDonald’s, because it is very formulaic, doesn’t have the advantage of being able to do that. And the same pretty much is true of the big theater chains right now. They’re not in position where they can take hold of a classic and totally unique old theater building and bring it back to life as it was originally intended to be. To do so would throw off the whole chain replication concept. And replication is precisely what they thrive upon. Loews has its formula, Hoyts has its, and so on. And it was the high cost of film projection that forced them to become this way. But digital cinema is changing that. Not in that theaters that make up a chain can become more individualistic; but individual theaters, rather than those of chains, suddenly have a means of coming into their own once more. And I’d be hardpressed to understand why you’d have anything against that. For a lot of Americans, not just me, want to see the unique, individualistic theaters come into being once more.

And digital cinema to me is opening the way to that, whereby conventional film is incapable of this. As has been proven over the past 25 years or so.

KenLayton on November 21, 2005 at 5:34 am

You need to visit the wonderfully restored single screen Chehalis Theater in Chehalis, Washington. It’s a very successful first run movie theater with top-notch 35mm projection and sound. This was a dead neighborhood theater until Daryl Lund bought it and restored it. The pictures currently posted on this site and don’t show the latest upgrades to the Chehalis. The owner vows to stay with film projection as it’s been very reliable & economical.

In Centralia, Washington is the McMenamin’s Olympic Club Theater which is a “brew pub” (food and a movie) setup in a single screen historic building. They show second run 35mm movies and are also very successful. The McMenamin chain is well known and well run here in the Pacific Northwest. Check out for more information on their theaters (all single screens!).

TheaterBuff1 on November 21, 2005 at 6:25 pm

Thank you for bringing to my attention these great developments you have up there in the state of Washington — which almost has me to the brink of saying “The heck with here!” (“here” being Philadelphia, PA) and packing my bags to move there permanently, and on the next plane or train out of here at that! …Er, if not for a little something up that that way called Mount St. Helens. For given the way we just saw FEMA perform in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, can you understand my bit of hesitancy to relocate to any place that’s prone to natural disaster on a massive scale right now? Nonetheless, these excellent sounding operations you’ve brought to my attention might have a whole host of great ideas that can be introduced to here in Philadelphia (which is not prone to hurricanes, volcanoes, forest fires, tsunamis, earthquakes or other natural disasters.)

But although these operations you’ve brought to my attention are clearly proving that conventional film projection systems still have a lot of life left in them, or at least under that area’s unique set of circumstances, when McMenamins presents Monday Night Football on the big screen at its Mission Theater, if they’re not using DLP Cinema technology or something similar, how are they doing it? For clearly 35mm projectors can’t do that, no matter how top-notch they are. Unless they’re presenting other than live sportscasts.

Meantime, with regard to the historic old Northeast Philadelphia theater I’m currently focusing on at the present time, at this moment it has no projection system to speak of at all. Built in 1929, the same year as the stock market crash, although designed by one of the leading movie theater architects of the 20th century, it never really got to be the full flung theater it was originally intended to be due to the Great Depression that set in immediately afterward. Throughout the Depression years and into the 1950s it operated as a movie theater in a very watered down sort of way, but in the late 1950s, rather than its 1929 projector being replaced and other parts of the theater upgraded so as to stay competitive, it was transformed into an auction house instead, and when that failed it became a carpet outlet then a furniture & appliance store before then being boarded up completely just after the 21st century got underway. Today it’s under new ownership and its new owners are headstrong on making it a mini mall which will have a Dollar Tree Store, Pizza Hut, upscale coffee shop, laundromat plus some light retail, but just at a time when many would like to see it become a theater once more, and a real theater this time as opposed to something watered down as such. And the manufacturers of digital cinema technology are offering some fantastic financing plans to those willing to head in that direction, which from my perspective and that of others is very hard to overlook in this case. For obviously if it’s going to be made a movie theater it’s going to have to have a whole new projection system put in. So what would your own position be in a situation such as this? For the fact that digital cinema technology makes it possible to air live sportscasts in addition to first run movies is hard to overlook. Philly is a huge sports town, after all (even if the Eagles did just lose their shot at the playoffs), so to be able to offer that in addition to first run movies has more than one Philly politician showing some interest in this counterproposal for that building right now. And my feeling is that if digital cinema is ruled out in this case, and preference is shown toward film projection instead, it will never get to ever again be a theater at all. And wouldn’t that make for a sad story though?

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