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The State of Digital Cinema - April 2010 - Part One

by siegestate Thu Apr 22nd, 2010 at 06:37:01 AM EST

Like many fields, the world of cinema involves a broad reach of talent and technology that begins with an artistic idea and encompasses the many steps required to communicate that idea to an audience. And like many fields, digital methods have become available to facilitate one step after another, though not necessarily in sequence. In the case of cinema, the fundamental digital pieces for capturing by camera and exposing with projectors were the most difficult elements to develop.

There are several production and post-production steps in between which were able to modify and often go beyond what could be done behind the scenes with film. But for capture and exposition, replacing the qualities inherent in the hundred year old technology of film required technologies that took decades to evolve after their first development in the 70's.

Finally, in the year 2000, the first systems were ready for public preview, with an obvious roadmap of what was required to make it available for general release. Each year thereafter the prediction of `next year' was made, only to find glitches in several nuanced steps that hindered the final development which would allow high quality, secure, and comparably inexpensive distribution and display of motion pictures. This series of documents reviews the most recent of these developments, focusing primarily on the exposition segment.


Two years ago, the evolution and rush to all things digital in the cinema world reached a classic chasm point, especially for digital cinema presentation to the theater screen. (See bottom question/answer.) It seemed that the technology was worked out, it seemed that the politics were worked out, it seemed that the financing models were worked out...and yet, the number of installations and new sales sat flat...or worse.

Huge companies like Texas Instruments (TI) and Sony had spent millions getting the technology ready for a secure and marketable implementation. Their OEM partners where ready to throw the handle to 'Plaid' to fill the needs of 125,000 screens in a world that needs to go from film-based to digital server based systems. The changeover requires a 60-80 thousand euro projector and 20,000 euro server to replace a 30,000€ film chain, a mature technology that typically lasted multiple decades with minor maintenance. But to the rescue, the studios offered plans that would pay back the initial investment by a mechanism known as a Virtual Print Fee (VPF). These were developed to compensate certain cinemas, over time, for playing inexpensive digital copies (distributed via hard disk and eventually satellite and fiber) instead of expensive film prints (distributed by trucks and airplanes.)

So, with all the ducks so apparently in a row, why weren't the 7,000 'innovators' and early adopters of 2007 joined by 10's of thousands more screens by early 2010, when the number was merely double that (even after the initial 3D explosion)?

The reality was that the technical, political and financial realities weren't really ready. Notwithstanding the world financial collapse that hindered access to the billions needed for the transition, there were nuances that made financing not so simple. In addition, the standards were still in transition, both on paper and in the labs and factories.

Financially, the major Hollywood studios are prepared to finance the transition up to the amount that they save in print costs and distribution. The nuance is that they only send out prints to the first-run cinemas, leaving the 2nd and 3rd level cinemas with no funding. (The background nuance is that once the digital transition is complete, the studios save billions per year forever, but are only helping to fund the initial roll-out. The exhibitors save a few low cost employees, and benefit from better quality and the ability to present features other than movies.)

World-wide, the Hollywood studios that developed the VPF mechanisms also didn't find it fair that they should have to finance cinemas which made income from movies other than Hollywood movies. Nor did they want to overpay for equipment if a cinema made money from operas, concerts, sports or other alternative content that digital projection allows. This caused many national groups, in particular those in the UK, France, Italy and Germany to search for ways to fund the smallest to mid-sized facilities so that they would have digital equipment when enough critical mass was reached for film prints to become ancient history.

The UK funded several hundred screens with lottery money in one partially successful experiment, but it exposed a few holes in the plans. Simply stated, a movie's life starts in one screen for a week or two, then moves to a smaller screen while the next movie in line attempts to take the larger audience in the larger room. But if there is only one set of digital gear, and that in the larger room, then the cinema still needs a film print to complete the movie's run. One of the points of a Hollywood VPF is an agreement to get 50% of screens digital in one year and 100% in three years (with at least one capable of 3D.)

When the slow wheels of national finance plans got past the proposal stage, the largest cinemas in France and Germany complained that the 'tax' they paid per ticket was funding their competitors. Both plans were recently (in the last few months) thrown out as unfair by the country's legal systems. (Norway figured it out on their own and are on their way to digitizing the entire country's cinemas.

Meanwhile, the standards committees within the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) completed the last of the standards documents in 2009, submitting them to the ISO in the process. What should have been to no one's surprise, some of the equipment, in particular the installed projectors that utilize the Texas Instruments chipset (the vast majority), didn't meet those standards. In fact, the first projectors (dubbed 'Series II') to meet those standards were released in March 2010, at the industry's ShoWest convention. Unlike the WiFi industry's ability to ship equipment for over a year before the standards validated their presumed compliance, there are several pieces of older digital projection gear that will need expensive updating, with some equipment updatable and technically passing compliance requirements, but not able to include some important 'modern' features.

In addition to finally getting compliant projectors, those who waited for the new Series II equipment will also be getting equipment that is able to run with lower power consuming bulbs, and of course, give more light to the all important 3D image.

The invasion of 3D movies has been a boon to cinemas. The studios have all embraced it by announcing an ever increasing 3D release schedule, first with animated releases, but now (famously with the Avatar release) with CGI enhanced live action. The exhibitors not only are able to attract larger audiences with this nascent technology, but they are able to charge more per ticket in the process. This helped give the industry its first 10 billion dollar year in 2009, and keep actual ticket sales on an upward trend. In the alternative content area, live opera is still the most prevalent and successful, but live pop concerts have been successful, and more are slated. Sporting events have been experimented with, some in 3D, and will probably become more successful in the near future.

Coincidently, a few major installation groups have gotten financing in the last few months - It appears that the three largest US chains have the financing to cover 10 or 12 or 14,000 of their 17,000 screens. The disparity between PR and reality is not a trifle, but public information is hard to come by. The announcement that they were working with JPMorgan for money in 2007 mentioned numbers that were twice (Celluloid Junkie-More Rumblings About DCIP's Financing) what they announced recently. And, the recent announcements don't mention how they will finance 3D equipment, which costs up to $30,000 per screen...and is not covered by VPF agreements.

Notwithstanding those hidden nuances, it finally is movement across the chasm from innovators to more conservative early adopters. In addition, several integrators in Europe, India, China, Japan and Korea have recently announced hundred and multi-hundred piece installation deals in their areas. See: DCinemaToday for up to the minute market news for the exhibition side of digital cinema.

With the release of the Series II equipment, other features that were built into the standards are driving manufacturers to build matching equipment. Most welcome is equipment for the deaf/hard of hearing and visually impaired communities (HI/VI). There was a special exhibition at ShoWest of these company's works-in-progress; devices that use special glasses that create closed captions which float the text over the screen (so that one doesn't have to constantly look up and down to see both), and another system that will use WiFi to put captions on one's iPhone (among other devices), as well as new ways to put dialog-enhanced audio into earphones.

The best news for the HI/VI field is that the SMPTE and ISO standards are are in place, have been recently 'plug-fest' tested for interoperability, and contrary to the previous film-centric systems, the new standards are based upon open, not proprietary (read: patented, licensable, expensive, frustrating) technology. (For a brief discussion on HI/VI captioning and the `enthusiasm' of differing viewpoints, see: Smashing Down The Door - Digital Cinema and Captions For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

The arguments still persist around the excellent qualities of film, much like the arguments in the audio world about the qualities of tape recording and vinyl. While some of the arguments are interesting and some of those even true (the ability/inability to wash a screen with the indescribable transitions of Lawrence of Arabia's desert sunset comes to mind), the arguments against film are too many. Film is an ecological nightmare, the prints are expensive to ship around, re-gather and store, and whatever qualities that they exhibit at first runs are grossly diminished after a week of getting banged around within the film projection process. And unlike the audio business, where specialty houses can still afford to make tape for those who want to record on it, as fewer companies use film for shooting and exhibition, the cost of material and processing will become too expensive for the budgets of even the Spielberg's of the art.

Fortunately, the evolution of quality in digital production and post-production equipment has substantially gone beyond the requirements of 'film' makers. As with all recent digital technology, quality points are also being hit at the low end, so that artists can make motion pictures which can fill the big screen for less money and take advantage of the substantial distribution benefits of the digital infrastructure. At the high end, artists can do more, perhaps more quickly and certainly with more flexibility and features. For the consumer, this means that quality is possible from a wider range of storytellers and the possibility to see material from other regions around the world becomes more easily accomplished.  

Part II of this series goes into more detail on specifications, some current realities of 3D technology, what "substantially gone beyond the requirements" really means, and a brief excursion on how it relates to the home market.

References:
DCinemaToday
MKPE's Digital Cinema Technology FAQ

Cross posted to: DCinemaTools

Display:
This diary series started from a constantly expanding set of background paragraphs, written to set up another person's paper on the problems of 3D. Hopefully it will be presented in Part II, in a couple days. But the more I correct it, the more substantial it gets, which threatens to enlarge it to 3 Parts.

Suffice to say that I read the remarks from last night and other threads which are not dissimilar to concepts and comments made within and without the industry. In particular with 3D, it isn't the 3D that technology will advance to in a few years. And while some say that it looks like the studios are forcing this immature and inelegant technology down the eyeballs of a gullible market for merely short-term financial reasons, good arguments can be made that this isn't true in many (probably most) cases.

Those arguments won't be part of the series, so I will try to answer them in comments...though, I must say, that I am not a whole-hearted fan of 3D as it exists today. So don't attack the messenger, especially until I can unreel the whole picture...in its proper frame...with a logical focus...so to speak.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Thu Apr 22nd, 2010 at 07:26:25 AM EST
I will pitch into this at the weekend. Bit busy at the moment.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 22nd, 2010 at 04:45:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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 ]
Anyone here care to explain what the topic of this post is?

Apparently some new technology is involved here.  Does anyone here know what that technology is, the basics of how it works, and what it is supposed to do?  

Does this have anything to do with "Avatar" and 3-D?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 12:57:05 PM EST
Hmm. ;)

I found it quite clear, and I'm not a professional.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 01:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is all new information for me, and I'm supposed to have one eye on this.

In a nutshell, the diary series and comments seek to explain the technology, financing and social changes that a switch to digital cinemas will bring. In the US, movies form an 80 billion dollar industry.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 01:15:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Gaianne,

Based on your questions, I'm going to try to fill in enough missing details that will make the part I wrote logical. Pardon me if I get too simple. And feel free to check whatever I say in and encyclopedia and the internet since I only play an expert in the movies, and also, for purposes of this comment tonight I am pulling most of this from my head.

Imagine a rainbow or the light that comes out of a prism. What we think of as the white light of the sun gets split into several discreet, or separate colors.

Next time you are outside on a sunny day, notice the different shades of blue in the sky as you view it closer or further from the sun. Then later in the day before sunset, notice the colors of the blue as it ranges from deep to light blue and starts to turn orange and then several other shades of red.

There have been a lot of studies that deal with color, and how the human visual system deals with it. There is an international center for all things color and light headquartered in Austria which deals with 'Illumination' named the CIE. They did basic work early last century that tried to answer several questions, and one of the answers were some basics on what an average group of people see. The also helped settle on the best working theory for how the eye (in general) and humans (in particular) see (in general) and see color (in particular.)

And what they came up with is called the tri-stimulas system since the primary idea is that there are nerve endings that act as receptors in the eye, some of which primarily deal with green light, some with red and some with blue. These color receptors are called the cones, while the receptors that deal with levels of brightness are called the rods.

Now, for the first of our amazing set of numbers, there are as many as 125 million receptors in the eye, of which only 6 or 7 million deal with color. When only one type of these receptors gets triggered, it will send a signal to the brain and the brain will designate the appropriate color. If two or more of these receptors are triggered, then the brain will do the work of combining them much the same way that a painter mixes water colors. (We'll pretend it is that simple.)

OK; so how do you create a representation of all that color and detail on the TV or movie screen?

Let's start with film. We think of it as one piece of plastic, but in reality it is several layers that each have a different dye of different sensitivity on it. Each dye reacts in a different and predictable manner when exposed to light through the camera lens. In the lab, each layer goes through a different chemical process to 'develop' a representation of what it captured when exposed by the camera system. There are a lot of steps in between, but eventually the film is exposed to light again, this time pushing light in the opposite manner, through the film and then through the lens. That light gets colored by the film and shows up on the screen.

One of the qualities of film is that the chemical and gel nature makes the range of colors in the image appear to be seamless. And not just 'appears' with the definition of "gives the impression of". In fact, there is a great deal of resolution in modern film.

Then TV came along. We see a smooth piece of glass, but if we could touch the other side we would feel a dust that reacts to a strong beam of electricity. If we look real close we will see that there are actually different color dots, again green, red, and blue. Engineers figured out how to control that electric beam with magnets, and could trigger the different dots of color to make them light up separately or together to combine into a range of colors, and eventually combine those colors into pictures.

That was great, except people wanted better and technology evolved to give them that. Instead of lighting up magic dust with a strong beam of electricity, a couple methods were discovered that allowed small colored capsules of gas to be lit up and even small pieces of colored plastic to light up. These segments and pieces were able to be packed tightly against each other so that they could make the pictures. Instead of only hundreds of lines being lit up by the electron gun in the old TV set, now over a thousand lines can be lit up, at higher speeds, using a lot less electricity.

Then a couple engineers figured out make and control a very tiny mirror to reflect light, then quickly move to not reflect light. That mirror is less than 25% of the size of a typical human hair. (I'll look up to see how that measures against the international standard measurement of football fields.)

Hundreds of these mirrors can be placed next to each other on a chip less than 2 centimeters square. Each mirror is able to precisely move on or off at a rate of 72 times a second, which is 3 times the speed that a motion picture film is exposed to light for a picture.

This chip is called a DLP, a Digital Light Projector, because a computer can tell each mirror when to turn one and off, so that when a strong light is reflected on an individual or set of mirrors, it will create part of a picture. If you put a computer in charge of 3 chips, one for green, one for red and one for blue, the reflected light can be focused through a lens and a very detailed picture will appear on the screen. There is a different but similar technology that Sony has refined for their professional cinema technology which uses crystals that change their state (status).

Now for the 2nd in our amazing set of numbers. There are 1,080 rows made up of 2,048 individual mirrors each for over 2 million 2 hundred thousand mirrors per chip. If you were to multiply that times 3 chips worth of mirrors, you get the same "about 6 or 7 million" mirrors as there are cones in each eye.

And secondly, without going into details (to keep this simple), we keep getting closer to being able to duplicate the range and intensity of colors that you see in the sky. This is one of the artists goals, in the same way as the engineers want to make a lighter, flatter, environmentally better television and movie playing system.

I hope that now you have a feeling for the basic technology. It is not just being pushed onto people because it is the newest thing. The TV and movie businesses are going digital for a lot of good reasons. To begin with, it wasn't really possible to advance quality of the older technology without increasing the cost by a lot...and even then it would be incredibly cumbersome and remain an environmental nightmare. And finally, there are advantages of flexibility that the new technology could do that the old couldn't...or couldn't at a reasonable price or at the quality of the new.

The technology of presenting a 3D image is one of those flexibility points. 3D was certainly one of the thrills of Avatar. The director worked for a decade learning how to handle the artistic and the technical sides of the art. He developed with closely aligned partners many different pieces of equipment and manners of using existing equipment to do things that haven't been done before. And finally he spent hours on details that other budgets and people would only spend minutes. In the end James Cameron developed a technique and technology set that won't be seen as normal for a long time from now...and an outstanding movie.  

Could Avatar have been made on film? Well, almost no major motion picrture has been made exclusively on film for a long time. They all use a technique named CGI (for the character generated imagery), which covers a grand set of techniques. But if you tried to generate the characters in Avatar exclusively on a computer with CGI, they never would have come out as detailed and inspiring as they did. Likewise, if he tried to create the characters with masks and other techniques with live action, you wouldn't get the texture and feeling that the actors gave to their parts.

Could Avatar have been displayed with film, in 2D. Yes, it could have and it was.

I'll go into 3D in more detail in the next segment of the series. But I'll touch on it here.

To begin, 3D is a misnomer. True 3 dimension presumes the ability to walk around a subject and see a full surrond view, like the hologram of Princess Leah. In real life a person who is partly hidden in one view, will be even more hidden or perhaps exposed from another view. On the screen of today's 3D movie, when a character appears to  b partly hidden by a wall as seen by a person on the left side of the theater, they will also appear the same amount of hidden by someone on the right side of the theater.

In fact, what we see with out eyes and what we see in the new theaters is correctly termed "stereoscopic". We are taught some of this in school, how to make two lines join somewhere out in space (parallax) and draw all the boxes on those lines to make them appear to recede in the distance...even though they are on one piece of paper. There are several more clues in addition to parallax that we use to discern whether something is closer or farther, and whether something is just a drawing on a sheet of paper or a full rounded person or sharp-edged box...even in a 2D picture.

And we have been doing this for years. We know that Bogie and Bergman are in front of the plane in the distance...our eyes/brain/mind makes up a story for us, 3 dimensions and probably more, even though it is a black and white set of pictures shown at 24 frames per second on a flat screen.

In the modern incarnation called 3D, the light coming from the lens is modified by some filters, then it is re-modified by some glasses that we have to wear to get the synchronization right. It could be done with film, but it was harder to manage, and didn't have the flexibility that the new digital technology brings.

I won't go further in this comment since there is more detail in the next chapter, which I will post tomorrow or Sunday. Thanks for letting me know that I presumed knowledge not in evidence. If I do it again, stop me and give me clues on what I left out.

And now, as it is midnight, I think I will send this with only a cursory read through...forgive the typos and tell me if something isn't clear. As Pascal kind of said, forgive the length, I didn't have time to make it shorter.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 06:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent. This is up there with the best.

Digital Cinema for Dummies.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 07:01:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colour is weird. One of my favourite illusions:

The 'yellow' and 'brown' center tiles are the same colour.

There's also Adelson's checker illusion:

A & B are the same colour.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 at 07:35:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Chris. I have seen variations on the top one, but not that exact one before.

The proof for the lower one, Adelson's checker illusion, is at this site: Checkershadow Illusion

Here is a number of illusions called: Lightness Demonstrations.

For a site of color-centric illusions: Illusion and color perception-Akiyoshi Kitaoka

This stuff is so fun, that I could spend a morning on it.

Motion, Form, and Mid-Level Vision: A Tutorial

There is also the illusion of using space when one presumes a flat object:
First
Second

If you see a proof of your top submission, please pass it on.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:35:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The proof for the lower one, Adelson's checker illusion, is at this site: Checkershadow Illusion

For some reason or other, I don't get the "proof". It convinces me that either the original image or the proof is an optical illusion, but I can't decide which. Using an image editor and moving a small piece from one square of the image to the other is what worked for me.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 09:24:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Chris. Being a Dummy myself gives me a unique qualification for being able to present the data that has clawed its way into my mind.

Erratum: I need to correct one thing in the comment (not the article itself.) As I noted in its intro, it was extemporaneous and not fact checked.

There is an assertion that I made which I can't back up. It concerns the statement:
"... while the receptors that deal with levels of brightness are called the rods."

I don't think that this is entirely true or best describes the function of the rods if it is true. It implies that the cones are not able to capture brightness detail without the rods, which I don't think is correct.

On the other hand, the rods are more sensitive to light and dark, whereas the cones do not function well as darkness increases until the point that they don't function at all. Further, the rods don't get triggered by red light at all, which will give the sunset phenomena of a red rose going dark while the green leaves around it glow more green shades.

Quickly searching through some source material doesn't provide the exact right answer to better describe the function of the rods. My new plan is to refine this long comment above into a "Part 0" of the series. When I get that detail correct for that section, I'll make it known.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 03:57:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: Photoreceptor cells

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:11:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
clarification: The accepted definition of CGI is Computer Generated Imagery.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:08:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... heard any variants, but I am confident the "C" in CGI as I have heard it before has been Computer rather than Character.

Indeed, as CGI is used in both live action and anime, its often used to provide non-character imagery ... the spaceship in Farcscape, where the characters are actors, actors with make-up, actors with appliances, or muppets:

... or the submarine in Blue Submarine no. 6, where the characters are conventionally drawn anime:


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 02:43:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CGI is distinct from blue/green screen, lith mattes, glass plates and other film process photography done in camera or lab. Glass plates are an example of the former and were used to add crowds to the stadium in 'Ben Hur', or distant houses in 'Gone With the wind'.

A large glass late is held in front of the camera, with the edges outside the camera frame. The added spectators (Ben Hur) are painted on the glass leaving a shape of clear glass through which the actual scene is visible. The master of this difficult work was Albert Whitlock"

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:07:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither of those above are film process.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:28:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, but you are wrong.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:42:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Farscape's spaceship or Blue Submarine No. 6 from Blue Submarine No. 6? Or both?

I know for sure that Blue Submarine No. 6 was CGI - it was one of the earlier anime's to make heavy use of CGI, so I do not know how the CGI and the hand drawn material were merged. Nowadays most hand drawn anime is  drawn on computer, so CGI and 2D drawing are composed digitally.

I can't find the information on the Farscape spaceship Moya again, so I may have gotten it and the new Battlestar Galactica confused.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 06:35:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Er - I think you may be passing each other by.

As I read it, Sven meant that glass plates etc were film processes.

Although technically I think they're called opticals. Some are in camera, while others are literal optical effects created by doing strange things with celluloid strips, light sources, notors, mirrors and handpainted film frames. (E.g. the stargate sequence in 2001, which was partly a motor-driven effect.)

You can - of course - park a painted plate in front of a digital camera as easily as in front of a film camera. I'm fairly sure people still do this, although perhaps not as much as they used to.

The SF namechecks were both CGI (so far as I know.)

To confuse things further, CGI usually means - in practice - seamless photorealistic simulation.

Animations, especially when they're non-narrative eye-candy, seem to be called motion graphics - although this depends on the industry, to an extent.

In ads, if it moves it often seems to be called motion graphics. In movies, it's called CGI. In music promos it can be either.

There used to be a difference in styling between Hollywood/ILM CGI and the cheaper and more stylised effects you'd see in ads, but that gap has narrowed over the last decade.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 07:18:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I was referring to the two examples I gave of CGI being used to provide non-character imagery when character imagery was provided by other means (video tape for Farscape, drawn anime for Blue Submarine No. 6), addressing whether the "C" in CGI is "Character" or "Computer".

On "motion graphics", I read what it says in the Wikipedia machine, and the best combination of clarity and persuasiveness is: "Since there is no universally accepted definition of motion graphics,"

In anime, "CGI" is used to indicate whether the original source material was drawn or modeled and rendered, with the latter referred to as CGI. In a video production like Farscape or Battlestar Galactica, it seems to refer to the stuff that is generated on the computer rather than shot with the video camera.

But as near as I can tell, it doesn't have to be motion graphics to be CGI - a green screened or computer composited still background can also be CGI.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 07:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's CGI if there's a computer making imagery that wasn't captured in-camera.

I think motion graphics started out from the graphic design side - i.e. titles and abstract elements - but converged with CGI as abstract elements became more closely integrated with live footage.

CGI can be as much about painting things out as painting them in. There was a (dire) film a few years ago called Twenty Eight Days later - post-plague apocalypse, etc, etc. In one of the scenes there are talking head shots inside a taxi driving along a motorway.

Obviously the director couldn't close the motorway, so CGI was used to remove the other cars that were in the raw footage.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 08:05:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... its an ongoing point in reviews of anime that incorporate CGI how seamlessly the CGI and drawn anime fit together (though I don't always catch the problem - I recently read Scrapped Princess being held up as an example of horrible composition of CGI into an anime, and I quite enjoyed it).

I've never seen a concern with which cels of the drawn anime were drawn by hand on the computer and which were drawn by hand the old fashioned way ... that is, whether the pen strokes on an electronic tablet were used to drive a drawing program or whether a cel was drawn in ink and then scanned into the computer. And the majority of frames will be drawn on the computer in any event - even if the key animator is drawing in ink with the cel being scanned in, the inbetweeners will be drawing on the computer.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 10:20:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost all animation today, whether cell on film or computer generated, is the result of a art/craft process that first establishes the look of characters and backgrounds in drawings, mood boards, and storyboards that are increasingly detailed. Main characters are often built in clay or other material. There may be hundreds of iterations of these before the characters, the worlds they inhabit and the story are 'fixed'.

The same processes are often used in live action movies. Many directors create complete hand-drawn storyboards showing every scene in the movie, including dialogue, before shooting. With a big enough budget, such as the Indiana Jones movies, the drawings are translated to fake life-size objects (e.g. fantasy planes) and remodelled locations.

The reason for these elaborate and expensive 'hand-made' processes in pre-production, is because (just look at the movie credits) so many people all have to be on the same page - including the producers. These processes also inform the final production budget.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 03:19:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was referring to anime where the individual frames are drawn. One I am following from the current "Spring" anime season is House of Five Leaves

Nowadays the hand drawn key animations are drawn on a computer artist's pad rather than drawn on cel and scanned into the computer, and in either event the inbetweeners do the inbetween work on the computer. But of course since the computer is being used as a drawing tool recording the animator's pen strokes rather than to generate the imagery, that is not called "CGI".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 12:58:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right. I was referring to my 'above' ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 03:21:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... it was obvious that I had been too telegraphic when I wrote the comment ... knowing what I was trying to say once again being an impediment to reading what I had actually written.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 01:00:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, you are correct; In my haste the mental roll-o-dex gave me the abbreviation from another era--CG was character generation, the placing of letters and numbers on the screen.  

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 06:37:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The tiny-switchable-mirror technology was new to me.  

I gather the idea is to put the switchable mirrors in the theater itself and dispense with the film and the film projector?  

Provided the screen can maintain the polarity of the light projected onto it, I can see how you could use switchable mirrors to create stereoscopy.  Does the screen do that?  Do you know how the screen does that?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 09:52:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... there's just no film inside it. That's where the mirrors are, inside the projector.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 01:01:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And according to Wikipedia, the stereoscopy is either by having the light polarized by an LCD filter that can switch polarity faster than the frame rate, so that the left and right frames are displayed in alternation, or by displaying the left and right images display at the same time (stacked on top of each other) and having special lenses that split out and polarize the two images in parallel.

The alternation approach works in part because the digital projectors can display at very high frame rates, so that "half the frames for each eye" can still be at a frame rate faster than conventional film.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 01:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The topic is showing movies in cinemas from video generated from a computer file instead of by passing light through film. That's what "Digital Cinema" means.

Knowing that will probably bring a lot more of the diary into focus.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 02:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still light projected on a screen, but bounced off mirrors instead of shone through plastic layers.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 02:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand how that corrects what I wrote. I was not trying to describe the technique, I was trying to fill in the "what is the topic" part that has to be inferred from scattered details you provided ... because you took for granted that everyone knows the basic meaning of the phrase "Digital Cinema".

Indeed, I had no idea how its done ... but then as an economist, there are many details on how its done that I wouldn't need to know. The prior question is what is being done.

Whether the technique involves light projected on the screen through something or bounced off mirrors or whatever .... the main material difference from the status quo ante thing is that instead of physically passing the image through the projector, the image is generated inside the projector based on the contents of a computer file. There are enough details to work that out from the diary, but if someone is disoriented as to what the topic is, they could easily not see the implications of those details or even not get that far.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 03:10:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps it wasn't a correction, but an expansion - looking at it from a slightly different viewpoint. A computer file can have, theoretically, unlimited resolution, but the mirror technology is a significant limitation on that resolution.

Resolution has an impact on audience perception. Hence the move to 70mm film, and its use in high resolution Imax projection systems. The first 70mm films were shot as early as 1894, but not popularized until a process called Todd-AO from 1955.

The lower resolution of Digital Cinema projection is balanced by other advantages that siegestate is describing.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 04:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Digital cinema is 2K - 2048 horizontally.

Digital source files from the camera and/or the animators can be either 2K or 4K, or occasionally HDTV 1K-ish and let's-hope-no-one-notices.

2K has the same optical resolution as 35mm, more or less.

I don't know what the resolution of Imax is.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 07:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Wikipedia machine says that 35mm Academy format and Imax 70mm compares like this:

... and while searching for that, I saw somewhere online that IMAX Digital is 4K.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 07:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And it's perhaps worth mentioning that 4K is a vast amount of data - it's about 2.5TB for a 90 minute movie.

Uncompressed, the data rate is nearly 500MB/s.

2K is more manageable. You can do 2K editing on a fast home PC now.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 08:11:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
File resolution and projection resolution are not the same.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 03:22:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our local film festival (going on this weekend) shows lots of shorts and documentaries, and a few feature-length films; around 100 altogether. They're all digital.

http://www.indiespiritfilmfestival.org/about.cfm

by asdf on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 11:53:37 AM EST
That sounds like an interesting event!

Will you be going to see anything or join any discussions?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 12:10:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I went on Friday night to a couple of movies, both Australian. I'm not a film critic, nor a horror movie fan, but ended up at "Storage" and "Tuesday," both horror flicks. Wanted to see the one about the girl motor scooter gang, but had a conflict. It's a short; maybe findable on youtube...

Speaking of youtube, has the big foo-rah about the "plus size models" advertisement made it to European papers? ABC and FOX banned a pretty tame ad because there was too much cleavage and jiggling flesh. Which might be understandable, but it was to run during Dancing With The Stars, which is basically soft-core porn to start with...

by asdf on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 12:21:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italian TV seems to be almost all softcore pårn.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 12:28:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... lots of "fanservice" (as they would say in Japan) of the T&A variety ... but surprisingly little simulated sex for a broadcast dance competition.

I think it must be the judges. They take the competitive ballroom dancing quite seriously, and they have their standard. Of course, the outfits that look like the female dancer forgot the other half are part of what draws the paying punters at the actual ballroom dance contests, so they can't very well deduct points for that.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 at 01:17:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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