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Digital projection coming to a theater near you.
May 14, 2002 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Digital projection coming to a theater near you. "Lucas says the new format is cheaper and easier on viewers' eyes because it eliminates the pops and scratches from film wear and tear. He accuses the industry of resisting change the same way it snubbed talking pictures until "The Jazz Singer" signaled the end of the silent era." Any other mefites planning on seeing Episode II at a DLP theater? [DLP theater list]
posted by skallas (29 comments total)

 
After Episode I, I seriously doubt that Lucas has any idea as to what's easy on the viewers' eyes. Here's hoping that Episode III will be an exclusivley digital experience -- by not making it to the theaters and becoming a straight-to-video release!
posted by herc at 4:22 PM on May 14, 2002


Here's the list of the theatres which will screen AOTC digitally.
posted by signal at 4:34 PM on May 14, 2002


here's ebert's take on it.
posted by kliuless at 4:35 PM on May 14, 2002


And yes, skallas, I plan to see it at a DLP theater, either the AMC1000 Van Ness or at the Metreon, both in SF.
posted by signal at 4:39 PM on May 14, 2002


I've had some chances to see the various combinations and I have to agree with Ebert. Digital to Digital looks great, but digital to film or film to digital just doesn't stand up.

Especially when there are some 48fps formats out there (easily converted from existing 24fps projectors) that are amazing (haven't seen these myself but trusted acquaintances have.
posted by obfusciatrist at 4:51 PM on May 14, 2002


Ebert is really trying to spark up a "vinyl vs. cd" debate is he?

He may have a point about movies shot on film being projected digitally, but the whole idea behind DLP is to replace film alltogether.

I don't think the Spiderman complaints are about CGI as much as they are about animation quality. The animators went with a very cartoony Spidey in a 'realistic' superhero movie. Bad idea. Spidey and the Goblin in CGI form often moved in ways that was more like a looney tunes cartoon than like the realistic action sequences in Final Fantasy.

FF went with motion capture and with an eye on creating a realistic looking movie and the Spidey people went cartooney with moves no person could pull off. Spiderman is supposed to be agile, but no that agile. The Goblin's flying thing didn't seem to fly as much as it constantly defied the laws of physics and gravity. Both films used CGI, but in the end its the animators that are either going to make or break CGI action sequences.
posted by skallas at 5:00 PM on May 14, 2002


Lucas really is not competent to judge what's best for movies, being as he can't direct one.

And Ebert's exactly right: Digital-to-film transfers are lackluster. I don't understand why Lucas is so whinily insistent on digital as the cure for all the movies' woes. You can shoot and project the shit in any format you want, but films are based on characters, not on special effects. Someone might want to drop him a memo.
posted by solistrato at 5:06 PM on May 14, 2002


I have my tickets for a Saturday showing at the DLP theater at 1000 Van Ness in SF. I'll probably have to turn in my Dork Membership Card for not seeing Episode II at midnight of opening day, but some people have to work in the morning.
posted by robbie01 at 5:10 PM on May 14, 2002


I can't wait for the first digital file of a digitally shot movie to show up pirated on the Internet in ultra-pristine quality. By the time it happens, we might just have the bandwidth and storage space to download it.
posted by robbie01 at 5:13 PM on May 14, 2002


Add me to the list of people who'll likely be seeing the film at a DLP theater; probably the AMC 1000 since I'm consistently unimpressed with the Lowes Metreon. I went to one of the very first screenings at the Metreon -- the ever-so-San Francisco "Bullitt" -- and it was shown on a screen that had been patched up with some kind of glossy, reflective tape that left a distractingly bright and shiny spot on the picture throughout the film. Subsequent visits to the Lowes left me similarly bothered by either poor projection, buggy sound, or damaged film.

It used to be that AMC theaters were the second-run $2 bargains with postage stamp screens and tinny sound. But they seem to have risen well above that history, and they'll likely get my Star Wars dollar if I decide to check out the DLP showing.

It's a shame that the local theaters with union projectionists won't be able to lay hands on the film. The Renaissance theaters are a very pleasant moviegoing experience, and being locally and independantly owned are the sort of establishment I like to frequent.

On the other hand, I (and most other SF natives) have seen every Star Wars release on the Coronet's gigantic screen and it would be a shame to break that streak just because I now have to live on the wrong side of the bay.

On the gripping hand, I've got a buddy at Sony who can scrounge up Lowes tickets... decisions, decisions!
posted by majick at 5:23 PM on May 14, 2002


hey i found this nice rundown of three competing technology consortiums working to bring digital cinema projectors to a theatre near you :) pretty fascinating stuff! i remember reading that ebert thought the TI projection looked best, which is what lucas is using i think.
posted by kliuless at 5:40 PM on May 14, 2002


I can't wait for the first digital file of a digitally shot movie to show up pirated on the Internet in ultra-pristine quality.

I would think digital media would give you better security through encryption. Sure a movie can be stolen during any part of the post-production and distribution, but a lot of good that optical disc is going to do for you without the encryption key to unlock the data.

By the time it happens, we might just have the bandwidth and storage space to download it.

Then you just have a new bottleneck: your video card and display. Unless you're a video and audio-phile with some serious equipment you won't be able to make use of all that resolution and the pretty DLP colors simply won't exist on your CRT. Might as well compress it in some lossy format then.

Ignoring encryption, a DVD iso created from the original would be pretty scary, but that'll require a slightly more sophisticated operation than just a tripod, a camcorder, and a home pc with video capture.
posted by skallas at 5:43 PM on May 14, 2002


I'm in Columbia, SC, and AotC isn't coming to a digital theater "near" me any closer than Merrifield, VA. Oh, well, I'll wait for the next movie in the series, I guess. This one will probably be at the $1.50 place up the road by midsummer, and judging by the reviews, it's worth the wait to save the money.
posted by alumshubby at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2002


woo-hoo! i'm just happy i don't have to go to the metreon to see it. that place is eeee-vil.
posted by badstone at 5:45 PM on May 14, 2002


I plan on seeing it digitally here on the east coast (General Cinema, Framingham.) I checked out Monsters Inc. on that screen and it was gorgeous, no flicker, no scratches, extremely sharp. But that was a special case attributed to the film's digital origin. "Standard" movies are only as good as the film-to-digital transfer which can be surprisingly mediocre.

This guy goes into the technical details of digital projectors. The content is a few years old but the concept is still the same (and there's pictures in case you were wondering what a DLP looked like).
posted by jeremias at 5:51 PM on May 14, 2002


Skallas, they are using lossy compression, which I fear is a big mistake. Fades/flashes uniformly look like shit even on well encoded DVD's which makes me fear for movies with lots of flash bang. Good thing Star Wars flicks aren't like that, eh?

sigh.
posted by NortonDC at 7:15 PM on May 14, 2002


Oh! I had no idea that Rogers, Arkansas, even HAD the theater listed on that site. I guess I WILL be seeing it in digital. ::purrs::

I have not even been to Rogers in years, despite it being about fifteen minutes from my house. I guess I need to go find this movie theater that I did not know existed.
posted by bargle at 7:23 PM on May 14, 2002


Defending digital cinema. Also, exactly one digital-projection screen has a MoPix captioning/description system (Loews Cineplex/Universal City Cinema at the CityWalk complex in Los Angeles). If anyone goes, use the hardware and report back, willyez?
posted by joeclark at 7:32 PM on May 14, 2002


Already booked up to see it this Saturday in London's Leicester Square Odeon with some friends. One of them is coming all the way back from a placement in France because he "couldn't bare watching it with French subtitles".
posted by gi_wrighty at 7:32 PM on May 14, 2002


Even though film can fade and lose its color and contrast, and bulbs in film projectors can die slow deaths, I worry about who's going to be color-calibrating the digital projectors - there's rarely anyone in the projection booths now, so who's going to be responsible for making sure the digital projectors are putting out a "correct"image? Are they going to run tests at the beginning of each day? each week?

I'm seeing EpII at the Ziegfeld in NYC, probably one of the largest theaters and largest screens out there. They project 70mm film there, so if digital projection can look good there...
posted by panopticon at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2002


DLP is currently very low resolution. It is only 1280x1024.

It was at that same resolution when TI first started doing demos five years ago. It has not increased since. Having seen the results, it's my opinion that current resolution levels are unacceptable.

Here is a chart detailing what film scanning/recording resolutions are like. Movie special effects are usually done at 2K resolution, sometimes 4K. Most experts agree that 4K is necessary to truly duplicate what film delivers, and that 2K is only a stopgap measure before 4K becomes commonplace. DLP is currently lower than both of those.

There are other digital projection methods in the works besides DLP. Kodak has a prototype system based on JVC's D-ILA chips. It is already at 2K resolution, and is supposed to hit 4K before the end of the year. There is also laser projection which is also already higher resolution than DLP. I've not yet heard anything definite with regard to a theatrical system based on it, though.

Of course, there are other issues besides resolution. Contrast ratio is one. Film has a contrast ratio of about 10,000:1, which most digital projection systems are around 1,000:1 or thereabouts. Digital still has long way to go in that regard, too.

Having seen DLP on a number of occasions and done some comparisons, I can honestly say that while it doesn't look too bad, but it does look very video-ish, and does not stand up to the best film presentations. The theoretical limitations I listed above do seem to translate into real-life deficiencies, at least in my observations. If you end up seeing a DLP presentation, expect to see some jagged edges and other problems.

I think it's a good thing that digital cinema is not yet widespread. The technology needs more improvement before it is ready to replace film.

panopticon, 5-perf 70mm prints would be great, but unfortunately Hollywood decided a few years ago that they didn't like paying for them. All new features are released in 35mm only, and Ep. II is no exception.
posted by Potsy at 8:41 PM on May 14, 2002


signal, the only digital theater in the city is the Van Ness one. I'm planning on seeing this digitally in a few weeks, after the popularity dies down, and probably at an afternoon showing on a Tuesday or something.
posted by mathowie at 8:50 PM on May 14, 2002


Potsy - I know that they only show 35mm at the Ziegfeld, but seeing the Vertigo re-release there on 70mm Cinemascope was glorious.
posted by panopticon at 11:04 PM on May 14, 2002


If Lucas and co. had released Eps.4-6 on DVD by now, I would be more ready to believe that he's really into new technologies.
posted by Poagao at 11:17 PM on May 14, 2002


i'm quite happy this thread has stuck to discussion of the questions the digital format brings up... but... am i the only guy who was there on metafilter that was there at midnight, opening night for episode I who couldn't be less interested that episode II is two nights away?

apologies for potential thread drift...
posted by gangcandy at 12:44 AM on May 15, 2002


I'm planning on seeing this digitally in a few weeks, after the popularity dies down, and probably at an afternoon showing on a Tuesday or something.

C'mon, Matt! Don't you live on the Peninsula somewhere now? Why not hit up the Century 22 in San Jose and see the wonders there? We're better than "The City!" :)
posted by JDC8 at 1:56 AM on May 15, 2002


I saw Star Wars at the age of 11, enjoyed it a lot at the time, but have never seen another Star Wars film since and have never had any real interest in doing so. Working in the software industry I think that must make me some kind of freak.
posted by kerplunk at 4:46 AM on May 15, 2002


Well, here in Budapest we've little choice... The only theatre playing the film in English (with hungarian subtitles) at midnight tonight is playing the digital format. My crowd got our tickets last night, after lifting our heads from the books long enough to realize that it was May 14th.... Unfortunately, we're going to be in the front row, looking at the biggest screen in Budapest. But at least I'll be able to tell all of my friends back home that I finished first viewing four or five hours before they get to start!

And, yeah, it's unfortunate that's it's going to suck. but hey, it's star wars. How many more chances will I have to go to a midnight-opening-screening of a star wars film again?
posted by kaibutsu at 5:10 AM on May 15, 2002


Digital projection may be better than film projection currently is, but that doesn't mean that it's better than film projection can be in systems such as MaxiVision.
posted by gspira at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2002


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