On March 29 and 30, 2004, the
Digital Cinema Initiatives, a consortium of studio and vendors involved in
developing standards for Digital Cinema demonstrated a film they had made
for that purpose at their lab in the Hollywood Pacific Theater in
As the member studios were reluctant to allow clips from their films to be
used for this purpose, DCI decided to make their own film, which was
probably a better idea anyway as standardized cameras, lenses, film stock,
and development would be used. They approached the American Society of
Cinematographers for help and discovered the ASC had been working along
Cinematographer Dante Spinotti, ASC, came up with a script involving an
Italian wedding, and Allen Daviau, ASC directed the material on the
Universal back lot. The subject matter was designed to cover as many
conditions as possible, including fine material like lace veils and glass,
and was photographed in daylight, magic hour, night time, and fog and rain
at night in Super 35, 35mm anamorphic, and 65mm. This material was scanned
at 6k and downrezzed to 1K and 2K for the test.
The screening began with selected daily clips from the 35mm anamorphic
version shown split-screen from film, on a Kinotone projector, and
digitally from a 2K Christie projector. I sat third row center, where I
used to sit back when the Pacific was operating as a regular theater.
Supposedly digital projection cannot stand up when viewed that close, but
I was quite surprised at how well it did. Only the material shot in night time
fog looked really less than satisfactory. Others in the audience saw more pixilation
in the digital version than I did, but that may be due to the fact that I
had been unable to clean my contact lenses beforehand.
However, I found the film version more satisfying, with more snap, though
the digital did look better than any I've seen previously. But, as I've
mentioned in the past, mine are film, not video oriented eyes.
The final presentation was the digital projection of the edited 12 minute
film, which intercut shots from all three formats. On a one time viewing,
it looked pretty good, something the average person probably would not
differentiate from film. I could tell which shots were Super 35,
anamorphic, or 65mm, sometimes; I could probably pick out more, and spot
more flaws, on another viewing.
Caveats however, are, as usual these tests are usually done under optimum
conditions: scanning at 6K, uncompressed projection at 2K, etc. Are these
the conditions that are likely to prevail if this system is implemented?
Given the industry's tendency to take the cheapest way out, still
unanswered is the degree to which compression will ultimately negatively
affect Digital Cinema.
Also, there has been an increase in the use of video, HD, DV, and even
camcorder for production. Some behind-the-scenes camcorder footage
uprezzed to the resolution of the final version was used during the end
credits, and looked as bad as such footage usually does. Since,
theoretically, video origination should yield better results than film
origination for Digital Projection, is anything being done with this?
in 70mm reading:
Revolution: The Phantom Improvement
Note as of July 15, 2004:
Correction to your information regarding the Digital Cinema
Initiatives. The Entertainment Technology Center at USC uses the Hollywood
Pacific Theater for its Digital Cinema Laboratory. The Digital Cinema
Initiatives is a client of the ETC-USC conducting its testing and standard
development at the DCL.
Your article mentioned that the lab belongs to DCI and that's not the case.
Chief Administrative Officer
Entertainment Technology Center at USC
734 W. Adams Blvd. KCH 204
Los Angeles, CA 90089-7725