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Ebert stands up for film


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#1 Bill Totolo

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 11:39 AM

From Roger Ebert's web site:

http://rogerebert.su...egory=ANSWERMAN




Q. What do you think of the new digital format agreed to by the studios? In the past, you have said digital projection was not as good as the current 35mm film format. Is the new format the same as the former digital format? Do you think the new format will help or hinder film piracy?

Mike Coleman, Round Lake



A. The digital projection system that was being touted four years ago, at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000 a machine, would today seem woefully substandard. Those promoting it claimed it was "as good as film." New digital projectors are much better, and the studios think they can save money on the cost of film prints by switching to digital. Still uncertain is: (1) Who will pay for the still-expensive projectors? (2) Will widespread digital distribution be an invitation to piracy? (3) How will the public react to buying tickets to moves they can essentially see at home at about the same projection quality?

If the movie industry had true visionaries among its most powerful executives, Maxivision 48 would be given a try. It shows movies at 48 frames a second, uses only 50 percent more film than currently, and because of a patented method for moving the film through the gate, eliminates scratching and jiggles; it would cost only $12,000 per screen to install the equipment. The picture is four times as good as current film projection, and that would provide a powerful incentive for people to see movies in theaters. I've heard genuine enthusiasm from people who've seen movies like "Batman Begins" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on IMAX screens, and I know that audiences do respond to picture quality. If one industry leader announced a movie in Maxivision, there would be a stampede to the format because digital would be instantly upstaged.
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#2 Steven Budden

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 12:10 PM

Go Ebert.

Steven
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 03:00 PM

Film in projection is going to go away. Any suggestion of formats like Maxivison not only using more film, but delaying the inevitable, is suicide. It's never going to happen. I for one welcome digital projection (as long as it looks as good), because running prints through projectors is just a very stupid idea to begin with - and I say this from a projectionsist point of view having done that for 3 years.
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#4 Steven Budden

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 03:27 PM

I agree that arguing about quality in this sense is a losing battle because digital will eventually catch up and the price will keep going down. Film will survive in certain venues because of properties, not quality/ cost. And the cost of film will probably keep going up as film predominance keeps dropping. I find it all exciting because I think in order for film to survive, filmmakers will have to reassert properties inherent to that medium for it to hold its place (just as painting had to do when "threatened" by photography).

Film projection won't go away. A division will form between film and digital. Hollywood will go digital for sure. Money money.

Steven
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#5 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 04:42 PM

Film in projection is going to go away. Any suggestion of formats like Maxivison not only using more film, but delaying the inevitable, is suicide. It's never going to happen. I for one welcome digital projection (as long as it looks as good), because running prints through projectors is just a very stupid idea to begin with - and I say this from a projectionsist point of view having done that for 3 years.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



That really didn't answer the point being made. The point being made is that digital projectors from 5 years ago would be considered inferior nowadays. So the theatres want nothing to do with the building a better moustrap every 6 months ponzy scheme that the computer and digital world thrives on.

And if outside money is used to build the theatres, they too will most likely unfairly influence what the theatre owner will end up showing.

"You want the latest lens and parabolic 3D annihilator to add on to your digital projector??? Then show the "Madonna Live Tour Till You Drop" instead of that stupid local independent video you were going to show..."
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 05:16 PM

I know, that is a problem. But the cost of having projectionists splicing reels together endlessly and theatres paying for scratched prints add's up to a lot of money.

I used to work in a small multiplex as a projectionist. Every thursday when friday's releases came in 3 projectionist had to work almost all night to splice reels together, remove old trailers, splice in new ones, change the commercials and so on. Often on over 20 prints with the matinee's. That was a lot of work and cost the exhibitor a lot of money.

Somehow I think the exhibitors and the producers have to share on this one - because they both gain from getting away from using film prints.
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#7 Alfred

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 05:46 PM

Can someone explain to me when did Hollywood become so coast effective?
The industry seems dead set on wasting major money for inferior product.

Maxivision 48 could be the new niche theatrical experience if someone like Spielberg (Die Hard FILM maker) would back it.

Edited by Alfred, 19 August 2005 - 05:47 PM.

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#8 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 07:03 PM

whether or not you think film projection looks better than digital (as i do), it's without question that digital projection's image quality and cost effectiveness will continue to improve expotentially.

one potentially awesome thing about digital projection is that once it is standard (which will take many years), there's a good chance that filmmakers will be able to use various different framerates, even potentially using different framerates in the same film.
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#9 Sam Wells

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 08:35 PM

one potentially awesome thing about digital projection is that once it is standard (which will take many years), there's a good chance that filmmakers will be able to use various different framerates, even potentially using different framerates in the same film.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


DOES the DCI paper address this BTW ?

(I've been travelling havan't dl'd it & read it I confess)

-Sam
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 20 August 2005 - 09:38 AM

Theatres wouldn't have ANY problems with scratches if they CLEANED THEIR FRIGGIN' PROJECTORS! You people really allow your films to degrade into an inferior product. As for maxivision, I think it'd be great. All those skaters taping at 24P wouldn't know what to do :-)
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#11 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 20 August 2005 - 01:37 PM

DOES the DCI paper address this BTW ?

(I've been travelling havan't dl'd it & read it I confess)

-Sam

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



actually, i have no idea if the current hollywood-theater owners agreement thingee adresses it. but i'm pretty sure that it allows for theaters to "broadcast" live hd video events in theaters, which means 60i source material.

but regardless, the technology to project multiple framerates is definitely there. the only real bottleneck would be data transfer/hard drive or disk speed (which is probably the one aspect of digital technology that improves faster than any other). and i assume that DLPs have a limit on how fast of a framerate they can operate, but i think i read somewhere that they can currently handle at least 60fps. anyone know for sure?
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#12 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 20 August 2005 - 02:33 PM

I used to work in a small multiplex as a projectionist. Every thursday when friday's releases came in 3 projectionist had to work almost all night to splice reels together, remove old trailers, splice in new ones, change the commercials and so on. Often on over 20 prints with the matinee's. That was a lot of work and cost the exhibitor a lot of money.

Somehow I think the exhibitors and the producers have to share on this one - because they both gain from getting away from using film prints.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



I'm a projectionist as well.I'm not sure if any money will be saved on labor here.Especially in places where they use non union projectionists.Most theaters in my state use ushers, concession stand people and managers to operate the projectors and build up and break down.

You would still need projectionist/engineers to run the new digital booths.Fewer people but since these are engineers they would be paid more.

I pretty sure we're seeing the death knoll for film projection.Prints are currently shipped out on the really flimsy break apart plastic reels and there are no projection booth standards anymore.I'm hoping digital projection will bring back some quality control.

I get a little pissed if I pay 10 bucks to see a scratched print that hops in the gate.
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#13 Dominic Case

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Posted 21 August 2005 - 07:42 PM

Every thursday when friday's releases came in 3 projectionist had to work almost all night to splice reels together, remove old trailers, splice in new ones, change the commercials and so on. Often on over 20 prints with the matinee's. That was a lot of work and cost the exhibitor a lot of money.


And the rest of the film-making exercise wasn't a lot of work? What is wrong with work? How will you - and countless others - earn a living when the labour component of film exhibition is reduced even more? All that money the exhibitor is supposedly saving on projectionists will be translated into "virtual print fees" (oh yes, the exhibitor and the distributor will both be paying just as much as now for the privilege of getting to use the new digital projectors and replacing them every time they become obsolete).

And where will those fees go? To pay the manufacturers for the equipment. Ultimately, someone is sitting in an electronics assembly factory somewhere in the world, getting paid piece rates with the money you won't be getting for making up prints.
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#14 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 12:08 AM

Things in this world change! I think it's time people got over it! Film will die as a projection format, it will even die as a capture format at some point. It's clear that it is not happening at this vary moment, but i think theaters are wating till we get a 4k projector system to really blow a film print out of the water.

Even digital will dies as a projection and capture format, only to be replaced by something new in the future... This is a world of change, and if your not on the boat, you'd better know how to swim really well!

no format that has been around 150 years is gonna last forever! Film is to clunky of a medium compared to digital. Sure, Film may make a better imagine, but it also requires more to process, more to move, more labor, more money, and so on. Industries like Hollywood don't care if the picture looks good, they want money! and when they see the first chance to make more money than they are currently making, they will jump at it.

;) just my $0.02 (Let the slamming begin)
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#15 Michael Most

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 12:36 AM

...but i think theaters are wating till we get a 4k projector system to really blow a film print out of the water.


Incorrect. Theaters are waiting until digital projection is a hell of a lot cheaper than it is right now. It has nothing to do with percieved quality, and everything to do with spending over $100,000 for a projector that will likely have to be replaced within a few short years, unlike the $30,000 film projector they've been able to use for the last 20 years. Just about everything related to electronic imaging is a money pit, in which obsolescence is encountered within a much shorter time frame than with the current system.

no format that has been around 150 years is gonna last forever!


How about oil painting? Drawing with pencil or charcoal on paper? What about stained glass? Forms of artistic expression are not obsoleted simply by virtue of age. They are obsoleted when other forms that are superior for the purpose come along to take their place. I'm not saying that I think film as we know it is going to last forever, but it has value beyond that which you happen to see. It's not just about production convenience, or even initial cost. It's about the delivered product that can become a studio asset if handled correctly, and about the ability of that product to service the markets of both the present and the future. Right now, film happens to do that very well, significantly better than any of the current alternatives. That's why it is continuing to survive, regardless of what you and some others here seem to think.
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#16 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 07:44 AM

First of all - it's an abolute myth that film prints can be kept scratch free if you just maintain the projectors. They get scratched the firts time you run them. Just lift up any film that has been run just once against an angle to the light and you'll see what I mean. That doesn't mean they're visible on the screen yet, but for every run they will accumulate and degrade image quality.

Also projectors and frame standstill relies on pressure plate pressure only - there are very few projectors outside of mixing booths that have reg pins and more gentle ways of pulling down the film than the maltese cross. That means in order to get the image to stand reasonably still (it never really does), you add more pressure which scratches the print even more.

As for Dominic:
I'd love to live in a world where more people could get employed, but we all know how it is today. Multiplexes have all but maximised their yield. When I worked in the multiplex I ran 6 screens by myself during the day, including the ushering. So in between getting everyone in, running to get cushions for the moms and kids on screen one, lowering the volume on screen 5, there's simply no way of checking the projectors until later when the films are running (they all had automated start sequences). And if just one bit of film had hopped out of its wheel on the way to or from the plate (on a non-rewind system) then chances were you had a severe scratch. It only happened to me once, but the less experienced or lazy projectionists scratched prints all the time.

Besides, being a linear format every change of programming, like changing a trailer on a non-rewind system (where all the films reels are cut together on a huge plate, feeding from the middle) is so labour intensive.

Another drawback: we once had a bulb blow on a screening. The projector continued to run until someone came out and told us that the screen is 'black but the sound still on'. Fine, we change the Xenon bulb as quickly as we can and resume, but we CAN'T rewind the film since it's a non-rewind system. You can't run backwards. This means that the audience had lost several minutes of the film on top of the bulb change that we can't show them unless they come back another time.

Another time the spindle on the feeding mechanism jammed when there was about 30 minutes left. Eventually the projector stopped. It had wound up some much film around it that there was no way we could solve the problem in less than 2 hours. It's not fun having to walk into a screening room with 350 people and tell them that the projector has broken down and that we unfortunately can't resolve the problem quickly. Even with double refunding and apologies we almost got lynched by the friday night mob.

Now in all fairness, these are multiplexes. On older or smaller screens they have two projectors and shift from reel to reel. In cinemas like that a rewind is a pretty fast thing and easy to do. But it's more labour intensive and therefore less appealing to multiplexes. And we all know where the masses go - to the multiplexes, unfortunately.

Projecting film is just a wildly stupid idea. Not to mention environmentally unfriendly. The only thing it has going for itself is that it's a standard and that the machinery is cheap - I can take my reel under my arm and fly anywhere in the world and get picture and sound on the screen.
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#17 Filip Plesha

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 11:06 AM

I hope that it wont look like a giant DVD transfer.
If it looks like a film print, I'll be glad to go and watch some movies.
But if it looks like a video transfer, only larger, then I'll stick with HD home video, by that time it will be the standard probably.
I go to cinema to see something that I can't see at home. At home I can see electronic presentations of films. I go to cinema because it is different from video presentations.
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#18 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 01:51 PM

I hope that it wont look like a giant DVD transfer.


But that is exactely what 2K DLP projection looks like, a huge lifeless LCD Screen.
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#19 Filip Plesha

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 02:19 PM

are you speaking from personal experience?
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#20 Steven Budden

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 05:39 PM

Projecting film is just a wildly stupid idea. Not to mention environmentally unfriendly. The only thing it has going for itself is that it's a standard and that the machinery is cheap - I can take my reel under my arm and fly anywhere in the world and get picture and sound on the screen.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

[/quote]

Hmm.... sounds like you're the man with the hammer?

I don't think it's wildly stupid. In fact, it seems completely logical. How else would a one project an image through film and onto a screen? Now that digital is here all previous technologies are "wildly stupid"? Ironically someone in the future will look on us now and call us wildly stupid for entrusting all of our most coveted masterworks to the finicky digital realm.

Steven
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