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Digital Cinema: Digitising The Movies

There is upheaval in the movie industry. More feature films are being shot with digital cameras and successfully transferred to 35mm film release prints with advanced technology. Surprisingly, film is still hanging in as a capture medium, due mainly to the pressure from cinematographers who claim that everyone wants that 'film look', while few set out to achieve that 'video look' in the cinema. Coming up fast on the inside is the 'digital look', as increasing numbers of cinemas around the world begin to install digital projection into their bio-boxes. Barrie Smith takes a look into the popcorn and choc-top world of the digital cinema revolution.

By Barrie Smith

Depending on who you ask, the cinema industry, as distinct from the production side, is under challenge – from metre-plus LCD and Plasma 16:9 home screens — or it’s not under challenge, thanks to a flood of successful block-busters.

These are pulling millions of dollars from patrons happy to travel to a multiplex, sit in the dark with a crowd and enjoy the movie experience after paying $16 plus for each ticket.

The Australian figures are revealing: In its 10 week run Batman’s Dark Knight pulled $45 million while Mamma Mia! did $30 million in a similar period. Movies make money. Buckets of it.

The two thousand cinemas that constitute the Australian exhibition industry all have film projectors, mostly 35mm models that have served operators well for decades.

The principle of 35mm projection has remained basically unchanged since 1895, when the brothers Lumiere held their first public movie screening, at Paris’s Salon Indien du Grand Café. Wise minds would say "Don’t mess with it. It works."

That makes you wonder why there is a push to digital cinema. To find out, why I spoke to some industry players busy trundling digital projection gear into cinemas across the nation.


A man who could easily be described as the head of the push (to digital cinema) is Kodak’s Asia Pacific Digital Cinema manager David Sanderson. I asked him why we needed digital cinema.

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