CJ@IBC ‘Life of Pi’ in Christie 6P laser 14 ftL 3D with Dolby Atmos

image

The IBC movie night screenings have always been an opportunity to showcase the latest advances in big screen technology, while also giving IBC attendees a bit of blockbuster fun. This year was a technology world first that made a big impression on everyone attending.

Thanks to tremendous support from IBC’s technology, integration and content partners, we were treated to a 3D presentation of an unsurprassed quality. Thanks to the use of Christie’s new 6P laser-illuminated projector, over 40 speakers from QSC, Dolby Atmos immersive audio and a DCP of 20th Century Fox’s multi-Oscar winning ‘Life of Pi’ graded especially for 14 footlamberts (ftL) 3D brightness, projected onto a 1.0 gain matt screen, it showcased something that no public audience had yet seen before, as IBC Big Screen Experience producer Julian Pinn explained on stage.

Two years ago Christie first showa ased its laser projectors at IBC with a secial screening of ‘Hugo’, but that was off a silver screen with an 1.8 gain. Back then there was no immersive audio (either Atmos or Auro), so this presentation raised the bar in several regards. While not new, the film was an excellent choice, not least given that it had won Academy Awards for best Cinematography, Visual Effects and Music.

Watching it I was not so much immediately struck by the brightness but by the colours, details and clarity. It is a cliche to talk about ‘looking through a window’ but that is what it felt like as the camera panned through the Pondicherry zoo over the opening credits. Yes, it was bright as you would expect a sunny day in southern India to be, but the brightness felt natural. But brightness is only something that you consciously appreciate when it is not there – as will be the case with future 3D films I watch in regular cinemas.

The audio was equally impressive, not least because of a terrific mix that was as nuanced in the stormy sea scenes with the ship sinking as the quieter moments that picked out individual sounds of animals. The combines effect was such that almost nobody in the audience (who filled the big RAI Auditorium) got up to leave once the film had started. For a Saturday night in Amsterdam, that is truly impressive.

Read More »

CJ@IBC ‘Tri-focal Camera Systems – Will Hybrid 3D prove to be the ultimate 3D?’

image

The war between stereoscopic purists who insist on filming with two cameras and those that prefer the control and convenience of 2D-to-3D conversion could soon draw to an end with the best of both worlds in the form of the hybrid Tri-focal camera system, which IBC Big Screen audiences were offered a sneak peak of.

Howard Lukk (formerly with Disney & Pixar, now Director Pannon Entertainment, USA) bounced up to stage to give  brief introduction and why when he was at Disney they got into it. Having worked on the tech side of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus they quickly became aware of the problems and limitations of shooting native 3D. “I was awfully jealous of the guys at animation who could render it out in 3D,” he confessed.  “Is there a new paradigm,” he asked, and that is what lead to it.

At the same time Fraunhofer was working on a camera that pointed the way to hybrid 3D, with a prototype Arri with two side cameras. The Gen 3 camera was the one taken out into the real world (Berlin, if you will) and shot the short film that we were about to see.

Johannes Steurer (Principal Engineer, Arri Cine Technik, Germany) next took to the stage to explains how Arri came around to “stereo unaware” solutions with hybrid 3D based on the Alexa camer. Primary camera = established cine style digital camera. Two auxiliary cameras = small leightweight non-intrusive.

Synchronized recording of all three camera streams was critical. Coarse alignment by mechanical adjustment, fine alignment took place by stereo analyzer software (STAN). (Too much technical detail to do it all justice. Hopefully Arri will publish a white paper for those interested). He concluded with a picture of the camera, which at 10 kg wasn’t (yet) significantly more elegant than native 3D cameras.

Read More »

CJ@IBC ‘Event Cinema – more than just TV on the Big Screen’

image

The burgeoning field of event cinema (nee ‘alternative content’) is highly topical for the IBC Big Screen Experience, as the larger IBC conference straddles the worlds of content produced, distributed and displayed for all size screens. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the co-producers for this session, though more credit should go to my co-producer Peter Wilson who did the greater job of assembling the crack team of speakers and practitioners.

The session was developed in close co-operation with the Event Cinema Association (ECA), which in the last 18-24 months has become a major force for the event cinema industry in terms of giving it a voice, focus and profile internationally. ECA has its own event on 16 October in London, so IBC was very fortunate that Peter and Melissa made time so close to their own big day.

The session is chaired by event cinema legend Mark Schubin (Schubin’s Cafe, USA), who has been the technical Wizard behind the curtains (actually in the OB van) of the Metropolitan Opera since its first live cinema transmission and also the world leading expert on the history of electronic opera (and its relation to baseball).

The session has several distinguished speakers, lots of content and (of course) barely enough time to do it all ful justice, despite Schubin doing a great job of keeping everyone to their time. Please pardon spelling errors as I’m doing tripple duty of reporting, tweeting and floor managing at the same time.

The session was opened by Melissa Cogavin (nee Keeping, Managing Director, Event Cinema Association, UK) who played the event cinema trailer that showcased the range and depth of what’s been in cinemas in the last 12 months: ‘Your Cinema – Event Cinema’. She began by asking what “alternative is, givent that event cinema was previously known as ‘alternative content’.'  She noted that 1,500 cinemas showed Doctor Who and grossed over GBP 10 million. “Event cinema is the fastest growing category at the box office. It is headed for being a billion dollar business,” she said. “For something considered ‘alterntive’ that’s pretty amazing.” She talked about ‘demystifying’ the process, to which end they (ECA) are publishing the technical handbook this autumn. 

Read More »

CJ@IBC ‘Big Screen and Second Screen – can they coexist peacefully and profitably?’

image

This IBC Big Screen session looks at how to turn the No. 1 irritant of modern cinema into something that enhances both revenue for cinema operators and enjoyment for the greater audience.

Given that there are people who have been shot and killed for using their smartphone in a cinema, this is a highly topical discussion, with some leading practitioners and experts assembled to give their view and demonstrating some cutting edge innovations.

Expect this session to go beyond the customary “now please tun ON your phone” jokes , though sadly there won’t be any demonstrations of the cinema ‘barrage’ types of big screen interactivity that have been making waves in China and beyond recently.

Chaired by Julian Pinn (of Julian Pinn Ltd.) he promised that the IBC Big Screen Experience would be “digging into the art, science and business of not just the big screen but also home and second screen.” He pointed out that for a long time we talked about digital cinema, “but now we will be talking about ‘disruptive cinema.’” (Then comes the ‘turn ON your phones ‘ joke – no escaping it.)

“How did we get here?”

Julian asks each of the panelists, “How did we get here?” not least given that cinema advertising was always about reels of 35mm ads. DCM’s Evea starts off by saying that “now that cinema have gone digital, they have become much more relevant for brands.” And with the advent of mobile, “it means that custmers can take the experience back with them.” He also stresses that cinema is the ultimate social medium. Mike from UK competitor Pearl & Dean observes that cinema audiences are not distracted and receptible to brand communication already in the cinema lobby.

Scarratt from Yummi says that apps and platforms like Yummi add value to the advertising experience. Shazam’s Weedon points out that using smartphones in cinemas is a “natural evolution of consumer behavior, starting with consumers having one screen. Now there is an intelligence between the first and second screen. This word, engagment, makes me wonder what we ever did without it” The formal presentations then started.

Read More »

CJ@IBC ‘High Dynamic Range imaging – contrasting views?’

IMG_1665.JPG

The quest for better-(not-just-more)-pixels is a big theme at this year’s IBC conference – primarily for television but with major implications for film and cinema too. For anyone thinking of buying a 4K/UHD TV, this is the session that tells you to wait until more than just the resolution of the big television sets improves.

Session chair Alberto Morello (RAI, Italy) calls this one of the “most interesting development in the evolution of video.” He singles out (more) pixels, (higher) frame rate and HDR (high dynamic range) as the things that “will give pleasure” to our viewers.

Touradj Ebrahimi (EPFL, Switzerland) goes up to the podium first to present an overview of the topic. He starts off by confessing to being an IBC virgin, but being ‘impressed’. Prof Ebrahimi stresses the importance of being able to measure to quantify improvements such as HDR.

Tests used Dolby Pulsar Display 42″, calling Dolby their “good friend” who “defined past, present and probably future” of high quality innovation. For content they “begged again” and Dolby provided that as well. Test material was shown sequentially and side-by-side in four different grades/mappings (4,000, 1,000, 400 and 100 nit). Appropriately one of the pieces of content was “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, but he wasn’t authorised to show that to us.
Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 9 September 2014

AMC Wanda logo

‘AMC Is A Ticking Time Bomb’, Seeking Alpha’s article headline yells. Not quite as dire, but it does raise some pertinent questions about AMC’s long term financing. No mention of the summer slate of 2015 but just a penetrating look at the underlying profit, margin, borrowing, yield and re-financing numbers.

So why are investors willing to pay 22x Forward PE? Is the growth potential really that strong? Revenues has not indicated so. AMC’s profitability is not exactly very decent either – the company earned 2% net income margin for the H1 2014 compared to 3.8% a year ago. What about RGC? Same story.

A large portion of AMC’s earnings is actually paid to debt holders. AMC paid $57.6m in interest expenses compared to its net income of $26.9m during the first half of 2014.

And it is a hefty bill that shareholders have to foot.  LINK

Don’t forget though that AMC is 80% owned by Wanda, so whatever risks other shareholders are exposed to, Wanda carries four times that risk. So Wanda will not let AMC shares tank while it re-structures its planned IPO for Wanda’s Chinese cinema business, which may or may not take place in the US.

Get on Up

Universal has announced that it will henceforth support subtitling and audio description for all of its Hollywood releases in Germany.

Universal will provide cinemas in Germany with international films with subtitles and audio description in future. The first will be the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” on October 9. As stated in a press release co-authored with providers of the app Greta & Stark, this access will be provided for five new Universal releases, with subtitles and audio description in cinemas available in combination with this free smartphone app. In addition to “Get On Up”, these are the Stephen Hawking-biopic “The Theory of Everything”, “In The Labyrinth of Silence”, “Trash” and “Alles ist Liebe” (“All is Love”).  LINK

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 8 September 2014

Jerome Seydoux Pathe Paris

Paris is about to see the opening of a museum by the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation, which will showcase the evolution of cinema through the Pathé film company’s history. The 2,200 square meter building itself looks hugely impressive (even if it makes people think of a ‘giant glass slug’), perhaps no surprise as it was designed by ‘starchitect’ Renzo Piano.

“Pathé was the first to make cinema into an international industry,” says cinema historian Anne Gourdet-Marès, who is in charge of the equipment section. “Pathé was a visionary, surrounding himself with engineers who could turn his ideas into equipment, like the Pathéscope or the Pathé Baby which dates from 1922. The initial studies for this camera were developed secretly with English engineers. ”

One of the draws of the Foundation, designed by the same architect who designed The Shard in London or the New York Times newspaper building, is its cosy 68-seater screening hall, equipped two 35mm projectors and a digital one – because of course the Foundation is involved in restoring and digitalising film.

A black piano at the foot of the screen is not just for show.  LINK

Cinema France

Reassuring then to know that cinema remains the favourite cultural activity of the French.

Over the past twelve months, the cinema topped the ranking with 72% against 42% for museums and 32% for concerts after LH2 study mareduc.com.

Cinemas attract 90% of 15-24 years, while 65 and older prefer the museum and exhibitions.

Next budget, the study says that more than six out of ten French, 65% spend less than 50 € monthly in cultural outings budget.  LINK

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 5 September 2014

Selfridge cinema

London’s luxury department store Selfridges (star of the ITV drama series about its eponymous American founder) will be one of the first stores in the world to have its own in-house cinema. We like the look of it so much that we even break our usual policy of only posting on photo per story to show you both the outside (above) and inside (below) – so no artwork for China BO.

Selfridges opens the world’s first department store cinema in its iconic Oxford Street store today, which will screen classic and contemporary films.

Selfridges has teamed up with the independent chain Everyman to install the 60-seat 3,500 sq ft experience, located on the store’s lower-ground floor.

The cinema, which will be at Selfridges until spring 2015, will initially screen films selected by designers from the store’s Masters campaign, which showcases the work of 12 influential designers such as Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta.  LINK

Selfridge cinema

China (PRC) – Chinese Mainland box office it set to pass USD $5 billion this year, according to THR.

China’s box office has just passed the key 20 billion yuan ($3.26 billion) threshold, a full three months faster than last year, and is already swiftly approaching last year’s $3.55 billion total.

With a raft of major Hollywood and domestic titles still to come this year in the world’s second-biggest film market, box office is on track for $5 billion in full-year 2014, according to M1905, which is the official website of the state broadcaster’s movie channel, CCTV6.

It took 246 days to break through the 20-billion-yuan marker, which is 96 days faster than last year.  LINK

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 4 September

 

IBC

IBC is less than a week away and the IBC Big Screen Experience (free for all attendees!) will hear an urgent appeal for digital cinema manufacturers, exhibitors and others to resolve the vexing issue of software upgrades.

John Hurst, co-founder and CTO of CineCert, LLC internationally recognized developer of D-Cinema technology based in California, will be presenting at the Global D-Cinema Update Session at IBC a call to action to all digital cinema stakeholders to resolve delays in deployment of software upgrades on installed digital cinema systems globally.

During the session hosted by the European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF), panelists will discuss the effect of out of date software on global cinema operations and the barriers to upgrade which keep many cinemas on legacy versions. John Hurst will explain the importance of upgrading software on legacy systems and will explore barriers to upgrades including the financial and operational issues that are preventing cinemas from deploying new versions.  LINK

Paragon Theatres

A fascinating look at one of the true pioneers in terms of VIP food cinemas. I had read that for a long time Disney held out against cinemas serving alcohol, but didn’t know that Paramount was the first studio to program films in cinemas that did.

In 1993 on Marco Island, restaurateur Nick Campo and his partners built a movie theater so different it would be 10 years before the National Association of Theatre Owners gave the theater, and its emulators, a category: first-run food theaters. Although food had been served at showings of old movies in retrofitted, abandoned theaters in college towns, Marco Movies was the first theater in the country that was purpose built specifically for serving quality food to audiences in posh auditoriums during showings of first-run films.

The concept proved so successful that Campo and his partners built the Beach Theater on Fort Myers Beach in 1999. But first, the partners had to overcome resistance from the studios. Campo said that at the time his Marco location opened, the contract that theater owners had to sign to obtain first-run movies from the studios stipulated no food or alcoholic beverages could be served. He said Paramount Pictures was the only studio that didn’t have the prohibitive clause, so he started by showing Paramount films.  LINK

Read More »