Category Archives: Technology

Audience Entertainment Is Helping Moviegoers Become A Part of the Story

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Now that the worldwide digital cinema rollout is nearing completion, with most of North America and a majority of Europe and Asia converted, companies, business models and content will begin to emerge that exploit the capabilities and benefits of the new technology.

One such entity you can expect to be hearing about at this year’s CinemaCon and in the months that follow is Audience Entertainment. The company creates branded entertainment which large groups can interact with in unison. To date, Audience Entertainment has worked mostly on interactive games for ad campaigns that are played in movie theatres, concerts and special events. Barry Grieff is the CEO of the company, which he founded in 2009.

If Grieff’s name sounds familiar there may be good reason. During a decades long career in the entertainment industry, Grief has held a number of positions in a all areas of the business. He started out as the National Advertising Director for National Lampoon and went on to work as a senior executive in music for A&M Records and as a Vice President of Marketing at ABC Records. He’s even been the President of Lorne Michaels’ production company Broadway Video. Back in 1984 he produced “Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse” which was the first interactive laser disc for Pioneer as a showcase for the new digital medium.

“Treasure” was actually an interactive game that sent viewers out in search of a golden horse worth USD $500,000 that had been buried somewhere out in the world. It very well might be one of the earliest examples of transmedia, since it was released on multiple platforms including theatrically, on television, and on laser disc.

As Grief explained during an in-depth conversation a week before CinemaCon, it was this early experience with interactive content that ultimately led to Audience Entertainment. After several years of trials, tests and one-off productions, the company is ready to launch in earnest. To help the company grow its platform in cinemas around the world, Audience Entertainment recently announced a deal with Barco, the digital cinema projector manufacturer. The strategic partnership is part of the latter company’s new CinemaBarco suite of product offerings.

Celluloid Junkie: Maybe it’s best to start at the very beginning of your career since you’ve had several different focuses throughout your professional history. Is your varied experience an asset when it comes to Audience Entertainment?

Barry Grieff: Absolutely. Unlike someone that’s been in a distribution system their entire career, it’s more difficult for them to see the benefits and the pitfalls of that. I’m more agnostic about that. I look at things and say, “There are all these distribution channels, why limit yourself to just this one.” So, I think my lack of holding a job is a good thing.

CJ: Did the concept for Audience Entertainment originally come from your work with Pioneer in the 1980s? That kind of interactive entertainment was a little ahead of its time, so what was it that stuck with you for more than 20 years to want to expand on the idea?

BG: What I saw with “Treasure” was that this game was used by schools, by teachers, it taught geography, it taught logic, it taught math, because the puzzles were all interesting. I saw involvement at a level I had never seen in previously passive kinds of media and I was intrigued by it. But there was no real future because nothing was digital yet. I kind of held onto that idea hoping that someday this would be possible. Then a couple years before I started Audience Entertainment, I was heading a company called the Brand Experience Lab. We had technologies from different universities and folks around the world that they were looking to showcase to marketers. We had a 3D printer, we had holograms, we had virtual reality, but nobody knew what to do with it. What I saw was incredible interest from everybody. During that period we ran into a technology, which is motion capture, which is what we’re using now. One of the clients that came into the lab saw it and said, “Hey that’s really interesting could you do that in the movie theatre?” And it hadn’t occurred to us prior to that so I said, “I don’t see why not”.

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Film Enters Its Vinyl (not Final) Age; Deluxe Closes Denham Lab as Cinelab and i-dailies Step In

DenhamDeluxe1970s

Deluxe Lab Denham 1970s

The news that Deluxe is shutting its Denham lab on the outskirts of London is not so much  another nail in the coffin of film as the announcement of the door-closing-ceremony long after the horse had bolted. Deluxe Denham had allegedly not been processing original camera negative for some time (as part of the world-wide agreement with Technicolor), while Technicolor shut down their processing operations at Pinewood in April 2013. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse was in fact one of the last major Hollywood studio films to be processed there.

Yet film lives on as two London boutique labs are now set to take centre stage, following Deluxe and Technicolor’s withdrawal from this market.

The formal closure of Deluxe’s facility on North Orbital Road in Denham, near the London suburb of Uxbridge, will be this Friday 21 March. The announcement was anticipated and comes just a week after the news that Deluxe is closing its Hollywood lab on 9 May. The e-mail notifying Deluxe’s clients went out on 19 February, but caught nobody by surprise, as the lab had already gone from three shifts to one. Industry sources say that Deluxe’s Denham staff were put on 30-day notice late last year, with redundancies in two waves in December last year and 14 February this year.

The Denham lab handled front-end processing rather than release prints, which Deluxe shifted to the Deluxe lab in Rome and Barcelona several years ago. It is likely to continue operating Deluxe Barcelona for at least a couple more years, as it is the company’s most state-of-the-art facility and capable of handling around 40 prints per day. This is probably the most that is needed in an ever-dwindling 35mm release print market as digital cinema roll-out approaches completion in most European territories.

While the closure of the 78-year old lab will unleash a wave of nostalgia and pontifications about the ‘death of film’, those of us who worked for Deluxe [full disclosure: I had my employment interview in the Denham building] knew that the company had been wanting to sell the building even before digital became a serious challenge to 35mm. Deluxe is rightly proud of its heritage, but has never been sentimental about bricks and mortar. The move also does not heralb the death of film, as we will soon see, only the end of Deluxe’s association with the lab business in the UK.

A Real-Estate, Not Film, Announcement

Deluxe has been looking to move out of Denham for a long time and sell off the land to property developers in what is now a prime area of suburban London. There were just two problems; the building was just too historic and the ground too polluted. How historic? John Pardey Architects know:

The DeLuxe (formerly Rank) Film Processing Laboratory is a Grade II listed building designed in 1936 by Walter Gropius [!] and Max Fry that will become redundant when Deluxe move their facilities to purpose-built digital facilities at Pinewood. The design proposed a new residential development on the site.

JPA in fact published a plan (called Denham DeLuxe – PDF link) for converting the Denham lab several years ago, with a contract value of GBP £42 million, where they set out:

The masterplan generates 62 houses and 136 apartments whilst the existing building is converted to contain 48 apartments. This project, as with the Oaklands College building conversions has allowed us to develop ways of making valuable listed modern buildings gain new life through subtle interventions that provide accessibility and energy efficiency – a ‘look no hands’ approach that retains architectural integrity of the original yet reveals a new layer within.

The scheme gained listed building and planning consents as far back as April 2008.

The writing was on the wall in 2011 when Technicolor and Deluxe announced an unprecedented tie-up to merge film processing facilities world-wide, which also involved the closing of Deluxe’s Soho Lab in London, in the face of the growth of digital film cameras and projectors. As Deluxe’s operations and engineering manager, Colin Flight, is quoted in  GetWestLondon, “It’s not unexpected, and it has been a steady process getting to this stage.”

So why the long wait? Moving film out was comparatively easy; it was making the site ready to be sold that presents more of a challenge. As an industrial facility with tons of chemicals used every year the ground and soil in Denham supposedly suffered significant pollution. While today’s processing chemicals are safe and Deluxe has not violated any environmental norms, it must be remembered that the lab has been operating for 78 years. Back when the lab first started, health and safety standards were far more lax.

Not The End of Film

Film labs closing is sad but won’t come as a shock to anyone working in the industry. Film is doomed as a distribution medium, but far from dead as an acquisition medium. The news from Deluxe comes at a time when film enters its vinyl age, one where it is being kept alive by enthusiasts and directors who feel that there are aesthetic reasons for shooting on film. And we don’t just mean Christopher Nolan, who presented the Scientific and Technical Oscar to the world’s collective film lab technicians last month.

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Digital Cinema is Still Failing Deaf Patrons

12 Years A Slave with Captions

Who remembers Dolby’s ScreenTalk ? Ten years ago it was a revolutionary system whereby using a small projector subtitles could be projected onto the bottom of a screen showing 35mm film, or displayed through a reflective system mounted at the rear of the cinema, enabling deaf and hearing impaired cinema patrons to enjoy the latest film releases. (It also enabled real-time audio descriptions for the visually impaired.) This eliminated the needed for special and costly 35mm prints with subtitles in English laser burnt in.

At a time when DVDs and television captioning were giving deaf people the ability to enjoy films like never before, it seemed the cinema was finally not too far behind. Yet ScreenTalk never took off in a major way, primarily because digital cinema was ‘just around the corner’ and with it, the promise of subtitling ANY show at ZERO extra cost.

It has taken another decade for digital cinema to become ubiquitous, but surely it has been worth the wait for deaf patrons? Sadly, the reality today is that cinemas are still very much failing deaf and hearing impaired patrons, despite there being no technical obstacles to subtitling film screenings.

This issue was first highlighted in 2011 by Charlie Swinbourne in a Guardian article called “Cinemas are letting deaf people down” where he pointed out that “Subtitled screenings are unreliable and hard to find, but digital technology means cinemas now have little excuse,” even though less than half of all cinemas in the UK were digital at the time.

He asks us to imagine going to a film screening where the sound ends up not working, cinema staff try to fix it, fail and issue you with an apology and a comp ticket. That’s all too often what happened with subtitles for deaf patrons.

For deaf people, the chain of events I’ve described isn’t just a one-off – it’s happened to nearly every deaf cinema-goer I know. Except it’s not the sound that goes missing, it’s subtitles. Which we need to understand the film. Right now, deaf film fans have very little trust left in cinema chains, and many people I know have stopped bothering; they prefer to watch DVDs (or, ahem, downloads) at home.

He highlights the case of members of a Facebook group called ‘Deaf people are alive 7 days a week, not just Sunday/Monday/Tuesday’ set up by frustrated deaf and hearing impaired cinema fans.

Another of the [Facebook] group’s members, Martin Griffiths, told me that three out of his last four visits to his local cinema in Cardiff ended without him seeing the advertised subtitled film. While his ticket was refunded, his travel and time were not compensated for.

Missing a film might not seem like a big deal, but I know deaf people who’ve been let down on special occasions, or couples who’ve booked a babysitter so they can have their first night out in months, only to return home early, disappointed. As Woolfe says, “the reluctance to improve the service for deaf film fans is extraordinary. It’s almost a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude. We have a right to much better access.”

So three years on, with all cinemas digitised and subtitling more established you would think that this would be sorted. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

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10 Reasons Why Dolby’s Atmos Will Bypass Your Living Room for Your Headphones

Right from its launch, Dolby has made no secret of the fact that it sees a business for its Atmos immersive audio (IA) technology beyond the cinema. Part of the grand plan was just revealed at the Mobile World Congress currently underway in Barcelona – and it is a very different path from that of rival Auro. Put it this way, DON’T hold your breath for Pioneer to come out with a Dolby Atmos home cinema amplifier but DO expect Samsung’s Galaxy 6/7 to feature AtmosM.

Everyone knows by now that Dolby and Barco are locked into a struggle about who will dominate the next generation of digital audio in cinemas, with the object-based Atmos fighting against the 11.1 Auro. So far the fight has largely gone Dolby’s way, with Atmos screens outnumbering Auro by a factor of 4 to 1, though with some countries such as India being more inclined to embrace Auro.

With Dolby in full control of the Atmos technology and patents, they can afford to bide their time a bit more and build up a larger footprint (earprint?) in cinemas. Particularly following the deal to acquire Doremi, which will help them expand and disadvantage Barco/Auro. Barco, meanwhile, only controls the Auro technology as it relates to cinemas and the patent owners are starting to look at consumer markets such as home cinema and automobiles.

When we asked the question a month ago ‘Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?‘ we quickly got a response from Auro Technologies saying “we’re happy to confirm that Auro has no plans to step away from the cinema market: quite the contrary in fact. We’re confident that expanding into the consumer market will only strengthen our growing presence in cinema.” The idea is that with more films mixed in Auro 11.1 and seen and heard that way in the home, people will want to experience it the same way in cinemas.

The logic makes some sense, if you consider that consumers who chose Dolby 5.1 in the home did have a positive influence on demanding the same or better in the cinema. However, it also points to the two-front battle that both Dolby and Barco/Auro are waging in the Immersive Audio War. One is to get take up in cinemas and beyond, the second is to get content owners to make their films, television shows and games mixed and encoded in their flavour of IA. Here both are sparing no effort in snaring the best content and creatives, with both Barco and Auro engaged in not just Hollywood but getting films, mixing facilities, preview theatres, directors and audio engineers in countries such as France, India and China familiarised and equipped with their technology. Content is very much King in this battle.

But when it comes to the consumer, the battle lines are drawn quite different, as we will see.

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Op-Ed: High Frame Rate (HFR) – A New Era in Cinema (Guest Column)

JamesGpic This article will look at how high frame rate (HFR) may effect cinema exhibition and why it is a very important development.

HFR or “High Frame Rate” is a term that came into common use because of the introduction of 48-3D (96fps) and 60-3D (120fps) presentations to improve 3D by making fast moving action appear more smooth and thus reducing the likelihood of headaches. The real meaning, as indicated by SMPTE Committee members, is any content with a frame rate higher than 24fps in 2D or 3D (i.e. 25, 30, 48, 60, 96 and 120). The more general acceptance of the term is frame rates faster than typical frame rates in common use today (48, 50, 60, 96 or 120 in 2D or 3D)

Why It’s Important to Exhibition

The first thing to understand about HFR is its major importance to exhibition. As has been demonstrated by the moves to sound, colour, widescreen, digital audio and stereoscopic 3D, exhibition is always looking for a point of difference. Most importantly, one that can only be seen in cinemas.

HFR is suited to fill this need for several reasons. For a start, HFR works well for 2D as well as 3D, with problems with current 3D greatly improved by HFR. As HFR in the home is problematic, it is likely to take long time to appear in the hem, thus giving exhibition a reasonable window where HFR can be a cinema- only experience.

There is demonstrable demand for HFR as exhibitors doubled the number of HFR screens in the course of the last year, as cinema goers clearly want HFR when offered it. Most digital cinema installs (Series 2 Projectors onwards) can do 48/60fps 2D HFR today.

By way of contrast in the home, DVD cannot support HFR and BluRay (BD) support is questionable. (BD is supposed to support HFR at 1280×720 as a standard, but this is not implemented on many BluRay players). The industry would not consider it a serious or reliable way to distribute films. The implementation of HFR as a domestic SMPTE standard would most likely take a very long time, especially after the efforts of doing it with 3D failed. Optical discs as a distribution medium for HFR content is anyway in doubt with streaming (Netflix et al) coming on strong, meaning that such a standard may never happen.

Streaming HFR, like 4K is not really viable as it requires too much data and is too limited a market to really bother. HFR and 4K for the home are in a limbo. The result is that HFR in domestic and home is a long way off while in cinema we have it today.

Is HFR popular? (Pros and Cons)

In its first cinema appearance HFR was universally slammed by “Movie Critics”, while the long term movie industry community appeared uncomfortable with the ‘change’ that it represented. Hobbit 1 was too much ‘change’ all at once for cinema aficionados. Yet this changed when it came to the second Hobbit films.

As quoted in the Variety article “Peter Jackson: High Frame Rate 3D Look Improved on ‘Smaug’” the director is quoted as admitting that he took some of the criticisms of the first film to heart:

“It was interesting to try to interpret what people’s reaction was,” he says. He concluded the problem was that the image looked like HD video, and was simply sharper than people are used to in cinema. “So what I did is work that in reverse,” says Jackson. “When I did the color timing this year, the color grading, I spent a lot of time experimenting with ways we could soften the image and make it look a bit more filmic. Not more like 35 mm film necessarily, but just to take the HD quality away from it, which I think I did reasonably successfully.” ??

“The film speed and the look of the picture are almost, kind of, two different things,” he says.

Despite this initial backlash, Warner Bros’ President of domestic distribution Dan Fellman claims that HFR screens “overperformed” on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This is backed up by the fact that exhibitors installed near double the number of HFR screens for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug due to high demand – US Hobbit 1 was 426 screens in HFR, while for Hobbit 2 demand raised total HFR screen count to 812. Add to this that HFR screens have a higher screen average box office takings and it is clear that patrons want HFR. HFR is particularly popular with younger audience, in part due to 60fps being the norm for computer and console game playing.

 

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Sundance Walks A Fine Line With New eWaitlist System

Sundance Film Festival eWaitlist

Purchasing or acquiring tickets for the Sundance Film Festival has never been an easy endeavor, whether for patrons or for the event’s staff. An estimated 50,000 attendees clamor each year for tickets to hundreds of showings of more than 200 films officially selected by festival programmers. Screenings take place in at least 18 different cinemas spread out geographically from Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

As if the programming and venue choice wasn’t complex enough, Sundance has numerous ticket packages that attendees can select; packages for the full festival, VIPs, corporations, students, film industry executives and even local residents, to name just a few. Add to all of this the strict schedule throughout every autumn when most tickets and packages must be purchased and its easy to see why Sundance is hardly for the casual moviegoer.

For those who aren’t lucky enough to nab tickets before the festival, or who aren’t accredited as members of the press corps, there is still hope for seeing some of the most buzzed about films at Sundance each year. Any unsold tickets can be purchased same-day for USD $20 at specific festival box offices, or alternatively you can take your shot through the waitlist for each screening and pay only USD $15.

In years past, “waitlisting” a screening often meant standing in line up to two (and in rare occasions three) hours ahead of time to get a waitlist number, usually in frigid temperatures. This didn’t necessarily guarantee entrance however, since pass and ticket holders might fill up the venue leaving those on the waitlist literally out in the cold. The process was less than optimal and not much fun, though at times one could form friendships or business relationships in a Sundance waitlist line.

This year the festival is trying something new for waitlists to help avoid the hassle of standing in line for hours. Sundance has created an eWaitlist system enabling festival patrons to reserve a spot in line for screenings of specific films up to two hours in advance of their start time. Festival goers who have registered for the service can use the Sundance mobile app, a special Internet site or strategically placed self-serve kiosks to obtain a waitlist number. Attendees can even reserve a waitlist number with a friend, essentially making two reservations at once. Then, all they have to do is show up at the theatre where the film is showing no less than a half hour before it starts and find their spot in the waitlist line based on the number they were issued.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. Not only is the whole process new to Sundance veterans and rookies alike, it requires numerous steps every time a reservation is made. The festival’s eWaitlist page is chock full of details and there is even a four minute instructional video on how to use the system:

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When the festival began on January 16th, and throughout the first weekend of the event, the eWaitlist system was continuously down or inaccessible. When one was lucky enough to pull it up on their computer or mobile device, all available waitlist numbers disappeared within seconds as each screening’s reservations were opened up. If you weren’t online trying to reserve a number exactly two hours before a showing, when the eWatlist for the screening opened for reservations, you’d be shutout.

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MPAA Agent Bob Hope Detains Man For Wearing Google Glass in Ohio Cinema

Sergei Brin with Google Glass

Not the man accosted by the FBI.

It was only two weeks ago that we predicted the day would come when people would be wearing Google Glass in cinemas and be able to record an entire movie. That future has already arrived sooner than we expected.

Over the weekend of January 18th an un-named man went to see “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” in Columbia, Ohio and ended up feeling the full wrath of the law for appearing to ignore the FBI warning that says making an illegal recording of a film is a crime. The man wrote a first-person account in The Gadgeteer about what happened:

I went to AMC (Easton Mall, Columbus, OH) to watch a movie with my wife (non- Google Glass user). It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion.

Because I don’t want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops. Since I didn’t catch his name in the dark of the theater, I asked to see his badge again and I asked what was the problem and I asked for my Glass back. The response was “you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie”.

He tried to explain that the Google Glass had been turned off and that he needed the prescription glasses to watch the film. This did not seem to impress the officials, who further confiscated his work and personal phones, as well as his wallet. After 20-30 minutes of questioning outside the cinema he was promptly hauled off and taken in for questioning at the mall’s security room.

What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it. I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.

Eventually they brought in a laptop and USB cable, telling the man that this was his final chance to ‘come clean’. After he insisted that he had done nothing wrong, they plugged in the computer, downloaded and went through the photos and five minutes later realized that there was no Jack Ryan recorded on the new fangled device; one which would not have looked out of place in Q’s gadget lab in a James Bond movie.

I asked why didn’t they just take those five minutes at the beginning of the interrogation and they just left the room. A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes “so I can see the movie again”. I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.

Interesting to note that digital cinema watermarking on pirated films had obviously flagged up previous instances of piracy, which is why the authorities must have responded as quickly as they did in this instance. And by ‘Movie Association’ does he mean the MPAA? It would seem so.

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Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?

Auro Technologies surprised the cinema industry by announcing partnerships for bringing its immersive audio format to the home cinema market at the recently concluded CES. With only some 100 systems installed in cinemas around the world it would seem early for a switch of focus to the home. However, underpinning the announcement is a complex control structure and ownership of the technology and brand by Barco, Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema) and Galaxy Studios. The question is what impact the announcement will have on future Auro cinema deployments.

The announcement itself is very straightforward in laying out the plan for conquering not just the home cinema, but also the car and mobile markets:

After the successful introduction of its technology in the digital cinema market, Auro Technologies announces the introduction of the immersive Auro-3D® audio experience into the consumer electronics market…Since the introduction of Auro 9.1 and Auro 10.1 at the AES Convention in Paris and San Francisco in 2006, the cinematic speaker layout Auro 11.1 was successfully launched in 2010 (Tokyo, AES Spatial Audio Convention), thanks to the great contribution of Barco, market leader in professional digital projectors and Auro Technologies’ exclusive partner for digital cinema. Until now, Auro-3D® has only been available to the public in professional cinemas equipped with Auro 11.1 by Barco around the world. Now, together with its official partners, Auro Technologies is pioneering once again and the first now to bring its revolutionary 3D Audio technology to all consumer markets.

Auro Technologies then sent out separate press releases the following days announcing the key partnerships, including the one with Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema), whose sound processor is at the heart of the Auro system:

The deal will see the companies collaborate in the development of a range of processors incorporating the Auro-3D® immersive sound format. The new processors will make Auro-3D® available across price points from entry level to high-end home cinema.

The technology partnership agreement builds upon the Auro-3D® license agreement that the companies signed in September 2013. The previous agreement brought Auro-3D® to high-end home cinema with its integration into the award-winning Datasat RS20i processor being demonstrated at ISE 2014. The new agreement will bring this important immersive sound format within the reach of those with more modest budgets.

The other partnership that merited a press release was with DMS for distribution of the technology in most major markets (except for China). Auro Technologies full list of official partners includes: Audiokinetic, California Audio Technology (CAT), Continental, Datasat Digital Entertainment, Denon & Marantz, McIntosh Laboratory, Steinway Lyngdorf (SL Audio) and StormAudio. Then there is of course Barco, with its exclusive right to use the technology in cinemas and which has been lobbying Hollywood studios and other film producers to release their films (preferably exclusively) in the Auro format.

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Cinemeccanica Brings Laser Projection to Europe

Italian projector manufacturer Cinemeccanica has announced a test bed installation of its Cinecloud™ Lux laser driven projector in Venezia Mestre, Italy. Calling it “Immersive Cinema” the manufacturer does not go easy on the hyperbole for the installation with IMG Cinema Multiplex:

The Multiplex, besides  modern and futuristic design, will be endowed of the most advanced digital technologies for film screening and sound reproduction, it will become the first cinema in the world where people, seeing a movie, will make a unique emotional experience never made before.

There is no word on what film allowed audiences to make this ‘unique emotional experience never made before’, but the opening date of 12 December suggest that it may have been The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This is also likely because the auditorium has at the same time been fitted with Dolby’s Atmos immersive audio.

Quoted in the press release, “Pier Carlo Ottoni, Sales & Marketing Director of Cinemeccanica says: “ To be the firsts to start the Immersive Cinema age, introducing laser driven projection and multidimensional sound in a unique auditorium, make us proud for the constant capacity to innovate and also because the first cinema of this type will be exactly in Italy”.”

Cinemeccanica is affiliated with Barco’s digital cinema projectors, though Cinemeccanica’s Sales and Marketing Director Pier Carlo Ottoni claimed that, “Our laser source could be installed in any DCI projector. For this first installation in Europe, we inserted the laser into a Cinemeccanica-Barco DPC4K-80. At the moment Cinecloud Lux reaches 50.000 ANSI lumens.”

Given the high cost of laser projector for the foreseeable future, it makes sense that this will initially be paired with immersive audio (though interestingly Cinemeccanica did NOT opt for its Barco partner’s Auro system) in premium venues where bright 3D is required for a large screen – such as Christie’s laser projector installation in Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre. Typically today this high-brightness is achieved by pairing two projectors, which when coupled with lamp and maintenance costs, start to make laser seem more affordable. But for now these will be high end one-off showcase test beds.

For Your iConsideration (UPDATE): the Nominees

 

For Your iConsideration

 

With the nominations announced for the BAFTA awards, it is worth re-visiting the issue of DVD and on-line screeners to analyse what if any impact they had on the films that made the shortlist. The usual caveat applies that BAFTA members watch and vote on films, documentaries, foreign language films and shorts based on their artistic merit. However, in the deluge of worthy end-of-year releases it is difficult to catch them all in the cinema, let alone cram in home viewing over the Christmas holiday. So access and convenience of screeners can play a part.

This year was notable in terms of the number of screeners being made available on-line to download or stream came close to matching the number of screeners sent out on DVD, with both just over 50 each – but with DVDs taking a late narrow lead. On-line distribution was the preferred option mainly for Documentaries and Films not in the English Language (and Shorts, though we won’t cover those here), with iTunes and Vimeo battling out for platform preference, but other candidates being distributors’ own websites, DMS, YouTube and DropBox. Several films were made available on both DVD and on-line, though with the exception of one studio (Universal) and another studio’s specialty division title, Hollywood largely shied away from the on-line option for screeners.

Not surprisingly all the films that have received nominations in the heavyweight categories (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, as well as Outstanding British Film) were sent out on DVD screeners to BAFTA members. Gravity was the earliest one sent (9 December) while 12 Years A Slave was sent latest (20 December). The only three Hollywood titles nominated that were not sent out on screeners were Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim and Star Trek Into Darkness, though all of these received, perhaps not surprisingly, their only nomination was in the VFX category. It should also be noted that nominations for technical categories are voted for only by a smaller sub-set of BAFTA members from a particular chapter.

Interestingly, two of the big Hollywood releases that missed out on any nominations were 20th Century Fox’s The Counsellor and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, whose screeners were not sent out until December 30th. While the former had not gotten much critical acclaim or strong reviews (with the exception of Steven Gaydos), the latter had been considered a potential candidate, even with the mixed reviews it got, but walked away with no nominations. The late sending out of screeners could potentially have hurt its prospects. There was also no nomination for Fox Searchlight’s Enough Said, which was only made available via Fox’s website. Again, this may have ended up hurting a film that was otherwise well reviewed and for which a nomination was expected for the late James Gandolfini. This was also the case for TWC’s Fruitvale Station.

Turning thus to the two categories in which on-line distribution was the preferred mode, ie Best Documentary and Best Film not in the English Language, there are several interesting things to note.

Film not in the English Language (FNIEL)

Of the five films nominated three were sent out on DVD and on-line, two were only sent on DVD and no film that was only made available on-line made the shortlist. Of the three that were made available on-line, all three were distributed via iTunes and in some cases also on the distributor’s own website. No film distributed on Vimeo, DMS, YouTube or Dropbox made the cut. Again, quality more than technology is likely to have been prevailed, with Blue Is The Warmest Colour having won the Palm d’Or, The Act of Killing having been named Film of The Year (any category) by The Guardian, The Great Beauty having won the European Film Awards, Metro Manila having won the British Independent Awards and Wadjda having been widely acclaimed on its release. However, it would be reasonable to suppose that the suspenders-and-belt approach of DVD + iTunes download could have helped giving these films a slight edge.

Documentary

Here the picture becomes much more mixed and interesting. One of the films nominated was neither sent out as a DVD screener, nor made available on-line and has not been released in cinemas yet. So voting members can only have seen it at one of the festivals where it screened or a preview screening. One of the documentaries was only sent out as a DVD screener. One was only made available via iTunes. One was made available on iTunes and the distributor’s own website. The fifth and final was sent out as a DVD, made available on iTunes and also on the distributor’s own website. Again, no film on Vimeo or any other platform made the shortlist. Sending out a documentary on DVD alone is no guarantee, with several others that opted for this category alone did not make the shortlist. Documentaries are even more difficult to catch in the cinema than FNIEL, so voting members have had to make an extra effort. While The Act of Killing has been universally acclaimed and was expected to be on the short list it is worth noting that that two of the other documentaries were backed by major Hollywood studios (Universal and Sony), which gave them a slight marketing edge. But apart from that the picture is mixed.

In conclusion it is safe to observe that DVD screeners continue to dominate, even as on-line platforms make inroads, especially for FNIEL. For documentaries it seems that there are many roads to a nomination, including just screening in cinemas. The on-line platform that had most nominees was iTunes, sometimes in combination with the distributor’s own website, but going only on your own website or Vimeo et al does not appear to have improved the chances of any of the films.

It only remains for us to express a sincere wish that may the best films win purely on artistic merit, wherever and however they were seen. Our own preference here at Celluloid Junkie will always be the cinema.