Monday, March 14, 2005

Where's my Digital Cinema?

The Big Picture: A Digital Cinema Initiative Update
go to original article ... or email me for article text
"But what happens to common business practices? Today theatres often violate the strict letter of their rights agreements by, for example, switching prints from a larger venue to a smaller one. Everybody knows what’s happening and looks the other way, says Ordway, because “everybody makes money.” Theoretically, that’s not possible in the digital world. If the encryption technology is too tight, significant business changes will be required. If it’s too loose there won’t be the flexibility in the system the people are accustomed to today."
Huh? Obviously there will need to be some changes in the way contracts are spelled out, but either the reporter didn't understand what was going on or I don't. Increased security means _more_ flexibility? In that case, I'm all for increased security (I am, for real, not facetiously).
"Ordway believes that a retrofit of the digital systems currently in place around the world is impossible. “I’m ninety-nine percent certain it can’t be done,” he says, “no matter what anyone says.” If nothing else, the servers that drive them don’t have the secure decryption specifications spelled out by the DCI. People don’t retrofit projectors, he says, adding “All the electronic stuff [that supports them] gets replaced.”

"Since you said, “widely implemented”, I would guess that it might be at least 4 to 6 more years. That is different from when the initial rollout might take place, which I would guess would take place in the next year or so."
To me, all this points to being cautious about when one chooses to take on their digital technology switch. Obviously, the guy in charge of defining the standard will be on the cautious side, but he is probably the most knowledgeable. In order to not buy something obselete or at too much of a first mover premium, I think 2 years might be a good time to get a jump on the technology, maybe even a year.

Although I think that being the first place to offer true digital screenings in your area might be a huge advantage (ESPECIALLY if you cut the deal properly). You'd have the people who come for the wow and to see what it's all about. And the DCI standard should deliver. But you should also get preferential treatment from the studios trying to show off their new wares and have the flexibility(?) to show more movies since they get their faster with less pain.

All this is in my imagination, of course. The key being the contracts about which Ordway had this to say:
"Third, in the business world of film distribution and exhibition, there are contractual agreements. In the digital world, many aspects of the contractual agreements would be incorporated into the “digital rights management” (DRM) issues in the Digital Cinema security system. The issue of DRM has opened the door to the need for new agreements. The Digital Cinema systems to be delivered will have to accommodate any new distribution/exhibition agreements that pertain to DRM. In the meantime, companies developing systems have to assume that what they are developing will have the DRM features that might be required by the various distribution/exhibition agreements. The timing for formal agreements between distribution and exhibition on DRM issues is not clear, but is underway."
One needs the lowdown on how these agreements are going to work out to see how they'll benefit. Anyone know how far along these are and where I can get my hands on something like this?

Other interesting bits from the article
-The final sticking points involve security on the films AFTER digital transfer (i.e. people camcording movies - they have solutions)
- The digital systems will have to be certified, but no one is sure by who
- The transition to digital sound yielded two important lessons. That there needs to be a single format and that it should not be proprietary (leaving the possibility for future growth) DCI accounts for both of these things.


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