The Digital Projection Box

Squeezed into a projection box last week to get my first look at one of the JPEG2000 digital projectors installed in cinemas as part of the UK Film Council’s Digital Screens Network.

What a monster! If your idea of digital media is an iPod or a tiny digital camcorder, you are going to be shocked. It’s big and squat and worst of all exudes enormous amounts of heat, requiring its own ventilation system. (I understand there are two different models, so this might have been the bigger of the two.)

What used to be a 35mm film in several large metal canisters is now a small black box housing a hard drive. A film ‘print’ is now 60-70 Gb of digital data (i.e. about ten times more data than a DVD). It still needs to be ‘prepared’ by the projectionist for screening, so perhaps they won’t be made redundant quite as quickly as we feared.

I couldn’t stay to watch the print, but it seemed to cope alright with my laptop presentation. As I left, the projectionist commented on the one advantage digital prints clearly offer – every screening is potentially the same. There shouldn’t be any scratches, visible reel changes etc. I’m sure this is a good thing but I’m already nostalgic for those old scratchy prints when, on a third or fourth viewing, you could look forward to spotting the scratches.

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