Idea: LL and RR glasses on a 3D screen – Double Vision

(I had this idea in June 2011 and wrote this post in Oct 2011, but I decided to wait with publishing until my lovely colleague Sylvia could get the scoop and use it for a marketing action).

3D display lets you experience 3D images by letting your left eye see something different than your right eye (‘stereoscopy’). Most technologies for this (certainly the ones used in cinema) use special glasses. Active/passive, based on colours, polarisation, timing… It’s fascinating, but that’s not what I want to address here. What intrigues me, are less common usages: what if instead showing something different to eye1 (left) and eye2 (right), you show something different to person1 and person2?

Continue reading Idea: LL and RR glasses on a 3D screen – Double Vision

Digital cinema advertising and me

Najwa Nimri - Paz Vega
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, might have seen some posts on “digital cinema“. I have been researching the topic for more than a year now. And for a reason, of course: it seemed like the right kind of business for me, at the right moment (i.e. the really early days). And well, now I’ve actually found a way to make it into my day-time job.

I’ve just started working at Screenvision Europe as Technical Director. Specifically, I will be coordinating the Belgian migration towards digital cinema advertising: that is, digital distribution and digital projection. An ambitious project with a nice mix of technology, media and cinema – and a great bunch of colleagues. (Yes, Screenvision is indeed the fireworks logo you see before the commercials in the cinema and, no, I can’t change that logo) So don’t be surprised to see acronyms like MPEG2, JPEG2000, S/PDIF, 2K and 1080i pop up in my posts and/or links from now on.

I now have an even better excuse to see more movies (as if I needed that).

Big bazooka: XL Gaming @ Kinepolis

Kinepolis XL-GamingThat 24″ screen not big enough for you? Now you can a rent a movie theatre for a half hour to play Playstation games on the big screen in Kinepolis Brugge.

Thanks to the widespread digitalisation of Kinepolis cinemas, Kinepolis is developing further ‘alternative content’ in conjunction with Barco and Technicolor. In addition to digital full-length films, cinema-goers can now also experience more and more alternative content in digital format, such as prestigious events, television series, live concerts and sports competitions – and now XL Gaming, too.

Imagine you could rent a movie theatre and show whatever you want, without the necessity of 35mm film, to a public of, let’s say, 20 to 50 people. What would you project?

  • movie DVD: classic movies that never get to the screen anymore, like “Spinal Tap”, “The Party”
  • music DVD: stuff like “Woodstock”, “Sade – Lovers Live”
  • series DVD: 3 seasons of “Friends” in a row, or series that never made it to Europe like “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
  • comedy DVD: a night full of Eddy Murphy, George Burns or Da Ali-G Show
  • documentary DVD: Carl Sagan or the BBC’s “A Brief History of Infinity”
  • Powerpoint presentations: if they add a crane, you can even do an “Al Gore” (cf “An Inconvenient Truth”)
  • software demos: e.g. Final Cut Pro, Second Life
  • live Skype session: with the webcam in that little top right 10m² block

What would you want to see on a huge screen like that?

Mission Impossible III: largest digital release ever

Add one more superlative to Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible: III”: it is the largest digital release ever, playing on more than 170 digital cinema screens throughout North America. And all digital preparation and distribution to those screens was handled by Kodak Digital Cinema.

Mission Impossible III
(Digital cinema is obviously of much better quality than this pixelized image – this just says “digital”, doesn’t it?)

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Digital cinema: movie distribution

I wrote about digital cinema earlier. I want to focus now on the distribution of movies to theatres.


The movie’s video signal is compressed and encrypted into a bitrate of max 250 Mbps, which translates in 31.25 MB/second or 112.50 GB/hour footage. So a ‘short’ 90-minute movie is something like 170GB, and a 2h30 movie, with some audio thrown in, is more like 300 GB. The estimates from the DCI specification are even higher: around 140 GB per hour running length (video, audio and subtitles together) or around 38 MB/s.
movie storage requirements
Continue reading Digital cinema: movie distribution

Digital filmmaking: cheaper movies

“Shooting on 35-mm film costs about a dollar a foot,” Bob Harvey, Panavision senior vice president of sales, told Wired News. “A thousand feet for a thousand dollars adds up to about 11 minutes of footage. But about an hour of footage on a Genesis 24P HD, for instance, costs under a hundred dollars.”
from Wired

Kwon estimated that shooting digitally shaved about $150K off the production’s up-front costs such as film stock, dailies, and film-to-tape transfer for off-line, non-linear editing.

And then there’s this movie, shot with the same prosumer camcorder that I have, the Canon XL1s, and blown up to 35mm film from miniDV (720 x 480):
28 Days Later…
Budget: 9 million* Gross (USA): 43.5 million (8/24)


Digital cinema: one step closer

Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC (DCI) – founded in March 2002, as a joint venture of Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios – just released its “FINAL OVERALL SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS AND SPECIFICATIONS FOR DIGITAL CINEMA”:

(Hollywood, CA – July 27, 2005) Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC (DCI) has completed the final overall system requirements and specifications to help theatrical projector and equipment manufacturers create uniform and compatible digital cinema (…)

The specification is available at (1MB – PDF).


These are the stages in the flowchart of digital cinema:

DSM (Digital Source Master)

the end-product of the ‘feature postproduction’.
FORMAT: Defined by producer (color space and bit depth, resolution, fps, …)
SECURITY: Defined by the producer

DCDM (Digital Cinema Distribution Master)

this is the version ready to play on a digital cinema projector.
CONTENT: combines video, audio and subtitle data, based on SMPTE standards, the equivalent of an (unencrypted) DVD

RESOLUTION: 2K (2048 x 1080), 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels)
FRAMES PER SECOND: 24 fps or 48 fps (only possible for 2K)
COLOR DEPTH: 12bit/color = 36 bit total for RGB (68 billion colors)
IMAGE FORMAT: MXF (Material eXchange Format)
IMAGE BANDWIDTH: maximum 250 Mbps which is 112 GB/hour
AUDIO FORMAT: up to 16 channels of 20-bit 48 KHz or 96 KHz WAV
SUBTITLE FORMAT: PNG files or Timed Text
TOTAL MOVIE SIZE: between 45 and 140 GB/hour
SECURITY: not encrypted – should be ready to play

DCP (Digital Cinema Package)

FORMAT: compressed, split up in ‘reels’
SECURITY: encrypted using 128-bit AES


The Digital Source Master (DSM) is created in post-production and can be used to convert into a Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM). The DSM can also be used to convert to a film duplication master, a home video master, and/or a master for archival purposes.


A DCDM is created from the DSM, and then prepared for shipment in a DCP. The DCP is shipped to the actual cinema venue, where the content is decrypted and decompressed into the DCDM format again, ready to be projected. Since an uncompressed movie will be something like 100GB to 500GB of data, the compressed version maybe 5 to 10 times smaller, the shipping of the remaining 10-100GB could be done with a Blu-Ray disc, a DLT tape or a simple portable hard-disk. Even an iPod might do the trick. Jim Rygiel used those for shipping draft versions of Lord Of The Rings, as he mentioned on IT Conversations.


Most systems work with the Texas Instruments DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology: a chip with thousands of little mirrors that can be flipped electronically at very high speeds. They enable 1024 levels of gray for each of the RGB colours, which would amount to 30-bit – or 1 billion – colours, were it not that all documentation talks about ‘more than 35 trillion colours’.

1. A digital projector based on DLP CinemaTM technology transfers the digitized image file onto three optical semiconductors known as Digital Micromirror Devices, or DMDs. Each of these chips is dedicated to one primary color-red, green, or blue. A DMD chip contains a rectangular array of over one million microscopic mirrors.
2. Light from the projector’s lamp is reflected off the mirrors and is combined in different proportions of red, green and blue, as controlled by the image file, to create an array of different colored pixels that make up the projected image. (…)
3. The DMD mirrors tilt either toward or away from the light source thousands of times per second to reflect the movie onto the screen. These images are sequentially projected onto the screen, recreating the movie in front of you with perfect clarity and a range of more than 35 trillion colors.
(from: Digital Cinema 101 – Texas Instruments)

These projectors – like the ones from Digital Projection and Barco – get their input through a DVI-D, SMPTE 292M or BNC connector. (Overview of video connectors on


  • The 2K standard translates into 2.2 megapixel images and the 4K standard into 8.8 megapixel. So 4K Digital Cinema uses a resolution most commerical ‘still’ camera’s don’t have yet.
  • If you project a 2K image on a screen 15m (50 feet) wide, each pixel is 15000/2048 = 7.3 mm wide. At 4K: 3.6mm wide. If you would project a DVD (720×480 pixels), a pixel would be 2cm wide.
  • Texas Instruments already has a 2K DLP (DC 2K DMD) chip, but there is no 4K chip yet. Sony, however, announced their first 4K projectors.
  • The Sony SXRD technology has a 16:9 aspect ratio (1920/1080), the JVC DLA-QX1G projector has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the new standard has a very unusual 19:10 ratio. No idea why that is.
  • The DCI announcement was also covered on,, and Some good articles on DLP: