Screening A Digital Cinema

                                     Movies, in the early days are shot in film , which is made into many duplicate copies, then shipped out to cinemas all over. A Dictionary says, "A film is a thin flexible strip of plastic or other material coated with light-sensitive emulsion for exposure in a camera, used to produce photographs or motion pictures." But in this digital era, movies are shot digitally and distributed digitally. A digital cinema uses a digital projector instead of a conventional film projector. 
                                  But how does these digital movies gets distributed, does these movies get a DVD? In a time, where people pirates any digital things, how safe is this digitally distributed movie?

                                     I searched through internet for some hours to find some answers. First, a multiplex mostly receives a hard-drive for a particular movie. For example, the size of Avatar 3D film is 280 GB. The multiplexes gets the hard-drive through courier and the keys to open the files are emailed. It's a surprise that we still need couriers to move digital data. But is this a standard hard-drive?

                                    Yes, it is a standard hard-drive enclosed in a special case. The projectionist removes this special case, then uploads the data through a CRU port on the main server.  It roughly takes about 40 to 1 hour to transfer a movie from a portable drive. There is also a technology to transfer files through satellite, but there are still concerns from the distributors about the satellite feed being intercepted, security of the data etc. 
                                     The current method is pretty solid though. Even when the file is on the main server the projectionist still can’t play the film until he gets a ‘key’ from the distributors. The ‘key’ is a coded file made specifically for the particular screen, and also it allows to be played within a specific time period. 

                                     If digital movies were exclusively distributed on hard drives, do they use other media's like DVD?
                                    Most main-stream film comes on hard-drives, If a multiplex uses a Sony 4k projector, then Dvd's don't look too good upscaled to 4K. 4K is a standard for resolution in a digital film. The name refers to the horizontal resolution, which is approximately 4,000 pixels. The digital television are represented by the vertical pixel count. For example 480p, 720p, 1080p. The horizontal resolution stays constant, while the vertical resolution depends on the video source.

                                     If this is so secured, what's stopping the projectionist to record the output part?

                                  They simply can't do that , because the part of the projector, where the ‘key’ unlocks the ‘film’ is housed in an enclosure that is riddled with security devices. If he tries to take a panel off that part from the projector, the whole thing would shut down and he could only get back up and make it run only after security checks and then Sony re-sets the server. Plus there’s no ‘out’ sockets, to take a feed,  you’d have to hack into the electronics to get a signal output.
                            The only way to record the 'film' would be to record it off the screen and even then each projector puts an invisible watermark on the film which can be used to identify which cinema was showing the film, what time the show was played and even which member of staff was on duty at that time.

                              Does these hard-drives get shared within multiplexes? For the big films each will get their own HD, but for smaller independent movies, the HD's are sent and shared, again through a courier. All the HDs get returned and re-used though.

                             In India, if a cinema owner purchases 2k or 4k Projectors, it requires a huge investment as entry level 2k projector cost around $40,000 + 30%duty in India. 

                            Most of these information's are searched through internet, so i don't know about the accuracy of these datas. Feel free to offer up more info on the digital cinemas. 

                            Digital cinemas might be simply another marker in the long march of technology. Ultimately, audiences will decide what content they want to pay to view, and accordingly what gets shown, in cinemas; technology itself does not drive admissions. Whatever happens from now on, potentially very exciting changes are coming. The future isn't what it used to be. 

To know more about Digital cinema projectors, read this: Digital Cinema Projectors


Shashank jain said...

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vinay said...

Insightful post. :)

Nona said...

This is very informative. Thanks. As I always wondered how this is being done.

Quantel said...

Great post. I would also like to add that the progression to digital cinema has been growing over the past decade but 2010 saw a rapid succession of announcements by major multiplex operators in the UK switching over to digital; likely resulting from the 3D wave.

Unknown said...

while reading this post it reminded me of the movie "harishchandrachi factory" where dada saheb phalke showed how film making actually got started....i hope you have seen this movie...

nice read

Unknown said...

Wow, surprisingly I never knew this. I have been reading your blog a lot over the past few days and it has earned a place in my bookmarks.Thanks for sharing with us.

Unknown said...

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