Upgrading at the Plex

And you thought the Hubble Telescope was the only technology that needed refurbishment. Well, it turns out that your local cinema needs an overhaul too.

In particular, film projectors are heading to the scrap heap. You'll start seeing a lot less film, and a lot more digital in theaters. That's because the quality of digital projection technology has finally arrived.  And, perhaps more importantly, the accountants at the Hollywood studios have taken note of the potential cost savings.

In any case, studios are assisting theaters in a massive upgrade to digital projection, to the tune of thousands of $70,000 projectors in AMC, Cinemark, and Regal theaters. That adds up to billions of bucks. To help defray that cost, studios will pay between $800 and $1,000 a pop in "digital print fees" to theaters; this reflects the cost to studios to send film prints to theaters.

When buying into new technology, it's easy to get stuck with suddenly obsolete stuff . . .

But it looks like they're going to get the good stuff. The DLP projectors have three 2,048 x 1,080 DLP chips in them (one for red, green, and blue) and the DCI specification calls for 250 Mbps at 4:4:4 color. In comparison, Blu-ray is a mere 54 Mbps and 4:2:2 color. The 4k scan (or original digital version) will look better than analog prints. And, the soundtracks are all uncompressed PCM. Good stuff.

Why is Hollywood so generous funding this upgrade? Well, it's all about cost. Digital is far cheaper to shoot, edit, and distribute than film. Instead of all those reels and chemicals and stuff, you simply buy 500TB of hard drive, and you're ready to rock. -Ken C. Pohlmann

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