Cinema Technology Magazine - September 2007

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Vol 20 • No 3 • September 2007

B•K•S•T•S The Moving Image Society

Meet a different kind of chief

CEA chief executive John Wilkinson

The new Vue cinema Thurrock

A completely different Vue

A projectionist in Taipei

Working at the Taipei IMAX®

Digital projection supplement Live alternative content/Digital distribution

The leading specialist publication for cinema industry professionals

Bell Theatre Services THE UK’s Leading Supplier and Installer of Digital And Film Projection Equipment.



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Recent Digital Premieres: Music And Lyrics Flushed Away Pirates of the Caribbean

Our Equipment Includes: Barco DP90 and DP100 NEC iS-8/Nc800 NEC NC2500 Christie CP2000

Digital Installations Include: Empire High Wycombe (All Digital) Odeon Hatfield (All Digital) Odeon Leicester Square Odeon Bath Columbia Pictures Preview Theatre Soho Images 20th Century Fox Preview Theatre

Dailies Equipment Rental: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Inkheart; Sweeny Todd

Golden Compass; Bourne Ultimatum Blood Diamond 10,000BC and Casino Royale

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cinema technology

BKSTS THE MOVING IMAGE SOCIETY The Society exists to encourage, sustain, educate, train and provide a focus for all those who are creatively or technologically involved in the business of providing moving images and associated sound in any form and through any media. The BKSTS works to maintain standards and to encourage the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of moving image and associated sound technology, in the UK and throughout the world.

contents Volume 20 • Number 3

September 2007

The Society is independent of all governments and commercial organisations.




A completely different Vue - Thurrock’s new cinema


A message from new BKSTS President Roland Brown


Avid Technology Europe • Deluxe London • Digital Theater Systems Dolby Laboratories • Filmlight • Hyperactive • Lee Filters • Lee Lighting Pinewood-Shepperton Studios • Shooting Partners Ltd • Slater Electronic Services Soho Images • Technicolor • Vantis

Cinema Expo International and the BKSTS award


Meet a different kind of chief - CEA’s John Wilkinson



European cinema - Cinecitta Nuremberg


South coast news




Harry Potter’s Dutch debut


The potential future of digital distribution


The virtual print fee - AAM amswer the questions


Live alternative content - UK leads the way


World’s largest digital screen


Meet the chief - Jim Slater visits the Apollo Redditch


2007 Landor cinema industry conference - part 2


Big happenings on the small screen


A message from BKSTS Director Wendy Laybourn


Being a projectionist in Taipei


Notes from a movie engineer’s diary


DIAMOND Odeon Cinemas

GOLD Autodesk• ITN • Kodak Limited


Aardman Animations • Arri (GB) Ltd • Barco plc • Desisti Lighting UK Ltd Electrosonic Ltd • Film Distributors Association Film & Photo Ltd • Framestore CFC Harkness Screens • Moving Picture Company • Panasonic Broadcast Europe Quantel Ltd • RTI (UK) Ltd • UGC Cinemas

SOCIETY SUPPORTERS Association of Motion Picture Sound • British Film Institute British Society of Cinematographers • British Universities Film & Video Council Cinema Exhibitors Association • Cooke Optics • CST • Focal International • SMPTE Skillset • Society of Television Lighting Directors • UK Film Council The Society gratefully acknowledges the support of the above Companies and Organisations. Enquiries regarding Sponsor Membership of the BKSTS should be addressed to: Roland brown, President BKSTS - Moving Image Society, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks SL0 0NH, UK e:

CINEMA TECHNOLOGY Cinema Technology - ISSN 0995-2251 - is published quarterly by the BKSTS - The Moving Image Society. It is mailed to all members of the BKSTS and is also distributed to the major cinema chains and independents to reach virtually every cinema in the UK and many in Europe and worldwide. It has a circulation of about 4000, in 55 countries around the world, achieving an estimated readership of 13,000. Views expressed in this journal are not necessarily the views of the Society. © BKSTS - The Moving Image Society


BKSTS - The Moving Image Society

Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks SL0 0NH, UK e:


Jim Slater, Managing Editor

17 Winterslow Road, Porton, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 0LW, UK T: +44 (0) 1980 610544 F: +44 (0) 1980 590611 e:


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Obituaries - Desmond McGreal / Leonard George Petts 52

Bob Cavanagh, Advertising Manager Mobile: +44 (0)7854 235280

Design / Production Bob Cavanagh

Mobile: +44 (0)7854 235280

Subscriptions Cinema Technology is mailed free of charge to all BKSTS Members.

On the cover: Paul Richards, Chief Projectionist at the new Apollo Redditch, pauses as he laces up the Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 projector for screen 7. See story page 36

Please contact the BKSTS for subscription payment details or further information. cinema technology - september 2007

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With the massive amounts of rain that have fallen this summer it came as something of a surprise to me to learn that open-air cinema showings have been proving popular around the UK. Cinema Technology reported last year on the Film4 Summer Screen events at Somerset House in London, and these continued again this summer with a wide ranging programme and plastic macs provided for when it rained! Whilst on a a brief holiday in Devon I visited Blackpool Sands, near Dartmouth, and although I didn’t manage to see a show I was delighted to discover that Skylight Cinema put on showings of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and, appropriately ‘The Beach’, on Saturdays in August. Some audiences were even treated to a meteor shower! Skylight Cinema also put on outdoor film shows at Barnstaple, Dawlish, South Brent, Newquay, and Paignton, during the spring and summer, so if you are planning a west-country holiday next year, it might be worthwhile checking out before you go. Skylight also offer to run open-air and indoor cinema events for other organisations, and can arrange film booking, licensing and staffing for such events.

Another mobile cinema operator, based in Bath, has been running ‘drive-in’ events at locations from Wiltshire, to Somerset, to Warwickshire and Kent, and their website is at www.pyjamapictur, and although I initially found it difficult to establish exactly what is on and where, it might be worth keeping an eye on the site to see if anything is coming up in your area. Pyjama Pictures specialise in putting on film shows for a wide range of events, and can advise on whether ‘walk-up’, ‘drive-in’ or indoor would be best for your event. Proprietor George May has high quality cinema projection equipment available, including a 2.5kW Gaumont-Kalee projector, and a huge 7 kilowatt Cinemeccanica projector with long play film transport system available for the largest venues. The largest available screen is 18 metres wide by 8.5 metres high and is mounted on a tubular truss framework that is suspended from a mobile crane. The whole of this large drive-in cinema comes in a 7.5 tonne lorry with a specially built projection trailer. Details: Pics - top left: Blackpool Sands and right the ‘drive in’.

MORE ON THE RUBY Alan Smart MBKS, International Coordinator for the Projected Picture Trust, wrote on behalf of the PPT to tell us that the Thornton- Pickard 16mm RUBY projector that was recently sold at Christies, and which we featured in the June edition of Cinema Technology, was first manufactured in 1927.

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It was in December 2000 that we reported on the sorry state of Bridport’s Palace Cinema, which had closed down in 1999, so it is great to be able to tell you that a miracle has occured, thanks to the work of the new owner Peter Hitchin and a host of dedicated local volunteers. The completely refurbished cinema is now regularly showing a wide range of both film and digital movies - the digital projector was obtained thanks to help from the UK Film Council. An art-deco style bar stands at the back of the auditorium, whose walls are decorated with murals by contemporary artists. Cinema Technology is hoping to visit the Electric Palace during the autumn, and to provide a full report for readers in the next issue.

THEATRICAL WINDOW CLOSING A major theme that ran through the Landor Annual Cinema Conference this year was the continuing importance of protecting cinemas by maintaining the theatrical window, allowing plenty of time for people to see a new movie in the cinema before it becomes available on DVD. It is therefore of real concern to see that, although you can often use statistics to prove whatever point you want, it seems clear that overall release windows actually shrank last year, for most movies. It is of some comfort, though, to know that the situation was different for the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, i.e. films grossing more than $100 million at the box office, where the windows actually increased by 11 days. At ShoWest, John Fithian of the National Association of Theater Owners expressed great concern at the overall narrowing of windows, saying that this is “the Number One 1 issue by far and away, above even piracy”, for the organisation and the exhibition industry. He claimed

that there was a 10-day shortening overall and said that windows are getting short enough to start to get dangerous. NATO’s figures showed that the average theatrical window shrank by about 10 days last year, to four months and eight days. As always, different studios do their own thing, with their bosses having to consider many factors when determining DVD dates for their pics, including what their competitors are doing. Sony has traditionally been one of the companies with the shortest windows, generally starting from the baseline of a four-month window, which it modifies for each particular movie, and if a movie is doing particularly well in cinemas it will sometimes delay the DVD release date. Somehow the cinema exhibition industry needs to get across the important message to its customers that the latest movie will be coming out on DVD, but that it won’t be for several months yet, so if you want to see the latest blockbuster, you had better get out to the cinema now!

cinema technology - september 2007

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Roland Brown, MIET, MBKS, who recently retired as Director of Engineering at The Moving Picture Company, in Soho, London, was elected President of BKSTS – The Moving Image Society on 26th June 2007. Roland’s career and experience span four decades of major technological development. His many projects range from being responsible for setting up commercial TV in South Africa, to working on every aspect of outside broadcast. For a large portion of this time he has held senior positions, which have required him to liaise with demanding clients, directors, producers and Heads of State. Roland, who has been a Member of the BKSTS since 1971, is enthusiastic and committed to do all things to the best of his ability, especially at this important major watershed in the development of technology within the media industries. It is his ambition to bring his experience of Movie Making, Broadcasting, Management, Production, Liaison and Engineering acquired over four decades to re-instate BKSTS - The Moving Image Society as the leading Forum for Technology and Creative Innovation. (Pesident’s message on page 12)

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NEW MOVES AGAINST PIRACY The industry has unveiled the second strand of its new threepronged communications campaign to tackle copyright theft. The latest wave of activity aims to promote a wider appreciation of the value of copyright and includes a new consumer-friendly website,, as a focal point. The activity is designed to counter misconceptions about the impact of copyright theft, in particular that it only impacts on the top end of the entertainment industry where its effect is likely to be felt the least. By demystifying the skills of some of the industry’s unsung heroes, it seeks to demonstrate the wider protective role of copyright. The new website encourages people to actively engage with the entertainment industry and the concept of copyright at all levels, and includes interactive quizzes, advice for budding film-makers and user-friendly information

on what copyright is and how it works. A “Backstage Stars” section features “Day in the Life of” case studies and comment from a host of real-life industry workers to help put the value and scope of copyright into context. Part of a wider campaign by the entertainment industry to change consumer attitudes to copyright theft, the new communications activity and website are designed to build upon on the historical “enforcement” approach, which focused on the criminal nature of those who traded in counterfeit goods, by adding a positive, consumer “education” element. The new site includes information on how consumers can enjoy legal download options and provides direct links to these sites. It also houses the latest industry news, film reviews and competitions, making it a destination point for film fans and a targeted channel for its pro-copyright message.

The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the role and value of copyright in protecting the creative industries and those who work in them by demonstrating the positive role of copyright and its practical applications in protecting Intellectual Property. In May the film and television industry launched its “Knock-Off Nigel” TV advertising campaign, designed to create a social stigma around the consumption of illegal content. The latest strand, engendering appreciation for copyright, marks the second step in its new threetier approach to tackling copyright theft. The third tier of activity is an ongoing campaign which focuses on enforcement and the risks in participating in copyright infringement. As part of this campaign, the new site houses a dedicated enforcement section, where consumers and enforcement bodies can report cases of copyright theft.

£1/2M LOTTERY FUNDING FOR LOCAL CINEMA IMPROVEMENT Independent cinemas across the UK will be able to apply for Lottery funding to update their buildings, improve facilities, and boost access for audiences with sensory impairments, thanks to a new funding scheme from the UK Film Council. The £500,000 Capital and Access Fund for Cinemas has been set up to ensure high standards of cinema facilities around the country, to improve the cinemagoing experience for the public, andto increase access for people with sensory impairments. The fund will assist cinema operators with capital projects, particularly where the works are considered essential to the cinema’s continued existence, or of benefit to audiences that may currently be excluded. Independent cinemas (those in a circuit of fewer than nine cinemas) have until 30 November 2007 to apply for funding of up to 50% of the cost of the

project, subject to a maximum award of £50,000. Cinemas can apply for funding for capital projects such as: • improving facilities at the cinema • buying and installing new technology and equipment (including audio-description and subtitling equipment) • converting existing buildings for use as cinemas and/or additional screens • new build for cinemas. Improving access to the cinema experience for audiences with sensory impairments is a core objective of the Capital and Access Fund. There are nearly 9 million people in the UK with some kind of hearing loss and around 2 million who are blind or partially sighted. The UK Film Council believes that provision could be much better. It is anticipated, therefore, that a significant number of awards under the scheme will be towards ‘Cinema Access Equipment’ i.e. soft subtitling and audio description kit.

This Capital and Access Fund for Cinemas builds on previous funding – the Small Capital Fund where more than £700,000 was allocated to independent cinemas for capital projects – and the Cinema Access Programme when £350,000 was made available for subtitling and audio-description equipment. Peter Buckingham, Head of Distribution and Exhibition at the UKFC said: “We hope this funding will help small, local cinemas to remain at the heart of their communities offering all audiences access to fresh and exciting films in a comfortable environment. “Facilities for cinemagoers with hearing and sight impairments have improved over recent years but are still too patchy, that’s why we are hoping to fund a number of cinemas to improve their access.” For details:

cinema technology - september 2007


Jim Slater took a look around the new Vue cinema in Thurrock, East London

General Manager David Curtis

A completely different VUE Vue has 59 multiplexes across the UK and Ireland, with over 570 screens. The new Vue cinema at Thurrock Lakeside, one of the largest shopping centres in Europe, just outside the eastern boundary of Greater London, opened on 15th June, with ‘The Fantastic Four; Rise of the Silver Surfer’, and I went to have a look at the cinema and talk with the staff just a fortnight later, when all the opening razmataz had finished and the new nine-screen multiplex was fully operational. The shopping centre originally opened in 1990, but has recently undergone major refurbishment at a cost of £30 million, and there are now over 234 shops and department stores, 33 cafes and restaurants and a 26-acre lake, all of which attracts around 500,000 visitors per week.

cinema technology - september 2007

There had originally been a seven screen cinema on the site, which closed at the end of last year. Extensive refurbishment then took place, representing an investment of over £4 million, and the original seven screens, all of which had sloping floors, were transformed into nine state of the art screens with stadium seating. One of the new screens is a luxurious ‘Evolution Screen’, with a combination of giant beanbags and sofas, the first of its kind in the UK, which, as well as showing films in the best possible conditions is intended as a venue for the growing number of ‘alternative content’ video events such as musical shows, sport, and computer gaming . Another is a premium “Gold Class” screen with luxury reclinable armchair-style seating.

I met with the General Manager, David Curtis, who is in overall charge of the whole cinema site, supervising three managers and three team leaders, who between them look after a staff of around 50 people and keep an eye on everything from the coffee shops to site security and from ticket booking to cleaning and maintenance. The dedicated projection team, responsible for the five projection ‘booths’ and the operation and maintenance of all the projection-related equipment consists of three people plus a ‘fill in’. As Technical Manager, Neil Doubeck has overall responsibility for the technical kit, with Spencer Game as Senior Projectionist and James Tobin as projectionist. David Curtis had recently come down from Vue Scunthorpe to re-

open the Thurrock site. He has long experience of cinema management, but told me that although he hasn’t officially been a projectionist, he has, over the years learned to lace up projectors and can, if necessary, put on a show! Although the outdoor appearance shows the building to be less than an architectural gem, the fact that it is covered in straw-coloured brick makes it more attractive than many of the corrugated steel ‘sheds’ that are currently in vogue, and it is apparent from the moment that you step into the cinema that it is packed with the most up-to-date facilities and advanced concepts that David suggests could signal the future for cinema and the leisure industry. There is a superb ice-cream shop and soft drinks bar that opens out

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onto the street, attracting passers by, a coffee shop, and an interestinglynamed ‘dwell area’ where people who have bought their tickets can have a drink whilst seated in comfort overlooking the attractive boardwalk and water features outside the cinema. Demonstrating the ‘state of the art’ nature of the cinema, Wi-Fi technology is available in the foyer areas, and can be made available in screen areas for special multi-user gaming sessions. I was also interested to see that as we walked about the premises David was keeping his ‘managerial eye’ on everything, noticing that it was time for one of the ‘Guest Assistants’ to open up one of the concessions, as well as managing to find time to deal with Vue’s Facilities Manager, Rick Topping, known to

many Cinema Technology readers from his former roles with UCI and Vue Cinemas. Rick is responsible for building maintenance at many Vue sites around the country.

• Screen 1 - 135 seats

To improve customer service and reduce queuing, a Vista ticketing system (nothing to do with Microsoft!) uses bar coding techniques to enable Vue to accept mobile phone and computer-booked ticketing, so customers ordering online can choose and reserve their seats in advance, as well as print their tickets at home. At the cinema, customers can take snacks and drinks into the auditoria as well as eating at tables in the foyer area.

• Screen 5 - 152 seats

David showed me around all nine screens in turn, these having seating capacities between 79 and 346 people.

• Screen 2 - 90 Seats • Screen 3 - 79 seats • Screen 4 - 112 seats • Screen 6 - 346 Seats • Screen 7 - 229 seats • Screen 8 Evolution - 96 seats • Screen 9 Gold Class - 102 seats We began with the luxurious ‘Evolution’ screen, with its luxury seating and massive screen. As the pictures at the top of the page show, there is a choice of seats between soft leather ‘bean bags’ at the front, ideal for those who want to ‘chill out’ or lounge around, superb reclining armchairs, rather like first-class seats on an aircraft, and a range of family-friendly sofas at the back - or

An unusual layout, with five projection booths (highlighted in yellow) on the first floor serving the nine screens.






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are these a return to the ‘love seats’ that explain why I saw so many films as a teenager but can’t quite remember the details of many of them?! I am always interested in pricing, so it was interesting to hear that the bean bags cost £6, the ‘premium’ luxury recliners cost £7.50, and the two and four seat ‘sofa pods’ cost £15 and £30 respectively. The Evolution screen, aka Screen 8, (pictured above left with the luxury seating right) is served solely by a Cinemeccanica Digital Cinema projector. The Evolution screen concept is being introduced at several Vue sites, aimed at providing ‘the ultimate cinema experience’, enhanced by the most progressive projection technology, and the digital projectors will enable Vue to show a wide range of video material as well as movies. The intention is to make the Vue Evolution screens, including the one at Thurrock, ideal venues for conferencing and interactive gaming, and Wi-Fi facilities in the screen areas can help ‘gamers’ to interact with each other. Satellite reception facilities are provided for these cinemas, and in the weeks before Vue Thurrock opened, some 40 Vue cinemas showed a live Genesis concert in High Definition with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, prior to UK dates of the band’s European tour. The British Grand Prix was also shown live in high definition in 30 Vue cinemas, with a seat price of £15 including a copy of the official programme plus popcorn and a drink. Interestingly, the cinema showings were free of the advertisements which interrupt ITV’s television coverage. Three of the screens can be served by digital projectors, with Screens 2 and 8 being digital only, and

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cinema technology - september 2007

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screen 6 having dual, digital and 35mm projection facilities. Screen 6 had been fitted with a Christie CP2000 projector as part of the UK Film Council / Arts Alliance Digital Screen network system. All the projection equipment in the refurbished cinema is new, supplied and installed by Sound Associates. The 35mm projectors are Cinemeccanica Vic 5s with new Cinemeccanica CC7004H consoles, whereas the cinema previously used Century 35mm projectors. An outstanding feature of all the screens is the way that facilities for disabled people have been incorporated. The places reserved for wheelchair users have been sensitively chosen so that the users can feel themselves an integral part of the main audience, rather than sticking out ‘like a sore thumb’ as they have to do in some cinemas. In the Evolution and Gold class screens the arrangements are magnificent, with easy access to special areas which also provide luxurious treatment for carers accompanying wheelchair users. All screens have an infra-red hearing assistance system, and one screen has audio description facilities using the DTS system. It was interesting to see that all screens are monitored by closedcircuit television, and that the CCTV

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images can be shown on the LCD screens situated around the foyer areas. It allows management to easily keep an eye on what is happening in each screen, and, who knows, may have beneficial effects on audience behaviour patterns! We then moved on to Screen 9, Vue’s ‘Gold Class’ screens, which boasts Club-class style reclining seats with low level tables on which to place drinks and snacks – not to mention the “Bottomless Popcorn” – an unlimited tub of popcorn that Gold Class ticket holders are entitled to. Of the seven ‘regular’ screens, all of which looked very well furnished, with the biggest possible screens having been squeezed in, and any one of which I would have been happy to sit down a watch and movie in, Screen 6, with its 346 seats is the most impressive, giving the impression of one of the ‘big cinemas’ of old, with a huge screen and big comfy seats. It is often the case with new multiplexes that all the projection facilities are in one huge box on a single level, which I had expected to find at Thurrock, but it turned out that the refurbished cinema had been very much re-configured in order to increase the screen numbers from the original seven to the

current nine. All the screens are accessed from the ground floor, with their stadium seating reaching up to the projection areas on the first floor level. As you can see from the accompanying layout diagram of the first floor, there are actually five separate projection areas (‘Booths’ seems to be the terminology that is becoming increasingly accepted), and these are highlighted in yellow. One booth serves four screens, others two screens, and others single screens. All the screens are well equipped with multiple ‘portholes’, providing plenty of room for expansion as extra digital projectors are added in the future. I met projectionist Spencer Game, who was kind enough to show me around the various technical areas. Spencer had worked at the Thurrock site for several years before it closed for refurbishment, and, following a short spell at Vue Romford was delighted to be able to work with all the new technical equipment on the site. Spencer had originally started as a front of house worker in the cinema and had been enthusiastic enough to persuade his employer to train him as a projectionist. He is still keen to learn about all the latest technology and I was interested to hear that he had just returned from one of the Arts Al-

liance training courses at Byfleet that we described in the previous issue of Cinema Technology, where he had been brought up to date in operating and maintaining the latest Doremi digital cinema servers. I asked Spencer if it was difficult to cope with having projectors in five different booths, but he dismissed the suggestion, saying that they were all fairly close to each other and that the Cinemeccanica Vector 500 automation system is normally used to run the shows and proves highly reliable. Interestingly, the digital projectors are not yet part of the automation system. All the projection rooms, which varied considerably in size, were well laid out and reasonably spacious, with good facilities for rewinding and minor maintenance work, and, as you would expect in such a new environment, everything was spotless. The audio-visual equipment for the cinema complex (much of the non-sync stuff comes from DVDs) is fitted into the projection booth that serves screen 7, and the AV rack also contains all the equipment needed to control the telephone system and the CCTV system. A main server controls the tills and the automated ticket machines, and David Curtis said that the Vista ticketing and cinema management system works

cinema technology - september 2007


well. He pointed out that the computer controlled systems mean that there is no longer any need for the ‘comms room’ that was traditional in many older cinemas. It was an interesting and useful visit to the Vue Thurrock, and I was pleased to see just how seriously Vue are obviously taking the idea of bringing back the times when going to the cinema was something rather special. The Evolution and Gold Class screens really do provide for an exciting and different

night out, and the high quality of the ‘standard’ screens is unlikely to disappoint many people. It is also interesting to see how the site has been designed to fit in a whole range of modern cinema equipment, providing the flexibility to cope with new developments such as satellite reception for Alternative Content and computer equipment for conference facilities. It is also satisfying to see that projectionists - ‘technicians’ has never been a more appropriate word - are fac-

ing up to the growing challenges of learning about and adapting to the new technologies that are creeping in to our traditional projection boxes. Working together, technical and business staff at Vue are clearly on target to achieve their CEO’s aim to ‘signal the future of the leisure industry‘.

The pictures above - left and centre - show projectionist Spencer Game using the Vector 500 automation system and at work on the rewind bench.

Thanks to Melissa Varcoe and Adam Murray at freud communications for arranging the visit, and to David Curtis for all his time and information.

DIARY DATES FOR PROJECTIONIST TRAINING Many projectionists have already attended the special training days that are put on by the BKSTS Cinema Technology Committee, and which are free of charge to projectionists thanks to funding provided by the David Lean Foundation. As CT goes to press details of the 2007 series are yet to be finalised, but the following dates and locations have been agreed. Do put these dates in your diary and contact Dion Hanson for more information and to book, at:

Monday 24th September- Glasgow Wednesday 26th September - Newcastle-on-Tyne Monday 1st October - Birmingham Wednesday 3rd October - Swindon

BKSTS CINEMA TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE cinema technology - september 2007

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bksts president

A message from the new BKSTS President A new venture for your Society - and something of a leap into the 21st century! As your new President, it has been my task to review what the Society is doing, and how well it is doing it. It’s an on-going process and I do not claim to have a full understanding of everything yet, but one thing is clear - we’ve not been very good at communicating in the past. So this Newsletter (originally sent by e-mail) is the first part of a process to improve that communication. Although not all our members have provided email addresses, we have to recognise that electronic newsletters are now a valuable method of keeping in touch, while at the same time saving costs for postage - not to mention the environmental impact of all that paper! There will be other changes coming along in the next weeks and months, and I will do my level best to keep you informed on how we are progressing. My primary focus is to get the Society back on to a firm footing, delivering real benefits to you, the members. But I can only do this with your help, so please let me know what you want, what you like about the Society, and how you would like to see it develop. With best wishes, Roland Brown, President

Downsizing our admin

At the last AGM, the then President, Ted Taylor outlined a clear warning - our income was declining, and we could not afford to keep a fully manned office running for much longer. In spite of sterling efforts by our permanent Director, Wendy Laybourn, the balance of income and expenditure has continued to swing in the wrong direction, so, with considerable regret, your Council has decided that we must cut our expenditure and close the office. We will continue to have a presence at Pinewood, and we hope that the Pinewood Management will most generously be able to offer us some small scale office and storage space - but we will have to move the Administration of the Society on to a volunteer basis for the foreseeable future. What will this mean for members? Well, it may take a little longer for queries and questions to be answered, but there will still be a phone service, and although our address has changed slightly, there will be a process for dealing with mail. There are many societies that manage very well without a permanent office, and we should be able to do so as well. But we do need your help. A volunteer-run Society needs volunteers, so if there are any areas you would like to help in, please let us know. BKSTS at IBC We will be at IBC as usual - in our usual place on stand 8.297 - and look forward to seeing our many members who will be attending.

We’ll have Wallcharts and other publications to sell, and be actively encouraging new members to join. However, we do need some more volunteers to “man the stand”, All Council members who are attending IBC have volunteered for at least a couple of hours stand duty, so if you are planning to go to IBC, how about helping the Society and selling a few Wallcharts. Phil Rutter is coordinating the stand this year, so if you can email him with your details and when you think you can do stand duty, that would be a great help. You can reach Phil at phil.rutter@bksts/com See you in Amsterdam!

Member e-mail addresses

There are many members who have not registered an e-mail address - and we don’t want to lose contact with them. All they have to do is send an email (from the email address they want to register) to:

Paying membership subscriptions

We’ve been hearing that many of you have had problems finding a senesible way to pay your membership subscriptions. That can’t be right, so we’re going to be organising much easier ways to pay - including on-line - in the next few weeks. However, if any member has not paid their subscription, we’d urge them to do it as soon as possible simply send a cheque, payable to BKSTS, to: BKSTS, Pinewood Studios, Pinewood Road, Iver Heath SL0 0NH U.K. Thank you.


BKSTS at IBC - Stand 8.297 September 6th - 11th

We look forward to seeing our many members who will be attending but we do need some more volunteers to “man the stand”, Can you help? Please e-mail Phil Rutter with your details and when you think you can do stand duty, it will be greatly appreciated. You can reach Phil at phil.rutter@bksts/com Thank you and see you in Amsterdam! page 12

cinema technology - september 2007

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Cinema Expo International and the award for the advancement of cinema technology This years BKSTS - Moving Image Society Award for the Advancement of Cinema Technology was awarded to Dolby for the development of optical stereo and the analogue sound track. Making the presentation on the Dolby booth to UK MD David Watts, Cinema Technology Committee chairman Dion Hanson acknowledged the massive contribution that Dolby had made over the years to the improvement and enhancement of cinema sound (a comprehensive appreciation appeared in the June issue of Cinema Technology). There were over 100 organisations represented at the trade show, which in European cinema terms is still the place to be seen! Digital cinema was obviously a major factor at this year’s show with a vast array of projection and distribution solutions on show. Traditionally the day to mingle on the floor - during the Wednesday trade show lunch - was partially highjacked by a spectacular Warner Bros films promotion of two of their major summer releases - ‘Beuwolf’ and ‘I am legend’. By serving lunch outside of the trade show the traditional ’mingling with a bite’ was missing (and noted by a number of exhibitors). However, CEI is without comparison this side of the pond. Big screenings - and there was none bigger than the latest Harry Potter at the Pathé IMAX® - and a big star at the final night ceremony - Tom Cruise - made it yet another year to remember. Our (mine and Dion’s) particular thanks to Graham and Dolby for transporting the ‘stand’ from Wiltshire to Amsterdam, and to Bradina and DTS for the ‘loan’ of a stool during the show. Once again to Dion’s wife Susan, for being a most valuable ‘part of it’ - and to all BKSTS members, Cinema Technology advertisers and supporters and everyone who called by. A big thank you! Bob Cavanagh

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cinema technology - september 2007


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cea chief

Meet a different kind of chief Jim Slater talks to John Wilkinson Cinema Technology readers are used to their regular ‘Meet the Chief’ articles where we talk to Chief Projectionists. This time we are looking instead at the life of the Chief Executive of the Cinema Exhibitors Association, John Wilkinson. John will shortly be stepping down from this role, and was kind enough to agree to be interviewed for Cinema Technology and to give his thoughts on the state of the industry and where he sees it going. We met in the modest offices of the CEA, at 22 Golden Square in Soho, and spent an interesting couple of hours talking on a wide range of topics. John Wilkinson was educated at Doncaster Grammar School and Durham University. He became an Inspector of Taxes and after a period in local tax districts moved to the Management Division (Special Operations). He was then appointed Secretary to the British Chamber of Commerce (Association of British Chamber of Commerce), where he represented the interests of British business, nationally and in Europe. After leaving BCC he became a Divisional Director of a management consultancy company. Jim Slater: John, you joined the CEA in 1990, some 17 years ago now. You came from a British Chamber of commerce background and were obviously a very experienced administrator and manager. Why the move to the Cinema industry? Were you a cinema enthusiast, or was this just a managerial job that came up and you thought you would take up the challenge? John Wilkinson: To be honest, it just sounded page 16

to be an interesting job. I have always been interested in the cinema, but could never be called an enthusiast, a fanatic, or a cinema buff. I am interested in the cinema in the same way as a member of the general public, and I think that this approach has served me well during my time with the Association. I have tried hard to reflect what an average member of the public would think about going to the cinema, to stay ‘middle of the road’ and to understand what gets people into cinemas. There is nothing more important in this business than getting people into cinemas, and nothing more depressing than showing a film in an empty auditorium. For the film-makers, whether small or large, the objective has to be get their films seen by as many people as possible, and it is the job of the exhibition business to facilitate this. JS: How much of a challenge was it - what sort of state was the CEA in at the time that you joined? JW: The Association had been formed back in 1912, and was the first cinema industry association. The decline in cinemagoing from the late 1970s, which reached its nadir in 1984/5

with a figure of 54 million admissions, only half the figure of five years earlier, had taken its toll on the whole industry, and this had naturally reflected on its industry body, so the CEA wasn’t then in the best of spirits and had gone through difficult financial times. By the time I came along things had started to get better, and those who wanted the industry to succeed were trying lots of different things to stimulate the business. One of the major turning points, although it perhaps wasn’t realised at the time, was the 1985 opening of The Point, at Milton Keynes (below), which included a brand new tenscreen ‘multiplex’ cinema that was designed and operated by a the US AMC company, following the ideas that it had used successfully in the United States. This showed that if you gave the public something different they would come, and this first UK multiplex attracted over a million admissions within the first year, and woke the rest of the industry to begin the building of further multiplexes, at that time usually on out-of-town sites with plenty of parking space and with other attractions designed for a new target audience - young people with money to spend. To my mind, another major turning point for the industry, again perhaps not realised at the time, was the release of Ghostbusters in 1984. This highly successful film was indicative of a new trend to target the whole family with movies that they would all come to watch together, and represented a considerable shift from the earlier ‘blood and guts’ movies which had formed a major part of the cinemagoer’s menu at that time. These new developments permeated through to the association, so that when I joined the industry was starting to become more conficinema technology - september 2007

cea chief dent again, and things were looking up. We took over the Association of Independent Cinemas in 1993, which helped. JS: Have you overseen many changes at the CEA during your time here? JW: Most important was to put the association on a sound financial footing, so that was my first priority, and in conjunction with our members, who are the association, made changes which allowed the association to be more confident in its future. We recruited as many cinema owners as possible, which in itself increased the influence of the association. I cultivated relationships with NATO (National Association of Theater Owners), a body with similar aims in the US, so as to bring to our members the latest information on what developments in the cinema industry were working in other parts of the world, and these relationships have continued successfully. I brought the CEA into full membership of UNIC, the Europe-wide organisation which serves to protect the position of cinema exhibitors and liaises with and makes representations to national and international authorities and institutions such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. UNIC also participates in the activities of the European Board of Cinema and Television (BECT). Previously we had been fairly passive in Europe, but our new more active approach has led to many benefits for our members in protecting their interests and making the future more secure by working towards the promotion of cinema, maintaining its high public profile and promoting the importance of the cinema exhibition industry. UNIC has well-established contacts with international organizations in the film industry, distributors, producers and film technology industries, and the exchanges of views and information that take place on the development of the exhibition market and on the film industry in general are of great benefit. Current important issues include release windows, piracy and digital cinema.

a lot of such requests for advice. In general I try not to give any form of official legal answer, but to talk through the issues with them and suggest the questions that they might ask themselves and their legal advisers. I may suggest other ideas or thoughts that they might not have considered, and often act as a sounding board for their ideas and suggestions. I may suggest a particular line of approach to some difficult negotiations, perhaps over planning or licensing problems, and say ‘try this first, and if that doesn’t work, try this approach instead’. In general, we aim to provide services to our members that they will genuinely find useful, and in recent times much of the work is to help them by providing

JS: I know that the CEA is about promoting and protecting the interests of its members, the cinema exhibitors, but tell me something about the practical side of the CEA - how many work here? What do they do day to day? What is a typical day for you?

JS: Do you represent cinema owners in disputes with or problems with film distributors? If small owners have difficulty in getting particular prints or are unhappy with the service they get from distributors will you take up such complaints on their behalf?

JW: There are just three CEA staff members, and between us we carry out a whole range of activities, right down to the nuts and bolts of getting out newsletters and posting them to our members. Annette Bradford is Executive Assistant and Jacki Parrott is PA to the Chief Executive.

JW: No, that is not part of our role, and we don’t have regular discussions with distributors about specific films, but if there are matters affecting CEA members that need attention we will arrange meetings with the Film Distributors’ Association at which such topics can be discussed.

[During my visit our conversation was interrupted as John had to check and sign off a letter to members warning them that government inspectors are about to carry out unannounced ‘test purchasing’ in cinemas around the country to check that age limits are being observed, and I noticed that the duplicated copies were due to be put into envelopes in the office as I left. - JS] There is no such thing as a typical day, but I may very well start by answering questions from a member about employment problems - we get cinema technology - september 2007

detailed guidance about how proposed new legislation will affect them and their businesses. Over the years the CEA has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the industry and about legislation that affects it, and we have usually previously come across any problem that a member might raise. I spend a good deal of time in the office reading everything to do with the cinema business, trying to keep on top of news stories from around the world that might affect our members. I review what is happening in the industry, what has been said in parliament, in the EU etc., trying to spot anything that might have a detrimental effect on the running of the cinema business. We don’t subscribe to ‘press cuttings’ services, as I generally have enough knowledge and experience as to where to look for relevant news reports and the various cinema-related websites and news sources. I read academic papers and studies of the cinema industry that may have been carried out by business organisations. A recent one from the Film Business Academy at Cass Business School provided a good example of an academic research study which came to some conclusions that I couldn’t agree with, so I prepared notes for our membership explaining what the study had got wrong, and why. I attend many meetings with MPs, Government Ministers and Civil Servants, representing the industry and negotiating and fighting on its behalf when new legislation is being proposed. On many occasions those seeking to bring in the new legislation haven’t given a thought to the practical effects that it might have on our business, and they need advising and persuading to make whatever changes might be in the best interests of the business. We have had, for example, recent meetings with the DCMS to discuss the implications to cinemas of guidance to be issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act. When the licensing Bill was being drafted I spent at least two days a month at DCMF, helping, and when the legislation was passed, CEA issued detailed guidance to members. Much of the work in the office is preparing information on new developments, not necessarily to answer an immediate need, but so as to have the necessary information at our fingertips when our members might need it.

JS: How many CEA members are there? JW: About 180, which represents around 94% of the 200 cinema groups in the UK. The CEA offices are in building it shares with the Cinema & Television Benevolent Fund

JS: I gather they all pay a subscription to the CEA - how does this work? Do they pay per screen, page 17

cea chief As things originally stood, depending on how the ‘shop area’ was defined, cinemas might have been assessed in the same way as supermarkets and only allowed to open for six hours on Sundays. It took much lobbying to convince legislators that it wasn’t the whole floor area of a cinema that should be included, but only the ‘concessions’ area, which would come under the ‘small shops’ category and be allowed to open throughout Sunday. For England and Wales, making sure that the Licensing Act 2003 didn’t impose new or oppressive rules on cinemas and ensuring that those that sold alcohol were not treated in the same way as pubs were prime objectives. The previous change had been back in 1985, so getting it right was most important, and we did.

do the big boys subsidise the little ones? How much are the fees, typically? JW: The subscription is charged on a ‘per screen’ basis, and although different methods of counting have been tried over the years we now use the number of screens operational on 1st January each year as the baseline for charges. In general, all screens pay the same, but special arrangements can be made for sites with less than 80,000 annual admissions. We successfully encourage early payment by providing large discounts for this, and, for example, an annual payment of £200 per screen can be discounted to £93 if payment is made before February. The largest operators pay the same ‘per screen’ charge as smaller ones. JS: What advantages does being a CEA member bring for the individual cinema? JW: We provide a first-line management service, helping cinemas to cope with changes in legislation and with day to day business problems. We provide a whole range of services that cinemas find useful, giving them detailed guidance on how new legislation will affect the day to day operations of their cinemas, something that smaller groups especially would find difficult to do for themselves. In recent times, for example, we have given advice and assistance on the Disability Discrimination Act and changes in Fire Regulations. We act as their recognised industry organisation in negotiations with other bodies such as the Performing Right Society and PPL, the music industry organisation collecting and distributing public performance royalties in the UK on behalf of composers and record companies. CEA collects the money for PRS and PPL and completes the necessary paperwork, simplifying life for the cinemas. Effectively we provide an ‘insurance policy’ for cinema operators - if something arises that they are not sure about they can be certain that the CEA will be able and willing to help. JS: We spoke about your typical day. I must say that although I have been coming across you for years, it has always been at some form of conference or industry ‘do’. You have made it plain that you do in fact spend a considerable amount of time in the office - do you get involved with the ‘social’ side of the cinema industry - do you attend lots of premiers, for example? JW: I guess it is inevitable that I attend a few premiers and social gatherings, but that isn’t a major part of what I do for the CEA. JS: As well as representing the interests of UK cinema exhibition at all levels of Government in the UK, Europe and USA, you have also written and had published a good many papers and articles during your time with CEA, generally fighting the industry’s corner, sometimes against some new legislation or sometimes just floating ideas. Have any of your writings and ideas achieved things that you are particularly proud of? JW: A couple of examples illustrate how the CEA got in early to influence legislation that could have had seriously detrimental effects on our business. The EU Distance Selling Directive page 18

seemed harmless and reasonable enough on the surface, with its consumer friendly proposals to enable people to get their money back if they changed their minds over telephone purchases. The CEA spotted major potential problems for our cinemas if people bought tickets over the phone and then simply decided that they had changed their minds and wouldn’t go to the cinema that evening or if the film failed to please them. This was in pre-internet days, remember, and the problems with internet booking could have been much more widespread, but there was little support from European cinema operators because they weren’t as advanced in taking bookings over the phone and hadn’t spotted the potential snags of the legislation. It took months of negotiations with government and the EU but we were able to eventually have the provisions of the directive modified, to the continuing benefit of our members. Another example of a pro-active and eventually successful CEA campaign concerned the Sunday trading legislation.

JS: I have spent many years working to use technology to help disabled people, generally in the TV business, where teletext, subtitling, signing and audio description are still having to fight to remain at the forefront, and I was very interested to see how you, apparently at least, strongly supported the introduction of services for disabled people into cinemas. I know that the Disability Discrimination Act provided the hammer to beat the industry with, and that many cinema groups were initially very concerned, but how did you go about changing attitudes as successfully as you did? JW: You are completely wrong to suggest that the DDA was the major stimulus. The initial CEA work took place years before the Act came into sight, and our decisions to improve access to cinemas were taken much earlier, mainly as a result of bad publicity in the early 1990s. According to some disability groups and a few newspapers, the industry couldn’t do anything right at that time, and we did surveys to show that only 70% of cinemas could provide wheelchair space. Since many multiplexes were being built at that time, we were able to take advice from disability organisations and subsequently advise our CEA members as to what disabled facilities they might consider incorporating in ‘new build’ cinemas. This had the positive effect that when the DDA later came to be discussed the CEA and its members were already in a position where they knew exactly what needed to be done and what to plan for in order to ensure that cinema would comply with the legislation. This work had taken place well before the DDA came into being. An incidental benefit of our early work and the fact that we had been totally open and honest with the various disability organisations, whose advice and views we had carefully listened to, was that the CEA was able to advise government on topics like Audio Description and Subtitling, showing them that our industry was actually well ahead of what was being proposed for the television companies. JS: Do you think that there is actually a business case for introducing subtitles, signing, and audio description in cinemas? Do these additional facilities actually draw in a new audience? JW: Making access to cinemas easier, both in cinema technology - september 2007

cea chief JS: I see that you are a member of a whole list of cinema related organisations, including All Industry Marketing, The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and a string of others, presumably as an integral part of your job here. I gather that you will retain your President’s role at the EDCF, but will you give up all the others? JW: Yes, most of the roles are part and parcel of the CEA work, so I shall be relinquishing them when I leave here, but as President I have a wider involvement with the EDCF and will be continuing in that role.

terms of physical access for wheelchairs and in helping understanding via audio loops, subtitles, and audio description, has certainly helped whole families to come to the cinema rather than having to leave family members with a disability at home, so, yes, there will be more tickets sold in these cases. Once it becomes more widely realised that it is now perfectly practicable for a disabled person to go to the cinema, and becomes a normal thing to do, it may well be that cinema audiences increase due to this. Our research has shown that the take up of the various disabled facilities varies enormously from place to place, however, and sometimes it hasn’t worked as well as we would have liked in bringing in new audience members. JS: The CEA introduced a CEA Card to allow an accompanying person to attend free of charge with a disabled person. Was this popular? Does it work from the cinemas point of view? JW: Yes, this has been an enormously successful CEA initiative, and now works brilliantly from everyone’s point of view, but it took lots of discussions (should the card be issued to the disabled person or to the carer?) and lots of refinements before we reached our present situation. Previously there had been no consistent policy at cinemas, with decisions as to whether to allow free access to a carer being taken on an ad-hoc basis. There was a need for something that encouraged disabled people to come to the cinema whilst also protecting the CEA membership against people fraudulently claiming free entry. The CEA Card (you can get details from the special website www. ) is a national card that can be used to verify that the holder is entitled to one free ticket for a person accompanying them to the cinema. To qualify for the card, people must be in receipt of the disability living allowance or attendance allowance or be a registered blind person. The administration of the card system is done by a commercial company, The Card Network, so removing any administrative burden from the CEA, and a £5 processing fee is charged for the card, which is valid for 3 years. JS: Do you think the cinema is a better place to visit now than it was 17 years ago? Has anything page 20

you have done contributed to the changes? JW: Cinemas are undoubtedly better places than they were 17 years ago. UK cinemas are more innovative than anywhere in the world. We have seen innovations like premium seating and the introduction of bar, lounge, gaming and refreshment areas, and improvements to the all-important image and sound quality. Audio Description and subtitling mean that more people can fully enjoy seeing a film. Overall, the ‘cinema experience’ gets better and better. UK cinemas have tried innovative pricing initiatives from ‘as many visits you want each month for £9.95’ to ’two for the price of one on Wednesdays’, and innovative booking systems via phone and via the internet have made it easier for the public to make that important decision to see a movie. Cinema managements have adopted their management structures and techniques to meet the changing demands of a changing industry. The UK Film Council Digital Film Network was a good example of something completely new, and the CEA played an important role in ensuring that the public money made available for digital cinema was distributed amongst all sectors of the exhibition industry - we wanted to ensure that grants should be available to all cinemas which fulfilled the UKFC requirements, and not just to ‘art house’ cinemas. It is good to see how the rollout of the DSN is fulfilling the objectives of the UKFC to provide a greater choice of film material in cinemas all around the country. It is great to be able to say that our industry is participating in a continuous revolution. JS: Do you, like me, get upset when a tiny minority, the yobbish element, put their feet up on the seats, chat on their mobile phones, and generally spoil things for others? What can be done about it? JW: Of course - I want to make the cinemagoing experience as good as possible for everyone. The mobile phone situation is difficult. In the UK we are not allowed to use ‘jamming’ signals to block out reception in the auditoria, but they seem to manage to do this in France. We are trying to influence this at European level, but so far without much success amongst the politicians, I am afraid.

JS: You have been very much involved with training schemes for our industry - something for which one of the bodies you belong to, Media Salles is much admired. You have seen and participated in the work that BKSTS and CEA have done to encourage projectionist training. How successful has this been? JW: The various training initiatives are working, but could be better. The CEA hasn’t been and isn’t a major facilitator of training. Most UK training is done, rightly, by the major operators, who tailor their courses to their own particular requirements. The CEA only gets involved where it can actually add value to the training process, and our cooperation with the BKSTS on the Projectionists Manual and on the Projectionists Certification scheme provides good examples of this. JS: Do you see the need for training becoming even greater as projection enters the digital age? Would there be advantages in projectionist training on a European scale? JW: There does seem to be an increasing need for training. On the non-technical front the CEA has actually provided 42 days of training for cinema owners and operators on the Licensing Act. On the technical side we have spent a lot of time talking in Europe about training cinema operatives, and there would obviously be advantages to the ‘free labour market’ if projectionists could take advantage of a system that allowed them to demonstrate that they were competent to operate anywhere in Europe. The BKSTS/CEA Projectionists’ Certification Scheme should achieve this. JS: I came across a booklet entitled ‘A short guide to UK organisations dealing with film and the cinema’, and having seen that there are several dozen of these, from BAFTA to the BFI and from regional film agencies to Skillset and to the UK Film Council - Are there too many? Would the industry be better served with just two or three? Would that be practical? JW: Although it might seem wasteful to have so many, there is the need for different organisations to fulfil different roles, and there are many page 48 Cinema Technology - September 2007 instances where cooperation between different organisations provides real benefits. Piracy is a prime example of where cooperation and openness between different groups has helped to focus the attention of all sides of the industry on what is a major problem. That is why the UK Film Council established an cinema technology - september 2007

cea chief Anti-Piracy Task Force, which brought together the key stakeholders in the UK film industry to deliver a joined-up antipiracy strategy in the UK to reduce film theft and to build public awareness of the importance and benefit of copyright protection. It has recognised a need for urgent action from both Government and the various sides of the film industry and established a ‘one stop shop’ for piracy awareness.

for the money. Do cinema managements appreciate the vital work that they do? Have the trade unions done a good job for their projectionist members?

JS: I gather that CEA funded Artsline, The Disability Access Information Service, to make a database of cinemas. Did this work, is it useful? Is it available? BKSTS likes to boast that Cinema Technology goes to every projection box and cinema manager in the country, and we have a reasonable mailing list for these - it would be interesting to see what you database has that we don’t!

JW: It is not for me to comment on that question.

JW: This work was done with CEA cooperating with AIM (All-Industry Marketing). The work on the London area database was paid for by AIM, and the results were very successful. A ‘hard copy’ database exists for Scotland and for Wales. For the new initiative Artsline has completed a pilot study involving approximately thirty cinemas across the country and all are now being approached. As well as the basic data about each cinema, the database contains information about accessibility facilities at each site, but since most cinemas these days have their own websites, we are linking the data bases via a hot-link. An interesting development has been the realisation that the database will provide an important resource for visitors to the Olympics in 2012, making it even more important to have the full project up and running as soon as possible, and it is expected that ‘hits’ on the website from abroad will be relevant at the time of the Olympics. JS: CEA represents over 90% of UK exhibitors big and small, but I am not at all sure where the CEA fits into the industrial relations part of the cinema business, although I guess that representing cinema managements might be something of an over-simplification. Do you get involved in negotiations with the Trade Unions in the cinema exhibition business? JW: Absolutely not - it is not our role. JS: I think it is true that cinema projectionists are amongst the lowest paid of the ‘technical’ groups, much worse off than computer technicians, for example. Why has this happened? You and I both know that most projectionists are enthusiasts for cinema - they certainly don’t do it

cinema technology - september 2007

JS: Let’s talk about Digital Cinema. At the recent Cinema Conference you claimed to be being kept in the dark about what is happening. Is this still the case? How do you think the industry will move forward in the short term? JW: There are lots of beta-trials going on in the UK and the USA, but I really don’t believe that any major UK business decisions will be made until the beta-trials in the US have produced some results. We have heard about the introduction of Virtual Print Fee systems, and it will be interesting to see how these work out in the US, but even if a sensible business case is eventually based around VPFs in the US, circumstances in the UK and in Europe are very different and it may well be that totally different solutions are required. Only some 280 screens in the UK are likely to be digital by the end of this year, a small percentage of our 3400 cinema screens, and I am convinced that no real business decisions will be taken in the UK before 2008 at the earliest. JS: As you come to the end of your time at the CEA, nobody knows better what its role is, what it does, but what should it be doing in the future? JW: I will leave that question for my eventual successor to answer! JS: I couldn’t find a CEA website, which seems incredible these days. Any plans for one? JW: I don’t think that it is incredible, at all. We have discussed the need, and the question comes down to ‘what we would put on such a

site?’ and ‘what would it be for’? Cinemas have their own websites, the UK Film Council has an excellent site giving general information on the whole of the UK film industry, and, as you have already found, most of the legal and consultative papers and reports about the industry can easily be found on the web. A CEA website wouldn’t add anything. JS: Where to now for John Wilkinson - do you still have another big job in you? Will you keep your cinema industry links or look for something completely new? It is what the whole industry is dying to know! JW: I will certainly carry on my work with the EDCF as long as I can be of benefit to the industry, and I am currently considering certain interesting proposals that are directly connected with what I have been doing in recent years. It will probably be October before I am ready to announce my future plans, but you and your readers can be sure that I am not intending to sit at the bottom of the garden and fish! Thanks to John Wilkinson for giving his time for this interview, and very best wishes for the future. Jim Slater

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european cinema

Frank de Neeve takes a look at a major ‘underground’ independent cinema with 21 screens and a lot more besides It has been said before that independent exhibitors can be more innovative than cinemas which are part of a chain. So maybe it’s not surprising that perhaps Europe’s best cinema does not belong to the UK’s Vue or Belgium’s Kinepolis group, but is the independent Cinecittà, located in Nuremberg in Germany’s deep south. By means of constant innovation, Cinecittà is way ahead of the competition, but the best thing about this cinema is, that’s it’s such a nice place to hang out.

Cinecitta Nuremberg Honestly, at which other cinema can you seat yourself within ten minutes after enjoying a movie in a sunny corner of a pavement café with an ice coffee in your hand? And not one of these lousy cans, but a generous ice coupe and with real whipped cream. It was a bit strange though, to have to search for Cinecittà; you wouldn’t think you could overlook Germany’s biggest cinema, a complex with 21 screens. However, the cinema’s entrance is an airy glass building and of course there are movie posters hanging there, but otherwise you’d take it for a fancy lounge café. The whole complex meanders along the banks of the Main river at the edge of Nuremberg’s city center. This central location is only possible because the largest part of the complex, around 85%, is underground. Cinecittà’s numbers mean business: 5000 seats and a total of 500 employees, 20 million visitors in twelve years with peak years of 1.8 million visitors and a peak day of 17,000 visitors. But as startling as these numbers may seem, nowhere does this massive complex give the impression of meaning to impress by its sheer size. Cinecittà is simply a good place to be, whether you want to go and see a film, or not. Still, this ‘film city’ holds 13 concession stands, there are restaurants where you can eat tapas, Asian or

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Italian food and there’s an American diner, all owned by Cinecittà itself, making it the largest gastronomical complex by far in the region. The complex boasts its own magazine and you can pay anywhere in the complex with your personal loyalty card. A little too early for our appointment, we wander around a bit. Past the box-office a lazy ramp (below left) leads us to below street level where a concession stand and restaurant (below centre) are located and a number of corridors and passages lead to the different cinemas. Due to the inviting open concept the whole complex is freely accessible and no one asks us for our tickets; we can even enter the cinemas unhindered. At one stage we find ourselves near the Arena, a multifunctional auditorium, where rows of seats can be rolled away, to make room for theatre performances. Up a flight of stairs we reach an open-air cinema with an adjoining roof terrace which is also accessible from the street and has a leisurely atmosphere like a seaside café. Cinecittà is a very pleasant building, bigger than your average multiplex, but with an easygoing pace normally only found in the much smaller arthouse cinemas. Owner Wolfram Weber is an amiable man,

who takes all the time in the world for his guests; during our two day visit we have several meetings with him. With coffee and cake on his terrace – Weber lives directly above the cinema - and a twinkling in his eyes, he tells us about the genesis of Cinecittà up until the latest extension of the complex, which cost 35 million euros (Weber: “I wouldn’t do that again”). Having started out as a twelve-plex in 1995, Cinecittà managed to fight off the potential coming of other cinemas to Nuremberg (500,000 inhabitants) by growing steadily itself. Half of Cinecittà’s auditoria have now made the switch to digital – Weber says digital will save him 250,000 euros a year on projectionists – but this is not the only way that they are working on improving the cinema experience. There is an IMAX-cinema and MAD, an event cinema with moving seats. They even have their own ‘home cinema’ which can not only be rented by companies, but also by people who want to treat their friends to their own private screening. There is even a shop with film memorabilia and where you can rent DVDs. Owner Wolfram Weber says he’s not afraid of home cinema: “Cinecittà attracts people who are addicted to film. At home they can see older movies, but they’re also the first ones to buy tickets for the new blockbusters

cinema technology - september 2007

european cinema

here. The cinema is a great PR medium, as without a cinema release, films are not as successful. But for this to continue, a release window of four months must be maintained.” So how does Weber see the future? “Digital, digital, digital,” he says with a smile. Weber also believes 3D will become really big. In Cinecittà they already have the 3Dsystems of Real-D, Nuvision and IMAX up and running. “3D used to be something for b-movies, but the major directors are now all shooting 3D. 2009 will be a real 3Dyear, so as an exhibitor, you’d better make sure you’re ready for it! But you always have to stay alert as an exhibitor. When you don’t have the latest technology, you’ll be out of business before you know it.” But Weber isn’t an exhibitor who puts all his money in technology alone; the cinema should be enjoyable as a whole. “The cinema of the future will remain a place where people meet and enjoy film as a shared experience. And that is something which you cannot download from the internet.” According to him, light is of critical importance to a cinema. “Nobody will go to a bar with glaring lighting, but in most multiplexes, the lighting is terrible!” When I remark that Cinecittà doesn’t really look like a cinema, he answers: “That was exactly our intention.” A tour of Cinecittà can easily take a couple of hours. Wolfram Weber admits that there are parts of the building where he has only been once. And some of the members of staff know him, but he doesn’t know them; Weber doesn’t interfere with the daily routine in Cinecittà. Our visit coincides with the opening weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and in Cinecittà the film is shown digitally, on 35mm and in Turkish. For digital shows an extra of 50 euro cents is charged, which pays for the equipment. As the film version is playing alongside, audiences have a choice of what they want to see and according to Weber 70 to 80% gladly want to pay a little extra for the premium digital quality. We reach the box office, where visitors can choose exactly where they want to sit, a greatly appreciated service, according to Wolfram Weber, which doesn’t even add to queuing. The open concept of Cinecittà allows visitors to wander around in the whole complex and visit the cafés and restaurants; a ticket is only necessary for the auditoria. Ticket control is done by an electronic sensor in the front of each auditorium which measures the distance to each seat. When cinema technology - september 2007

someone sits down, this distance changes and the number of occupied seats is compared to the number of tickets sold. Whether this futuristic system was actually working and even if it really existed, remained a little unclear during our visit. Maybe announcing its existence is enough in Germany to keep audiences in line. All Cinecittà’s auditoria are THX-certified, stadium seated, with a curved elevated floor and curved screens. Half of the auditoria are already equipped with digital projection equipment. “It would be more if my colleagues in other cinemas weren’t so hesitant,” says Weber. As we walk to the first all digital screen – the 35 was needed for the open air cinema – we see to our amazement, that Paul Verhoeven’s Blackbook is playing there, while in it’s country of origin, The Netherlands, it was only shown on good old 35mm. In the adjacent auditorium plays Pirates of the Caribbean 3. While Weber before stated rather controversially that film is comparable to 1K digital, he now needs to have a good look to determine in which format it is playing; it turns out to be a film copy after all. Apart from for the regular screenings, the digital projector is also used for rental purposes, but to our surprise, there are no plans to exploit it for gaming purposes, as this might get them into trouble with the German law. After the shooting incident at a school in Erfurt there is a lot of resistance in Germany towards shoot-em games, but these are still the most popular, as Wolfram Weber also knows. But at this innovative cinema, they have thought of another unexpected novelty. Every weekend they show DVDs of holiday destinations; this week it is the turn of Thailand and New York. Going to one of these screenings is cheaper than flying there, and these screenings have proved to be particularly popular with elderly people. Yet another auditorium is equipped with a silver screen for use with the 3-D system from Real-D. Weber takes us into the auditorium during a show in order to show us that it isn’t true that you wouldn’t be able to show regular features on these silver screens. He says that Pixar’s John Lasseter was in town last October for a toys tradeshow; Nuremberg is the toy capital of Europe. When Lasseter was shown the different 3-D systems in Cinecittà, according to Weber, even the Pixar exec was convinced about the possibility of the use of silver screens for regular shows.

Continuing our tour we also pass a bluetooth display, where trailers and film information can be downloaded directly on to your mobile, followed by the Beer Garten, packed with soccer fans during the last World Cup, where they saw the matches on its giant screen. MAD however, the event cinema, is a strange phenomenon. Short films - sometimes only 20 minutes long - get shown here, with titles like Haunted Castle and Dinosaurs 3D, while the moving seats and digital 3D images add to its sense of realism. As we walk to the IMAX theatre – a bike would come in handy in this immense complex – Wolfram Weber asks us, if we have heard about this screen. He warns us to ‘expect the unexpected’. And indeed, the auditorium is 33 meters below ground level inside one of Hitler’s old bunkers; at some places the reinforced walls can still be seen. The auditorium is enormous and holds a screen of 31 by 25 meters. What is absolutely unique is that the auditorium holds the two IMAX systems in one. On the flat screen 3D-films are shown – Weber also runs a niche distribution company for 3D IMAX films - and with a 28 tonnes hydraulic system, the curved screen can be lowered in front of it, to show the regular IMAX-films. We watch a piece of the 3D-film that’s playing at that moment, Ocean Wonderland 3D. I’d never thought that I’d be amazed by a nature film about fish, but it looked absolutely spectacular! And the cliché proved all too true: children in the auditorium more often than not were grabbing at the 3D images in front of them. As we walk out of the auditorium I ask Weber if he ever watches his electricity meter on a Saturday night. “Yes, that’s something that gives me a headache. The electricity bill of Cinecittà is more than 400,000 euros a year. But in the near future I want to start providing my own energy, with a diesel motor and bio fuel, which is subsidised by the government. That will cut down my bill by half while still allowing me to install floor heating in the Beer Garten.” But Weber also has plans for IMAX: he wants to start showing 3D-films on the curved screen. “To do that, you need four projectors that make one big image using edgeblending. But I don’t know if you guys are ready for something that spectacular,” he adds with a smile. Frank de Neeve More info on An earlier version of the article appeared in Holland Film Nieuws page 23

south coast news

Curved screen for Bournemoth

Although ‘Home Cinema’ doesn’t often grace the pages of Cinema Technology these days, (are we worried about the competition, perhaps?!) our man in Bournemouth, possibly getting tired of reporting the long drawn out nemesis that affected the local IMAX® over a number of years, came up with a story that will interest many Cinema Technology readers. Gerald Hooper went along to the long-established Local TV and radio company Dawsons, who have opened a brand new cinema showroom, with what they claim to be the largest demonstration screen in the country, and not only is it big, but

in contrast to the large flat screens that everybody else is selling, the CineCurve, as its name suggests, is actually curved. The curved screen allows full enjoyment of images in the dramatic ‘superwidescreen’ format, creating an increased sense of immersion and improved viewing angles. Film buffs will be pleased to see that rather than downsizing the image and leaving black bars, the anamorphic projector lens combined with the motorised masking, allows viewers to enjoy the stunning superwide image without black bars. Sound is truly of cinemaquality, being provided by a bank of speakers concealed behind the

Worthing Dome showing films again page 24

micro-perforated screen, and the surround speakers on your walls can be adorned with artwork of your choice. The projector (a wide choice is available) can be hung from the ceiling, fitted in a wooden cabinet or even a coffee table, and a complete automation system allows you to select your chosen DVD movie or other programme material from a computer controlled hard-disk unit, and then selects the correct aspect ratio before dimming the lights and rolling back the curtains. You are not restricted to watching movies, of course - the system allows you to watch TV and play computer games at the touch of

BKSTS Past President John Aldred has been keeping Cinema Technology readers up to date with progress at the Worthing Dome over the last few years, so it was good to hear that the historic cinema reopened in July after a £2.3million makeover. This was made possible by a grant of £1.654m from The Heritage Lottery Fund, £200,000 from English Heritage, with additional funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund. A rather nice rumour had suggested that the cinema would open with “The Importance of Being Earnest”, an Edwardian subject for an Edwardian Cinema, whiich would have been particularly appropriate as Oscar Wilde wrote the play whilst staying at The Esplanade Hotel, Worthing. In reality, however, this was not to be, and the The Dome Cinema reopened on Friday July 6th with the film “Shrek III”. The Dome was purchased by Worthing Dome & Regeneration Trust Ltd. in 1999 from Worthing Borough Council. During the years before the cinema reopened, the Trust refurbished other parts of the building, as part of the overall Heritage Lottery Fund project.

a button, and the high quality audio makes listening to your CD collection spectacular. Dawsons have evidently sold Cinecurve systems to numerous customers in the UK and abroad, and every system is personally tailored to your exact wishes. I am always amazed at the millions of pounds worth of sailing boats that are tied up in the harbours around resorts like Bournemouth, investments that are used for only a tiny fraction of any year, so I suppose it is no real surprise that those who can afford to keep their floating gin-palaces at their moorings will also be ideal candidates for a decent home-cinema system. The price will depend upon the individual choices you make, but Dawsons say that complete packages cost from £10,000, whereas their showroom setup evidently cost around £170,000, rather more than the average Cinema Technology reader earns in the average year, I suspect! It all makes an £8 ticket at your local cinema seem like something of a bargain. Dawsons Home Cinema 74 Poole Road, Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 9DZ email:

The stylish Projectionist’s Bar opened in 2000, followed by the Electric Theatre in 2002 and the magnificent Dome Function Rooms in 2003. However, the main body of the works has been completed during the last 2 years. A new roof of Welsh slate, a completely new facade, and the upgrading of services, to include a lift, are just some of the improvements. The magnificent auditorium remains unchanged apart from the reupholstered cinema seats, and the foyer boasts a splendid new red carpet. The passage of time remains firmly stamped on the interior, which includes the iconic box office. New technology is being made use of where appropriate, however, and you can now book cinema seats on line at When the Editor gave this a try on August 1st ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Simpsons Movie’ were on offer, with three showings a day, so it is good to see the cinema being regularly used again, and I have no doubt that John Aldred will be letting us have his views on the new cinema in a subsequent issue. cinema technology - september 2007

digital newsreel

September 2007

B•K•S•T•S The Moving Image Society

A supplement to Cinema Technology The leading specialist publication for cinema industry professionals Digital newsreel...Digital newsreel...Digital newsreel... DSN COMPLETE Pete Buckingham, Head of Distribution and Exhibition at the UK Film Council expressed his satisfaction that the Digital Screen Network had been completed. He said that although the roll-out of the 240 digital screen network was completed in April, it is really still very early days in quantifying the overall impact of the initiative. Technologically the scheme is working well, and there has been much positive feedback from the distribution and exhibition sectors of our industry, and from consumers, who are obviously benefitting from the digital experience. The DSN project was never meant to be primarily a technical project, however - its aim was to provide cinemagoers with a much wider choice of specialised film, and in this regard it really does seem to be achieving its aims, although it is still very early days. Its impact in providing wider access to a wider range of films for more people has already been demonstrated, and the Film Council has received much positive feedback from the industry. For instance, distributor Park Circus was able to play the classic Casablanca on Valentine’s Day across 30 screens and not only were the results encouraging, but without the flexibility made possible by the digital screen network for this type of event style programming, this kind of release would not have previously been possible. A seven-week Summer of British Film has just been launched on 136 digital network screens across the UK, kicking off with Goldfinger, and this just wouldn’t have digital projection - september 2007

been possible if the DSN screens hadn’t been available. Audiences are also showing a clear appetite for specialised film, with statistics showing that 33 specialised films have grossed more than £1 million at the UK box office since 2004, including foreign language, documentaries, independent films, etc, compared to only 11 from 20002003. The Small Capital Fund that UKFC launched for cinemas has proved successful in helping cinemas, and UKFC are launching a new stream of £500,000 capital and access funding for cinemas. There will shortly be support for online film distribution as part of the £4 million Prints and Advertising Fund which concentrates on supporting ‘specialised’ film but will also offer support to more commercially focused ‘British’ films that nevertheless remain difficult to market. This Fund is not intended to substitute pre-existing investment but rather is seeking to add value to the investment already being made by distributors in each film. The Fund aims to benefit audiences by widening access in terms of the range of films available, widening opportunities to view such films across the UK, and widening audience awareness of the range of films potentially available. As part of its commitment to ensure that the cinema experience is open to all, including disabled people, UKFC will make sure that applications include proposals to meet the needs of cinema-goers with sensory impairments. Details: Tina McFarling UK Film Council”

ARTS ALLIANCE FINISH THE JOB Arts Alliance Media officially completed the rollout at the end of April 2007, having installed 232 screens in a vast range of different cinemas across the UK. The remaining nine (to make 241 in total) will be installed once these cinemas have completed their remaining alterations. As has previously been described in Cinema Technology, since the project began it was decided to replace the QuVIS servers with Doremi ones, and the swapout is also progressing according to plan. Sixty are complete, out of a total of 137 that needed conversion (later installations used Doremi kit from the start), and all should be completed by the end of August. The DSN is being used this summer for the “Summer of British Film” - a collaboration between the Film Council and BBC Two. Seven classic British films will be screened across the country, on 137 of the DSN screens. These films (distributed by Optimum and Park Circus) are all being digitally encoded and handled by AAM.

MORE THAN 3K FOR CHRISTIE Christie has installed more than 3,000 Digital Cinema systems worldwide, the first manufacturer to reach this milestone, which means that that nearly 80% of all installations around the world are using Christie DLP Cinema projectors. The company aims to have more than 4,000 installations by the end of the year. More than 2600 systems are installed throughout the USA as

part of the AccessIT software & funding arrangement introduced in 2005, and there are also Christie installations in Africa, Asia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, where it supplied the majority of the UK Film Council Digital Screen Network sites. To keep up with demand, Christie’s manufacturing facilities have boosted capacity by over 400% in the past year, delivering more than 400 DLP Cinema units per month while continuing to increase efficiency and raise productivity. Christie has also been recruiting top technical and administrative staff that include electronics, mechanical and optical engineers, technicians and industry experts. It has also instituted comprehensive quality control programs continuing to meet the high standards of excellence upon which the company has built its reputation. Christie are currently in discussion with BKSTS about supporting a manual for digital projectionists, and digital training courses for projectionists, and are also supporting Brian Guckian and his team who are close to completing their film-handling wallchart - watch out for details when it is finally published. page 25

digital newsreel

FIRST EUROPEAN VPF AGREED Twentieth Century Fox (“Fox”), Universal Pictures International (“Universal”) and Arts Alliance Media (“AAM”), Europe’s leading provider of digital film distribution services, have reached nonexclusive long term Virtual Print Fee (VPF) agreements for digital cinema deployment across Europe, for close to 7000 screens over the next few years. Under the landmark agreements, Fox and Universal have committed to distribute feature film content digitally to Arts Alliance Media DCI-compliant digital cinema projection systems throughout Europe; to the UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, the Nordic region and the Benelux. Arts Alliance Media is also engaged in active negotiations with other studios including Buena Vista International and Paramount Pictures International. The VPF business model is a means of financing the conversion to digital cinema, where both distributor and exhibitor contribute over time towards the total cost of the digital projection and server equipment. This arrangement represents the very first significant plan to finance and roll out DCI compliant digital projection systems across Europe. Fox and Universal are committed to the transition to a digital cinema platform and look forward to supplying movies to digital projection systems installed by Arts Alliance Media, who will manage the process. Howard Kiedaisch, AAM’ s Chief Executive Officer said, “These milestone agreements finally offer European exhibitors a viable commercial model to adapt their screens to digital cinema and put together a sustainable rollout strategy. The support of Fox and Universal is a strong endorsement of AAM and our ability to handle the complexities of a pan European deployment. We will

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announce further signings with other studios and independent distributors shortly.” Arts Alliance have provided Cinema Technology readers with a detailed Q&A article about the virtual Print Fee system - see Page 31.

DIGITAL FOR PARK CIRCUS Arts Alliance Media (AAM) has signed an exclusive agreement with distributor Park Circus to provide digital cinema content services for their theatrical releases for three years. The agreement covers mastering (preparation of Digital Cinema masters, repackaging and versioning) and supply chain services (generation and distribution of digital prints, and secure key management services). AAM has encoded and distributed over 140 titles in the last two years, and this agreement is a long-term deal to provide preparation and distribution services for all of the distributor’s releases. Under the agreement, AAM will provide a complete in-house mastering service for all Park Circus digital releases from its secure, FACT approved, premises in London. Titles will be encoded, encrypted and packaged to create a DCI compliant digital cinema master, securely stored, and distributed to cinemas. AAM will also provide a complete key management service to manage digital shows, and secure web-based tracking and reporting to Park Circus, in addition to full technical support to cinemas. Park Circus specialises in the acquisition and distribution of classic and back catalogue films for theatrical exhibition, and has been one of the leading users of the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network (DSN), the rollout of which was recently completed by AAM. To date, 14 Park Circus titles have been shown on the network, with “Casablanca” being one of the network’s biggest success stories, with

73 prints distributed across the UK. As the leading theatrical distributor of classic and back catalogue films, specialising in the provision of digital versions of classic films, Park Circus will be making twenty more titles available digitally this year. Park Circus is participating in the UK Film Council and BBC Two’s “Summer of British Film”, which saw classic titles shown in 136 cinemas across the UK this summer, including “Goldfinger”, “Brief Encounter”, “Henry V” and “Withnail & I”, all encoded by AAM.

Cinema Expo (see report page 14) and the company is now accepting orders internationally. And the forthcoming Beowulf release will be available for Dolby 3D Cinema sirtes.


DOLBY 3D DIGITAL CINEMA SUCCESS AT CINEMA EXPO INTL Cinema Technology readers have been learning over the past couple of issues about the clever technology behind Dolby’s revolutionary Dolby® 3D Digital Cinema system, which provides 3D with re-usable passive glasses from any ordinary white cinema screen. When it was unveiled at ShoWest in March, the private demonstrations generated an overwhelmingly optimistic response from the 500 industry representatives who attended. With this tremendous level of support from the industry, Dolby 3D Digital Cinema held successful beta trials at the Malco Theatres cinema in Madison, Mississippi, for a 3D feature released in March. Audiences were enthusiastic, and Malco’s theatre staff, even with no previous experience managing the distribution and cleaning of 3D glasses, skillfully implemented Dolby’s reusable-glasses rollout plan as the theatre ran over 150 shows without problem. Final tests are being conducted on the latest filters and glasses, and Dolby are now accepting orders in the US for Dolby 3D Digital Cinema, which is likely to be launched commercially in the US in the autumn. Following the success at ShoWest, Dolby gave equally succesful demos at

Ian Strang - Operations Manager at Arts Alliance Media (Digital) is moving on. Ian who has been very helpful in providing Cinema Technology readers with much information about the technology behind the roll out of digital cinema, has been accepted to study an Executive MBA at London Business School and has decided to move on from Arts Alliance Media. Having successfully set up the service and support operation for AAM which delivered the UKFC DSN network on time and within budget (as previously featured in Cinema Technology), Ian is now seeking a new challenge which will fit with his 2 day a month commitment to LBS.

NEW GUIDE FROM EDCF The European Digital Cinema Forum, the leading networking, information sharing and lobbying organisation for Digital Cinema in Europe, has just published its second Digital Cinema Guide, following its successful ‘Guide to Early Adopters’ which came out in 2005. Full details page 39

digital projection - september 2007


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dutch debut

HARRY POTTER ON ALCONS; IT’S (ALMOST) MAGIC! Alcons ‘digital sound’ is one of four firsts at Harry Potter’s Dutch debut Tuesday July 10th saw the Dutch debut of the film “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. On a magical night the Caprera open-air auditorium in the dunes of Bloemendaal The Netherlands was transformed into the world of Harry Potter - complete with witches, wizards and screaming owls.

Tom Back

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Even before die-hard Potter fans were able to see special night screenings in a number of Dutch cinemas, film distributor Warner Bros invited VIPs and celebrities for the official “maiden viewing”. The event marked a number of Dutch ‘firsts’ at the same time. Besides the new Harry Potter movie itself, the large-format outdoor digital projection was also a first. Never before had a digital movie been projected outdoors on such a large screen - 12.5 metres wide and 5.5 metres high. For the show the technical team of cinema dealer FTT Filmtronics, Edwin Pielanen and Edwin de Winter, installed a Cinemeccanica CMC3d2 digital projector with a 6.5KW Xenon lamp fed by two DoReMi servers (one of which was backup) and a Dolby CP650 processor to decode the 5.1 Dolby surround. Edwin Pielanen adds “For very strict security reasons, we only had the digital copy at our disposal from late afternoon, so we didn’t have the opportunity to test the projection in the dark. Therefore we had to make minor

adjustments during the first 3 to 5 minutes of the presentation. Nevertheless, this show was a good reference of what digital projection is capable of.” The overall light and sound was organized by open-air cinema projection specialists Aukes theatre technology - Frank Smit coordinated light and André Parlevliet and Rik van Hooijdonk coordinated sound. The overall organisation of the event was in the capable hands of cinema-entrepreneur Gerben Kuipers, well known for his “infotainment centre” Cinemec in Ede, who contacted Alcons Audio to design a sound system with perfect surround reproduction for the film presentation. Not an easy task as Tom Back, MD of Alcons Audio explains “The Caprera amphitheatre has a difficult shape to obtain a uniform sound coverage. The audience area is curved and facing the stage, starting small below and widening very steeply upwards. A conventional cinema system would not be usable here at all, so we had to come up with a special solution. digital projection - september 2007

dutch debut

A nice challenge for us from perfectionist Gerben!” Alcons applied sound system concept - utilizing line-array technology for both the front and surround channels, became yet another ‘first’ of the evening. The eventual system consisted of three pro-ribbon linearrays for left, centre and right front channel, each consisting of six LR14 ultra-compact linearray and two LR14B line-array bass. Tom continues, “The required throw and coverage, plus the necessity to control dispersion in order to keep the neighbours happy, led us to using line-arrays. The wide 120degree horizontal dispersion of the LR14 proved to be essential to give the largest “sweet-spot”. The centre channel was filtered differently from the left/right channel - 75Hz instead of 160Hz - to have the voices reinforced through as few speakers as possible. It also enabled us to place the centre bass under the screen.” It is always important to reproduce the lowest octaves in cinema sound so four BF362 double 18” subwoofers were placed under the screen. The whole system was powered and controlled through ALC4’s with DDP™ Digital Drive Processing. The surround reproduction seemed to form

digital projection - september 2007

the real challenge and as Tom explains “The steep height, the width and the curved-shape of the seating would have made traditional “point-source” surround speakers unusable. A perfect surround system enables the audience to hear left AND right surround, regardless of where they sit, and not hearing the right speaker louder than left, when sitting on the right and vice-versa. Because of the required throw distance and dispersion accuracy, we used our QR36 line-source columns with Real90 dispersion as surround speakers. Placed on a tripod (pictured right), these gave the desired coverage and “surround-imaging” from both the left ànd the right channel over the entire audience.” Warner Bros MD Wilco Wolfers was delighted “It was a fantastic première and everybody enjoyed it very much. From experience I know that with outdoor screenings, “stereo-sound” is about the maximum achievable, but this time, the surround-experience was tremendous. I’ve never received so many compliments on the sound reproduction quality; This was really unique. A great start for a great movie!” This created yet another ‘first’ for the film in the Netherlands. ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ achieved the highest box office gross of any film on its opening day - and

internationally comes in the top three of most successful openings of all times. Details: Alcons Audio, Tom Back, Managing Director e-mail:

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digital distribution

Reelport shows the potential future of digital distribution





Reelport has a heart for digital short films. Using internet technology this German company brings filmmakers and film festivals closer together. The treasure chest of 5000 largely undiscovered films that has been created this way, is also used to find new ways of getting films out there. It is well known that short films have recently grasped centre stage on the internet via websites like YouTube. But curators and programmers of film festivals, generally looking for the more artistic films, can now stay in their offices when scouting for films. With support of the MEDIA program of the European Union, German company Reelport brings films directly onto the computer screens of festival programmers, where they can view them in high resolution. There is a similar company based in the US, called Withoutabox, working on a commercial basis. However, what makes Reelport stand out from the crowd, is that similar companies have an origin in capital investment or technology, but Reelport’s background is nothing but film. Reelport came into existence through the festival circuit, which gets an overwhelming amount of submissions each year; 5000 per festival is not unusual. This gave birth to the idea of channelling submissions over the internet. Festivals associated with Reelport can now view films on the Reelport website, for which a broadband DSL connection suffices, as well as checking the format in which the actual film is available and learning about the rights situation. If a festival wants to book a film, Reelport will take care of the screening copy, making them a one stop shopping agency for cinema on demand, as they like to call themselves. Festival submissions to Reelport come from all over the world, but especially significant is the great use made of this service by filmmakers from countries like Iran and China, because of the customs restrictions involved. Over time Reelport has built up a considerable catalogue of some 5000 short films, for which they searched and found different ways to get these films before a viewing audience. The website is now also accessible to programmers of arthouse cinemas. If they organise a festival on a certain theme, they can pinpoint their search very effectively on the Reelport website, finding films that might not yet be represented in their territory. Reelport also organises

‘festivals on tour’- programs, touring ‘best of the fest’-packages of films internationally, sparing the festival organisation the hassle. Recently Reelport also started to get involved in video on demand, IPTV and films for mobile phones, striving to get the short film and its maker even more widely viewed. In cooperation with Berlin-based interfilm, a short film distributor, they are launching a new IPTV-channel called Flimmer-tv, due to start at the end of the year on Joost, the new internettv start-up. Moving away from short film, Reelport, together with Europa Cinemas and big European film distributors like Mk2 and Kinowelt, has handed in an application at the European Union, to get funding for an initiative called ‘Europe’s Finest’. The aim is to digitize in a DCI-standard quality fifty European film classics and to distribute them in European digital cinema networks. The Reelport technology moves us away from the notion that every release should be a national release. Every country has examples of films doing well nationally, but which are just not interesting enough to a foreign distributor. But this doesn’t mean they are bad and could never be of interest to a foreign audience. German films have proved popular in Mallorca which has a large German community, and, less obviously, Düsseldorf has more Japanese people than the rest of Germany, so a cinema there can find an audience for Japanese films, while a national release would not be cost-effective. As the UK Film Council has demonstrated, arthouse cinema may be the exhibition area most affected by digitisation, since programmers of arthouse cinemas will be able to present a wider range of movies to a wider range of audiences than standard film distribution techniques will allow. Digital distribution will also challenge programmers of arthouse cinemas to become more active and present films that are not in regular distribution. Programmers should become more inventive and present films and filmmakers that people wouldn’t think of themselves. The growth of digital distribution and projection may be just what is needed to lure people away from their own home cinema, offering something very special they could not otherwise see. Frank de Neeve Details:

digital projection - september 2007

virtual print free

The Virtual Print Fee - Arts Alliance answer the questions Ever since Digital Cinema came over the horizon, more than 10 years ago now, we have all known that someone would have to pay for it, and it has become increasingly obvious that DC can only take off when satisfactory business plans can be worked out. In the US, where there are close relationships between studios, distributors and exhibitors, the Virtual Print Fee Model seeems set to work well, but there has been much doubt about whether a similar system could work in Europe’s more diverse cinema industry. Arts Alliance Media have provided Cinema Technology readers with the detailed Q&A below, which attempts to answer many of the important questions Overview - What is the Virtual Print Fee model? The Virtual Print Fee (VPF) model is a means of financing the conversion of the industry to digital cinema. The basic premise is that a third party (i.e. AAM) pays up front for the equipment, and then recoups the cost of the equipment over time, through payments from distributors (who pay the majority of the cost) and exhibitors. What is a Virtual Print Fee? A Virtual Print Fee is a fee paid by a distributor to the third party – the idea behind it is that the distributors save money by shipping digital, rather than 35mm, prints, and so these savings are used to contribute towards the cost of the equipment. VPF Payments How Much is the Virtual Print Fee? Does the amount change over time? The amount distributors pay as a VPF is set out in their contracts with us, and is a fixed amount for the duration of the contract. How long does the VPF last? AAM’s VPF deal lasts for 10 years, from the date of installation. The VPF will continue to be paid by distributors until the equipment is paid off or until the end of the 10 year contract. What happens at the end? Transfer of title of the equipment to the exhibitor. How is the VPF paid, and to whom? The VPF is paid to AAM – each time a digital version of a print is booked and released at a cinema location. Exhibitor Contribution How much does the Exhibitor have to pay? We are interested in talking to all exhibitors to try and work out a viable pricing model. However, there is no one-size-fits-all pricing, and we will look at each exhibitor individually. What proportion of the cost does an exhibitor have to pay? As there is no set fee for every exhibitor, it is impossible to give a generic answer to this question. However, in all cases the majority of the cost will be paid by distributors (via the VPF). Will exhibitor contributions go down if equipdigital projection - september 2007

ment costs get cheaper? The VPF deal is a long term deal, and the amounts involved are calculated to last throughout the term of the deal, so will not change. The deal is based on a 5 year rollout, and the reduction in equipment costs is already built into the exhibitor offer. Booking and Content How does the exhibitor know that they are going to get content? As part of the VPF deal the distributors have with AAM, they guarantee to make the vast majority of their films available in a digital format. How does this affect what films I show in my cinema? It doesn’t. AAM doesn’t interfere in any way in distributor/exhibitor negotiations – Exhibitors are free to deal with any distributor and book any film they want. For distributors who are not participating in the VPF deal, AAM charges them a fee for using the equipment. However, participation in the VPF deal is open to all distributors of content to your cinema. What if I want to move a film from Screen 1 to Screen 2? Do I have to pay anything? No. The VPF that the distributor pays directly to the third party is paid once per digital print of the film – it costs nothing more to move to another screen. The idea is that once the film has been released digitally in a complex, it will be exhibited solely in digital form in this complex for the whole run. It is therefore necessary to convert several screens in a multiplex so that films can be moved over very easily, which is one of the benefits of digital – it is much easier to switch prints from screen to screen. Do I have to work with a certain advertising company? No, you are free to work with whoever you like Maintenance Why do I have to pay a monthly fee for maintenance? We guarantee maintenance of your equipment for 10 years, and include regular monitoring and maintenance (both remote monitoring and scheduled visits) in the agreement. We also guarantee the majority of spare parts. This method

gives you clear visibility over your costs – an important consideration when dealing with a relatively new technology. Why do I have to sign a 10 year maintenance contract? The distributors who are contributing the majority of the cost of converting to digital are committing to 10 years. This is the time it will take to recoup the cost of the equipment. AAM has agreements with these distributors to ensure a certain level of performance – we can only do this by managing maintenance. Why Participate? Why should I use a third party integrator to convert to digital? There are many benefits to using a third party (i.e. AAM): • We negotiate long term agreements with distributors, saving you valuable time and effort. • We negotiate the best prices and warranties with manufacturers, due to volume purchasing (7000 screens) of equipment. • We finance the equipment - you don’t have to convince your bank • We manage the digital transition, ensuring that it will be an efficient and short industrial process rather than a long and complex development. • We take the financial risk – if insufficient VPF payments are received, you as an exhibitor aren’t affected. • We take the technology risk – we guarantee your equipment will remain compatible with the DCI specs. • We take care of the admin – AAM deals with all the flow of money from studios and exhibitors. Why should I sign up now, rather than waiting? AAM’s VPF deal has a limit to the number of screens per territory that the distributors are willing to finance. We are encouraging cinema owners to sign up early in order to benefit from the reduced costs that come from the VPF deal. Is this deal the same as the deal behind the US digital rollout? In principle, yes – the deals in the US are also based on the VPF model. AAM aren’t privy to specifics of the US deals, but more than 2,700 screens are now digital, as a result of the US VPFbased rollout. page 31

alternative content

Brighton JUL-AUG-3


6:20 pm

Page 8

How the UK has stormed ahead in Europe to prove the case for live alternative content programming A ‘real world’ report from Picturehouse’s Marc John

The Chinese have a saying; “be careful what you wish for, you may just get it!” I know what they mean. Now that live alternative programming has finally reached a point of maturity after six years of pounding the pavement, I’m now faced with a guaranteed minimum of twelve live events, all to be broadcast via satellite, in the next nine months alone, the majority in HD, 1080i/50i to be exact. By Christmas that figure looks set to rise even further. Do the Chinese have a saying for what to do when you get what you wished for? Without doubt, nothing would have happened if I hadn’t joined Picturehouse in March 2006, the UK’s leading independent cinema operator. The fact that the UK has surged ahead of Europe in live event programming is in no small way down to the forward thinking Picturehouse MD, Lyn Goleby, taking a gamble on me, as well as the company’s Head of Programming, Clare Binns and Head of Marketing Marc Allenby being very open-minded and page 32

proactive toward new growth areas. Previously I had worked for Odeon (2002-2004) generating alternative content opportunities, but once the dynamic former CEO Richard Segal departed in the spring of 2004, having been the man who welcomed me into the business in the first place, I was left alienated and eventually ousted, as the company decided there was no future for alternative content.

all the Picturehouse cinemas with permanent satellite systems capable of showing high definition and standard definition formats. It was my chance to really get back into the saddle and prove the business case denied by my departure from Odeon. It worked beautifully. And the success of that first broadcast was such that the equipment was paid off in one neat swoop.

But in Picturehouse I found a vibrant environment where alternative content could finally thrive. In fact it was Allenby who had the contacts at Amnesty International for our first live broadcast, Amnesty International’s The Secret Policeman’s Ball, to get off the ground in the first place. This went ahead live and exclusive to Picturehouse ahead of its terrestrial TV airing across the entire Picturehouse circuit on Saturday October 14th 2006, to sold out and ecstatic audiences. For this I undertook the project management for selecting and coordinating contractors to equip

The Secret Policeman’s Ball ran in standard definition, broadcast at 9MHz via the SIRIUS 2 satellite, in stereo, which we ran through all speakers to create a kind of surround-stereo. And the picture, up-scaled by the CineIMP on the Christie 2K HD digital cinema projectors, delivered an image so stunning it further reinforced the fact (not the opinion, the fact) that a standard definition image – when running through the 2K projector – remains perfectly acceptable to an audience, killing stone dead the technophile argument that only true HD will do on a cinema screen. Not that I would argue, of

course, that HD, where possible and affordable, isn’t naturally always better. It just irks me that standard def gets such a rough ride when it is not justified at all. Projectionists got to grips very quickly with how to tune the receivers and cable them up to the projector multimedia box, and being mostly very technically able men and women anyway, there were no major headaches to report. All projectionists were and are supported with user guides upon installation, along with cabling diagrams and helpdesk support. On one of the permanent test channels of the satellite receivers we have a dog racing feed and the only thing I suppose I need to be concerned about are projectionists having the occasional look and wager on a race or two! “What’s next?” was the inevitable question among enthusiastic Picturehouse managers, eager to see live events go from strength to strength now that the inaugural event had been so popular. What was next was digital projection - september 2007

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alternative content going to take alternative content to a whole new level …

I first met Julie BorchardYoung, the Metropolitan Opera’s Director for Worldwide HD Distribution, when she was Head of International Marketing at Sony Music in London. I had pitched digital cinema to Sony Music back in late 2002 with my Odeon hat on, and eventually Julie was the person responsible for getting a David Bowie cinecast approved after we did a sort of guinea pig live broadcast involving the American Grammy-winning singer Melissa Etheridge in May 2003, live via satellite from LA to Germany and Holland, with me again coordinating the cinema and satellite end. The Bowie gig, which followed this in September of that year, was massive, playing live via satellite from London to 98 cinemas in 22 countries spanning five continents. It grossed $500m and further demonstrated the appeal of live programming. If my time at Odeon had been extended who knows what could have been, but it wasn’t meant to be. Anyway, not long after the Bowie event Sony Music merged with BMG and Julie moved on to other pastures and we lost touch when I disappeared off the scene for a year to recharge my batteries and write a book all about the rollercoaster ride, titled Beaming David Bowie. When I joined Picturehouse and started knocking on doors, I heard from various people that the Metropolitan Opera company in New York were mounting a live cinema series, and when I called them I was amazed to get a call back from none other than Julie, who was now at the Met driving the whole cinema idea based on her former knowledge and success at Sony Music. Very quickly the deal got done for Picturehouse to be the

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exclusive UK cinema partner for the first Met opera live transmission to cinemas, The Magic Flute, on 30th December 2006 after another UK operator has basically messed up their deal with procrastinations, flip flopping over terms, etc. The Met encountered none of that at Picturehouse and the relationship was ours. The show was a massive commercial and technical success; shot and transmitted live in 1920 x1080 HD at 60hz, converted to 50hz to accommodate the European frame rate of our satellite receivers, delivered as a 5.1 with stereo back up, and broadcast at 18MHz, bouncing off three satellites for the transatlantic relay originating at the Met in New York to reach the UK screens. We ran it through the 2K projectors via the CineIPM of course and the result was pure gold, a picture so gorgeous you could go glassy eyed just staring at it. Audiences flocked to it. Needless to say we enthusiastically signed up for four more live Met operas between January and April of this year, increasing the number of screens from six for The Magic Flute up to thirteen by the time of the final performance of this past season, Il Trittico. The audience response was so extraordinary we were painfully turning business away in locations like Notting Hill and Brighton and elsewhere where our single screen venues were selling out. Clearly there was a market demand for this material that warranted a significant expansion of screens across the land. Such was the proven relationship between the Met and Picturehouse that we were able to negotiate to become the exclusive agent in the UK, Eire and Northern Ireland, handling all further expansion to other cinemas. On top of driving penetration for Doremi in the UK,

for whom I also consult as UK business development manager - gaining success already being selected for the well publicised all-digital multiplex pilot project at Odeon Surrey Quays, as well as seeing Doremi replacing QuVis in the UKFC DSN - I am kept busy lately with the Met opera sub-licensing and coordination of satellite services for the growing list of cinemas around the UK signing up to the guaranteed 8 live opera transmissions scheduled for the 07-08 season. Indeed, just finding a few hours to write this article has been arduous and I owe Editor Jim Slater some congratulations for his patience. Not that it ends there. Ahead of the Met opera season, commencing 15th December with Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet, we have ex-Pink Floyd icon David Gilmour performing live to cinemas around the UK on 6th September, and ahead of then on 19th August we are coordinating the live filming and broadcasting to Picturehouses nationwide of a director Q&A to support the launch of the upcoming movie Atonement, demonstrating how the satellite network can serve our traditional film suppliers and not just new distributors such as the Met and record labels. Live director Q&As are fertile ground indeed, Picturehouse notching up one already this year in April for top British director Danny Boyle as part of a launch event for the Fox movie Sunshine. Other live productions, some of them totally original programmes conceived in-house, are being explored. All of these events will be offered to our expanded satellite network on an ‘opt in or out’ basis. So, what is categorically clear and proven at this juncture is that live events do work and are increasing in number and variety. As more cinema operators finally

realise this potential and try to catch up with Picturehouse, most noticeably VUE with their recent satellite equipment installations, (see Vue Thurrock report in this issue) alternative content looks set to become a very interesting space indeed. Making room for alternative content has not proved problematic either. Companies like the Met are distributors, same as any other, except they deliver product live via satellite instead of on 35mm or disc. Bookers are becoming accustomed to treating these ‘new distributors’ on their merits rather than automatically ruling them out in favour of the ‘old guard’. This has been essential to the success of the Met operas. You have to embrace the future, after all. It’s fantastic that we in the UK are setting the alternative content pace in Europe. A lot of credit must go to the UK Film Council and Arts Alliance for successfully implementing the DSN, without which there wouldn’t be a state of the art, embryonic digital cinema network to utilise in the first place. In over six years working in this industry, driving alternative content, I can finally say it’s reached its tipping point where the doubters can finally be silenced. Live alternative programming is now established as a regular occurrence and a major new growth area, proving that the digital cinema of the 21st century will be a multientertainment complex, and not just a movie temple. Marc John is a digital cinema consultant to Picturehouse cinemas in the UK and Doremi Cinema, and has worked in the industry since 2001 for companies including Odeon and Sony Music. He will be speaking at the Screen International Digital Cinema Conference in London on 25th September.

digital projection - september 2007

visual extravaganza

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World’s largest high-res digital screen for Manchester festival

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�������������� �������� ���������������� �������� ���� �� ����� ������ �� � Leading VJs and DJs, and an audience of thousands, descended on Manches�������������������� ter Central (formerly known as the G-Mex Centre) for two nights during July � ���� ����� ����� �� ���� ���������� ��� ������� ����������� ��� ����� ��� for the Industrial Resolution - the event featured a monumental visual arts in�������������������������������������������������������������� �������� stallation displayed on the world’s largest high-res digital screen by Harkness. ������������ Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Industrial Resolution ��� ������ ���� ����� ���������� ������� ������ ����� ��� ���� ��������� brought together visual artists from Microchunk, led by director Todd Graft, �������������������������������������������������������������� to perform custom-designed, multi-media to the soundscape of the world’s �������������������������������������������������� leading DJs, including 2 Many DJs, Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Laurent Garnier, Layo, Sasha, and many more. The focal point of the visually stunning show was the shaped Harkness screen - 48metres wide by 18metres high over a 25metre radius and with a total area of more than 800square metres - specially constructed for the event to form a DC Engineer.indd 1 1/8/07 spectacular backdrop for the performers. Installed by UK Rigging and supervised by Harkness Screens, the screen, weighing 360kg, was the largest ever constructed for a single event and took a little over 7 hours to secure to the pre-fabricated modular truss frame. Such a large shaped surface required that Harkness develop a special folding technique using horizontal and vertical pleats, not only to make shipping easier, but to reduce site handling. Harkness Screen’s sales manager Tony Dilley explains ‘This meant that we could keep the amount of screen on the floor to a minimum as it was attached to the huge structure during assembly at ground level and then slowly lifted into position’. Using five Barco FMCHD18 projectors, from Creative Technology, with a combined output of 90,000 ansi lumens, over 1000 bespoke image clips made for the event and 20,000 embedded clips from public submissions and archive material were projected at resolutions 32 times higher than PAL and 8 times higher than HD. By using mosaics - images within images and subplots within meta-themes - the VJs told the story of Manchester, the first modern city, using the breathtaking cutting-edge digital imagery to create the ultimate interactive clubbing experience. Details: e-mail: Photos: Top; Post installation screen test - Joel Filde DJ Fatboy Slim performs ‘Praise You’ - Anna McCrickard digital projection - september 2007


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Meet the chief Jim Slater visited the recently opened Apollo cinema complex in Redditch and spoke with chief projectionist Paul Richards and general manager Gary Stevens. After being eight years without a Cinema, the town of Redditch saw the opening of a brand new Apollo Cinema in March 2007, and I was interested to go and have a look at it and to talk with those involved. It is a cinema within a shopping centre, but quite different from many of its type, because it exclusively occupies the top floor of the Kingfisher Shopping Centre development, so that once you have got up there, by lift or escalator, you are no longer aware of the shops, and the whole spacious cinema, with its bars, refreshment areas and leisure facilities might just as well be on ground level. Chief Projectionist Paul Richards was proud to show me around his new technical empire, and told me something of his 40 years in the projection business. As with so many others, his story began with a childhood enthusiasm for all things to do with the cinema, where he was just as interested in what was happening through those mysterious projection box portholes as in the pictures on screen. But when he came to leave school and expressed an interest in theatre and the cinema to his ‘careers’ master, he was strongly discouraged, and told that cinema was a dying industry. “It is being reputedly dying for 40 years”, said Paul, “but somehow we have managed to keep it going.” He was found his first job in a tailor’s shop, and knew within the first week that this wouldn’t be the life for him, so went and knocked on the door of the Essoldo cinema in Bristol Road, Longbridge and asked for a job. As luck had it, the Chief there had just put an ad in the local paper for a projectionist, and was amazed when Paul walked in - “The ad hasn’t appeared in the paper yet!” His ‘gift of the gab’ obviously served him well, and he was immediately taken on as a trainee. The first film he ever got to show was ‘The Ten Commandments’, starring Charlton Heston, and page 36

he still remembers that they did changeovers on Ross GC3s with Peerless Magnarc lamphouses that used motor-driven carbons. The sound system was by RCA, with valve amplifiers. He moved on to the Essoldo at nearby Quinton and then spent some years as ‘Midlands area relief’ for the company, working at venues including Banbury, Leicester, Cannock and Nottingham. He became Chief at what was the Classic Redditch in 1973, and carried on there for some 28 years, a constant figure as the cinema saw changes of name and of ownership, through Essoldo, Classic, Cannon and MGM, ending up with ABC cinemas, and now, sadly, as a Chicago Rock Cafe. Just before that cinema’s closure he got a job as Projectionist at Virgin Great Park, Birmingham, where he stayed for some nine years. As a ‘local lad’, born in Ladywood and having worked in Redditch for most of his lifetime, he heard that the new Apollo was coming, applied, and got the Chief’s job, joining

the company a few weeks before the opening. Before we began our tour of the cinema I encouraged Paul to tell me something of his approach to life in the cinema business, and it soon became apparent hat he is one of those who is absolutely convinced that an essential part of the business is showmanship. He told me of how he had been heavily into promoting the films that they showed at his previous cinemas, and at one stage he ran a promotion for sixteen MGMs as well as doing his job as Chief! He showed me an extensive file of press cuttings resulting from his promotional efforts over the years, including an interesting photograph of himself and the then Council leader Albert Wharrad burying a timecapsule at the Cannon cinema Redditch (picture left), to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Cinema in 1996. The artifacts in the time capsule included a letter from Lord Attenborough, photographs of the cinema, staff portraits and signatures, copies of ‘Flicks’ movie magazine, a piece of 35mm film, a newspaper ad for the cinema, and some cinema tickets. Another memorable promotional stunt that Paul had come up with was for the parachuting film ‘Drop Zone’. After arranging for all the local press and publicity people to be prewarned, Paul fixed it for the local sky-diving club to ‘drop in’ and deliver reel five of the movie direct from the sky! It was interesting to see that MGM had obviously been a caring and considerate employer, from the fact that Paul had hung on to a number of framed awards that he had received from the company. One was in recognition of loyal service over 25 years, another for the ‘Most outstanding promotion of 1994’ - for his efforts on The Lion King, which had gained much press interest, including pictures of cinema staff dressed up in lion outfits. Of most interest to me was the award complete with gold rosette, for being runner up in MGM’s Chief Projectionist of the Year competicinema technology - september 2007


tion. I don’t think that any of the current cinema chains have carried on such a tradition, so it is a good thing that the BKSTS continues to present its annual award for Projection Team of the Year. We looked around the projection area, and I asked Paul whether he had been allowed any input into the design of the projection facilities, but he hadn’t, having come along too late for that. The technical facilities are very similar to those of the cinema’s ‘Twin’ (although its external appearance is very different) which was opened in Altringham last year. Sound Associates had done the complete technical installation, and Paul expressed his complete satisfaction with the way in which the equipment has been laid out. As can be seen from the diagram below, all seven screens are served from a single, roughly L-shaped projection area (highlighted in yellow on the plan), which allows a single projectionist to cope with running all seven screens. Although the automation system (Vector 500) obviously goes a long way towards making this possible, Paul told me that shows are staggered so that the projectionists can (and do) get around to seeing the start of each show, checking focus, sound, and that the correct aspect ratio and masking is in use. The Apollo has seven screens, all different sizes, but with very similar decor and furnishings. The top few rows of the stadium seating in each screen are leather ‘premium seats’ (below right), and it was interesting to note that the luxuri-

ous smell of the leather hadn’t worn off as you entered some of the auditoria, even though the Apollo has been open for nearly four months. There is LED step lighting and each screen is attractively surrounded by a blue ‘Halo’ - pictured below right - (provided by LEDs in a plastic tube, mounted just behind the front surface of the screen) which serves to make the experience of visiting the cinema seem a little more special. I grinned when Paul told me that some of their customers have commented that the effect is just like the Philips ‘Ambilight’ that they get with their flat screen TVs at home. Paul is as much of a showman as a projectionist, loves the fact that each screen is fitted with variable masking (so many multiplexes aren’t these days) and he likes the ‘Halo’ effect and says that since there is no light reflected on the screen, he likes to keep the blue surround illuminated during the ads, turning it off to draw attention to the fact that the main feature is about to start. The spacious projection area has a Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 projector for each screen, with Dolby CP650s providing the sound. Soft subtitling and audio description services are provided in Screens 1, 2 and 3 from a Dolby Screentalk system and Panasonic video projector. Three portholes are provided for each screen, one of these being used for the subtitle projector when necessary, and Paul said how useful it was to be able to look out of the spare porthole when checking that


all is well. The cinema is currently all-film, and I commented that there would easily be room for an extra digital projector for each screen, but Paul said that there are currently no plans for this. The technical team consists of just three people, Paul as Chief, Ben Mart as Projectionist, and a third projectionist. Paul said that they were just about to interview someone for the currently vacant post. The cinema has been designed so that a single projectionist can normally cope, but a second projectionist is rostered for changeover day on Thursdays. You obviously need to be well organised to cope single-handedly with seven screens, and it was interesting to see a trusty whiteboard in use to keep up with the ‘comings and goings’, as well as all the computerised management system. We then visited each of the screens in turn, all fairly similar except for the number of seats. There is an easily accessible area for customers in wheelchairs at the front of each screen. Paul showed me how the ticket vending system, based on the Radiant Theatre Management System, works. Customers can buy tickets from self-service machines outside the cinema or from a ticket booth - Apollo haven’t adopted the ‘get your ticket at any of the concession stands’ system that some others are using. You can also book by phone, but, surprisingly, not via the web, although




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you can sign up to receive film listings via email. Customers can reserve their numbered seats, and the Apollo has a unique, ‘old-fashioned’ customer service feature - everyone is shown to their individual seat by an ‘usherette’! The LCD screens in the foyer are programmed via the Saturn information system that we have described previously in Cinema Technology, and it was interesting to see that as well as the usual film trailers the screens carried BBC News 24 TV for part of the time. To ensure that all goes smoothly, the projection staff are in contact with the FOH staff via radio, and five minutes before a show is due to start a message goes from the projectionist to ask FOH staff to ensure that customers are shown quickly to their seats. Talking with Paul, it became obvious that this ‘veteran’ projectionist had learned to cope with all the new technologies that have come along during the past 40 years, and continues to do so. He says that he has never been a chief who lives in the past, and that one of the things he enjoys about the job is the constant change - the industry is always coming up with new things. When digital cinema arrives on his patch, it will be just another development to learn about and cope with. As showtime began and Paul did his rounds of the projectors, ensuring that all was ready for the start of each show, I thanked him for his time and was then shown around the ‘management suite’ by General Manager Gary Stevens (above right), who, purely by coincidence, features elsewhere in this issue (Page 42) where he is shown receiving the 2007 Oscar Deutsch Award for the Exhibitor of the Year on behalf of Apollo Cinemas, for their commitment in bringing new cinemas to areas not served by the larger circuits. Gary told me something of the background to Apollo cinemas, which would make good mate-

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rial for a future article, saying that he finds it great to work for one of the few private companies still in the cinema business, and that Apollo managers are given tremendous independence in running their cinemas - he likened it to being granted a franchise, whereby you are encouraged to set your own targets and to achieve as much as you can.

Apollo Cinema Redditch Architectural Specifications Screen 1 - 280 Standard seats - 34 Premium seats - 4 Wheelchair spaces Screen 2 - 122 Standard seats - 26 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces

Redditch is Apollo’s 13th site, their first in a shopping centre, and other cinemas are planned for the near future, including Bicester and Worksop.

Screen 3 - 74 Standard seats - 23 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces

Gary’s small management team includes Robin Lee and Julie Jones, and they look after a total staff of about twenty people, most of whom work part-time. I asked Gary whether there were any plans to introduce Digital Cinema or to go for Alternative Content events, but he said that at the present time Apollo hadn’t come up with a workable business plan for digital, although such things are under consideration.

Screen 5 - 94 Standard seats - 25 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces

They have made a very small start in the conference business by hiring out a useful meeting room (picture below), which is proving popular with local organisations and for parties, and intend to expand this side of the business.

earlier - no wonder they make such a good team! I managed to get Gary to reveal just one more secret of his success before I left, provoked by my innocent ‘do you know how to lace up a projector?’ question. [Always sorts out the men from the boys!]. The answer was a resounding yes - he looked for a job in TV when he left school and to gain experience took on voluntary work at the ABC Wolverhampton, where he became a fully competent projectionist, and later worked as a projectionist in several cinemas, including ThornEMI and ABCs before making that decisive step into cinema management. I always thought he seemed to be made of ‘the right stuff’!

Gary is delighted with the way that the Redditch site is developing, saying that they have built up a regular clientele of all ages, and that the shopping centre site is proving to be ideal, with easy parking, good access, and, most importantly, a security presence which makes people feel safe when they come for a night out at the Apollo. Gary is well-known in the business for the pro-active way in which he promotes his business - rarely a week goes by without the press receiving an email from Gary telling of some new development, and some of his publicity ‘stunts’ rival those that Paul got up to twentyfive years

Screen 4 - 94 Standard seats - 29 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces

Screen 6 - 160 Standard seats - 44 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces Screen 7 - 123 Standard seats - 19 Premium seats - 3 Wheelchair spaces

Thanks to Paul and to Gary for a very interesting day. Jim Slater

cinema technology - september 2007

book review

Book review : The cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union Review by David A Ellis

‘The Cinema of the Former Soviet Union’, which was published in March, is published by Wallflower Press in their ‘Twenty-Four Frames’ series and is edited by Birgit Beumers. Beumers specialises in research on contemporary Russian culture, especially theatre and cinema. Twenty-Four Frames mean in this case, twentyfour chapters, dealing with filmmakers from the pre-revolutionary period to the present day. The book runs to 283 pages including an index, filmography and bibliography, listing reference books, cinema under Stalin, glasnost and perestroika, pre-revolutionary cinema etc. There are eighteen contributors covering the twenty-four filmmakers. Each chapter takes a look at a filmmaker and analyses one of their films. Sergei Badrov Sr wrote the preface, and there are twenty-four illustrations, each one before a new chapter. The use of a single black and white picture for each chapter produces a curiously ‘dull’ layout, with page after page of unbroken text, although there is plenty of white space between the lines. We begin with Evgenii Bauer 1867 – 1917 and his film ‘A Life for a Life’ (1916). Bauer was regarded as a major filmmaker of his era and a figure of fundamental importance on the history and development of Russian and Soviet film and world cinema. The chapter tells us about Bauer and gives us an anatomy of his film. Bauer is given genius status and was recognised by his contempories, but after the 1917 Revolution his films fell out of favour. Rachel Morley wrote the chapter on Bauer. At the end of each chapter there is a list of references. Morley is quoted as writing a piece

on Bauer entitled ‘Gender Relations’ in the Films of Evgenii Bauer. Other filmmakers include Sergei Eistenstein 1898 – 1948, Aleksandr Dovzhenko 1894 – 1956 and the final filmmaker in the book Andrei Konchalovskii, born 1937. Chapter four deals with Sergei Eistenstein and his film ‘The Strike’ (1925). Eisenstein’s creative career began when he was a sapper in the Red Army during the post-revolutionary Civil War of 1918- 1921. He designed stage sets and costumes for performances for propaganda purposes. We are told that ‘The Strike’ marked a significant moment in his career. Richard Taylor is the author of this chapter. Aleksandr Dovzhenko was born in 1884 and passed away in 1956. He was sceptical about the durability of the cinema’s impact on the national or individual consciousness. He made a speech in 1935 addressing the All-Union Creative Meeting of Cinematographers speaking about the illusory state of imprintedness, arguing that while an individual work may reach large audiences in a quicker space of time compared with other forms of art, such works fast became museum pieces, eroded by the passing of time. In 1930 his film Zemlia (Earth) was released. The original negative was lost due to bombing in world war two. Dovzhenko’s film has become a film classic and is placed alongside a number of iconoclastic films associated with the Soviet avant- garde of the 1920s and early 1930s. The last chapter is about Andrei Konchalovskii and his film ‘House of Fools’ (2002) - the picture above is from the film. In 1980 he moved to

America and for two decades made films in Europe and Hollywood. ‘House of Fools’ is a French and Russian coproduction. Marcia Landy is the author. The analysis of the twenty-four listed films gives the reader a look into the progress of the Soviet film industry. It is lucidly written and imaginative. The book, which I found a little heavy going, is aimed at the student who seriously wants to learn about Soviet cinema. It is definitely not a light bedtime read or a book to read on the train when visiting your aunt. It is a book to be studied and dipped into for its many facts. It would make a great addition to other volumes on the subject. Wallflower has a number of books in the twenty-four frames series including ‘The Cinema of Italy’ and ‘The Cinema of Britain and Ireland.’ The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union ISBN 978- 1904764-98-4 (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-904764-99-1 (Hardback). Wallflower Press 6a Middleton Place, Langham Street, London W1W 7TE. Price £18.99 in paperback.

New guide from EDCF The European Digital Cinema Forum, the leading networking, information sharing and lobbying organisation for Digital Cinema in Europe, has just published its second Digital Cinema Guide, following its successful ‘Guide to Early Adopters’ which came out in 2005. The new publication, entitled ‘The EDCF Guide to Digital Cinema Mastering’, has been created by the EDCF Technical Support Group, Chaired by Peter Wilson, and its aim is to provide a tutorial to the subject, with preliminary information and guidelines for those who need to understand the processes involved in assembling the components required to produce a Digital Cinema Master – the Digital Cinema Package that is the set of files resulting from the processes of encoding, encrypting and packaging all the materials required to form a digital movie. cinema technology - september 2007

The Guide has been written by a range of experts, each explaining about their own specialist field and the role it plays in assembling a Digital Cinema Master, and the compilation forms an excellent reference manual for anyone in the production, postproduction or exhibition sides of the cinema business who needs the most up to date practical information on DC Mastering. If you are in the Digital Cinema business and would like to know more about the technologies and techniques of mastering for digital cinema, copies of ‘The EDCF Guide to Digital Cinema Mastering’ may be requested from John Graham at or, in due course, from the EDCF website page 39


Signposting the future The Landor 2007 Cinema Industry Conference Part 2 The afternoon session Continued from Cinema Technology June 2007 Jim Slater reports The afternoon session began, looking at Digital Cinema issues. Entitled ‘Digital Conversion - assessing the current issues’, the session began with Chairman David Monk (below left) giving his thoughts on the state of the industry, saying that it is over 100 years old and has successfully faced up to several major challenges in that time. From the morning’s sessions he had learned that the only thing constant in our business is change, and he felt that with more and more competition for people’s time we need to be sure that cinemagoing is on young people’s calendars. At a time when large flat screen displays can provide excellent images in the home at affordable prices, cinemas must keep up standards, and the coming of digital cinema will help to ensure that cinemagoers get the best possible pictures and sound. He was concerned that 26% of people still think it is better to watch a movie at home, which indicates that cinema owners must do everything possible to make the cinema experience something very

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special. The increasing interest in environmental issues will also provide another reason for going digital - the manufacture of film and its processing and disposal can prove problematic, and material costs are rising. Digital cinema will present opportunities and problems, and the panel would be considering both, but the sooner we face up to them and move forward, the sooner costs will fall. The message for the afternoon was to be - It is time to get on with getting on with the Digital Cinema business. Graham Edmundson (below right) is Development Manager, Production Services at Dolby Laboratories, and he spoke about the need for interoperability in the digital cinema business, explaining that although the DCI specifications are now fairly widely adopted, there are still many practical problems with the non-interoperability of equipment from different manufacturers. He used an analogy comparing digital cinema with a multi-layered onion which has JPEG 2000 encoding at its core and several layers around

it, including the electronic systems, the operating system and a data ingest layer, with the hard outer layer representing the layer of physical security that digital cinema equipment must include. Graham said that when Dolby provided mastering services to distributors last year, they had to make literally dozens of different versions of the hard drives that they sent out to different cinemas - each different server required something different from the others. After much work things have now improved in this regard, and exactly the same hard disk can now be read by cinemas equipped with Dolby, Doremi, or Kodak servers. 2007 is likely to see further improvements in compatibility. Graham said that there is still no such thing as equipment which is fully DC compliant - the Fraunhofer testing procedures are still in draft

form and the CTP (Compliance Test Plan) is still only a plan, equipment testing has not yet begun. Graham spoke about the need for a central security registry. As the diagram below shows, a complete digital cinema system needs security built in at all stages. When a piece of cinema equipment is supplied from the manufacturer he needs to insert a unique security key into it. The distributor needs to know the unique security codes that are in that cinema’s equipment before it can prepare a movie for showing there, and the replication house, where the movie data is recorded onto actual hard drives also needs to put a suitable key on the hard drive. Where does everybody get such keys from, and who holds them? At the moment these security keys (usually called KDMs, Key Delivery Messages) are held in

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conference many different places, including manufacturers, distributors, and cinemas, and with only 2% of the world’s screens having so far gone digital this is already causing problems - how do you find a missing or corrupt key if you are a cinema operator who hits a problem just before a showing? Graham suggested that the answer to such problems must eventually be to hold the KDMs in a central secure registry, which could be accessed by anyone with appropriate rights. Ideally there would be just one central registry, but Graham recognised the impracticability of this and suggested perhaps three or four worldwide, with a single registry for Europe. He had obviously given a lot of thought to this idea, and suggested that such a registry should be mutually owned by all the different stakeholders, and that it should be financially self-sustaining. He suggested that cinemas, as the ultimate end-users, should take responsibility for keeping the data accurate and up to date, and gave as an analogy the way in which an end user is responsible for telling the world that his email address has changed - this isn’t the responsibility of the Internet Service Provider. John Wilkinson (above left), Chief Executive of the Cinema Exhibitors Association, the trade association for cinemas in the UK which represents the interests of some 90% of cinemas, including the big operators, smaller circuits, independents, council cinemas and regional film theatres, expressed his frustration and that of many on the exhibition side of the industry, that there is still no agreed business plan for the widespread introduction of digital cinema into the UK. He said that this is currently acting as a major barrier, and that an acceptable business model needs to be worked out urgently. He explained the workings of the Virtual Print Fee system that has basically been designed for the US cinema industry, and said that although the Motion Picture Association of America, (MPAA) member companies say that they may agree to the introduction of a similar system for Europe, this is likely to be at different fee levels from those used in the US. cinema technology - september 2007

And they are also indicating that the VPF will not be applicable to all showings in Europe, since US material does not enjoy the near exclusive use of cinema screens in Europe as it does in the US. There are indications that agreements might be reached on a territory by territory basis, but no plans for this to include the digital conversion of all cinemas. John said that any plan will need to include a contribution from European content providers, since they will obviously benefit from the rollout of digital cinema. The Europa Cinema / European Commission proposals for a business model which have resulted from negotiations between distributors, exhibitors, producers and rights owners, public institutions, manufacturers and service providers may lead to a detailed plan for a roll-out, nation by nation, but John dismissed this attempt at creating a business model as impractical because the model was just too complicated. Any subsidy from European Commission would not be just for exhibitors, but for the overall cinema industry. John’s main complaint was the current lack of solid information, and he said that it was a serious concern that he really doesn’t know many of the things that you might expect the CEA and exhibitors to know at this critical time. Having only incomplete information is totally unsatisfactory, and many exhibitors, large and small, are expressing their frustration at not having the information upon which to base their future business plans. Addressing the theme that had flowed through earlier speakers’ presentations, John said that he doesn’t even know whether the 17 week window of theatrical exclusivity will continue into the future. Without a guarantee that this will be maintained, how could exhibitors be confident about making any investment in digital cinema? Whatever agreements are

reached on digital cinema between producers, distributors and exhibitors will need to make business sense for all concerned. Working in the dark doesn’t help anyone. John ended with a heartfelt plea for the distribution sector of the industry to start talking seriously with the exhibitors about how digital cinema will be financed. David Kerr (above centre), who was Vice President, Print & Related Services at United International Pictures (UIP) until the end of 2006, has spent a lifetime in the industry and acquired a vast experience in all aspects of production and distribution of films. David is currently a Digital Cinema Distribution Consultant, and he provided an excellent ‘warts and all’ description of the practical side of digital cinema distribution. He explained that the major problem at the moment is that no industrywide system for duplicating and delivering digital movies exists. Last year when distributing a movie to several different cinemas a different hard-drive arrangement was required for each (something that Graham Edmundson had touched on earlier), and if they needed to serve six screens, then six hard drives could be needed. Things are slowly getting better, and the industry seems to be settling on the use of USB-based hard drives, but at a time when technologies are constantly changing, there can be no guarantee that any manufacturers will be prepared to make the necessary investment in a system that might have been overtaken in five years time. As in the normal film distribution business, logistics play a huge role, and David gave some explanations of current practices. He spoke of the problems that can arise when Key Delivery Messages go missing, and described various ways in which KDMs can be delivered, including carrying the encrypted data on a USB fob and sending the data via email. David

explained that many of the current problems in bringing together a sensible business case for the distribution of digital products are due to the inevitable ‘dual-inventory’ - distributors are having to provide both 35mm film prints and their digital equivalents on hard drive. Since the numbers of digital movies are relatively low at the moment, digital is inevitably more expensive, and a considerable extra cost for the distributors to bear. Things can’t get better (cheaper) until the distribution of digital prints reaches a critical mass, and when that will be is anyone’s guess. David reminded us that the whole distribution process is subject to change, with different arrangements being made for different films at the present time. All involved must keep an open mind as to the best way forward, but eventually a system that suits the whole industry will emerge. Christine Costello (above right), best known to many of us in her previous role as MD of Pearl and Dean, set up her own company more2screen limited in 2006, to push forward the development of ‘Alternative Content’ (AC) in the digital cinema world, and she has successfully organised the distribution of music concerts in cinema in the UK, in Europe and in Asia. Using the title ‘Alternative Content - A Profitable Reality?’, Christine took us through the whole process of providing cinemas with ‘Other Digital Stuff’, explaining the whys and hows, and making a persuasive case that cinema owners can make a better return on their investment if they expand their horizons from merely showing movies. Christine said that she foresaw that cinemas would broaden their current remit and become social centres providing meeting facilities and different forms of entertainment. The current rate of seat occupancy in cinemas is less than 50% (compared with around 59% for hotel rooms), and alternative uses for the cinema could improve that occupancy by attracting new audiences and adding differentiation. The net result of increasing seat occupancy is to improve profits, and Christine provided some predictions from page 41

conference Screen Digest showing that with the current growth in digital screens throughout Europe AC could provide cinemas with over 17% extra profit by 2008. In the US Alternative Content is already a growing business, up 45% last year, with one alternative event a week on average, compared with one every three months in the UK. Music, live theatre and opera, special events and ‘custom DVD presentations’ are proving the most popular. Business meetings held in cinemas (rather than hotels) are also growing in popularity. From a survey of cinema owners carried out in the UK it was apparent that everyone expressed an interest and 84% agreed that AC would attract new audiences. 58% thought that AC would increase profitability, and a surprising 88% said that they had already experimented with AC. There was considerable concern, however about finding the best business model. Christine provided lots of examples of successful events, and although claiming no technical expertise showed some of the different delivery mechanisms that could be used to get content to cinemas. She agreed that it can be difficult to obtain the rights and even to find out who owns the rights to show different types of material and gave some helpful hints as to go about this. Negotiating prices for rights can also be difficult, with a common response these days being ‘I can make more money by selling the broadband rights’. Christine gave some useful ideas on how to market AC events, and left the audience in no doubt that she sees AC as a future profit driver for cinemas, expanding

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customer choice and improving the utilisation of the equipment and facilities. David Pope (above left), Director of Business Development for DTS Europe, spoke about the practical problems of helping to support cinemas in the transition from 35mm to digital, and he provided, courtesy of Sound Associates, some nice photographs of digital installations in cinemas large and small throughout the UK, from Zeffirellis Ambleside to the Vue West End, with numerous insights into the pros and cons of a digital changeover. An interesting story was that even having been given the digital projection equipment ‘free’ as part of the Film Council DSN scheme, a small cinema needed to sell an extra 1000 seats a year to cover the £3000 per year service fee and the extra cost of lamps, currently four times the cost of normal xenons. Small cinemas are also finding it difficult to get digital copies of all the movies they would like to show. DTS has being doing a great deal to support cinemas in the changeover to digital, both in terms of digital audio and in improving disability access by the provision of subtitling and audio description, and David explained what their various items of equipment can achieve. He suggested that there is still a long way to go in the development of digital cinema equipment. Whereas

in the music industry recording equipment has halved in price and halved in size over the past few years, digital projection kit is twice the size and twice the price of earlier projection gear. Similarly, digital cinema has not yet provided any savings in print costs, only extra costs for digital distribution. He predicted that all this will change, however, with new business models becoming viable, equipment getting smaller and cheaper, and digital booking systems allowing exhibitors far more choice in what they show. As David said, our industry can look forward to a very interesting next five years! As always, the final panel session provided a wide range of questions from the audience, and some pretty contentious answers from panel members, who didn’t always agree with each other! Topics discussed included ‘top slicing’ of digital equipment costs, the extra costs of digital to small distributors, the problems of digital archiving, and suggestions that Alternative Content gives rise to so many problems that it is just too difficult! In response to a ‘why don’t we just copy what the Americans are doing technically?’ question, David Kerr summed up a good deal of what we had learned throughout the Cinema conference, saying that the current problems are all part of the growing pains of a new business, that things are coming together technically, and

that within a short time we will have achieved the ‘plug and play’ interoperability of digital cinema that 35mm film has given us for so long. The day finished with a drinks reception sponsored by Sound Associates and the presentation of the inaugural Cinema Business Awards. It was good to see that the 2007 Oscar Deutsch Award for the Exhibitor of the Year went to Apollo Cinemas, for their commitment in bringing new cinemas to areas not served by the larger circuits. Gary Stevens (above right) well known to Cinema Technology readers as long-time general manager of the Apollo Leamington Spa, and now in charge of the new Redditch multiplex, which we report on elsewhere in this issue, collected the award, saying that he was overwhelmed, and accepted it on behalf of all the Apollo managers, each of whom is a showman in their own right, each doing their excellent best. The 2007 Bromhead Award for Distributor of the Year went to Buena Vista International (UK) for their very publicly shown interest in the long-term future of the cinema business as a whole and for the exceptional support they provided for the independent exhibition sector. BVI UK’s managing director Robert Mitchell (above centre) accepted the award, saying that winning the award really mattered to BVI, and thanking all their partners in exhibition. The 2007 Landor UK Cinema Industry Conference - the tenth was held was held in the Princess Anne Theatre at BAFTA on 1st March 2007. Jim Slater

cinema technology - september 2007


Big things happening on the small screen Martyn Green takes his article on the Red Theatre in the last issue as a jumping off point for an examination of some of cinema’s widescreen processes In the June 2007 issue of Cinema Technology, Hong Kong-based writer Martyn Green discussed the genesis and continuing legacy of the historical Red Theatre, in the capital of the Republic of China - Taipei. The building that was eventually to house the Red Theatre was built as long ago as 1908, although the heyday of the actual cinema on it’s first floor was in the late 1970s and early 80s. It was during that time that several “roadshow” type movies graced the small silver screen inside the Red Theatre. Several of them were mentioned in Martyn Green’s original article (June issue pp 53-55), along with the romantic comedy, “Roman Holiday” (with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck). As they are of continuing historical significance, Cinema Technology readers may be interested in some of the technology involved in their capture and presentation.... Those Were The Days.... Over the course of the past century, there have been almost as many film sizes and formats as there have been years - going from an almost unbelievable shoelace-like bare 3mm, used by NASA in 1960, to an over-large 75mm film Different formats (not to scale) - clockwise L to R: 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, Super 16 and 16mm .

cinema technology - september 2007

format, used 60 years earlier. We are all familiar with, or have heard of 9.5mm Pathe, along with Kodak’s 8mm (“bootlace”) film which was split down the middle after filming down each side of 16mm stock, then single load Super 8 which replaced it - along with 16mm, Super 16, etc. But apart from the original Cinemascope 55 (actually 55.625mm, with an eight- perf pulldown), how many have heard of, let alone seen, such odd sizes as 4.75mm, 8.75mm, 11, 17.5, 22, 24, 28, 38, 42, 54, 56, 60, 63 or 68mm? Yet all have existed in cinema history. As for 75mm, appropriately enough that was used for the 1900 production of the Lumiere brother’s Wide Film. And they don’t come any wider than that.... Although, of course there was the 1950s and 60s Cinerama 3-strip process, which utilised three projectors pointing across each other to fill a deeply curved screen, using 35mm films with a six-perf pull-down, for an aspect ratio of 2.76: 1 (although some claim it is 2.60:1, and others 2.59:1). The pictures above and right show how it all worked. Ben Hur (1959), subtitled A Story of The Christ, starring Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd - and “a cast of thousands” - was one of the first “wide screen” movies to flicker across the somewhat scaled-down big screen of the second run Red Theatre, sometime in the sixties. Five years in preparation, at over US$12 million, Ben Hur cost more to make than any other film at that time. Winner of no less than 11 Academy Awards (including Best Director, William Wyler) it ran for more than three and a half hours, with interval. For such a sweeping spectacle, over 300 sets were constructed, over an area of nearly 150 acres. The thrilling chariot race alone, which employed 8,000 extras, took three months to shoot. It took editor Ralph Winters a further three to edit, and was so complicated, it required him to diagram every night, how far the chariots had got, around the massive central Spina (personal communication to the author). With a set spread over 18 acres, requiring 40,000 tons of Mediterranean sand, it was one of the most expensive sets ever built. The cameras to film the blockbuster movie themselves cost $100,000.

Introduced in 1956, MGM’s Camera 65 was the second camera to use the Super Panavision 70 format, Todd-AO being the first. Capitalising on the popularity of the widescreen format, MGM’s Camera 65 was so-called because the camera negative was 65mm wide, producing a native aspect ratio of 2.20 to 1. But an anamorphic lens put an additional 1.25X squeeze on the 65mm negative, much like Ultra Panavision 70, which came later. However, to provide the space required for the stereophonic soundtrack, the print stock added 2.5mm, to make it 70mm wide. This allowed magnetic stripes down the edge, with two tracks outside the sprocket hole area. The resulting six-track stereo soundtrack (L, LC, C, RC, R stage channels and the mono surround sound channel, now usually known as 5.1 stereo) was a fitting medium for Miklos Rozsa’s soaring and inspiring music for Ben Hur.

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history The anamorphic lens used with the 5-perf, 70mm projection print conversely spread the projected image, so that it ended up with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, making it one of the widest prints ever made. (The image was even wider than three-strip Cinerama, often 2.6:1.) To avoid theatres having to install wider screens, however, most 35mm theatres - like the ones in Taipei - showed the film “letterboxed” in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1. The anamorphic compression was not the same as used for 20th Century Fox’s popular 2.35:1 Cinemascope process - more than double the width of “Academy” aperture projection (1.33:1), and originally filmed on negative 55mm (actually, 55.652mm) wide, and eight sprockets high - for instance, The Robe, 1953. Another film presented at Taipei’s Red Theatre - and again starring Charlton Heston - was Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, shot in VistaVision (picture below left). This used 35mm film - but shot sideways, right-to-left, over eight perforations, for a native aspect ratio of 1.5:1. When optically printed to 35mm, on projection it yielded aspect ratios of 1.75:1, to 2.1:1, though it was more commonly screened at 1.85:1. It was last used by Hollywood in 1961, to film One Eyed Jacks, starring Marlon Brando, although the process continued to find favour when filming special effects, such as sci-fi film, Tron (1982), which was seen in Taipei, and the 2005 production of Batman Begins, although its use has now tailed off with the advent of digital effects. Until 1958, VistaVision had an accompanying soundtrack of Perspecta Stereo. Technirama, which came after VistaVision, similarly used horizontal film travel, while Technirama 70 was printed to 5-perf 70mm film stock. Devised by Technicolour, inventors of imbibition dye-transfer colour printing, Technirama was shot with modified Technicolour threestrip cameras - picture below left centre. (“Threestrip” referring to the three primary colours, not to be confused with early Cinerama’s “Threestrip” Screen process.) First used in 1956, a special feature of Technirama’s 8-perf R-L sideways system (or “Lazy-8”) was the anamorphic projection lens which, rather than expand the film frame, actually squeezed it down vertically by a factor of 1.5:1. It was basically a combination of VistaVision and CinemaScope, with the image being compressed in photography, and expanded on projection. The camera aperture

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Utilising a five-perf vertical pulldown and 24fps, the first camera system with the Super Panavision 70 format had been Todd-AO, back in 1955, used to film South Pacific (1958), which ran for more than six years in London.

was the same as in VistaVision, except for a slight decrease in picture height to accommodate the optical sound track of release prints on the system. This provided an aspect ratio of almost 2.4:1. Some notable examples of the use of Technirama include Spartacus, El Cid, Zulu, and The Big Country. In contrast, the Super Technirama 70 process involved shooting in Technirama but with optical prints made on 70 mm stock by unsqueezing the image. These were compatible with those created by 65mm flat screen processes, like Super Panavision. Interestingly, having developed a version of 8perf photography for high- quality images, Technicolour went on to bring out, in the early 60s, its version of a process that went completely the other way. A quarter of the size, with its 2-perf (vertical) Techniscope process, used in films like Dracula - Prince of Darkness and Plague of the Zombies (both of which this author worked on in 1965). Again, optical printing of the 2.33:1 flat-screen image produced a standard 2.35: 1 aspect ratio Cinemascope release print. Although it had diminished image quality, an obvious advantage of this system was that it saved on film stock - and the cameraman’s unused “short ends” were consequently that much shorter... Another widescreen epic that eventually found its way to Taipei was David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - pictured above on a deeply curved screen. Running from between 210 mins (original UK version) and 227 mins (restored roadshow version), and winner of seven Academy Awards, with music by Maurice Jarre, it was filmed (over a total of 17 months, till October 1962) in Super Panavision 70, in Jordan, Morocco and Spain. Super Panavision 70 was the name Panavision used to identify films photographed with its 70mm spherical optical system during the period 1959 to 1983 which had a maximum aspect ratio of 2.21:1.

Interestingly, for Oklahoma! three years earlier (1955), the then 30-fps Todd-AO process had specially “rectified” prints made where the frame lines actually CURVED into what would have been the next frame, on a normal projector - picture below right centre. These prints were for use in those theatres with high projection angles which would otherwise have severely distorted the image when shown on deeply curved screens. In 1959 Panavision decided to release their own Super Panavision 70 system to compete with Todd-AO and Camera 65. A Todd-AO distortion-correcting printer is pictured below right. Three years later it was being used by David Lean to capture the beauty and grandeur of the deserts in Lawrence of Arabia. Six thousand miles away, in Taipei’s downtown Red Theatre, the film was no doubt shown as a 35mm anamorphic printdown. This was most likely with optical monophonic sound, although many prints had mag-optical soundtracks of four stereo tracks on a magnetic stripe, with a half-width mono optical soundtrack inside the narrower Cinemascope perforations. The Super Panavision 70 process has also been called Panavision, Panavision 70, Super Panavision, and Panavision Super 70. Such was the “pull” of widescreen, back in 1954, Panavision and Superscope developed lenses for optical printers which could take the spherical images of a standard feature film and make them into anamorphic prints. Until 1963, release prints made under Superscope’s system carried names like Superama and Megascope. But eventually the system was supplanted by Technicolor’s two-perf pulldown camera system, Techniscope, printing up to an anamorphic Cinemascope print. It is interesting to note that while Super Panavision used spherical lenses to create a final aspect ratio of 2.21:1, its technological cousin, Ultra Panavision 70, used anamorphic lenses to put a 1.25 squeeze on the image to create an even wider aspect ratio - 2.76 to 1. Films made in Ultra Panavision 70 included Mutiny on the Bounty (with Marlon Brando), and Stanley Kramer’s hilarious It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Some people mistakenly believed that “Di-

cinema technology - september 2007

message mension 150” was an even wider widescreen process than any of the “Panavisions”, using film that was as much as 150mm wide. But the reality is different. Dimension 150 was really more of a supplement to Todd-AO. It derived it’s name from new lenses designed by Dr. Richard Vetter and Carl Williams, the widest of which covered a horizontal angle of 150 degrees. However, directors found that such an extreme wide angle was difficult to work with, and material shot with the lens was eventually rarely used. While the production side of the system was termed Dimension 150, on the presentation side it was referred to as “D-150”, and used a deeply curved screen. So, finally, what about that simple but appealing 1953 film, Roman Holiday directed by William Wyler? Also shown at Taipei’s Red Theatre, it movingly told the story of a bored princess who escapes her court, and falls in love with an American newsman (Gregory Peck). Filmed in black & white, it had no spectacular widescreen footage to stun your eyes -- just Rome, and the Tevi fountain. Oh, and an Oscarwinning, 24-year- old Belgian actress starring in her first role. But with a nubile and attractive Audrey Hepburn to ogle and adore -- who in those days cared about “aspect ratios”? Martyn Green’s website is © Martyn Green, 2007. Dedication - Passing on the Knowledge This article is dedicated to my old friend, the late Raymond Selfe, my very first mentor in the film industry. Ray was working as a film examiner and assembler at Associated Television in London’s Great Cumberland Place, near Marble Arch in the early 60s, when I was an even more humble film despatch clerk. But Ray, 12 years my senior, knew a lot about film formats and film sound - and he loved to teach. In fact, he was running an evening class in film production in the London borough of Lambeth, which I later joined. His class became his first production “company”, Class Films. I am not aware of all his moves, as within five years I had started on a trip around the world, which ended up with me where I am now, in Hong Kong. But obviously Ray soon moved out of the business of examining prints for scratches and breaks, and into the production of films. I know that he produced several films (in fact his son’s website, NorwordFilms, says 1,000), and he also ran a stock shot film library, with his wife, Jean.

The Red House Theatre

cinema technology - september 2007

A message from BKSTS director Wendy Laybourn In 2006 we very proudly celebrated the 75th Anniversary of BKSTS – The Moving Image Society but, in 2007, we are trying very hard to keep the Society afloat under difficult financial circumstances. This isn’t the first time that the BKSTS has encountered such difficulties and, I have no doubt, that it won’t be the last. As with most other organisations who rely on a specific industry for its well-being, our finances fluctuate according to the cash flow of film and television. Broadcasters who were all our sponsors a few years ago have gradually been taken over, with resulting changes in personnel and responsibilities, until there are only a few major companies in control thus reducing our sponsorship revenue – and the film industry has had its own problems with tax issues and the promise of cheaper facilities overseas with very much the same results. However, as with all things, if you’re prepared to weather the storm then all will come right in the end – and the Society hasn’t lasted for this long just to disappear without trace! BKSTS – The Moving Image Society still has a number of extremely important jobs to do. • We must conserve the heritage of the creative industries by taking care that the knowledge, techniques and skills which have been developed over the years by the talented craftsmen in our industry are passed on to current and future generations. • We have to ensure that the high technical and creative standards for which our industry is recognised worldwide are maintained into the future, by providing information and training for future generations, helping them to absorb and understand the new technologies. • We must work to ensure that our industry continues to maintain the same standards of excellence and professionalism which have become our hallmark. Once again a brilliant series of magazines have been produced full of entertaining and educational content thanks to our Managing Editor, Jim Slater. The quarterly supplement ‘Training for Digital Technology’ supported by the UK Film Council was extremely successful and we hope to be able to continue to produce it in the future and it is hoped that it will become a welcome addition to the Projectionists’ Training Manual which has become the ‘bible’ of projection boxes worldwide. Our Annual Awards in 2006 saw the introduction of three new awards - the ‘Sydney Samuelson Award’ which is given for outstanding British contribution to Cinema and which Sir Sydney himself presented to the wonderful Alex Thomson BSC. The ‘Gillie Potter Award’, supported by Tom Atkin, which is given for a highly significant contribution to the advancement of the art and creativity of physical and special effects to enhance the enjoyment of the viewing public and was presented to Joss Williams of Darkside FX – and the ‘Advancement of Cinema Technology Award’ for outstanding invention, development or innovation which has contributed to the advancement of cinema technology was presented to Kinoton GmbH. This is usually the place in my ‘message’ that I thank my colleagues in the BKSTS office but I’m afraid that this year both Dom and Lesley left for pastures new and, as yet, we have not been able to replace them. The most important thing, though, is to thank our membership for their support and the generosity of our sponsor companies and friends – both financial and ‘in kind’ – throughout the year and, without whose help, we would not have been able to continue the Society’s work. Wendy Laybourn FBKS Director Wendy ends her six year stint as Director of The Society in September - she will be much missed. Jim Slater

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asian cinema

Martyn Green visited the Taipei IMAX® and learned about the working life and conditions of a projectionist as well as much about the cinema business in this part of Asia.

Being a projectionist in Taipei Following a change in management in March last year, Miramar Cinemas, located in Taipei’s Miramar Entertainment Park, broke away from Taiwan’s biggest cinema chain, Warner Village Cinemas. At the time, Mr Huang Chih-jie, chairman of Miramar Cinemas, said that Miramar Cinemas planned to boost ticket sales by cooperating with retailers like convenience stores, to provide additional ticketing options. He also stated that they would initiate a club member system to strengthen moviegoers’ loyalty. Martyn Green talked with Taipei IMAX’s Bruce Lan, Assistant Location Technical Manager, although first to Eileen Shih, Miramar’s Marketing Manager. Eileen Shih: We opened in November, 2004, along with the shopping mall in which we are located. Miramar Cinemas has nine traditional auditoria and one IMAX® theatre. There are five screens on one floor and four on the floor above. So we have a total of nine theatres, including IMAX, and sometimes IMAX 3D. We have a Dolby digital cinema processor CP650, and DTS CSS cinema subtitling system. Also there’s an Audiocom US2000A and SPS 2000A amplifiers, in a Sonix rack, with a DTAC sound control system. There is an air compressor to clean any dust off the film and a water cooling system, because of the high temperatures in the

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light source. We use Windows XP Pro software running the Sonix programme. We have a touch screen system to control everything, even choosing the movie to be run. We have CD soundtracks with the music for Polar Express, Into The Deep, etc. We have several different film soundtracks, but only two films ready to run. Everest, which was just 47 minutes, is actually filmed in IMAX, whereas Robots, which was 1 hour 40 minutes, was only presented in IMAX, as a DMR film. DMR actually means Digitally Remastered, but either because that might be confused with Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management, or perhaps would be too obvious to sophisticates that it wasn’t FILMED in IMAX, IMAX changed the acronym around. We charge different prices for the real IMAX, and the shows “presented in” IMAX - in fact, we charge a higher price for the DMR films, which are longer, because Taiwanese people like Hollywood films more. The box office for Hollywood films is always better than for IMAX films. Then again,

we have a 2D price and a 3D price for IMAX DMR films. We opened in November 2004, and we had Everest as our opening film, followed by Polar Express, which was a 3D IMAX DMR film. For a 35mm film we charge NT$285 (£4.60), while IMAX 3D is NT$350 (£5.65). Basically we match the price to the quality the audience is getting. Some people are disappointed when they find some films are not in 3D. You see, because IMAX was so new to Taiwan, when audiences first saw Polar Express in 3D, they came to identify IMAX as being a 3D process. Now they always expect IMAX to be in 3D, so when our customers saw Robots in 2D, presented in IMAX, they didn’t like it so much. They love 3D. In fact, after showing Polar Express in 3D, and then Robots in 2D, we discovered there was a very different reaction in terms of box office receipts. So we had to reduce the price of 2D films. Now we have a 3D IMAX price and a 2D IMAX price, because the audience is prepared to pay more for 3D. We wanted to distinguish

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asian cinema

the prices and make customers understand that IMAX has both 2D and 3D, and so they don’t have the same admission price. So it was a kind of marketing problem. People are definitely kind of prejudiced against 2D films now, or at least they much more favour 3D films. A Different Experience Seeing a film in 35mm and IMAX is a totally different experience because the resolution is better and the sound has more impact. This is the case even though you are printing from the same 35mm negative, because it is digitally remastered. Why don’t they have enough IMAX films to show real IMAX movies all the time? We are a commercial movie theatre, and frankly the box office for documentary films in IMAX is not so large. Taiwan customers like DMR dramas more. Real IMAX films are not the major earner, even though we have the biggest IMAX screen in Taiwan. With a throw of 30 metres, the screen size is 22.16m high by 28.8m wide. The screen is slightly curved horizontally because it isn’t the so-called IMAX dome system - we have a flat screen. IMAX has many kinds of screen systems. The biggest cinema in Taipei has about 1,000 seats with a throw of about 40 metres. Our smallest cinema has 230 seats and here we show movies that are into the third or fourth week of their run. A move to Digital? To put digital projection in will cost us about NT$4,000,000 (HK$963,855 or about US$123,888, £64,250). Like IMAX here, it will be a special feature of this Cineplex, which can provide a higher-quality movie experience. The cost will be somewhere between the cost of a 35mm movie and watching an IMAX movie, because IMAX quality is even better than a digital movie. Projectionist Training Bruce Lan: We conduct training courses for projectionists about once every six months. As we have nine cinemas all the technical managers will get together to do the training, either in Taipei, or the southern city of Kaohsiung. Many of the trainees are students, so after their four hours training each day they can go cinema technology - september 2007

to school. In Taiwan we have national service and only after that can young men go to university, so they may come to us when they are 25 or 26, which is a more responsible age. However, currently we do have one projectionist who is only 22 years old - not doing IMAX, just 35mm. For the training, we have about three weeks theory in a classroom, for four hours every day and then one week’s on the job training, before we are allowed to operate as a projectionist. But frankly, many trainees give up - about 20 to 30% drop out because they feel it is difficult. And it’s true that it’s not an easy job because it is not like the old days in cinemas in Taiwan when you had two or three projectionists working together - nowadays you need to work alone all day, or all the evening. The only time you have more than one in the box is when other people are training. So I guess the main reason people drop out of the course is because they come to realise they’re the kind who prefer to work with other people, rather than alone. Also, maybe they are too young - at first they think they can do the job but when they try it out, they find they don’t like it. Most of the staff who go for training as a projectionist start in another department, like front of house sales, in the candy bar or that sort of thing. We choose talented go-ahead young people and give them a chance to try the job of projectionist. We look for responsible, careful and smart individuals. There is no real age limit - but I suppose we wouldn’t take anybody over 40 because you need strength and energy because they have to stand for a long time. Pay and Working Hours They work eight hours a day five days a week, or 40 hours a week, sometimes with overtime. Although they don’t get paid extra for overtime - this is Taiwan! The starting salary for a part-time trainee projectionist is NT$110 (HK$26.50, £1.75) per hour. Monthly salary is more likely NT$30,000 (HK$7,228, £480) for full-timers, while the most experienced projectionists would get a salary of about NT$100,000 (HK$24,096, £1,600). You had better like movies! Of course members of our cinema staff can see a movie any time for free, and they can bring their family for free during the weekdays. I guess that’s what I liked about the job initially, the idea that I can see many movies. All of us who choose a cinema career must love movies. The problem is of course, you enjoy seeing a movie

once, and you may be happy to see it twice, but when you see a film five times, 20 times or a hundred times, it can get a little boring. But of course, when you are projecting, you are not really looking at the content of the movie, you are listening to the sound and checking the quality of image. We have a new upgraded IMAX 3D projector. The IMAX projector is made in Mississauga, Canada, model 30KW-LH. Serial # 2001-18-98. The platter feed mechanism is made by QTRU. It was upgraded in June 2005, because before it could only handle films up to two hours in length. It can now handle films up to two and a half hours in duration. Originally, IMAX projector systems could only handle up to a 50-minute film, but now we need to be prepared to show DMR films like those in the Harry Potter series, which can be up to 2 hours 15 minutes long. The 35mm projector uses a Christie model SLC console, and is used with platters for 35mm presentations, with the screen masked off to a smaller size. Seating Capacity For IMAX 2D we have 404 seats, but for 3D we have only 362 because with some seats the angle is not very good, so we can’t sell those seats. When we have 3D, the audience need to use polarising glasses, and at the end of the show they are required to put them in the box at the exit. But those who forget will be reminded by the fact that we have an alarm system as they go out. We are provided with 1,200 spectacles for a 3D film, and although the breakage rate is rather low, we still lose some because people sometimes take them home with them. However, each one costs NT$1,200 (HK$289, £19.25) - so it is quite a significant cost if we lose one. And every week we lose one or two pairs. The seats are somewhat special in as much as they are made in Australia and in the arm there’s a round cupholder for putting a drink. Also, if they wish, couples can push back one of the arms. And they are bigger seats than in the traditional auditoria. Each seat costs NT$7,000 (HK$1,686, £112), but those for the 35mm auditoria, are made in Taiwan and cost only NT$4,000 (HK$963, £64). We have about ten projectionists working in this Miramar complex, which effectively means we have just one spare, because we have nine screens. In fact we have three for IMAX and seven for the 35mm theatres. One projectionist looks after nine screens. There are some on day shift and some are on night shift, and some are on holiday, and of course some page 47

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are part-time. We have day shift, swing shift and night shift. In the low season they may start working at 11 a.m., but in the peak season, like the winter vacation, Chinese New Year, and the school summer holidays of June, July and early August, they may start working at 8 a.m. In the low season they may finish at 1 or 2 a.m., but in the peak season they may not finish till 3 or 4 a.m. With IMAX films, as the soundtrack is separate, on a CD, if there is a film break, and you need to repair it, you must put back as many frames of black as you took out, or the sound will be out of

synch. But fortunately that sort of thing does not happen very often - in fact, only once since we opened. The most popular kinds of films are action movies and comedies from Hollywood, in fact 90% are from there, with the other 10% from Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. We don’t make many feature films in Taiwan, and our audiences don’t much care for them. Most Taiwan-made movies don’t get a good box office, so we focus mainly on Hollywood movies. Every English-speaking movie has Chinese subtitles - even Chinese movies have Chinese subtitles! This is because while there is one written script, there are several dialects of Chinese. Even in Taiwan there is Mandarin and Taiwanese, and maybe Hakka, spoken here. Anyway, Chinese audiences have become used to seeing subtitles on both movies and TV programmes. Quality Counts Most Quality is the most important thing for us because if we maintain the quality of the projection, the seating, the food and drinks, and of the whole experience, the audience will keep coming back. We are the most expensive cinema in Taipei. But only by a little bit - we charge NT$285 (£4.60), while other cinemas may charge NT$270 (£4.30).

There are about 20 cinema theatres and cineplexes in Taipei, some with only one, or perhaps three screens. My feelings about the job? In the beginning, it was very interesting, but now, after six years, it has become a little routine. Actually, now, I’d like to go into film production, because I don’t think you can have a career as a projectionist. After all, it’s just a job! Martyn Green © Martyn Green, 2007. The rights of the author to be identified with this work are asserted in accordance with the U.K.’s Copyright, Design & Patents Act, 1988. Photographs of the exterior of the cinema and the author are by Candice Wang. Other photos by Martyn Green.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Martyn Green worked in British feature films and for BBC TV, before going to South Vietnam and becoming a combat cameraman for NBC News. He went on to study anthropology in California, finishing with graduate studies in cinema at Columbia University in NYC. Moving to Asia in the mid-70s, he worked as a radio interviewer, and news reader, before freelancing as a writer, photographer, cameraman and soundman. Having lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore for a number of years, he now spends much of his time teaching English in Hong Kong - while still occasionally travelling around the region to gather more stories. Martyn’s website is

Demystifying digital - the BFI Southbank Multimedia Box Training Course

The Multimedia Box Training course is to train projectionists in the use of alternative content as technologies change, demands on projectionists have changed, and you can’t just rely on your 35mm preparation and display skills, but must adapt and learn new engineering skills. The content of the course is aimed at ‘demystifying digital’ and covers a number of subject areas. A four hour theory session begins with an introduction to alternative content and describes the challenges that such material can present. A typical digital cinema system is described, with the relevant terminology, before introducing projectionists to the principles of different types of video signal. Methods of

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transferring film to video are explained, and the problems that motion portrayal can give rise to are illustrated and the different video formats are described with methods of converting between them. The course looks in detail at audio format conversion and interfacing different audio sources with cinema processors, looking at the Dolby DMA8 and dealing with audio problems that may arise. Tips and tools are given to get the best results from any video and audio input, and small groups take part in 3 hour workshop sessions getting hands on experience of SD video tape systems, and projecting DVD, satellite and PC sources on a DFN digital cinema system. Surgery sessions provide tutorials and time for discussion of

individual situations, problems and solutions. The response from attendees has been incredibly positive, most having found practical solutions to the issues they face and Informal chats with the course leaders can solve specific problems. The course will be taken to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester and more course will be held at BFI Southbank from November to February. For further details contact Katy Swarbrick e-mail:

cinema technology - september 2007

book review

Book review : Oxfordshire Cinemas by Ian Meyrick Review by Jim Slater

Readers may remember that last year Cinema Technology published a couple of letters from Ian Meyrick, who lives in Witney, Oxfordshire, asking for information to help him compile a book on the history of Oxfordshire cinemas. It was a nice surprise, therefore, to learn that the book is now complete, published by Tempus Publishing of Stroud, Gloucestershire, as part of its Images of England series. The softback cover has a pleasant ‘sepia’ look about it, and the 160 pages are packed with more than 160 black and white photographs and diagrams, with pictures of Oxfordshire cinemas from 1896 to the 2007, a truly comprehensive selection. Its a fairly cheap book at £12.99, so the reproduction and printing of the photographs is a little ‘dull’ when compared with what might have been possible if a more glossy approach had been chosen, but the fascinating content of the words and pictures more than makes up for this. I did as many readers will, and began by browsing through the photographs, and was first surprised at how many of the small towns and villages of the county were able to support cinemas of their own in years gone by, and then filled with nostalgia looking at the traditional cinema architecture of the Regals, the Regents, the Coronets, and the ABCs, as well as the rather more staid and classical architecture of the ‘Cinematograph Theatre’ and of the various municipal ‘Corn Exchanges’ that also served as cinemas. It is amazing how many different types of building were once used as cinemas, and one of the ‘different’ features of the book is its many photographs of existing buildings from banks

to shops which were once used as cinemas; the author takes care to point out the original features of the buildings that remain from their previous existence. Although it is obviously written by a cinema enthusiast, and benefits from the fact that the reader is drawn into it by the author’s enthusiasm, it is also a scholarly work, drawing on many historical sources and the archives of the Cinema Theatre Association, and acknowledgement is given to many people in the cinema business who have contributed in various ways. It is a not a technical book, and concentrates mainly on cinema buildings, but it does discuss projection-related matters and also includes a number of interesting projection room photos, including (alongside) the remarkably casual pose of the projectionist in an immaculate projection room in 1930, and, in total contrast, an NEC digital projector in situ in 2007. The book discusses the beginnings of cinema in Oxfordshire, and fairly briefly covers the whole history of the topic, through bad times and good, until the present day, and even mentions a cinema that isn’t due to open until 2008. Life is made easy for those wanting to know about the cinemas in a particular town or village by a ‘gazetteer’ type of alphabetical layout, and the book ends with an interesting selection of ‘shorts’, which includes stories of cinemas that were planned but never came to be built and a look at the various part-time and travelling cinemas that have existed in the area over the years.

The book has a certain ‘charm’, and I have no doubt that any Cinema Technology reader would enjoy it. Jim Slater Oxfordshire Cinemas by Ian Meyrick Tempus Publishing ISBN 978 0 7524 4333-1 £12.99

And more cinema history...

I also received a copy of another book in the Images of England series, ‘Theatres and Cinemas of the Wakefield District, by Kate Taylor. This doesn’t have the ‘technical’ content of the Oxfordshire book, but is packed with photos and detailed captions showing local theatres and cinemas dating from 1776 until the present day. I was interested to see the famous actress Sarah Siddons on a poster of 1786, long before the cinema came along. The book does manage a couple of projection room shots, but mainly shows exteriors and interiors of theatres and cinemas, and this book would make a lovely present for anyone with an interest in the history of Wakefield and its surrounding areas. Tempus has also published similar books on the cinema history of Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Croydon, Wansdworth and Battersea, amongst others, so a look at their website could prove useful for those looking for cinema-related Christmas presents in the months to come. Theatres and Cinemas of the Wakefield District, by Kate Taylor. Tempus Publishing ISBN 978 0 7524 4281 3 £12.99 cinema technology - september 2007

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bbc Peter J. Knight, better known to many CT readers as ‘The Mad Cornish Projectionist’, from his long-established website of the same name www., which many readers will find interesting, wrote to say that he had been fascinated by the material which we had recently carried about projectionists and projection equipment in the BBC (in the ‘good old days’, I have to add!), and he provided some additional information and pictures.

More on projection at the BBC The last BBC preview theatres were in Centre House, Wood Lane, and these were closed in the mid nineties. They were reopened in 2002 when they were kitted out with new AV racks and video projectors and I was involved with knowing how to use the kit and hopefully use the film projectors. The two Kinoton 35 projectors and the two 16mm projectors were still in place. At one stage it was hoped to bring the four projectors back into use and Dion Hanson spent a day servicing the 35s. Unfortunately it was eventually decided that

the film projectors would be decommissioned. Now Centre House has been permanently closed, and the site will form part of the new W12 shopping centre, which will have a 14 screen cinema in it, and so the preview theatres are no more, thus ending film projection in the BBC for good. I don’t believe that we have film projection facilities at any of the other sites any more either. I don’t know what has happened to the projectors. The photographs from 2002 show a preview theatre and shots of equipment in the box. I met the

last film projectionist who ran the theatres before they closed in the 1990s, who at the time worked in BBC Resources. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed that these film projectors did get a brief role in an episode of “Hollywood Greats” during 2002/2003, when they were shown running some film. I have a jealously-guarded copy Pictures from top left: Bauer 16 mm projector, Kalee 35mm projector, BBC preview theatre and new A/V rack at Centre House

... And memories from Australia - Grant Lobban passed on a letter from BKSTS Member David Sutton Dear Mr Lobban, I very much enjoyed your article ‘Confessions of a BBC Projectionist’, and especially your dealings with Bell & Howell 609 projectors. I first came across a B&H 609 in the film unit of the Postmaster General’s Department in Melbourne, where a 609 was installed in their theatrette, chiefly used for staff training and information screenings. This machine, serial no.107, was fitted with a 16fps and 24fps governor-controlled motor, and handled optical sound only. Your mention of the 45 minute duration of carbon operation got my attention, as the PMG’s Department machine always managed to cope with the full 2000ft reel, even when scrupulously watching the carbon ‘targets’. At the time I joined the unit the practice was to use a new set of carbons for any screening, however brief, but this procedure rankled with me, and I made up a chart with diagrams for pos. and neg. carbons showing how long a screen time could be exacted for new and part-used carbons. If I remember correctly, the maximum burn time for a new set was one and a quarter hours. The chart worked well with ‘Lorraine’ (French) and ‘Ship’ (UK) carbons, but the ‘National’ carbons were consumed faster, though still managing a full hour. Years later the 609 was pensioned off and replaced with a Bauer Selecton, which brought its own set of problems. The 609’s TTH lens was adapted for the Bauer, and gave a much superior performance to the zoom lens supplied with the Bauer. Thanks you for another of your very interesting articles - much appreciated, indeed. David Sutton, 38 Robert St., Parkdale, Vic. 3195 Australia page 50

cinema technology - september 2007

diary This epic silent film, by the French director Abel Gance, was premiered in Paris in 1927. The closing reels introduced the spectacular triptych technique which predated Cinerama by 30 years. Gance had expected his polyvision to revolutionise the cinema, but six months later “ The Jazz Singer” the first talking picture, heralded the new era of sound film. The silent film was moribund, if not dead, and “Napoleon” then disappeared without trace, seemingly forever, that is, until a 15 year old schoolboy, obsessed with the cinema, discovered some 9.5mm home movie clips in a flea market. The schoolboy, Kevin Brownlow, realising that he had found a long lost film of epic proportions, twenty five years after its first showing in Paris, and including multi - screen sequences, requiring four projectors for its presentation, was to dedicate another twenty five years to its reconstruction. By the time of the London Film Festival in November 1980, Kevin Brownlow, now better known as film archivist and author, with the help of The British Film Institute, The National Film Archive, Thames Television and a marathon music score written by Carl Davis, had reconstructed a five and a half hour version of “Napoleon” which was now ready to be shown at the Empire Theatre in London’s Leicester Square. It was at this time that I was asked by BFI representative, Charles Beddow, then technical manager of the National Film Theatre, to undertake the task of modifying existing equipment at the Empire and to provide additional equipment, so that “ Napoleon” could be presented in its original form. The film speeds had to be adjusted near to the original hand cranking in order to synchronise with the music score provided by the fifty piece Wren orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. The three Philips DP70 projectors had to be locked together with heavy duty Selsyn interlock motors for the three- screen Polyvision or Triptych sequences and also repositioned so that the three pictures joined together to make one continuous panoramic scene. A fourth projector, modified for 20 frames per second, was also required in order to show the first 12 reels. The film “Napoleon” was duly presented at the Empire Theatre on the last Sunday in November 1982 and was a resounding success with a

cinema technology - september 2007

Napoleon N   vi ngnr’s iry

By Billy Bell, formerly with BTH and Westrex Co. standing ovation for the film and the orchestra, but especially for Abel Gance whose signature was writ large across the 57 ft. screen. This grand finale also included blue and red gelatine filters held in the light beams of the two outer projectors to simulate the French national flag. The audience also turned to the projection room with their applause. Several days later I received a letter of appreciation, which read “Dear Billy, Just a note to congratulate you on your magnificent achievement last Sunday, It really was impossible, but like Napoleon, you don’t believe there is such a word. I was greatly impressed by the calmness with which you went about such a risky project. The result was stunning and you deserve the highest acclamation. With warmest wishes, (signed) Kevin Brownlow”. “Napoleon” continued its success at the Edinburgh Film Festival and many other venues in the UK and numerous places abroad, including the Mann auditorium in Tel Aviv, where Carl Davis conducted his own music score with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. One particular presentation of “Napoleon” celebrated the inauguration of a new cultural centre in Le Havre. Four projectors were rigged on a three metre high platform behind a 20 metre wide rear projection screen. During the standing ovation at the end of the show, for the film, the Wren orchestra and Carl Davis, the entire screen frame was flown, which revealed to the audience the vast array of projection equipment and also “The puppeteers” who could now also receive a share of their appreciation.

After another spectacular presentation of “Napoleon” at the Barbican Centre, London, Anthony Smith, then Director of the BFI, came into the projection control room accompanied by Shirley Williams, now Baroness Williams of Crosby. She told me how much she had enjoyed the show and said that I should be awarded the Legion D’Honneur. I told her that such an honour should be bestowed on Kevin Brownlow, without whom the event she had just witnessed would not have been possible. The French newspaper photograph below shows Charles Beddow (L) and Billy Bell with the “ Napoleon” projection equipment at Le Havre. Postscript: Billy passed on a copy of this article to Kevin Brownlow, who was delighted to be reminded of the Napoleon project. He expressed suprise at the claim that the Empire Screen was 57 ft wide, saying he thought it was 40 ft. No doubt some Cinema Technology reader will bne able to put us right...

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Mike Taylor, MBKS writes.

10th November 1927 - 21st March 2007

Des McGreal in his trademark brown warehouse coat (far right). Picture taken at the Abbey Cinerama, Wavertree by Des, using selftimer. Fellow projectionists are L-R Ron Checkley, Jim Wood, Ian Brown

The funeral took place on Friday 13th July 2007 of one of Liverpool’s long standing and most experienced projectionists. Desmond Mcgreal, who retired several years ago, was Chief Projectionist at the Odeon Liverpool - one of the last original Paramount Theatres. Des, as he was known to his friends and colleagues, died after a short illness. He was 70. Des spent most of his career with the Gaumont British Division of the Rank Organisation on Merseyside, working in many of the company’s cinemas in Liverpool. Notably, the Rivoli - Aigburth, The Empress - Tuebrook, and the Trocadero in Liverpool City Centre. This became the Gaumont and was Des’s favourite. For a brief spell Des left the Rank Organisation and joined Cinerama which had opened at the Abbey Cinema, Wavertree. But when Cinerama closed it was back to Rank for Des and to the Trocadero in the city centre until that eventually closed. By page 52

that time the Liverpool Odeon had been twinned. Des was a quietly spoken man with manners more befitting a bygone age. He had a fair and no nonsense approach to the profession, always insisting on the highest standards, and his trade mark was a brown warehouse coat that he wore at all times. This was a trait from Des’s own Chief and Mentor, Phil Devoy, from whom Des took over when Phil retired from the Odeon. Over the years Des has trained many junior projectionists, several of whom have become Chiefs in later years. Des will be sadly missed by his friends and colleagues and a greater loss to the profession of motion picture projection. It was ironic that one of his wishes was to have a gathering of fellow projectionists to talk about old times. Well, we had that gathering (photo in the next issue), but sadly Des was present in spirit only. Our condolences go to his sister Josie, his family, and friends. Mike Taylor MBKS

We are sad to report the death of BKSTS Retired Member, Projectionist Len Petts, of Mitcham, Surrey, who is well known to many Cinema Technology readers for his work with the PPT in Duxford. When Len was 15 he first started work as a projectionist at the Central cinema that used to be in George Lane, Folkestone, Kent, and then he continued to work in Cinemas when he upped sticks and moved to Surrey. He then started working at the Royal Festival Hall in London as a Sound Engineer until the late 1980s, and then went back to his vocation as a Cinema Projectionist until his semi retirement. During his semi retirement, not satisfied with sitting around, he was “on call” to assist in various Cinemas, especially in Beckenham for several years. Len was involved for some years as an Administrator for the PPT at Duxford, a task which he thoroughly enjoyed and this kept him active. In a parallel life, Len joined the Army Cadets in their inaugural year, and since then he had

been in one uniform or another without a break. When he was 16 he joined the regular army and was stationed in Germany serving in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment until his demob in 1948. This then marked the beginning of his attachment to the Territorial Army. In July 1983 Len hung up his Beret, after 34 years service in the Territorial Army, after first putting on his uniform at the age of 14. He was President of the British Legion in Norbury, until he had to retire, mainly due to ill health. Len was happily married to Kit for nearly 59 years. He was also kept very busy in his home life, having had one son, five daughters, 16 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He played a big part in all their lives, and absolutely loved and adored them - he will be sorely missed. Kit & Family would like to thank everybody for the support that they have given them, and also to the British Legion who honoured him at the Farewell Service with Standard Bearers and a Commendation, including the Last Post. cinema technology - september 2007

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Adobe Master Collection® leaves Cinema Technology well prepared for a flexible future electronic, print and on the web Over the years, Cinema Technology has been put together with Adobe’s ever-developing publishing packages, and the software on my bookshelf shows the historical route - from various versions of Pagemaker through to Indesign in its different versions, through to the complete Creative Suite®. The image processing programmes needed for creating diagrams and publishing photographs include Photoshop® and Illustrator® in their various versions, together with Adobe Acrobat, used for creating the ubiquitous ‘pdf’ files that can be read by anyone with the freely distributed Acrobat reader programme. Although this began as an easy way of making easily transferable files, especially suitable for sending over email, Acrobat has extended its capabilities until it can now act as the highest quality file interchange medium that is used for sending a complete Cinema Technology directly to the printers. It seems incredible that only 12 years ago we were sending typescript and printed photos with crop marks - these days a single Acrobat file contains all the text, photos and layout information for a complete magazine. A problem with using all these different software products is keeping them all up to date, especially as Adobe regularly upgrades one or more of its packages, and there is a natural reluctance to shell out money for a particular upgrade until it is absolutely necessary. Adobe recognised the problem a few years ago, gathering together all the software that you might need to make a magazine into its Creative Suite, which ensured that all the various versions were consistent with each other. In recent times they have developed the idea further, with different Creative Suites offering everything that a web designer needs to do the creative job, and then everything that an audio and video editor needs to create and edit a movie package. A recent move to Windows Vista on my main machine necessitated an upgrade for some of my Adobe software, so I was delighted when asked to review their latest ‘Master Collection’ which brings together for the first time all the tools you need to create content for every type of design. Essentially the multi-DVD toolbox includes software for Professional page layout, image editing, vector illustration, and print production. There are also tools for Website design, development, prototyping and blogging, and for the creation of rich interactive content, Industrystandard visual effects and motion graphics Video capture, editing, and production, DVD titling, and digital audio. page 54

It all installed very easily, taking about 50 minutes altogether, and although I had dreaded the on-line registration process, with its 24 digit security code, in fact it all went well and within a few minutes I was recognised as a new user and offered the latest software updates via the web, which installed in just a few minutes. It was a relief when the ‘in-progress’ September issue of Cinema Technology loaded in without problems and gave me a slightly different but easily recognisable working interface, with most of the buttons and labels where I would have expected them to be. When assembling a magazine, it is usual to have InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat all open at the same time, and the nice thing about the Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Master Collection was that all of them were available to switch between at the click of a mouse - the Adobe people really have done a good job in integrating the various bits together within minutes I was able to see the advanatage, and to appreciate their claims of increased productivity. The latest versions of the magazine publishing software offered lots of new facilities - it is much easier now to put various layers of text and graphics together, controlling the transparency of the different layers to get exactly the effect you want, and many of the new tools in Photoshop make life much easier, providing new methods of achieving effects that could previously have taken much longer. After publication in print, every issue of Cinema Technology is currently converted to pdf format, using Acrobat, and sent to our website, where members can read it for free, and nonmembers can be given access at a price. I am conscious that simply putting a text based magazine on the website, as I do now, results in a fairly static display that any web-designer would laugh at, so I have been trying the effects of using Adobe’s web-design software package ‘Web Premium’ which allows you to fairly simply ‘repurpose your creative assets’, using the magazine page layout as the basis for web pages, adding Flash effects to provide the animation and interactivity that are essential to any proper web magazine. I can report that it all works, and works well, but that this editor is going to have to put in a lot of learning time before the results will be good enough to put before our readers who use the web! What it does show however, is that this integrated suite of software really does show the way forward for the future production of Cinema Technology - once I become clever enough, or get enough time to learn it all, we

should be able to produce a printed magazine whose contents can readliy be converted for web use with animation, Flash effects, and interactivity - this truly does look like the future for Society magazines such as ours. Although I hadn’t previously thought of trying the Adobe software for video editing, having the package available made it inevitable that I had to try it, and hours worth of holiday video from a DV camcorder were soon assembled into a four minute package via the firewire interface and Adobe Premiere Pro®. I don’t pretend to have become an expert, and look forward to learning more as I develop my skills in this area, but anyone used to working with such editing packages would find this one a dream to use, offering facilities that really would have only been available on really expensive profesional packages until a couple of years ago. Interestingly, the Production Premium version also contains ‘stuff for the future’ with Encore® for creating DVD and Blu- Ray material, and Device Central® designing and testing material for use on mobile devices. The Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Master Collection is certainly packed with all the software that any of our creative readers could ever need - at least until the next version comes out! The only difficult bit might be choosing the package that suits your needs most precisely assuming that you don’t buy them all - but thirty day trials are offered which should help you to be sure that you get what you really need. As far as Cinema Technology is concerned, Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Master Collection will certainly equip us to bring our readers the most up date delivery both on the web and in print - its ’Design Across Media’ strapline is certainly well deserved. Each Adobe Collection contains all the software you are likely to need for a particular task - this is the Web Premium Collection

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cinema technology - june 2007

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