NAB: Will Economics Allow for Another Change in Digital Cinema?

Howard Lukk - P - 2014
Howard Lukk

LAS VEGAS -- A live orchestra playing in front of an Imax screen, second-screen interactive capabilities, and an upgrade to high dynamic range images were among the topics discussed Saturday during a panel about the future of cinema, at the Technology Summit on Cinema, held during the NAB Show.

But Steve Weinstein, CTO, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, boiled down the discussion to ask if the economics of the theatrical business would allow for another change.

Matt Cowen, chief engineer at Entertainment Technology Canada, responded that they need to look at what will allow exhibitors to charge a premium. Speakers pointed out that today, that is 3D and Imax.

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“We’re playing around with everything,” said Howard Lukk, vp of production technology at The Walt Disney Studios. “We are asking if it will push the story. That is the question we start with.

"Film is coming to the end of its life,” he continued. “We're going to have high dynamic range, high frame rates … as a filmmaker, just think of the possibilities. I think HDR is the largest improvement we are going to see.”

David Keighley, chief quality officer and executive vp at Imax, talked about the Imax format saying, “Chris (Nolan) shot a significant amount of Interstellar on Imax … If you buy a Blu-ray today of The Dark Knight (Nolan also used Imax cameras for some of this film), you immediately see the difference. That’s why Chris is sticking with it and other filmmakers are looking to use Imax this year as well.”

“We are expanding the palette,” asserted Rob Hummel, president of digital archival techology company Group 47, saying the future is not limited to one thing. “It’s not that all movies will be made at 60 frames per second, it will be whatever the filmmaker wants it to be.”

But beyond the elements of the images themselves, panelist talked about other possibilities to differentiate the cinema from the home.

“Second screen in a movie theater is inevitable,” asserted Weinstein. “The notion of participating in the movies ... I think that in particular is going to be key.”

Other panelists, however, pointed out that not all moviegoers want to see rows of mobile devices in use during a film. 

Keighley cited the potential of mixing cinema with live performance. “We have done live orchestra in front of Imax screens and we are considering dong it again,” he related.

Several speakers said they would like more opportunities to offer classics such as Lawrence of Arabia on a big screen.

Keighley related that as new projectors are developed, manufacturers need to “make sure they can show both old product and new product, as the filmmakers learn these new tools.” He added that ambient light in theaters will also need to be kept in mind as new display technologies are introduced.

Michael Karagosian, president of MKPE Consulting, moderated the discussion. The Technology Summit on Cinema, which wraps up on Sunday, is co-produced by NAB and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Twitter: @CGinLA