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Re: Color in 'digital cinema' projection

Chuck Harrison writes:

>It looks as if 'digital cinema' - video projectors good enough to
>compete with 35mm in theaters - is headed our way.  [...]

>However, I'm wondering what's going to happen in the telecine suite.
>Will you have to make a separate transfer tweaked for best performance
>on each projector design (not unlike a transfer targeted to CCIR709 vs
>SMPTE phosphors)? Or do we try to standardize on a "least common
>denominator" color space that stunts the development of improved
>wide-gamut projection technology?

Hi Chuck,

A paper on this subject was given at the SMPTE conference in Pasadena, CA,
last month.  The author reported that using "traditional" telecine suites
(having a CRT based monitors) to transfer film to video for digital cinema
produced uniformly unsatisfactory results when the material was subsequently
projected in theaters.  The reasons evidently didn't take long to figure
out--not only are the display devices very different, but the differences in
"typical" viewing conditions play a major role as well.

What was suggested is that the best way to obtain satisfactory transfers for
digital cinema is to do them in a theater setting, preferrably on the actual
projector and screen that will be used for the presentation.  Of course,
since this is not likely to be the most convenient approach, it was found
that excellent results can be had by doing the corrections on a small
projector (of the same type as is used in the theater) installed in a
regular telecine suite, with the lighting adjusted to mimic theater viewing
conditions.  I do not think studios will balk at paying for a second
transfer on a CRT monitor for home video release; the cost would be
insignificant compared to the money that stands to be saved by digital
distribution to theaters.

In other words, it was suggested that transfers should be done on the types
of display devices they will be shown on.  While it wasn't mentioned in the
paper, this has some serious implications for video outside of digital
cinema, and sorting them out could give many of us something to look forward
to in old age.  There are already quite a few types displays besides CRTs
available, which all have different characteristics.  Unfortunately, no way
exists to know  what type of display each viewer will have in the future,
and doing custom transfers optimized for each one might be a bit ridiculous.
At least in digital cinema, the studios will know in advance which theater
chain(s) are going to exhibit a feature, so the type(s) of projectors to be
corrected for is a known factor, and it won't be any trouble at all for them
to use a suitably equipped telecine suite.

Best regards,
Christopher Bacon

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