India slams Hollywood d-cinema

Ficci's Kanwar attacks DCI, d-cinema systems

Hollywood’s standards for digital cinema were savaged at a Monday debate at the Ficci-Frames entertainment convention in Mumbai.

Rajaa Kanwar, vice chairman of UFO Moviez and chairman of the Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) digital entertainment forum, described standards put together by the Digital Cinema Initiative’s committee of Hollywood studios and vendors as “rigid, unrealistic” and “not appropriate” to many territories, including India.

Kanwar described a series of myths he ascribed to DCI and d-cinema systems that claim to be DCI compliant.

He said that theater chains do not generally invest in technology; that distributors are fragmented and not able to manage technology themselves; that interoperability is not a reality; and that the human eye is largely unable to detect the higher image quality delivered by DCI standards.

Kanwar said that the cost of a DCI -compliant d-cinema system is about $125,000; his company charges theaters as little as $4.60 per screening for 2K projection equipment.

UFO Moviez provides turnkey digital cinema systems that are typically leased or rented by multiplex operators. Antipiracy protection comes from satellite delivery of movies that requires no human intervention.

Company has e-cinema installations in 625 theaters in India and is selling its system in Singapore, Malaysia and Europe.

Bill Jasper Jr., prexy, director and CEO of Dolby Laboratories, admitted that he had not understood the DCI’s decision to switch from MPEG to JPEG2000 standards for video compression. (JPEG2000 is a standard derived from technology for still images.)

He suggested problems ahead for the DCI as studios want to do away with the virtual print fee, which may be as high as $1,000, in a few years. But he said that 3-D cinema, made more possible by 4K DCI-compliant technology, was popular with auds and is an “effective antipiracy tool.”

Nancy Fares, business manager for Texas Instruments’ DLP Cinema Products division, said that her company would see the number of its installed digital screens rise from 1,200 at the end of 2006 to some 3,700 this year.

Away from the debating table, cinema technologists admitted that DCI-compliant 4K systems would likely exist side-by-side with lower-cost d-cinema setups within the same country and possibly within the same plex. Shravan Shroff, managing director of India’s Sringar Cinemas chain, said his group was experimenting with both.

Moreover, it was suggested that Hollywood’s two-year ban on supplying digital copies of movies to China had backfired.

Studios had hoped to bring Chinese exhibitors in line with DCI but may have pushed China into announcing its own standards for digital cinema.

In June server manufacturer Time Antaeus and China’s Institute of Computer Technology, part of the Beijing Academy of Sciences, announced they had developed a Chinese server. The Time-ICT project claims that its server is DCI-compliant and relatively low cost at $10,000 apiece.

Like India, China believes that low-cost digital equipment will be crucial for taking cinema to the hundreds of millions of poor people living in rural areas and smaller cities.

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