An electronic adventure

Sony, UA, Keystone in digital pic transmission demo

It’s not likely you’ll see electronically projected images instead of film at your local multiplexes any time soon, but several entertainment industry companies joined forces recently to demonstrate technologies for electronic cinema.

Sony Pictures, United Artists Theatre Circuit and Keystone Communications teamed up not long ago with digital equipment manufacturers Snell & Wilcox, General Instrument and Hughes/JVC on a demo for a UA audience in Woodland Hills.

A Sony spokeswoman categorized the studio’s involvement as support for Keystone’s efforts to develop digital cinema transmission.

Steven Cohen, director of business development at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s advanced digital systems group, was involved with Sony’s part of the demo. He also holds the title of sales and development director at Sony Pictures Studios.

Cohen said the purpose of the demo was not so much to test the viability of presenting feature-length projects electronically as it was to test the technological capabilities of transmitting shorter pieces, such as trailers. “The focus was on the use of electronic cinema for preview purposes,” he said.

Cohen told Daily Variety that he’s no longer working on electronic cinema projects for the studio. He said attendees of the Woodland Hills demo did not constitute a focus group, although they answered questions about their perception of electronic cinema. People from various segments of the entertainment industry, including employees of equipment manufacturers and the studios, attended, he said.

The opinions of average filmgoers were more important than those of directors or studio execs, Cohen said. “The non-studio people said the quality was fine, and they would pay $8 to see a movie shown electronically,” he said. “Everyone from the studio said it was good, but not quite there yet. But the directors are really the ones who need to be convinced.”

According to Snell & Wilcox sales rep Catherine Uy, the electronic image was beamed from Keystone Communications, which has satellite uplink facilities just across the street from Sony Studios in Culver City, to the UA theater.

Uy concurred that some demo attendees were more particular than others about the images. “We lost some of the scratches of film, which some of the film people were complaining about – they said you lost the depth and character of film that way. But for the average audience, they’re not interested in those differences,” she said.

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