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No single system ready to roll yet

While various electronic cinema tests have been carried out, industry experts say there’s no single system that could roll out tomorrow with images that rival film. Insiders generally concur that electronic cinema could be delivered to theaters in any number of ways.

Most discussions of the technology focus on satellite transmission. Under that scenario, distributors would upload digitized motion pictures to a satellite link. Exhibitors would download that information, and would use some type of digital storage device to cache the data.

Alternately, the compressed motion pictures could be sent over high-speed phone lines or on an optical disc.

Several companies are developing electronic projection technologies. Sources say industry leaders include Hughes/JVC, Barco and Ampro.

Texas Instruments is among companies working on various types of innards for the projectors. TI’s efforts are notable, say many, because it has squeezed 4,000 tiny mirrors onto a thumbnail-size chip. Other projectors utilize technologies such as tubes filled with liquid nitrogen.

But implementation of electronic cinema won’t just mean installing a new projector. Instead, say Sigma Design Group partners Glenn Berggren and Gerald Nash, who have designed and engineered auditoriums for AMC Theaters and other clients, viewing angles, light sources and a host of other considerations must be addressed.

Because a video image isn’t as bright as film, the screening room must be darker. And in order for the audience to see the picture from a good angle, the rooms would have to be narrower than most existing motion picture auditoriums.

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