Digital Cinema is Headliner as Concerts Hit Big Screen

"We had people dancing in the aisles. It was really fun to see," says Jonathan Dern of an audience enjoying a recent Beyonce concert.

But Dern -- who is co-president of the Bigger Picture, the alternative concert arm of digital-cinema provider AccessIT -- wasn't describing a live concert experience. Instead, he was referring to an audience at a digital-cinema theater that recently played a one-night-only engagement on a Monday of "The Beyonce Experience."

The same month, the Bigger Picture had similar success with a concert screening of Bon Jovi's "Lost Highway."

Meanwhile, two of the most anticipated digital 3-D releases of 2008 are high-profile concert films: "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour" and "U2 3D."

It seems that you can't stop the beat. It looks like there will be more of this sort of concert content -- in 2-D and 3-D -- in 2008.

"We're looking at different programming scenarios for concerts," Dern says. "Fans of performers are fans, and they want to come out."

The results could be such theatrical releases as Hannah Montana and U2 or concerts playing as alternative content. "The whole idea of alternative content is to (attract audiences) at times when occupancy is low in theaters," Dern says. "On a Monday or Tuesday night, it is very easy to book a location, certainly in a multiplex. ... Not only did (Beyonce and Bon Jovi) do better than the regular-run features (on their Monday night screenings), but in some cases there were more people in our theater than there were in the entire multiplex combined.

"It's all enabled by digital cinema," he adds. "If we had to strike prints to do these types of events and programs, it would make no financial sense."

He says that alternative content models vary -- for instance, some might originate from footage shot for DVD release, while other performances could stem from digital-cinema distribution deals.

As an example of the latter, the Bigger Picture recently entered into a deal with the San Francisco Opera for worldwide distribution of six operas per year beginning in March.

Of 3-D, he says, "We are developing programs right now to fill off-peak hours."

Looking ahead, he believes the opportunity to deliver performances live is going to bring a new kind of excitement to this model.

"In 2008 you will start to see it," he says. "We are able to go live, full 2K digital cinema and we are able to go live in 3-D."

Imax also is eyeing that model. "When they are digital, you can make them in real time. I think that is going to create a lot more excitement," says Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment at Imax. "It's like sports. You wouldn't want to see something when you already saw the results on ESPN. You want to see it happen for the very first time. When we have Imax digital -- certainly when we have Imax digital 3-D -- we'll be able to pipe a lot of that in, whether it's sporting events or concerts. That's when I think we are going to focus on it."

With Imax planning to introduce its digital projection system in mid-2008, that time might be not too far off."

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

XDC, Qubo and Dynamic Launch “DDCinema”, The First Pan-European Alternative Content Distribution Initiative

"XDC announced today that it has signed a cooperation agreement with Qubo and Dynamic to launch, promote and manage the distribution of digital cinema alternative content through the DDCinema service platform. The initial purpose is the distribution of lyrical operas, produced at the most prestigious European theatres, with a mix of recorded and live events. DDCinema will offer to cinemas an eclectic range of alternative content, i.e. all programming content other than films, trailers and advertising content, including, but not limited to, television programs, sporting events, stage productions, concerts, documentaries, anime films and live events.

As Fabrice Testa, Marketing & Operations Manager of XDC, pointed out, “DDCinema alternative content programmes will be available to all exhibitors across Europe equipped with 2K digital projectors - about 700 screens today.” He added: “Any MXF interoperable D-Cinema server will be able to play back any alternative content prepared by the XDC Digital Content Lab, DDCinema offer is thus not only limited to the screens connected to XDC’s Network Operations Centre.”

Today, the DDCinema platform already offers about 25 opera titles, and on 27th January 2008 it will offer the first live broadcast from Palermo, Italy, on the opening night of the season of Teatro Massimo, one of the most beautiful theatres in the world. The opera in question, featuring singers of international renown, will be a new production of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, a spectacular work taken from W. Goethe’s Faust. More live events are planned from Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Teatro Liceu of Barcelona, Teatro Real of Madrid, and other renowned venues."

Source: DCinemaToday

NVidia Acquires Mental Images

"Mental Images, founded in 1986, is the recognized leader and de facto industry standard for visualization software for the entertainment, computer-aided design, scientific visualization, architecture, and other industries that require sophisticated images. The company's core product is the Academy Award-winning photorealistic rendering software Mental Ray which runs on a wide variety of platforms ranging from networks of workstations to parallel supercomputers, producing images of unsurpassed realism.

Mental Ray is the integrated rendering technology within such leading Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Digital Content Creation (DCC) software products as Autodesk's AutoCAD, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya, Dassault Systems CATIA and Solidworks, and AVID Softimage|XSI.

In addition, leading visual effects (VFX) companies and studios, such as Buf Compagnie, Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Rainmaker, The Mill, The Moving Picture Company and The Orphanage are among Mental Images's largest customers. In the automotive, aerospace, advertising and other industries, Mental Ray is used extensively for product simulation and visualization.

Mental Images, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NVidia and operates under its brand and leadership team, including founder Rolf Herken as the CEO/CTO, from its headquarters in Berlin, Germany as well as its other worldwide locations in Europe, North America, and Australia.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary, mental images has autonomy in running its day-to-day business and continues to serve its customers in the dedicated manner it is known for. Mental Images develops and serves new business opportunities with its software and solutions business, including Mental Ray, Mental Mill and RealityServer, the platform product for the deployment of 3D web applications and application services.

The combination of mental images and NVidia united some of the greatest talents in the visual computing industry. This strategic combination enables the development of tools and technologies to advance the state of visualization. These solutions are optimized for next generation computing architectures and create new product categories for both hardware and software solutions."

Source: NVidia

XDC International Completes EUR 7.5 million Fund Raising

"The Board of Directors of XDC has approved last week an additional EUR 7.5 million fund raising. Backed by its existing shareholders, XDC shall allocate this funding to its further deployment as market leader for Digital Cinema Services across Europe.

In order to reinforce its management structure, the Board of Directors has appointed M. Serge Plasch as new Chief Executive Officer, as of Januray 1, 2008. He will replace M. Laurent Minguet, founder and CEO, who will step down from his daily executive functions at XDC, but will remain a Board Member of XDC International.

Serge Plasch (40), has been Managing Director of Screenvision Benelux since 2001 where he reinforced the leadership of that major advertising saleshouse for the Cinema Industry. Speaking fluently four languages, English, French, Dutch, German, he will contribute to strengthen XDC position in the large but fragmented European Cinema market.

Last but not least, XDC is currently finalizing some negotiations relating to the co-financing of Digital Cinema deployment by film distributors through dedicated Virtual Print Fees (“VPF”) agreements. Additionally, the Board of Directors has appointed John B. Birchell Hughes as special advisor to the Board of Directors and member of the management board for content related matters."

Source: DCinemaToday

Thomson's NexGuard Watermarking Integrated in Dolby Digital Cinema Servers

"Thomson announced Dolby Laboratories offers the option of NexGuard, Thomson's content security solution suite, in its digital cinema servers. NexGuard watermarking is intended to prevent illegal recordings of digital cinema content, as required by the Digital Cinema Initiative's (DCI) v1.1 specifications. This partnership enables Dolby to embed NexGuard's video forensic watermarking solution in its digital cinema server, which can replay DCI compliant 2D and 3D digital cinema images."

Source: DCinemaToday

Omneon Acquires Castify Networks

"Omneon has acquired Castify Networks, a provider of software-based solutions for managing the distribution of digital content over the Internet and private Intranets.

Castify’s end-to-end software solutions enable enterprises and service providers to build scalable, easy-to-manage, and cost-efficient service delivery platforms for content distribution over public and private networks. Castify’s EBN and CBN products, built on SOA principles, allow companies to virtualize service across globally distributed locations, enabling fast service access, high performance, and high availability. Castify’s modular product suite forms the foundation of a digital content delivery platform to distribute, monitor, and manage media assets from any location.

As broadcasters and other media companies adopt file-based workflows, there is a growing need to be able to manage and distribute their content throughout their own internal networks and over the Internet to growing numbers of business partners. Castify’s distribution infrastructure combined with Omneon digital content storage systems will provide customers with an integrated solution for managing media across their extended networks."

Source: BroadcastBuyer

Sony Sets Sights on '08 D-Camera

"Sony is aiming to extend its CineAlta digital cinematography camera line with the release of a new camera in fall 2008.

Sony's Rob Willox said the F35 is being developed with a Super 35mm-sized sensor in response to requests for a larger imager. It is planned as a 10 megapixel camera largely based on Sony's latest F23 platform, with a PL-mount and support for a workflow based on HDCAM SR recording. Similar capabilities to the F23 will include over- and undercranking.

For testing purposes, a limited number of F35 preproduction cameras have been released in Japan. The F35 is expected to list for about $250,000 (without lens).

Willox also reported that Sony is developing a 4K camera that is "not for (the National Association of Broadcasters convention) this year or next year but in the future that is a direction we are going to. ... We don't want to do a low-end 4K camera system."

CineAlta service facilities are being planned for Burbank and on the East Coast.

The F23 shipped in the spring and was used to shoot Larry and Andy Wachowski's upcoming "Speed Racer."

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

PassmoreLab Creates Prototype Multi-Camera Array for 3D Imaging

"PassmoreLab, one of the international leaders in the design and development of advanced 3D video imaging technology, has succeeded in creating a prototype 10-camera array specifically designed for the production of live-action content for auto-stereoscopic displays. This groundbreaking multi-camera array presents exciting possibilities for the creation of 3D content, with applications ranging from entertainment to research, education, industrial, and other fields.

Historically, stereoscopic vision has required the use of two cameras to produce a dual stream of inputs - one for the left eye, and one for the right eye. Today, however, a new class of display devices uses more than two channels of video to produce stereoscopic imagery. Several auto-stereoscopic display devices (ASDD) use up to 10 parallel channels of video to generate stereo pairs at various angles across the viewing field of the display device. Because the ASDD is designed to accommodate multiple viewers, who may be seated or crowded around a single flat-panel display, the geometry of the channels are not parallel. This effectively mimics the line of sight for the stereo pair from the virtual object to the viewing audience.

With these factors considered, the camera array designed by PassmoreLab sits on a flexible base, allowing for differing amounts of convergence based upon the ultimate size of the ASDD. For instance, larger displays typically require less angular convergence between the cameras. According to PassmoreLab's Zach Peterson, "The cameras are secured so that they can be adjusted between shots. The radius of the array can be changed depending on the size of and distance to the subject. This allows the user to have more control over the end product." All cameras incorporated within the array utilize a patented system for automated alignment between each unit, as well as an automated system for frame synchronization in time.

The camera array, although created primarily for ASDDs, is also designed with a wide range of applications in mind. As an aid in research, these applications include the use of multiple stereo video channels to assist in the process of depth map creation based on stereoscopic offset, as well as experimentation in the area of synthetic aperture arrays, and the capture of light fields for use in image-based rendering.

PassmoreLab developed this technology in cooperation with 3DH Corporation, which is based in Atlanta, GA. 3DH Vice President of R&D, Brian Lanehart discussed the importance of the multi-camera array in today's rapidly changing tech market, "As an immersive imaging company, we have always remained display agnostic. As the newer generation of auto-stereoscopic displays begin to hit the market, we knew that to stay ahead we must continue to support these displays as well. CGI imagery on these displays is a pretty simple effort, but video is a much more difficult undertaking. We already have demand in the digital signage, entertainment, medical and education industries for these displays which currently outpace manufacturing capacity. Our most significant demand is in advertising and marketing with a lot of requests for video-based content. The multi-camera array we are developing, along with other patentable tools, will enable us to serve this market with video and enable our partners with the same ability." 3DH Corp. will be establishing a product division to begin marketing the technology for use in entertainment and advertising."

Source: PRWeb

MainConcept Licenses Custom-developed Transcoding Applications to Panasonic

"MainConcept announced that Panasonic will distribute a pair of custom-developed transcoding solutions for IT-based production systems supporting the latest HD codecs for the popular P2HD broadcast and video production platform AVC-Intra and for newly developed professional and consumer video production platform AVCHD.

The two transcoding applications offer convenient transcoding of the AVC-Intra and AVCHD formats into the ever-popular DVCPRO format and are the result of close technical collaboration between Panasonic and MainConcept. The new applications give Panasonic Broadcast’s customers a ready-made, cost effective transcoding solution with time-to-market advantages of not having to develop the applications in-house.

Developed by MainConcept exclusively for Panasonic, the MainConcept AVCHD to DVCPRO HD Transcoder enables transcoding of Panasonic AVCHD files into P2-based DVCPRO HD. The DVCPROHD output from this application is fully compliant with the DVCPRO HD (SMPTE 370M) standard. The MainConcept AVC-Intra to DVCPRO Transcoder transcodes P2HD-based AVC-Intra 50 or AVC-Intra 100 files (compliant with the AVC-Intra frame coding specification provided by Panasonic) into P2-based DVCPRO 25/50 or DVCPRO HD. The DVCPRO output from this application is fully compliant with the DVCPRO 25/50 (SMPTE 314M) as well as DVCPRO HD (SMPTE 370M) standards. Additionally, the software converts AVC-Intra clips to uncompressed video of UYVY, YUY2, BGR3 or BGR4 colour format into AVI container."

Source: Mainconcept

Nielsen and Digimarc Announce Watermark-Based TV Content Identification Service

"Nielsen, the media measurement company, has teamed up with Digimarc to introduce an online content identification scheme for the US television industry based on watermarking technology. The two companies announced that they are collaborating on a scheme called Nielsen Media Manager, based on watermarking technology for video content that Nielsen has been using for four years in its media measurement business. Digimarc, the principal holder of patents in the watermarking space, is contributing technical assistance as well as IP licensing to the scheme.

Nielsen Media Manager is aimed at roughly the same set of customers as video fingerprinting technologies from companies like Audible Magic, Philips, Thomson, and Vobile: user-generated content sites, social networking sites, file-sharing services, and so on. Projected availability of the technology is mid-2008, and the companies intend to expand it beyond television content to movies, games, and other content types in the future.

The availability of a scheme like Nielsen Media Manager takes watermarking to a new level of viability for online content identification. Thus it begs a comparison with fingerprinting. Vendors of these technologies -- particularly those, like Philips and Thomson, that offer both watermarking and fingerprinting -- like to say that the two technologies are complementary rather than competitive, which is true to some extent. But they both apply to the conceptually simple task of identifying a file as a copyrighted work.

The most basic difference between the two technologies with respect to the generic task of content identification is that someone -- a content owner or service provider -- must embed a watermark in a file for it to be detected by a downstream entity (such as a file-sharing service), whereas this is not necessary in fingerprinting. Furthermore, the downstream entity must use a watermark detection tool based on the same scheme as the one used to embed the watermark. Yet watermarking is more accurate than fingerprinting, and it is more efficient to detect watermarks in video than it is to compute fingerprints, meaning that -- all else being equal -- it is cheaper for downstream entities to implement.

The other advantage that watermarking has over fingerprinting is that any data at all can be embedded as a watermark (subject to size limitations), whereas if fingerprinting works correctly, the same content will yield the same fingerprint. The same content can contain different watermarks; a good example of this is Universal Music Group's use of watermarks in unprotected MP3 music files to denote the different retailers (e.g., Amazon, Wal-Mart) that sell them. Different watermarks can be used for various purposes, such as to signal different usage terms (e.g., promotional vs. paid download) or different ads that should run against the content.

Yet this flexibility requires that standards be set for identifiers that determine what to do with content, as well as rules for interpreting those identifiers, in order to avoid the chaos of different schemes for content owners, retailers, advertisers, etc. And because watermarks typically can only contain a few dozen bytes of data, it would be necessary to maintain online directories that connect watermarks to information about how to interpret them.

That's exactly what Nielsen is developing. It already has a database of watermarks for a large portion of US television content, as well as audio signatures (fingerprints) that it uses as backups in case watermarks cannot be detected. It also has a proprietary identifier scheme. Nielsen intends to open up its database to third-party schemes, including those based on identifier standards such as ISAN. That way, an application can use a Nielsen-embedded watermark to look up (for example) an ISAN number, which in turn can lead to other information about the content. This falls short of the ideal of a totally open standard for globally unique content identifiers; it positions Nielsen as a gatekeeper.

Still, many dots have to be connected in order for watermarking to fulfill its potential in enabling business models for unencrypted online content, and Nielsen Media Manager is the first serious effort toward making this happen. If Nielsen and Digimarc are successful in getting a variety of online entities to adopt the technology, it bodes well for the future of watermarking in general."

By Bill Rosenblatt, DRM Watch

OpenCube Announces the Launch of XFConverter v1.0, its New Format Conversion Solution

OpenCube Technologies is happy to announce the launch of XFConverter v1.0, an innovative new product for the seamless conversion of wrapper formats.

XFConverter allows users to convert formats such as MXF, Quicktime, GXF, AVI into other MXF, Quicktime, GXF, AVI formats without having to modify their video/audio essences. It also allows them to efficiently manage metadata, among other features.

Part of production facilities, XFConverter converts wrapper formats even faster than in real-time, offering huge gains in productivity. Hassle-free and cost-effective, XFConverter is the perfect link for connecting the different formats to each other, providing a highly efficient solution for media handling.

XFConverter is based on the OpenCube MXFTk Toolkit. The solution’s intuitive and ergonomic graphical interface is easy to use and ensures genuine interoperability and streamlined media exchanges. XFConverter’s recognition module [Watch Folder] automatically recognizes the files to convert as soon as the software is launched, significantly accelerating the conversion process. Its 24/7 operational mode ensures reliability and boosts time-to-market.

“OpenCube has received numerous requests over the last few months for an efficient and ready-touse product to convert wrapper formats,” says Benoît Février, CEO of OpenCube. “We designed and developed XFConverter v1.0 with our partners and customers to ensure it met all market requirements before putting it on sale in Europe and in the U.S,” he adds. “XFConverter is very reasonably-priced and adapted to online purchasing. We have just set up a new online shopping platform and are delighted to be able to offer XFConverter, as well as other OpenCube solutions, on the site:”.

An Imax and AMC Venture will Expand 3-D Theaters

"Imax and AMC Entertainment are teaming up to open 100 Imax theaters, doubling the number of large-format 3-D outlets in the United States and adding momentum to Hollywood’s growing interest in the genre.

The deal involves equipping 100 of AMC’s existing auditoriums with next-generation Imax projection systems, which rely on digital images rather than film and are meant to provide an immersive viewing experience.

Imax will shoulder the expense of the projectors, which cost about $500,000 each. AMC, one of the world’s largest movie theater chains, will pay to retrofit auditoriums in top-performing movie complexes in 33 cities, reconfiguring the seats and enlarging the screens.

The partnership comes as Hollywood rushes to churn out 3-D movies. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have agreed to direct and produce a trilogy of 3-D movies about Tintin, the Belgian comic book hero. DreamWorks Animation recently announced that it would distribute several future movies in 3-D, including “Shrek Goes Forth.” James Cameron’s coming “Avatar” is being prepared in 3-D.

In gearing up more theaters, Imax and AMC are chasing different goals. AMC, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., is trying to battle an industrywide slump in attendance while squeezing out more revenue from existing auditoriums. Because Imax tickets cost an extra $2 to $4, the conversion should increase revenue in the converted auditoriums by one third, according to Peter C. Brown, the chief executive of AMC.

For Imax, the joint venture carries extra weight. The company, with headquarters in New York and Toronto, has struggled to expand into mainstream movie theaters from its roots in science and history museums. Although it has persuaded some movie studios to release Imax versions of their regular films, Imax has recently suffered loses associated with regulatory inquiries into its accounting methods.

In restated filings last month, Imax reported a loss of $16.8 million on revenue of $129.5 million for 2006. Also in 2006, an effort to sell the company faltered when no buyers offered the price Imax was seeking.

The deal with AMC, which is expected to add up to $35 million a year in additional cash, will go a long way toward stabilizing the company, said Bradley J. Wechsler, the co-chief executive of Imax. “This is transformational for us from a strategic point of view,” he said. AMC and Imax said they will divide the revenue from the theaters according to a pre-existing formula that they declined to describe.

Imax’s digital projection systems are new. Until now, Imax has relied upon equipment that translated film into 3-D projections and was so costly and clunky that it squelched demand.

Studios greeted the deal with enthusiasm. “This gives Imax a national footprint they never had before, including in the suburbs, and is great for studios looking to distribute titles in 3-D,” said Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution at Warner Brothers."

By Brooks Barnes, The New York Times

Sony Pictures Commits to Arts Alliance Media’s European Digital Cinema Rollout

"In a further vote of confidence for digital cinema in Europe, Sony Pictures Releasing International (“Sony Pictures”) and Arts Alliance Media (“AAM”), one of Europe’s leading providers of digital film distribution services, have reached a non-exclusive long-term agreement for digital cinema deployment. Under the agreement, Sony Pictures has committed to supply its films to certain European countries in digital format to AAM-deployed DCI-compliant digital cinema screens (if booked as a release screen), as well as to make financial contributions in order to promote digital cinema (a new and higher quality delivery format).

In June 2007, AAM signed Europe’s first long term digital cinema deployment agreements with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures International for the conversion of close to 7000 screens over the next few years, and most recently Paramount Pictures International also independently committed to support AAM’s digital rollout in Europe. Furthermore, in November 2007, the first European cinema chain, CGR Cinemas in France, signed up with AAM to convert 100% of its 400 screens to digital. AAM is in active negotiations for further deployment agreements with other Hollywood studios, as well as European distributors and exhibitors and announcements are expected shortly."

Source: DCinemaToday

Qube Cinema Integrates Thomson’s NexGuard Suite across Digital Cinema Product Line

"Thomson announced that Qube Cinema, a key supplier of Digital Cinema systems, has selected NexGuard, Thomson’s comprehensive, state-of-the-art content security suite, for integration into its DCI compliant D-Cinema and non-DCI E-Cinema servers across the world. Qube Cinema’s Qube XP D-Cinema and E-Cinema servers will now include NexGuard’s audio and visual forensic watermarking solution. NexGuard combats in-theatre piracy by offering the protection means to identify the date, time and location of illegal camcorder recordings.

The deployment of Qube Cinema servers embedded with the Thomson NexGuard suite begins the first initiative between the two companies. Thomson’s watermarking solution will be embedded into several hundred Qube XP D-Cinema and E-Cinema servers, making Qube Cinema the first company to implement NexGuard in both DCI and E-Cinema systems.

The NexGuard solution for digital cinema exceeds the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) current content security specifications by providing resistance to illegal camcorder capture and compression. NexGuard also offers server manufacturers flexibility to embed more than the required amount of identification information."

Source: DCinemaToday

Thomson and the Singapore Government Partner to Establish Digital Cinema Hub and Network Operations Center

"Thomson, through its Technicolor Digital Cinema business, and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore today announced a partnership to establish a digital cinema hub and network operations center (NOC) in Singapore.

Thomson, with the support of the IDA, plans to construct an efficient and secure digital cinema hub and NOC in Singapore to offer digital cinema service and related management solution capabilities to the motion picture industry for the Singaporean territory and other Asia-Pacific regions.

Thomson’s Singapore facility is expected to have the capability to support the following digital cinema services: physical and electronic forms of content delivery; Thomson’s key distribution and management systems; equipment monitoring; and 24/7/365 multi-lingual call-center support, fully integrated with its premier operations in the U.S.

The build-out of the new digital cinema hub and NOC in Singapore is slated to begin in mid-2008."

Source: DCinemaToday

European Exhbitor CGR Cinémas Selects Doremi Cinema's DCP-2000 Server for Arts Alliance Media Rollout

"Doremi Cinema is proud to announce that its DCP-2000 cinema server has been selected by Circuit George Raymond (CGR Cinémas) for all its 400 screens in France. The DCP-2000 installation will be part of an exclusive Virtual Print Fee (VPF) based agreement with Arts Alliance Media (AAM), Europe's leading provider of digital distribution services. With this agreement CGR Cinémas will become the first European exhibitor to convert completely to Digital Cinema exhibition.

CGR Cinémas chose Doremi's DCP-2000 server out of the brands evaluated and selected by AAM. Christie Digital has been chosen to provide digital cinema projectors and French cinema integration and services company Cine Digital Service will provide local installation and support services.

Two hundred screens are scheduled to be completed during the first year of the rollout that is set to begin in the first quarter of 2008. Eight screens will be equipped in December this year, in time for 3D digital cinema screenings during the Christmas holidays. In addition to the players, Doremi Cinema will also provide the Theater Management System (TMS) and the gateway integration with CGR Cinémas POS/Ticketing system developped by Monnaie Services. The Smartjog secured media delivery network will also be interfaced with the DCP2000 & TMS.

CGR Cinémas is a leading and expanding cinema chain in France. The company is well known for the success of its multiplexes in many mid-size cities across the country, for the efficiency of its cost management and for its profitability. By becoming the first European cinema chain to go fully digital, CGR Cinémas is demonstrating that it is an innovative company, ready to embrace new technology to deliver the best possible quality cinema experience.

CGR Cinémas is the first European exhibitor to sign up to a VPF-based rollout. The VPF business model is a means of financing the conversion to Digital Cinema, where both distributor and exhibitor contribute over time towards the total cost of the digital projection and server equipment, funded up front by the rollout entity AAM. The VPF model has been proven in North America, with over 4,320 digital screens installed to date, all using Doremi Cinema servers and Christie's digital cinema projection systems.

This agreement will see the number of theatres equipped with Doremi Cinema servers reach the 1,000 milestone in the EMEA region alone; and will add to the over 4,500 installations of Doremi Cinema players installed in the world today."

Source: DCinemaToday

Access IT Announces International Distribution Agreement with Doremi for its Theatre Command Center and Library Management System

"Capitalizing on their successful collaboration in the U.S. digital cinema market, Access Integrated Technologies (“AccessIT”) announced a non-exclusive distribution agreement with Doremi Labs Inc. (“Doremi”) for territories outside of the United States. The agreement allows Doremi to bundle their world leading media server with AccessIT's unique Theatre Command Center software and Library Management System, a proven solution that is supporting more than 3700 screens in the United States.

Two successful pilot programs with cinema companies in the United Kingdom and Ireland kick-started this effort which enables AccessIT to expand its reach outside of the United States, while providing first response support via Doremi, a trusted partner."

Source: DCinemaToday

Steven B. Cohen to Consult for “Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition”

"The ground-breaking joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP), has now officially been named the “Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition” and has hired industry veteran Steven B. Cohen as a consultant to manage the project.

The venture, which was originally announced on March 6, 2007, represents the first ever collaboration between studios and exhibitors to develop the most cost-effective form of digital content delivery through technologies such as satellite or digital terrestrial distribution. The Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition delivery system would be open and available to any content provider, vendor and exhibitor, including the owners, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Pictures and DCIP, which is owned by Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark USA and represents 14,000 screens domestically.

Under the current distribution system, individual prints of each movie are physically shipped to theaters in cans—or hard drives in the case of existing digital cinema. As technology has evolved, exhibitors have led the charge for finding new digital methods of direct delivery, which could include satellite or broadband components. A digital distribution system, which streamlines the delivery process and limits the number of people who handle the product, is expected to increase security and support the fight against film piracy.

Steven B. Cohen has over twenty years of experience in digital distribution, digital post production and digital cinema. He is currently the head of Cohen Communications, where he serves as a consultant and engineer to various studio and production companies for Calibrated Display Systems for digital dailies, digital cinema preview, press and premiere screenings, Remote Collaboration Systems and High Definition screening rooms. He co-developed the first Hard Disk-based HD Dailies System and pioneered HD Preview Screenings for Theatrical Films."

Source: DCinemaToday

Making a 3D Music Video for Björk

"For the music video of Björk’s Wanderlust the directing duo known as Encyclopedia Pictura, comprising Sean Hellfritsch and Isaiah Saxon, decided to take the bold leap into the world of 3D. And this was not to be a simple 3D project, if there is such a thing, but included shooting miniatures, puppets and live action on greenscreen and then adding CG elements in post. While the video is not due out until February (and thus we cannot show any video clips until then) we spoke to the duo about the 3D process, from constructing the 3D camera rig with a couple of Silicon Imaging 2K MINI cameras, the techniques of shooting 3D, to editing and compositing the 3D images.

How did you get interested in 3D?
Over a year ago I received a turn-of-the-century Opticon [stereo image] viewer along with a suitcase of stereo pairs and we became obsessed with 3D. Then we saw the film Deep Sea 3D and after experiencing that we decided we weren’t going to shoot 2D anymore if we could help it. So from here on out, it’s all 3D.

How did you decide to use the Silicon Imaging camera to shoot 3D?
We had been researching 3D for a while before this project. We were going to need really small cameras in order to make it work. Basically we had a set of parameters for this project: We wanted to shoot really high resolution, have the ability to shoot high frame rates and keep the rig as small as possible. We went through the list of cameras that were available and there was only really one that fit in our budget range was the Silicon Imaging 2K Mini camera. From there we selected which lenses worked best with it and then designed our camera rig around our lenses. We had really wide angle lenses 5.5 Optix super 16mm lenses and Cooke 12.5 lenses. Those are both Super 16mmm lenses and are directly compatible with the SI-2K Mini.

Can you explain how the cameras are set up to shoot 3D?
Basically you are recreating the distance between human eyes. So the general setting is keeping the camera’s 2.5 inches apart. But if you are shooting things closer than 10 feet you have to put the cameras closer together. If you are shooting scale models like we were the cameras must be closer together than physically possible so for tat you use a beam-splitter. The technology behind that is pretty old and we built our own beam-splitter. We worked with a couple guys that had some experience in fabrication. We designed the camera rig in Rhino (CAD system). We found a parts distributor that had extruded aluminum modular framing and downloaded parts from their library and designed the entire camera structure around our lenses and what size beam-splitter we would use.

The splitter is a thin, 2mm sheet of glass that has titanium coating on it that allows the visible light spectrum to pass through it and be reflected by it. If you look at one side of it and the pother side is perfectly dark then the other side will be perfectly reflected. So one camera is positioned above it shooting down into it at a 45 degree angle and the other camera is behind it shooting through it. And you align the cameras perfectly so they are seeing the exact same image and then you offset one camera, the right camera in our case, to get the interocular.

We shot scale models for our landscapes and one of the puppets and also for close-ups because we needed and an adjustable interocular. The beam-splitter allows you to have an interocular of zero, where you are seeing the same thing. So you can adjust it in fine increments.

What was the rig on set?
We had the [SI-2K] Mini’s mounted on arms that hung out in the right spot in relation to the mirror and then those were tethered over GB Ethernet to PCs that we built and then we had a monitor with polarized 3D display so that we could view the 3D in realtime while we were shooting.

One of the sweet things about the Silicon Imaging software is that it will output to two DVI monitors. So we had those computers set up so we could take the signal from each camera and have that on a regular 2D monitor for viewing but also take the second signal and run it to the 3D display. All you have to do is flip the image coming from the beam-splitter because it is upside down but other than that there is no processing required.

Were you able to playback in 3D?
Well kind of. Since it was on two different cameras you would have to start both playback devices at the same time. Silicon Imaging didn’t have that quite figured out at that point. So we would just try to hit play at the same time on both computers. It would loop like twice in the same synch and then would tend to slip out. So we could do a ghetto 3D playback.

And what were you recording to?
Recording onto internal hard drives of the PCs. The Silicon imaging software controls every aspect of the camera. From color correction, all the setting and al recorded as AVI files using the Cineform codec.

Talk about some of the factors you have to account for when shooting 3D. Do you have to account for focus, lighting, framing any differently?
Focus is one thing. We used wide angle lenses to get away from any focus issues. And sometimes we’d have to cut our dolly moves short so that we were always in our focus range so it would hold up from close up to wide shots.

Lighting is only enhanced by using 3D as opposed to 2D. Framing is where you really have to take 3D into account. The carryover from one cut to the next so that there is not a drastically different jump into the 3D effect is something crucial in 3D. So it has much more to do with the blocking and taking a less flashy approach to the staging of shots than you would with 2D because 3D is comfortable with an object being plainly placed in front of you to behold more clearly than if it was staged in a flashy or dynamic way.

Does that mean centering things in the frame?
No necessarily centering everything but not allowing extra setups, no really kinetic movement where things enter and exit frame. Our aesthetic approach to it was inspired by the Natural History Museum diorama’s where everything is contained in an isolated space and has a set-up feel to it. Each shot has its own context and there’s not a lot of coverage of inserts and stuff. We cut on action a few times just to save our ass. But in the storyboarding phase we tried to avoid it as much as possible.

The one situation where it shooting in 3D does come into play is when we are dollying from a close-up into a wide or vice versa. In those instances you do want to adjust for a smaller interocular, otherwise you’ll have a certain depth reading based on how far the object is from camera. You can keyframe it to tweak it but with things like landscapes you can screw the shot up pretty easily.

Explain your post workflow.
Using the Cineform codec you have to use Premier Pro, which we don’t usually use. So there was a bit of a learning curve but the integration between Premiere and After Effects is really nice because we could build each shot as a rough comp in Premiere just by stacking layers and then grab the files from the timeline and copy and paste them into After Effects which is huge timesaver. You used to have to prep each clip and export a QuickTime and then bring it into After Effects. So being locked into a post workflow we weren’t used to was a little problematic at first but once we were in it worked great.

Do you have to approach the editing and compositing differently for 3D?
In the edit you don’t address the 3D. You work with the one eye. In the composite you work on one eye first just like a traditional 2D film. Once your right eye has been built and set you then take all your left eye footage and make it mimic what you did with your right eye. It’s a lot of tedious copying and pasting of all the parameters and then a lot of tweaking for whatever discrepancy there was in the left eye. Then you feed those into two different comps, which creates the anaglyph of the red and blue so that you can view the 3D with the glasses and you can slip and slide and adjust the 3D perspective.

You can lock a comp in After Effects, so you lock one comp, your right eye and then go into the other, your left, and adjust it to slide the 3D perspective. So you can adjust it on the fly and you can change all the perspective of each layer. We used mostly Premier and After Effects though some people were using Imagineer Mocah for some of the roto work.

And are you finishing in 2K?
No. Since the focus issues limited our camera moves in post we did a lot of digital zooms. Part of our desire to shoot 2K was not necessarily that we wanted to print to film but that we didn’t have the option of zooming with our lenses so we wanted to have the option of moving the camera around if needed. So we our finished resolution is going to be baby-HD (960x720)."

Source: StudioDaily

Digital Revolution

"Digital cinema in the Asia-Pacific region continues to expand on a country-by-country basis, with an interesting mix of distribution infrastructures ranging from locally created e-cinema networks up to full DCI-specified 2K networks. Unlike the U.S.—or even the European markets—progress in Asia varies by country depending much on the status of the domestic cinema industry and the local popularity of Hollywood content.

Missing so far in Asia are the pan-regional third-party providers who provide financing, integration, and distributor-provided conversion incentives. Companies like North America’s AccessIT and Technicolor and Europe’s XDC and Arts Alliance Media have yet to emerge in the Asian market. The driving factors in the Asian rollout tend to be local exhibitors themselves who want to get ahead of the curve, the equipment vendors who are trying to jump-start business, and in the case of China, government incentives.

In China, digital-cinema deployment is being supported by the China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), the Chinese state-owned company which is leading the Chinese film industry. CFGC got off to a roaring start in 2002 with initial purchases of pre-DCI MPEG-based equipment with 1.3K projection technology. China deployed 100 of these systems in major market cinemas that typically play Western content. As Hollywood standards began to evolve, CFGC took a wait-and-see attitude to further investments and remained largely quiet on further large-scale d-cinema deployment. Instead, CFGC moved forward by deploying a large number of e-cinema systems using standard three-chip DLP projectors and GDC servers in theatres that play domestic content, while keeping a close eye on evolving d-cinema standards.

In 2007 China renewed its commitment to install 2K DCI-compliant systems in large numbers. Both Belgium-based projector manufacturer Barco and the Singapore-based server manufacturer GDC Technology (GDC) have been the driving forces in the recent China rollout. In spring of 2007, GDC and Barco jointly announced a deal with Chinese exhibitors for 700 units coordinated through CFGC. Following on this announcement, GDC announced that CFGC, working with Shenzhen-based Institute of Digital Media Technology (Shenzhen IDMT), will install 2,000 of its DCI-2000 integrated systems in Chinese theatres by the end of 2008. The GDC DCI-2000 combines a GDC SA-2100 server and a Barco DP-2000 projector into one easy-to-deploy package. As of December 2007, approximately 300 of these systems have been installed in China.

GDC has also been busy installing its Total Digital Cinema Solution in various Chinese cinemas such as the Golden Harvest Shenzhen. This package includes equipment for d-cinema, onscreen advertising and in-lobby advertising, along with a central management system to control these systems.

Korea is leading the world in installation as a percentage of existing screens, with approximately 185 of its 1,700 screens equipped. Unlike China, the cinemas in South Korea didn’t begin seriously converting until DCI and 2K projection became the norm. Both Barco and Christie have established strong positions with dealer and exhibitor alliances. Initially QuVIS had the dominant server position, followed closely by GDC. Recently, Doremi has focused its sales and support in the Korean market and to date has installed approximately 50 servers. Christie has recently taken the lead in projector sales with approximately 100 installations to date.

The rollout in Korea is largely being driven by competition among the major exhibition groups. Exhibitors CJ Entertainment, The Lotte Group and Megabox, along with numerous independents, are all in competition to provide tech-savvy Korean cinemagoers the best possible experience. The Megabox COEX Cineplex in Seoul was the world’s first all-digital multiplex, with all 16 screens equipped with Barco projectors in the summer of 2005. Digital 3D has also been a huge hit with Korean moviegoers, with 11 of the Lotte screens being equipped with Real D’s stereoscopic system.

NEC, also a manufacturer of DLP Cinema 2K projectors, has recently renewed its focus on the Korean market with the appointment of Hyosung ITX Co. Ltd. as a sales partner. NEC also has a sales relationship in the Hong Kong market with Strong Westrex, a subsidiary of Ballantyne of Omaha and a leading supplier of cinema equipment for the region. NEC is actively expanding its sales and support throughout Asia in anticipation of strong demand for 2008.

The digital rollout in Taiwan is moving slowly ahead, with approximately 10 digital screens in operation. Sales are being driven by individual titles, particularly those in digital 3D. For the November 2007 release of Beowulf 3D, Ambassador Theatres will install one Dolby 3D system at their Xinmen Ding site and add one more Dolby server at its Global Mall site. Over the next year, Ambassador is planning to install three more digital screens. Also for Beowulf 3D, GDC Technology will be installing two of its SA-2100 servers along with Christie projectors in Cinemark’s Core Pacific multiplex.

Much like Taiwan, Thailand has nine d-cinema screens in operation and is adding as needed to play specific titles. Thailand’s leading integrator, Goldenduck Group, has been responsible for overseeing recent installations with SF Cinema, who recently added two additional installations using Barco projectors and Dolby servers with 3D enhancements.

In Japan, T-Joy continues to lead the conversion with approximately 30 of Japan’s 70 equipped screens. Earlier this year, T-Joy installed nine NEC NC2500S projectors at its flagship Shinjuku Wald 9, making it the first fully digital complex in Japan, and later T-Joy installed three more NEC projectors at their Nagaoka multiplex.

Dolby has been particularly active in the Japanese market with the installation of 19 of its servers and is working with T-Joy to install Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems in a number of their multiplexes across Japan. In addition, Imagica, one of the largest motion picture film laboratories in Japan, has been equipped to generate DCI-specified files and has installed the Dolby SCC2000 mastering system.

Sony is said to have seven Japanese theatres equipped with its 4K SXRD projection technology on a trial basis. Doremi has also established a footprint in the Japanese market with 10 recent server installations in several Shochiku and Tokyu cinemas.

India has been a solid e-cinema market, with many flavors of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 based systems being deployed around the country. In the north, the UFO Moviez network has installed over 500 e-cinema systems in cinemas playing Indian-produced titles. In the south, Chennai-based Qube System has been actively deploying e-cinema networks for several large Indian exhibitors including E-City, Pyramid Group, Cinemeta, and others. Although starting with e-cinema, Qube is expecting to upgrade many of these to fully compliant DCI systems in 2008. Recently, Sathyam Cinemas installed six Qube XP-D servers with Barco DP-100 projectors in all six of its screens at its flagship multiplex in Chennai and is planning to expand to over 100 screens throughout southern India, all with DCI-level 2K equipment and Qube servers in 2008. Working with Qube, 200 of the top independent Indian exhibitors plan on upgrading their existing e-cinema equipment to d-cinema beginning in early 2008.

With the size and potential of the Indian market, it is no surprise that many other equipment venders are looking at India with eager anticipation. Dolby Laboratories has an agreement in place with a major Indian service provider to install a Dolby SCC2000 Secure Content Creator for local content creation and mastering. In addition, the agreement includes over 250 Dolby Digital Cinema servers to be installed over the next few years to provide a DCI-compliant screen base for Hollywood movies in India.

In Australia and New Zealand, d-cinema literally means 3D, as all of the 21 digital screens in the region are 3D-enabled, most equipped with Barco projectors and Kodak servers.

Kodak Australia is Real D’s exclusive agent for Australia and New Zealand and has been responsible for the large majority of digital systems deployed in the area. Building on their success with the ACOS pre-show delivery system, Kodak has been deploying their JMN3000 server with the Kodak Theatre Management System (TMS). This TMS provides exhibitors with centralized control over the systems while also being watched over by the Kodak service and support team from Kodak’s central network operations locations.

So far, digital conversions down under have been driven by specific titles. Hoyts and Reading Cinemas have added several new installations for the November 2007 release of Beowulf 3D.

Several larger screens, the Cineplex Victoria Point in Queensland and Hoyts’ Sylvia Park in New Zealand, are set up with dual-projector 3D to achieve higher brightness on the wider screens. Australia’s Atlab Image & Sound Technology has been doing much of the system integration working with Kodak, Dolby, Christie and other vendors.

In 2007, both China and South Korea made significant progress with the conversion of their exhibition industries to digital. In China, the growth can be attributed to strong governmental support for programs to modernize their cinema industry. In South Korea, the progress was primarily the result of fierce competition among several vertically integrated—and therefore well-financed—cinema circuits.

In the smaller markets and with the independent exhibitors, however, the economics of the digital deployments remain a challenge. With no clear emerging regional deployment plan providing studio incentives to convert, installations are on a screen-by-screen basis and being driven primarily by a few titles available in 3D.

Regardless of studio incentives and deployment plans, d-cinema installations will certainly heat up in 2008, as there are many more 3D titles in the production pipeline. Whether 3D exhibition is a novelty—or becomes part of mainstream cinema for the foreseeable future—the increased box-office results make the exhibitor’s conversion a more local, immediate and understandable business decision."

By Bill Mead, FilmJournal International

JVC Joins the 4K Projection Club

"If you've been tuned into Digital Cinema Projection for the past couple of years, you'd know that when it comes to 4K projection (4Kx2K image), sony's SXRD series was pretty much the only game in town. DLP is limited to 2K and most of the projectors out there (Christie, Barco, NEC) are all 2K projectors.

A downside of Sony's projector is that although it is as hefty as a small car it only has a 2000:1 contrast ratio (measured less than that calibrated). Its rated aggresively for 40ft screens which is not nearly big enough for true cinema applications.

That was true until JVC announced their 1.27-inch 4Kx2K D-ILA (Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier) chip at InfoComm 2007. The chip can produce a 4096x2400 pixel image with a 20,000:1 contrast ratio. That's nearly 10x the contrast ratio of the Sony behemoth.

Major Specifications:
Device size: 1.27-inch diagonal
Number of pixels: 4096 x 2400
Pixel pitch: 6.8 µm
Gap between pixels: 0.25 µm
Aperture ratio: 93%
Device contrast ratio: 20,000:1
Response time (tr+tf): 4.5 ms

The DLA-SH4K, which packs the 4k D-ILA chip, touts a 4,096 x 2,400 resolution, 10,000:1 contrast ratio, 3,500 lumens, a dual-link DVI input, multiscreen mode, an Ethernet port for remote operation and RS-232 / USB connectors. It measures 660 x 827 x 340 mm and is slated for launch in the first half of 2008."

Source: Digital Cinema Buyers Guide

Thomson Signs Agreements with Three North American Exhibitors to Provide Digital Cinema Projection Systems

"Thomson, through its Technicolor Digital Cinema business, has signed agreements with Clearview Cinemas, iPic Entertainment and Cinemaworld to install digital projection systems as part of its North American digital cinema equipment deployment.

Clearview Cinemas is a Chatham, New Jersey-based exhibitor that operates 50 theatres with 254 screens, 246 of which are in the New York DMA, the country’s largest metropolitan market. Clearview also owns and operates New York City’s legendary Ziegfeld Theatre, one of the country’s most famous movie palaces and the location of countless movie premieres and red-carpet events.

IPic Entertainment, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a new company founded by Hamid Hashemi, former president and CEO of Muvico Theatres. With its first location set to open in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale, Wisconsin on December 7, iPic’s innovative entertainment complexes will include luxury movie theatres, an upscale bowling venue, a restaurant and bar, and an auditorium for live events. iPic has additional locations currently under development in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, California and Florida.

"Digital Cinema is the future of movie exhibition, and we are excited to be on the cutting-edge working with Technicolor so that our guests can experience movies with the highest quality image and sound possible,” said Hamid Hashemi, president and CEO of IPic Entertainment. “We’re also excited about the innovative new programming options that this technology enables, such as 3-D and live events."

Vero Beach, Florida-based Cinemaworld operates 32 state-of-the-art, all-stadium screens in Florida and Rhode Island, and plans to expand into two new markets beginning in early 2008. Cinemaworld’s West Melborne, Florida site has been a test bed for Technicolor’s prototype digital systems since 2002.

Each theatre installation will feature Technicolor’s fully integrated networked systems, which include a satellite system for content delivery and the Technicolor Theatre Management System. The Technicolor Theatre Management System is a software solution that enables exhibitors to control theatre automation and manage all content such as trailers, advertisements, and features with simple drop and drag technology. The digital cinema systems will be supported by Technicolor’s maintenance services with 24/7 remote monitoring to ensure system health.

Technicolor Digital Cinema has installed digital cinema systems with several prominent exhibitors in North America and Europe including ArcLight Cinema Company, Mann Theatres, National Amusements, Wehrenberg Theatres, Zyacorp’s Cinemagic Stadium Theatres, and Kinepolis Group in Belgium.

Thomson intends to complete the first phase rollout of digital projection systems in up to 5,000 screens over the next three to four years, with 15,000 screens in the United States and Canada over the next 10 years.

All hardware and software placed in each site will conform to industry-standard specifications published by Digital Cinema Initiatives LLC (DCI). Furthermore, the Technicolor Digital Cinema plan is technology agnostic, enabling both exhibitors and studios to benefit from the best available technology, including both 2K and 4K projection.

As previously announced, Thomson has signed digital cinema equipment usage agreements with DreamWorks SKG, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. to support its plans for the distribution of digital cinema content and systems throughout North America. Under the separate, long-term accords, each of these studios has agreed to distribute content digitally throughout the United States and Canada, and pay a virtual print fee to Thomson for screens equipped with Technicolor Digital Cinema systems, which began in late 2006."

Source: DCinemaToday

SENSIO Signs a First Contract for the Integration of its Technology into a 3D TV Designed by Kerner Optical R&D

"SENSIO Technologies, the inventor of the SENSIO 3D technology, announces that its technology will be integrated for the very first time into a 3D television intended for the consumer market. “We are extremely pleased with this milestone agreement we just reached with Kerner Optical Research and Development (“KORD”). The signature of this first contract falls within the timeline we had set and is the result of our efforts aimed at integrating our technology into a mass consumption device”, explains Nicholas Routhier, President and CEO.

This recently entered into agreement will allow KORD to integrate the SENSIO 3D technology into the new LCD HD SpectronIQ television, as well as the JVC 2D to 3D real-time conversion technology, for which SENSIO obtained a license in October 2006. The new television is currently being developed as per a contract between KORD and SpectronIQ. This agreement follows the Letter of Intent announced last June, which expressed KORD’s interest for the SENSIO 3D technology.

This first commercial success will generate recurring incomes for SENSIO, as the contract provides for a base amount, as well as royalties on every unit sold."

Source: SENSIO

Disney Brings 3-D Thunder to 'Bolt'

"Disney Feature Animation's "Bolt" -- previously titled "American Dog" -- will be released in digital 3-D when it opens Nov. 26, 2008.

"We are going to have fun family 3-D at Thanksgiving," Disney president of domestic distribution Chuck Viane said. "We absolutely believe in the whole concept of 3-D and the enhancement that it brings in the ability to separate us from any of the other mediums."

"Bolt" is the latest digital 3-D announcement from Disney, which has been a pioneer of the format. The company's digital 3-D releases have included "Chicken Little," "Meet the Robinsons" and "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas."

Burton also recently signed a two-picture deal with Disney through which he will direct and produce 3-D features of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and Burton's short "Frankenweenie." Disney next releases in 3-D the "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," which will play in theaters Feb. 1-7.

The "Hannah Montana" release should be available on about 700 screens. "By the time we get to 'Bolt,' I think you may be looking at somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 potential 3-D screens (domestically)," Viane said. "That would be terrific."

John Travolta and Susie Essman lead the voice cast of "Bolt," the story of a TV star dog named Bolt (Travolta) who is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York, where he begins a cross-country journey through the real world. Chris Williams directs."

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

Who Shows the Best View of 3D 'Beowulf'?

"The race for the best 3D movie projection technology began in earnest last week with the release of Beowulf, and I'm here to judge the first lap.

Beowulf, which recounts the Anglo-Saxon adventures of a Swedish prince of that name, is the first wide release of a 3D movie, showing on hundreds of screens in 3D. And for the first time, viewers had the choice not only of watching with Imax 3D and Real D projection technology, but also newcomer Dolby 3D.

Based on watching the movie start to finish three times, the 3D winner is Dolby 3D--and not just by a nose.

Dolby's technology gave a sharp image that showed every beard bristle, the colors were relatively rich, flicker from moving objects was nonexistent, but most significantly, the sense of depth was strong. Even the subtle differences between a character's facial features were perceptible, and group shots with a host of characters showed as true depth, not as a number of gradually more distant two-dimensional layers. I was truly impressed.

Before I go further, a qualifier. Three viewings of this movie was a lot to endure, given the comic-book-grade plot and cardboard characters, but it's not much as statistical samples go to judge projection technology.

It's hard to say how much of my experience was based on the underlying merits of the technology and how much on the particulars of the theater and viewing. But the Dolby 3D experience was significantly better enough that I'm comfortable awarding it the crown.

Compare and contrast
All three 3D technologies were compelling, but none was perfect.

My first viewing was with Imax 3D, which was displayed on the company's famously large screens.

Of the three, Imax 3D was the most in-your-face experience of 3D effects, with swords, castle spires and spear points jutting sharply out of the screen. The company deliberately adjusts movie perspective to achieve this effect.

"When you experience 3D with us, you experience the 3D at the bridge of your nose. It is an immersive, full-contact experience," said Greg Foster, Imax's chairman and president of filmed entertainment. And he's right.

However, I was distracted many times during the movie by "ghosting," in which some of the light intended for the right eye leaks into the left and vice-versa. In high-contrast moments, such as a brightly glowing, gold drinking horn held against a dark cave wall, the result is dim secondary copies of elements of the scene.

More disappointing, though, was my befuddled perception of some high-motion 3D scenes. I often found it hard to track objects and people during fight scenes with rapidly moving objects and a whirling camera perspective, for example.

So when I went to my second viewing, in Real D, I was favorably impressed. It wasn't as crisply focused or immersive as Imax 3D, but there wasn't as much ghosting, and I had much better luck keeping track of the fast-moving scenes. For example, in one early scene where King Hrothgar flings gold coins at his subjects, I actually saw coins rather than distracting gold flashes.

Instead of occupying most of my field of vision, the action seemed to take place in a box on a stage in front of the audience. And most of the action was "behind" the front of the screen.

The Real D audience seemed more wowed than Imax 3D viewers. Despite the more understated 3D, I observed a lot more flinching and startled gasping among audience members than in the Imax show.

Dolby 3D, though, beat out Real D for clarity, color, and coherent 3D. I was looking hard for ghosting and found it only twice, once with a sword and once with Grendel's mother's snaking tail. Many scenes that hadn't worked before came together--one example being the flying gravel pushed by Beowulf's ship as it's towed up the beach--and I found myself relishing the depth of flying dragons and other subjects. Falling snow, driving rain, and blowing embers imparted a feeling of space, not mere distractions.

That said, I still had problems. Not once was I able to make sense of the clouds of sand billowing around an underwater dragon or the froth of bubbles seen in the lair of the monster Grendel and his mother. A chain moving through a pulley knocked me cross-eyed. I also had troubles with foreground objects such as cave stalactites or characters half off-screen.

3D movies: The future
Beowulf is set in Denmark during the sixth century, the darkest of the Dark Ages, but watching it is a view into the future of movie making. I was impressed by various clips, but now having seen what a director with forethought can do with the technology and what it adds to the movie itself, it's clear to me 3D isn't just the flash in the pan it has been in the past.

For me, the 3D movie experience ranged from remarkable to gimmicky, but at no time did I find that it had faded unobtrusively into the background. No doubt part of that is because it's a spectacle that movie makers are using to pack theaters and charge premium prices.

The three 3D technologies all share a common principle: alternate rapidly between two slightly different vantage points, one for the left eye and one for the right, so human brains in the audience can reconstruct the third dimension just as they do in the real world. To keep left-eye light out of the right eye and vice-versa, the audience wears special glasses; the cheap cardboard hand-outs with red and blue plastic lenses are long gone.

There are differences, of course, in the projection technologies. Imax 3D, with about 120 3D screens installed so far, uses the oldest approach--two separate but synchronized reels of film and polarized light to split the views--though it will start going digital in 2008. Real D, whose technology is on more than 1,000 screens, uses a digital projector passed through a device that polarizes light one way and another for each eye.

Dolby 3D, which just entered production and so far is only on 75 screens, uses filtering technology so that the left and right eyes see images composed of slightly different hues of red, green, and blue. That approach caused problems for me seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas, in which elements of even red were hard to look at because the right-eye channel was significantly more orange.

Beowulf's computer-generated images are based on the real movements of actors digitized with motion-capture systems. Although I can't stand the characters' resulting rubbery features and robotic hands, the technique is a good foundation for 3D movies.

With the in-computer virtual "filming," the camera's perspective can shift gradually or dramatically, taking the audience with it. With computer-generated movies, those radical perspectives are nothing new, but 3D adds a new element. For example, when the still-unseen monster Grendel shatters open the door of Heorat, King Hrothgar's mead hall, the camera slowly moves to the front of the hall, and the sense of dread is all the greater as the vantage point approaches the entrance where we expect a vile demon.

The movie, however, seemed adapted for the constraints of 3D display. One problem, for example, is that 3D movies are significantly dimmer, in part because each eye is effectively seeing black half the time and because necessary filters cut down light even more. In what was likely not a coincidence, Beowulf seems to take place entirely during the dark days of northern-latitude winter and is set mostly in wanly illuminated halls and caves.

Overall, though, the experience was engaging, even the third time around. And I recommend checking the movie out in whatever 3D format you can find. Imax's Foster makes a compelling point about the merits of 3D. And even though I'm not a big movie buff, I agree.

"What's happening is a lot of 15- to 30-year-old people were staying home, watching movies on 72-inch plasma screens and not going to the movies the way I was going when I was a 15-year-old," Foster said. "We need technologies to get them to realize they can't replicate the movie-going experience (found) in a movie theater."

By Stephen Shankland, CNET News

The Revival of 3D Movies

"Hollywood is making itself over again this time using next generation 3D technology to keep the moviegoers coming back for more. Want proof? By the numbers, this past weekend’s top ranking film Beowulf, took in over $27M, was shown at 3,153 locations with an average take of $8,727. By contrast, number two, Bee Movie screened at almost 4,000 locations with an average take of just $3,516.

What helped create the 2.5x delta between the average take of these top two movies was clearly the 3D showings of Beowulf. Only a one-fifth of the 3153 locations were in 3D, but theater owners can charge up to $3 more for the enhanced experience. A full 40% of the Beowulf revenue was earned from 850 3D screenings in both regular theaters equipped with RealD and Dolby 3D technology and Imax screens. Paramount general sales manager Don Harris said "Twenty percent of the screens produced 40 percent of the gross."

Specifically, the 850 3-D screens were in 742 locations including 84 Imax screens, which contributed almost $3.6M, or a whopping $42,619 per screen. "That’s 13% of the overall box-office" according to Imax’s Greg Foster. And the moviegoers most likely to see this flick - 60% male, with 50% of patrons under age 25.

"There was a great contribution from the 3-D screens, and it tells you that the audience is really interested in experiencing the richness and strength that the 3D experience gives you. It really gives us great encouragement going forward about what 3-D can do," said Rob Moore, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution.

Our take is that economics is driving the 3D technology into the theaters as the number of moviegoers is dropping. For instance, Media By Numbers said this week’s ticket sales were off 3% and the gross from the top 12 films was down almost 30% from the same week last year. Overall, theater attendance is down 8 of the past 9 weeks, according to the group.

These numbers are no surprise as the trend in home theaters continues to grow. High-end systems have been around for years with dedicated rooms, but now large flat panel displays are becoming the norm in most US homes, with full HD leading the charge.

So movie theaters are turning once again to technology that goes beyond the home experience, (remember "CinemaScope," "Vista-Vision," or even "Superrama" and "Glamorama" wide screen experiences?) all created to lure moviegoers back into the theaters. But this is not a bad thing. Today’s HD standard may not have included the 16:9 format without the widescreen experience of the 1950’s.

But like full-HD bringing the movie theater into the home, the home 3D experience may not be far behind and even perhaps much closer than most expect."

By Steve Sechrist, Display Daily

First European Exhibitor Goes Fully Digital: CGR Signs with Arts Alliance Media

"Circuit George Raymond (“CGR Cinémas”), one of France’s largest cinema chains and Arts Alliance Media (“AAM”), Europe’s leading provider of digital distribution services, have reached an exclusive agreement for the deployment of digital cinema in 100% of the circuit’s 400 screens, throughout France. The rollout is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2008, with a target of 200 screens during the first year.

This agreement signifies the highly anticipated start of a widespread commercial rollout initiative across Europe which will enable exhibitors, distributors and the entertainment industry at large to reap the substantial benefits of digital cinema: consistently high quality non-degradable prints, new programming opportunities - alternative content and premium ticket shows, notably 3-D films and live satellite events (opera, concerts, sports, etc), as well as vastly reduced print production and logistics costs.

Under the conditions of the agreement, AAM will create a fully integrated DCI-compliant digital cinema network within the CGR Cinémas infrastructure. The agreement requires AAM to procure, service and maintain all digital cinema systems deployed, including projectors and servers, central storage servers and a Theatre Management System.

CGR Cinémas is a leading and expanding cinema chain in France. The company is well known for the success of its multiplexes in many mid-size cities across the country, for the efficiency of its cost management and for its profitability. By becoming the first European cinema chain to join the AAM initiative and go fully digital, CGR Cinémas is demonstrating that it is an innovative company, ready to embrace new technology to deliver the best possible quality cinema experience.

This agreement between CGR Cinémas and AAM shows that the VPF-based business model has now been fully adapted to meet the particular requirements of the European exhibition market. The VPF business model is a means of financing the conversion to digital cinema, where both distributor and exhibitor contribute over time towards the total cost of the digital projection and server equipment, funded up front by the rollout entity (AAM). The VPF model has been proven in North America, with over 3,700 digital screens installed to date.

AAM is the only studio-backed digital cinema rollout entity in Europe. In June 2007, AAM signed Europe’s first long term digital cinema deployment agreements with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures International for the conversion of close to 7000 screens, and in October, Paramount Pictures International also committed to supporting AAM’s digital cinema rollout in Europe. AAM is in active negotiations with European distributors and other Hollywood studios for further deals, and announcements are expected shortly

AAM completed the UK Film Council digital cinema rollout of 240 screens, known as the Digital Screen Network, on April 30th, 2007. The company is also participating in two digital cinema trials, one in the UK at the Odeon Surrey Quays multiplex, since February 2007, and the other in Norway, in various cinemas across the country, since April 2006. To date, AAM’s in-house digital lab has encoded over 200 digital cinema titles and shipped over 3600 digital prints."

Source: DCinemaToday

RED Releases Redcine and Native FCP Support

"Red Digital Cinema have released Redcine, a software tool to convert native REDCODE footage to any codec you have installed on the system. QuickTime Reference files link the source REDCODE Raw footage into a QuickTime movie so that applications like Final Cut Pro can use the footage "natively".

REDCODE Raw codec supports RT playback and editing of the QuickTime Reference movies generated in camera. Both 2K and 1K QuickTime Reference movies are supported in this release.

When you transfer media from your CF cards to your hard drive for editing, please be sure you take the native .R3D files, the QuickTime Reference movies and the Magazine Profile from the CF card. They should all live together in the same folder to allow for offline/online editing and finishing. After you have imported your QuickTime Reference movies into Final Cut Pro do not move the original files to another location. If you move the RED files and media after importing the QuickTime Reference movies into FCP you will lose the connection to the FCP master clips and will have to reconnect the files manually.

Depending on your system configuration, you may see less than full frame rate playback. RED recommends the current top end configuration of a MacPro with 8 cores, fast RAID 0 striped drives and a minimum of 4 gigabytes of RAM if you plan on editing the 2K QuickTime Reference movies. RED recommends for RT editing on a MacBook Pro that you use the 1K QuickTime Reference movies or smaller frame sizes that can be generated with the RED Alert! Program provided to camera owners by RED."

Source: Digital Production Buzz

Omneon Announces Server Support for Panasonic's Advanced AVC-Intra HD Format

"At Inter BEE 2007, Omneon has announced server support for the AVC-Intra high-performance HD format.

The new MediaPort modules for the Omneon Spectrum media server and the Omneon MediaDeck integrated server will provide realtime encoding and decoding of HD material using the AVC-Intra codec.

AVC-Intra is based on the advanced MPEG-4 Part 10 Intra standard and offers high-quality record and playout at roughly half the bit rate of MPEG-2 based codecs. With the new MIP-5600 line of MediaPorts for Spectrum and MediaDeck systems, incoming raw video feeds can be encoded in the AVC-Intra format in realtime, creating AVC-I formatted files within the servers’ systems that can be accessed and edited by non-linear editors that support the format.

AVC-Intra files can then be decoded by the MediaPorts for playout.

The MIP-5600 line of MediaPorts, which includes the MIP 5601 and MIP-5602 for the Spectrum system and the MDM-5601 for MediaDeck, is based on the AVC-Intra specification provided by Panasonic and is fully compatible with Panasonic cameras and recording equipment, both AVC-Intra 50 and 100 modes. Each video channel supports up to 16 channels of embedded audio or four channels of separate audio.

The new Omneon MediaPort modules also enable the direct transfer of AVC-Intra content from Panasonic P2 media to the Spectrum system and MediaDeck server for editing and playout. Non-linear editors that support the format, including those announced by Apple, Avid, and Grass Valley, will be able to mount the Spectrum or MediaDeck file systems to edit the content in place, reducing the need for lengthy transfers.

The new MediaPorts can be connected easily to existing Spectrum servers to add AVC-Intra functionality and can be mixed with other Omneon MediaPorts for SD within the same system. The addition of a new MediaPort to an existing server requires no disruptive upgrade procedure and in most cases can be done while the system remains online.

Omneon demonstrated playback of AVC-Intra video through the MIP 5601 of a Spectrum server. The complete MIP-5600 line will be available in mid-2008.

Source: BroadcastBuyer

vidIP Enable Live Broadcast Transmission Over IP Through Retail ADSL Internet Access

"vidIP has demonstrated ahead of competition a new capability of its TSS-110 and CDS-110 video routers, allowing live broadcast transmission over IP using retail Internet ADSL access.

A major breakthrough for the media industry, allowing the use of public IP access networks for broadcast quality video transmission. Highlighting vidIP’s technology advance on its market, this capability meets today’s requirements of national and local television networks, news agencies and media industry professionals, looking at reducing their transmission costs.

Now media industry professionals can rely on vidIP’s solutions to set up live video transmission using generally available ADSL-based public Internet access, not renouncing broadcast quality requirements. vidIP’s solutions will enable to set up on demand broadcast-class live video links with remote offices, local and special correspondents, temporary event sites, at a fraction of the cost of fiber or satellite based transmissions.

Real world testing
To ensure the reliability of this new capability, vidIP has realized real world testing of its products using retail ADSL Internet access from four major ISPs in France. With vidIP’s technology, these connections allowed repeatedly real time video transmission during 15 to 30 minutes nonstop using various bit rates (1 Mbit/s to 4 Mbit/s) and formats (MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 ASP). This has been achieved without any kind of support or specific setup from the ISPs, highlighting that vidIPs solution is out of the box compatible with off the shelves retail ADSL based internet access offerings.

Results are clear: vidIPs integrated systems linked through public internet over retail ADSL internet access have demonstrated their ability to meet broadcast quality standards, including an end to end latency below 1 second.

High level error correction functionalities
To meet the quality requirement of live broadcast video, vidIP has leveraged its link aggregation technology Gatherlink, adding to it several mechanisms to compensate for the imperfections of retail ADSL internet access. Specifically, vidIP’s performance relies on enhanced jitter reduction mechanisms and advanced lost IP packet rebuilding functionalities, implementing FEC (Forward Error Correction) standard. Theses enhancements enabled vidIP’s solution to aggregate four retail ADSL lines into a 2.8 Mbit/s virtual link.

Fast deployment and cost effective
vidIP’s Gatherlink technology has proven its ability to enable reliable live video transmission over xDSL and QoS controled links, including managed VPNs. With this new capability, Gatherlink also demonstrates that it is possible to use non dedicated and public ADSL based internet access to deploy quality live video networks. These capabilities allow media industry professionals to extend their network faster than ever, and at a fraction of the current transmission costs.

In addition to allow fast and cost effective transmissions for live duplex, delivery of news reports from remote offices or special correspondent on event sites, vidIP’s solution help to strengthen the security of existing live video transmission networks, providing a cost effective way to set up a fail-over backup line.

Live broadcast video over IP through Public ADSL based internet access capabilities are available immediately as part of the integrated systems TSS-110 and CDS-110 from vidIP."

Source: BroadcastBuyer

Corporate Report Card Roundup

"A survey of a half-dozen exhibition-industry fiscal reports released over the past couple of weeks reveals financial performances that run the gamut from strong profit growth to net income in the red. One constant, however, is that the effect of digital technologies is being felt across the board.

Access Integrated Technologies: The leader in the industry, AccessIT’s revenues continue to surge on the wave of the integrator’s digital cinema installations. With 3,259 systems installed by September 30, AccessIT nearly doubled revenue to $19.5 million in its second quarter of fiscal 2008 from $10 million during the comparable period a year ago. Net losses during the three-month period, however, totaled $9.3 million, or 37 cents per share, compared with $6.1 million, or 26 cents, in the same timeframe the year before.

For the six-month period, revenue increased 142 percent to $37.6 million from $15.5 million in the first half of fiscal 2007. Net losses were $16.1 million, or 64 cents per share, compared with $8.7 million, or 37 cents, in the first half of fiscal 2007.

The company attributed the sharp increases in revenue to virtual print, delivery and software license fees from its Theatre Command Center software as well as contributions from its Advertising and Creatives Services and Bigger Picture divisions.

"The second quarter and most recent weeks have marked an inflection point for AccessIT," said CEO Bud Mayo. "We've successfully completed our Phase One digital cinema deployment plan and are gearing up to provide another 10,000 screens to exhibitors in the coming three years. In addition to the expected ramp of revenues from our recently installed screens in our next two quarters, revenue opportunities in three of our four other divisions are also being realized, and The Bigger Picture is gearing up to provide a consistent flow of content beginning in the last quarter of our fiscal year."

National CineMedia: Still in the black after expenses in its third fiscal quarter was NCM. Revenue for the in-theatre media company with significant investments by AMC, Cinemark and Regal increased 60.8 percent to $97.6 million from $60.7 million during the comparable period the year before. Ad sales marked the majority of revenue with $91.3 million, a 66.3 percent increase from $54.9 million. Net income was $92 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $600,000 during the same timeframe a year before.

"We had another very strong quarter as our management and sales teams made significant progress in a number of key strategic areas," said Chairman and CEO Kurt Hall. "Most notably we increased our advertising inventory utilization by broadening our advertising base and expanding expenditures from existing clients and expanded our digital advertising and Fathom networks. This progress is reflected in our operating results as revenue and margin growth exceeded expectations. I am very optimistic about the growth of our business as we continue to benefit from the shifts in media spending towards highly effective and measurable digital media platforms."

Dolby and DTS: Although best-known in the cinema industry as audio firms, both Dolby and DTS have added digital cinema to their mix of offerings.

For the fourth quarter ended September 28, Dolby posted $129.0 million in revenue, up 26 percent for $102.1 million during the same timeframe the year before. Net income was $44.2 million, or 39 cents per share, compared with $25.2 million, or 22 cents. Year-end revenue was $482.0 million, up 23 percent from $391.5 million, with net income of $142.8 million, or $1.26 per share, compared with $89.5 million, or 80 cents, in 2006.

"I am very pleased with the hard work by the Dolby team in fiscal 2007," said President and CEO Bill Jasper. "We finished the year with increased profitability, a strong position across our core markets and with progress in our new initiatives, such as mobile, digital cinema, and video."

Meanwhile, DTS posted revenue of $10.7 million, up from $9.5 million, for the third quarter ended September 30. Net losses were $1.1 million, or six cents per share, compared with $898,000, or five cents, in the same period the year before.

DTS has been seeking a buyer for its digital cinema and digital imaging divisions.

"With respect to our digital cinema business, in response to the current economic environment and feedback from potential buyers, we have modified our sales approach to offer the assets of the cinema and digital images businesses together or individually," said Jon Kirchner, president and CEO. "We are pleased with the response to our change in approach and we are actively working to complete a sale over the coming months."

Ballantyne of Omaha: Although Ballantyne has experienced some depressed revenue, the company is poised to reap the benefits of digital cinema deployments scheduled for the coming months. Third-quarter revenue for the period ended September 30 was $12.6 million, down 3.5 percent from $13.1 million during the same timeframe a year ago. Net income was $100,000, or 1 cent per share, down from $400,000, or three cents, a year ago.

The results reflect fewer traditional film product sales and distribution. However, digital cinema projector sales increased to $1.1 million from $400,000 during the period.

"As expected, our Q3 results reflect the ongoing impact of the exhibition industry's transition from analog to digital projection technology," said John P. Wilmers, president and CEO. "Our digital equipment business grew over last year but from a small base, helping to somewhat offset the decline we expected in our traditional film projector business. As we progress through the transition to digital, we are actively looking at ways we can streamline costs related to our legacy film products business and improve overall operating performance while still being able to properly serve our customers."

Imax: Finally, even large-format film company Imax anticipated the effects of digital among its third-quarter results. The giant-screen firm posted $29.8 million in revenue, a slight depression from $31.0 million the year before. Systems revenue was $14.9 million, down from $17.6 million; film revenue was $9.5 million, up from $7.7 million; and theatre operations revenue was $4.4 million, slightly down from $4.7 million. Imax experienced a net loss of $7.5 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with $4.6 million, or 14 cents, during the same timeframe in 2006.

During the quarter, Imax signed agreements for 18 large-format systems compared to five during the year-ago period, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix grossed $39.8 million on 142 giant screens.

In addition to a film slate that includes The Spiderwick Chronicles on February 15, Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light on April 4 and The Dark Knight in July, Imax anticipates deploying digital projectors on giant screens in 2008.

"We are excited to be on the threshold of launching our digital projection system late in the second quarter of 2008, ahead of schedule," said Co-Chief Executive Officers Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "Although we have experienced both disappointments and successes over the course of the past decade in bringing Imax digital to the cusp of reality, the company is now poised to benefit from the transition from a film-based system to a digital format. We believe our system will embody the Imax brand and experience and that this transition will have a very positive impact on the company's growth and on our financial performance over the long term."

By Annlee Ellingson, Boxoffice

'Beowulf' Largest 3-D Theatrical Release

"When it opens today in 1,000 3-D-equipped theaters, Paramount/Warner Bros.' "Beowulf" will be the biggest 3-D release in modern film history.

Since director Robert Zemeckis' Imax 3-D version of "The Polar Express" in 2004, the number of theaters capable of projecting 3-D films has exploded, with Real D leading the charge. In addition to Real D's expansion to more than 1,100 theaters worldwide, Imax has about 120 Imax 3-D screens globally, and Dolby recently unveiled its 3D Digital Cinema system in 75-80 screens worldwide.

Sony Pictures Imageworks was the ideal facility to turn the performance-capture CG "Beowulf" into three dimensions. "We've been down this road," says stereographer/3-D digital effects supervisor Rob Engle, who in addition to "Polar Express" includes 2006's "Monster House" and "Open Season" among the company's previous 3-D efforts. "Our job was to make Bob's vision into a stereoscopic film. We started at the same time as the bulk of the 2-D team. We were working in parallel with them, and we knew what the movie looked like from the beginning."

Engle and his team had to create a second eye from the source material and then work to converge the two images, exactly like our two eyes converge to see a single dimensional image. But it's far from a simple job. To get there, they had to deconstruct the original elements in each scene, produce a second set of them for the other eye and then recomposite all the elements back -- twice. "That allows us to tune the stereo image for each person and each object, tweaking each for its overall position in depth," Engle says. "It gives us a unique level of control."

The magic happens in Imageworks' "sweatbox," a 3-D theater equipped with a Real D 3-D cinema projection system. To previsualize and build the 3-D converged images, the team relies on Autodesk Maya animation layered with custom software that allows the animators to view a virtual world in stereo. "We bring up multiple shots from the movie, look at them in context and adjust the cameras in context," Engle says. "We're dialing in the 3-D in real time, and that's a tremendously powerful tool for experimentation."

The trickiest scene in the movie to transform into three dimensions is when Beowulf first meets the mother of Grendel. "Everything is very contrasty, and the mother is painted with gold paint, so she glows," Engle says. "One of the challenges in 3-D is that the technology isn't quite there to ensure that your left eye only sees the left eye movie. It's a phenomenon called 'ghosting,' and it's particularly problematic in areas of high contrast." It was a delicate balance between getting the proper depth without losing the sense of three dimensions, but Engle and his team aced it.

Is it worth the extra effort to see "Beowulf" in 3-D? Engle answers with an emphatic yes. "Bob and the producers of the movie think this is the way they want their movie to be seen," he says. "And it's the best ride you're ever going to have. You'll feel like you're in the movie."

By Debra Kaufman, The Hollywood Reporter