Fox wants to draw a line in the digital sand. Like most other majors, the studio already has signed on to co-finance the rollout of digital projection systems in theaters around the world. But Fox has quietly begun alerting exhibitors not to expect any payments for costs associated with the use of special glasses when its 3-D pics play in digital auditoriums.
With digital installation payments running into the tens of millions, the additional cost of $1 million-plus per picture to pass out glasses to 3-D patrons might seem like a simple incremental and necessary expense. But the costs associated with the theaters' digital-equipment rollout has come at a tough economic time for studio companies, and execs believe measures must be taken to prevent their partnership with exhibition from traveling down too slippery a slope.
It's unclear whether other studios will quickly follow Fox's lead in rebuffing exhibitor calls for co-payments on the costs of 3-D glasses.
AMC chief Gerry Lopez -- who's attending his first ShoWest since his recent appointment to lead the nation's second-largest theater chain -- said he was disappointed to learn of the development.
"It would be disappointing if such a promising technology would devolve into that kind of discussion right now," Lopez said. "More unites exhibition and distribution than separates us, and we should focus on that."
In the short run, it's possible that select distributors might be tempted to mimic Fox's stance while others will feel a need to accommodate theater operators. For instance, it's hard to imagine DreamWorks Animation and its distribution partners at Paramount playing hardball on the issue even as DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg exhorts exhibs to hasten their rollout of 3-D technology. DWA recently released the animated feature Monsters vs. Aliens in a mix of 2-D and 3-D venues, and its entire upcoming slate is now tagged for production in 3-D.
But Fox also has a big 3-D title looming. On July 1, Fox will release the 3-D family adventure Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
"They should reconsider their position, until we see how the 3-D rollout goes," a distribution exec at one of Fox's rival studios said.
At an afternoon session at ShoWest on Monday, Katzenberg offered a rave appraisal of his studio's weekend release of Monsters vs. Aliens.
The 3-D animated feature rung up $59.3 million domestically from a mix of 2-D and 3-D screens. But in a sign that positive word-of-mouth from 3-D patrons spread through the weekend, those 2,000-plus screens accounted for 55% of the daily gross on Friday, 56% on Saturday and a full 58% on Sunday.
Capacity issues also seemed to affect the stats: Exit surveys showed 38% of those who saw Monsters in 2-D had wanted to see it in 3-D but couldn't due to sellouts and a lack of sufficient 3-D screens.
The nation's credit crunch has hurt industry efforts to finance a quicker rollout of digital and 3-D equipment. But Katzenberg said he believes the situation will ease sufficiently by June to allow a subsequent acceleration in the systems rollout.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Fox wants to draw a line in the digital sand. Like most other majors, the studio already has signed on to co-finance the rollout of digital projection systems in theaters around the world. But Fox has quietly begun alerting exhibitors not to expect any payments for costs associated with the use of special glasses when its 3-D pics play in digital auditoriums.
NEC Corporation of America said Monday that it had installed 40 NEC digital cinema projectors in theaters across the country in advance of the 3-D release of DreamWorks Animation's Monsters vs. Aliens. Working in conjunction with RealD 3-D and Dolby 3-D systems, NEC installed the projects at Marcus Theaters, Clearview Cinemas, National Amusements and Southern Theatres.
"3-D continues to be the leading impetus in the shift to digital cinema, and NEC's technology is making what could be a challenging scenario, easier and more manageable," said Jim Reisteter, GM of NEC's Digital Cinema Division. "Both our NC2500S and NC1600C projectors are being well-received by a large cross-section of the exhibitor population, and with the installation and servicing support from our master reseller, Strong Technical Services, we are championing the movement toward digital cinema."
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Cinedigm Digital Cinema (formerly AccessIT) announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) will supply its upcoming movies in digital form to the network of theatres Cinedigm equipped in Phase 1 of its digital cinema deployment plan and will pay virtual print fees (VPFs) under a long term agreement.
This new agreement is a continuation of a partnership between Cinedigm and MGM under which MGM has provided digital versions of most of their motion pictures over the last two years to Cinedigm's network of exhibitors nationwide, most recently Valkyrie and looking ahead to Fame this September.
To date, Cinedigm has contracted for and completed the rollout of nearly 4,000 systems in forty-one states with exhibitors including Atlas Theatres, Allen Theatres, Carmike Cinemas, Celebration! Cinema, Cinema West, Cinetopia, Dickinson Theatres, Emagine, Galaxy Cinema, Marquee Cinemas, Krikorian Premiere Theatres, MJR Theatres, Neighborhood Cinema Group, Premiere Cinema Corp., Rave Motion Picture Theatres, Showplace Cinemas, UltraStar, and Cinedigm's own Pavilion Digital Showcase Theatre.
Its Phase 2 plan for up to an additional 10,000 screens will provide networked, turnkey Digital Cinema systems in conformance with DCI specifications, including Cinedigm's unique Library Management Server and Theatre Command Center software.
Source: Yahoo Finance
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
3D is the next step for TV and Spanish satellite operator Hispasat does not want to be left behind. The company has begun to test the technology through taking part in the project “3DLive". In this project the participants study and define the new broadcasting services of 3D via satellite. The project also analyzes the problems in relation to the new technologies of compression and image transmission in 3D by means of different types of networks (satellite, IPTV, etc.).
“3Dlive” is co-financed by Spain's Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce within the 'Plan Avanza I+D' for the Information Society. The project is being coordinated by the country's main telco Telefónica.
The participation of the country's satellite operator means the beginning of new investigation lines for new services such as digital cinema in 3D and the reception of 3D TV in homes. In the frame of the DVB group Hispasat is part of a working group recently created to follow the evolution and developments in relation to this new TV format.
By Inaki Ferreras, RapidTV News
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The DreamWorks Animation comedy Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest flick in a growing crop of movies using new digital 3-D technology, pulled in well over half of its $59.3 million opening weekend grosses from 3-D screens. By the time the movie finishes its theatrical run, the 3-D version will account for 70 percent or more of its total domestic revenues, DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg said Monday. That's because the 3-D presentation is expected to have a longer shelf life than the 2-D version, so the percentage of the gross from 3-D screenings will continue to climb.
That far exceeds the expectations of DreamWorks, which initially had figured 3-D receipts might account for half of the overall take for the sci-fi adventure whose voice cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and Kiefer Sutherland.
Audiences have proved willing to shell out the few dollars extra it costs to see a movie in 3-D format instead of the traditional, flat 2-D version. That bodes will for the rush of 3-D offerings on the horizon, including Pixar Animation's Up, James Cameron's sci-fi epic Avatar, and a slate of DreamWorks Animation releases led by 2010's Shrek Goes Fourth, the next installment of the blockbuster ogre franchise.
"For those people that get to see it in 3-D, I think it's going to create a whole new immersive feel to that world," Katzenberg said at ShoWest, an annual convention for theater owners. Shrek Goes Fourth is "well on its way in production. We've seen a good deal of it in 3-D, and it's absolutely mind-blowing."
In exit polls, 38 percent of those who saw Monsters vs. Aliens in 2-D actually had wanted to catch a 3-D screening, but they could not get in because of sold-out theaters, Katzenberg said. While only a handful of films now are being offered in 3-D, demand could grow as audiences continue to get a taste of the sharp, multidimensional images.
"When color came along, Technicolor, in the 1930s, 10 years later, people stopped making movies and going to movies in black and white. Why? Because we see in color," Katzenberg said. "We also see in 3-D. I do think it's more natural for us, so we'll see."
Source: The Associated Press
At ShoWest 2009, Dolby Laboratories and International Datacasting Corporation (IDC) announced they have signed a licensing agreement to incorporate Dolby’s 3D color correction solution into IDC’s 3D live decoder hardware for live 3D content delivery to movie theatres.
“Both IDC and Dolby recognize that great image quality is essential to the live 3D experience. By leveraging Dolby’s expertise in color correction, IDC’s 3D live products, developed with Sensio Technologies, will take the 3D live experience to the next level,” said Ron Clifton, President and CEO of IDC.
“Exhibitors around the world want to present pristine live 3D content, and with Dolby’s 3D color correction in IDC’s products, they will have the ability to present alternative content in Dolby 3D,” said John Carey, Vice President, Worldwide Sales, Products and Services, Dolby Laboratories. “Both Dolby and IDC deliver innovative products for digital cinema, and this relationship reinforces our commitment to make the latest advancements available to our 3D exhibitors.”
IDC plans to integrate Dolby’s proprietary 3D color correction solution into its SuperFlex Pro Cinema 3D Live Decoder to deliver advanced image quality to movie theatres equipped with Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems. In addition, Dolby plans to include network-integration capabilities to ensure correct control of the Dolby 3D system.
The Pro Cinema 3D Live Decoder was developed by IDC in conjunction with Sensio Technologies in order to expand IDC’s digital cinema suite of products used for file-based movie delivery. The Pro Cinema 3D Live Decoder allows the streaming of live alternative content to movie theatres via satellite.
Myvu, the leading maker of personal Media Viewers and SENSIO Technologies Inc., the leader in 3D distribution technologies, announced today that the two Companies will jointly demonstrate a new 3D mobile video platform based on SENSIO 3D and the Myvu Crystal Personal Media Viewer at CTIA in Las Vegas.
"We are excited in bringing SENSIO's ground breaking 3D technology to the mobile video market. We believe that Myvu and SENSIO will be demonstrating the most compelling and only mobile 3D platform that can reach the masses in the next year," said Myvu CEO, Kip Kokinakis.
"We are pleased to collaborate with Myvu and demonstrate a simple, powerful and high quality consumer solution," said Nicholas Routhier, SENSIO's President and CEO. "Our 3D technology is compatible with multiple platforms and can address the 3D mobile video market today."
At the Carmike Encore Park Cinemas megaplex in Elkhart, Ind., box office receipts are way up this year. But the returns at the candy counter aren't so sweet. In fact, sales last year of sugary snacks, popcorn and soft drinks barely reached 2007 levels in Elkhart, and this year could be worse.
"That city is at a high level of the unemployment rate and we've seen a little bit of stagnation in our per-capita growth in that particular market," says Fred Van Noy, COO of Georgia-based Carmike.
The slowdown isn't limited to Elkhart. The 289-theater Carmike chain recently launched "Stimulus Tuesdays," offering 16-ounce drinks and 46-ounce popcorns for $1 each in an attempt to boost concessions.
Even as the recession has caused a spike in theater attendance, a fear that more moviegoers are passing on $5 tubs of popcorn and sodas is just one of several concerns on exhibitors' minds as they flock to their annual ShoWest confab in Las Vegas this week.
"Frankly, this is something we are really worried about," says Thomas Stephenson Jr., president and CEO of Dallas-based Rave Motion Pictures, which has 475 screens in 14 states.
"Our concession sales are not up on a yearly basis as much as we anticipated they would be," says Dean Kerasotes, COO of Kerasotes Theaters, whose 100-year-old circuit has 933 screens at 94 locations. "It's hard to tell whether it's people's spending habits or the product, which has been heavily weighted toward more adult fare like Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire, which aren't big concession movies."
Overall, the exhibition business, despite years of predictions of doom, is doing just fine. Ticket sales rose 13.1% in January and February compared with last year, and North American box office receipts hit a record $9.8 billion last year, up 1.5% from 2007, according to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO).
But these bullish numbers obscure some ominous signs. Admissions -- the number of tickets sold -- declined 2.5% in 2008, and ticket prices last year shot up from $6.88 in 2007 to $7.18. At the same time, conversions of theaters to digital and 3-D projection -- which many believe represents the future of the exhibition business -- have slowed due to the recession.
Several major studios agreed last fall to pay "virtual print fees" of about $1,000 per screen for up to 20 years for digital conversion, a key first step for 3-D projection. Third-party implementors Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP), a joint venture of AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas, and Cinedigm (formerly AccessIT) had raised millions and were ready to begin conversion of half the U.S. screens just as the money froze.
"This is where the credit crisis is a true bummer for us," NATO president John Fithian says. "The big deals that will really accelerate the transition are somewhat on hold. The models are all developed. The agreements with the studios are there. To get back on track we've got to see thawing in the credit markets."
Cinedigm installed about 3,800 screens before the freeze, including the entire Carmike circuit. It became the first major circuit to fully digitize its 2,500 screens across 37 states in a deal valued at $150 million. But others have had to wait.
"We're constrained like everyone else but we're not by any means not doing it," says Bud Mayo, CEO of Cinedigm, which hopes to convert 8,500 screens during the next three years. "We're finding creative ways to work with exhibition and in some cases even the exhibitors' own banks to provide installations."
With about a dozen 3-D films headed to theaters this year, some theater chains are scrambling to complete partial 3-D installations on their own while they wait for DCIP and Cinedigm.
"There's a fair amount of that going on with self-financing and partial deals," Fithian says.
Kerasotes, for instance, was on the verge of converting his chain to digital when the crunch hit.
"Last fall I opened a 16-plex in Manteca, Calif., and went all digital anyway," he says. "I'm on the hook for it. The hope is that later we can put it into a third-party deal, which should happen."
In many existing theaters, Kerasotes paid to convert just one or two screens while he waits for the rest.
The result is money left on the table when high-profile 3-D releases hit theaters. Last Friday, DreamWorks Animation's new box office champ Monsters vs. Aliens opened in 3-D on about 2,000 screens (and 700 overseas) out of a total of 38,000 screens. That's a far cry from DWA's announcement last year that it expected 5,000 3-D screens to be ready for the film's launch.
Disney also has made a big commitment to 3-D and is anxiously awaiting more conversions.
"We keep hearing there will be funding by midsummer," says Disney distribution head Chuck Viane.
Until more screens are converted, 3-D movies are being forced out of theaters prematurely.
"So a picture like Coraline, which was doing a lot of business, was knocked out by Jonas Brothers," Viane says. "And, come summer, we will see four or five films knock each other out."
Even if the funding for conversions materializes, some exhibitors worry that the benefits will fall disproportionally to distributors, who will no longer have to make $1,600 film prints.
"It's very costly for exhibitors and exhibition is not going to be the one that benefits from an investment," says Bruce Olson, president of Milwaukee-based Marcus Theaters. Plus, he says, "The cost for maintenance is 2-1/2-to four times that of 35mm equipment. So the burden is still weighed unfairly against exhibitors."
Digital does create new opportunities for exhibitors. They can broadcast live sporting events and employ teleconferencing for business meetings and special gatherings. National CineMedia, another joint venture of Regal and AMC, offers telecasts of the Metropolitan Opera, among other programs.
"We'll have 50,000-70,000 people show up across the country for a one-night event and in many markets we will sell out," CineMedia CEO Kurt Hall says. "We could put a couple million seats in play at one time and generate a very large gross, if the content is right."
Large-format exhibitor Imax is going through a major technical transition from analog to digital, including digital 3-D, as well as a rapid expansion. It has a deal with AMC, among others, and expects to have more than 100 screens with 3-D capability by the end of the year -- and all are already financed.
"We used to have (theater chains) buy a theater for $1 million-$1.5 million," CEO Greg Foster says. "Now for joint ventures like AMC and Regal, we pay for the theater. We install the system. They pay a fairly small amount, about $150,000-$175,000 to retrofit the theater for our sound system, screen and branding. We now split the revenue."
The Imax boom has coincided with a shift in theater building. The average number of screens at each U.S. theater rose to 6.71 in 2008 but almost no chain is building 25-plexes as they did a decade ago. New theaters are often in the 14-screen range and position themselves as destinations with food and shopping.
The trend is to open where developers pay costs, known as build-to-suit deals.
"The landlord funds the entire construction of the facility," Carmike's Van Noy says. "So we are not having to access our resources to do any of these projects."
However, even that has stalled, as many developers have been caught in the credit crunch.
"This will be the first year since 2000 that we didn't open a new theater," Rave's Stephenson says.
That doesn't mean there won't be activity.
"This credit crisis may be more an opportunity for acquisitions," Marcus' Olsen says. "This may be a good time for a company like us, with cash, to go out and acquire rather than build."
Still, Fithian believes exhibition is in good shape because so many screens were constructed in recent years.
"We wouldn't want to go years without the ability to upgrade," he says, "but for a while we're OK."
By Alex Ben Block, Reuters
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, or simply working in an industry other than exhibition, it would be hard not to know what GDC Technology has been up to lately. After all, they’re not shy about telling you all their latest deals, most recent installations and newly released product features. The digital cinema server manufacturer has published seven press releases this last week alone. Just in case you’ve been too busy planning for ShoWest to pay attention, let’s do a quick review of GDC’s announcements from the past nine days.
Though the Singapore based company has been making digital cinema servers for more than 10 years and has the largest install base after Doremi, GDC has historically found it difficult to gain traction in North America. It seems that is changing for the better. On Thursday, GDC announced a deal with Sonic Equipment Company, a Kansas-based cinema equipment vendor, to resell and support the company’s digital cinema server. Sonic has been in business more than three decades and provides support for 400 screens in 8 states. A majority of Sonic’s clients are independent theatre owners and most, if not all, are in the Midwest. The company has made a name for itself by focusing on digital cinema integration for smaller chains and not only providing equipment sales, but also helping out with maintenance and even financing.
Sonic is certainly living up to its reputation of being an aggressive dealer when it comes to digital cinema, as immediately upon closing their deal they sold the first GDC servers to ever be installed in the United States. There was no information about how many units were sold, though they are being installed in 8 different theatres in Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri.
Then on Friday, GDC made two additional dealer network announcements; one with furniture, fixture and equipment provider Universal Cinema Services out of Dallas, Texas and another with Ballantyne, based in Omaha, Nebraska. These two deals are no brainers. UCS was one of GDC’s earliest resellers in the U.S. and since October 2008 Ballantyne’s Strong Technical Services division has been partnered with the manufacturer to install, maintain and support digital cinema servers. UCS has already made good on the deal and installed units in Tango Theaters, Guam as well as Pavilions 12 in Tucson, Arizona.
To give you some sense as to just how many press releases GDC is pushing out, the Sonic deal was announced on Thursday as the first GDC deployments in the U.S., but two days earlier, on Tuesday, the company announced “another deal in the U.S. market”. (This would have made more sense had the Sonic sales been made public first.) Tuesday’s release was about the sale of 25 of GDC’s SA-2100 series digital cinema servers to Florida based Epic Theatres. The chain, which operates 39 screens across 6 southern states, had been putting the GDC server through it’s paces during an ongoing trial over the past several months. After the trial was over Epic ordered 16 units for their all-digital complex in St. Augustine, Florida and another eight servers to outfit half of their theatre in Clermont, Florida.
In the press announcement, Epic Vice President Clint DeMarsh said: “It quickly became clear to us that the machine has most, if not all, of what we wanted for our theatres. We are impressed by the advanced functionality of the SA-2100A server and also GDC’s first-class customer service.”
A number of GDC’s releases referred to the quality of their customer service. This has been a question amongst some potential customers since the manufacturer is based in Asia. On the other hand, the company probably won’t face any complaints about feature set, as DeMarsh pointed out. The SA-2100 is one of the few servers that incorporates RealD’s 3D EQ system and on Friday, March 20th, GDC announced the addition of closed caption capabilities. GDC says their server can now playback captions formatted to SMPTE standards 428-10 and 429-12 using WGBH’s Rear Window Captioning System. Now all they have to do is to convince the studios to start putting caption files in the Digital Cinema Packages they master when releasing a film.
Closed captions was a huge issue for exhibitors at the last NATO system requirements review in January, specifically because theatre owners are facing lawsuits for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act by making their movies accessible for the hard of hearing. GDC is proving they were listening to exhibitor’s requests by including such functionality.
In fact, just in case you had forgotten about GDC over that weekend, on Monday they published a press release detailing even more new features on the SA-2100 - ones aimed at assisting with emergency theatre operations. The server can now transfer content between SA-2100’s in what the company says is only a few minutes. This is imperative if the manufacturer is to meet NATO’s 15 minute “screen move” requirement. The server will also play content directly from a CRU Dataport drive, rather than having to ingest it first. A feature such as this might be used if content were to arrive on a drive minutes before its first showing.
Finally, the SA-2100 has been made capable of playing content that isn’t even on its own drives. Instead, it can “stream” the content from the GDC Theatre Management System. I’d have to go back and check the DCI Spec, but I’m not sure that is even allowed due to security reasons. As well, I wonder if or how this affects Cinelink encryption. Certainly one would think this would be a risky proposition as any network latency could cause a film to stutter or freeze in the midst of playback.
And if you think GDC may have run out of interesting news to tell the industry just before it’s annual trade show in Las Vegas, have no fear. Rumor has it the company has a press release lined up for every day of ShoWest, which starts on Monday.
By J. Sperling Reich, Celluloid Junkie
DTS Digital Cinema and Qube Cinema have announced a co-branding strategic alliance to develop and market numerous digital cinema products including a digital cinema server, a theatre management system, an enhanced digital cinema mastering solution and other allied products. The alliance will bring together the best of both companies’ strengths to form a strong commercial and technology presence in the digital cinema marketplace.
Qube will bring to the relationship, their experience of having developed cutting edge digital cinema products such as the Qube XP-D digital cinema server, QubeMaster Pro encoding suite and the QubeCast media delivery system. Besides providing sales and marketing presence and expertise in many regions around the world, DTS Digital Cinema will lend the partnership experience in developing motion picture technology, such as 5.1 digital surround sound, as well as the content management software knowledge that helped develop their Theatre Management System, Satellite Delivery System and Digital Booking System. Together the two companies will develop numerous digital cinema products, starting with the DTS Digital Cinema DC-20 powered by Qube, a digital cinema server that meets DCI specifications and will be available for purchase in April 2009.
The standards compliant DTS DC-20 digital cinema server, powered by Qube, is multi-format and supports JPEG2000, MPEG-2, Windows Media 9, optionally H.264 and other picture formats, all seamlessly within the same Show, thus making it the ideal choice for integrated feature and pre-show playback. It features a Remote Panel with familiar transport and menu controls for projectionist control and a powerful web-based interface for more advanced functionality over any IP network. An integrated CRU DataPort receiver makes ingest of content fast and easy while front-panel e-SATA and USB-2 interfaces make interconnections much more convenient.
The QubeMaster Pro is a uniquely flexible and powerful Digital Cinema encoding and packaging solution designed to integrate fully into the modern post environment. It is a database-driven, fully software based solution for the Microsoft Windows platform. Highly optimized for today’s high performance CPUs, it is the fastest digital cinema mastering system in the market. QubeMaster Pro has an intuitive and familiar user interface that allows for the one-step pre-processing, encoding, encryption and MXF wrapping of Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs). Qube will integrate DTS Digital Cinema’s proprietary JPEG2000 variable bit rate encoding algorithm into the product to enable users to create vivid DCPs with much smaller file sizes.
A formal management structure with members from both companies has been put into place to oversee the strategic alliance on an ongoing basis. Additional co-branded product offerings to be developed under the partnership agreement are expected to be released by the second quarter of 2009.
At ShoWest 2009 today, Dolby Laboratories will demonstrate its latest digital cinema solutions for audio, networking, 3D, and more. Dolby is making it easier than ever for exhibitors to transition to digital cinema with its comprehensive and reliable solutions. These include its digital cinema server, software, and 3D solution, as well as its latest in audio processing, the CP750 Digital Cinema Processor.
“As digital cinema continues to expand, Dolby is proud to deliver premium technology in digital audio and in digital cinema. With more than 2,500 Dolby Digital Cinema and 1,000 Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems shipped globally, we continue to be a leading contributor to the digital transition for cinema,” said Ramzi Haidamus, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Dolby Laboratories.
The Dolby CP750 underscores Dolby’s commitment to simplifying digital cinema, making the upgrade easy and economical. Designed to work with the new digital cinema environment, the Dolby CP750 seamlessly integrates with preshow servers, alternative content, and digital cinema servers. The processor has an easy-to-use interface and powerful setup/remote software, and it can play back PCM digital audio; Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Pro Logic II, and Dolby Digital Surround EX streams; and analog audio. By allowing the theatre’s network operations center to manage the system, the unit can be monitored, controlled, and upgraded from one centralized location via the Internet. The CP750 can process hearing impaired and visually impaired tracks.
Dolby 3D Digital Cinema
- A flexible, high-quality 3D solution that supports both 2D and 3D playback without the need for a dedicated 3D auditorium or a special silver screen;
- Provides uniform light distribution to deliver an exceptional viewing experience for both 2D and 3D content;
- Uses a unique color-filtering technology for realistic color reproductions and crystal-clear images;
- Features Dolby 3D glasses that can be reused hundreds of times, providing a compelling financial model as well as an environmentally friendly 3D solution.
Dolby Digital Cinema Server
- Includes the Dolby Show Store (DSS100) and the Dolby Show Player (DSP100);
- Built-in Screen Management System (SMS) software;
- DSS100 holds up to approximately eight movies at present average file sizes;
- DSP100 decrypts movie data, decodes the image and sound, and outputs reencrypted image data to the digital cinema projector.
Dolby Show Library
- Allows exhibitors to load digital content from a central server via Ethernet, USB 2.0, satellite, DVD, or removable hard drive;
- Dispenses the files electronically and automatically to networked Dolby Digital Cinema systems throughout the multiplex;
- Allows the theatre operator to easily program the entire movie schedule, including onscreen advertising, by using the drag-and-drop Dolby Show Manager software interface.
Dolby Theatre Management System software
- Simplifies and streamlines digital screen operations, easily supporting today’s largest multiplexes;
- From ingesting content and moving it even while playing, to drag-and-drop show assembly, Dolby Theatre Management System software features operational simplicity, at-a-glance monitoring, and fully automatic show operation;
- Gives theatre personnel and network operations centers comprehensive central control over all presentations (for a single screen, a large multiplex, or a system integrator’s entire network);
- Provides SMPTE closed-caption support, remote upgrade capability, and Dolby web services for integration with third-party systems.
DreamWorks Animation's action comedy Monsters vs. Aliens, which features creatures from 1950s films in a showdown with invading extraterrestrials, launched itself into the No. 1 spot with a $58.2 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday. It was the biggest debut so far in 2009, topping the $55.2 million first weekend of Watchmen in early March.
Opening in second place was Lionsgate's ghost story The Haunting in Connecticut with $23 million in ticket sales. The previous weekend's top movie, Summit Entertainment's apocalyptic thriller Knowing, slipped to third with $14.7 million, raising its 10-day total to $46.2 million.
The big opening for Monsters vs. Aliens boosted Hollywood revenues after a couple of down weekends. Movies overall pulled in about $148 million, up 39 percent from the same weekend a year ago, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
For the year, revenues have reached $2.38 billion, up 12 percent from 2008's, according to Media By Numbers. Accounting for this year's higher ticket prices, movie attendance is up 10.4 percent.
Hollywood historically weathers recessions well given the relative low cost of movies compared with other entertainment such as concerts or sports events. But the declining revenues of the previous two weekends showed that audiences will not run out to just any old film, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.
"The recession offers a framework from which movies can do well for people looking to escape," Dergarabedian said. "But they have to want to escape to these movies. The appeal has to be there, and it clearly was for Monsters vs. Aliens."
Monsters vs. Aliens was the latest success story for digital 3-D projection. While the 2,080 3-D screens accounted for just 28 percent of the roughly 7,300 on which the movie played, they made up 56 percent of its total box-office haul, said Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks Animation. Tickets for 3-D movies typically cost a few dollars more than the 2-D version.
Large-screen IMAX theaters showing Monsters vs. Aliens in 3-D accounted for $5.2 million of the movie's overall grosses. Those 143 IMAX theaters represented only about 2 percent of the screens on which the movie played but contributed 9 percent of its total box office.
Source: The Associated Press
In a sign the rollout of digital cinema systems may once again be picking up steam, AMC has reached agreement in principle with Sony to deploy its digital projectors across the entire AMC chain. Installation of the projectors begins second quarter 2009 and is skedded to be completed by the end of 2012. Sony says it has signed a $315 million deal to install its digital projectors in all AMC Entertainment theaters.
The contract will close the gap between Sony and Texas Instruments in the digital projector market. Texas Instruments has equipped 5,476 screens in North American theaters with its digital light processing projectors. The deal with AMC will increase Sony’s presence to about 5,000 screens.
"This is one of things that doesn't happen all that often, when you get a chance to do a big deal like this," Gary Johns, VP at Sony's Digital Cinema Systems Division, told Daily Variety. "Everybody's been waiting for the next big deployment."
AMC comprises some 309 theaters and 4,628 screens. Currently, AMC has 150 Sony projectors on its circuit, 29 of which have 3-D capability. The deal reps a possible improvement for the 3-D format as well, because the Sony projectors work with the RealD 3-D system, and can handle much more information that they make for a smoother 3-D image that's more comfortable to watch.
Johns hoped the deal, which marks the largest deployment of projectors capable of showing pics at the so-called 4K resolution, would signal the next phase of the d-Cinema rollout. All of Sony's digital cinema projectors are capable of the beefier new standard, which has four times the pixels of today's 2K digital cinema. Sony Pictures has announced it will make and release its pics in 4K. Warner Bros. has also been a strong advocate of the format.
By David S. Cohen, Variety
To the outside observer, creating a 3D film must look like a piece of cake. Rather than filming with two cameras and adjusting settings by hand, as directors must do in live-action stereoscopic films, animators can set cameras with computers. Need another view to represent the right eye? Accomplished with the click and drag of a mouse. Not to mention that none of your computer-generated actors will refuse to leave their trailers or throw fits when you move a light during a scene.
But animators of Dreamworks' Monsters vs Aliens, out this weekend, beg to differ. Creating an animated 3D film is a complex process, and directors are still using trial and error to find the true potential of the format, which is enjoying a resurgence thanks to improved digital technology. Monsters vs Aliens is the first in Dreamworks' plans to release all of its animated films in 3D.
The 3D Trick
Our brains combine the different views from our eyes, which are positioned about 2 inches apart, to give us depth perception. To create a 3D film, animators mimic natural human vision by building a stereoscopic camera rig within the computer. Each rig is equipped with two cameras - one representing the view of each eye. The most important setting on the rig, according to Phil McNally, head of stereoscopic filmmaking at Dreamworks, is the interaxial setting, or the distance between the two cameras.
"If the two cameras are in the same position, you get no stereo. Everything is in the same position in the world, and you get a 2D movie," he says. "The wider you separate the cameras, the more each point of view can see around an object. So literally, the wider you separate the cameras, the more 3D volume in the scene."
The zero parallax setting (ZPS) is also important to the experience. The ZPS determines where the two camera views converge on screen — and therefore what appears in front of the screen, in what filmmakers call personal space, and behind the screen in what they call "world space."
Most of the time, filmmakers at Dreamworks use computer software — including a suite of commercial programs such as Maya as well as in-house tools and software applets — to precisely control the cameras' stereoscopic settings. Automated control has two benefits: It saves huge amounts of time that filmmakers would otherwise have to use manually setting shots; and it allows filmmakers to overstep one of the problems of old-school 3D—viewer headaches by establishing safe parameters for the objects on screen.
Programmer Paul Newell is responsible for building the rigs to McNally's specifications. "As an artist, I don't really want to have to get the calculator out every time I'm trying to set up my stereo," McNally says. Some shots must be set manually, but for the majority of shots, "I want tools that allow me to set the stereo and calculate the interaxial and convergence point for me, based on what I want to achieve. Paul takes that idea and actually has to make it work by doing the programming and math calculations and building a stereoscopic camera rig inside the computer that gives me handles and dials to turn."
Animators also create a dynamic stereoscopic window — a black box that frames the film — which is part of composition and is even used to enhance the action of a film. "If we want someone to run toward us, it's an optical trick to put the stereo window close to the audience while the character is distant, and as the character runs toward the audience, we actually push the stereo window away to magnify, or amplify, the feeling that the person is coming closer," McNally says. "The character runs forward and the window recedes at the same time, but the audience never sees the window move."
Using 3D Wisely
Still, McNally says, good stereo settings do not a good 3D movie make nor do techniques widely used in mono moviemaking, and this is where filmmakers still have a lot to learn. "Something that we're learning is that the type of layout and composition that you create can be pretty different between normal 2D filmmaking and 3D filmmaking," McNally says. "Something that's very interesting as a graphically flat painting is not necessarily interesting as a 3D spatial environment. Typical shots that have been used a lot in 2D filmmaking — two characters standing side-by-side, against a plain or a blurry background — really don't offer that much in 3D. So really, making a successful 3D movie is about creating, or reinventing, cinematic techniques."
That's where the InterSense camera room comes in. Few other studios have the digital tracking technology, which helps filmmakers plan shots. "It's the coolest thing ever," says Damon O'Beirne, head of layout on Monsters vs Aliens. "It's a display with handles, and in the screen you can actually look into the digital set. And as you walk around with the camera, it starts to walk you through the set. When you angle the camera up into a corner of the room, the computer recalculates and then you see into the corner of the set." The space is also scaleable. "Imagine if we were shooting on a football field, and we have a room, which is maybe 10 meters by 5; we can scale that room up to fit the football field. So when you walk across the 5-meter room, you've just crossed a football field," O'Beirne says. "So very, very easily, you can walk a huge set and look for angles and talk about possible shot construction."
The room has helped them create realistic hand-held camera movement; animators have even taken finished animations into the room for tweaking — such as the sequence where Susan finds the robot on the bridge. "We wanted a really handheld feeling," O'Beirne says. "And we could take the animation back up into the camera capture room and start reacting to every action that she might do. Whereas in the past, we probably would've just left that a lot simpler and maybe even locked it off. But now we can get a lot of intensity. And we couldn't do it without the camera capture room."
Fixing Compression and Distortion
With shots storyboarded, it's time to call action. In the computer, there is a CG environment with the characters in low resolution. McNally inputs the parameters of a particular scene into the computer, which calculates the stereoscopic camera settings within seconds. "The difficulty with that system is you can take a very deep environment and start to compress the scene, and I can make that comfortable by bringing the background in and pushing the foreground away," McNally says. "But the result is you might get characters that look like they're cardboard cutouts in the middle of the scene."
To get around that problem, animators use a tool that measures just how much a character has been squashed to fit into the near and far boxes. "Based on testing and the experience of looking in the theater at full size, we can look and decide what we want the character to be like, what we think is the perfect on-model representation of the character, and then we can put those numbers into the calculator of the stereo rig," McNally says. "So, as I'm setting my safe near and far points, I can also look at the character compression and see if the character been squashed too much or if I need to give it more or less stereo volume to make him look right."
Sometimes, however, that tool isn't enough. If the near and far settings are at maximum, and the character is still compressed, animators will switch strategies and shoot the scene with multiple stereoscopic rigs — up to eight at a time. "We might have a shot which has a distant hill all the way down the road, and in the foreground there are some branches, and there are two characters talking relatively closeup who are behind the branches but in front of the hills," McNally says. "If we set the camera so that the branches and the hills are at a comfortable distance, we now have these really compressed cardboard-cutout characters. In CG, we can have one set of cameras see just the branches; another set of cameras can see the background; and a third set of cameras — or even a third and a fourth, one for each character — where we can manipulate the space for each individual element in the scene."
In-house tools, in conjunction with Maya 3D animating software, allow filmmakers to compose — and see how the scene will play out — in real time in the stereo-preview window. "At the desktop we can sit and look with our glasses on and manipulate these different stereo camera rigs and build a stereo scene," McNally says. "The scene could be put together from two, four, six or eight cameras all working together to create this final result, which is a perfect blend of comfort but also retaining as much stereo volume as we can get. And all of these parameters are animateable as well."
Animating in 3D, previewing 3D live and, finally, rendering two separate films — one for the right eye and one for the left — requires incredible amounts of computing power. Dreamworks used Intel's Core i7 microprocessor (just recently released to the public) on Monsters vs Aliens. "As you might imagine, the computing demands for calculation and processing of all the pixels and all the images that have to be rendered in an feature animation, they take a step function and go way up when you go to 3D," says John Middleton, director of software and services group marketing at Intel. The company set up processors in Dreamworks' servers, where films are rendered, and at its animators' workstations, where the films are created.
"One of the most fundamental ways that people with intensive computing demands can take advantage of these processors is being able to tune and create their software so it knows how to use four or eight processing cores at once," Middleton explains. "This is so-called parallel programming, where different pieces of your application are operating on different threads. This is a great methodology and a great attribute for the type of animation software that Dreamworks uses in creating its movies."
Though animators still have a lot to learn, the guys at Dreamworks are pleased with how 3D plays in Monsters vs Aliens. "It was just the perfect movie for it," O'Beirne says. "In a mono movie you'd look at the robot and you'd go ‘well, maybe it's 50 feet, maybe it's a 100 feet.' But in 3D, you immediately have the spatial clues to actually gauge how big these things are. There's a shot where Susan falls onto the ground and the camera angles up and is looking up at this 400-foot robot. It's towering over the audience. Graphically it's a well-staged shot, but in 3D, it's terrifying."
By Erin McCarthy, PopularMechanics
On the eve of releasing its first fully 3D film, animation studio DreamWorks has outlined the technology requirements behind some of its biggest movie successes. DreamWorks played host to a group of press visiting Los Angeles for an HP workstations event. Speaking at its 3D studios ahead of the US release of Monsters vs. Aliens today, DreamWorks chief technology officer Ed Leonard explained that the current release schedule of two films a year depends on having "the latest and greatest technology".
Derek Chan, head of digital operations for DreamWorks Animation, offered further insight into the demands the studio puts on its technology. Creating an animated film requires the use of hundreds of workstations and artists; at present, DreamWorks is using HP's XW8600 workstations running Intel Xeon quad-core processors. Over 9,000 cores and more than 45 million render hours were required for the development of Monsters vs. Aliens, Chan said; in the datacentre, each rack has over 500 cores, and consumes over 18Kw per rack space.
Storage is also a challenge. Chan revealed that making the InTru 3D film took up 100TB of data, while a scene involving the destruction of the mothership required 6TB alone. "That's three times the amount of storage we had when we started the studio," Leonard added.
Despite the huge advances in technology that have allowed DreamWorks to produce a 90-minute fully 3D film, which is extremely impressive to watch, one feature has yet to evolve: 3D glasses. Although these have moved on from the last-generation design of a piece of cardboard with one red lens and one blue lens into a more snazzy looking black plastic model, movie goers are still required to sit through the film wearing a one-size-fits-all pair of glasses.
However, Leonard explained that DreamWorks is investigating new ideas for the glasses, including working with a sunglasses manufacturer so that people can wear their own sunglasses to view 3D films.
By Madeline Bennett, Personal Computer World
TDF Group, the leading broadcasting operator in Europe, has unveiled its plans to deploy a pan-European delivery service for digital cinema. TDF will provide electronic delivery of digital copies to theaters in Europe, leveraging on its established presence in 10 territories. TDF has already connected 60 theaters in 6 countries and plans to double the number of connected theaters in 2009 and 2010.
The news was unveiled in Paris at TDF's 1st Digital Cinema Conference on March 26th by Thomas Bremond, TDF International Development Director for Multimedia Services.
“I am pleased to announce that TDF’s subsidiaries, SmartJog and Media Broadcast, have joined forces to market the 1st pan-European Digital cinema electronic delivery service to digital theaters across Europe,” said Bremond to Conference’s attendees including several distributors, technical service providers, exhibitors and officials from the French and the German government.
TDF platform will soon provide service into two thirds of France multiplex theaters, with deployment in progress at major circuits CGR, Europalaces and Kinepolis. Another significant deployment is scheduled in Switzerland and Austria in the coming months. TDF is expecting to announce additional deployment deals very soon in continental Europe.
TDF is committed to connect theaters in several countries throughout continental Europe, including France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia and Baltics, with the goal of helping exhibitors’ transition to digital cinema.
TDF’s pan-European digital cinema solution is Europe's only service that provides an end-to-end hybrid digital cinema electronic distribution network for the cinema industry, from digital cinema mastering facilities to movie theaters, with innovative satellite and terrestrial transmission optimization technology, specifically tailored for secure and reliable DCP distribution.
TDF’s pan-European digital cinema solution currently facilitates the secure storage, management and digital delivery of trailers and feature films directly to theaters for over 17 feature film distributors and has already delivered hundreds of DCPs (Digital Cinema Packages) to theaters.
The platform is also currently used by over 40 digital cinema service providers and integrators globally including leading cinema advertising companies such as Mediavision and Screenvision for the delivery of pre-show programs.
Cineville (a fully owned subsidiary of Soredic, one of the most important French exhibition and booking group based in Rennes), and Ymagis, a deploying entity based in Paris, came to an agreement to progressively equip the group’s 103 screens with digital cinema. The first complexes will be equipped as early as first half 2009. Cineville’s ambition is to get all its sites fully equipped as soon as possible. Cineville will also get the required equipment to enable its sites to offer 3D screenings.
Furthermore, Ymagis committed to provide financial and technical solutions to most of the exhibitors belonging to the Cinediffusion booking network. Ymagis will build customized solutions for each member of the network. This side of the agreement will involve 134 screens and 84 theatres.
All exhibitors in contract with Ymagis under this scheme will benefit from the various services developed by the company, under preferential conditions:
- Financial contribution to the a DCI-compliant digital cinema equipment;
- Ymagis TCS, an integrated solution including a cinema central server, content storage capacity, cinema networking solutions and various software tools developed by Ymagis to allow the automation of each cinema;
- Mail service on a dedicated encrypted network to secure KDM deliveries;
- Ymaginet, a digital network designed and implemented by Ymagis to allow dematerialized transfer of digital files : ads, trailers and teasers, feature films;
- 7/7 technical support, and a remote technical supervisory control of each projection equipment;
- Access to technical solutions for 3D projection at a reasonable cost;
- QuickDCP, a DCP creation service aimed at informing the audience;
- Ymagis-DCP, an encoding solution embedded in the Ymagis-TCS servers (scheduled to be launched during the second quarter of 2009).
Executives in Philips corporate offices have decided to stop operations at Philips 3D Solutions, an incubator business it has been funding for some time. All this week, CEO Jos Swillens and other executives have been talking to customers, dealers and distributors to explain the sudden shutdown, which apparently caught many employees off guard when is was announced internally a week ago.
According to Swillens’ note, "Because of current market developments, the point in time where mass adoption of no-glasses based 3D TV will occur has shifted significantly. Therefore, Philips has decided to stop the 3D Solutions venture. Philips has been marketing its leading no-glasses based 3D technologies through a pro-active approach for a long time, because it believes that over time, no-glasses based 3D TVs will bring the ultimate 3D experience to the home. Unfortunately, the current market developments no longer justify such a pro-active approach. As a consequence of this, Philips has decided to scale down its investments in this area. In practice, this means that the 3D Solutions venture will be discontinued."
In a follow up discussion with Bjorn Teuwsen, Manager Marketing & Communications, he explained that the recession and the impact on the LCD industry had changed the math in their risk-reward calculation. In essence, Philips needed the LCD industry to make investments in new switchable 2D/3D technology and to aggressively cost reduce Quad HD panels. Philips believed both were needed to establish cost effective autostereoscopic 3D TVs. But the LCD makers are delaying these investments and the ripple effect impacted Philips by stretching out the time when these TVs would become available.
The consequence was that Philips would need more time and investment in 3D. While it also has a viable B2B 3D display business, it was judged that the revenue from this component, plus the additional investment and longer time scale to a consumer AS-3D TV, ultimately did outweigh the potential long-term income from 3D TVs. The business equation became too risky, which is why the operation was shut down.
However, since the 3D Solutions group was not part of Philips Consumer Lifestyle group, which is responsible for consumer TVs, this group is still free to evaluate 3D technologies for use by Philips. As Teuwsen noted, stereoscopic 3D TV has strong momentum now and will need time to establish itself as the first wave of 3D TVs. He believes that AS-3DTVs will follow in a second wave, but the horizon for this is now longer than initially planned.
Teuwsen said that a spin-off of the unit had been considered and is not a possibility now. However, what will happen to the company’s IP remains unclear. Unfortunately, we are not optimistic that this technology will ever see the light of day again as Philips has a history of closing the book on technologies where it no longer plans to invest. Let’s hope we are wrong however, as the company has solid technology.
Philips was clearly the market leader and evangelist for autostereoscopic (no-glasses) 3D displays. It was selling its 42" lenticular-based 3D display (42-3D6W02) along with its 3×3 array of these displays called the WOWvx, and it has a number of sites using its Blue Box and Red Box processors. Prototypes of 50-inch and 8-inch no-glasses 3D displays were close to introduction too. At last year’s 3D BizEx event, it showcased the future of AS-3D display by demonstrating a 56-inch AS-3D display with a native resolution of 4096×2160, creating one of the best no-glasses 3D images to date.
Philips 3D Solutions’ plan was to create a community of content developers and installation sites and it initially focused on the professional markets where 3D advertising signage in theaters, shopping malls, lobbies and other venues would adopt the technology. This would pave the way for 3D TVs to roll out in the later years.
In addition, the company was the main proponent of the 2D plus depth 3D encoding technique. There are many advantages to this approach and it is not likely to go away.
The sudden shutdown has also made many dealers and customers unhappy, too, as momentum was building within the Philips community. However, Philips has been assuring these dealers and customers that it will honor all warranties and service commitments.
In the meantime, glasses-based 3D TV continues to generate great interest and excitement. No doubt no-glasses 3D TV will arrive sometime, but Philips will no longer be there to nurture it along. That’s really too bad as the technology and strategy was sound - it just needed more time to play out.
By Chris Chinnock, DisplayDaily
In a private hotel suite during the week of the Game Developers Conference, Blitz Games showed off its latest 3D technology, part of its wider Blitz Tech Tools, which the developer has recently started selling as middleware.
The first game to make use of the 3D tech is Invincible Tiger, a PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade title to be published by Namco. The game, a retro 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up, is going to be playable on any TV set, but with a simple menu screen selection is transformed, becoming one of the very first 3D games running on a home console.
Here, Blitz's chief technical officer Andrew Oliver, discusses the race to establish the company at the forefront of 3D gaming, how digital cinema's format wars will aid the evolution of games in 3D, and the challenges of marketing a new videogame concept.
Can you give us a brief summary of 3D technology in the movie and TV industries, and how that will feed into games development?
Well Hollywood is pretty much committed to making lots of 3D movies and there's a few reasons why. The main one is at the moment old cinemas still use old celluloid reels, we have to wait eight weeks for them to come over to Europe, and they're all scratched, they're rubbish. The studios want them all to go digital, and with new digital projectors they've built in 3D technology as well. They're pushing it like crazy, not only because it gives you extra immersion, but because they can drive all cinemas to go digital by consumers going to see 3D films. Film studios are committed to it, and you've got people like James Cameron working on live action 3D projects like Avatar.
So the TV manufacturers – Samsung and Mitsubishi in particular - they've started building 3D in the TVs because they know the films are coming out. But the films are taking a little bit longer because there's a bit of a format war and there's not that many films ready. There's about 21 releases in the next 18 months. So there's TVs on the market but no one knows they're 3D capable because there's no content for them.
And how is that 3D technology different to the 3D tech we see in the PC market?
So you can do 3D on PCs by buying specific hardware and graphics cards and retro fit things like Call of Duty for 3D screens and monitors. But it's a bit of a hack and the games aren't designed for it, it's just that games live in a 3D world. It possible, but they weren't really made for it.
What about 3D games on console – is it at the early stages, how soon are we going to see 360 and PS3 games in 3D?
People said you couldn't do it on console because they're not fast enough. And when I heard that, I just thought, why aren't they fast enough? All you're doing is driving graphics on 3D, it can't be that difficult. But it is difficult because they're putting 3D on to high end TVs. So your game will only be 3D if it's 1080p. 3D also only works if you have a very smooth frame rate because it flips between the left and the right eye. You have to run the game at 60 frames per second, 1080p, and you have to render it from a left and a right view and send two pictures in the same frame and it kind of interlaces them together. It's difficult because there's not many games that run at that quality.
Blitz has got more than a tech demo running – you've got a game in true 3D, and this is what you're showing off at GDC this year, right?
We've got it working on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, so we're cross platform. We had a technology demo running last year and people were impressed by it, but people were saying “it's all very well showing a demo but you couldn't write a whole game with that kind of frame rate.” Well we believe you can, we believe in our technology and we think it's up there with some of the best.
You've started to sell your own technology – the Blitz Tech Tools – and these include the 3D technology...
Yes, we were writing our own game, Invincible Tiger, for Xbox 360 and PSN and we put the 3D tech on to this as it's our own IP. We're working on other licenses but you can't go playing around with new tech on a big licence. As a normal game it's a nice retro fighting game. We were working on this as something that harks back to classic, side-scrolling fighters, but because it's also a full HD game we're able to put this into 3D. The idea is we sell the game, and if someone has the right technology, they can flip it on to 3D.
There seems to be a resurgence in 3D every 20-odd years, so it must be a concept that's still appealing to content creators. How do you know this isn't another fad that will fade after a few years?
Because this is digital so it now stands a chance. Whereas before it was always a slight hack, it was analogue, it was funny colours. The technology now is phenomenal. PC gaming does do this the same way that cinema is doing it, and we can do all the tricks that cinema does. And we render at pretty much the same resolution. We're actually rendering at a higher frame rate and quality than digital cinema, which makes it tough, but it can certainly be done. And I believe that if you're making a game of a 3D movie, the game needs to be in 3D too.
Sales of 3D TVs are reasonable in the US, do you know what the figures are like in the UK and Europe?
They're very, very small. It's technology that's just coming out. Pretty much at CES this year all consumer electronics manufacturers were saying they are going to have at least one 3D TV in their high end range.
And have you spoken to the format holders – Microsoft and Sony – about the number of users that own a 3D TV and a Xbox 360 or PS3 console? Do they know those figures and so your potential audience?
No, but there's a good chance that they are the same kind of users, the early adopters. It's not really up to them to find out. We've shown this technology to Microsoft and Sony and they were quite surprised by it, frankly. But that was some time ago and they're very aware of 3D now. And if you had this in a store, people would see the reason to buy the TV.
Have you spoken to any retailers about getting the game in stores and demoing the technology on 3D TVs?
Not retailers, but we have talked to manufacturers.
I'm not going to say.
And is that still an ongoing discussion?
So they are interested?
They are extremely interested. To quote one manufacturer, he said, “Bloody hell, we'd sell a lot of TVs if we had that in store.” They could. We're trying to work out how this game will be marketed, we've got the game now, and it was just going to be an Xbox Live Arcade game, but that may not be the best way to sell it because it's unique.
You said there's a format dispute holding up digital 3D – is that going to impact the development of 3D games?
There's a format war for 3D digital films. It will mean that once the format wars are sorted, all the films will come out and Hollywood will be promoting this like crazy, and the TVs will start selling like crazy. We can't worry about that, we have to just go for it. It will be a bit slow because we don't have the marketing muscle of Hollywood, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. For me, this feels like next-gen. We've got a big user base out there, 3D is possible, so rather than be thinking about your next-gen purchases and your next-gen console, you want to buy a new TV.
As far as I'm aware, there's only Blitz and a handful of others working on 3D technology.
It would be interesting to see it, because I'm not aware of any others showing their technology.
So it's important to Blitz that the business is at the forefront of this?
We believe we're the first, by quite a long stretch.
Have you got other games running on this technology?
I couldn't possibly comment. But clearly we're working on what can work in 3D and what can't.
So the 2D version of the game is going to be out on PSN and XBLA, and published by Namco. But it won't necessarily have the 3D option on the day of release – you patch that later on?
I'm absolutely confident we could do something along those lines. The thing is, because of the marketing and sales of 3D TVs, it could be that we cut some deal with a TV manufacturer so that when you buy the TV you're given the game. We could have a demo pod in the shop and you buy the TV and get it together with the game. That seems to make so much more sense. Otherwise, everyone's going to rave about this 3D game, and 97 per cent of people who buy it won't see it in 3D. The game just shows off the TV. And it's running on a regular PlayStation or a regular Xbox 360. It runs identically.
I have to admit I was cynical about how a 3D game would look and play. But I'm really impressed by this technology.
Everyone is a bit cynical with 3D because it's had such a funny history of gimmicky stuff and horrible colours. There were these comebacks with movies, from Jaws 3D to Spy Kids 3D and it's all a bit naff. We appreciate our game is a small game, but it can be applied to much bigger titles and it just adds so many levels of depth to a game. We haven't even thought about the gameplay side of things. You've got depth perception there that can open up so many design ideas.
Do you think you'll be waiting on Hollywood before 3D TV takes off, and then 3D console games?
It just takes time for people to buy the TVs but there's no doubt there's a market as Hollywood is making loads of films. But we're going to try and beat them, it's a race. We'll get our games out before the movies. I first saw proper high-definition through the Xbox, because there wasn't Sky HD and services like that, but on the Xbox 360 it was so crisp. I think the same will happen again, it's like with 3D TVs, people are going to experience their first content via games. Film company's think they're going to be getting their films out but format wars will delay them. And we'll be there on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
How do you manage the different 3D TV standards? Different TV manufacturers are working to different specifications aren't they, there's no standardisation?
We'll just write drivers for them all. It's a pain in the arse because we have to do it for each display, but we can do it. There's going to be the odd TV that will come out that isn't supported, but we'll push a driver out later. That's not something you can do with a DVD player.
By Matt Martin, Games Industry
If the 3-D movie revolution is going to be the shot in the arm hoped for by filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors, it will need to be a global injection. At the moment, while more Americans are seeing movies in three dimensions, the international theatrical market seems rather flat.
As Jeffrey Katzenberg continues his worldwide pilgrimage playing pitchman for Monsters vs. Aliens and the revolution of 3-D cinema, the jury is out on how ready international markets are for the transition.
"The difference between normal cinema and 3-D is like the difference between a horse and buggy and a Ferrari," Katzenberg recently told a group of skeptical journalists in Berlin, sounding more like a telemarketer than one of Hollywood's top producers.
The world is starting to catch up. Paramount Pictures International plans to push Monsters onto about 10,000 screens internationally, of which about 1,600 will be 3-D, according to PPI president Andrew Cripps. That compares with about 2,000 3-D screens for the film's U.S. release.
"I think the world is ready (for 3-D digital), but whether exhibition is ready or not, I don't know," Cripps said. "But we are going out on more (3-D screens) than I thought we would, so it's getting there."
The credit crunch has brought the domestic digital rollout to a screaming halt, but international expansion has not been affected as severely. Europe, led by the U.K., has shown slow but steady progress.
Britain's three largest cinema operators are biting the bullet for the costs of installing state-of-the-art equipment in their multiplexes. Odeon UCI plans to have 30 sites 3-D ready by month's end, Cineworld aims to have 3-D operational on 144 of its 148 digital screens by next month, and Vue Entertainment struck a deal with RealD in February to have 200 screens kitted out by the 3-D equipment giant.
The credit crunch also could slow the Brit rollout -- the U.K. economy has been among Europe's hardest-hit -- but that does not change the positive overseas trend.
Private-equity-backed groups including Arts Alliance Media and Belgium-based XDC are providing financing and equipment to exhibitors, as well as a virtual-print-fee model that ensures distributors will share the costs of new equipment with the cinemas. XDC has VPF deals with all six Hollywood majors for a maximum of 8,000 screens in Europe, and Arts Alliance is right behind with VPF deals with five majors (excluding Warner Bros.) for a maximum of 7,000 screens.
"Being in the digital exhibition business means it will never happen fast enough for me, but I feel there is evidence that (the 3-D rollout) is really starting to pick up," Arts Alliance CEO Howard Kiedaisch said. "The number of digital screens changes on a weekly basis, with more and more machines rolling out. I liken it to a snowball rolling down a hill: It is gathering momentum and size."
Europe is outpacing Asia, where exhibitors were among the first to adopt 3-D technology but where the digital rollout has stalled during recent months. Japan, facing another major recession, could fall further behind. Things are different in China, though, where exhibitors are pushing 3-D rollouts throughout the vast countryside.
"China wants to be the largest 3-D market outside the U.S.A.," said Jimmy Wu, chairman and CEO of Beijing-based exhibitor ChinaPlex, which will open its first 3-D screens in May in Hangzhou and plans to have 22-25 extra-dimensional screens in its Chinese cinemas by year's end.
Monsters will go out in China exclusively in 3-D, bowing Tuesday on more than 200 screens. The move cleverly sidesteps the piracy problems DreamWorks experienced in the territory with Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.
"The international rollout has actually gone a little better than I anticipated," Katzenberg said. "When we started Monsters vs. Aliens (five years ago), I thought we would have about 600-800 3-D venues internationally -- now it's closer to 1,600. That's compared to the U.S., which, with 2,000 3-D screens for the Monsters release, is about half of what I predicted."
But the worldwide 3-D rollout still faces major hurdles.
"The international market is very different than the American one," said Fabrice Testa, vp sales and business development at XDC. "America is one market with one language. Here in Europe, we have a very fragmented market with a lot of different exhibitors, particularly a lot of small exhibitors. Progress will be a lot slower."
Added Kemal Gorgulu, a partner at Berlin-based consultants Flying Eye, which has studied the European d-cinema market extensively, "I think it's great that Katzenberg is so positive about the 3-D market internationally, but I can't say I share his optimism."
Worried that the free-market models followed by Arts Alliance and XDC could leave out smaller players and favor studio distributors, the governments of Germany and France have proposed state-backed funds to drive digital upgrades. Exhibitors and distributors would contribute to the funds, which would buy 3-D equipment for local cinemas.
But this being Europe, those processes are long, complicated and cumbersome. Germany's Model 100, which would provide $136 million to facilitate that nation's 3-D rollout, is in the negotiating stage, and the situation is similar in France. Until locals work it out, the 3-D rollout in Europe is unlikely to catch fire.
"At the moment, we have the chicken-and-egg problem," Gorgulu said. "Because we don't have the 3-D exhibition space yet, there isn't the kind of distribution commitment from the studios."
With 13 movies scheduled for 3-D release this year in Europe -- including Disney's Bolt, Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3-D and Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs -- studios' commitment to the format no longer is in doubt.
While the international rollout is moving at different speeds in different territories, the economic benefits of going 3-D are undeniable. XDC estimates that European cinemas can charge an additional $1.50-$4 per ticket for 3-D screenings.
"It is hard to make a prediction as to when the 3-D revolution will happen (internationally), but it will happen," Testa said. "In four to five years, we should have close to 15,000 digital screens in Europe -- half of all movie screens -- and many will be 3-D."
By Scott Roxborough and Stuart Kemp, The Hollywood Reporter
Hollywood is looking to this year's influx of 3-D films to prove the viability of the format. But Imax, encouraged by recent outsized boxoffice performances, looks to use it to build further momentum toward profitability. With DreamWorks Animation opening its 3-D tentpole Monsters vs. Aliens on Friday on 200 of the company's giant screens, Imax co-CEO Rich Gelfond said the large-format exhibitor's digital rollout has begun to show financial benefits in recent quarters, and 3-D could further validate the new model.
"Imax hasn't had a great business model," he said at a recent investor conference. "2009 is really the year for Imax."
As evidence, he highlights that Imax has attracted disproportionally big audiences who are willing to pay premium ticket prices for key recent releases, including Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience and Watchmen. They have captured 10% or more of the film's overall boxoffice on less than 2% of the total North American screens, Gelfond touted.
Jeff Blaeser, an analyst at Morgan Joseph & Co., said 3-D is an added selling point for Imax, though much depends on the quality of the movies.
"The Imax experience is the reason for the strong (boxoffice) showings of late," he said. "The movie Watchmen drew 14% of its boxoffice at Imax on a fraction of the theaters, and that movie doesn't (even) have a 3-D element. Consumers must want to see the movie in the first place, and the 3-D is an added benefit."
The 3-D push could shine a brighter spotlight onto Imax at a time when its management team said financial trends look to be turning a corner. For 2008, Imax reported a loss of $33.6 million, up from $26.9 million in 2007. However, the company began seeing losses narrow compared with the year-ago periods during the back half of the year.
Imax's digital business model is a key. The firm traditionally used 70mm film to distribute and exhibit studios' movies. By converting to digital, Imax has removed print costs -- about $22,000 for a 2-D print and $45,000 for a 3-D print -- from the equation. Additionally, its joint-venture model has cut the market-entry costs for exhibitors to $150,000 to retrofit a theater with a digital-projection system. Imax and exhibition partners then split boxoffice revenue.
Given all this, Blaeser predicted that Imax slowly will return to strong profitability as it continues its digital rollout, which includes 3-D presentations.
Consumers have to cough up more money for those. Ticket pricing varies from market to market, but while traditional 35mm 2-D tickets are in the $10 range, Imax charges $13-$14 for 3-D films, with non-Imax 3-D prices at about $12.
Gelfond said that even during a recession, Imax fans are willing to accept such premiums, touting the format's qualitative difference, which stems from a larger viewing pyramid created between a viewer's seat and the four corners of the screen. It means that 3-D objects seen through Imax polarized glasses appear lifesize and come further out into the audience than in rival digital 3-D theaters.
After Aliens, Imax has scheduled Warner Bros.' anticipated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with select exclusive scenes in Imax 3-D, for the summer, Disney's A Christmas Carol in November and James Cameron's Avatar, from Fox, in December. The company's 2010 slate already includes 3-D fare like Warner Bros./Imax's Hubble 3-D and two DWA titles: How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek Goes Fourth.
By Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter
China Film Group Corp. and Lianzhong Circuit have chosen Dolby Digital Cinema and Dolby 3D for deployment in the Chains' locations throghout China. Non-exclusive deal comes by way of Dolby's Chinese distributor, ACE.
D-cinema installation at 100 China Film Group locations starts in April and will continue for several months. Ten Lianzhing screens have been converted to Dolby D-cinema with Dolby 3D. Lianzhang announced a deal in January to convert 100 screens to D-cinema using Chistie projectors and Dolby servers.
Dolby sells its 3-D add-ons outright and, unlike market leader RealD, does not collect royalties or maintain an ongoing financial relationship with theaters that install its systems. Dolby was relatively late to enter the 3-D hardware field and has trailed far behind RealD in the number of installed screens. A major deployment in China would be a significant boost to the San Francisco-based company's 3-D business.
By David S. Cohen, Variety
Friday's debut of Paramount and DreamWorks Animation's Monsters vs. Aliens ushers in the age of the 3-D tentpole as studios look to entice moviegoers with a new form of entertainment that comes with a heftier ticket price. Par is taking Monsters out in 4,104 locations, including 1,550 3-D sites, marking the widest bow yet for a 3-D title. (The remaining runs are conventional.) In terms of actual prints, film will play on 7,000 screens, 2,000 of them 3-D.
Elsewhere at the B.O., Lionsgate's horror/suspenser The Haunting in Connecticut could prove strong counterprogramming. It opens in 2,732 runs.
Frame's other new entry is Fox's 12 Rounds, the first pic from World Wrestling Entertainment's revamped film division. It opens in 2,331.
Monsters is sure to be analyzed from all sides considering how much Hollywood has riding on 3-D plus the fact that there still aren't enough 3-D-capable screens. Toon is the first of a handful of big-budget 3-D pics set to open this year, culminating at Christmas with 20th Century Fox's Avatar, from James Cameron.
The allure of 3-D is that theater owners charge $3-$4 more per ticket. Imax 3-D tickets are roughly $5 more. Until now, studios have only dipped a toe in the 3-D sea (Disney is the exception). The results have been impressive, with 3-D screens doing three and four times the business of a conventional screen.
The biggest worry facing Jeffrey Katzenberg's shop and other studios is the question of how many 3-D screens are enough. Hollywood had counted on there being many more 3-D screens by the time Monsters rolled out. But just as the country's three largest circuits -- AMC, Regal and Cinemark -- were about to get a line of credit to convert hundreds of screens, the economy collapsed. Before that, friction between studios and the three circuits held up the process.
One studio exec said, "The big question is, what comes first, the content or the theaters?"
Additional 3-D screens are going up every week. When Disney opened Jonas Brothers: The Concert Experience 3D on Feb. 27, there were only 1,271 locations.
Monsters actually debuted first in Russia and Ukraine last weekend, playing on both conventional screens and a limited number of 3-D runs. There are roughly 1,500 3-D screens overseas, with the U.K. having the largest concentration at 220, followed by China with 185. Par is rolling Monsters out on a staggered basis overseas to coincide with spring vacations. This weekend, it expands into several smaller markets, including the Czech Republic and the Philippines.
Katzenberg became the highest-profile 3-D ambassador last year when he boldly announced that beginning with Monsters, all DreamWorks Animation titles would be shot in 3-D. The added cost of shooting a film in 3-D is said to be $15 million.
There are two ways to watch 3-D pics, in regular theaters that have been equipped with digital 3-D screens -- the vast majority of those outfitted by Real D -- and in Imax. Monsters will play in 143 Imax locations, the widest Imax launch ever.
At the Bridge theater in L.A., a moviegoer will pay $17.25 to see Monsters on the Imax screen, $15.75 to see it in digital 3-D and $12.75 for the 2-D version. At AMC Century City, it's $17 for an Imax ticket, $16 for a digital 3-D theater and $12 for 2-D. In Chicago, it's $15 for Imax, $13.50 for digital 3-D and $10 for 3-D.
Among recent 3-D releases, Focus Features' Coraline exceeded expectations in grossing $73.4 million to date. Only 44% of the theaters in the first week were 3-D, but they made up 74% of the pic's gross. In week six, 3-D houses made up 80% of the gross.
Lionsgate's My Bloody Valentine -- the first horror title employing the new 3-D technology -- was another overachiever, grossing $51.4 million on the strength of its 3-D runs, which supplied 70% of the entire gross.
On Thursday, 3-D outfitter Real D said it has inked a deal with AMC to build an additional 1,500 screens in the U.S. and Canada.
There's no exact film with which to compare Monsters vs. Aliens because of the 3-D factor. Fox has had the most success with March toons. Ice Age: The Meltdown opened to $68 million in 2006, while Ice Age debuted to $46.3 million.
By Pamela McClintock, Variety
Late last week I picked up on a rumor that was circulating about European exhibitors. Apparently, they are rejecting digital 3D versions of DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens in lieu of 2D digital and 35mm prints as a response to being told that distributors will not pick up the tab for 3D glasses. The film opens internationally on March 27th.
Disposable polarized 3D glasses cost between 50 and 99 cents (USD) and are required to view digital 3D movies shown using systems manufactured by RealD and Masterimage. “Active glasses”, which operate using LCD lenses that flicker open and closed at the shutter rate of the projector, are reusable and cost upwards of USD $25 to $30. Such glasses are necessary to view 3D films shown using XpanD technology. Reusable glasses for Dolby’s color wheel system cost USD $23. More than likely the dispute is over disposable glasses rather than reusable glasses since it is generally accepted that the exhibitor will be responsible for the latter.
In North America it has become a somewhat common practice for the distributor of a 3D film to pay for disposable glasses in part or entirely. This may not last however since distribution chiefs such as Mark Christiansen of Paramount Pictures have said they are determining whether they will be reimbursing an exhibitor for the cost of disposable glasses on a film by film basis.
The theatre owners that reported the unofficial boycott of Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D were from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and a few Scandinavian countries. Equipment manufacturers and the few dealers I spoke with confirmed the story, and were somewhat frustrated as they believe such issues will hold up the rollout of digital cinema in Europe. When contacted about the issue, representatives at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles said that local distributors in each territory set the policy for how 3D glasses will be handled and weren’t sure what the ruling was on Monsters vs. Aliens. Since a film can have different distributors from one country to the next, it makes sense that a U.S. distributor may not have control over what a distributor does in Europe...or anywhere else for that matter.
Of course, the decision not to pay for 3D glasses did not come as a shock to some European exhibitors, especially those who have been reviewing virtual print fee agreements. “I have always been a little bit suspicious of this since nobody is willing to put in a contract that studios are willing to pay for it. We believe that is the way they are going,” said V.J. Maury, CEO of Palace Cinemas, based in Central Europe, when asked about the issue.
Palace uses both RealD and Masterimage and thus deals with disposable glasses. However the chain has managed to work out their own glasses recycling program. “We have adopted a position where it’s just not going to be that way and we are working toward a reusable glasses model. It’s a throw away that can be used many times. It just makes sense. There is no point to waste that much plastic.”
By J. Sperling Reich, Celluloid Junkie
It seems the marketing world can’t get enough depth as American Paper Optics rattles off another 16,000,000 3D glasses for five Time, Inc. publications all on newsstands this week. This mega-order, manufactured by the Bartlett, Tennessee based company, came on the heels of the 130,000,000 piece order American Paper Optics produced for the Super Bowl commercials. These glasses are being distributed in People, Time, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated to enhance and bring to life both editorial photos as well as full page 3D ads for heavy hitters including McDonalds, DreamWorks Animation, Intel, and Hewlett Packard.
American Paper Optics, the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of 3D glasses, has now delivered over 200,000,000 units in the 1st quarter of 2009. John Jerit, president and founder of American Paper Optics, has been touting the low cost-big impact of 3D promotions for over 19 years and has manufactured 3D glasses for DVD, movies, magazines, theme park rides, as well as for more unusual applications such as 3D tennis shoes, Easter eggs, puzzles, and cereal boxes.
Jerit says, “We are gearing up for the interest in 3D for DVD and publishing spawned by Hollywood’s continued strong push for bringing the 3D experience to the big screen.” American Paper Optics, currently under expansion and doubling their facility size, was able to manufacture the 16,000,000 ColorCode 3D inserts for Time, Inc., in less than 60 days delivering a depth defying knockout punch.
Source: Earth Times
Christie, a leader in digital cinema projection, announces the introduction of a motorized lens mount solution that is fully compatible with all Christie DLP Cinema 1.2” DMD based projectors. The Christie motorized lens mount solution consists of a lens mount, motors and downloadable software, allowing theatres to easily and reliably change between flat and scope screen formats with a single lens set-up. It is designed to automatically adjust offset, focus and zoom, making it the most accurate and convenient solution on the market.
With the growing popularity of 3D digital cinema, the motorized lens mount is also designed to work hand-in-hand with Christie’s new Brilliant3D technology, the first technology in the industry to significantly increase projector performance and image brightness. The entire reflective surface of the DMD chip is used to produce crisper and clearer images, providing the ultimate 3D movie viewing experience.
Available in May 2009,Christie will offer a motorized lens mount upgrade kit that is compatible with any previously deployed Christie CP2000 series projector. The motorized lens mount is also available as an optional feature on all newly purchased Christie CP2000 projectors. The Christie CP2000-M projector has a motorized lens mount system built in and does not require an upgrade kit.
The Christie motorized lens mount system has been rigorously tested to ensure minimum drift and the highest accuracy when switching between flat and scope screen formats. The company is also offering new lenses designed to eliminate the need for additional auxiliary lenses to accommodate the unattended changeover requirement of the DCI specification.
The motorized lens mount is compatible with all existing and new Christie zoom lenses. It will also accommodate a new series of fixed prime lenses coming into the market.
AMC Entertainment Inc. will add as many as 1,500 of RealD’s 3D-enabled screens to its theaters in the United States and Canada. Kansas City-based AMC said in a Thursday release that the rollout of the screens already has started and that it is adding more monthly. AMC spokesman Justin Scott said in an interview that AMC and RealD have had a relationship since 2005, when AMC tested RealD’s screens in about a dozen theaters. As of Friday, AMC will have 146 RealD screens in its theaters. Tickets for movies shown on the 3D screens generally cost about $2 more than for regular movies, he said.
Scott had no timeline for outfitting all AMC theaters with the screens through the companies’ multiyear agreement. The companies’ agreement brings RealD’s 3D network to nearly 8,000 committed screens worldwide, with about 2,600 of the screens installed. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. AMC CEO Gerry Lopez said in the release that the company intends to eventually have at least one RealD screen in each of its theaters.
Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners, said in a recent interview that “3D is suddenly taking off, but it’s dependent upon digital projectors. At present, there are only about 1700 3D screens in the U.S. We expect about 2,000 by the time “Monsters vs. Aliens” comes out (on Friday). But instead of being able to roll digital across the industry and pick up lots of 3D screens, they’ve only been able to pick up a little bit. It’s incremental — they’re financing as they can.”
Source: MSN Money