Interview of Tim Partridge, EVP Dolby Laboratories

"What is Dolby’s working relationship with Infitec? What roles did each of your companies have in the development of this Dolby 3D solution?
Our basic requirements for the system, based on feedback from theater owners around the world, were that it should work with the regular white screens that are currently installed, and that the glasses should not require batteries. We discovered at Infitec some core technology that we thought would enable us to meet these requirements. So we licensed the Infitec IP (Intellectual Property) for use in cinemas, and using this idea, developed at Dolby the necessary components of software and hardware for the theater, and of course, the glasses.

What were the biggest technical challenges you wanted to overcome in the development of your stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) solution?
One big challenge with any 3D system is the amount of light that is lost as you go through the filters at the projector and then through the glasses. This then limits the size of the screen you can use in the theater so we are always looking for ways to get more light.

One way we do this is by putting the filter inside the projector in between the lamp and the sensitive picture forming parts of the digital projector. The filter reduces the heat from the lamp that gets to those parts and therefore allows for a bigger lamp giving more light. We also wanted to avoid putting a moving filter in the path of the image since that inevitably has a negative impact on the final picture quality, another reason why we put the filter inside the projector.

The biggest challenge for cinemas though was the need to replace their screen with a silver screen for the other 3D systems. Not so much a technical challenge, but a very practical one since the silver screen is expensive and the picture quality provided by a silver screen is not as good as that with a white one. So we are very pleased we have been able to provide them with a 3D system that allows them to keep their white screen.

The biggest technical challenge for us in developing the system was being able to make glasses with the exact filters we needed for each eye, and manufacture them in high volumes. But we did it working with several specialist vendors and the results are stunning.

In your experience, what are the leading objections by exhibitors or movie theaters to adopt S-3D movie hardware/projectors? How are you acknowledging and circumventing those objections?
So far we have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from exhibitors to our system. Compared with the other offerings out there, they of course like not having to change their screen, they love our quality on the screen, they appreciate the flexibility of being able to move the 3D movie from one screen to another easily, and also being able to switch quite easily from 3D to 2D on the same screen.

They also like our business model since it is the same way we have done business with them for over 30 years.

I would say the only questions we get are around the glasses - which is where the real technology lies. Since these are not $1 glasses, the exhibitor will be reusing them many times and cleaning them between each use. Once we explain how easily this can be done, and also that by reusing them many times they have a much less expensive per use model, plus they are also being kinder to the environment by not throwing all that plastic away after each screening, they see all the benefits of the Dolby 3D system.

Tell us about the technology. A colleague told me that your solution is "anaglyph on steroids". Can you explain how the technology works?
It is true that we use color to separate the left image from the right one, but that is where the similarity with anaglyph techniques ends. With anaglyph you had one color per eye, with Dolby 3D you have every color in each eye - and this leads to superb color fidelity, something that everyone who sees it instantly comments on.

How it works is that we choose a red, a green, and a blue for the left eye, and a slightly different red, green, and blue for the right eye. Once you have R, G and B you can create all the colors of the spectrum in each eye.

If a viewer watches a movie in 3D and blinks one eye at a time, will there be any ghosting, and will the colors be identical between the eyes?
One advantage of our system is that the crosstalk, or ghosting, from one eye to the other is particularly low which is why we have such sharp and beautiful images on the screen. The difference in color from one eye to the other is so small (that is why the filters in the glasses have to be so precise) that it would be hard to notice, and when both eyes are open (as is usually the case!) the brain compensates for that difference.

I understand that the glasses used for your solution are $50 a piece. Can you explain what makes these glasses special and why they cost a lot more than traditional polarized or anaglyph lenses?
It comes down to the filters. They are extremely precise which gives us superior crosstalk cancellation (i.e. the right eye image doesn’t get through the left eye filters). To do this, we have to lay down fifty layers of filters on each lens. Plus we also wanted a curved lens design to improve the viewing experience even further, and laying down fifty layers with extreme accuracy onto curved lenses is no small feat!

We also make the lenses scratch resistant and very tough so they can withstand hundreds of uses, so the cost per use comes down to just a few cents.

I wear glasses, and I can tell you first hand that they get dirty pretty quick. In a room filled with buttery popcorn, even more so. How do you clean these glasses and how often?
The glasses will be cleaned after each and every screening so they will always look perfectly clear.

What is the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) standard, and how does it relate to Dolby Laboratories?
The DCI standard is a set of technical specifications written to help multiple manufacturers design and build digital cinema equipment to a common standard so that movie files packaged in Hollywood, or anywhere else, can be guaranteed to play on all these pieces of equipment in any theater.

Not only does it specify file formats and interconnects to enable this interoperability, but it also specifies high degrees of security both in hardware and software to protect the digital content files from piracy. Dolby has designed a Digital Cinema server to accept, manage, decode and play out these files, and as such, it has been designed to the DCI specification to ensure we fully meet the requirements of the studios and the exhibitors. Some of these specifications have not been quite finalized yet though, which is one of the issues we are still working through.

How much money should an exhibitor expect to spend to upgrade their equipment to Dolby 3D?
The hardware is around $20k, and each screen will need 2 pairs of glasses per seat to make sure there is always a clean pair available.

How is Dolby Laboratories positioning their offering to help justify the expense to exhibitors? What ideas have been brought to the table?
Exhibitors told us they would just like to buy the equipment up front and outright without any ongoing commitments. This is how we have always done business with them so we were happy to oblige. We are open to other models, but this is what they seem to prefer right now.

In terms of justifying the expense, exhibitors trust that Dolby equipment lasts a long time, and with the proven ability to charge a premium on each ticket for 3D, and the number of 3D films in the line-up for the next few years, I don’t think they have a problem justifying the investment.

I understand the movies have an invisible imprint that shows up on bootlegged movie copies, and this can trace a movie right down to the theater and the time it was shown at. There is a lot of pressure on exhibitors to cut down on movie piracy because of this. How does S-3D help ease the burden on movie theaters?
There are many security features built into digital cinema to combat piracy but preventing the camcorder from capturing the image on the screen is an issue that technology has yet to solve. 3D, however, is inherently protected against the camcorder copy since the image on the screen is a double image (one for the left eye and one for the right eye), and would be unbearable to watch on a pirated copy."

By Neil Schneider, Meant To Be Seen

'U2' on Tour in 3-D

"National Geographic Cinema Ventures has picked up upcoming concert docu "U2 3D," which it will distribute both domestically and internationally.

"U2 3D" will be released in late January in 3-D only.

Pic was lensed in South America during the band's "Vertigo" tour entirely in digital 3-D. In the U.S., theater owners were recently treated to an extended clip of the film at exhib confab ShowEast.

Concert pic was produced by 3ality Digital and directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington. Owens has been U2's visual content director for more than 15 years, while Pellington directed the band's "One" video.

"Digital 3-D is a new cinema medium that truly allows moviegoers to immerse themselves in the experience, energy and emotion of being in a prime seat at a U2 concert," 3ality Digital CEO Sandy Climan said.

National Geographic Cinema Ventures prexy Lisa Truitt said the release of "U2 3D" is a natural expansion of her division's growing presence in theatrical distribution.

Producers are 3ality Digital's Jon Shapiro, Peter Shapiro and John Modell, as well as Owens. Climan, Michael Peyser and David Modell exec produced."

By Pamela McClintock, Variety

Akamai Unveils Unique View of the High-Definition Internet

"Akamai Technologies, the leading global service provider for accelerating content and applications online, announced The HD Web, a ‘proof-of-concept' portal designed to showcase the experience consumers can have with high definition content online.

The website showcases content from a variety of industries including music, movies, professional sports, games and news. Akamai customers are now delivering a consistent, high-definition video experience on Akamai's uniquely distributed edge delivery platform that is specifically tuned for optimal delivery of high-definition (HD) files online. As an industry leader and pioneer in online video, Akamai has raised the bar for what a service provider must offer companies in order to deliver this content effectively and efficiently online today.

Companies providing HD content for the initiative include Apple, BBC Motion Gallery, CBS, Gannett, MTV Networks, NBA and more. The proof-of-concept portal will serve as a temporary Internet Programming Guide to HD video on the web and provide access to a complete HD experience. These companies understand the value that HD content brings their brand and are ahead of the curve by offering HD programming online.

A critical factor to enable high bit rate delivery of very large HD files is the proximity of the end-user to the server sending the file. As the distance from the server becomes greater, throughput dramatically decreases. Even a seemingly small distance can result in lost throughput due to lower throughput, higher packet loss, and increased latency. The more latency, the longer it takes to download the file, which can interrupt the viewing experience and result in a poor end-user experience. Akamai works closely with leading broadband ISPs to deploy servers directly in those networks to ensure that content is served closest to the end user for a superior HD experience. Compared with other centralized models, the results that Akamai's network offers are unmatched on a global scale.

Akamai recently outlined technical criteria for delivering HD content on the Internet. Akamai has architected its platform to comply with the following technical criteria that content owners must leverage to successfully enable an HD Web. Akamai believes that it is the first and only platform to meet these technical requirements which include offering:

- Technology and an operational model to operate serving devices in the largest high-throughput networks around the world (servers need to be physically in the networks, as that is where the capacity lies).

- Established relationships with the largest high throughput networks.

- Support for delivery, storage, and management of files greater than 2 Gigabytes.

- Support of VC-1 and MPEG-4 video standards, achieving visual parity with other broadcast video networks.

- Support for files with resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p.

- Client-side technology that is deeply integrated into its delivery system to be deployed as appropriate."

Source: Akamai

Watermarking and Fingerprinting

"Watermarking and fingerprinting are two forms of technology known generically as content identification. Watermarking works by embedding data into digital images, audio, or video in such a way that the data is very difficult to remove and the effect on a user's perception of the content is (usually) nonexistent. The data embedded in a watermark is often the identity of the content, though it could also include the identity of a user or device that downloaded it, or of a retailer that sold it.

Fingerprinting is a set of techniques for analyzing content, reducing its unique characteristics to a set of one or more numbers that serve as "fingerprints," and looking those fingerprints up in a database to determine the identity of the content.

Interest in both of these techniques has been growing rapidly in recent months. They are passive, meaning that their use in identifying and tracking content do not (by themselves) interfere with a user's ability to play, copy, or send it. They complement or substitute for active content control techniques such as the encryption that is used in typical DRM technologies.

Practical applications of digital watermarking for tracking content usage have been in existence for roughly a decade, but during the first Internet bubble, watermarking vendors oversold the content industry on the technology as a panacea for Internet piracy. This resulted in a backlash against a set of techniques that, in retrospect, were fairly basic. But watermarking techniques have become much more sophisticated and useful recently, and a wider variety of participants in the content value chain have gotten involved. Many vendors are involved in the watermarking arena, including Digimarc, Philips, Thomson, Cinea, Verimatrix, Activated Content, USVO, and Bitmunk.

Fingerprinting is a more recent technology; it came about in the 2000-2001 timeframe and was proposed as a way to make the original Napster P2P network copyright-compliant. Now there are a handful of music services (e.g., iMesh/BearShare) that use audio fingerprinting, most typically to block uploads of copyrighted music tracks to P2P networks. Such networks are often licensed by the major music companies, indicating their increasing comfort level with the technology -- although no one believes that it works one hundred percent.

Audible Magic and Gracenote are two of the leading audio fingerprinting technology vendors. SNOCAP uses fingerprinting (from Gracenote) to power services like its ad-driven model with imeem. Fingerprinting is capable of supporting wide ranges of innovative content business models; as with watermarking, the surface has barely been scratched, and we'll see some very interesting developments in the near future.

More recent fingerprinting solutions focus on video content, which is more technologically challenging than audio. As we saw last week, Google unveiled a video fingerprinting scheme, which is turning out to be less sophisticated than third-party technologies that are being developed by vendors such as Audible Magic, Philips, Vobile, Zeitera, and others. Attributor has a variation on this theme: a fingerprinting scheme for text content, which is being used by some of the major news wire services to track placement (both licensed and unlicensed) of their news content on various websites.

Watermarking and fingerprinting are distinct yet synergistic technologies. Their importance in the world of digital content rights is growing rapidly; in time, they may become more important than encryption-based DRM technology in certain media market segments."

By Bill Rosenblatt, DRM Watch

SeeReal Shows an Holographic 3D Display Prototype

"During Flat Panel Display International (FPDI) 2007, most of the major players were showing at least one more-or-less conventional 3D display, but SeeReal was showing a technological demonstrator of a 21-inch holographic 3D display. SeeReal has quite a way to go before they reach their goal of a 42-inch full color holographic TV - the demonstrator was monochrome and presented wire-frame images - but, significantly, the company has developed a way of creating a real-time holographic TV that brings the computational overhead down to a manageable level. By the time of the next SID show in May, SeeReal may have something that begins to look like a full-color TV prototype."

Source: Display Daily

Thomson Teams with Pathfire & DG FastChannel to Offer Capture Service HD File-Based Distribution

"Thomson has developed a faster-than-real time direct file import option with Pathfire to increase the high-definition (HD) content management capability of the Grass Valley K2 Media Server platform from Thomson.

The new K2 “Capture Service” software application enables the fast and easy handling of HD programs as digital files and eliminates the need for any third-party intermediate solutions that can slow the file-handling process considerably—in many cases to much slower-than-real time—saving organizations significant time and money.

Available immediately, the K2 Capture Service option is the result of a close collaboration between Thomson and Pathfire engineers and requires a simple software upgrade to existing K2 systems. In addition, the Capture Service option will also support SD and HD material transfer from the DG FastChannel Spotbox to K2. No additional hardware is needed.

The new K2 Capture Service feature was recently field-tested by Tribune Broadcasting with nationally syndicated content. During the week of September 6th, Tribune went to air at their WGN, KTLA, WXIN, WPIX, WGNO, KHCW, KDAF, KTXL, WPHL WDCW, KRCW, WSFL, and KCPQ locations from a series of remotely located K2 servers, successfully using the new Capture Service feature to distribute the program as a series of HD files faster than the program has ever been distributed before.

With this new Capture Service capability, Grass Valley K2 users now have a highly efficient file transfer method that allows HD content to be uploaded to a K2 server timeline nearly instantaneously (5-10X faster than real time), without the need for external transcoding or file conversion. By comparison, existing file-transcoding techniques require the need for a separate server for HD transcoding and current speeds are on-average 2X slower than real time (making it nearly 10X slower than the new Capture Service option). With significant amounts of content needing to be uploaded every day, it could easily take operations departments longer than a single eight hour shift to upload and QC less than three hours of material.

The Grass Valley K2 Media Server platform from Thomson has been embraced by a wide variety of broadcasters and content providers, with more than 1,400 K2 systems now in operation around the world. All of these systems can be easily upgraded with the new Capture Service automatic file conversion option.

The Capture Service option is available immediately from Thomson, and is priced at $5,000."

Source: BroadcastBuyer

LeVar Burton Shoots First 4K Feature with DALSA Origin Camera

“Tempting Hyenas”, the first feature length film shot with the DALSA Origin 4K digital cinema camera, will undergo a full 4K DI at Post Logic Studios.

Post Logic’s Image Science Division provided on-set supervision during principal photography, which completed recently, working closely with the production team to oversee the transfer of digital assets and ensure that the 4K image quality was maintained throughout.

Post Logic’s 4K workflow, developed in cooperation with DALSA Digital Cinema, begins with the careful handling of assets at the end of each day of shooting. Data from the Origin 4K camera (up to two terabytes a day) was recorded onto a Codex unit and output as 2K ProRes files for viewing dailies and for creating an edit decision list (EDL) during online editing.

The files were offloaded daily from the Codex onto a Ciprico Media Vault for transporting back to Post Logic Studios in Hollywood. Upon arrival, the data was backed up onto 400GB LTO3 tapes, with all assets and metadata meticulously catalogued in a proprietary database. This process ensured that the production could shoot continuously without skipping a beat. With the LTO3 tapes serving as the 4K image master files, Post Logic Studios will match up the time codes with the EDL to create the final 4K product."

Source: BroadcastBuyer

SAMMA Systems Extends Range with MJPEG2K Player

"SAMMA Systems, the global leader in media migration, has extended its range of lossless compression products with the introduction of its new MJPEG2K Player. The player / decoder, developed to provide an extremely cost-effective method for monitoring and editing Motion JPEG2000 files, is making its official debut at SMPTE 2007.

The MJPEG2K Player card operates in conjunction with SAMMA Systems' recently launched, award-winning SAMMA Solo - the world's first real-time analog to digital lossless migration system. SAMMA Solo encodes mathematically lossless MJPEG2000 files in real-time in addition to other standard formats such as MPEG 2, H.264, Windows Media and Real Media. The MJPEG2K Player, the first low cost decoder for PCs, provides an extremely cost effective method for playing back the MJPEG2000 files for monitoring or loading into an editing platform. It provides SDI output for exceptional viewing quality with embedded 4-channel audio that is bit-for-bit identical to MJ2 output.

The SAMMA MJPEG2K functions as a decoder-only with SAMMA software for use in stand-alone viewing stations. It requires a user-supplied PC and monitor."

Source: SAMMA Systems

New IP Technology Moves HD Video Directly from Camcorder to Networked Storage

"In an effort to bypass the ingest process, two companies have demonstrated technology that enables direct digital video recording to networked storage from a 1394-equipped high-definition video camera.

The technology from Control Communications Systems and QVidium Technologies, called 1394 Gateways, enables direct recording to storage area network (SAN) or Network Attached Storage (NAS) directly from the camcorder.

The system uses QVidium Record Manager Software to take the video and audio coming from the camcorder, or other 1394-equipped system, and converts the feeds into standard IP packets. Once in the IP domain, the media can flow across networks that can span a studio or any location in the world.

The 1394 interface is very powerful but many uses of these HD cameras are limited by the short cable length, said Anthony Magliocco, Controlware’s director of sales and marketing. Now, he said, the camcorder’s images and sound can be instantaneously stored and edited anywhere in the world.

Using 1394 Gateways, camera operators can continue to operate their normal media in the camcorder while feeding the network drives simultaneously. Controlware, a company that specializes in loss-free terrestrial and satellite delivery of broadcast video, said it is offering both wired and wireless versions of the 1394 Gateways technology.

The technology offers support for all DVCPRO formats, including DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50 and DVCPRO25, as well as 19.75 Mbps 720p and 25 Mbps 1080i HDV and a wide range of audio formats. It can display HD video to a PC’s VGA or DVI interface."

Source: StudioDaily

Making 3D Movies – Part II

"Yesterday, I attended the SMPTE pre-conference on 3D held in Brooklyn, New York. It was a nice complementary conference to the 3D Cinema session held at 3D BizEx last month in Burlingame, CA, as I learned more about the 3D cinema process and issues - and had a chance to have dinner with a who’s who of 3D experts.

Last month, Matt Brennesholtz wrote that 3D movie making requires a completely new way of approaching the movie. 3D specialists are needed, an intensive post-post process for 3D FX is required, and creating a 3D movie is expensive. Yesterday, I heard some of these themes amplified, but learned a lot more about the mistakes that can happen in 3D movie making and how some of these are fixed.

This list is extensive including left/right eye reversal, unintentional monoscopic frames, out of sequence stereo frames, etc. We heard a lot about choices made in dimensionalizing the movie. Keeping action within a limited volume is a good thing and violating this causes eyestrain. A scene transition where the focus depth changes even modestly is noticeable and can cause discomfort. If the content is dimensionalized for a 20-foot screen, it does not look good on a 60-foot screen, and visa versa. There is some concern that movies will need to be re-dimensionalized depending upon the screen size where they are shown, including the small screens for RPTVs and home theaters.

What was exceptional about the event was all of the 3D content that was shown. For example, some content was shown to demonstrate the effect of mistakes and errors. Other content demos were used to show how parameters could be adjusted to create better 3D effects that reduce eyestrain, augment or reduce the 3D effect and create 3D images that are, "painless and beautiful."

We saw clips from Beowulf, Chicken Little, Star Wars, U2 3D (gave me shivers), Open Season, Nightmare Before Christmas, Polar Express, as well as lots of other content shown by some of the producers and cinematographers in the room.

Many of these scenes were very good, some outstanding, but some also produced eyestrain - for some of the reasons explained by these very same experts. This is one of the most experienced and talented 3D content creators on the planet and the demos of 3D content were clearly not defect free. Granted, this could probably have been fixed with money and time, but it is also a reflection on the state of 3D content creation. With a lot of effort, outstanding 3D content can be made when the display format is known and the exhibition format determined. But this content is clearly not plug and play from one venue to another. This hurdle will take some time to overcome.

There were two other clear messages that came through from the conference:
- The 3D industry needs to train a lot more people in the art and science of 3D movie making.

- Better 3D workflow tools, particularly in 3D editing, are desperately needed.

Workflow tools are being developed in house by the major studios right now, as if the industry is "building the bridge as it walks across it." This is changing however, with more sophisticated tools expected from commercial suppliers over the next couple of years.

My colleague George Isaacs attended a very similar event in London on the same day and heard almost identical ideas and messages. One surprise from both shows, and one which generated some interesting dinner conversation, was subtitling for 3D movies. Warner Brothers is doing the international distribution of Beowulf and thinks subtitles are needed instead of dubbing. They did some experiments in various subtitling methods and showed to the audience in NYC using Polar Express as a test movie. The subtitles were shown over the content and in black bands below and above the movie. The text was also placed at the screen as well as in front and behind the screen. Most interestingly, the majority of viewers found that text above the movie was preferred and even a little in front of the screen seemed better. We may need to call these "supertitles," as this is the format Warner Brothers will use.

Overall, the mood of the crowd at the New York event was quite upbeat. They know they are at the beginning of a major transition in Hollywood and that challenges remain, but they are very bullish about the future. As one participant paraphrased an exchange that occurred between DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) President and CEO John Fithian at ShowEast last week, "Is 2D digital cinema the dog and 3D the tail, or has 3D become the dog wagging the 2D digital cinema tail?" Guess what answer this partisan crowd favored?"

By Chris Chinnock, Display Daily

Doremi Cinema's DCP-2000 Server Receives FIPS Level 3 Certification

"Doremi Cinema announces that its DCP-2000 cinema server has officially received a Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate.

FIPS Level 3 compliance provides the DCP-2000 with the highest level of protection required by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) to secure the motion picture files used in the cinema server.

"Achieving FIPS certification brings the highest level of comprehensive security DCI compliance for our server," said Michael Archer VP of Sales at Doremi. "Our security solution also allows for maintenance to be performed at the theater level without special personnel, since our security design left maintenance items easily accessible."

The Doremi server underwent a comprehensive testing process by the accredited cryptographic module testing laboratory InfoGard. InfoGard submitted its test report to NIST, which issued the FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate. Doremi's NIST certification number is 850.

Doremi Cinema's DCP-2000 is by far the most installed cinema server in the world with over 4000 screens worldwide. Doremi's continued leadership in installations both underscores the reliability and consistency of the DCP-2000 server to provide both the highest quality JPEG2000 images and the highest levels of security sought by the major studios to protect their content."

Source: DCinemaToday

IMAX Sets Target Launch Date of Digital Projection Technology

"IMAX Corporation announced that it has moved up the launch date of its digital projection system in development to the second quarter of 2008 from its previously announced timeframe of the end of 2008 to mid 2009. The highly anticipated IMAX digital projection system will further enhance The IMAX Experience and help to drive profitability for studios, exhibitors and IMAX theatres by virtually eliminating the need for film prints, increasing program flexibility and ultimately increasing the number of movies shown on IMAX screens.

Under the current roll-out schedule, the company anticipates that three digital IMAX prototypes will be installed during the second quarter of 2008. Shortly thereafter, IMAX expects to install three additional prototypes. Once these prototypes meet performance specifications, IMAX expects to proceed with a full rollout during the second half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter of 2008.

IMAX's digital projection system integrates a suite of proprietary IMAX intellectual properties with commercially available digital projection technology in a way that creates The IMAX Experience in a digital format. These properties, along with proprietary technology applied to the content, dramatically enhance the image fidelity, light output and contrast in both 2D and 3D to produce a stunningly crisp and bright image on the big IMAX screen and deliver the unparalleled image and sound quality that IMAX consumers have come to recognize and enjoy. In consumer testing conducted by Millward Brown, a respected market research firm, 98 percent of respondents who had seen IMAX before/were able to make the comparison, said that the prototype IMAX digital system fits with their expectations for the brand, and 46 percent said that the overall experience in the digital IMAX theatre was better than previous IMAX experiences.

The new system is configured for an IMAX MPX-style auditorium and is capable of showing Hollywood movies that have been digitally re-mastered using IMAX's proprietary DMR technology in both IMAX and IMAX 3D. The system will also be capable of showing original IMAX documentaries.

IMAX has already announced several multi-theatre agreements which are to include the new digital projection system. The company has also indicated that it intends to offer and sell upgrades to the new digital system to commercial operators who have IMAX MPX systems.

In North America, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Regal Cinemas for five systems, with three of the locations identified as direct to digital installs during the fourth quarter of 2008 and second quarter of 2009. Similarly, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Muvico Theaters for three systems, with the third targeted to be a digital install in Muvico's highly anticipated Xanadu complex in New Jersey. The Company also entered into a second multi-theatre agreement with Goodrich Quality Theaters, following the highly successful launch of the exhibitor's first two theatres. The new agreement includes a digital installation in a new multiplex planned for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Internationally, IMAX announced its largest ever multiple-theatre deal in Asia with China's Wanda Cinema Line Corporation. The agreement includes seven locations expected to utilize IMAX's digital projection system."

Source: IMAX

GDC Selects Thomson’s Forensic Watermarking for Digital Cinema Server Roll Out

"Thomson today announced that GDC, one of the leading solution providers for digital cinema, has selected NexGuard, Thomson’s comprehensive, state-of-the-art forensic tracking product line, for integration into 1,200 digital cinema servers.

GDC digital cinema servers will now embed NexGuard’s audio and visual forensic watermarking solution. NexGuard combats in-theatre piracy by offering forensic means to identify the date, time and location of illegal camcorder recordings.

NexGuard’s solution not only exceeds the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) specifications with resistance to illegal camcorder capture and compression, but also provides the ability to embed more than the required amount of critical identification information.

The NexGuard family of content security solutions has been solely designed to serve the media, entertainment and communication industries, and offers the most wide-ranging line of products to track and secure digital audiovisual content through production, post-production, distribution and exhibition."

Source: DCinemaToday

Microspace Beams DreamWorks’ “The Heartbreak Kid” to Theaters Nationwide

"Microspace Communications Corporation (Microspace), the leading distributor of digital cinema via satellite, today announced the satellite distribution of DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Heartbreak Kid” to theaters nationwide.

“Paramount (which is distributing “The Heartbreak Kid”) is at the forefront of changing the movie-going experience, leveraging digital delivery as a key element for the highest level of quality,” said Jim Tharp, President, Distribution, Paramount. “By tapping Microspace to deliver our films to theaters, we ensure that they will arrive securely and provide the true digital-quality discerning moviegoers demand.”

Microspace delivered “The Heartbreak Kid” to nine theaters starting October 5, 2007.

“Now is the time for both studios and exhibitors to utilize satellite distribution for the highest quality presentation the first time and every time,” said Joe Amor, general manager of Microspace. “Microspace has delivered 16 movies in the last year and a half and continues to work closely with the movie industry to ensure the most advanced satellite distribution capabilities.”

Microspace collaborates with studios, content preparation companies and exhibitors to utilize satellite distribution and its benefits. The proven workflow and electronic delivery of Microspace’s satellite distribution provides the industry with a turn-key solution for content delivery and minimizes the potential issues and costs associated with physical delivery. Through the use of two discrete satellite systems, movies and keys are delivered on-time, every-time at Microspace connected theatres."

Source: DCinemaToday

Real D Continues Global 3D Cinema Dominance

"In its largest international distribution partnership to date, Real D, the global leader in digital 3-D, has finalized an agreement with Odeon and UCI, the largest pan-European cinema exhibitor with more than 1600 screens, to install up to 500 Real D 3D cinema systems in theaters across Europe. The rollout begins immediately and continues over the next two years as digital cinema systems are deployed, bringing Real D 3D technology to new markets such as Spain and Italy while substantially increasing Real D’s footprint in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Portugal.

Almost a third of Odeon and UCI’s cinema circuit will eventually be Real D enabled, bringing next-generation 3D cinema to millions of film fans. Some of these systems will be available in time for the release of the Warner Brothers and Robert Zemeckis film “Beowulf” in November and for the annual re-release of Tim Burton’s Disney classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D”."

Source: DCinemaToday

DCI Announces Completion of its Compliance Test Plan for Digital Cinema Validation and Compliance Testing

"Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) announced today the completion and availability of the DCI Compliance Test Plan (CTP). Six months ago, DCI engaged CineCert to finalize the CTP, which includes validated test procedures for the DCI Specification, version 1.1, including all referenced SMPTE standards. It details test procedures appropriate for each class of digital cinema device, such as projectors, servers, and media blocks.

With the availability of the CTP, DCI continues to promote its Digital Cinema System Specification, which sets forth the technical specifications developed by the six DCI member studios and serves as a guide to manufacturers, system integrators, exhibitors, and other stakeholders for digital cinema standardization, interoperability and quality.

DCI is considering several entities that have expressed interest in becoming licensed facilities to perform the tests detailed by the Compliance Test Plan. A selection process is underway, and testing entities are expected to be named in the near future."

Source: Digital Cinema Initiatives

intoPIX has announced a Multi-Stream JPEG 2000 CODEC for Broadcast

"intoPIX, the leading provider of FPGA JPEG 2000 decoding and AES encryption IP cores for Digital Cinema, has signaled the evolution of its business into Broadcast with the announcement of ultra dense, multi-stream, JPEG 2000 encoder and decoder cores at IBC 2007.

Since introducing a high performance single chip decoder in 2005 that easily exceeded Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) requirements intoPIX has quickly established itself as the leading provider of JPEG 2000 technology in Digital Cinema Exhibition and Post Production.

Building on this achievement intoPIX has now announced a highly cost effective encoder, the IPX-JPHD-E, available separately or, in combination with its IPX-JPHD-D decoder as a JPEG 2000 codec.

Optimized to meet the specific requirements of Acquisition, Storage and Contribution the principle benefits of the intoPIX IPX-JPHD encoder are the cost effectiveness and quality of its powerful FPGA implementation. Based on the Xilinx FPGA platform the new intoPIX cores benefit from the company’s decision to migrate to Virtex-5 TM technology during 2007, and so provide even greater cost and performance advantages.

Combining the highest image quality with exceptional performance key features of the IPX-JPHD IP’s include variable compression ratios - up to lossless at up to 120fps at HD resolution - and simultaneous processing of up to 4 HD content streams. In addition the powerful Virtex-5 implementation also enables the direct I/0 of any combination of up to four HD-SDI, ASI, Gigabit Ethernet or PCI Express interfaces."

Source: Broadcast Equipment Guide

Interra Systems - Baton

Baton is an automated content verification system for file-based SD, HD, and mixed workflows. Supporting multiple codecs and media containers, Baton ensures quality control of media content before playout.

A software only solution, Baton is highly flexible and can be quickly scaled for large facilities or high volume of content. More so, Baton protects investment against expensive hardware based solutions.

Baton is hardware and OS independent. Baton can be fitted easily in a facilities existing infrastructure. Baton's support for parallel processing enables convenient handling of increased verification load.

Reducing dependency on manual, subjective quality control, Baton enables automated QC, streamlined workflows, and cost effective operations.

Containers: MPEG-2 PS/TS, MXF (OP1A, OPAtom), ASF, VOB, MP4, AVCFF
Video Codecs: H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC-1, DV, D10, D11
Audio Codecs: AC-3, MPEG Layer II, MP3, AAC, AES3, WMA

Container Level checks
- Peak, average bit rate
- Play time
- File, packet size
- Number of Audio/Video streams
- Standards compliance
- Teletext
- Ancillary data

Video Checks
- Encoding Standard
- Profile and Level
- Frame rate, Bit rate
- Frame size, Aspect ratio
- Resolution, Duration
- Video format
- Coding type, Color format
- Close caption
- Blockiness
- Black frames, Freeze frames
- Black bars

Audio checks
- Encoding Standard
- Profile and Level
- Sample rate
- Bit rate
- Playtime
- Number of Channels
- Peak and Minimum Signal levels on each channel
- Audio Silence, clipping, mute, test tones

Panavision Intros Solid State Recorder for the Genesis

"Panavision has introduced the Panavision SSR-1, a next-generation lightweight solid state recorder capable of docking to the Panavision Genesis Digital Camera System or Sony’s F23.

With an SSR-1 recorder either top-or rear-mounted, the Genesis camera can now also be used as easily as the lightest-weight professional camera for hand-held shooting situations, Steadicam production or shots inside a car. A Genesis camera with the SSR-1 weighs just 21.5 lbs.

The announcement was made by Bob Beitcher, President and CEO, Panavision Inc. Weighing just 5.6 lbs, Panavision’s SSR-1 provides the same recording functions as the tape-based, 13.0 lb. Sony SRW-1 recorder commonly used with the Genesis system. Both devices can record 1080P 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 at the customary fixed speeds formats, including 23.98P, 25P and 29.97P fps, along with variable speeds from 1 to 60 fps.

The SSR-1, however, brings all of the advantages of solid-state recording to Genesis and F23 users, including instant access to all recorded takes (no tape cueing or shuttling is required) and no required pre-roll. The SSR-1 consumes less power than its tape counterpart, providing roughly 40 percent more recording time than the SRW-1 without changing batteries.

Of primary importance to today’s movement to seamless production and post-production workflow, the SSR-1 records in industry standard uncompressed single link HDSDI form, allowing seamless transfer to HDCAM SR.

A small lightweight docking station, the SSRD, provides HDSDI and audio outputs for footage recorded on the SSR-1. The SSRD can be used for record/playback on the set or in a post-production setting.

“Our new SSR-1 recorder is one more critical piece of a new generation of production tools that Panavision is developing for the global entertainment community,” said Beitcher. “We selected solid state technology rather than hard drive because it is more reliable, lighter and quieter, and consumes less power. With the options of an SSR-1 or an SRW-1, our customers will have significantly additional flexibility in their use of Genesis and the F23.

The SSR-1 solid state digital recorder features the following specifications:
- Uncompressed 4:4:4 (SMPTE 372M) or 4:2:2 (SMPTE 292M) recording
- 40 minute capacity in 23.98 fps 4:4:4 SP mode
- 80 minute capacity in 23.98 fps 4:2:2 LP mode"

By Neal Romanek, Videography

Access IT Teamed with International Datacasting and Sensio Technologies Introduces Live 2-D and 3-D Event Satellite Streaming Through CineLive

"Access Integrated Technologies ("AccessIT") announced today CineLive, a new proprietary product that will bring both 2-D and 3-D live content to movie theatres equipped with digital cinema. CineLive, the next step in leveraging the digital era to further enhance exhibition offerings, is a new set of hardware, developed exclusively for AccessIT by International Datacasting Corporation and Sensio Technologies which allows live 3-D and 2-D content to be converted from satellite feeds into theatrical entertainment.

“AccessIT continues to develop innovative products and services that will provide more benefits for exhibitors and distributors in the new digital cinema era,” said Chuck Goldwater, President of AccessIT’s Media Services Group. “With CineLive, we are taking another step to enhance the rapidly growing world of digital cinema installations with technology that increases their programming opportunities. This technology team represents the “best of breed” in the industry. IDC has been our satellite distribution technology provider for many years and we believe is the market leader in enterprise class multicasting systems. Sensio has the best available 3D technology that we have been able to find on the market. Combined with our AccessIT technology and digital cinema market penetration we believe our team is second to none.”

“The advent of CineLive enables The Bigger Picture to offer exhibition a much wider range of alternative entertainment,” said Jonathan Dern Co-President of The Bigger Picture, AccessIT’s alternative content distribution division. “The combination of AccessIT’s cutting edge technology and The Bigger Picture’s programming continues to deliver a digital cinema experience unmatched in the industry.”

The CineLive equipment will enhance both existing and future AccessIT satellite installations. CineLive combines IDC’s SuperFlex broadband satellite technology with the Sensio 3D Cinema Decoder technology to create an advanced integrated solution that will do both reliable movie file distribution as well as 2D and 3D live streaming delivery.

The core technology of the two companies combined in the CineLive product represent a potential competitive advantage for AccessIT:

- The Sensio 3D Cinema Decoder technology allows playback of broadcast and prerecorded stereoscopic (3D) content, up to 1080p 60fps, using the standard 2D video distribution infrastructure and being compatible with all types of digital projection systems available on the market.

- IDC’s SuperFlex technology provides the latest in DVB-S2 broadband IP transmission needed to achieve the maximum possible throughput on satellite, essential for timely and secure delivery of JPEG2000 movie files and also for the highest quality HD delivery for live performances. The SuperFlex product includes IDC’s HDTV hardware decoder card which provides the high speed digital HD-SDI output needed by the Sensio 3D Cinema Decoder.

Nicholas Routhier, President and CEO of Sensio commented: “We are very pleased to be providing this technology to AccessIT through our strategic alliance with IDC. By collaborating with these industry leaders, we have created a unique product that further enhances the viewing experience, and achieves our objective of a 3D immersive experience. With CineLive, theaters will have more opportunities to add to their programming by showing alternative 3D content such as concerts or sporting events.”

“This agreement is very timely and we are delighted to be working with the AccessIT and Sensio teams to provide this unique integrated solution to the market,” added Ron Clifton, President and CEO of IDC. “The Sensio technology builds on our new Pro Video HDTV capability to provide considerable extra value to our end-to-end broadband satellite delivery solution. With AccessIT leading our team, CineLive represents an exciting and significant step forward in the evolution of digital cinema."

Source: DCinemaToday

Qube XP-D Digital Cinema Server now Equipped with Stereoscopic Playback Capability

"Qube Cinema announced today that the Qube XP-D Digital Cinema Server is now available with 3D playback capability. This feature has been implemented in compliance with the DCI specification and draft SMPTE standards and works with single stereoscopic 48 fps Track Files.

The Qube XP-D is equipped with two independent dual-link HDSDI (2 x SMPTE 292M) outputs and has the capability to output 12-bit 24 fps 4:4:4 images to two different projectors or 48 fps images to a single projector in 4:2:2 mode.

The Qube system has the capability to work with multiple 3D technologies including active shutter glasses and the Z-Screen for single projectors and fixed polarizing filters on dual projectors.

Qube Cinema's end-to-end solutions for digital cinema provide the ultimate combination of quality, reliability, ease-of-use, security and flexibility. Designed from the ground up to operate in mission-critical applications, the architecture of the Qube product family has been conceived with the future in mind and provides an integrated workflow, from mastering to distribution, playback to reporting and archiving. Being almost entirely software based allows the Qube system to leverage developments in the computer industry and bring to the market format independent, powerful and flexible products."

Source: DCinemaToday

High Performance Ultra Compact Wireless Bridge for High Definition Video Streaming Released

HauteSpot Networks Corporation, announced the immediate availability of the new HauteRoute HR-IXPSXPi ultra compact wireless bridge which is optimized for high definition live video streaming over IP. The HR-IXPSXPi builds upon the existing HR-IXPSXP, by moving to an ultra compact, lightweight enclosure and by adding Serial Over IP support.

The HR-IXPSXPi is designed for use in indoor and portable applications where excellent wireless link performance is required, such as video surveillance, HDTV production, event production and electronic signage.

By attaching any IP camera or video encoder to the HR-IXPSXPi, live high resolution video can be transmitted wirelessly at data rates of up to 68Mbps over distances up to 2km. The bridge operates on a range of frequencies in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and can be powered from any 12VDC camera, car or boat battery, or from AC wall power. It can be easily mounted to the back of a camera using off-the-shelf mounting brackets. It can even be fitted to mount on a belt as a wearable device.

Unlike competing COFDM solutions costing many times more, the HR-IXPSXPi is fully TCP/IP compliant and bi directional. This allows in-band control of devices attached to the HR-IXPSXPi. For video encoding this means that adaptive rate algorithms can be used to offset changes in the RF signal quality. HauteSpot Networks has tested the HR-IXPSXPi with a number of broadcast quality video encoder/decoders and has had tremendous success supporting up to 1080p@60fps with end to end latency of less than 80ms. This is ideal for real time HDTV production and surveillance applications.

"Proprietary COFDM microwave solutions have to make assumptions about RF environmental conditions, because they are one-way, and be pre-set accordingly. If a camera wanders beyond the pre set assumptions, the RF signal falls off a cliff," said Tim Harvey, the CTO of HauteSpot Networks, "Our bi-directional HauteLine protocol and radios can dynamically adjust to changing conditions by speeding up or slowing down." Harvey continued, "And video encoders can do the same over IP, allowing a persistent wireless link in the worst conditions."

There is no comparison between the HR-IXPSXPi using the HauteLine Protocol and 802.11 WiFi. 802.11, as a contention based protocol just is not appropriate to high bandwidth video. There are too many interruptions which cause jitter and delay variation with 802.11 and bit rates fall off at very short distances.

"We find that customers look at our products after having a number of failures with competing technologies," said Charlotte Chang, VP of Marketing at HauteSpot Networks. "For example, customers will try running video over 802.11 networks and find that they cannot get the resolutions they need. Our HauteLine Protocol delivers the performance they need for high definition surveillance and broadcast video production."

The HR-IXPSXPi uses the HauteSpot Networks HauteLine protocol to achieve the streaming of standard definition and high definition video, with low latency and constant low delay variation at rates up to 65Mbps. It is a completely modular platform which allows for various radio modules supporting a variety of unlicensed, government only, or export radio frequencies, and comes in both outdoor and indoor/portable enclosures. It is full TCP/IP compliant and supports IP Multicast over UDP. IP Multicast allows the HR-IXPSXPi to broadcast in a point to multipoint mode so that a single transmitter can send to multiple receivers. Ideal for digital signage and event production.

By enabling the Serial Over IP feature, the HR-IXPSXPi can be configured to operate as a data terminal or data device in a serial link, at speeds up to 115,200kbps. Serial Over IP allows for remote control of camera pan-tilt-zoom, industrial application control, or any other application where serial communications is required. The female RS-232 DB-9 connector can be easily converted to RS-422 using low cost adapters. This allows remote operation of cameras and other devices by surveillance or broadcast personnel.

The Serial Over IP capability of the HR-IXPSXPi is implemented over IP multicast, allowing not only point to point, but point to multipoint serial communications. Users can monitor serial activity from a third HR-IXPSXPi unit for troubleshooting, or the same command can be sent to multiple HR-IXPSXPi at one time.

Radio module options for licensed and unlicensed frequencies are available.

Pricing for the HR-IXPSXPi starts at just $899 per end."

Source: HauteSpot Networks

Nice Spots Unveils Version 2.0

"Nice Spots, the operator and developer of an eponymous hosted internet application designed to enhance global connectivity and streamline workflow for creative, production and postproduction communities, is unveiling Nice Spots Version 2.0, which received a very positive industry response at IBC 2007 in Amsterdam.

Nice Spots seamlessly enables collaboration, distribution, archiving, asset management and presentation on a global scale through its proprietary technology and intuitive user interface. Launched in 2005, the application offers the most comprehensive collection of features in the market and has amassed a significant following with a monthly user base in over 80 countries that includes filmmakers, studios, major brands, advertising agencies and creative directors. As the application supports all file formats from any platform, Nice Spots can streamline operations for all industries seeking global connectivity and information-sharing. Recent case studies show that clients realize a reduction in hard costs of about 85%.

In Version 2.0, Nice Spots in-house developers have added the ability to share content via video podcasting, QuickView e-mail links, custom online WebReels or direct DVD output in NTSC or PAL formats. In addition, the real time collaborative tool, Reel Chat, allows several users to simultaneously view, comment on and annotate multiple video clips. The branding feature in version 2.0 also lets companies customize the look of Nice Spots to match their brand or website.

These new tools enhance the real-time communication, collaboration and distribution capabilities of Nice Spots. Nice Spots has also updated its QuickView page to be compatible with the Apple iPhone. When an iPhone user clicks the QuickView link on the Nice Spots e-mail notification, a custom page is loaded that has the look, feel and functionality of an iPhone application. Full-screen video clips play when picked by the user.

All of this is built upon the strong foundation created with version 1.0. Existing features include the ability to organize and catalog multiple projects, grab stills from moving images, comment on video frames, create storyboards, closely monitor and measure account activity, and distribute all file formats including master and broadcast quality video; all in a secure online environment."


The New 3D Technology

"It’s been only two years since the re-launch of commercial 3D exhibition with Disney’s Chicken Little in November 2005 and there are now almost 1,000 cinemas equipped. This rapid growth exceeds all previous attempts at getting 3D into mainstream exhibition, and this means that this time it’s likely here to stay.

3D has been on the fringes of exhibition since its first introduction in the early 1950s. The launch of 3D in 1953 quickly ran out of steam by 1955, leaving many exhibitors with the feeling that it was an expensive fad that, frankly, didn’t work very well. It made a partial comeback in the mid-1970s, only to fade again from mainstream use. Over the years, 3D found its long-term application in special-venue presentations where the specialty content and a unique audience could justify the costly installation of its specialized equipment.

Today’s situation is quite different. Enabled by the rollout of 2D digital cinema equipment, 3D instantly provides a tangible benefit whose value is instantly seen and appreciated by the audience. Enabling 3D on top of a standard 2D digital-cinema installation has become the “killer application” providing much of the justification for the conversion to digital. Much like surround sound in the 1980s, 3D has now moved from limited specialty applications into mainstream exhibition.

The 2005 release of Disney’s Chicken Little changed everything by proving that the technology behind the new digital 3D works better than before and is viable for full-length titles. A number of marketing studies have cited two to three times the box office for the 3D-equipped screens, proving that today’s audiences don’t object to paying a premium ticket price for the unique experience.

3D Content from Hollywood
Adding credibility to the current 3D movement is the fact that the driving force behind it has largely been the filmmakers themselves. The Hollywood production pipeline is planning a number of major 3D releases in the next few years. DreamWorks Animation has committed for complete adoption of 3D by 2009 and filmmakers like James Cameron and George Lucas have made commitments for future projects. A few of the big titles being planned are Journey 3D and U2 3D, both scheduled for 2008; DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens, scheduled for March 2009, and James Cameron’s Avatar in May 2009.

Overview of 3D Technologies
In a nutshell, 3D requires two projection systems, one for each eye, with each projecting an image taken from a slightly different perspective. The viewer, when wearing special glasses to direct the proper image to the corresponding eye, subconsciously fuses the images together, creating a mind’s-eye view that reveals the scene’s depth. In effect, 3D is doing for the eyes much like what stereo surround sound does for the ears.

Throughout exhibition’s short history, there have been many different 3D techniques used in cinema. With 35mm film, 3D typically required two projectors, which were not only costly but nearly impossible to keep in close enough synchronization to maintain the effect without also delivering a splitting headache.

Initially, glasses with simple red and cyan filters—commonly know as the “anaglyphic” method—were used to separate the images. The low-cost red/cyan glasses worked—but also created unnatural shifts in the overall color balance that most filmmakers and viewers found unacceptable. Glasses with horizontal/vertical polarized lenses were used with somewhat greater success. Later, active glasses, which act as high-speed shutters synchronized with the frame being projected, were commonly used in special-venue applications, but these are typically quite expensive and require batteries and frequent recharging.

With the first installations of digital systems in 2000, innovative filmmakers recognized that the new generation of digital projectors solved the stability problems that have plagued previous 35mm 3D approaches. These filmmakers, in fact the very same filmmakers that are making 3D content today, began asking the digital-cinema equipment vendors to quickly enable the equipment to allow 3D projection. A new company jumped in with a solution.

Real D’s Approach
Real D, a name unknown to most exhibitors prior to 2005, has quickly become the dominant player in 3D digital cinema. Working being the scenes with filmmakers and equipment manufacturers, Real D saw a unique opportunity to develop and integrate the necessary 3D options so that DCI-specified 2K digital cinema equipment can be used in 3D applications. The engineers at Real D realized that they could avoid the classic problems with 35mm 3D—the high cost of two projectors and problems synchronizing the two—by running a single digital projector at a much higher frame rate than a conventional 35mm projector. To separate the images, instead of bulky and expensive “active” glasses, they could place the shuttering system—what Real D calls the “Z-filter”—in the booth between the projector and the porthole. To improve the viewer’s experience over older polarized systems, Real D added a new “twist” to the glasses—circular polarization—which makes the image quality relatively insensitive to the rotational angle of the glasses. Overall, the 3D viewing experience was tremendously improved over anything that could be done with 35mm film.

The initial launch of Real D with Chicken Little included installation of over 100 Real D systems in the marketplace, with further commitments quickly following with Columbia Pictures’ Monster House in July 2006 and Buena Vista’s Meet the Robinsons released this past spring. For the November release of Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, Real D expects to have 1,016 installations in the market, with 122 of these being in overseas territories. Real D installations span over 20 counties and includes over 60 exhibitor organizations. Primary exhibitor partners include Carmike Cinema with 428 systems, AMC with 117 systems and National Amusements with 41 systems.

Rave Motion Pictures of Dallas also committed strongly to Real D with at least one auditorium in each of its 27 locations. Rave has been so excited by the results, it has installed seven Real D screens in its new Town Square location in Las Vegas. Jeremy Devine, Rave’s VP of marketing, says, “Our experience has been that 3D screens typically average three times the box office of conventional 2D screens. We are very excited to be opening Beowulf at our new Las Vegas location on November 16th with over 1,500 seats offering 3D.”

The Real D approach puts the cost of the 3D equipment in the projection booth and allows the use of low-cost “giveaway” glasses in the auditorium. The downside is that to maintain accurate polarization as light bounces off the screen, a “silvered” screen is needed, which typically requires the exhibitor to change the screen.

Dolby’s Approach
Dolby Laboratories, who partnered with Real D and Disney on the initial 2005 Chicken Little release, announced in the summer of 2006 that they were developing their own 3D system. The Dolby approach, originally developed for industrial application by the German company Infitec, uses a different approach. Instead of the circular polarization used by Real D to separate the left and right eye images, Dolby 3D Digital Cinema illuminates each image with light created from three slightly different primary colors. The Dolby 3D system also uses a single digital projector, but instead of changing each image’s polarization, the light from the projector’s Xenon bulb is pre-filtered by a small spinning filter mounted inside the projector. The audience also wears 3D glasses, but instead of polarized lenses, Dolby’s glasses act as filters that allow light to pass that is made up of the primary colors intended for that eye while blocking the primary colors intended for the opposite eye.

Since the Dolby 3D system doesn’t use polarized light, there is no requirement for a silvered screen, allowing the existing white screen to be used. Although Dolby’s 3D system uses lightweight passive glasses that require no batteries or recharging, the manufacturing process is more complex than Real D’s polarized glasses and therefore they are more expensive. Dolby’s 3D glasses are currently priced at $59 a pair and the exhibitor needs to provide equipment for washing them between shows. In the future, Dolby hopes to offer disposable glasses that the moviegoer can keep as a souvenir.

Dolby’s 3D rollout is just beginning and has already gather an impressive list of customers including Malco Theatres, Carousel Cinemas, Cinema City, Cinetopia, Cobb Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Maya Cinemas, Megaplex Theatres, Sundance Cinemas and the Kinepolis Group. "Kinepolis continues to be impressed with the quality of Dolby's digital-cinema technology," said Nicolas Hamon, projection and sound manager, Kinepolis Group. "Beyond quality, the flexibility of Dolby 3D has many advantages, as the solution supports both 3D and 2D presentations for playback on standard white screens already in our auditoriums. In addition, the reusable glasses model eliminates the need to reorder glasses, minimizing environmental impact."

The Pros and Cons
Real D believes that their low-cost glasses are a key advantage over Dolby’s approach, which requires collecting, washing, and maintaining an inventory. Typically, the glasses used by Real D have been provided at no charge by the distributor, who uses them as promotional items. Real D also sees some inherent advantages in the silvered screen and argues that with the recommended gain of 2.4, a silver screen will reduce energy and bulb costs when showing conventional content. Savings from such will offset initial installation costs.

Dolby believes that maintaining the glasses is easily manageable and cites the advantage of using the existing white screen, which does not potentially compromise the 2D picture quality. Dolby claims also to have an advantage in the booth, as the color filter wheel is installed inside the projector, which may in the future be offered by the projector manufacturers as a factory option. For the time being, Dolby is supplying a field retrofit kit—priced at $26,000—that can be installed inside any DCI-capable 2K DLP Cinema projector in a few hours.

3D Standards
One of the great advantages of both the Real D and Dolby 3D processes is that they are both compatible from a production standpoint. While both the Real D and Dolby 3D processes require that a small amount of correction be done to the 2D distribution package, fortunately both can be implemented during playback. Real D plans to implement their 2D-to-3D file correction using an external adapter. Since Dolby is a server manufacturer, they easily accommodate their conversion inside their Dolby Cinema Player. For Dolby’s current deployment, Dolby is insisting that their Dolby Cinema Player be used, although at some point they may be able to accommodate playback from other servers.

Both the Dolby and Real D 3D systems offer comparable 3D image quality, with each company claiming a slight advance over the other in several fairly minor technical areas. Both companies also claim to be competitive in overall costs. Real D offers three different business models: a flat-rate license, a revenue-sharing plan and a per-seat plan, while Dolby offers a flat-rate, one-time purchase of the projector retrofit kit and supplies the glasses. In addition to Dolby and Real D, a number of other companies are looking at the mainstream cinema market with 3D implementations that either use active glasses or two projectors, and these might prove to be viable in some situations. The fact that several companies are now competing in the 3D market—with a standardized distribution format—will certainly benefit exhibitors by providing more choices and deployment options.

With strong support from Hollywood’s filmmakers, broad manufacturer support, and a competitive market of technologies and systems, 3D has now achieved all the elements needed for commercial success and will be part of the cinemagoing experience in the future."

By Bill Mead, Film Journal International

YouTube Begins Public Test of Anti-piracy Database

"YouTube, the Google Inc video-sharing site, said on Monday it has begun public testing of a long-awaited video-matching database in its latest bid to ward off lawsuits over video piracy.

The world's largest online video-sharing site said the YouTube Video Identification technology is a database that stores reference files of original video content and associated ownership rights and compares it to any video YouTube users attempt to upload.

"We will be doing complete file scans," YouTube Product Manager David King told reporters on a conference call to discuss the expanded video ID test. "A movie studio can give us a three-hour movie and we will scan it in its entirety."

YouTube had previously said it had begun a private test of the video-identification technology with nine media companies, including several movie studios. It has named only Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc as joining the test.

YouTube has come under fire from several traditional media companies that say it has dragged its heels in offering reliable ways to identify video clips uploaded by regular users without permission. In March, Viacom Inc filed one of several suits against YouTube, seeking $1 billion in damages.

Asked by a reporter whether Viacom was taking part in the test while continuing to pursue its federal suit against Google and YouTube, officials of YouTube reiterated that they only had permission to talk about partners Disney and Time Warner.

Viacom's General Counsel Mike Fricklas said of YouTube's move to begin public test of the technology: "We're delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility and ending the practice of profiting from infringement."

The YouTube Video Identification technology is proprietary to Google, officials said. YouTube already works with a private company, Audible Magic, to offer audio-identification tools to detect unlawful uses of music inside YouTube videos.

YouTube has also adopted a technology that identifies exact duplicates of video files, a 10-minute limit on video clips users can upload to the site and an automated process for media owners to notify it of pirated videos.

Levine said her company would consider making its database available to other online video sites instead of keeping the data that media owners provide to itself, a move that would eliminate the need for media content owners to work with different copyright protection systems on dozens of Web video sites.

"We are building this with the idea of opening it up and making it more general over time," she said of the potential to allow third-party video sites to check its reference database."

Source: Reuters

Focus Enhancements - HD File Converter Pro

The all new HD File Converter Pro is designed for broadcasters and video professionals to simply and easily convert Panasonic DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and DV/DVCPRO P2 MXF files to / from popular NLE file formats. HD File Converter Pro sports an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that makes multi-format digital video file conversion remarkably fast and easy.

Panasonic P2 cameras and decks capture DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO/DV video and audio in the industry-standard P2 Material Exchange Format (MXF). With HD File Converter Pro, you can convert HD and SD P2 MXF files to or from the most popular DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO/DV-based video and NLE file formats :
- Convert to and from DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO/DV formats.
- In DVCPRO HD and DVCPRO 50 modes, convert to and from P2 MXF, QuickTime, AVI and RawDV.
- In DVCPRO/DV mode, convert to and from P2 MXF, Avid OMF, QuickTime, RawDV, AVI Type 2, Matrox AVI, Canopus, and more.
- Create XML metadata files for DIF files.
- Generate the P2 MXF directory structure and thumbnails.
- Combine several video files to create one large clip (spanning clips support).
- Insert or extract embedded audio.
- Take advantage of auto conversion and FTP transfer.

HD File Converter Pro is available now for a MSRP of US$299.

ShowEast Puts Spotlight on 3-D, D-Cinema

"The film industry is donning 3-D glasses this week as exhibitors and distributors gather at the Orlando Marriott World Center for ShowEast 2007.

The digital cinema transition and 3-D movements are hot topics this week, as the two are intertwined: digital-cinema projection is required in order to offer 3-D digital motion pictures, giving digital cinema some added momentum as both proceed forward.

"The first thing that has come along and actually created an incremental value for exhibition is 3-D," DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Hollywood Reporter. Katzenberg will speak about 3-D at the convention, which runs today through Thursday. "(Exhibitors) are beginning to see a real growth opportunity in their business. I think that's part of what has given some real momentum to digital cinema."

Indeed, 3-D has energized the exhibition industry. For instance, last year's release of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D" played in 168 theaters and grossed $8.7 million.

Meanwhile, additional factors are contributing to digital-cinema deployment.

"As more and more 3-D content comes into the market, it will spur the digital-cinema deployment," said Chuck Viane, Disney's president of domestic distribution. "I believe the key factor to the digital deployment will probably be the announcement of Digital Cinema Integration Partners and whatever program they will have for digital installations in circuits like Regal and Cinemark and AMC."

DCIP is a joint venture owned by AMC Entertainment, Cinemark USA and Regal Entertainment Group that represents more than 14,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada. It is working on deals with the aim of beginning to transition its screens in early 2008. "Exhibitors are more likely to do a digital install right now for movies like 'Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas' or 'Beowulf' or any of the other announced product because they can have these blend into the deals that will be brought into the marketplace by DCIP," Viane explained.

With "Nightmare" and "Beowulf" slated for release this fall, it is expected that there will be roughly 1,000 3-D-ready digital theaters and a total of 4,000 digital cinema screens, representing 10% of the domestic market by year's end. "By the end of next year, I would think you will be at 25%," Viane said. "I think DCIP will really determine how quickly the tipping point comes. But the end of next year we could be at 60%. That would not shock me at all."

Katzenberg's benchmark is the March 27, 2009, the release date for "Monsters vs. Aliens," DreamWorks Animation's first 3-D feature. "We need 6,000 (3-D-equipped) screens by March 27, 2009," he said. "That's the thing that I am most anxious about. It's a tremendous opportunity for exhibitors. Exhibition will be able to get a meaningful premium for their 3-D experience. When we release one of our PG titles, we are in the 7,500-8,000 screen range. I'd like to see three-quarters of those be equipped with 3-D by 2009."

For studios investing in 3-D content, costs can vary. Katzenberg related that for DreamWorks Animation -- which has committed to release all of its animated product in 3-D beginning in 2009 -- there is a $15 million incremental production cost per movie.

Said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, "I believe we win by having both digital cinema and 3-D. Digital cinema has to make sense in its own right, and it does, particularly with the studio-supported virtual print fee model. ... Hopefully, we can get a better show that is more consistent. Digital cinema also offers greater versatility of programming. 3-D is a very important value add, but it also has another cost. The studios are not paying for the 3-D installations. We are in most cases."

"The primary reason why digital cinema is picking up, at least in the States, is threefold: We have business models that work, technology standards that are fairly developed and equipment that produces a quality image. Those were the three main hurdles as to why this didn't happen earlier," Fithian said."

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

T-VIPS Targets Sportscaster with JPEG2000 Gateway

"At IBC2007, T-VIPS focused on a range of solutions for the contribution and distribution of broadcast-quality signals for sports broadcasting applications. The company highlighted the T-VIPS JPEG2000-based video gateway that enables HD sports action to be backhauled over inexpensive GigE links.

T-VIPS pioneered the application of JPEG2000 for video backhaul with its T-VIPS TVG 415 (SD and upgradeable to HD) and TVG 430 (SD/HD) video gateways.

T-VIPS solutions for sports broadcasters and channel owners include:
- TVG410 – for the contribution of uncompressed SDI over IP networks.
- TVG 415 – for the backhaul of SD content in JPEG2000 format over IP networks.
- TVG 420 – for transmission of MPEG-2 transport streams over IP networks.
- TVG 430 – a video gateway that enables broadcasters and network operators to distribute HD video in JPEG2000 format over IP networks.
- T-VIPS Connect – a management application for easy configuration of IP connections."

Source: BroadcastEngineering

Fujitsu Highlights IP-9500 HD Encoder During HD World

"Fujitsu spotlighted its IP-9500 MPEG-4 AVC HD encoder during HD World this week at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Designed for broadcasters wishing to transmit remote HD content through existing satellite configurations, the IP-9500 encoder can minimize costs by using a single satellite channel to carry 1080i or 720p format HD content at data rates ranging from 4Mb/s to 20Mb/s with encoding-decoding latency of less than 300ms.

The encoder is well suited for satellite newsgathering because it allows HD news content to be transmitted in the same satellite bandwidth needed today for SD contribution.

Today's DVB-S/S2 satellite technology segments a satellite transponder into multiple individual channels. Fujitsu's IP-9500 MPEG4 AVC HD codec encoder allows high-quality HD content to be transmitted in a single DVB-S/S2 satellite channel. As a result, broadcasters can save up to 50 percent in operating costs versus having to use two channels for MPEG-2 encoded data."

Source: BroadcastEngineering

Streambox Releases New Transport Solution

"Streambox is now shipping its SBT3-9100 solution for HD video transport and HD newsgathering. An end-to-end HD video transport system, the SBT3-9100 provides full-motion, full-frame 1080i/720p HD broadcast video and audio in real time over satellite and IP-based networks.

The HD encoder/decoder works with the full range of Streambox systems and solutions. The system is built on Streambox's ACT-L3 codec, which provides HD video quality at data rates ranging from 512Kb/s to 20Mb/s. Features of the Streambox SBT3-9100 include forward error correction and advanced networking capabilities for enhanced performance, efficiency and reliability; dual GigE ports; and store-and-forward capabilities.

In addition, the SBT3-9100 is capable of outputting both HD and downconverted SD broadcast video simultaneously from a single HD source, and offers support for both digital and analog HD input/output formats."

Source: BroadcastEngineering

Doremi Technologies: SATIS 2007 Press Preview

4K video player
The DSV-J2 is a HD video, 3D, stereoscopic, 2K and 4K player designed for large screen and special venue applications. The DSV-J2 supports the playback of MPEG2 and JPEG2000 MXF files at resolutions up to 4K. It provides the latest playback technology for A/V installations that target a more immersive and unique experience for their audience. The DSV-J2 (3RU) supports playback in high definition (1920x1080), 2K (2048x1080) and, by adding the MB-4K media block (1RU), 4K (4096x2160) JPEG2000, with 3D provided for in HD and 2K resolutions. Super widescreen playback (Stereoscopic) is achieved by sending a unique SDI stream to each of two projectors.

First 4K player and display bundle
The DSV-MB4K-56P bundle is the first solution on the market for playback and display in 4K native (2160 x 3840 or 4096) image size. This has wide applications including post-production HD and cinema, colour grading, corporate and events communication and high resolution display for science and industry.

The DSV-MB4K-56P bundle comprises a JPEG2000 ‘cinema master’ quality player complying with AFNOR NF S27-100, DCI 1.1 and SMPTE DC28 recommendations; a 4K media block allowing decompression of native 4K JPEG2000 media in 2160 x 4096 and outputting to the display in quadruple dual link HD-SDI, or quadruple DVI; and a 56-inch 4K native resolution flat screen with quadruple dual link HD-SDI inputs.

The playback and display quality represent the leading edge of available technology with 4K resolution, 4:4:4 sampling (no colour sub-sampling), 36-bit colour depth (3x12, up to 68 billion colours), colour space of RGB, XYZ or X’Y’Z’ (after digital cinema gamma correction). Media are supplied by industry-standard mastering chains and are loaded via a Gigabit network or USB2 disk. An intuitive touchscreen interface allows selection of media and assembly into playlists for manual or automated replay using an embedded scheduler. The player can also integrate into an existing environment via 16x GPI’s.

Complete, compact HD player solution
The popular stand-alone Nugget video player with high quality HD and SD video file playback at up 80Mb/s 4:2:2 is now offered with the new Doremi Asset Manager (DAM) software. DAM simplifies the selection and Ethernet transfer of video files such as QuickTime, MXF, AVI, and WMV to the Nugget’s internal hard drive. The Asset Manager includes an intuitive playlist generator to provide quick and easy playback. This will increase the appeal of this popular universal media playback solution that is used in museums, the rental industry, stages and events, broadcast, studio screens… Output formats include DVI, HD-SDI, SDI and composite video.

Low cost uncompressed HD disk recorder
The affordable V1-UHD/LE is an uncompressed 4:2:2 HD-SDI video disk recorder that excels both in A/V applications, where video material is frequently updated, and in broadcast and post production serving as a drop-in replacement for professional HD videotape recorders. Holding up to 80 minutes on its two internal removable hard drives its A/V applications include theme parks, museums, concerts and other stage events. It provides uncompressed video quality for an unbeatable combination of features and price.

The DMS-2000 Digital Mastering Station includes real-time DCI JPEG2000 encoding and encryption, etc. It is in use by many major digital cinema mastering facilities.

The DCP-2000 is the DCI JPEG2000 and MPEG2 MXF player server that is the most installed Digital Cinema server to date. From the start it has included a high degree of security for the movie data. DCP-2000 cinema servers built to FIPS standards will start shipping in Q1, 2008. FIPS level 3 provides the DCP-2000 with the highest level of protection required by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) specifications to secure the motion-picture files used in the cinema server.

DSM to DCDM assistance
The new Cocoon is an image conversion software package designed to help aspects of the digital cinema mastering process; specifically creating the digital cinema distribution master (DCDM) from the digital source master (DSM) created by post-production. Cocoon provides colour space conversion, typically from production’s RGB to digital cinema’s X'Y'Z', and includes look-up tables (LUTs) for colour adjustment and other tools all working up to 4K image size.

Theatre automation – supports last-minute screen changes
TLMS-2000 is a central theatre automation and library management system to support multiplex cinema operation. Besides offering the automation of routines such as opening the curtains and dimming the lights, it also provides support for last-minute screen changes, so the full flexibility of digital presentations is available to respond to the latest screening demands."

Dolby Stakes its Claim in 3D Movie Tech

"When Paramount Pictures' 3D movie Beowulf debuts on November 16, the battle between an Anglo-Saxon hero and various monsters won't be the only one moviegoers will witness.

The Robert Zemeckis film also will be first major time that Real D, one of the companies that made the current renaissance of 3D movies possible, directly faces a newer challenger, Dolby 3D from Dolby Laboratories.

Beowulf will show using Real D's technology on 1,000 screens nationwide, Chief Executive Michael Lewis said. Dolby isn't saying yet how many will use Dolby 3D, but it's racing to install its technology as widely as possible, limited chiefly by the rate that partners manufacture its 3D glasses.

"Real D is leading the pack, since they have the widest distribution, but everyone is watching with anticipation," said Aaron Parry, chief executive of production company Main Street Pictures, which Paramount hired to evaluate the current state of stereoscopic filmmaking.

Ultimately, the race to spread 3D movie technology could hasten the day that many in the industry see as inevitable, when 3D movies escape their history as off-the-wall spectacle and become the norm. In this view, the shift to 3D is just another overhaul of the entertainment business, just like the arrival of sound and color in the last century.

"I think in 10 years you can say entertainment will feel like you're there. It will completely blur the line between the experience you took physically and the experience you took visually," said Vince Pace, whose company, Pace co-developed with James Cameron the Fusion 3D camera being used in that director's 2009 movie, Avatar.

It's no secret why the industry would be eager for a cinematic revolution. Big flat-panel displays and surround sound made home theater compelling at the same time the studios were financially stagnant. 3D versions of movies such as Chicken Little have generated more revenue than their 2D equivalents financially, and the industry expects more of the same.

"We believe that 3D has the potential to meaningfully boost growth, by allowing theaters to offer a new visual experience that we believe will drive incremental attendance and price hikes," JPMorgan analyst Barton Crockett said in a September report.

He estimated 3D movies will draw 10 percent more viewers than 2D equivalents, and each person willing to pay about $3.50 more per ticket in 2009. That means $300 million to $400 million in additional earnings for theater companies--about a fifth of the total box-office take by 2011. The number of 3D-equipped screens should jump to 7,000 by 2010, he predicted.

Most expect home theater to lag 3D in movie theaters. Even when it catches up, "The biggest problem is that 3D on a small screen is not satisfying in same way as in big screen. It is what you call an immersive experience," said Dave Schnuelle, Dolby's senior director for image technology.

Antipiracy is a side benefit. Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has observed, "Ninety percent of all piracy comes from a camcorder aimed at the screen. You can't camcorder 3D movies."

However, building a 3D future is difficult.

Inside the technology
Real D and Dolby rely on the same basic idea to give an audience the illusion of depth: show images that differ slightly in vantage point to each of a viewer's eyes. The viewer's brain will reconstruct the third dimension, just as it does in the real world.

Both companies require glasses to ensure each eye gets only the correct view; Real D uses circular polarization while Dolby uses a color-filtering technology licensed from Infitec. The light is separated into the left-eye and right-eye views at the projector, switching back and forth 144 times per second.

With the new method, "there's no eye fatigue like in the 1950s and 1970s," said Tim Partridge, Dolby's head of products and technology.

In Dolby 3D, a spinning CD-size wheel between the lamp and the digital projector alternately lets through one set of light frequencies or another--two slightly different versions of the red, green and blue primary colors for each eye. The wheel spins six times for each movie frame, with the digital projector synchronized to show the appropriate eye's image.

In contrast, Real D uses an electronic filter called a Z-screen that circularly polarizes the light two different ways after it leaves the projector, also switching back and forth six times per frame to avoid flicker. Circular polarization--a complicated transformation of light's electromagnetic properties--requires the use of a special silver screen that retains the polarization as the light reflects back toward the audience.

Another company in Korea, Masterimage, also is trying to get into the market with an approach that uses a spinning wheel in front of the projector to apply the circular polarization.

Each technology has its advantages and drawbacks. Dolby 3D's glasses are difficult to manufacture and therefore expensive--$50 right now, though the company expects prices will drop. They must therefore be returned after use and washed in an automated washer. Real D's 5-cent, disposable glasses can be branded with promotional graphics from the movie.

Dolby 3D has an advantage with movie screens. Real D requires theaters to install the special silver screens, which JPMorgan estimates cost $5,500 apiece. Silver screens offer higher reflectivity and work with 2D movies as well, but there's concern that despite advances they suffer from a bright central "hot spot." Dolby 3D uses conventional white screens, which means theaters can move 3D movies to smaller screens as a movie runs its course at a theater.

Real D seems to have the edge for maximum screen size, though--an important consideration given that both cut down the amount of light to less than a sixth of what a conventional 2D movie projects. Dolby is cagey about how large a screen Dolby 3D can use, though executives say it's been used to show movies on 38-foot screens. Real D, though was at 47 feet during debut and this year should reach beyond 60 feet early next year, said Real D president and co-founder Joshua Greer.

Another factor is how well separated the left-eye and right-eye views are, so that light from one doesn't leak into the other. Real D has "ghostbusting" technology to electronically counteract this problem, and it's working to move it from a digital processing step to a real-time add-on. Dolby, though, boasts that its technology requires no ghostbusting at all.

Neither rival is standing still. "Both are to some degree in their infancy," Parry said. "They'll change radically in the next couple years."

3D movie-making: a new nut to crack
Making 3D movies in the first place is another challenge, with production costs somewhere between 10 percent to 20 percent higher, according to various industry estimates. There, too, technology is changing fast, though.

3D filming has been hampered by technical challenges. For live-action movies, two cameras must be closely coordinated, with risks increasing as cameras move or lenses zoom. Computer-generated animations are easier because they're typically already designed in 3D and therefore require only more computer hours to render the second viewpoint.

Pace is one company trying to address the live-action difficulties, and its 3D cameras have won over Doug Schwartz, creator of the Baywatch TV series and now the chairman of Stereo Vision Entertainment, which aims to bring smaller-budget 3D movies to the screen.

"The (3D) camera used to be size of a VW bug. But you can do anything now--handheld, Steadicam, underwater, dollies, zoom, cranes," he said. Also important: technology from Quantel lets directors review the shot immediately, in 3D, on the set.

Tools are still missing from 3D production, though, said Pierre Raymond, president and founder of Hybride Technologies, a visual effects company that's working Journey 3-D, a new take on the Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. For example, a standard "rig erase" operation, using computers to digitally erase gear such as wires to suspend actors in the air, is much more complicated than in 2D.

"If do in it 3D, you will erase something on the right eye, and you will not see it. You erase it on the left eye, and you will not see it. When you put stereo glasses on, bang, you see the patch," he said.

Three-dimensional movies are still a novelty, and movies are trying to milk it for all it's worth. "Every time you bring a new technology to market, you will pass the gimmicky stage," Raymond said.

Take Schwartz's work, which is Stereo Vision's first project. Planned for Halloween 2008, Aubrey Blaze Piranhas 3-D features video-game creators who are trapped in Brazilian caves and must reckon with mutant flying carnivorous fish.

"Water is one of best environments for 3D, because things float--they're in the middle of the screen and coming right out at you," Schwartz said. Stereo Vision also is working to exploit the 3D possibilities of restaurant waitresses in South Beach, Miami with a comedy called Hooters 3DD.

But there are limits, even with movies that embrace 3D's shock value. "You don't want to be jarring to the audience," Schwartz said. For example, MTV-style fast cuts from one scene to another are a no-no because audience members must refocus.

Most, including Real D's Lewis, expect a more easygoing era to arrive, with 3D used to involve people more deeply in the narrative. "Ideally we want to make you feel like you're part of the movie and less like there are things flying out at you."

By Stephen Shankland,