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digital cinema society seeks you 22 Oct 2004 16:20 #9177

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My name is James Mathers, President and Co-founder of a new nonprofit group known as The Digital Cinema Society. I'm writing to tell you about our group and invite you to join us.
Created to address the information needs of producers, directors, cinematographers, postproduction specialists, and exhibitors, this nonprofit organization is open for membership to all entertainment industry professionals.
The Society’s purpose is to objectively examine all media, solutions, services, and technologies without favoring any one brand, service, or format over another.
Current members include such industry notables as Director, Michael Mann, Screenwriter, Dale Launer, ("My Cousin Vinny" & "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), Academy Award winning Editor, Tariq Anwar, ("American Beauty"), several ASC DPs, as well as executives from major companies like Panavision, Kodak, Panasonic, and Sony.
Membership now numbers close to 500 industry professionals who are taking advantage of our benefits like the eNewsletter, professional discounts, and access to our members site with streaming educational content and news of the latest developments in the field of Digital Cinema.
There are strength in numbers and we are making an effort to grow the group, so please take a few minutes to visit the sign up page and be added to our roster. Be my guest and skip the $15.00 initiation fee, (unless you want to support what we are trying to do by making a donation toward our start up costs), and we will activate your membership. Either way, I would appreciate your joining the group.

Digital Cinema Society - Sign Up

Many Thanks.

Your Pal,
James Mathers
Digital Cinema Society
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Below for your review is a text copy of our last eNewsletter:

Digital Cinema Society

September 28, 2004
Volume 4, Number 1

The Digital Cinema Society Newsletter - Volume 4 - September 2004

DCS Update:
As members of the Digital Cinema Society, you are part of an international organization that is quickly expanding around the globe. It seems like daily we have new members signing up from Europe, Asia, Australia, and other parts of the US. Living in Los Angeles, as I do, it is relatively easy to keep up with the latest technology and developments in our industry. In the next month alone there will be no fewer than eight technical symposiums in this area, and the Digital Cinema Society will participate in most of these. (Details following in this newsletter and on the DCS website). As long as you have the time, there are good sources of information available on the subject of Digital Cinema. Our members in other geographical areas, however, are challenged to keep up with the latest goings on and we feel that it is increasingly becoming the mission of The Digital Cinema Society to not only involve and inform our local members, but to disseminate this much needed information to interested parties around the world. To that end, we have decided to record and stream our local meetings on the DCS website.
We began this process with the taping of our last meeting, held September 18th at Plus8 Digital on the Role of The Digital Image Technician. Advisory Board members Ryan Sheridan, Sean Fairburn, and Jim Jacks shared from their vast personal experience in this relatively new area, while President and Co-founder, James Mathers moderated. As in previous successful DCS events, a panel discussion and open forum was followed by a hands-on chance for attendees to examine the latest gear, in this case a Viper camera system. The reviews from attendees were overwhelmingly positive and we are eager to share this with our broader membership. Our newly appointed Vice President of Technology, Dan DiPaola, is currently editing and encoding the material with the help of our friends at Sunset Digital and we hope to have this available to you soon.
Members in Hong Kong, Mexico, Australia, Germany, India, and Great Britain, as well as the East Coast, MidWest and South East of the U.S. have all inquired about starting local chapters. They will, of course, have our complete support and guidance as we work to circulate contact information between geographically connected members to help with their organizational effort.
We also continue to search out and add benefits for our local members including discounts for entertainment, educational seminars, and services (and we are always on the lookout for relevant screenings and good FREEBIES!) Members now have access to the Recreation Connection which offers discounts nationwide on sporting events, movies, concerts, and theme parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc. Check out their website for the latest offerings at: www.recreationconnection.comclick here
Our next meeting, October 7th, at Location Sound Corporation is geared more specifically toward Sound Mixers and the challenges they face in adapting to new digital image capture systems. All are again welcome, however, and it never hurts to gain a little knowledge of some of the hurdles faced by your Sound Department.
As always, your participation in this organization is welcome and appreciated.

With sincere thanks from the Co-founders,
Brian McKernan and James Mathers

Digital Cinema, One DP’s Perspective
By James Mathers

In last month’s eNewsletter, I looked at how the consumer electronics market helps push Digital Cinema production forward via the R&D justified by a mass market. As expected, Sony unveiled their new HD camcorder at IBC, joining other manufacturers with HD image capture targeted at the consumer marketplace with a price of under $4,000.00. These cameras, of course, don’t have the features and processing we expect from professional cameras, but they are true HD in 1080i, and 16x9. With products like Apple’s Final Cut Pro constantly pushing the envelope of affordable HD editing, the technology is becoming ever more accessible and our professional tools are also bound to become less expensive.
This month, I would like to further explore what is driving the development of Digital Cinema. One thing we Filmmakers sometimes have trouble remembering is that Show Business is just that...a business. The multinational corporations that we simplistically call the Studios are not just in business to rent sound stages, but are entertainment conglomerates that serve as Producers, Distributors, Broadcast and Cable Networks, Telecommunications giants, as well as, in the case of Sony, Manufacturers of electronic origination and reception equipment. Now I’m not saying anything against this system, just that we need to understand the possible motivation of these firms to change the tools we use to capture and distribute the entertainment content we help to make.
These, like any other businesses, prosper only as much as their income exceeds their cost of doing business. They are not then adverse to saving money, (as we Cinematographer’s well know in our fight to have what we consider necessities, like projected film dailies). On a much larger scale, they see on the horizon the opportunity to significantly cut their cost by avoiding the expensive and time consuming process of producing and distributing film prints for theatrical distribution. A film print currently costs the distributor in excess of $2,000.00, and add to that the price to physically ship a bulky, time sensitive package to theaters. It gets pretty expensive and a film print doesn’t last forever either, needing to be replaced due to scratches and breaks after a couple of months. When you consider the savings to be had if these companies can eliminate the film print in favor of digital projection, and even perhaps deliver their product over satellite or internet, you can see why it is so appealing.
One thing holding up the transition is the need for standards, which DCI, (the Digital Cinema Initiative, a consortium of the major studios), is busy working on. Questions of protecting the product from piracy and figuring out who will pay for the new projection equipment also need to be ironed out. It’s the Exhibitors who need to make the investment, but the Distributors who stand to reap the savings. I’m sure these concepts are understood by most of our members, but what may not be so clear is a growing motivation for the Studios to encourage us to acquire digitally.
I think most Cinematographers, myself included, would still prefer to shoot on film; we love the look, latitude, and familiarity of film. This has not been a problem for a feature destined for theatrical distribution. If that is the planned route, the picture will have a name cast to help guarantee some kind of return at the box office, and with that cast comes a price tag of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. With that kind of investment, the Studios have been reluctant to take any undue risks, and acquiring digitally is still considered a slight risk. It’s more about the archival value of the film medium, because if you’re spending big bucks on production, with sometimes double that on prints and advertising, you want to make sure your investment is secure and that your negative is going to be viable long after you and I are gone. Besides, if you have to create a film print from your digital original, the cost savings are little or nil.
In television, it’s a different story and you can see the pressures mounting to acquire digitally with more and more shows making the transition every season. Even a stalwart of dramatic prime-time television, the Star Trek franchise, has begun shooting HD this season. If you don’t have to worry about ever creating a print, why not go for any potential cost savings, as long as the audience doesn’t rebel, and so far, they have not. But the small cost savings in production are not really what will be driving these big companies to push for future digital acquisition. Rather, it’s the relationship between broadcasters, (remember, most of these companies are also in the broadcasting business), and BANDWIDTH. Huh...what’s Bandwidth? That’s what I used to ask. So, forgive me as I explain what I’ve recently learned to my less techno readers.
As my engineer friends might explain, bandwidth is an expression of a system’s capacity to carry digital information. If we use the analogy of a highway, we would be talking about how many cars we can fit before gridlock or with household plumbing, what volume of waste we can flush. A problem when shooting on film for digital transmission is film grain. Digital compression schemes, which are necessary to preserve precious BANDWIDTH, (so that more programing and hence more commercials, can be televised) are challenged by film grain. This is the same grain that helps to give film the ethereal, aesthetic that is hard to explain, but has come to be lovingly known as the Film Look. It seems that these compression methods work best when the subject and background are bold, clear, and predictable from one frame to the next. When they are faced with a randomly changing series of micro dots, which is how they see film grain, they are not very efficient. This steals bandwidth and as grain overwhelms the picture, it takes bits away from other important details such as hair, highlights, and facial details; but probably more important to the broadcaster, they cannot feed so much programming down the same piece of pipe. Engineers are busy trying to create mathematical models of grain so that it can be encoded using only a few data bits, then reconstituted and added back to the picture. And, it’s true that as film stocks improve, grain structure becomes all the finer, but as these broadcasters struggle with a mandate for HD transmission, the highway shrinks, and space becomes ever more dear.
Some might be asking why I’m talking about Digital Television in a Digital Cinema publication. For one thing, the lines are becoming more blurred between the two mediums everyday, but it’s more because the model for theatrical distribution is quickly changing. More and more revenue is coming back to the Studios in the form of non-theatrical streams, such as DVD, pay TV, and broadcast than from the film’s theatrical run. And remember how these companies are so eager to get away from film prints for theatrical distribution. This all means that the encoding of theatrical features for digital distribution will become ever more important and that film grain might eventually be seen as clogging the pipes and crowding the highway of theatrical distribution. I think it’s important for us, as Filmmakers to understand the potential motivation some in our industry may have to encourage us to acquire digitally.
I hope you knew I would get to the point eventually...It’s all about the BANDWIDTH, Baby!

James Mathers, Cinematographer
President and Co-Founder
The Digital Cinema Society
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Future Meetings & Upcoming Industry Events

West Coast Meetings:

Production Sound Mixing With Digital Image Capture
Production Sound Mixing With Digital Image Capture - This panel discussion will focus on Production Sound Mixers transitioning to the environment of Digital Image Capture. Issues such as Sync, Time Code, and Monitoring of Recording will be explored. James Mathers will moderate a panel to include Charlie Parra from Denecke Corp., Editor and Post Production Consultant, Terry Chiappe, Jim Jacks from Plus8 Digital, and Mike Paul, representing our host, Location Sound Corp.
Thursday, October 7, 2004, 7:00PM. Location: Location Sound Corporation, Toluca Lake, CA
Open meeting, all are invited. Please RSVP to 818-762-2214

Prosumer DV

The Digital Cinema Society will take a look at the latest crop of Prosumer DV camcorders including Panasonic’s DVX 100, Canon’s new XL-2, and Sony’s PD-170. Manufacturers of these popular units will be invited to join Cinematographer Dan Coplan as he leads us through an investigation of what’s new with these under $5,000.00 systems.
Saturday, December 4, 2004. Location: Upstage, Van Nuys, CA
Open meeting, all are invited. Please RSVP to 818-762-2214

HD Workflow

Shooting HD will only be as viable as the methods we use to manage the data. We will look at ways to manage the huge output of the several new 4K cameras coming to market and the solutions offered up to post Varicam footage on Final Cut Pro. Panelist to include reps from Apple, Panasonic, and a new work flow solutions product, The Digital Production Rack.
January 2005, Location and Date TBD.

L.A. Area Events of Interest to Digital Cinema Society Members:

Tech Symposium, Digital Synthesis in Santa Barbara
The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival’s Tech Symposium, Digital Synthesis is returning to the beaches of Santa Barbara, California. Join renowned experts and tech pioneers - September 30 through October 2, for an in-depth look at the ever-changing tides and expanding boundaries of the digital landscape. Discounts for DCS members.

For more information:
click here

Introducing Canon’s XL 2 at Birns & Sawyer

Birns & Sawyer will host an introduction to the new Canon XL 2 Camcorder, including a BBQ, hands-on demonstrations, and interaction with experts on this camera.
Saturday, October 9, 2004 beginning at 11:00AM
1026 N. Highland Ave. Hollywood, CA 90038 323-466-8211
RSVP to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
click here

SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition
October 20-23 - Pasadena
All-Day Seminar on Digital Networking, Three Full Days of Educational Sessions, and an Exhibition Hall teaming with the latest in Motion Imaging Technology.
For online registration visit: http://WWW.SMPTE.ORG
click here


The Digital Studio - At The American Film Market

An Industry Summit on How Hollywood, Film and Television Production are Being Transformed by Digital Technology
November 2, 2004, Santa Monica, CA

This one-day event will feature an executive forum addressing the key issues in digital production and exhibition, as well as an exclusive showcase featuring innovators in enabling technologies and services.
Discounts for Digital Cinema Society members.
For more info, Call 310 815-3884
click here

DisplayLA 2004

The Conference and Showcase for Digital Cinema Acquisition, Postproduction and Projection

November 10 and 11, 2004, DisplayLA returns to Los Angeles with two days of seminars, screenings, panels and networking for professionals involved in cinematography, digital intermediates, postproduction and projection. This is where the future of digital image processing and display will be debated and decided.
DisplayLA’s seminars, screenings and social events will all take place at the USC Digital Cinema Lab’s Pacific theater in the heart of Hollywood. The two-day conference will focus on all aspects of digital image acquisition, processing and projection -- featuring discussions and demos of the latest advances in image capture, digital image manipulation, digital dailies, projection technology, screening room design and home theater presentations.
click here
East Coast Meetings:

What You See Is What You Get?

What You See Is What You Get?...A panel discussion regarding HD display issues, solutions, and the importance of production monitoring. Hosted by Mark Forman, Owner of Forman HD Screening. Moderated by Brian McKernan, Co-founder of The Digital Cinema Society. Date, Time, & Location TBD. If you are interested in participating, please inquire to Brian McKernan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

As always, your comments are more than welcome and greatly appreciated, so please make sure to keep in touch via email or by phone. If you have some questions you would like addressed at the next meeting, but are not able to be present, we welcome you to email them and we will get them reviewed by our panelist. Even if you don’t make it to the meeting, we hope you will join us for the web streaming. Don’t forget to participate in our on-line forums to ask or answer questions, check job listings, or post your resume. Remember we are here for you. Thanks again for making The Digital Cinema Society your trusted source of unbiased information on digital in the motion picture industry.


The Entertainment Technology Center
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click here

click here

Viper Camera, Thomson Grass Valley
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Dalsa Origin Digital Cinema Camera
click here

Apple - Final Cut Pro
click here

Sunset Digital
click here

Plus8 Digital
click here

Location Sound
click here

Our Home, The Digital Cinema Society:
click here

The End

Copyright 2003-2004

Michael Hurley
Michael Hurley
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