Technicolor Opens Digital Cinema Test Lab To Squash Bugs - InformationWeek

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Technicolor Opens Digital Cinema Test Lab To Squash Bugs

For seven years Technicolor Digital Cinema has tried to make the digital cinema model work, spending the last year developing the business and finance plans.

Preliminary tests reveal servers and projectors work well, but are not ready for every theater. "Server companies have interpreted DCI specifications differently," said Todd Hoddick, Technicolor Digital Cinema director. "Security is another area that requires work."

Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) specifications approved last summer, although comprehensive executives insist, hasn't solved all problems. The fact Technicolor Digital Cinema encoded a file on a JPEG 2000 encoder that wasn't able to run on some of the lab servers confirms interoperability needs work.

Customers need to known they have continual support in the event a system goes down or a security key doesn't unlock the digital rights management software in "Capote" or "Star Wars," for example, by the 6 p.m. show. From facilities in Burbank and Atlanta, Technicolor supports the technology with continual monitoring services, immediately responding to an unexpected hardware or software failure, or having a back-up plan to generate a numeric code that unlocks encrypted media files in the server.

"The systems must work as reliably as film, because if they don't they'll be rejected," said Julian Levin, executive vice president at 20th Century Fox.

Don't think for a minute these "temporary" glitches will stop deployments. Century Theatres Inc. plans to have networks, projectors and servers in 120 theater screens within the next few months with help from Technicolor Digital Cinema.

Consider Warner Bros grossed "more than $170 million from IMAX screens," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros, a partner with Technicolor for more than 75 years. "Polar Express in 3D brought in more than $60 million."

A full transition to digital from celluloid won't happen overnight. There are 36,000 screens in the United States, more than 100,000 globally. Ultimately, Technicolor Digital Cinema plans to equip 5,000 screens within the next four to five years, and 15,000 screen by 2026.

Theaters will eventually have multiple configurations of network, projector, hard drive and servers to choose from. Systems will likely connect the 29 automation systems that control lights and curtains within the theaters.

Integration with distribution, movie booking systems and other back-end platforms are being worked on to alert studios and distributors the movies arrived.

Tests to determine interoperability between 2K (2048x1080) and 4K (4096x2160) pixel resolution projectors should provide movie studios with the one-file compatible systems they seek.

Today, the Technicolor Digital Cinema supports DreamWorks SKG, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, Twentieth Century Fox and The Weinstein Co.

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