by Justin Gorka
Justin Gorka isa senior Tech with Cineworld at High Wycombe (which I helped with the initial set-up). He was at Swindon when they Beta tested the Dolby Digital system (before it became Empire) and have been closely involved with Digital within the company. He recently helped with the opening of the new Cineworld at Haverhill.
He has only been in the game for 6 years, but am wholeheartedly a projectionist and believes in many of the values of the more Senior chaps in the industry, but he is practical and realise future is digital and the only way to keep our jobs is to grow and adapt with the new technology.
The future is in our hands, we have to embrace it!
A number of issues need to be addressed with regard to the future of Digital presentation, its potential and the future.
- Booth staffing levels: -At present changing the booth staffing levels would seem to be risky. A fully automated system would be fraught with potential problems, both on a booth level and on floor. As with all new technology, trained staff would need to be on hand to deal with any potential problems.Technical support:- With the potential company wide investment in DLP technology a team of dedicated digital engineers, or a service contract, would be essential to help in issues with a new technology, beyond the current level of understanding and engineer’s knowledge. Site training would also have to be improved to ensure technicians are able to deal with minor failures. Key staff attending the Bfi training course would prove too be beneficial and cost effective and enable theses staff to pass on any relevant training.
- Technology advances. : – Investment in good quality DLP projectors along with a reliable central server would be essential. At current technology levels, taking the Christie/Kodak route would be a mistake as their equipment has been superseded by both Barco and NEC in terms of operational efficiency and reliability. The Dolby sever is, in my opinion, too unreliable and expensive at this stage. DoRaMi is both proven and is being used by the Digital Screen Network, so by keeping DoRaMi staff retraining would be kept to a minimum.With the recent announcement that Odeon aim to have a DLP in all of its screens by 2010, the race is now on as who is likely to be the country’s leader in the cinema industry. Odeon, already, have proved their prowess in this area.
- Initial outlay:-If a circuit wide purchase of a specific server/projector could be agreed, then cost savings could be made by arranging a discount (?) purchase. This would also give the supplier a lead in the market and mutual brand loyalty would prove to be an asset by allowing the said company to use our sites for product development and R & D.
- Cost benefits:-Initially these would be small. However, as more product becomes available savings would be made by reducing transport costs, piracy and print damage. On the staffing side, the only realistic reduction would be on an add/trailer change day.
- Alternative content and it’s potential:-With the roll out of satellite broadcasting, the potential for broadcasting live events becomes ever more realistic. Opera has already proved to be popular and sporting with modern music events should be developed beyond those already trialled by Odeon. It is vital to be able to utilise the cinema to its maximum. Studios may initially oppose this idea, however, in times of lack of product, football, boxing, even Theatre may prove to be a more reliable source of revenue.
- Training issues:-Once a small number of key staff have been sufficiently trained (Bfi), they will then be able to pass on this knowledge to other members thereby preventing further direct costs from outside agencies.
- Content:-As more product becomes available and that product proves to be of a sufficiently high standard, then, audiences will be come more aware of the potential of the media and will expect more. This is particularly true of 3-D. Surly live sports, again, must be considered as a viable and commercial opportunity.
- Advertising potential:-Tie ins with alternative content (sports, music and other live event sponsors) could become a lucrative prospect. Local business could also be involved as the cost of D-Cinema advertising content becomes cheaper. The need to use 35mm film will become unnecessary and the cost savings to both advertiser and cinema would be advantageous to both. The introduction of the joint venture of DCM with Odeon can only increase the savings to the company.
As Digital Cinema becomes more established, changes to day-to-day operations will become inevitable.
- Booth staffing levels:-Once D-Cinema is more firmly adopted across the chain, and automation and content storage issues have been resolved, staffing levels could be cut substantially. While a key member of staff will still be required on site, the necessity to use multifunctionals will diminish. The skills of the operator will also have to change. As identified below the need to have two Technicians at a site would be unnecessary.
- Technical support:-The necessity to have call out engineers versed with the new technology will remain but a core “hub”, say, of senior technicians will be able to undertake less invasive maintainence and programming issues in their locality. This in turn will lead to parole savings and the need to have two Technicians at each site would be unnecessary. Once a unified structure of Digital assets are in place, maintenance provided by the supplier could also be an option.
- Technology advances:-With the speed at which advances are being made in data storage, processing and presentation is being made would suggest that a central server option could now be a viable option (“multiple screen architecture”). As the data transfer infrastructure becomes upgraded, the potential for streaming of content directly from distributors/studios becomes an enticing proposition negating the need to transport content by courier. The robustness and security of this means of transport would also have to be ascertained.
- Cost benefits:-With the increasing scale out of digital, the unit price of the technology should fall due to economies of scale. However, the cost of upgrades may become prohibitive to smaller chains and less profitable sites.Maintenance costs will remain an issue, however, as the reliability of the new technology becomes more evident, planning for up-grades and replacement of failed hardware will become easier to ascertain and can, therefore, be incorporated into budget levels with greater ease.As identified above, the increasing broadband width, the ability to download content in a more expedient manor will further diminish the need to use couriers and will therefore provide significant savings in transportation costs to both providers and users.By now, the impact on staffing levels and the cost benefits will be come evident.
- Alternative content and it’s potential:-As the technology advances, the demand for alternative content will expand. As well as live satellite events, inter-site interactive gaming would become a viable option, perhaps with marketing exercises with the major game console/software producers. This are could prove to be extremely fruitful during times when product is poor.
- Training issues:-By this time, it is envisaged, a comprehensive training structure will be in place. Updating of system knowledge will be essential as technology improves. A structure of re-training in essential skills will have been put in place. Regional or “hub” engineers will need to ensure they are aware of hardware and software upgrades and be able to communicate the changes to relevant personnel.
- Content:-As more content becomes available, the need for 35mm projectors will become reduced. The need to decommission assets in a timely manor will become an issue that will need careful planning to avoid any possible loss in the ability to play traditional media that may still be being produced.Re-mastering of traditional content would also have to be improved in order to live up to customer expectations. The quality of some digital “classics” currently has room for improvement.
- Advertising potential:-Interactive advertising content with major releases will become a more viable proposition. As the availability of and affordability of personal media players with wi-fi and Bluetooth increases, the potential for direct advertising will also increase, making this means of providing advertising revenue rather enticing. The ability of such items to download content, such as prequels to a current feature may also provides another means of revenue.
- Booth staffing levels:-With the increasing reliability of both hardware and software, the necessity to have projection manned at all times will decrease. However, wholly relying on a Theatre Management System may provide its own problems. For example, in the case of a building evacuation, how would the content and from what point be restarted? Basic operator and troubleshooting skills would have to taught to management. How would they cope with the additional workload?
- Technical support:-A full operating structure would now be in place.
- Technology advances:-It is difficult to predict what new development may occur. Data storage is bound to increase with the development of nano technology. Download times will be reduced thereby decreasing the workload of the operator. Whole programs could be assembled from a central location with out the need for human interface on a site level. A means of altering the program on site will remain essential in case of any program/content errors.
- Cost benefits:-By now the, new equipment should have paid for itself in terms of labour and transport costs (and virtual print fee?).Further cost reductions would be dependant on how far the technology has advanced and whether new standard in presentation are needed.
- Alternative content and it’s potential:-It is difficult to envisage what other content may be available in the future. Customer interactivity would probably be the key to success in this area.
- Content:-As in 5. what the content may be, say in 20 years, is difficult to ascertain. People’s perceptions of entertainment may have changed by what is available and to what level interactive services, 3-D and technological advances.
- Advertising potential:-Interactive content via TPC’s would now be a viable option allowing customers to order goods and services while in the cinema directly from the suppliers, as is now the case with the internet.
- Central Control:- A company wide infrastructure for central control would now be feasible, with content being sent directly to sites. This would remove the need for on site programming there by further reducing labour costs.
Misc. Points for Discussion
- Mean equipment repair time…..Equivalent for 35mm say 2hrs?
- Expense of spare parts
- Competency of management to take on repairs
- Central diagnostics system…..company maintenance contract?
- Size of and type of redundancy of central storage
- Peak bit rate of central storage to enable multiple screen feeds and ingest “Multiple screen architecture”
- KDM problems….management are able to establish expiry dates and have them up-dated?