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Jon O'Brien

Film in cinemas

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Just found this. Cinemas are probably going to have to be fitted out with this first if they're to survive.

I believe cinemas are done with technology. They've spent millions keeping up to date (2k, 4k, laser, 3D) and it's a never-ending stream of money running it as is. Replacing screens with OLED displays is a huge expense and it's also a huge risk. The cost to consumers would be horrific and in the end, probably not worth the investment seeing as most theaters are still running 2nd generation 2k DLP projectors with halogen bulbs. Imagine if someone threw a cup at the screen and damaged a small section, like you constantly see at normal theaters with very robust screens.

 

Honestly, this is what makes film so great, the technology doesn't reside at the theater, it resides at the post production company. The problem is, film technology is stuck in the mid 2000's and nobody is willing to spend the money it takes to update it. If I had the financial means, I would make a high-speed 8k laser-out machine that was fast enough to be effective with lay-off's to IN stock. Then striking prints off that would be easy and yield a very good image. Again, an image that doesn't look like your OLED TV at home... which is part of the problem. The theater, looks like your home theater, looks like your iPad, looks like your iMac Pro, etc... what's the point of going to the theater if the content is available at the same quality for less money with the flick of a button only a few weeks after the theatrical run.

 

- Big investment on new digital/film technology

- Lower-cost lab solution for making large format film prints

- Make movies that are only seen in the theater for up-to 2 years

- Make movies that are special and unique to the theater experience, not just a bunch of noise thrown at the screen

- Make the cinema experience special, not just a cattle herd

- Studios need to give more profits to cinema's, so they don't resort to bad business practices in order to stay open

- Companies like Kodak, need to market heavily and push for the concept of shot on film, presented on film

 

Maybe?

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Dom, okay, it's a bit of a promotional video, I think we can all see that. I threw the video in there to generate ideas as videos seem to do, whether good or indifferent. People here have been discussing laser projection and I'm interested to read the latest reports, from those to whom cinema is dear to their hearts, of how it looks with content shot on film, not having ever seen it myself. Eyewitness reporting from people of good taste is hard to beat. I understand from your posts you're more interested in experimental, arty films? You must have really been interested in film as you were into anamorphic 8mm. What is the future of celluloid for new movie production? I'm interested in your opinion and in the opinions of other Australian film people like Bruce McNaughton, who occasionally pops up here on cinematography.com.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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The thing is you have to face facts. While film may be beautiful it is also, costly, wasteful and hazardous. Technology is improving all the time and soon enough it will surpass film and in the areas where it does not the audience won't care as they are growing up in a digital world anyway. Film is amazing and I hope there is always a place for it to be capured and projected but in Mass film as presentation is dead and is probably never coming back.

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Totally agree with you Tyler.. the "going" to a cinema is the thing.. people like to mix..seen and be seen .. its not like watching Netflix at home.. but the real event is the actual film you see.. a film that transports you into the story.. you forget your even in the cinema..you cry you laugh.. how that's shot or projected I don't mind (except for 48fps !!).. as long as its in focus,can be heard properly and the aspect ratio is correct.. film/digi doesn't matter... crap film.. great film.. matters a lot..

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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Murdoch is far from perfect but he's not the very Devil. As if the other press is as pure as the driven snow. Hah! He's just a guy who makes money ... read it all with a pinch of salt, on all sides. You will be a happier man. We're being played, so everyone calm down about journalism and politics. Hollywood especially (and I didn't bring up this topic).

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Modern western man doesn't believe in the Devil anymore, so he has to invent evil human personalities whose main sin is that they are not playing for one's team. The 2 minute hate and all that, predicted by Orwell. It all came true, even the screen that can watch you. Actually that was evil's greatest triumph, to get modern 'civilised' man to believe there's no such thing as a source for evil that is outside of us, that is a spirit. But this leads us to religion. Please, back to cinema.

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Murdoch is far from perfect but he's not the very Devil. As if the other press is as pure as the driven snow. Hah! He's just a guy who makes money ... read it all with a pinch of salt, on all sides. You will be a happier man. We're being played, so everyone calm down about journalism and politics. Hollywood especially (and I didn't bring up this topic).

I only mentioned him in passing, but if you want to go there, I think he is one of the main reasons many people now have such disdain for journalism in general. A functioning, free and trustworthy news media landscape is vital to democracy, and has helped propel many important social justice advancements, unearthed corruption and informed citizens about the state of their nation. When it becomes mingled with commerce to the point where outright lies are being peddled, we have a problem, but it hasn't always been this bad. Varied and independant journalism used to be held to account. The fact you and many others don't believe any press now is basically a victory for Murdoch and his allies, who can now claim any old claptrap as truth and decry evidence based journalism that disagrees as "fake news". I find it positively Orwellian, and far more disturbing than the demise of film, but there you go. Probably not the forum for such views, so I'll shut up about it now and we can go back to discussing the future of film. :)

 

On that front, my view is pretty similar to what others have said - it's nice to have a variety of capture and display mediums, and certainly film is my favourite for both, but content is the main reason I watch moving pictures. I think the image is important of course, and there's definitely a difference between watching a film projected in 70mm and watching it on my iPad, so it's not all about content, and hopefully cinematographers feel the same! But the world will evolve according to what we prioritise, and every evolution inevitably loses something beautiful in order to move into new places. I have more than a hatful of obsolete skills relating to film aquisition, but I don't see the point in railing against change. I still service the odd Bolex for artists and students, so I feel like I'm doing something to preserve the medium.

 

There have been a few little 16mm projects in the professional realm I deal with, but nothing much. At the start of the year I helped a local guy who was about to travel around the States shooting a doco following Melbourne musician Courtney Barnett's tour using his Aaton, which sounded interesting.

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... A functioning, free and trustworthy news media landscape is vital to democracy, and has helped propel many important social justice advancements, unearthed corruption and informed citizens about the state of their nation. When it becomes mingled with commerce to the point where outright lies are being peddled, we have a problem, but it hasn't always been this bad ... I find it positively Orwellian, and far more disturbing than the demise of film, but there you go. Probably not the forum for such views, so I'll shut up about it now and we can go back to discussing the future of film. :) ...

 

 

 

I certainly agree with you Dom on the fundamentals. If I came across as cynical regarding journalism - I'm not, and I know for a fact that good journalists exist and they play an extremely important role in democracy. But there's the word. Democracy. Here's how I see the current political landscape.

 

Democracy is not a perfect system but the best we've found so far for liberty. There will naturally (if liberty exists) be two main sides (and they will both still exist even if one is not legally allowed - only thing that will happen is one will go covert) and we will never all agree so the middle course that runs somewhat haphazardly at times between the opposing views keeps our society's boat afloat. That push and pull assures a certain vigour and lack of stagnation to society. How boring if there were no opposing view - what would we struggle against? So both sides should practice tolerance and stay cool-headed (which generally we do). It's the only way that leads to lasting peace and lack of political oppression, but if one or both sides become self-righteous and literally demonizes the other (and dehumanizes them - always the classic first step toward evil) then we have sailed into intolerant times. For instance I don't agree with the political forces that openly express their frustration with democracy, vilifying and insulting 'the other side', and seem to yearn for an imposed, legalistic uniformity of thought. I mean, yuck/shiver. This happens occasionally on the extremes of both sides. I've seen it.

 

But I have hope and faith in western society and democracy. Evil people don't last forever - like Stalin. His own people close to him eventually so feared him no one came to his side to help him in his last sickness, and he died alone. Same with Hitler. We shouldn't fear evil and we shouldn't worry because fear and worry wear us down and make us weak. Nor should we be too divided, as a house divided against itself cannot stand (Jesus' words). I believe there is an old saying that if you sit peacefully by the side of the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy floating by. Truth always wins in the end, but boy a lot of harm can occur before that happens. But, yes, not the forum for this, so on this topic I've said all I'm going to say.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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The golden age of cinema is long gone. Film cinematography grew big with a humanity attentive to the other, a social mankind. Today’s so-called social media are not social at all. Humanity has returned to the atomized state, it’s got to do with the planets and the Sun.

 

I’m a technician foremost, a mechanician, but a few hundred years ago I visited schools where I got a humanistic general education. I just could grasp the last films made for grown-ups in cinemas. Kubrick, Taticheff, Bertolucci, Bergman, and others. Went to see classics by Lubitsch, Wilder, Renoir, Carné, Korda, and a lot of documentaries because I like dense and cleverly made documentaries. Today you can’t expect from patrons to behave in theatres any more. Public space got privatized, everyone needs to occupy as much of the earth as possible. Millions fly around, billions commute day after day. It’s over. Egoism is back and small-mindedness. In this country we have members of the government who can’t speak fluently. I mean, their politically correct babbling is an insult to common sense. One lisps.

 

I’d go to the movies again, if some mad people would produce a weekly newsreel in 35, if I could see and hear things no other place offers. Maybe a poetic, ornate quarter hour. I’d pay twelve money to see that. Handmade, sound well in synch, nicely titled.

 

Please, let there be better movie titles! Computer forbidden, it all looks the same.

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Ironically the future of film is probably Netflix.. they are now paying for the good stuff ..eg 22 July for the high end directors .. and the studios are turning out Comic book tat.. and endless pre sequels .. squeaklelles ..

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All the arguments against film as a medium (both capture and exhibition) have been levied at the theatre and print books. My life has been spent in the latter two mediums and I've concluded that certain people will always want a printed book and a live, communal theatre experience.

 

Film was poised to eradicate the theatre in the early 20th century, but the theatre remains. Granted it's only been a century or so since the advent of cinema, so we shouldn't be surprised to see shifts in technology. Indeed, western theatre is 2500 years old—it can be traced back to classical Greece. These were huge spectacles of song, dance, and stage craft. When we reach the Renaissance, the popular theatre has shrunk to wagons set up in the markets. There are a handful of stock characters that mostly improvise. It isn't till Shakespeare that the theatre begins to grow in spectacle again. We are still working in his tracks.

 

Point is, all mediums increase and decrease. Technology comes in and out. The digital revolution, for lack of a better term, is maybe 15 years old at this point. Western society loves a good bandwagon. People jump on new tech as if it's the second coming of Christ Himself. But we've seen, even in the relatively small film arena, that you always have to leave something behind to jump on the bandwagon. As long as we have people not jumping, walking steadily behind and picking up what others have discarded, we don't need to fear the loss of much.

 

The last big movement in film before digital was a return to a previous era. Star Wars seems to have reinvigorated the cinema in an extremely positive fashion. However, even it has a caution for all of us:

 

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I have to agree with the idea that ever improving technology is hurting the movie theatre, which is ironic. We all know that classic Renoir quote, about how perfect realism brings on perfect decadence. I don't know if I'm being subjective and/or nostalgic when I say that film quality has, on average, continually worsened since the onset of digital, but sometimes I fear I may be right. Film as a production format in its latest iterations before r&d was discontinued some years ago is really at an ideal point of being of enough quality that it can be watched with great visual pleasure, but imperfect enough that it still invites artistic quality. Perhaps the issue is not so much of how cinemas project, but what they project, and how films are shot. And that shooting on film, with its inherent qualities and difficulties is essential to the artistic challenge of filmmaking.

 

So for all those reasons though I agree that it's unrealistic to consider cinemas to go back to film projection, it's quite the contrary in matters of shooting on film, and that maybe the little push that would be needed is not of discouraging digital projection but discouraging digital cameras, just like back in the day where any minimally serious effort had to shoot on film, even if just 16mm film. Many countries like the US, Britain and Germany kept shooting on film, 16mm or 35mm, for television even long after video cameras had become much more practical, I'm talking into the 90's and 00's. Video was just video, in a despective manner. It wasn't a serious format for most proper fiction or documentary, let alone TV movies, even though in the end it would go out onto regular analogue SDTV. Only poor countries like Spain switched to video right away. In Spain, video took over television production in the 80s, in the 90s even TV movies were being done on video, while any self-respecting US sitcom shot on 35mm well into the 00's, Michael Palin travelled to the Himalayas with 16mm equipment in 2003, and the german Tatort only ceased shooting on 16mm in 2011 (iirc). Because video was just, well, video.

 

If opinions could be skewed back into appreciating the visual quality as well as the effort involved in shooting on film, I'm sure that the current panorama would be somewhat different. Many of us here might know how a shoot with film cameras acts as a sort of filter, the investment required eliminates the bottom-of-the-barrel films (in this supposed scenario relegating them to second-grade digital productions), the necessary know-how keeps amateurs at bay, and in general it demands a certain respect from the cast and crew. I finished shooting my second short film about three months ago on 16mm, apparently the first 16mm production this year in the Barcelona area as there's only one rental house left here with 16mm cameras and I was told it was the first 16mm rental they'd had so far (interestingly, they also told me they had no plans of discontinuing film camera rentals, since the equipment wouldn't go out of date; btw the camera rental was also somewhat cheaper than a top-tier digital so there's that).

Mainstream opinion is so obsessed with technical quality, and I guess it makes sense since for the last 100 years there's been a continuous race for technical improvement, sound, color, wide-screen, large-format, better emulsions, and finally digital technology. I think it's hard to change the mindset from this constant improvement to a more settled perspective, were technology has reached a certain peak to the point of dangerously invoking Renoir's suggested "perfect decadence". More than ever I think the comparison film-digital and painting-photography is adequate, and should be promoted as a way of recognizing the value and effort of shooting on film as a basic necessity to, let's say a certain way of filmmaking, as in not excluding digital video completely, but relegating it to a completely different position, just as photography and painting are two wholly different disciplines. Hell even Lloyd Kaufman of the ever-cash-strapped Troma insists on shooting his own directorial projects on 35mm on shoestring budgets.

It's difficult that this may happen, but I don't think it's impossible. I like to think that the film medium has passed its worst moment, and assumed its niche positions, with centralized film labs somewhat firmly established (centralized as in few of them concentrating lab services for larger regions) and the more or less secured continued availability of film stock. The whole thing just needs a final push toward that sort of technical "discrimination" that will give film as a support the added value that it deserves, and situates it similar to back in the day as the dividing line that separates the grain from the chaff, the novices from the pros.

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Film as painting is how I see it. Photochemical film gives a (subtle, but sometimes very marked) painted quality/effect that can really enhance the story making in a visual way. If you can, take a look at a scene in 'Far from the Madding Crowd' (2015), when the the husband is asking the wife for money (interior shot, natural light, about an hour or more into the film). Watch the whole scene. The image looks like an oil painting. Yes, it's the lighting and art design, but it has been beautifully rendered on film and is remarkable and wouldn't be nearly so painting-like with digital because digital has a subtle superficial, plastic look and has problems with contrast and colour. The whole movie benefits from having been shot on film.

 

'Common', average non-arty people do care about such things. When Rembrandt's works are shown in touring exhibitions they draw large crowds. I've heard them standing there, saying ooh, aah, look at the use of colour, light and texture. A lot of people can't even articulate these things but they still care. People will always care about quality of image in movies, painting and photography - that will never fade for as long as civilisation exists. I don't think that only period pictures are enhanced by film. I think all movies are. But the projection isn't possible anymore, except in rare situations, so thus the need to provide a digital solution for seeing film at its best. I'm sure it can be done.

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Even the greatest of the ancient cave paintings, of bison and so on, are great images. Have we gotten too far away from daubing ochre on with our fingers? Of feeling that bumpy, scratchy cave wall? And the roar of the greasepaint; the smell of the crowds. I can't help but feel that too much digital is just too .... suburban.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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Reading through this thread it seems that the projection issue isn't even between film and digital. It's the quality of whatever system they are using. We've heard from people who say the screens are inadequate. I agree. Many are simply in rough shape. When projecting such a large image, even in your non-IMAX cinema, a stain/scratch/tear in the screen material is like having extra eye floaters, or worse an eyelash under a contact lens.

 

The real money for cinemas, ironically, isn't in exhibiting movies. It's the concessions. My hometown is very small, about 2500 people when I was a kid, but we got all three original Star Wars films in our local cinema on first run. It closed just after that. Home video happened. I was involved in some meetings to revive cinema in town in the mid 2000s, but the cost of bringing in first run pictures, even indies, couldn't be recouped by tickets sales alone. So it didn't happen till only two years ago.

 

It seems like what we're all agreed on is that the communal experience of viewing a good film print (photochem or digital) in a purpose-built space is unparalleled, but critically endangered at present. Streaming services are extremely convenient. LCD televisions are incredible inventions. Why would anyone leave their home to view something they can watch on their tvs?

 

The real answer is, they can't see the same thing at home. It's an adequate copy, but it's not the same. Home theatres can't (without considerable effort and money) project Cinemascope or IMAX features. The latest digital versions of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago are quite impressive, but they only made me want to see them in a proper 70mm setting.

 

I've said this before, but you can't replace the communal experience. Silent/visual comedy doesn't produce any laughs at home. Chaplin falling into the big machinery in Modern Times got huge laughs when it played in the thirties. I don't believe this is because people were more innocent than now. The picture is much bigger, so the threat of the giant machine is much greater. The laughs are bigger because the whole story is bigger. Laughter is also contagious, so the more people laugh, the more people laugh.

 

I think there needs to be some sort of effort to help the average moviegoer articulate what it is they aren't pleased with at the cinema. They do indeed care.

 

Us film nerds will always have the language to complain, but no one really listens to us. We're very critical viewers, so it's tough for exhibitors to know what to spend the money on. We'd prefer they spend money on everything, from proper film projection to wet concessions. That's not the "average" viewpoint.

 

George Lucas talked the average moviegoer into paying good money to watch the Star Wars prequels, which were basically video. And everyone was disappointed. That's not an exaggeration. They were disappointing narratives and visuals.

 

My point is, the average moviegoer is who will make the biggest impact on how movies are exhibited.

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Funny to think Georgie baby both revamped the cinema and then initiated the single biggest revolution that ever occurred to it. He made waves that's for sure. I sort of wish he'd stayed with Techniscope (American Graffiti) and scope. https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/george-lucas-star-wars.jpg?w=670&h=377&crop=1

 

Wonder if he does now, too.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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I saw a 50" Samsung 4K TV at Costco yesterday for $399. The display almost looked like 3D. If TV stations were broadcasting 4K that would be another revolution. Some of the aspects of the communal experience of watching movies in a theater include people talking and munching their snacks during the movie, missing a scene to get up and go to the bathroom during the film, kids kicking the seat backs. Sure, watching it on TV isn't the big screen and big sound, but you've got the pause button, easy access to snacks, and you have the "theater" all to yourself.

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I've had some interesting experiences this year. Boozed up person next to me with huge shopping bag full of liquor bottles on my seat. Had to ask her to please put them on the floor (only seat left). A group of young people intermittently looking at phones (just the glow, not the sound). Ad comes on from government saying males generally have a problem harassing women. Yeah right great thanks for that!

Edited by Jon O'Brien
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This is just the ticket. As Darth Vader might say, "Impressive ...." Has anyone seen it demonstrated? Wonder what it looks like projecting a fine rendering of Lawrence of Arabia or Ryan's Daughter or similar.

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For 3k, it better be the best image I've ever seen. :lol:

 

I'd be interested to see if these cutting-edge processes could produce a print to rival the nitrate stocks. I'd really like to get an idea of what those old films looked like at their best.

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