The NAB Digital Cinema Summit has been the primary event in the US for the discussion of digital cinema technology. I first presented the SMPTE packaging concept for digital cinema at this event in 2002. But the degree of innovation needed to fuel an interesting and worthwhile event has run short, and the focus has shifted to 3-D. This year, more emphasis was placed on the production of 3-D content than ever before. If you had any desire to learn how those gory scenes in Lionsgate’s My Blood Valentine were shot in 3-D, then this would have been your show.
Such events tend to focus on the speculative and possibly spectacular, but the boring nuts and bolts stuff gets overlooked. While stage time was given to explain the technology behind true stereoscopic televisions for the future home, no time was given to describe the much less spectacular – indeed, mundane – technologies that will bring 3-D into the home for the foreseeable future. The suppliers of these technologies were present in the audience: ColorCode, Trioviz, and Trioscopics. These are all improvements on the no-longer-fashionable anaglyph technology, known for its red-blue glasses. While the 3-D picture is not as good as what we see in digital cinema, these technologies provide a reasonable opportunity to view 3-D on unmodified televisions. Listening to these companies, it may be that we see each of them selectively deployed in 3-D home video releases.
The one true-blue digital cinema panel at NAB DCS was moderated by none other than yours truly. I was fortunate in getting Mike Fiddler (Sony), Chuck Goldwater (Cinedigm), Jim Reisteter (NEC and Digital Link 2), and Larry O’Reilly (IMAX) to join as panelists. Beyond the advertisements, we heard how these companies work to make digital cinema technology a business. Mike Fidler is working within Sony to pull gems from its disparate games and television content together for theatres, building a content-based strategy for selling equipment. Chuck emphasized Cinedigm’s work in live events, including live 3-D sports, to the theatre, again emphasizing content over equipment. Jim talked about how NEC put its financial muscle behind the installation of 3-D equipment in Digital Link 2, a partnership of Ballantyne and Real D. Larry pointed to the IMAX success story of employing digital distribution to dramatically lower print costs, enabling IMAX to sign film deals with more studios, supplying it with a substantially improved stream of content.