It was the studios that pushed TI to meet DCI specifications and upgrade its projector. It was also the studios that forced the 1 January 2010 deadline on TI licensees to begin selling the DCI compliant Series 2 version of projector, against TI’s protests that it needed more time. The studios were right to push TI to meet DCI specifications. And while it was understandable that some studios refused to back down from their artificial deadline, it is typical of industry to not be prepared to accept the consequences.
The consequences have been several. For the first time ever, the adoption rate for digital cinema has grown faster overseas than in the US, thanks to 3-D. Any thought of adopting a lower standard to encourage rest-of-world technology adoption have fallen to the wayside. Exhibitors have demonstrated that they will pay for systems, at least those with 3-D, that intend to comply with DCI specification. They will now have a hard time pushing for something less. And projector sales have exploded following the success of Avatar, providing further opportunity for DCI systems to penetrate. But as good as this may sound for studios, the irony is that the promised projectors are not available. The shift for manufacturer’s to Series 2 production has not been graceful, and backorders are now reaching several months. If the Avatar swell wears off, these conversions could be lost.
TI has been very public about the fact that it will be late in incorporating subtitling in the projectors. It plans to first upgrade Series 1 projectors to be SMPTE DCP compliant. It then will upgrade the Series 2 projector to accept both Interop and SMPTE DCP subtitles. Today, the Series 2 projector accepts no subtitles. It was TI’s belief when setting out the parameters for Series 2 that subtitling would take place in the in-projector media block, designed by others.
But whether subtitles take place in media blocks inside projectors or inside servers, the ISDCF Burbank demonstration showed that not all subtitle rendering is created equal. Subtitles rendered inside a Series 1 projector, the accepted standard, do not look like subtitles rendered on a Doremi or GDC server. Understandably, this is not acceptable to studios. So while subtitling inside media blocks appeared to be a reasonable solution to the Series 2 shortcoming, a very different reality has emerged. Studios instead are burning subtitles into the digital images. The result is that a myriad of subtitled DCPs have to be created for each release. Complaints are coming in from Technicolor and Deluxe.
Executives with no experience in the technology sector have a hard time understanding that they can’t just flip a switch and have everything work in a new way. Adding to the problem, technology types typically are not good at scheduling or explaining the virtues of an in-field debugging period. To sound good, a closer milestone is quoted, such as the release of version 1.0. Digital cinema is loaded with such examples of naiveness. The rush to Series 2 projection has earned its place on that list.