Saturday, February 20, 2010

DigiTraining Plus (Day Four)

In the morning we drove to Bio Rex Sello in Espoo, to the Bio Rex multiplex with six cinemas, including a small special VIP cinema with lounge chairs, presented by Aku Jaakkola. It is Finland's biggest cinema outside Finnkino. Aku told that now there is an increasing problem of getting 35 mm prints. One of the digital projectors broke down in November, it took six weeks to get an estimate of repair cost, and three months to repair. Aku advised us to have a good insurance, as they have. The element broken was the digital head. There was no manufacturer's warranty. The trouble was due to over-heating which was caused by house ventilation problems. 44 grades Centigrade is the maximum for a digital head.

Walter Munarini (OpenSky) gave a demonstration on 3D digital live transmissions: live entertainment, live 3D entertainment, live business and professional transmissions (surgeries etc.).

Frauke Feuer (Peaceful Fish) presented Digital Alfie: creating online communities, integrating digital cinema (satellite / broadband / online / mobile). Digital customer relationship management. New revenue streams based on online communities. Benefits of online communities: social media, strong connection with customers, connections with leaders of your field, helping build credibility and reputation. Customers are allowed to communicate, get recognized, and create fun and entertainment. Digital Alfie local online community is a portal, where people can register and comment, rate, vote, and discuss. There is a consortium with the local cinema partner. It broadens the offer to the internet. There are some 10 cinemas in France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and Finland (Bio Rex).

Back at the Finnish Film Foundation, Guillaume Thomine-Desmazures (Arts Alliance Media) talked about the role of the integrators, and Jonathan Davis about business models, giving an overview of public support for digitalization in Europe. Mr. Davis wondered about the studios and cinemas attempting to keep the old business models in the new age. Why does the equipment have to cost 90.000 E? Why do we have to work so fast? Why not wait until prices go down? The trouble with public subsidy is sometimes that it allows one to charge for higher prices. The current economic crisis changes the rules. The UK film council budget goes down 40%. Reward programming, create European schemes. Cinema is crucial for social life: this is a compelling argument.

In the discussion we were reminded that opera and national theatre transmissions have been a surprising success story in alternative digital programming.

Guillaume Thomine-Desmazures returned in his second intervention to alternative content. Iron Maiden Flight 666 (2009) on 500 screens was the largest simultaneous worldwide release ever for a documentary film, with over 100.000 admissions. - Opus Arte. - The Story of The Who. - The Age of Stupid, on environmental issues. - Monty Python: Not the Messiah, for Monty Python's 40th Anniversary.

The final official presentation, Cinema in 2020 - a Sneak Peek in the Future, was given by Tommi Rissanen (digital and social media consultant, Digital Media Finland). Tommi repeated technological hallmarks by the decade, since 2001 A Space Odyssey till Avatar, yet stressed that technology is not paramount; story is important. He predicted that in 2020 cinema will be an immersive experience. Audiences will expect the best possible image and sound. There will be also smaller cinemas with on-demand programming, with a long tail, and an extensive back catalogue. The gap between the cinema and the home gets smaller. There will be niche audiences. There will be interaction with the media environment. There have been five media revolutions (writing, printing, telephone, recorded media, internet), based on the models one-to-one, same-to-many, and many-to-many. Internet is changing our community. Today it is possible to take your community with you. How can cinema react to this demand? Global interaction in live events. It is possible to get instant feedback and communication with communities of one's own, being social. Cinema keeps being an experience. Going to movies is always an event, an experience. Cinema is an event platform, to meet people, to share experiences. Global events with unique live content. The more you share the more you get. To sum up: the cinema of 2020 is an immersive experience, an event platform, with instant feedback and global interaction.

In the group comment round I had the opportunity to speak, my theme being the coexistence of digital and film. I urged everybody to avoid speed blindness. Despite the current rapid digital roll-out there is no hurry to get rid of 35 mm film because of three strategic reasons. We are facing probably at least three generations of co-existence of film and digital. 1. Heritage. Photochemical film and 35 mm film were developed in 1889 by George Eastman, and they have robust standards since 120 years. There are hundreds of thousands of feature films and millions of short films that exist on photochemical film. These are great treasures and assets for their owners, and their value keeps growing. 2. Image quality. We have heard that digital is theoretically superior in image quality to film, but in reality that remains to be seen. It is true that D-cinema image is sharp and bright, but there are at least ten other parameters that are equally important and in which film image is still superior and more life-like. Film is better in conveying something warm, soft, juicy, and sexy. It is better in black levels, grayscale, and colour shades. Film is superior in catching up with the modes of fine painting (sfumato, chiaroscuro). Film is great in fine detail, with its sense of infinity. Digital is by definition clearly defined. Life is not clearly defined, and film has a tremendous ability to convey the unlimited sense of life. 3. Preservation. There have been 60-80 formats of video and digital, none of them with a preservation standard. Film formats have preservation standards, and with the simple procedure of cold storage one can predict for a film negative or print a 500 year lifetime. Even the computer-generated Avatar is almost certainly being preserved on three black and white photochemical film separation masters.

The closing statement was given by Harri Ahokas. 1. Technology has been less eminent on the agenda this time. 3D has become a reality surprisingly fast. D print delivery probably changes in the near future with satellite transmission. 2. Alternative content becomes more and more important. 3. Financing is now stronger on the agenda, with alternatives of public funding, virtual print fees, local funding, MEDIA, EU, involving bankers and investors. 4. Training is more central, and also learning new ways of thinking, such as sharing. Sharing seems to be a rising idea among the young generation: video-on-demand, downloading to share, sharing ideas.

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