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Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation

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Summer 2008: Dramatic developments in digital technologies and the diffusion of the Internet protocol as an open and efficient communication standard are wiping out the specialized symbiotic link between content and technology. That’s how Gianvito Lanzolla and Jamie Anderson see the digital world, and here they reveal three trends that companies need to prepare for.
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In the past, media and technology industries operated through specialized value chains with clearly defined boundaries. Mobile phones were used to make simple voice calls, Walkmans were used to play cassette tapes, and computers existed mainly to crunch data. But new technologies have made it possible to convert different kinds of content – a radio programme, a book, a magazine, a song, a phone call – into digital data; in digital terms, there is little difference between them. At the same time, the Internet and other communication networks based on Internet protocol have made it possible to distribute this digitized content in costeffective and ubiquitous ways.
The extent and nature of these changes and their consequent strategic implications remain substantially misunderstood. While some studies have been made, they have mainly had an industry-specific focus, with the consequent limitation of overlooking the systemic effect of ongoing transformations. In order to address this limitation, we researched current transformations in media, telecommunications and technology companies and distilled three specific trends – digital interactions, digital distribution and ubiquitous digital reach. We also identified the strategic priorities to seize these trends. Digital technologies use discrete values, represented as binary numbers, for input, processing, transmission, storage or display, rather than using a continuous spectrum of values such as in analogue technologies.

The word digital is most commonly used in computing and electronics, especially where real-world content is converted to binary numeric form as in digital audio and digital photography. The Internet protocol (IP) and internet-protocol-enabled network enable the transmission of digital content to all digital devices connected to the network.

Increasing digital interaction
The uptake of digital technologies, and of broadband in particular, is changing the ways in which people interact and consume content. Increasing interactivity – as opposed to broadcasting – means that people will have more opportunities to interact with the content and create it, eliminate it, consume it, when and how they want. The first manifestations of these trends are the exponential rise of search for content, for example, the rise of Web searches; the explosion of blogging, to around 200 million globally; and social networking. In the analogue world, value capture for content producers was largely a function of production, distribution and retail scarcity; and it was extremely difficult for small-scale content producers to break into mainstream channels such as cinema and television. In the new digital world, however, production technologies have become increasingly affordable, and the barriers to content distribution and retailing have been driven down by the emergence of open content aggregators and micromedia platforms such as YouTube and MySpace.

|Phantom of the Future: Cinema in a Digital World |[pic|[pic|
| |] |] |

|Karsten Visarius |
|We are ill prepared to make out the future. We only know that it will be different from how we imagine it today. Realising this, it|
|is astonishing to observe the number of future prognoses, scenarios and development studies being published, discussed and used as |
|the basis for decisions. This strange future certainty is a late descendant of a rose-tinted Enlightenment that believed in the |
|power of reason in history – even if, in the meantime, many forecasts revealed a difficult, gloomy or catastrophic tomorrow. As |
|always they are determined by hopes and fears, by desires and interests. And this also applies to the comparatively harmless |
|question about the future of cinema. |
|Even if I have described the prognosis industry rather simplistically, I myself maintain a sceptical attitude towards forecasts |
|about the future. The history of the Enlightenment gives good reason for this. The cinema itself is full of images of the future. |
|At any rate, films do not conceal the fact that they play on our fantasies. |
|One of the most recent examples is Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, a vehement plea to the American government to sign the|
|Kyoto Protocol. In Emmerich’s film, global warming leads to a reversal of the Gulf Stream, and by doing so brings about not a |
|sneaking change in the weather, but a sudden climatic subversion, an Ice Age in the northern hemisphere. A Gutenberg Bible is one |
|of the few cultural goods spared by the heroes searching for heating material in their struggle for survival in temperatures |
|adequate to humans. |
|Emmerich’s film is one of those that the cinema quickly consumes. More interesting are future scenarios of the second order, as I |
|would like to call them – films that, in their stories, draw consequences from our imagination and expose them to aesthetic (thus |
|to ethical and political) reflection. |
|With his ‘noir’ science-fiction films A.I. and Minority Report Steven Spielberg, one of the most important film auteurs of |
|contemporary cinema, has achieved this model. In A.I. a second anthropogenesis takes place: the technical production of a creature |
|which not only possesses human skills, but also feelings and a soul, and which is sensitive to love, longing, pain and the fear of |
|death. Using this creature as a mirror (like Pinocchio it wants to become a ‘real boy’), the director shows us the failure of human|
|beings who react to the Other with racist reflexes. |
|Even more gloomily Minority Report tells of a world that believes the future is at its disposal. The interaction of prophetic gifts|
|and the most advanced visualization techniques is supposed to make it possible to foresee crimes and, therefore, to prevent and |
|simultaneously pass judgement on them. The lure of being able to abolish evil produces an insane control and manipulation system, a|
|technological fascism. In both cases, technical solutions are put forward to which our morals are unaccustomed. The fairy-tale |
|ending of both films provides little consolation for such a prospect. |
|Digital image processing |
|Emmerich’s and Spielberg’s films, like many others, emerged by making use of the latest cinematic technology, in particular, the |
|possibilities of digital editing methods in post-production. In this phase of film production, the fusion of traditional, analogue |
|and new digital techniques has already taken place. Digital image processing possibilities have furthered this process, especially |
|since the transformation of analogue, photo-chemical film shots into a digital master without quality loss is no longer a problem |
|today. Currently being discussed is whether in the future the photo-mechanical movie camera, which has been used with its basic |
|technical components for one hundred years, will be replaced by digital cameras. Thus, analogue film production based on optical, |
|mechanical, and chemical processes would be completely changed. |
|Most experts agree, however, that the day when digital technology can achieve the qualities of traditional 35mm-film standards is |
|still far away. They consider that a hybrid technology, a combination of analogue and digital elements of film production, will be |
|the most probable variant for a long time. This applies to the cinematic feature film and the particular qualities the audience |
|expects regarding the cinema experience. |
|For artistic creators of film, for directors and cameramen, easy-to-manage digital cameras already represent an alternative to |
|classic recording technology today. Smaller crews and shortened production times permit shooting with smaller budgets and open up |
|new opportunities for young film directors and a better chance to realise riskier projects. Auteur films, which are able to make do|
|without expensive stars and the suggestiveness of complex effects, benefit from the new technology, at least at the moment. The |
|idea of being able to use the camera as a personal means of expression like a pen – the caméra stylo that the French director |
|Alexandre Astruc once dreamed about – seems, today more than ever, within close reach. |
|Wim Wenders, who has always experimented with new techniques, recently completed such a film with Land of Plenty. In a deliberately|
|reduced, narrow format, Wenders’ narration comments on the new poverty, religious fundamentalism, and political paranoia in George |
|Bush’s America. Technical progress is often identified with growth and increase. This is also true of cinema with more effective |
|pictures, more unimpeded enjoyment, more options, higher ranges and rates, etc. Films like Wenders’, on the contrary, demonstrate |
|the freedoms that come from limitation. |
|Future of cinema |
|Most considerations of the future of the cinema revolve around the integration of the analogue ‘island’ of 35mm-films into the |
|mega-trend of digitalisation that is prevalent throughout the entire range of communication technologies, especially entertainment.|
|They concentrate less on the field of film production than on the screening of films. Above all, the economic interests of the |
|distributors – who hope for cost savings in the reproduction and transportation of copies – and those of the IT-industry – which |
|hopes for market development, convergence effects and prestige gains – drive this development. |
|In the future, cinemas, instead of obtaining expensive single copies through a complex dispatch system, are supposed to call up |
|films from central servers and to project them either on-line or over a buffer system. By comparison with the quality losses and |
|damages incurred through the processing and projection of analogue copies, loss-free data communication is considered to be a |
|technical advantage. |
|Even so, a set of obstacles prevents the implementation of this conversion process which, in part, has already been given concrete |
|deadlines. These obstacles once again throw light on the advantages that made the motion-picture a leading cultural medium against |
|which other audiovisual media must be measured. |
|A circumstance that, in retrospect, seems amazing should not be underestimated: already in the early period of cinema a uniform |
|standard for the underlying technology, specifically 35mm-film, won out. The cinema had thereby a global format that made its |
|universal dissemination possible. Already before the First World War, it formed a global communication network, although with a few|
|blind spots, above all in Africa. With subtitles and dubbing the cinema developed solutions to the linguistic obstacles that |
|resulted from sound film. |
|In the end, this first global communication medium proved so flexible that it was able for more than a hundred years of cinema |
|history to come to terms with all the technical innovations that emerged. The electronic medium television never succeeded with |
|such standardisation, and the same applies to digital formats. The quantum leaps in the development of information technology lead |
|us to expect platforms that will continue to change and compete with one another. The hitherto existing global range of films will |
|be limited by digitalisation if compatibility between the different formats cannot be achieved. Economic competition makes such a |
|solution more difficult and, presumably, a cartel of global players will form to secure their own interests. |
|Seen from a cultural-political perspective, the global standard of cinema did not cause, but it did support the dominance of |
|Hollywood film in many regions of the world. At least no technical barriers stood in its way. Conversely, the same conditions made |
|it possible for smaller cinema nations to win the attention and interest of the public beyond their own borders. Japanese cinema, |
|long time an insular phenomenon, suddenly became a leading power in film art in the 1950s. The Iranian cinema miracle of the last |
|one-and-a-half decades – with directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, or those from the Makhmalbaf clan – has conquered the silver |
|screen and shown the world a picture of a country beyond the rule of the Mullahs. |
|New Asiatic cinematographies like that of South Korea – with Kim Ki-Duk – or Taiwan – with names like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang |
|or Tsai Ming-Liang – are gifts. Without these creative innovations, the flourishing film-festival circus would be inconceivable. In|
|spite of the mainstream orientation, cinema has always held the doors open to cultural expansion and ‘outsiders’. Who would have |
|thought that countries like Finland, through Aki Kaurismäki, or Greece, through Theo Angelopoulos, would become beacons on the |
|cinema map? But because digital cinema technically favours the control of distribution by the strongest economic powers, this open |
|exchange is endangered. In addition, the dominant market forces will not come from the film industry itself, but from the IT |
|industry. |
|Audiences and theatres |
|The needs and desires of the audience will play a crucial role in the future of cinema. However, cinema’s least worries are the |
|interests of the consumer. The multiplication of different means of communication (for example, cable and satellite channels on |
|television), developments in home cinema through the success of DVD, as well as new markets, particularly in China, have broadened |
|the use of films and will continue to increase the need for new productions. In any case, cinema has not had to fear the |
|replacement of its own specific perceptual sphere that lets us sink into an imaginary world. |
|Only there, in the cinema, does a public take shape that further develops possibilities of utilisation. Until now, it has been only|
|cinematic apocalypses like Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days or Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall that have dreamed of a more effective |
|and comprehensive deception of the senses, of a more dangerous drug than cinema itself – all the more dangerous because the |
|detoxification of the addict no longer seems to be guaranteed. |
|The largest obstacle to the introduction of digital cinema are the theatres themselves. They are confronted with an investment |
|expense that they cannot shift onto the spectators. The replacement of conventional, analogue projection by digital equipment costs|
|many times more than the capital spent so far. In addition, the service life of digital technology is substantially shorter due to |
|innovation cycles. The cost of replacing equipment lost through wear and tear is difficult to calculate, whereas a conventional |
|film projector with orderly maintenance is guaranteed to be useful for many decades. |
|In addition, digitalisation does not necessarily promise an increase in use value. At best, it guarantees an equivalent to the |
|accustomed standard measured under optimal conditions involving fresh copies and trouble-free projection (with regard to image |
|quality and definition, purity of optics). After all, the performance reliability of digital projection techniques in view of the |
|data quantities to be processed is hardly proven. Whoever deals with computer problems on a daily basis will most likely distrust |
|the promises of the specialists. |
|As the introduction of sound films showed in an exemplary way, the key to winning general acceptance for new technology lies with |
|the producers. The coexistence of silent movies and sound films could only be maintained for a few years. Charlie Chaplin was the |
|last great figure of the silent movie to submit himself, in the famous singing scene of Modern Times, to the new demands. A similar|
|time limit for the establishment of digital cinema can be foreseen as well. |
|New business models that make provision for the participation of cinema operators in the profits of manufacturers and users are |
|supposed to eliminate, or at least reduce, resistance of front-line film marketers to the audience. Nevertheless, producers still |
|shrink from a crucial hurdle. The crisis of the pop music industry stands as a warning sign. In contrast to an approximately |
|two-and-a-half-to-three kilometre long copy of a film, the reproduction and dissemination of a digital file, no matter how |
|extensive it may be, cannot in principal be checked. |
|Even codings offer only limited protection against abuse – what is coded can and will be decoded, provided that interest is strong |
|enough. Legal sanctions are effective only in a limited sense on the world market. Thus the flow of film utilisation back to the |
|studios and, as a consequence, their production capacity, is called into question. The introduction of digital cinema thus depends |
|on the economic risk producers, primarily the American major studios, are prepared to take. |
|A transitory creature |
|What does the digitalisation of film mean for our global culture? To answer this question, one must clarify the fundamental |
|difference between analogue and digital images. Analogue film is a ‘write-once’ medium. A classical film image inevitably includes |
|a concrete, unrepeatable space-time moment. No reproduction or handling changes anything of the uniqueness of the film image. The |
|temporal art, film, therefore corresponds to our self-perception as a transitory creature subjected to time – it corresponds to our|
|memory, our openness to the future, our consciousness of the volatility of each present moment. |
|Luchino Visconti, the director of Rocco and His Brothers and Death in Venice, therefore spoke of an ‘anthropomorphic cinema’. Only |
|a single film genre that can be almost endlessly manipulated has freed itself so far from these conditions: animated film. It is |
|the most entertaining Hell that art has acquainted us with. Digital technology achieves this unleashing borrowed from comics even |
|more radically. Digitalisation dismantles the film image into discrete data points without dimension. In data space, about which we|
|can speak only metaphorically, there are no longer any space-time moments, but only exchangeable, in principle computable, |
|information units. Where such data points can be located at any time is completely unimportant. Of course, this dismantling takes |
|place beyond our perception. |
|In digital cinema, we will also believe that we are watching the development of a story with a beginning and an end, with moments |
|of happiness and misfortune. We will still see laughter and tears. But we will no longer encounter ourselves, only our phantoms. |
|The cinema of the future has a consolation for this loss: we will not notice it at all. |
|Translated by Dr. James Slawney. |
|Karsten Visarius chairs the Film-Cultural Centre of the Protestant Church in the Gemeinschaftswerk der Evangelischen Publizistik |
|(GEP), Frankfurt/Main, and is Managing Director of the international church film organisation Interfilm. He wishes to acknowledge |
|substantial inspiration and information from the publication Digital Film - Digital Cinema, edited by Peter C. Slansky (Konstanz, |
|2004). |

Q&A: Bettina Sherick of 20th Century Fox on digital transformation and strategy

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Posted 13 March 2012 00:30am by Jake Hird with 0 comments





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[pic]Econsultancy has been discussing the ongoing transformation of organisations for a while now, as digital increasingly permeates their operations, capabilities and structures.
Ahead of ad:tech Melbourne, where Econsultancy is one of the media partners, I managed to catch up with one of the keynote speakers, Bettina Sherick, to discuss these changes, along with their challenges, benefits and the general direction digital is heading.

Can you explain a little bit about your role, the current marketing direction of 20th Century Fox and where digital fits into this?

I work in International Theatrical Marketing group at 20th Century Fox, where we develop marketing campaigns that are used around the world to promote our film releases. As the SVP of Strategic Digital Marketing, I’m responsible for making sure that digital is at the core of what we do.

The cinema-going audiences are avid consumers of digital content. We need to make sure that our messages reach them where they are, when they are deciding what movies to see.

Every aspect of our marketing mix is changing because of the proliferation of digital platforms and digital content. We have to think differently about our media mix, how our video content is cut, and how much content we need to fuel our social efforts.

More and more, movie fans are keen to share in an experience that takes them on a journey from that first teaser trailer right up to the opening day release. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time.

Can you explain how your current marketing team is built around digital. What existing structures do you have in place and who’s responsible for what?

Until just recently, a core team focused on all aspects of digital marketing. Recognising that everything we do needs to be digital, we divided the digital group, and integrated digital talent into each of the marketing groups.

Now we have a digital creative lead, a digital PR lead, a digital project manager, and also agency resources that support us on media, production, and social projects.

What’s the biggest challenge in trying to develop digital transformation and what advice would you give to other organisations striking out down similar paths?

People are naturally creatures of habit. Not everyone is going to have digital curiosity. On one hand, there are those who are waiting for things to settle down and for the hype to go away. On the other hand, there are those pontificating about the digital apocalypse and how old businesses are going to die a sudden horrible death.

Meanwhile, the shift is happening, and there has to be balance. If you’re leading the digital transformation in your organisation, you have to be able to address both extremes. Help those who don’t ‘get digital’ feel more comfortable with change, and temper those that want to rush toward whatever is the ‘new new’ thing.

My advice to organisations looking to transform their business? Make sure the person you’re asking to lead the transformation knows your business well.

Does he/she know how your business works and makes money? Who are the people and what are their roles in the business? How do the business units work together? Does the person leading the change have the vocabulary to speak to your organisation in a language the people in the organisation all understand? Someone from the outside may not be successful because they don’t know the culture of the business.

It’s then easy for those on the inside to reject the ideas because they will be dismissed as "this person doesn’t understand…" Change needs to come from within the organisation, not from outside.

What level of social media engagement are you building into the organisation and does this go beyond the marketing department?

We are most definitely using social engagement to reach film fans. It goes beyond just setting up profiles on FB or a Twitter account. We make content specifically for film fans to be shared and talked about. We reach out to avid fans of film franchises and invite them to share in the storytelling.

However, our social relationship with movie-goers is about being the voice of the film. Unlike other brands, like an e-commerce business, our social role is less about being 20th Century Fox International as a corporate entity or playing a customer service role, and more about telling the stories that help bring people closer to the experience that they will share when they see our films on the big screen.

What kind of social media safety nets do you have in place – i.e. management technology, staff training, internal policies?

I’ll be honest. Social keeps me up at night. And not just because I like checking to see what my friends are doing on Facebook and the news on my Twitter feed…! Social has grown somewhat organically in my organisation and I know from talking to other digital marketing execs that this is the common theme everywhere.

But now we need to formalise the process. What pages are set up, who manages them around the world, what is being said. We are making up the structure and rules of engagement as we go.

We’ve looked at a variety of tools out in the marketplace to manage our pages and to help with the messaging. But the social space is moving so rapidly that even the tools we try to use seem to obsolesce quickly.

How advanced is your multichannel strategy? What kind of metrics or measurements of success are you trying to achieve and how successful have you been in achieving them?

The theatrical film business is very unique in that we are releasing a new “product” every few weeks. So many of the metrics and measurements that a company selling one product or a range of products day in/day out might use quickly become irrelevant in the film space.

Our KPIs are focused around trailer views and engagement with our content.

What would you say your most successful digital channels are, in terms of meeting your overall marketing objectives? Which are you currently giving priority to and which ones are you focusing on for the future?

Video is the best sell that we have for movies. We are giving priority to outlets that can help us showcase great video, help us socialise our content, create ways for fans to engage with us and tell the best stories.

What do you think the future of digital will look like, in a wider sense?

Have you seen Minority Report? I worked on the digital marketing campaign for the DVD release. At that time, the idea of moving content from screen to screen, near-field communications in outdoor marketing installations, and cars that could drive themselves were all part of an imagined world. Not so imaginary anymore.

My smartphone synchs to the main computer in my house when I walk into my home, which is connected to the TV where we consume most of our content, some of which is stored on external hard drives, some of which is stored in the “the cloud”, and some, although admittedly less and less, is consumed “live”.

My eight-year old happily consumes content on screens big or small. I’m connected to friends around the world, and know of what’s happening in their lives because they are willing to take a few minutes out of their day to post a picture or a comment about what is going.

I’m connected to news around the world thanks to Twitter. I read more, because I can download a book onto my iPad or order it from Amazon.com at the moment I decide I want to read it.

Where do we go from here? If I knew, I’d be a digital soothsayer, and rich, and unfortunately I’m not. So, since I’m in the film business, I’ll write two different endings to this story.

There’s the version where we’re headed for a dystopian future where technology divides us into the haves and have-nots, people become more selfish and demanding, privacy is non-existent, and no one engages with each other except through a computerised screen. Or there’s the version where technology breaks down barriers, there is more sharing and learning about different cultures and people, and we learn to live with technology benefiting our lives in a healthy and happy way.

I’m rooting for the happy ending.

On a more personal level, what you think has been your biggest marketing achievement in the role you currently have and what's been your favourite digital campaign?

I think my biggest marketing achievement and my favourite campaign has been AVATAR. We did several media firsts with MSN and YouTube, and I was able to work with a variety of digital partners.

The highlight of the campaign for me was the London Premiere, where we plucked three popular YouTubers to join us on the blue carpet to talk to the talent, and share their stories about being part of the event, and their enthusiasm for the film.

Our AVATAR page on Facebook is still active! We have 28m fans, and are still actively posting content and sharing stories with them.

The digital explosion

The face of storytelling is changing and yet staying the same. The digital world is a paradox of "same but different." Story is still king. But delivery is no longer the court jester. Industries are transforming. Filmmakers are taking production, distribution and exhibition into their own hands with the use of technological tools such as digital cameras, DVD burners and digital projection systems and even consumer large-sceen television sets.

"In every city and college town independent filmmakers are establishing their own theatres and are digitally presenting new feature films, documentaries, and experimental work that would not have found audiences even five years ago," reports Dager.
The market for digital cinema is exploding across the frontier of full-motion communications: home entertainment, theatrical exhibition, film festivals, museums, zoos, in-store shopping, corporate sales conventions, electronic billboard signage, trade show and conventions shows, and let's not forget the Internet. Content ranges from marketing messages to documentary news reels to pure entertainment for adults and/or children.
Dager tracks growth of the digital cinema world through his writing, speaking and participation in industry groups. He served as a charter member of the Digital Cinema Alliance formed by the International Communications Industries Association, and speaks frequently to venues such as the Sundance Film Festival, Consumer Electronics Show, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the National Association of Braodcasters and the Audio Engineering Society's conference.
What he's found is that the industry has three distinct activities: • Acquisitions process: the people who shoot the movies • Post production and distribution: the people who provide the effects and prepare the product for distribution • Presentation: the exhibitors who show the movies to the consumer.

Digital Cinema Report Overview

Nick Dager launched "Digital Cinema Report" in 2002 to fill a serious gap in the market for timely information about the business. It is the definitive news source for widescreen production and presentation.

Dager chose the digital format for his publication in keeping with the theme -- digital publishing for immediacy and worldwide distribution. "The internet makes reaching 25 countries feasible. It just made sense. And we haven't begun to tap the potential of the Internet. We are growing more than 30% a month and are up to 12,000 subscribers. We launched in late 2002 and are looking forward to sharing the movies and soundtracks of our readers in our space.
"The growing demand for bigger images and better sound will drive the markets for servers, projectors and other equipment at the heart of any digital cinema, electronic cinema or HD installation." To get the market opportunity report on DC/HD venues, producers and distributors will find the forecasts, market opportunity models and interactive spreadsheets available for $1,000 and up.
Samples of the stories available online include: • Da Vinci Systems Announces Second Master Colorist Awards Competition • New Products: Christie DW6K, Avid Adrenaline HD, CineForm Aspect HD and more • Clinton Presidential Library: Applebaum and Electrosonic Collaborate on Showcase Installation • Finding the Right Mix Euphonix System 5 Helps Bring Fantasy to Life in Finding Neverland • Haunted Hotel : Interactive Exhibit Uses Technology to Showcase the History of Brooklyn • Digital Asset Management: Excerpt from the book on How to Realise the Value of Video and Image Libraries

From film to digital – or not

"Digital post-production is a mature industry, but acquisitions and exhibition have remained largely unchanged for 100 years -- especially on the exhibition side where it is analog (film) based. Theatre owners are reluctant to switch to digital for a variety of reasons. There needs to be economic justification -- film works, film is a beautiful medium and it satisfies the aesthetic needs of both the producers and the viewers."
Dager noted that theatrical exhibitors are somewhat reluctant to adopt digital projection. Exhibitors face enormous infrastructure and related business costs with no guaranteed way to justify those expenses. Since mid-2003 "that dynamic has started to change because the economic feasibility of cameras and projectors have changed -- the last two hurdles of quality and cost. But the big issue is piracy. Those factors have all made tremendous gains -- economics is the last hurdle and the numbers are coming down quickly. Now exhibitors can seriously start to make the case a strong digital business case."
"Aesthetics are subjective…no one on the planet would seriously make the case that film is not a superior visual medium in terms of resolution, color space and even adaptability. Film has resolution limits we have not fully tapped. Film will be here for many, many years and that's a good thing.
"But on the Presentation side -- I'd love to make all those film projectors vanish if I could," Dager says. Why? Unless they are expertly maintained, they destroy film prints with scratches and dirt. It's not rocket science to maintain them, but it does take knowledge and time. Hollywood ignores the problem of scratches and since few movies are in a theatre more than two weeks -- if they stay longer, they just replace the prints. When used prints are shipped overseas, however, consumers are the losers. Digital is becoming increasingly popular in Asia, England and Europe because people are tired of watching terrible, used prints. But there are many reasons the international movie industry is moving to digital.

Converting digital footage to film

Converting digital masters into film isn't a problem if a major studio distributor picks up the film --they just pick up that cost. Cost becomes an issue if the film is not picked up by Hollywood -- and takes the film festival route. With a cost of $5,000 for a single print, that's an enormous burden for a small producer. They are bulky to ship around and then the film gets degraded and they spend another $5,000 on replacement. The indie and film circuit is rapidly converting to digital. The use of DVD and multiple copies makes it possible to submit to several festivals at once and their chances for success just went way up. The good story is what's important now -- that's what the audience cares about. The audience really doesn't care about the technical jargon -- they just want story!"

It's too early to have definitive research about consumer preferences, but anecdotal evidence shows a growing curiosity in digital projection. Dager attended a screening of "Day After Tomorrow" in Singapore in 2004 with a group of international journalists. The Eng Wah cinema has ten theaters with two converted to digital. "The other journalists eagerly asked me what I thought and I pointed out a couple little technical glitches, but reminded them that the important question is what did they think! They said it looked like a movie to them. And my point is that it will still look like a movie after thirty viewings … not a seriously degraded experience that would happen with film."
Dager also met with the executives of the theatre and discovered that a key issue with their digital introduction has been the impact on competitors. The curiosity factor has been very successful and viewers have traveled distances to see the new digital phenomenon. Eng Wah Cinema competitors have lobbied Hollywood not to send the chain any more digital prints because they have an unfair advantage.

|Digital Exhibition Trends |
|Landmark Theatres |
|Landmark Theatres , the nation's largest art-house |
|chain, features first-run independent and foreign |
|films, restored classics and non-traditional studio |
|fare in 57 theaters representing 204 screens in 14 |
|states and D.C.. Landmark announced in 2004 that they|
|have begun the process of improving its theatres and |
|customer experience in their theatres across the |
|nation. This includes, but isn't limited to, |
|launching non-traditional concessions, implementing a|
|retail arm specializing in DVDs, soundtracks and |
|other merchandise, placing LCD & Digital projectors |
|into many of their theatres and adding print-at-home |
|ticketing options. (http://www.landmarktheatres.com) |
|Resolution at the Landmark theatres started at 1k, so|
|many in Hollywood haven't considered it real "digital|
|cinema". Hollywood wants the standard to be 4k. There|
|are clues that point to the blockbuster distributors |
|accepting 2k resolution if there is a growth path to |
|4K. |

Trends

Some of the latest happenings are that production and post production are going overseas. "The economics dictate that companies just have to do that."

Wireless projection was shown as a proof of concept at Sundance Film Festival (January 2005) and Dager's take is that "it's very early to even comment on the feasibility. Limitations of distance could be a factor, but that might be changing."
There's tremendous resistence on the part of theatre exhibitors to embrace any of the digital wave. Only a very small minority are willing to explore the transition.
Hollywood distributors have also been resistant, but are moving in the direction of digital distribution. Piracy is the main concern and it is legitimate. Measures have been put in place to greatly enhance the protection of copyrights. "What makes piracy work is a matter of scale -- pirates want blockbuster films with all that marketing behind them -- that's where the money is. Pirates profit from the marketing impact much more than the quality of the film. Therefore, piracy is not a big problem for most indies."
Dager reports that NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners projects the installed base of digital theaters to grow to 1,000 within two years. "But there are 36,000 theaters, so that's not even 1%", adds Dager. He hesitates to get enthusiastic since we are at the 100-theatre range right now (January 2005). The first exhibitor of a digital film was 1996, with the release of the first Star Wars movie in New York and Hollywood. He projects penetration of 10-20% in five years; closer to 50% by the year 2015.

Producers Insights: Technology or Story?

"One of the biggest mistakes independent producers make is believing that digital is the answer -- it is just one of the answers. There are at least ten names of quality technology available. If a producer is considering shooting with digital, therre's a tool for every budget level.

"The key ingredient is still a good story. Nothing can compensate for, or get in the way of a good story. You can make a great movie with a consumer DV if you have a great story." Dager respects industry leaders' ability to recognize great storytelling. "We all know what it is, but it's hard to put in words. It's something new every time. It's magic." He studied filmmaking at NYU years ago and has written a couple books, but has turned his attention to industry storytelling these days.
Dager emphasized several times that producers' first concern is to acquire a good story. "It all comes back to story. Don't get caught up in the glamour of the process. From a practical standpoint, filmmakers need to come to understand the needs, wants and concerns of DISTRIBUTORS. Think in terms of the audience -- who wants to see your movie and why. If you can convince financial people you have a good story and you can tell it, that's your job," he concludes.
"It is arrogant to think that distributors don't know what people want.. There are talented, aggressive, smart people looking for the next great project. They look for great films seven days a week. It all comes back to story!"

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