HPA Tech Retreat: Digital Cinema Opens New Possibilities

During this week’s Hollywood Post Alliance Tech Retreat in Indian Wells, California, industry veterans are discussing the transition to digital cinema and what that means for the future of production, distribution and exhibition. “The industry has spent more than $3 billion… and by the end of this year I predict we will be releasing movies in the U.S. without any film prints,” said Jerry Pierce, chairman of the Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum.

Pierce is also technical advisor to the National Association of Theater Owners and a former senior vice president at Universal Pictures.

“The move to digital distribution and presentation can open the floodgates of new storytelling techniques,” he suggests. “We cannot lose sight of what we are delivering to paying customers — we are delivering stories and the technology is just the enabler.”

“His message — that the focus should be on story — was echoed in various sessions, including one on immersive sound,” writes Carolyn Giardina for The Hollywood Reporter. “Re-recording mixers Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, and supervising sound editor Eugene Gearty, all of whom are nominated for Oscars for their work on ‘Life of Pi’ emphasized that the use of sound boils down to story.”

During his presentation, Pierce discussed the potential of movies at 48 frames per second. “This higher frame rate does make a difference for storytelling. It is a different experience, it is not an improvement over [today’s standard] 24fps, it is different,” he said. “When properly used, for the right story, you can change the emotional reaction of the audience.”

“Can you imagine a movie where there is a out of body experience and you want hyper reality?” he asked the crowd. “Shift to 48 for these scenes. Or the quidditch scenes in the ‘Harry Potter’ movies… I hope the next ‘Hobbit’ is released in 3D 48fps and 2D 48fps only.”

Pierce warns that consistent presentation and the cost/benefit ratio will be the challenges with immersive sound, and noted that an installation could run between $50,000-$100,000. He also addressed 4K: “I’m in favor of 4K production, I’m in favor of 4K projection, but I don’t think 4K deliverables will make much difference to the experience.”

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