Story 2014-11-08 2TYH Interstellar and the end of the film era

Interstellar and the end of the film era

in movies on (#2TYH)
story imageToday, nearly all movie theaters have converted their projectors to fully digital systems. Although movie theater 4K (4096 x 2160) is a little higher resolution than consumer TV 4K (3840 x 2160) - and definitely an improvement over standard HD (1920 x 1080) - nothing can match the resolution and shear awesomeness of 70mm IMAX film projection. Christopher Nolan is one of the last true film holdouts and with his new movie Interstellar, is pushing for the full "film only" versions to be shown across IMAX theaters.

Bottom line: this is one movie you probably want to see in the theater. Otherwise you won't get to see its true glory until 30 years from now when the industry starts selling 32K resolution digital TVs.
Reply 14 comments

IMAX (Score: 1)

by on 2014-11-08 02:30 (#2TYJ)

From the linked YouTube video:
The print of Interstellar is 49 reels, weighs about 600 pounds, on a 72 inch platter.
No wonder they like the digital setups - soooo much easier for everyone involved - just not as jaw-droppingly cool.

Re: IMAX (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-08 11:30 (#2TYK)

My ex-flatmates worked at a movie theatre. During the 1990s, one special needs guy broke into their projector room and set off the fire extinguishers, which destroyed all the exposed film (I seem to recall being told that it dissolved the film), hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage I was told, plus badly damaged their projectors. (The projectors were el cheapo, also destroying film reels frequently.)

Something only slightly relevant that I thought I'd share...

Re: IMAX (Score: 1)

by on 2014-11-08 18:40 (#2TYM)

I suspect they had insurance, but considering the MAFIAA, they probably sued to poor fool to death.

Re: IMAX (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-11-10 22:11 (#2TZA)

I'll kind of miss projectors destroying film. I was in a couple movies where that happened. Usually we were given free tickets as compensation.

The best/scariest though was in high school history. We were watching a film on concentration camps, when the projector screwed up and the beam of light projected on a single frame for an extended period of time was so intense that it burned a whole through the film, starting a fire. Its like the horrible images of what man did to his fellow man were so evil that they burst into flames. And of course, we thought it was a special effect in the film. So we sat there for a while before it was apparent that the projector was in full blaze and the room was full of smoke.

IMAX killed it (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-11-09 00:57 (#2TYN)

I suppose IMAX is to blame... Trying to squeeze more money out of their customers, they introduced "IMAX Digital" so they could show just any regular film nice and cheap, but charge IMAX prices for the ticket. Angering your customers who are paying big bucks and keeping film alive, is a losing propsition.

Another negative is the move to 3D. Whether you like 3D or not, it has divided audiences in half... Some won't ever watch a 3D movie, others won't pay to watch the regular 2D versions anymore.

But I suppose as long as IMAX and Cinemark XD are able to demand huge ticket prices, and fill their theatres, film won't be going away just yet.

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 3, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-09 08:57 (#2TYP)

I will never pay to see a 3D movie as I only have one eye. Queue the cyclops jokes.

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 2, Funny)

by on 2014-11-10 22:15 (#2TZB)

Sorry not much available. This is the only one I could find: Its British, and very subtle.

Two farmers were looking at shovels in a store window. The first farmer saw a shovel he liked, and said to the other farmer: “That’s the one I’d get”, when a cyclops came around the corner and kicked their heads in.

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-12 21:20 (#2V0X)

Oh har har. Here I was expecting a round of "Movie ticket prices! because an extra dimension is worth 20% more!" or perhaps "You should ask for a 50% discount then Mr one eye"

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-09 14:43 (#2TYQ)

IMAX didn't kill film. Film is *expensive* and *heavy* and a huge pain in the ass to do anything with. Don't get me wrong, I love film, I was a projectionist for 4 years while in college, but I can tell you from plenty of first hand experience how much of a giant pain in the ass it is to do anything with film. Just to show a single movie I would need to put in probably about one "running length" of time before the movie even started to prep the film. Compare to a digital set up where you just go download an press a button. It's no big surprise that's winning out over film.

For what it's worth, I saw Interstellar yesterday in 35mm at a local theater (no one is showing 70mm IMAX around :() and I thought it looked great, much better than many of the digital movies I've seen lately. Real film lent a grittiness to the movie that meshed well with the story and desperation and it would be impossible to replicate that with digital. Of course, it also sucked when the sound cut out for 30 seconds during one scene because there was no way to rewind it, but oh well.

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 1)

by on 2014-11-10 03:04 (#2TYS)

Real film lent a grittiness to the movie that meshed well with the story and desperation and it would be impossible to replicate that with digital.
Impossible to replicate? Are you daft? You could easily transfer a digital print to film, then digitize the film... And that's the hard way. Easy way is to push the button on your digital processing suite that says "film grain".

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-10 06:13 (#2TYV)

I know who I think is daft...

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-10 17:45 (#2TZ5)

Actually, it impossible.

Film running through a projector is tricky. The film, as a whole, must keep moving, obviously. But 24 times per second, the film directly in front of the lamp will stop, the shutter will open, and the image will be projected to the screen. This introduces a little bit of jitter that would be technically feasible to do on digital, but no sane person would implement that because it would be "degrading" the presentation of the movie. A good projector introduces very little jitter, but it's still there, and when you remove it (because it's all digital) it dilutes some of the ambiance of the movie. Add in little bits of dust or scratches, which occur even on a brand new print, and those are even harder to realistically replicate in digital, since you want them to be mostly imperceptible, since you rarely notice them directly, but you do notice their absence.

A lot of this might have to do with what "feels" right based on "how we used to do it when I was a kid!" But you know what, who's to say that's wrong? Digital is great for a lot of things, but when telling a story to beings living in an inherently analog world, sometimes having the story be told *perfectly* actually makes the story less engaging, since it doesn't feel "real'.

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-11-10 18:08 (#2TZ6)

I'm under the impression (but don't have references) that the big difference is the blanking interval for a film projector. With digital projectors the "lamp" is on all the time and there is smearing as the image is rewritten for every frame. Any "object" that is moving quickly across the frame suffers with current digital schemes. In theory is should be possible to blank the "lamp" while the digital image is redrawn, but the reality is that the light sources are not bright enough to be pulsed on and off every frame--the screen image would be too dim. Film projectors use *very* bright & hot lamps--which can melt through the plastic film if it happens to stall in the feeding mechanism.

Perhaps another Pipedotter can give some more detail about this??

Re: IMAX killed it (Score: 1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-11-10 18:34 (#2TZ7)

You are correct on film, I've melted film (on purpose) by stopping the projector without closing the protective damper. My projectors were 3KW output Xenon Arc bulbs, hot enough that the film gate had to be water cooled. The shutter was a spinning disk that was spun such that each frame was illuminated twice (48 Hz), I forget if that was to limit power output and melting film or if that was to help "smooth" the on screen image. For IMAX film projectors they'll use a 15 KW bulb that is watercooled.

A five second google search shows Christie makes digital projectors with KW+ Xenon bulbs, so presumably they could also throw a mechanical shutter in there and replicate film blanking periods. I'm not sure if they actually do that though.

In any case, in front of a 3KW bulb film melts pretty quick, less than a second for irreversible damage, and maybe 2 or 3 seconds until it's literally melted away.