Brecht van Eyndhoven
The Netherlands

Spread the understanding of digital cinema and reap

For some people the term ‘digital cinema’ can be confusing. But producers, exhibitors and distributors usually share a clear and ‘technical’ interpretation of the concept. The confusion starts outside of the film sets, theatres and projection booths. Many may think it has something to do with computer generated images, games or the transition from analogical material to any type of digital format that can be viewed via internet.

In my work as a teacher and researcher in digital communication and media studies, I have noticed the confusion about the interpretation of digital cinema in other, often related, sectors. I have come across all sorts of assumptions, in particular in three important domains: media education, digital communication research and local governments dealing with ‘digitalisation’. These interpretations – of an obviously very general and ‘open’ term – are not ‘wrong’, but what surprises me most is the lack of knowledge on the innovation of digital cinema as the industry understands it. This blind spot of information is not helping the understanding of digital cinema in general, and most of all, the supporting, discussing or further innovation of it.

In my university classes I meet enthusiastic film and media students, knowing all about digital effects, but very little about the revolution of digital cinema. Meanwhile archives stocked with film, video and photo material are looking into the opportunity of digitalisation but don’t seem to need or receive information about goings-on in the cinemas. And above all, national and local governments that are keen to get on the ‘digital innovation bandwagon’ often understand digital cinema as digital film content, to be delivered to users mostly via Adsl, cd roms or dvds, while ignoring the local cinema theatres. Somehow, often in these environments no or very little information about ‘digital cinema’ – as experts understand it – reaches these keen ears.

Likewise, professionals within the cinema industry often do not have time or see the point in making a connection with the proceedings within the above mentioned sectors – education, archives, local governments.

And if people – from both sides – know something about the other’s activity, not many seem to attempt to research the possibilities of fruitful collaborations. Unfortunately, for many people who ought to know, digital cinema seems to be left in the dark theatres.

But why should they know more about digital cinema? And why should a cinema exhibitor care about a small film archive looking into the possibility of digitalising some of its films? Why does a film student need to learn about 2K or 4K film?

The answer is obvious: when people learn about important activities going on outside of their sector they may pick up on collaborations helping to develop interests for all involved. It may result in more possibilities for the supporting and development of digital cinema, getting new talent on board, provide a stronger vote for funding schemes, create inventive partner projects etc. More concretely: a cinema theatre owner mulling over the question of how to pay for the new digital cinema projector may be interested in opening one of its theatres to show ‘alternative content’, like digitalised film from the nearby archive, or screen other content for big screens. They may invite telecommunication companies to get more use out of the content, bringing in commercial sponsors and/or finance by the local government. It all depends on inventive and creative ideas, strategies and cooperation.

Fortunately there are many people, organisations and institutes that do know about the importance of assembling and providing information about digital cinema from and to various professional worlds. Thanks to the work of organisations like MEDIA Salles, Smpte, Edcf and the spread of information by experts or research and consultancy centres, digital cinema is given the chance to spread and develop, sparking off many other interesting digital innovations in its course.

Mrs. Brecht van Eyndhoven (1971, The Netherlands) is a freelance teacher, researcher and coordinator in film and new media. She has worked for film industry websites, film festivals, production companies and universities. Brecht van Eyndhoven has lived and worked in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Maastricht (NL),and in Dublin (IRL). She currently lives and works in Rome, (I).