The long goodbye

 作者:鲍苛     |      日期:2019-03-08 06:03:00
By Barry Fox CINEMAS are hoping for more record box office takings next week when the latest Star Wars movie opens in Britain. But the film could also mark another landmark: the beginning of the end of celluloid film for film production and projection. The Phantom Menace was shot on film, but selected cinemas in the US are using high-resolution video projectors to screen a digital version to see how audiences react. And this month, British audiences will get a chance to judge electronic cinema for themselves. JVC, which makes digital projectors, plans to screen The Phantom Menace in digital video at a London cinema later this month. Previous attempts at replacing film have failed because the picture quality was poor and the price of the hardware was too high. In 1971, Frank Zappa used television cameras and analogue videotape to shoot his movie Two Hundred Motels. It was transferred to film for projection but showed a coarse line structure. Ten years later, Sony developed the High-Definition Video System (HDVS), which captured 1125 picture lines on analogue tape. Sony loaned the equipment to director Francis Ford Coppola in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the Hollywood studios to switch from film to tape. Last year, British Telecom demonstrated an electronic cinema system in London but industry experts—and even some of the engineers involved—were unimpressed (This Week, 28 March 1998, p 6). In the trial screenings in the US, two cinemas, in Los Angeles and New Jersey, are using a Digital Light Processing projector made by Texas Instruments. Two other cinemas in the same areas are using the rival Image Light Amplifier invented by Hughes Aircraft and commercialised by JVC. The Texas Instruments projector has an array of millions of tiny mirrors, which form a picture directly as the angle of each mirror is changed. The Hughes-JVC system first creates an analogue picture on a layer of liquid crystals sandwiched between special plates. Light is bounced off this image to form the final picture. The audiences’ reactions will show which system works best. However, even if the trial screenings of The Phantom Menace are a success, the electronics companies will still have to convince cinemas to buy expensive digital projectors. “The biggest problem is the size of the door into the projection room,” says a JVC spokesperson. “The equipment is often too big to go through.” At last month’s TV Symposium in Montreux, Switzerland, Panasonic—which owns a large slice of JVC—signed a deal with Sony and Quantel, a British special effects company, to offer Hollywood a new alternative to film. Their system will display 24 pictures each second to match the rate used by film. It will also capture 1080 lines for each picture. With so many lines for each picture, the quality is close to that of film. It also builds a bridge between film, digital TV and computers, making it easier for studios to mix film and video production with computer editing. “It is this single master concept that has captured everyone’s interest here in the US,” says Michael Brinkman,