Monday, April 30, 2007

Movie (Theater) Review

I have just about given up on going to the theater to see movies. Not only is the ticket price rather high (full-rate tickets for two about equal the cost of the movie on DVD), but all of the extras combine to make the total cost way too much (and having to pay a babysitter just adds another $20 to the bill). On top of the high cost the experience is often marred by projection problems or distracting audience members.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the theater experience is finally being addressed - the paltry 24fps frame rate. It may seem a bit odd to folks who are not familiar with the technology, but while even the lowly TV shows 30 images per second, movies on the big screen are shown at the
rate of 24 images per second. Given that the theater projector has to deal with actual rolls of film and the TV just gets a signal fed to it that is not so bad, but it still results in rather poor reproduction of motion on screen. I have never been able to tolerate the low frame rate when there is anything more than minimal motion going on, even a pan across a static scene starts to give me a headache.

A solution has finally arrived, at least to some theaters. While it would be possible to make higher frame rate film projectors (and some folks have championed this cause), the 'easy' solution is to get rid of film. That is what has been done at theaters that now have digital projection systems. The technology is very much like the digital projectors that folks use for Powerpoint presentations in boring meetings everywhere, but scaled up quite a bit. Many movies are now shot on digital video, so transferring the final digital master to film for distribution is a bit of an anachronism.

I was happily surprised Saturday night when the wife and I went out for a movie at our local theater and got to watch our first digitally projected movie. It was great!! As it turns out, one of our local theaters is in the rather small group of theaters who have made the conversion to digital projection. Not only do we get a flicker-free movie with nice smooth motion, but there is none of the wear and tear that would normally be visible on a reel of film that had been run through the projector umpteen times.

It might just be enough to get me to go back for more.


green_canary said...

A bit off-subject perhaps, but I'd like to lodge an official complaint regarding the "Butter It Yourself" self-buttering stations at the theater. If ordering a medium popcorn requires digging into my 401(k), then someone OTHER THAN ME better butter that mofo.

I'm just sayin'.

wunelle said...

I had no idea that Our Jeffy was such a sensitive creature concerning matters of projection fidelity. I'm lying if I said I had any clue about motion and frame rate, though I grasp the concept.

I do love the idea of the whole process going digital, though, and I remember the last Star Wars movie--maybe the last two--were touted as being all-digital until they got to the final print, unless one was lucky enough to see the film in a theater with a digital projector. I don't know if I've seen one of these or not, though now I'm dying to do a side-by-side comparison to see the difference.

And I'm with Canary. I don't happen to like movie popcorn (I'd much prefer to make my own in a pan w/ a little oil and REAL butter), but at the price they ought to pre-chew it for you.

Dzesika said...

I don't know how apropos this is to normal theatregoers at all, but when I was doing the digital signage thing, I got really, stupidly sensitive to differences in frame rate - so that, like you, 24fps drove me absolutely nuts. So I hear you. Bring on the digital revolution!