Digital cinema moves closer to local multiplex

A movie studio coalition says it has worked out standards for films without film.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
2 min read
A coalition of major movie studios announced Wednesday that it has completed specifications and standards needed to create digital cinema, which could drastically reduce the enormous cost of distributing film rolls to movie theaters.

The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a joint venture of Disney, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Studios, has completed version 5.0 of the voluntary DCI Technical Specification. That specification is designed to allow studios to distribute their movies to theaters via a high-speed network, saving them millions in distribution costs.

"I am proud of what we have contributed to helping bring the industry to the threshold of the digital-cinema future, and I am excited to see that future become a reality," DCI Chief Executive Chuck Goldwater said in a statement. Goldwater announced that he will soon resign, since the project is largely completed.

Although the specifications document is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, the movie studios agreed to extend DCI's initial term for another 12 months in order to refine the technical specifications, perform system interoperability tests and improve the security portion of those specifications.

The DCI will focus on refining its technical specifications to assist in producing digital cinema systems such as projectors and network equipment. Texas Instruments and Sony are already rushing to make equipment that will comply with the group's early specifications.

Studios have to create a film print for every theater that shows their movies, which adds up to an estimated $800 million, according to industry analysts.

But with a digital cinema format, the studios would create one digital master file and send it to theaters over high-speed networks. The movie would be stored on servers in the theaters and transferred to a local area network, then shown using digital projectors.

One of the major concerns of the studios, however, is secure transmission of the movies. The studios want to ensure that their work will be protected against any unauthorized copying while in the theaters.