Saturday, February 18, 2012

[iN2015] Infocomm Singapore -- Digital Cinema

Singapore sees the importance of infocomm as an engine of growth for the economy. The building of a vibrant infocomm economy supporting the vision of An Intelligent Nation 2015(iN2015), A Global City, Powered by Infocomm.
Among the list of programmes published by iDA, digital cinema has been shaded some dime light on.

Trusted Digital Cinema Hub programme aims to establish Singapore as the secure trusted hub for the processing, management and distribution of digital cinematic content to Asia Pacific. It also aims to work with industry to put in place supporting infrastructure, such as processing facilities and network operation centres for Digital Cinema.

Singapore already has over 1 million square feet of advanced data centre space. It is one of the most connected cities in Asia with more than 16 Gbps of extensive and direct Internet connectivity to over 20 countries. This comprises 6 Gbps to the United States and over 8 Gbps to Asian cities such as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. In addition, Singapore's direct Internet connectivity to major ASEAN countries is at least 100 Mbps per country. Singapore's network infrastructure is also particularly well-suited for digital delivery of data.

Hurdles to Overcome
  • Costs
While there is a lot of savings to be made distributing movies digitally, it is costly to convert a conventional theatre into a digital one. Today, it costs about US$150,000 to do so. Unless movie theatres make full use of the opportunity to screen alternative content, previously not possible with traditional theatres, the digital cinema bandwagon will be a relatively empty one.
  • Restructuring
Again, while digital cinema makes a lot of economic sense on the distribution front, it would involve huge changes in the industry; namely workforce restructuring. Even if the net result of the move to digital cinema is a cheaper distribution system, the possibility of restructuring poses a hurdle.
  • Piracy
Piracy is another hurdle to the movie industry. For conventional films, a movie 'pirate' either has to hold up the delivery van containing the movie reels or sneaks a video recorder into a theatre. In the first instance, the bootleggers will have to use expensive machinery to make video copies. In the second case, pirated tapes usually have poor image quality.

However, if a movie was already in the form of bytes of data, anybody could make an exact copy by hooking into the data stream. To make broadband and satellite transmission feasible, a secure encryption system has to be in place.

Image Quality
The jury is still out on whether digital movies are up to scratch, so to speak. While digital cinema's proponents cite market research showing audience preference for the image quality of digital movies, many movie buffs still vouch for celluloid. Some purists even go so far as to denounce the pristine image quality of digital movies. Digital movies offer resolutions of 1,300 - 4,000 lines compared to the 1,000 lines of a 35mm film.

Convergence of Multi-Media Technologies
Another hurdle in the horizon is the convergence of home entertainment and professional theatre technology. While there is currently a huge gap in image quality between high-end digital projectors and home models, this may not be the case for long. As home theatre projectors improve and drop in price, digital cinemas may find it harder to pull in the crowds.

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