Movies

Emerging technologies create problems for release of new films

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NEW DELHI: Over 350 different versions of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was created in just 17 days, in order to play in all its formats in theatres across the United States and internationally.

Those formats include: 2D, 3D, film and digital. Other variants might include 4D, IMAX, and high frame rate. In the near future, laser light projectors, Dolby Atmos, and Barco Auro will require even further versions of feature films. These can include any combination of 2D, 3D (typically at least two versions at different light levels), possibly Imax and in the case of The Hobbit, a high-frame-rate option. If one has a "4D" release, each of the three 4D companies -- CJ 4DPlex, MediaMation and D-Box -- require their own proprietary version.

With tight turnaround times, and an ever-increasing number of variables to consider, executives are not seeing an end to this problem, though they are hoping that standards will help alleviate at least some of the workflow.

“Standards will help with some of the chaos,” says an executive. “But we can’t afford to stay static. This is the new normal. We get it done, but it’s not easy. We learn, we get more efficient, and then something new comes along. It’s a cycle.”

With more than 95 per cent of the cinema screens in North America now converted to digital, executives find the situation is getting chaotic.

"Controlled chaos" is how one studio exec (who was not involved with The Winter Soldier) describes the situation as. The reason is that the various options afforded by digital technologies means that multiple versions of a movie are needed. "The number has skyrocketed."

Several sources confirmed that it is not uncommon for a studio to create roughly 15 different versions of a movie for a domestic release — and some recent tentpoles have exceeded 30 different versions just for North America.  

Meanwhile, laser light projectors with the promise of offering brighter images will be made available this year — and that may require another version. Barco's recently unveiled Escape system (which creates a sort of Cinerama experience) would require another.

Film prints are still needed for the remaining theatres, though domestic distribution of a typical tentpole title to 4,000 screens generally means fewer than 100 film prints are being created. "It’s getting harder because all of this takes time," admitted one studio executive. 

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