Audio and Video

New Era Dawns as Digital Cinema Surpasses 35mm Film

12 February 2013

Traditionalists might mourn the decline of 35mm film in cinema, but the technology market will thrive: for the first time, digital cinema became the format of choice at the end of 2012.

Nearly 90,000 screens had converted to digital by the end of last year, according to IHS. As a result, cinema has moved from what once was a technology-free zone to one driven by technology.

Digital cinema was virtually nonexistent six years ago as only 5,158 screens worldwide were using the technology. Starting in 2010 though, ISO-standard digital screens and 3-D screens began to take hold with nearly 13,000 digital 2-D screens and over 22,000 3-D screens. But the number was still dwarfed by the 82,000 35mm screens.

“The first foray into digital technology in cinemas came with sound, and then indirectly with online ticketing, moving afterward onto cinema advertising, then digital cinema, digital 3-D and the use of social media,” said David Hancock, senior principal analyst for cinema at IHS.

Outside of the films themselves, the film industry is dealing with issues such as high and variable frame rates (HFR and VFR), 4K image capture, digital archiving, object-based sound, electronic distribution and a wide range of other issues. “Cinemas are now at the nexus of consumer and industrial technologies, and applications and cinema owners will continue to respond to this trend,” said Hancock.

Digital technology is more efficient for the production, storage and distribution of movies. For image capture, about 70 percent of high-end films now are shot digitally, generating a huge amount of data for each production — between 2 terabytes and 10 terabytes a day, and anywhere between 100 terabytes to 1 petabyte over the whole shoot. This data all needs to be stored, processed, secured and transported, creating an entirely new workflow for post-production, as well as a new infrastructure for supporting film productions.

IHS estimates the use of 35mm film will eventually die out. Fuji, for example, is already phasing out film for production purposes beginning in March.

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