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Digital Movies Enhance Viewing Joy

Peter Jackson's remake of the 1933 movie classic, King Kong, which opened in Shanghai last week, will still remain spotless and spanking new in one hundred years, thanks to digital technology.

But the giant ape is not yet looking its best, as Hollywood is on its way to produce digital movies with resolutions that are so sharp that we may even pick out the fleas on King Kong's back.

In 2002, Hollywood bigwigs, which include Warner Bros Studio, Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Studio, set up a joint venture to establish a standardized format for the production and display of digital movies.

The joint venture, called the Digital Cinema Initiatives, has drawn up specifications for digital movies to be distributed with the same high quality and maximum security standards.

The goal is to produce and screen motion pictures with resolutions of 2K and eventually 4K, which represents 2,048 by 1,090 pixels and 4,096 by 2,160 pixels, respectively.

"What this means is that images on screen will appear to be more realistic and have more texture," said Chen Dingxin, manager of the editing department of Beijing Time Antaeus Media Technology, a media equipment maker and cinema operator.

"The quality of presentation is consistent and there will be no lines and scratches due to aging and the mishandling of film,"said Millard Ochs, president of Warner Bros International Cinema, in an interview with Shanghai Daily on January 16. 

At present, most digital cinemas in the world, China included, use projectors with image resolutions of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels -- commonly known as the 1.3K system -- which is lower than the resolution of high definition television.

However, with these projectors, some cinemas will not be able to screen US films, said Ochs.

While it is possible to show 2K films on 1.3 projectors, the quality of presentation will fall short of the director's expectations, he added.

With the strive for better quality motion pictures also comes the need for a more efficient compression system to process the massive data.

The DCI has selected JPEG 2000 to be the sole compression format for digital films.

And audiences in China may not have to wait long for their own DCI-compatible theaters.

Time Antaeus and the Institute of Computing Technology of the China Academy of Sciences are now creating the nation's first digital cinema system that adopts the JPEG 2000 format.

The protocol for the 2K films is expected to be ready by June and another one for 4K films by the end of the year.

(Shanghai Daily January 18, 2006)

King Kong Comes to China
Beijing to Set up 1,500 Digital Film Screens
Nation Tunes in to Digital TV Era
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