The paradigm shift in the film industry to enable digital distribution was a major and risky step to produce change in a century-old industry that required a universal, longterm digital cinema standard that meets the needs of exhibitors, studios, equipment manufacturers and others involved in this effort. The ITEA Digital Cinema project developed the key components for this transition of the movie industry from analogue 35mm film to digital technology. Within the project, a system solution was developed, covering all elements of film production, distribution, storage and replay, including alternative uses for digital infrastructure.
During the Digital Cinema project, the consortium studied the complete digital cinema chain including production, content mastering, colour management, compression, data storage, security, multilingual sound, subtitling and alternative uses for digital theatres. The main innovation in this project centred on projectors, communicator software, alternative content interfaces and internally overlaying subtitling.
These technological developments paved the way for a new generation of film distribution. Now, as a result of the project, with digital cinema, we can all watch movies with a much better image quality, wherever and whenever the movie is watched. Smaller cinemas can have access to movies of the same quality. Moreover, the new system developed during the project enabled 3D movies to achieve commercial success. Besides, movies can now be released all over the world at the same time.
In addition, digital cinema also supports services such as streaming live shows (music, sport events) or company presentations, which enables theatres to be operational outside the usual movie projection time slots. All this had not been possible with the previous 35 mm technology. Digital cinema has made distribution much cheaper and deploys technologies such as hard drives and satellite streaming. This technological switch represented a significant saving for the studios and triggered a new value chain and new business models for the sector.
The results of the project were integrated in the Barco Digital Projection product line; the company was able to develop a Digital Cinema product family ranging from the first DP30 to the DP100 projector, which was Barco's first 2K digital projector to support the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) standard drafted at the time. Barco is now moving to a new generation of projectors based on laser and laser phosphor technology, which is beneficial as the new technology is 40% more energy efficient and eliminates the need for xenon and conventional bulbs, the latter containing toxic components and requiring frequent replacement.
EVS brought Mpeg-2 playback server expertise, from its small EVS Digital Cinema cell inside the bigger slow-motion TV company. This cell started from a few persons. The success of digital cinema playback server was so good that EVS created a spin-off fully dedicated to Digital Cinema in 2005, called XDC.
The business success of the Digital Cinema project was such that some partners merged after the completion of the project to better access the market: Octalis was acquired by Technicolor and Barco decided to acquire the whole R&D, products and technology of XDC in 2011, with the ambition to further integrate the external Digital Cinema server inside the projector. This acquisition was a huge success with today more than 20.000 integrated playback servers inside Barco projectors worldwide.