Digital cinema, 3D and business

Digital cinema, and in particular 3D, is all the rage right now. But does this technology have a place in business? We investigate.

It's been 10 years since the first digital cinema first arrived in the UK. Since then, it's made slow but steady progress and there are now more than 500 digital-enabled screens in the UK. With the rise of 3D presentation, headed up by flagship films such as Avatar, its adoption by UK exhibitors is set to increase, and by any yardstick it will soon be the primary way that British cinemagoers consume cinematic content.

According to many though, the potential of digital cinema doesn't just lie in consumer entertainment. At a recent panel discussion on digital cinema in London, Lord Puttnam, the Labour peer and successful film producer of classics such as Chariots of Fire, said: "We're just scratching the surface of what will be possible in the years to come. In fact I believe that digital cinema can be at the very heart of any vision of Digital Britain that the government sets out."

Key to that vision is that fact that, unlike conventional film-based cinema, digital cinema can be opened up to display other types of content beyond just movies. This could be live concert material, sports events, gaming tournaments, or for example, for a corporate customer, a live feed of a keynote speech from the other side of the globe.

Delivered at the speed of light

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What makes this all possible is the speed and ease of digital delivery. The key advantage of digital cinema is that content is beamed directly to the cinema via satellite or through fibre optical links. If the cinema does not have these facilities in place, the content can be physically delivered on a hard disk, which is still several orders of magnitude cheaper than producing and distributing physical prints. Film prints costs around $2,500 per print, which when you're dealing with thousands of cinemas around the world can really mount up.

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