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Digital blankets Expo floor. (Cinema Expo: European exhibs and distribs get ready for a long, hot summer).

Much of the show floor at Cinema Expo will be dominated by the usual popcorn poppers and soda fountains, but the most buzz will be generated by digital cinema.

Vendors of digital cinema projectors and file servers are actively lining up prospective buyers of their products, even though a consortium of Hollywood studios only recently began work to formulate a uniform standard for the fledgling technology. Similarly, George Lucas' theater-quality control service Lucasfilm THX recently announced its first set of quality certifications for digital cinema projectors and file servers.

"THX has always been about promoting the highest exhibition quality, and we are committed to playing a leading role in digital cinema," THX Digital Cinema director Tim Schafbuch says. "We want to help our THX theater exhibitors achieve the highest presentation quality, but ultimately it's for the audience."

THX's efforts at Cinema Expo will neatly dovetail with the recent rollout of several digital cinema installations to accommodate the bow of digitally produced "Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones," Schafbuch notes. Lucas and other top Lucasfilm execs have been vocal proponents of digital cinema, claiming digital projection is the best way to exhibit pics produced digitally.

Currently, there are almost 100 digital cinema installations worldwide, including a handful of European sites.

"Our objective at Cinema Expo is to introduce what we've certified and discuss how these products have performed in the market," Schafbuch explains. "It's perfect timing for us, because we now also have authoritative data to show some of the European exhibitors how these THX-certified products have performed in the field."

THX-certified products for digital cinema include: Avica Filmstore file servers; Barco's D-Cine Premier DLP projector; Boeing Digital's In Cinema Equipment file servers; and Technicolor Digital's Auditorium Management System, also a file server.

In Cinema Equipment is manufactured by other suppliers based on a Boeing prototype, and Technicolor developed its product with Technicolor Digital co-owner Qualcomm. So far, Boeing and Technicolor have used either Christie or Barco projectors in their theater installations.

Elsewhere among the tech vendors on the trade show floor will be two of the big three vendors of digital theater sound systems--Digital Theater Systems and Dolby Digital. Sony Cinema Products, which markets the SDDS digital sound format, will sit out the show this year.

There once was a time when industryites expected one of the three formats to fall by the wayside, but nearly a decade into the advent of digital theater sound that has not happened.

Dolby has the most theaters and DTS ranks No. 2 in market share, but Sony has done distinctly well with the highest end of the theatrical marketplace. And most premium big-city venues boast auditoriums equipped with all three formats.

Dolby will be pushing its top-shelf Dolby Surround EX system at Cinema Expo, as well as its latest Digital Media Adapter, DMA8, which allows cinemas to decode multiple digital audio formats.

DTS, which will be showing DTS Extended Surround and other digital sound products, also will be hyping its Cinema Subtitling System.

"You can deliver up to 40 different languages on a single disc, and the subtitles are projected onto the screen using a special digital projector," says DTS prexy John Kirchner. "This allows you to have subtitles on demand."
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Author:DiOrio, Carl
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Jun 24, 2002
Words:539
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