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El.pub Analytic No. 3 "Celluloid or Silicon?"

Page 3

Contents: Introduction | Celluloid or Silicon? | E-cinema Technology | Display technology | Data distribution | New Applications | Infrastructure for cultural minorities | The not-so-big screen | Business issues | Reducing distribution costs | New revenue streams | Installation costs | Middle men | IPR | Support | Conclusion

New Applications

Although essential components, the methods of distribution and displaying e-cinema programmes are perhaps not as important as the new e-cinema applications. Of the existing applications of e-cinema, perhaps the live relay of boxing matches to cinemas is best known. The technology to provide this service is not cheap, but with tickets costing as much as £50 a seat, this is not an issue.

Infrastructure for cultural minorities

Imagine the impact that e-cinema would bring if it could be used as part of a cultural infrastructure. We would be able to enjoy access to regional cultures and celebrate the diversity that is intrinsic to Europe. 'If a European or minority language movie is a success, it could be viewed by minority audiences around the world far more effectively and economically than having to print, say, 3,000 copies of 35mm and distribute them in the usual way', said Snell. He added that 'the French are very sharp about this and respond very favourably to the electronic cinema. The French have invested a lot in their VTHR system (video transmission haute qualité), and it has been operating for around eight years now. The French felt that preserving their culture through mass communications, mass entertainment was a priority, and that electronic cinema could fulfil the need.'

The not-so-big screen

The five presentations of the roadshow in the National Film Theatre, London, were almost filled to capacity. Peter Wilson, head of High-definition TV at Snell & Wilcox, observed that 'the atmosphere was very positive and realistic rather than idealistic. People now understand that what is required lies somewhere between what is acceptable and what is perfect.'

'The focus was not just on the 35mm big screen, but also the not-so-big screen deployed in not-so-big communities, where 35mm film doesn't have a strong case. There aren't cinema projectors in the smaller communities, so the introduction of an electronic format is actually expanding the market rather than competing with it', said Wilson.

'There used to be a tradition of people with a van and a 16mm projector running film clubs in remote areas. There are parts of Northern Europe where these clubs still exist, such as in the very isolated areas of northern Norway. With e-cinemas deployed in these regions, you could just as easily use it for broadcast television, recorded television, even material produced at home. The flexibility offered by e-cinema might bring back the idea of large-audience communal viewing', said Wilson.

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