Here’s How Digital Projectors Will Ruin Animated Films

Via: Nina Paley’s Blog

Last August, I wrote about the wonderful analogue nature of going to the cinema and how the industry has been more resistant than most to the move to digital. Since then, there has apparently been a massive shift to digital projection after the technology finally improved enough to the point that it could rival traditional celluloid and since Sony began giving away their projectors in exchange for promotion rights.

What’s interesting though, has been the coincidental and simultaneous shift to 3-D projection. Naturally projecting in 3-D is a bit trickier and with new projectors are necessary, it seems only advantageous to also move to digital distribution as well, whereby films are downloaded directly from the internet rather than shipped in cans.

However, it occurred to me yesterday (as I read the Cartoon Brew post and the article) that the advent of digital projection, while ushering in a whole new era for cinematic entertainment, is not without its teething troubles.

For starters, the claim that cinemas are short-changing patrons by leaving 3-D lens in for 2-D films is disheartening, but also how projector companies like Sony are using DRM in their projectors (yes, projectors) because they don’t want anyone to open them. So the end result is a dull picture projected onto the screen because the 3-D filter lens absorbs so much light.

That’s the first way digital projection can harm animation. If 3-D lens are not switched out, the picture is utterly ruined. In a live-action film this may not be so much of an issue due to the greater detail being projected, but for animation, there are often some very vivid and lively colours that will not ‘pop’ near as much as they should. Animation has been a traditionally very colourful artform and whose appeal rests largely on its creative use of colour.

The second way is resolution.

My computer monitor is a 22″ widescreen with 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s nice and big, sure, but it’s resolution is lower than my mobile phone at about 72dpi. What does this have to do with film? Well, I remember when digital cameras first came out and how atrocious their resolution was compared to traditional film cameras. Now in fairness, they’ve improved a lot but only in the perceptive sense. A good quality SLR film camera will absolutely trump a digital camera when it comes to image quality simply because film has the capacity for storing images at much higher resolution than current digital technology.

My point? While digital projectors have improved greatly over the last decade, they are still at that early stage that digital cameras were at all those years ago. They represent a sufficient substitute for 35mm film, but only in the sense that the human eye cannot immediately detect the differences.

Personally, I would (and do) feel short-changed for paying extra to see a 3-D film and in return see a lower quality film in both colour and resolution.

What are your thoughts? Am I right or reading far too much into this for a Tuesday morning?