By Kim Tae-jong
Huge tornadoes sweep away buildings in Los Angeles and floods in Manhattan swallow the entire city in the latest movie "The Day After Tomorrow". These amazing scenes wouldn't be possible without computer graphic technology, but you still might not be viewing it as the filmmakers intended it to be seen if it is not projected through a digital system.
Although computer graphics provides a new means for filmmakers to bring their imagination to their movies, conventional methods of screening films in theaters can't keep up with the new technology. But digital cinemas, or digital screening systems, now allow them seen as they are originally aimed.
"Digital cinema promises better picture quality for audiences", said Park Sung-oh, business manager of the Korean branch of Texas Instrument, pioneer company of the digital projection system. "It is especially true for movies in which computer graphics is used a lot or for movies that are entirely made digitally".
To screen through a digital projector, movies are usually digitalized after being shot on ordinary film, unless they are first made as digital films such as "Shrek" and "Finding Nemo", and are later streamed from projection machines at theaters. The system is similar to how people watch a video file stored on a computer's hard drive, yet through a larger screen.
The secrets of digital cinema lie in the technology to focus on improving image quality by adjusting contrast, resolution and color, all of which drive the depth of the picture, its reality and accuracy of the scenes.
Park added that digital projectors not only provide greater picture resolution and contrast but also they are cost effective since a digital movie file can be distributed on portable hard drives, DVD-like disks, or even sent via the Internet.
"And the movie will also look and sound pristine no matter how often it is shown since it is saved and preserved in the form of a file", Park explained. "On the other hand, movies traditionally distributed as 35mm film reels are subject to wear and tear".
Although the systems could save millions of dollars in annual costs for duplicating and shipping movies, theater owners at first seemed apprehensive about spending extra money on installing the expensive systems, despite the many benefits it might bring when first introduced in the late 1990s.
But it now seems that theaters have shifted to the new digital systems, as there are currently 220 digital cinema systems installed worldwide and about 120 movies have been shown using the new technology so far.
Domestically, four theaters - Coex Megabox, CGV Sangam, Artreon and Lafesta - have been equipped with five digital cinema screens that have shown three local movies - "Okkaedongmu (Who's Got the Tape?
", and "Yojanun Namja-ui Miraeda (Woman is the Future of Man
Some people who have seen those movies at local digital cinemas might say that they couldn't tell whether they were watching movies through digital projectors or conventional projectors if they didn't pay careful attention.
"It would help to understand the differences between them by comparing the same scenes created by both digital and ordinary projectors at the same time", said Park. "So to maximize audiences' appreciation of the differences, we will keep holding demonstration screenings to provide people with chances to experience the advantage of digital projectors. Some day we hope that it will be possible to open a movie simultaneously worldwide by delivering it to a chain of cinemas by satellite".