Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Technical Breakdown of the Dryden Renovations

Posted by on Mar 07 2013 | Motion Pictures, Technology

Beyond the theater’s plush new seats, fresh coat of paint, new carpets, and enhanced lighting, the Dryden has undergone some serious technological overhauling and upgrading both up in the projection booth and behind the screen (did we mention the screen is new too?). These new features enable us to maintain our high standards of motion picture exhibition and also greatly expand our projection capabilities. Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s been added and augmented:

Barco_front

1) Barco DP2K-32B Digital Cinema Projector
Motion picture distribution is moving away from traditional 35mm film, and movies are now being presented on DCPs (Digital Cinema Packages). These high- quality, heavily encrypted hard drives are quickly replacing 35mm prints as the primary format for film distribution and are slowly becoming the new finishing format for many film preservation projects. Our new digital projector will allow us to exhibit DCPs of both new first-run features and digital restorations of classic films with a bright, brilliant image and crisp, full surround sound. Of course, the Dryden will continue to primarily screen photochemical film (we always will, whenever possible) but this new technology greatly increases the depth and variety of films we can now show in the theater.

Masking_screen

2) Automatic Masking System
The masking encompasses the black curtains on the top, bottom, and sides of screen. In an archival theater such as the Dryden, which exhibits a wide range of films with different aspect ratios, it is imperative that the masking be adjustable to fit the projected image. In the past, the masking had to be manually fine tuned by the projectionist using a system of pulleys behind the screen (and even then we could only adjust the sides!). Now, all four masking curtains are connected to independent motors that are operated from touch panels in the projection booth. This system not only makes the projectionist’s job much easier, but it also facilitates more precise control of the screen’s size and shape, which in turn allows us to exhibit any film the way it was intended to be seen.

Masking_controls

AMX_display

3) Enhanced AMX Control System
With all these new gadgets, we needed a way to effectively control them all in a simple, elegant fashion. Our booth had an existing AMX system that controlled some aspects of our film projectors and auditorium lighting, but that’s next to nothing when compared to our new capabilities. The AMX touch panels in the booth are now linked to nearly every aspect of theater. A projectionist can control the lights, sound system, masking, video decks, in-booth monitors, and the digital and film projectors all from one screen. Although unseen to most Dryden patrons, this interface is the nervous system of the theater that makes everything you see possible.

 

And there you have it! All of these features were expertly installed by a crew of cinema engineers from Boston Light and Sound in conjunction with LeChase Construction and IATSE technicians. Everyone involved with the renovations showed unparalleled dedication and prowess in their efforts and I feel honored and privileged to have been part of this workforce. I sincerely hope you enjoy the new Dryden and that you have gained at least a small appreciation for what’s going on in the dark little room at the back of the theater.

 

More on the Dryden Theatre Renovation:
Part I, The Curtain Stays
Part II, Seatless
Part III, Cement, Lighting, and Accessibility
Part IV, Painting, Listening System and Digital Projection
Part V, Stage and Carpet
Part VI, Seats and Projection Booth
Part VII, The Curtain Returns

 
 

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Dryden Theatre Renovation Series: Seats and Projection Booth

Posted by on Feb 14 2013 | Technology

The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here: the seats have been fully installed. The seat parts arrived Monday morning and sat in the lobby in boxes as preparations for their installation began. All day Monday holes were drilled through the carpet and the legs of the chairs were bolted in. Working into the night Monday, the backs were attached to the legs throughout the balcony. By 12:00 p.m. Tuesday, the backs and seat cushions had all been installed and the seat numbers were stapled in. Barbara Galasso, our in-house photographer,  took some great photos of the seat installation and of the finished product.

Installation of the digital projector has begun. The Barco projector was delivered on Monday. Installing it into the booth however, is not an easy process. Before anything could begin Chief Projectionist Dave Rodriguez and the team from Boston Light and Sound, a company devoted to designing entertainment centers, specializing in projection booth maintenance and installations, had to wait until the chairs were completely installed to avoid damage to the projectors currently in there from dust. Once the chairs were finished (early Wednesday morning) work in the projection booth began. There are a number of factors in the installation process. The projector must be connected to the equipment currently in the booth and allow the continuation of the use of the other projection systems without obstructing the process. With the rather large size of the digital projector and the limited space in the booth, it is a bit of a puzzle to figure out how everything will fit, yet Dave and the BL&S crew are up to the challenge and rearrangement of the booth equipment is already in progress. Once everything is in place, the projector will need to be calibrated, focused, and color balanced and they will be testing the projector for the remainder of the week and into next.

We now have three projection systems: the new Barco digital projector (allowing us to show the newest DCP releases as well as DCP restorations of classic films), the Kinoton projectors (which have served us over the past 6 years as we’ve screened 35mm and 16mm), and of course the Century projectors (which have served us for 60 years, enabling us to screen Nitrate film—we are one of only four theaters in the country to be able to do so).

Another exciting installation taking place, also by BL&S, is the rigging of motors for the automatic adjustable masking. Four motors, one behind each corner of the screen, will be operated by controls in the booth. When activated they can automatically bring the masking to the desired aspect ratio.

Although the pictures are great, they really don’t compare to physically being in the theatre. We look forward to seeing all of you in our new theatre and the reactions you will have as you enter.

More on the Dryden Theatre Renovation:
Part I, The Curtain Stays
Part II, Seatless
Part III, Cement, Lighting, and Accessibility
Part IV, Painting, Listening System and Digital Projection
Part V, Stage and Carpet

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This… is the Memory Card

Posted by on Jan 22 2013 | Technology

Check out this short clip from the local news with Todd Gustavson our technology curator taking a look at the inside of the Tactical Camera. One of only two models ever made, this camera is what all digital cameras were derived from.

Big box of a memory card shown above

More on our new historic acquisition here.

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Historic New Acquisition at Eastman House

Posted by on Dec 19 2012 | Technology


An excerpt from our Films & Events publication

The object above is the Eastman Kodak Company Tactical Camera. Designed in 1989, this was donated to us by Exelis Inc. in Rochester, NY.

This piece is most notable for being the earliest extant digital single-lens reflex camera. Eastman Kodak produced its first megapixel imaging sensor in the mid–1980s.

James McGarvey, a company engineer, designed and built the imaging firmware and storage system for the M1 sensor, which was installed in a Canon F1 film camera, making it the world’s first digital single-lens reflex camera. Known as the Electro-Optic (E-O) Camera, it was built for the U.S. government in 1988 for covert use. The Tactical Camera evolved from the E-O project the next year and was a more robust system used to demonstrate the company’s digital technology to potential industrial customers.

Kodak M1 Sensor

Our Technology Curator Todd Gustavson on the acquisition, “The Tactical Camera may well be the most important object acquired during my 24 years at Eastman House. There is nothing like it in the collection. Not only is it is the oldest digital camera in the collection, but more importantly, it is one of only two ever made, and it is from these models that all digital cameras were derived.”

For more information, visit McGarvey’s website.

 

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Digital Dilemmas: Future-proofing the Motion Picture Collection

Posted by on Aug 27 2012 | Motion Pictures, Technology

When you hear the words “digital” and “cinema” together, you probably think about special effects and the kind of computer-generated imagery seen in a Michael Bay summer blockbuster: Explosions! Robots! Spaceships!

While our work here in the Motion Picture Department isn’t quite as heart-pounding, “digital” is still a word we’re using more and more as we face the challenges of preserving and maintaining access to one of the major moving image archives in the United States.

It’s a fact that motion picture film made with organic materials such as nitrate and acetate, no matter how well preserved in the proper conditions, will eventually deteriorate and no longer be projectable. This creates an enormous dilemma for moving image archives all over the world: how best to apply digital solutions to the preservation, storage and exhibition of collected films.

As the digital film technician, it’s my role to help prepare the motion picture collection for a future based on pixels in addition to perforations. Over the coming months, I’ll be writing posts here to talk in more detail about the tools and processes we’re using in the various functions of the department, such as:

  • Preservation: a large amount of materials related to the motion picture collection are not on film, but on legacy analog media like U-Matic and VHS (hey, remember those?), and need to be digitized and stored before the tapes oxidize and before the professional-grade equipment necessary to play them is no longer available.
  • Restoration: during the preservation process, films are often scanned at a high resolution (2K or 4K) and brought into a powerful computer system here in the department to be digitally cleaned of dirt and scratches prior to being reprinted to film.
  • Exhibition: as more and more theaters make the transition to digital cinema, it will be necessary for us to prepare and distribute titles  from our collection in the form of digital cinema packages, or DCPs, to venues who have traditionally been loaned physical films.

There are many hurdles ahead as the world of motion pictures goes through this epic shift, but I’m excited to be straddling the line between film and digital and looking forward to sharing our work with you. -Tony Delgrosso

 

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