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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Studios unite for digital standard
Digital films
Films could be sent by satellite
Seven major movie studios in the US are to establish technical standards for the development of digital cinema, in a rare joint venture.

The aim of the as-yet-untitled project will be to set the agenda so that rival digital projectors, software and distribution will use a universal language.

Goals for the scheme will be to establish minimum standards for picture quality and protecting films from piracy.

There are fears that when digital cinema is more widespread, with images being beamed by satellite or internet lines, hackers could break security systems and make perfect copies to pirate.

'Problems'

In the past there were problems with the introduction of competing digital sound systems, forcing cinemas to spend millions on three different technologies.

"Digital sound was a problem," said Rick King, a spokesman for AMC Entertainment Inc, one of the largest cinema chains.

"It took some time and money to get all those problems resolved."

"The differences in time and money on digital projection will be exponential, compared to that."

Equal share

Disney, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros will all be paying an equal share to the project.

Executives believe that companies from multiplex owners to digital film producers will reap benefits from not having to pay for equipment that could become obsolete in months.

Robert Lambert is senior vice president for new technology and development at the Walt Disney Co.

He outlined his aims for the new system, saying: "In the same way that 35mm film now works in all the projectors, we'd like to make sure the same content, authored once, can play on all the equipment, no matter who the vendor is."

So far about 50 theatres worldwide are equipped with digital systems, with each projector costing up to $200,000 (139,130).

But the expense of switching to digital projection is deterring cinema owners from making the switch, especially during financial unstable times.

See also:

08 Feb 02 | New Media
Music industry's digital plans 'fail'
18 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
MP3 engineers tackle digital cinema
03 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Films without film arrive in Europe
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