Saturday, May 22, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
A sharper clearer Star Wars
A digital treat for Star Wars fans
By Corinne Podger of BBC Science
The team behind the new Star Wars film have made history once again by using digital projectors for the main US premieres.
Audiences at the opening showings of The Phantom Menace were not just the first to see the long-awaited new Star Wars movie.
According to its producers, they also saw the first major blockbuster ever shown through a digital projector.
Clearer and sharper
But digital projectors read an image that has been scanned into a computer. The projector then transforms the computer code into moving pictures on the screen.
Digital projectors are already used in conference centres to show videos. But new projectors that could capture the details and colours of a full-scale movie had to be specially made for The Phantom Menace.
Digital projectors promise clearer, sharper films that will not deteriorate no matter how many times they are shown or copied.
The copies themselves are cheaper to make, because the film can be stored on a computer instead of on expensive celluloid. And unlike celluloid, computer files will not decompose or wear out.
Digital film equipment is also cheaper than celluloid cameras, opening the way for more low-budget films to be made.
Unfortunately, most people who see the Phantom Menace will see it on celluloid. But digital film-making, if it catches on, will radically change how films are seen and made in future.