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GSCA 2014 Film Expo and the “T” Word

Tammy SeldonThe 2014 Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) Film Expo took place in Austin, Texas, at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, March 24-25.

Of late, the GSCA Film Expo has also been a digital technology showcase. Within this specialty sector, the changeover to digital technology is taking longer than it has in mainstream cinema, because of the challenges for to achieve a satisfactory digital replacement for the high visual standard of 1570 film plus the sheer size of the screen.

Some giant screen theaters (mostly flatscreen) now have digital projection, but a goodly number still rely on film projection, and so the GSCA screening venue must accommodate 2D and 3D projection in both film and digital. Attendees were supplied with two different sets of 3D glasses (RealD and IMAX). This year’s digital projection system was a temporary installation furnished by Electrosonic in collaboration with RealD and Christie.

Right: Tammy Seldon, GSCA executive director. Photo by James Neihouse for GSCA. ©GSCA 2014.

galapagos poster

Production of giant screen content has likewise voyaged into the digital realm - not exactly a new development in the sector, but one that remains controversial, and the controversy seems to have intensified as the 1570 film exhibition format on which the entire industry was originally founded seems on the point of vanishing. At this gathering, the worst thing one producer could say about another producer’s work was that it looked like television - and many were not shy about their use of the “T” word. What they are decrying is not the use of digital capture per se, but a lack of the sweeping visual language that characterizes classic giant screen cinematography. It takes more than a giant screen to make a giant screen experience.

The plenitude of titles with space and astronomy content made it clear that giant screen distributors are actively cultivating the planetarium market, and most mentioned plans for their new titles to be available in fulldome versions.

With the digital shift, there is new variety available to giant screen theaters - an array of choices that some appear to find a bit intimidating in its complexity. Distributors are likewise facing a brave new world in terms of competition for screen share. DCI compliant systems or inset projectors may be desirable in order to attain ultimate versatility. Some of those shopping for new digital systems view their spaces as something like today’s multipurpose performing arts centers – wanting Mysteries posteraccommodation for spoken word and traveling live shows as well as the ability to screen alternative content along with the main menu of educational shows.

Planetarium operators were present – we spoke to representatives of Tycho Brahe and of Fels Planetarium. Lisa Samford of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival attended, looking for ideas, trends, and content to showcase at the Jackson Hole New Media Symposium in Boston, September 17-19, which will use multiple venues in order to meet its goal of screening everything in its native format – not just during the Symposium, but also for the judging of the Science Media Awards.

The GSCA technical session included a first-ever from 3ality Technica, the leading company in facilitating 3D live action capture for motion pictures and broadcast. 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair (pictured below right) who has a background in special venue cinema, appeared on camera himself in the premiere demonstration of a live 4K digital 3D theater broadcast. (Photo by James Neihouse for GSCA. ©GSCA 2014.)

National Geographic's "Mysteries of the Unseen World" was a standout in its integration of science visualization and storytelling, with high production values. It is Steve Schklair at GSCA 2014 Film Exponarrated by Forrest Whitaker.

nWave Pictures reported good success with its unique marketing approach for "Galapagos: Nature's Wonderland," a key element of which is a very active role for narrator Jeff Corwin, who has made numerous personal appearances to launch the film in theaters, and has enthusiastically promoted the film to his own following on social media.



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