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Hollywood Takes A Big Step In Digital Distribution

The Chronicles Of Narnia was delivered on two hard drives and in a RAID file; "Casanova" also will be distributed digitally.
The graphics required to make "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" in a digital format seemed impossible until recently. The feat was only made possible by advancements in computer graphics and Digital Cinema Initiative LLC technical specifications, a collaborative effort between the seven major studios to distribute digital movies to theaters.

Hollywood luminaries came out Thursday to view the movie at The Entertainment Technology Center University of Southern California. "Narnia was delivered to the Brooklyn Pavilion Theater in a DCI-compliant format," Howard Lukk, executive director of production technology at Walt Disney Pictures and Television said. "Another 47 other screens received the movie in a digital format."

After the screening, Charles Swartz, executive director and CEO for the ETC-USC, moderated a discussion with panelists Dean Wright, visual effects supervisor at Paraval Frozen Lake Productions LLC; Howard Lukk, executive director of production technology at Walt Disney Pictures and Television; and Chris Witham, head of technical operations at Technicolor Digital Cinema.

The computer graphics gave visual effect experts who worked on the C.S. Lewis classic the ability to blend every hair and muscle movement from the camera shots on real wolfe-dog hybrids with life-like computer graphic images. The ability to master and distribute the movie digitally allowed Disney to distribute last week the first DCI compliant movies release in the United States, which ran at the Pavilion Theater in Brooklyn.

"There were several challenges to create computer graphics characters stand along side real animals and have them live in the same world," said Dean Wright, visual effects supervisor at Paraval Frozen Lake Productions LLC. "On many shots using the real wolf-dogs we had to remove their tongues because they were panting. And, there were no centaurs in the zoo. We looked."

Pre-production to design the creatures began two years ago and shooting the 1,617 shots began in June 2004. There were more than 100 shots shared between two post-production houses, including Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), and Sony, Paravel's Wright said. The movie was shot in 35 millimeter. And the fact it was digitally distributed and compressed had no influence on the decisions made in production, Walt Disney's Lukk said.

The 182 gigabytes compressed DCI package was delivered to the ETC-USC technology lab on two hard drives and a Raid file. The center used a Doremi DCP 200 server and Christie CP2000 projector with Texas Instruments (TI) DLP Cinema chip to project the movie. "The file is a JPEG 2000 compression, part of the DCI specifications," Lukk said. Disney used the full spectrum to get the maximum resolution and projection for the screen, which makes the reds pop.

Disney is expected to release "Casanova" on Dec. 25 in digital format.

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