Beta Test – New, Online, Managers WalkThrough Form

We are going to launch an exciting new service. Gone with the old paper form of the Managers WalkThrough Report Form – In with the Online Forms. Give it a try.

Click on the “Routines” pulldown up above, then select Managers WalkThrough Report Form on your phone or tablet or portable computer. Have someone start up a DCP on the projector in the auditorium that you want to check…and click away on the online form.

If everything is cool, all stays nice and simple. But if the answer requires more information to pass to the tech (for example), the form magically opens up and gives you a place to tell everyone what you saw or heard.

Like the DCPs and lessons, the new Online Form Series is free and we hope you will use it for every theater every week…or more if you want. The Safety and Security Form is just about ready and the Monday CleanUp will also be released this week. Continue reading “Beta Test – New, Online, Managers WalkThrough Form”

mp4 Samples of Managers Walk Through Series DCPs

The following mp4 files are taken from the same sources as the free DCPs available for the non-technical cinema manager, the ones used to check the cinema auditorium. The only difference is that the sub-titles are burned into these QuickTime files. In the DCPs, the sub-titles are a file that the server and projector use to create the sub-titles. Perhaps the higher compression shows bands in the greys as well, but on the big screen they should look and sound fabulous.

This first sample is derived from the site, to give a bit of interesting “other” after using the Align1 and Faces1 DCPs. Continue reading “mp4 Samples of Managers Walk Through Series DCPs”

mp4 Samples of Technicians Toolkit DCPs

This first DCP is an idea gone mad. It started as just a basic grey scale pluge, then it was noticed that there are 24 blocks on screen which led to a chasing dot per frame…then the idea crossed – hey, you must put a pop white patch in case someone has one of those cool pop sync devices! …but who wants to have a screen of white to blind them after all the grey? How about red, it goes with black…at least it did in the days of film. Who know why I chose the star burst. Tell me if you want something different.

Just an aside: A little research and it turns out that the reason for red lights in the developers lab had less to do with night vision as much as the way that film didn’t get exposed so quickly…or some such – seems kind of illogical now that I read it in my own handwriting. Anyway, there is something to the idea of maintaining night vision…the red doesn’t trigger the rods as the white flash would.

This 2Pop Sync test DCP repeats 6 puts the pop tone in different 5.1 speakers around the room. There is a bit of a cheat on the .1 speaker. That is, instead of a 1 frame long 1k tone, it is a 240Hz tone. Let’s hope that everyone is rolled off by 1k, though who wants to bet that many aren’t. Anyway, the last set puts the pop in all speakers.

Do you have some simple articles that you have made to teach the lightly trained person in audio and/or picture. Let me know in the Contact link above.

Thanks. C J

Here is a QuickTime file of the DCP:

7) Measuring Light

There are many goals and many purposes for this project that you are involved with. There are many things that need to be done.

The top layer has to do with ensuring that the presentations in the auditoriums are the quality that the CEO of the company intends them to be – acknowledging that not every room is a Palace of Perfection. Another layer has to do with ensuring that each patron is satisfied with what the facility and staff have to offer, which also includes an educated staff that is able to communicate intelligently with patron and tech staff.  Fortunately, they don’t all have to be done at the same time. They can be added too and tweaked and made better and more as time goes on.

So, if at first you don’t have the organizational support to download DCPs onto a USB drive, then get the DCPs into the Media Player/Projector system right now – you can still download some audio and light measuring tools, and experiment with them until you can use them easily in a dark room.   Continue reading “7) Measuring Light”

What Means, New SMPTE Pink Noise…and How?

SMPTE ST-2095-1 is a new standard for Pink Noise. It took a great deal of work by a great number of clever people, a lot of listening and testing and tweaking. The cool thing is that it isn’t made with a lot of transiticators, but rather, with digits. This is THE Digital Pink Noise Standard.

Pink Noise has been one of those things that has always been around, and people don’t think much about it. Flick a switch, and there it is. But it took a sophisticated circuit to do right, and it wasn’t always implemented the same…or even well. That is much less likely now because with the standard is a python script that is very easy to implement. Continue reading “What Means, New SMPTE Pink Noise…and How?”

6) Measuring – Sound

Since there are many goals and purposes for this project, there are many things that need to be done.
Fortunately, they don’t all have to be done at the same time.

So, if you don’t have the organizational support to download DCPs onto a USB drive and load them into the Media Player/Projector system, you can still download some audio and light measuring tools, and experiment with them until you can use them easily in a dark room.  Continue reading “6) Measuring – Sound”

Audio (Basics): Part 2

Hi again.

At the very end of Audio (Basics), Part 1 we introduced the concept of Frequency when discussing waves. We also mentioned some basic information about the speakers in the room, which create the waves that we eventually hear. This article will build from there. You can skip all of this and you can still talk to a technician, but it is really simple. It just looks long because there are a lot of examples. Continue reading “Audio (Basics): Part 2”

6) So Now You Want To Measure Sound Level

Hopefully you have read through the post named Basics: Audio (Sound), Part 1 and Part 2. It is good to have a basic understanding of frequencies and speakers and surround and amplifiers and level and Loudness. Hopefully you’ve noticed some of the many ways that the human hearing system has made things “interesting” in normal life, and while you have walked around your cinema theaters since learning more about these things. Continue reading “6) So Now You Want To Measure Sound Level”

4) Basics: Audio (Sound)

Sound is all around us. We don’t need any particular talent to use it. Doctors tell us that we can hear sounds in the womb.

Using sound well is a different story. Being able to judge sound so it is the best possible for your clients is another different story.

For a simple definition, “Sound” is what we hear. But actually every sound involves hundreds of steps. These steps start with a motion that occurs at one point. You can think about it like a pebble that is thrown into a pond.
Continue reading “4) Basics: Audio (Sound)”

What’s It Mean? Distortion?

Let’s go through a few terms that everybody uses but which have a specific meaning if you need to get an idea across easily to the Tech Team to get a problem solved.

Distortion – Distortion is a term used to describe an imperfect reproduction of the original sound or picture.

Since we in the cinema were not there for the recording or post production mix, we really don’t have a way to know if something is being played back correctly. We can presume that grossly cracking and ugly sounds are not right. But if the sound seems “dark” or “jagged”, maybe that was what the director wanted.

But we can assume a few things and be right most of the time.

If you ask any sound mixer, they will say something like, “We mix the dialog so that it sounds like the natural level for the person speaking in the scene. Then we mix the music and sound effects around that so that everything can be heard.”

Statistically, something like 80 or 85% of the dialog comes from the center speaker. The rest is mixed in the center and left or the center and right speakers.

So, we know that if the dialog doesn’t sound natural and if it is coming from one of the side surround channels, that something is probably wrong – and should be reported.

What does it mean, ‘natural’?

That is a great question and the answer is amazingly simple and amazingly complex.

Human languages are incredibly complex. There are some parts of words that you can throw away and no one notices.

but there are some sounds that, if they go missing, the word doesn’t sound like a word – or maybe it could be one of 20 words.

What’s It Mean? Contrast…

Let’s go through a few terms that everybody uses, but have a specific meaning if you are going to get an idea across to the Tech Team to get a problem solved.

First, Contrast – Simply said, in the cinema, it is the range or difference between what looks like white and what looks like black on the screen. In most auditoriums, there is no real white on the screen or real black on the screen. There are many reasons for this, and it will always be. But there is a range that each room is capable of, and the equipment is in a war to try to make it stable, which it always loses. Continue reading “What’s It Mean? Contrast…”

1) How to: Manager’s Walk Through

The most difficult thing about this Quality Assurance process is being prepared to write while in the dark. After that it is just paying attention to what is being played and – most importantly – its affect on you.

It may take 10 or 15 evaluation before you get comfortable. Every time after that you will notice something you hadn’t seen or heard or experienced before. Continue reading “1) How to: Manager’s Walk Through”

3) A Look at Light, Part 2

There is a rule in technology. Engineering is the Art of Compromise. It applies to sound as well as picture, it applies to the equipment that creates sound and picture, it applies to safety equipment and the carpet that we walk on.

It means that there is almost always a trade to make between speed or size or cost or portability. Maybe you want more light on the screen, but that will give you more scattered light too, and that is not a good thing. Or you think, OK, I won’t let it scatter, I’ll direct the light using curved screens and screens of different materials. But directing light will bring you ‘hot spots’ and that can be worse. We are surrounded by the decisions of designers who have to balance these things everywhere in our daily lives.

There are machines, tools really, that will test light and sound. They are usually expensive, and they require trained people to set them up properly. These people must then take the tests properly and then read the results properly. So, it isn’t only that the equipment costs 15,000 to 30,000 dollars or euros. They also consume expensive technician time. Continue reading “3) A Look at Light, Part 2”

2) A Look at Light

Pictures are complicated. Moving pictures on the screen are more complicated. Seeing pictures on the screen is also complicated. But somehow we have to learn enough about it so that we can help control it.

Pictures are made of colors. For this lesson, we are going to say that even black and white are colors, even though they really determine the range of and darkness of a color. So, for example, inside the deep forest we will see deep greens that are almost black, and we will see bright green moss or leaves that are closer to white. The same is true of brick red and pink cherry ice cream or the deep blue suit of the executive and the light blue scarf that she is wearing.

Color scientists could turn that one paragraph into books of information about intensity and hue and many other interesting topics, but we need to stay focused (just like the picture does, but that is in another lesson.)

When we see a picture on the screen, we are actually seeing 24 separate pictures every second…or 25 pictures per second in Europe and other parts of the world. And since we are seeing digital cinema from digital projectors, we are actually seeing digital pictures.

What the heck does that mean, digital pictures?

If we go a few steps back in the chain before the picture hit the screen, we can see that the picture went through a piece of glass – called the port glass – and then we see it coming out of a lens. Very expensive that lens, but films used lenses and port glass too, so that isn’t what makes them digital. What makes them digital is just before that. There are 3 electronic chips made of thousands and thousands of very tiny mirrors that respond to the information coming from the media player. The media player is really just a computer playing a huge file.

Imagine being able to reflect light with some mirrors. Now, imagine those mirrors are so tiny that you can fit millions of them into one small computer chip. Now imagine that you can control them so fast that they move to the angle you want them to move to a hundred times a second. Now, imagine one of them being flooded with red light, one with blue light, and one with green light, and these mirrors are crazily pointing little dots of red and blue and green light to the lens, or away from the lens. Now, imagine that they are so coordinated that the colors combine to make faces and fountains and butterflies appear on the screen.

OK; you can imagine that. I prefer to think of it as magic, but let’s not argue.

The projectors in your room, Barco, Christie and NEC, all use Texas Instruments DLP (Digital Light Projection) DMDs (Digital Micromirror Devices). Sony projectors use a slightly different kind of magic that does something similar.

And that is what makes it a digital device. The pictures in the computer file are made of computer code that are made of ones and zeros…a one makes the mirror go one direction (to point light on the lens), and the zero makes the mirror point to a giant hole of magic blackness where tiny little creatures watch the same movie we see, only seeing the opposite.

Meanwhile, back on the screen. We know that red light and green light will create yellow light. A little less green (or more red) and we see brown then orange, and a little more green (or less red) and we see lighter then more intense shades of green. Different combinations of red and green and blue give us a very wide range of colors to see. In fact, there are billions of combinations that make billions of colors.

If we combine all three colors equally with all the energy we can deliver, the colors join to make white. Make the energy less intense but keeping the amounts of red and green and blue equal, and we get a shade of grey. As the energy gets less, the greys go down to black.

If we slightly change the proportion of red and green and blue, that grey color will shift. We will be able to see a pink or yellow or greenish ‘cast’ in the grey.

But this is where the eyes and nerves and brain and memory come in to make seeing a picture  a complicated thing. Because we know what a blue sky is, what red is, what white is, and when we see a bright white coming from the screen we can be pretty certain that this a very bright white!

Except it isn’t. The brightest white that we see in the cinema theater is hundreds, and even thousands of times less bright than what we see outside when we see a blue sky and a bright pool bathed in sunlight. Our human visual system tries to make things better for us. Which is sometimes a good thing. Because if the system didn’t do that, we would not think that the bright white in a cinema theater was very interesting…but we do. Yet more magic.


And that is the background for Part Two of A Look at Light.

0) Ideas Behind The Checklist

The amazing thing about picture and sound is that no one understands either of them completely, even after thousands of years of study. So don’t feel like you are the only one. It was only 110 years ago that Einstein proposed what seems to be the best working theory for light, but they were just untested theories. Now, every year, someone makes progress proving another piece of his ideas.

More recently, it was a long and hard 15 year transition from film to digital projection. A lot of lessons have been learned. And now it seems projectors are changing again, to laser light…yet another set of ideas in the constant march toward trying to fulfill the Director’s Intent. Audio also has many topics that are argued about in the professional groups. There’s always something to learn. Continue reading “0) Ideas Behind The Checklist”