Category: Lessons

Getting to know you.

10b) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat? Part 2

Scope or Flat can best be shown with some examples of how it goes wrong. These drawings were made because exactly this problem happened in a local screening room for a movie screening to a room full of experts.

The intention isn’t to make fun of anyone, of course. These things happen by mistake more often than by negligence or bad repair. The screening company representative said that there was a run-through previous to the showing and everything was fine. Since she left the room after her welcome statement, we don’t know if what we saw is what she saw previously. It is possible that she didn’t know what to look or listen for, which is exactly why we need to document this. This Lesson will help you to understand this situation, recognize it right away as you do  your auditorium inspections…and fix it right away. Continue reading “10b) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat? Part 2”

1) What Does It Mean: DCP

Let’s start with something that we will hear about all the time.

A DCP is a Digital Cinema Package. You will never hear, “Did we get the Digital Cinema Package?”. No one will ever say, “Will you play my independent movie please? I can send you the Digital Cinema Package.” No. Instead, they will say, “We got the DCPs.” Or, “I’ll send you the DCP on a hard disk.”

Yes, it is digital, and it is cinema. Digital simply means that is capable of being used by a computer. In case you are not certain, the projector, and the media player for the projector, and sound system are basically just specialized computers. Cinema, of course, means that it has something to do with motion pictures, usually in an auditorium. (The word “cinema” hasn’t had a long life, only about 100 years. The originators of modern motion pictures, the Lumiere brothers, chose the word from the Greek word from Ancient Greek word kínēma – which means “movement”.)

The reason the DCP is called a package is that it holds all the frames of the movie, plus all the music, dialog, sound effects, all the subtitles and the files for the blind/partially sighted, deaf and hard of hearing, and the security keys. In addition, the package has some extra files that tell the computers which of those files to play, and when. Continue reading “1) What Does It Mean: DCP”

10) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat?

The first question: Why Do We Care?

Every Answer begins the same way: There are many things that can go wrong with the presentation of the moving picture.

In this case, we are working with the shape of the picture.

This one is a little tricky. Even if the shape is wrong – too narrow or too short – the image is on the screen. In some cases, the images may look OK if you just glance at the image, or if you don’t know what to look for.

Will the audience care? Many will. They will think that the screen looks too small, or the image looks too small. (Nobody ever complains about too big!) They may complain that the people are too thin.

Buzzwords: “Constant Height”. “Constant Width”. “Aspect Ratio”. “Two-Three-Five”. “One-Eight-Five”. (2:35 or 1:85). We will show the definition of these terms with examples. Don’t look them up now since they have many meanings and most explanations are more complicated than we need to be.

The Complication: There are 2 correct forms for an image on the screen. Even in the same facility, some auditoriums may be one type, and some auditoriums may be the other type!

Masking and Curtains in a Cinema Auditorium

Potential Points of Failure: Screen. Curtains. Motors for Curtains. Cord for Curtains. Masking. Motors for masking. Chains for masking. Automation Electronics. Projector. Automation setting on Playlist. Instructions that tell which setting to put into the playlist!


Don’t let this get too complicated. We are only talking about the size of the rectangle of the movie on the screen.

Movies are created in 2 different shapes. The measurements for both of them is just about 2 times as large side to side – the width – compared to the dimension from top to bottom – the height. For example, the following picture shows this concept of a rectangle that is 2 times wide and 1 times high.

A pretend cinema screen two times wide and one times high

A simple way to write this is ‘2 to 1’ or ‘2:1’, which means 2 units in one direction compared to 1 unit in another direction.)

The important things to remember is:

There are two formats

One format is slightly smaller than 2 times wide and 1 times tall – that format is called Flat.

One format is slightly wider than 2 times wide and 1 times tall – that format is called Scope.

Here is a picture of those 2 formats placed with our 2 to 1 picture.

Two to One, with Flat and Scope

The choice for this happens very early in the movie making process – probably during the first hours of conversation between the producer and director, or sometimes the director and the cinematographer. Will we shoot this movie wide or do we shoot this movie tall?

Of course, they don’t use those terms. Art and Science are never that simple – there are always special words, or words with special meanings. They choose between “Scope” or “Flat”.

There is no rule that says a movie should be one way or the other. Sometimes a director will only work in one form, then suprise you by making a movie in another. Or, sometimes people will say that all action movies are in Scope. But a little research will show that isn’t always true.

Anyway, after the director’s decision, every scene of that movie will be shot through a lens that is in that form – or what is called a format. And of course, the last lens of the movie process – the lens that is attached to your projector – will make the movie appeear in that format on your screen.

Here be dragons!Maybe you remember those old maps with the ship at the edge near the sign that says: Warning – Here Be Dragons~! Well…Warning — Here Be Maths~! …and we promised to keep math to a minimum. But there will be drawings too, with arrows and bright colors. So, be brave. Continue reading “10) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat?”

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”

6) Measuring – Sound

Since there are many goals and purposes for this project, there are many things that need to be done. Training is high on the list. Practice should be high on the list…but who has the time!?!?
Perhaps you don’t have the a friendly tech or projectionist to

  • download DCPs onto a USB drive and
  • load them into the Media Player/Projector system and
  • make a nice playlist,

You can still download some audio and light measuring tools, and experiment and practice 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”

9) What’s It Mean? Distortion??

Let’s do this again. We will go through a term that everybody uses but which has a different meaning depending on who you talk to. Which meaning do we care about? The meaning that will correctly get an idea across to the Tech Team. We must describe a problem so it can solved quickly and well.

Distortion – For our purpose, distortion is the term that describes the imperfect recreation of the original sound of the motion picture. There are other definitions and uses, including the use with picture details such as ‘brightness and contrast problems’ or ‘focus problems’ or different kinds of color and screen problems. Continue reading “9) What’s It Mean? Distortion??”

8) What’s It Mean? Contrast…

As usual, the first question for every “What Does It Mean” topic is: Why Do We Care?

Every Answer begins the same: there are many things that can go wrong with the presentation of the moving picture. In this case, we are working with how much dark and how much bright there is on the screen.

This one is a very tricky. The image is onscreen. In most cases, the images may look OK if you just glance at the image, or if you don’t know what to look for.

Will the audience care? Maybe not. They don’t know what “Correct” is.  They will think that the picture lacks “Pop”, or some other quality. But if you don’t know that the black suit is supposed to have fine light blue lines in it, then the black suit might look OK.

Buzzwords: “Black Levels”, “Crushed Black Level”, “No Greys”, “Gamma Problem”. We will show the definition of these terms with examples of how they apply to our situation as someone who is checking the quality of the picture. Don’t look them up now since they have many meanings and most are more complicated than we need.

Complication: Almost all cinema projectors have a problem creating perfect blacks. But there is a range of deep blacks and deep grays that they should give. And white too! There should be a good scale, and not too bright. BUT – We don’t always know what the artist wanted.


Look at these three versions of the same winter scene at Yosemite Falls.

In the first one, you can see the amazing falls against the crisp rocks, and the golden hour sun is beautifully lighting up the mountaintop.

In the 2nd one you can almost taste the frost from the frozen lake. The air is so crisp and clear that you can see several layers through the trunks of the trees.

The 3rd is in between…not as on fire, not as clear through the tree trunks…dark in fact. The falls don’t stand out as sharply against the rocks.

By now you may have guessed, the 3rd one is the one that the artist created. The difference in the three is entirely the level of Contrast

Low Contrast

Potential Points of Failure: Bad setup on the Projector. Wrong Lens. Port Window, if very dirty. Old screen.


So. What is Contrast?

Simply, in the cinema, there is a level of white and a level of black. Contrast is the difference between them. If black is 1 and white is 2,000, then we say the contrast is 2000 to 1. It is written like this – 2000:1

The next section will go into show more examples and give you the basics on how to see good and bad contrast. And, most importantly, how to tell the technician what you see.

 

Take a break, and while you are living life, look in shadows. Notice how there are things to see in the shadows. Notice how there are things to see even in light that is almost too bright to look at.

Photo by Rodrigo Soares on Unsplash