Category: Picture Quality

10) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat?

Very early in the movie making process – during the first hours of conversation between the producer and director, or sometimes the director and the cinematographer – the choice is made to shoot the movie wide or shoot the movie tall. They don’t use those terms, of course. Art and Science are never that simple – there are always special words or words with special meanings. What they choose from is “Scope” or “Flat”.

From that decision they choose how the scenes will look through the first lens in the movie making process. From that decision also comes the choice of how the scenes will look on your big screen, which gets its light from the last lens of the movie making process – the lens attached to your projector. There’s a direct line from all the production work with the camera and actors and sets, and all the post-production work with editors and special effects, and all the satellites and cables from your theater management system to the media player that feeds the audio system, and the projector…to the lens and your screen. There on the projector, the choice is made…Scope or Flat.

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~! But there will be drawings too, with arrows and bright colors. So, be brave. Continue reading “10) What Does It Mean: Scope and Flat?”

1a) Where to Judge The Auditorium

There is no perfect answer for “Where should I be to judge the screen and sound system?” Actually, we don’t need to be in a “perfect” place. We just need a consistent place – measure from the same place every time. Still…the question is: Where?

How High Is This Screen? when it falls on you?One group of experts will say that you should judge from so many “Screen Heights” away. A screen height is just like it sounds, but very difficult to evaluate. In the movie theater, if a screen is 64 feet wide, then the height is 27 feet high. 64 feet is pretty big. If your screen is half that size, it will be 32 feet wide and 13½ feet high. If the screen is smaller, for example, a little bigger than 21 feet wide – which is 1/3rd of 64 feet – it will be 9 feet high.
Continue reading “1a) Where to Judge The Auditorium”

Beta Test – New, Online, Managers WalkThrough Form

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

Use the link on the line above, or click on the “Routines” pulldown in the Menu above.  Select Managers WalkThrough Report Form on your phone or tablet or portable computer. Get settled in the auditorium that you want to check  the sound and picture. When ready, have someone start up one of the Cinema Test Tools DCPs …and click away on the online form.

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

Like the DCPs and lessons, the new Online Form Series is free. 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 soon. Read further to learn about emailing the form and other Q&A. Continue reading “Beta Test – New, Online, Managers WalkThrough Form”

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”

8) What’s It Mean? Contrast…

Let’s go through a few terms that everybody uses, but might have a different meaning depending on who you talk to. We care about the specific meaning that will correctly get an idea across to the Tech Team about a problem so it can solved quickly and well.

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 “8) What’s It Mean? Contrast…”

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 the extremes of the range of lightness 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. Continue reading “2) A Look At Light”

5) Artistic Intent…Protecting the Dream

Let’s go back to a very basic concept – the very idea behind “Why We Care” about the quality of the picture and sound that our customers experience.

Someone had an idea for a story to tell, and somehow that story met a producer and director who found the money to be able to tell that story as a movie. That is the intention – to tell the story to a bunch of people.

How this story gets told is sometimes called Artistic Intent. Because it is the Director who is hired to carry the vision and purpose forward, often this is called the Director’s Intent.

The Director and Producer hire the Cinematographer team – the people who can cleverly make a camera capture the light reflecting off the scenes and reflecting off the actors into the lenses. Audio people and many others are hired to capture the sounds and make the scenery and perform clever stunts. They hire Post Production teams to manipulate and edit and balance the sound and pictures. After much labor, a distribution group puts the finished movie onto hard disks or satellites, or somehow gets it into the cinema facility.

In another Lesson, we explained how Engineering is the Art of Compromise. It is the same with movie creation. The Art of Compromise is everywhere. There is only so much time and money, the technology can only do so much, and eventually it has to meet a delivery date.

After all that work, there it is. Just in front of that little piece of glass called the Port Window, the final lens. The movie shines through them both, and into the room and onto the screen and through the speakers.

The Director’s Intent wasn’t to spend money for technique and tools at a clever production set or post-production room. It wasn’t to keep a lot of people employed or to make the camera sales people happy. It wasn’t to sell a lot of popcorn, even though all these things may happen and are important to a lot of people.

The Director’s Intent is to create an effect upon your mutual audience.

Which means that your job is to help create that effect. You participate in the Artistic Intent by making certain that your tools are operating at the optimum level possible.

Of course, the bubble of the Art of Compromise also surrounds the cinema sound and picture projection equipment. It surrounds the auditoriums with their screens and seats. Movies want to be shown in a perfectly dark room, but safety requires that there are exit lights and illumination on the stairs and walkways. Movies want the screen and speakers to be perfect, but speaker parts get older and less flexible every day, and screens get a little darker. How often are they changed, or adjusted? Speakers and screens (and seats and air conditioning and, and, and…) all cost money, so they get replaced when they reach some compromise level…not perfect, not horrible.

Nobody ever says, “I think I am going to present ‘Horrible’ today.” The opposite, “I think I will present ‘Perfect’ today,” is not going to happen either. Perhaps the best description might be, “Appropriate Compromise.” I’ll project the best I can with what is available.

Who decides what “Appropriate” is? Some might say, it is the big boss of the cinema who balances the requirements and dreams and ability of the audience to pay. Some might say it is the audience who is the boss, who the big boss has to respond to, but most will agree that the audience can’t define perfect or acceptable. They expect us to be the experts, to know what to look and listen for. The audience just knows what is irritating. If you’re lucky, they may know how to describe a problem.

Either way, it is your responsibility to deliver the best you can with the assets and policies that the big boss has given you. Some might say “Deliver more than you promise”. What you certainly want to do is remember – You are part of the Artistic Intent.


The purpose of all these lessons is to help you find problems before the audience finds irritation. In addition, if an audience member does find a problem, who want to know enough so when they describe it to you, that you can understand it well enough to give good information to the tech who has to repair it.

And that is our job, to give you tools and information so you can do that easily and well. Let us know what we can do for you, so when that magic day arrives when a director or cinematographer or sound editor comes up to you and says, “Thanks, that was just right”, you know that you did something to make it that way.

Now, when someone asks what your job is, what do you say?

I help create a better experience of audience members.

I am the last person in the chain that delivers the Director’s Intent.

Maybe we need a t-shirt contest for this.

Where Artistic Intent Meets Your Life in the Cinema