By John Brandon Print this article Print

The Hollywood behemoth makes the transition from conventional to digital moviemaking. But as CTO Art Hair explains, it’s no magic carpet ride.

One significant benefit of digital filmmaking is that it paves the way for digital distribution. After the digital intermediates are archived and post-production is done, movies can be prepped for distribution.

While most movies are currently sent to theaters on encrypted hard disks, in the future, they will be delivered over very high-speed Digital Signal 3 (DS3) lines direct to theaters—and, eventually, to homes. Of course, transmitting several hundred terabytes of data is a challenge: A typical movie is about 160GB and would have to be transmitted to many different locations simultaneously. What’s more, no movie studio wants to shoot itself in the foot. While digital filming can make way for digital delivery, studios make big profits when they sell DVDs. And most major Hollywood studios, including Disney, have invested heavily in Blu-ray, the high-capacity, high-definition optical disc format.

The transition to digital delivery will take time because it must be foolproof and easy for the consumer to use. “For Disney, the single most important consideration is the user experience—and that leads to interoperability,” says Hair. “So we’re looking at everything that’s available to us and to our customers.”
It’s not clear when Disney and the other major studios will complete the transformation to an all-digital workflow. Digital technology still lags behind film for very-slow-motion photography, Hair says, and the shift from workflow silos to a more collaborative process requires a cultural adjustment.

But the migration to digital workflow will happen, he adds, and consumers will benefit: Movie quality will go up, thanks to improved digital equipment, action and effects; prices will go down; and the public’s favorite flicks will be available even sooner.

Now, that’s magic.

Correction: Originally, the story mistakenly quoted Bud Albers of the Walt Disney Internet Group instead of Art Hair of Walt Disney Studios.

This article was originally published on 2008-06-26
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.