Satellite-based digital delivery system powers theaters

AccessIT gets Boeing Digital Cinema up and beaming
September 1, 2004

The revolution will not be televised, but it will be in theaters – with digital sound and picture. And, best of all, it will be accessible via satellite for anyone with digitally rendered content.

The idea of delivering fully digital mass content to theater-goers via satellite took one step closer to reality last March, when New Jersey-based AccessIT bought the Boeing Digital Cinema assets from the ominously named Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. While AccessIT had been busy rolling out movie asset management software, it lacked a pipeline. The Boeing acquisition provided it in the form of digital cinema assets, technology rights and 28 existing theater contracts in l.a. Over the last four months, AccessIT has been re-commissioning those theaters, conducting its first successful run-throughs of satellite digital delivery in August.

Interestingly, notes AccessIT CEO Bud Mayo, the company wasn’t waiting on the technology. It was biding its time until the major Hollywood studios decided on a common format. They did that last year, choosing a 4K projection system that would also run 2K. With a ubiquitous format and the tech in place, all that was left was to step up to the plate and have a swing.

The application has huge impact for both feature films and those at the other end of the financial spectrum. Beyond allowing for the prospect of same-day, international premieres – which would seriously cut into the estimated US$3.5 billion the studios lose to piracy each year – it will also open theaters to content otherwise tied to film prints, such as landmark TV and feature docs. Mayo notes that the system works with any digital file, usually supplied directly from the post house fresh from the Avid. AccessIT then encodes and encrypts it, and loads it into the L.A.-based system for transmission.

On the catching end, notes Mayo, ‘any theater with a digital projector is a potential target for receiving the content we deliver.’ That includes theaters, art houses, universities, boardrooms – any outlet with a digital projector and a satellite dish. ‘We are agnostic as far as what type of equipment is on the other end, as long as there is a digital installation,’ continues Mayo. Beyond recorded content, immediate applications also exist for live concerts and events, plays, and even interactive gaming.

The main constraint right now is digital locations. While the L.A. experiment was a success, the technology is still in the early stages of roll-out. Mayo says studios have to put their full weight behind digital cinema, and he expects them to announce just that in the fall. It doesn’t hurt that George Lucas is a huge proponent of the tech, and Star Wars, Episode 3 is looming large for next year. Clearly, the Force will soon be with us.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.