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Digital Intermediate: Inner Workings

Here's the industry guru telling us how DI really works in the film industry today -- and tomorrow

DMN: How you think this will end up? How big will a movie's file size be? Will it be a hundred gigs? 300 gigs? Terabytes?

Wright: Right now, a typical uncompressed 2K resolution movie will be over 2 terabytes. That's 2000 gigabytes.

DMN: That's an unwieldy amount of data. So that could be compressed to about 600 gigs and still retain enough quality for theatrical exhibition, right?

Wright: Yes, but it becomes a question of how much do you want to compress it? How fast can you transmit it? And those are all moving targets. We have to all agree on our standards and we all have to be willing to buy the gear. So it's a big, messy problem that they're going to wrangle on probably for another few years. It's technically doable right now.

DMN: It's just that it would cost, say, five million dollars to send it out, and it's cheaper to get all those trucks to take the canisters of film all over the country.

Wright: You might see the thing burned onto a short stack of DVDs first. That could be the first incarnation of the digital cinema.

DMN: So it would just be a smaller physical object that's being carried.

Wright: Yes, A smaller stack of film rolls. But there you have some major piracy issues to worry about. So it's possible that digital cinema may first be a stack of DVDs six inches thick. But that's certainly much better than a trunkload of film rolls.  

DMN: Tell us what you're working on right now.

Wright: Blade 3, and we just finished Ray, the Ray Charles movie, which used to be called Unchain My Heart. We have about three or four movies in the pipe -- I can't go into them until the contracts are laid and the work has started.

DMN: What is your role in these films when they come into your production house? What do you do?

Wright: I'm the technical director for the digital intermediate process. The short form of the story is, I solve digital imaging problems, of which there are many [they laugh]. I also will execute some visual effects shots and the digital opticals. I might even do the titling for the movie.

DMN: That's a fun thing -- an art form unto itself.

Wright: Indeed. I also talk to the client a lot becauseDI is new, and the clients have a lot of questions. I'm good at explaining things to them.

DMN: I noticed that. [They laugh]

Wright: So, client consultation. The DI process changes things at their end and they need to know what those changes are. That's why I want to write for this new digital intermediate Web site on Digital Media Net. Just to say, here's what digital intermediate is all about, guys -- for producers and directors and postproduction supervisors and editors, and the lay public who's interested in learning more about what the hell is this stuff.

DMN: Our readers are interested in equipment. What sort of equipment do you use there at LaserPacific and why did you choose it?

Wright: As I mentioned, the Northlight because of its speed and quality. That may not be true one year from now.

DMN: You picked that one over the others -- which ones were you considering?

Wright: There was the Imagica, and the Arri scanner.

DMN: The Arri seems to be pretty popular, too.

Wright: Yes. A lot of people have bought the Arri. We made this purchase [of the Northlight scanner] two years ago. This is a very rapidly-evolving industry. What's hot this year may not be hot next year, so it's possible that the Arri is now the hot scanner. 

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Related Keywords:Steve Wright, industry veteran, digital effects, feature films, broadcast television commercials, feature film digital intermediate, contribute articles, DMN, Charlie White

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