Established to enlighten the industry as it transitioned to digital, the EDCF still has a vital role to play — its president David Hancock projects some light on the wide breadth of its current activities.
hen the European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF) was created in 2001, digital cinema was more a dream than a reality. It was the future and the thinking and organisation of the EDCF reflected the views and concerns that were present at that time. The initiative was mainly the result of public film agencies’ concern over a lack of understanding of the coming digital technology.
As we approach the end of 2019, the cinema world is fundamentally different. Digital cinema is a reality. The EDCF’s membership has changed as has its role; we are no longer required to provide basic education and information about the technology and business issues of digital cinema. Over the years, we have produced a number of milestone industry reports, such as those on mastering, production, 3D and film festivals (the latter by our longest-standing board member Angelo d’Alessio). We aim to help our members and, by extension, the industry as a forum for debate, an objective and impartial voice and space in which to address challenges and opportunities we face as well as a source of information and expertise.
Once digital conversion had been achieved, we had a long and open discussion in the EDCF board about whether we still had a role. As volunteers, there seemed little point carrying on if there was no need for us. However, as the rate of questions posed to us and within the industry showed no signs of slowing, and as technology was creating new challenges and opportunities, if anything, we felt there was greater need for an impartial source of information and facilitator for discussion. Our output has moved to organising specific topic information reports (such as our recent “Buyers Guide to Laser Projection” and upcoming Best Practices Guide), targeted and identified issues (such as the SMPTE-DCP transition) and industry forums that address areas of potential challenge which would benefit from collaboration and open discussion (via our Problem Resolution Forum and our Annual Convention).
One of our core strengths is that EDCF is member-driven. We represent a wide variety of industry participants, from film agencies to individuals, from film studios (for example, Universal’s SVP of Theatrical Operations, Dave Hodgkinson, is an EDCF board member) to manufacturers, from labs (Steve Llamb of Deluxe is our newest board recruit) to trade associations and professional technology bodies (Hans-Nicholas Locher of the Commission Supérieure Technique de l’Image et Du Son (CST) is a board member). We are lucky to have such an eminent group to guide us. This broad base of professionals and the personal interests of our membership ensure the concerns of members reflect the concerns of the industry.
A partnership approach
Partnerships are important to us. We have good links with all the major industry bodies and organisations arounds the cinema world. We have a close and constructive relationship with the exhibition sector through our link with UNIC, which sits on our board in the form of Guillaume Branders, as well as the manufacturers of technology through the ICTA, who also has a member on our board (Jan Runge). Historically, we have also had the distributors’ association FIAD on the board. We have ties to the UK’s CTC, and share some active members in common such as Celluloid Junkie’s Patrick von Sychowski. In the US, we have close ties to the ISDCF and SMPTE with a crossover of members and interests, and have a longstanding relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We collaborate with the Event Cinema Association (ECA) and have recently undertaken a joint survey with ECA and UNIC on technology issues which was presented at the ECA Conference in Amsterdam in October (see pages 80-81). The EDCF also has a strong relationship with IBC.
Our recent seminar at IBC went off well. This event is a cornerstone of our year, bringing together high-level speakers from all over Europe and the US to discuss a wide-ranging cross section of the industry’s interests. This year, topics spanned from blockchain to laser projection, from SMPTE-DCP to sustainability in cinemas with detours via the work of audio accessibility technology, the work of the Academy, HDR and distribution of local content in Sweden. Following the annual UNIC Cinema Days in October, in which we play an engaged and valuable role, our annual work programme is usually set at our Annual Convention in late November, last year held at the Swedish Film Institute thanks to our Board member Jerry Axelsson of the SFI. Previous conventions have been hosted by ARRI in Munich and Barco in Kortrijk, Belgium). The day-long programme of workshops and plenary sessions focuses on defining the pressing knowledge gaps and outlining EDCF’s most effective areas of input.
Touring La-la-land, solving problems
Another key event is the EDCF LA Tour that we conduct each year before Cinemacon. Now well over 15 years old, the premise is that we take interested European cinema professionals around cinema companies and sites in LA. We tour film studios, technology manufacturers, mastering and distribution companies, new tech spaces and outstanding cinemas and venues. Its success means we may need to move to members only in the future!
At CineEurope this year, we held our first Problem Resolution Forum (an idea put forward by board member Oleg Berezin from Neva Film) in which we invited over 30 people from different parts of the industry to discuss issues in our sector to determine if they were really problems, and if so, what could be done about them. The willingness of people to engage was heartening and we came away with a list of solvable problems and action points in the areas of industry communication, KDMs, immersive audio bitstream, and laser and xenon safety information.
An ongoing element of EDCF’s work is the integration of the SMPTE-DCP into the distribution workflow. With a web portal up and running (www.smptedcp.com) and well into the thirties for the number of meetings held on this subject, EDCF has taken the lead within Europe and it forms a core part of our work. There are several countries that are almost fully compatible (98% of sites) with SMPTE-DCPs, including UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. Many more are well over 50% ready, but there is still work to be done. Of the thousands of visits to the site, over half are there to download the test package but 14% are there to find out what SMPTE-DCP is, suggesting work isn’t complete yet. Challenges we still face include audio routing, device identity and ingest behaviour.
Our ambitious Best Practice Guide, chaired by board member Julian Pinn, and with contributions from a range of members (such as Tom Bert of Barco; Rolf Gjestland from Film and Kino and Matt Jahans of Harkness Screens) is coming along well. The work is split broadly into image and sound, and then sub-divided into distinct topic areas. With one module written, and three others close to fruition, we are almost ready to begin publishing it for the industry’s benefit.
The last item on our agenda for the year was our 4th Annual Convention that took place at the end of November at Cineplexx Wienerberg in Vienna, with great thanks to our hosts at Cineplexx. We had a packed agenda, including a visit around the cinema, focused and themed working groups, plenary sessions (subjects included immersive sound open standards; blockchain; sustainability, event cinema tech issues; HFR; exhibitor technology testing under the NATO proposal; 4D in cinemas and more) and a broad-based industry discussion that all make this a must-attend for EDCF members. We look forward to this event all year and to laying out the resulting work plan for the year ahead.
Overall, the EDCF has a wide variety of interests and value areas for members and the industry and is in good shape as an organisation to grow alongside the technology aspects of the film industry. Replacement of digital cinema equipment has begun, and with the addition of laser and LED to the technology options as well as new formats and premium technology, the cinema world can be a complex place. The EDCF is there to help you make sense of this new world.
David Hancock is research director, cinema at IHS Markit (now part of Informa Tech) and president of the EDCF.
Strengthening the leadership
Those familiar with the EDCF will know that our long-time colleagues Dave Monk and John Graham both retired a year ago, leaving big holes in our organisation. We have been busy filling those gaps and making sure we can carry on effectively with our work. From June this year, the general secretary of EDCF is Juergen Burghardt (firstname.lastname@example.org) of FKTG Media in Germany (a subsidiary of the FKTG, which brings together companies in film and TV technology). This relationship has begun well with a successful EDCF seminar at IBC under our belt. We also appointed a new vice-president, Cathy Huis in t’veld Esser, from Gofilex, and a treasurer, Tammo Buhren from ZweiB, to strengthen our management structure and support the role of the president (email@example.com). On the digital front, we are modernising our website and branding as well as our ability to communicate with our members and the industry in general. This is being managed by Jack Watts, a previous board member, now operating as a consultant under the name Trench Digital.