Jim James, chief engineer, IVC
Issue: December 1, 2006


STRENGTHS: The strength of the DI process is the creative flexibility that it gives the creative community, with tools they never had at their disposal before.

WEAKNESSES: From a technical standpoint, DI requires that you move a large amount of data around, especially when working at 4K resolution. For most clients 4K is cost prohibitive — the economics versus the quality advantages just aren’t there.

Another weakness is the fact that the interchange between DI facilities is not standardized. Since every facility uses its own proprietary LUTs [Look Up Tables], it becomes a problem for clients. If they want to start a project at one facility but finish it at another, the look may not necessarily match from one place to the next.

OPPORTUNITIES: The trend towards working with HDCAM-SR, in RGB 4:4:4 HD, is making the DI process more cost-effective than working in 2K without significant quality compromises. Since HDCAM-SR’s RGB 4:4:4 matches film’s color format, and is very close to 2K resolution, it’s becoming a popular way to go.

Another opportunity the DI presents is the ability to plan for all of the different deliverables a film project may require — cinemas, digital cinemas, HDTV, home video, and even portable media players and cell phones — during the DI workflow.

THREATS: The biggest problem is that "DI" has become an over-used term and many people are using it without fully understanding what it means. I’ve heard filmmakers say that they are doing a DI when all they are really doing is editing their project using a HD NLE. The DI process should be done at HD RGB, 2K, or greater resolution, using high-end professional tools capable of translating between the film and DI environment. Our DI theater has a Nucoda FilmMaster for color grading; a 24-foot screen; a Barco DP-100 2K DLP Digital Cinema projector; and a variety of professional and consumer monitors so that clients can really see how their projects will look in a variety of venues.

OUTLOOK 2007: We will see continued growth in the DI industry as more and more filmmakers begin to use it for their film projects. Also, since we began as International Video Conversions, a company specializing in standards conversions, then added mastering and restoration, DI represents the next logical step for us to grow our business.

IVC (www.ivchd.com), a division of Point.360, is a Burbank, CA-based facility that provides filmmakers with digital intermediate, digital cinema, film restoration, and HD mastering services.