I used to get most movies off of Netflix and then see action movies in the theaters. I thought that I was better off seeing the spectacle on a large screen. But the technical inferiority of the typical movie theater has led me to flip my viewing habits. Now I really only see comedies in the theaters and watch everything else at home.
You still can't replicate a crowded movie theater at a comedy, it makes it far funnier to laugh with other people.
That's not to say I don't like good sound quality. But an awful lot of my listening is to 30-90 year old recordings, many recorded in less than ideal conditions. I listen because the music is brilliant. I can't imagine preferring to listen mediocre musicians because their recording is perfectly engineered and reproduced.
My guess is most of us over 30 have spent most of our lives watching movies in less-than-ideal conditions. Today I don't feel any particular urge to upgrade from DVD. But I'd dearly love to upgrade the writing on most new movies I see...
However, I am listening mostly to music from the last 5-10 years, so there is that.
It really depends on who you're listening to. For example, this LP and ones like it will reduce you to tears of joy on expensive headphones, and as you can see from the waveform nobody is telling amon tobin how to compress his tunes:
Especially check out the second track, which starts at around 6:40. Although that is obviously a 128 kbit/s preview stream. Get the CD.
I believe it started because people wanted their car stereo to sound like their home CD, so sound engineers started to over-emphasise the bass, to bias it for radio, which led to a vicious circle.
I can't listen to anything post 2000 on my very good home sound system because the bass is so over-emphasised.
I have been gradually working from the soft stuff (~ £20 earphones) to the crazy, crazy hard stuff these days (~ £400, Shure SE535's ), but the difference is worth it.
Movie Answer Man
Roger Ebert / February 7, 1999
Q. In your recent review of "Virus", you commented: "It didn't help that the print I saw was so underlit that often I could see hardly anything on the screen. Was that because the movie was filmed that way, or because the projector bulb was dimmed to extend its life span?"
A dirty secret is that movies are under-lit in most theaters. Films are produced with the intent that they be projected at the brightness of 16 foot-lamberts. Field research by Kodak found that they are often shown at 8-10 foot-lamberts, well under the SMPTE standard for brightness. To get theaters up to this and other standards, Kodak is introducing the Screencheck Experience program. The under-lighting of screens may be acceptable for a few movies--lest you see the entirety of their badness--but in general it unnecessarily degrades the theater experience. (Carl Donath, Rochester NY)
A. I've seen thousands of movies and I believe the Screencheck Experience program would only confirm that "Virus" was severely deprived of foot-lamberts when I saw it in a Chicago theater not a million miles from the Water Tower. Martin Scorsese, who travels with a light meter, once told me movies are projected at the correct brilliance in New York and Los Angeles, because that's where the filmmakers live, and they squawk. In a lot of other places, he said, the theaters turn down the juice to save on the replacement costs of expensive bulbs.
Of course, for my part, the movie going experience is horrible for additional reasons: commercials, talking patrons, and crying babies. I've seen one movie in the last 6 months and there was a crying baby and and a talking child in the theater. Had I not traveled 40 minutes to see the movie, I'd have asked for my money back immediately.
They forget who actually holds the money in every transaction: the customer, and few transactions are as thoroughly optional as movie tickets.
I'm sure the talking and disrespect in the movie theater is a symptom of the problem. People no longer respect the theater because it's stopped respecting them, and in the process lost its own self-respect.
I'm going to blame this on B-school theory, particularly Michael Porter. What Porter did is take economic theory about the undesirable behaviour of monopolists and turn it around. "You should screw your customers and suppliers in this fashion!"
And in the short term, it absolutely works. In the long term you disgust the people who put you there -- your customers -- and most industries are not natural monopolies.
James Bond? Okay, not every theater can afford to have James Bond in the projection booth... ;-)
- - -
A serious and interesting information is that for Pirates 4, people apparently chose to see the film in 2D (60% of first week gross) rather than 3D: "Not only is this a clear rejection of 3D on a major movie, but given how distribution is currently designed, it makes you wonder whether Disney cost themselves a lot of gross by putting their film on too high a percentage of 3D screens." (quoted from Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com)
They said the same thing about color.
To put that 60-40 split for 2D vs 3D into context, I'd need to know: a) what the proportion of 2D vs 3D showtimes were (perhaps weighted by the historical popularity of their timeslots, if that's not asking too much), and b) how much of the split is due to price sensitivity, as I assume 3D showtimes command a significant price premium.
Without that context, the naked percentages provide me little evidence for Ebert's assertion that, all else being equal, the average moviegoer really prefers 2D over 3D.
Mind you, I don't know what the fact of the matter is, I just know that the evidence provided is not convincing.
They're very professional and enjoyable, and are the only theaters I visit these days. Otherwise, hell, I'll put up with my 480p projector and a hacked Wii over sticky ringtone-festivals across town at $7 a pop.
Oh, and the sound and picture quality are un-paralleled, which was my point: theaters which care care about all aspects of the experience, not just technical excellence.
I only wish movies were $7. The local AMC is currently $8.50 ($11.50 for 3D), and that's in Columbus which is generally cheaper than most big cities.
"So why aren't theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. [...] issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, 'and if you don't do it right, the machine will shut down on you.'".
I can't tell. Are you being sarcastic?
My "are you being sarcastic" is because phuff's wording made it sound as if she/he thought they were introducing new information ... ;)
I'd love to be one of their competitors right now.
(And no DRM either :)
I have never used a Vaio, but I would question how much one contributes to being a perfect dev box. You can install Vim, Chromium and Xmonad on any other machine.
im still using some video monitor of theirs from the late 70s to catch up on youtubes.
Again, I haven't used Sony stuff from the 70s, it may well be fantastic. However, that was over 3 decades ago, and irrelevant when evaluating their behaviour in recent times. I certainly won't be buying anything from Sony anytime soon - I simply don't trust the brand.
After a few minutes I went to speak with the manager. Basically I was told I was the first person to complain and that was the way it was supposed to be. I couldn't fathom that to be correct so I continued to question the manager. Eventually she somewhat admitted that the audio, for some technical reason she couldn't explain was not properly able to be played on their 3d projection/audio system.
So I left. I got the ticket price refunded but not the cost of my concessions. I couldn't help but feel mass amounts of consumers were being ripped off. I felt the team that produced that fine film would have been heartbroken to have seen the movie there. I know i was not willing to watch a movie, my first 3d movie! with audio the quality of a poorly pirated movie.
I considered finding someone to complain too. I imagined the theater was breaking rules by showing the film with such a key component horribly crippled. But I did not.
I have not been back to see a 3d movie. I would like to see one someday. I will go again, perhaps to a theater in another town, someday. I hope they get their "stuff" together. Articles like this do not inspire confidence.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I'm very curious to hear that.
Haven't been to the movies in years but last few times I was there what really drove me crazy was the messed up sound - way too loud and the quality sucked. If the picture is also poor now, well I guess I am staying home and waiting for the bluray release. Everything is out on disc for rental in less than six months now, not a big wait.
They had it working last year IIRC.
He gives a preview of it at 5:40 but it's a little rough.
At least owners who live in a place with nearby competing cinemas.
As Ebert points out, crapitalism works because consumers let it work. If there are enough people willing to pay to have the lower quality product, then the motivation to supply the higher quality product is removed.
What is missing is a good feedback mechanism for 'fixing' the problem.
Let's accept that Ebert is correct in that the cost of the projectionist and their training is the dominant factor in the quality of the projection. Now take what it would cost to hire a projectionist that did quality projections, and raise ticket prices to cover that cost.
As the theatre which charges a higher ticket price than any other theatre in the area, you will find you get fewer patrons, that will reduce the number of tickets sold so you will need an even higher price to cover the lower volume. But the higher price will reduce the size of your market. Once you cross the price where the per-person ticket cost exceeds the expected BluRay release cost, your attendance will drop to nearly zero.
It is mentioned in the article that people already feel that the 'home' experience with bluray is better than their theatre experience (for some number fraction of people).
The message here is that movie theatres are essentially already dead, but like some species of shark they haven't realized it yet. It's only a question of 'when' they will cease to exist.
Interestingly this will be blamed on "piracy."
But the actual issue will be that the industry has moved into a place where the cost of presenting the information (the 'movie') is exceeding the marginal value of that information to the consumer. That has occurred because not only do people have more choices on how to consume the information, the relative costs of those choices are shifting. A 55" 1080p LCD television is now under $1000. That is a 'durable good' (3 - 5yr lifetime) so represents less than $30/month at 3 yrs or $20/month at 5 yrs of cash flow. It costs $20 for two people to go to the movies, it costs < $10 to rent a movie/stream it. So the value equation on 'cost to consume' is increasingly leaning toward the living room and the marginal value of seeing something in the theatre has to compete with that.
I was thinking that digital projection would actually help theatres by reducing their labor costs but having seen a digital projection setup and the complexity and cost that are layered into the system to prevent copies from being made, the cost equation made things actually worse (you need more skill projectionists).
"ChuckMcM Theaters. We're more expensive because that's what it costs to give you a better experience."
"ChuckMcM Theaters. Our projectionists make a film look
a million dollars, and it will only cost you $40. One showing per night."
A more apt comparison would be Windows based laptops. This is because a pre-requisite for this effect to occur is the ability to compete on price. Since everyone who has attempted to make compatible hardware that was cheaper than Apple but ran MacOS has been sued mercilessly into bankruptcy, using Apple in this case fails.
Theaters, like MS Windows laptop makers, have a cost they have to bear and they pay a tax for a key ingredient in their product to a third party (the studios, or Microsoft depending on which we're talking about.) The product the consumer buys is a combination of the part the supplier got from someone else, and the part they made themselves. Their margin of course being their revenue above their costs.
When, unlike in designer gowns or Apple equipment, there isn't a legal barrier to enter, multiple entities pop up to supply the demand. They compete on quality, feature sets, and price.
The less maneuvering room they have around feature sets, the more they compete on quality and price. And the less sensitive the bulk of the market is to quality, they are left competing on price. I'm sure this is really obvious so I won't belabor the point.
For me, that leaves the interesting challenge of finding ways to make quality a differentiator in a market with low barriers to entry. If you have any ideas on that I'd love to hear them, they would be the kind of things that let entrepreneurs break into and disrupt existing markets.
As a counter to one of the points in the article, I don't think people splitting 40/60 on 3D/2D is a "clear rejection" of 3D. 3D still gives a lot of people headaches or other discomforts, and it does cost more and look worse from bad angles (and you'll get the bad angles because there's less 3D theatres and they're packed). Maybe compared to a 3D event movie like Avatar, but that's not a fair comparison.
EDIT: Also, I finally some ammunition to use against people who insist that I should turn the brightness/contrast on my TV down to be "theatre" correct. It's supposed to look brightier, even in the theatre! :)
And a lot more than that.
"I began by asking if you notice, really notice, what a movie looks like. I have a feeling many people don't. They buy their ticket, they get their popcorn and they obediently watch what is shown to them. But at some level there is a difference. They feel it in their guts. The film should have a brightness, a crispness and sparkle that makes an impact. It should look like a movie! -- not a mediocre big-screen television."
Note how the Ebert cites his 'gut' evidence right at the bottom of the article. This is not by accident - but a master stroke. For why would you admit that you have no pragmatic basis for your outrage at the beginning of the article? This would simply alienate you from those readers who might, oh, you know... be after some kind of empirical data.
I know I probably deserve to be down voted - in order to cure me of my irk. (After all - why should I care if people like the Ebert?)
But it's IRKSOME this guy is so well read.
Almost the entire article is devoted to explaining that there is an empirical (the word I think you intended when you used "pragmatic"? not sure) degradation in film projection and why that is.
He then relates that to the comments he's had on his blog and in email about how movies look better on blu-ray than at the theater, as well as other comments from professional movie critics. This doesn't seem unreasonable at all.
I'd like to hear more about your contentions with the article, because I don't really see how what you wrote corresponds to what Ebert wrote.
So yes - clarification is needed. I'm willing to take on faith that there is measurable degradation of film quality. Let us grant that there is plenty of empirical evidence for this claim.
There is no empirical evidence presented besides blog comments that this measurably effects the greater portion of hedonic goodness in theatre goers. Worse - I see no presentation of empirical evidence whatsoever for Ebert's larger thesis that the degradation is sufficient enough to have a measurable effect on market share (as against dvds etc). Bearing in mind they were losing market share before 3d.
Hence there is no pragmatic reason to be upset beyond perhaps you're own heightened sensitivities - which Ebert himself may possess - I have no idea.
In any case - it's an extremely poorly argued article.
But it is truly weird - People just love the Ebert.
You make a good argument that Ebert's argument isn't sufficiently scientific. Ebert also doesn't provide any data for his hypothesis that the degraded qualities of movies is going to effect box office returns.
However, I think these are the wrong criteria for judging the article. I don't think Ebert's it's meant to be scientfic, nor is his article primarily about economics. I saw it as more of a love letter, which is very personal, very subjective. His last paragraph:
"I despair. This is a case of Hollywood selling its birthright for a message of pottage. If as much attention were paid to exhibition as to marketing, that would be an investment in the future. People would fall back in love with the movies. Short-sighted, technically illiterate penny-pinchers are wounding a great art form."
The primary purpose of the article isn't to explain the potential economic impact of the degradation in projection quality, or to provide scientific proof that the majority of people are affected. It's to say that movies look shittier, and to explain why - and to express how sad it makes him that movies are looking so shitty. I saw the remark about how people would be less likely to return to theaters as more of an expression of his unhappiness than as the central point of his article.
Personally, I found the article very helpful. I saw Thor opening weekend, and I was confused about why it looked so dim. It was disappointing to me to view something so graphically rich in a way that made it look it was 50 years old and faded. I didn't know what was wrong, but now I do, and now I know how I can attempt to see movies in a way that I'll like more.
He's proposing that the cause (or at least, one possible cause) of that "gut feeling" is that movies are poorly lit.
1. That movies are being projected at considerably less than their intended brightness seems like an empirical fact to me. Unless you really believe that watching a movie through a pair of sunglasses (the equivalent to projecting it through polarized lenses) might improve the experience I'm not sure what more evidence you need. The pragmatic basis for his outrage is the fact that movies are often projected with much less light than their creators intended.
2. Calling someone "well read" is the same as calling them knowledgeable or well informed. While I believe Ebert to be well read on this particular issue, I believe from the context of your post that you meant to write "widely read" (or else I misinterpreted your argument).
On your first point see my reply above.