the future is digital?

Monday, September 29, 2003, at 04:53AM

By Eric Richardson

On Saturday Kathy and I went to The Grove (official site) for dinner and a movie. We ended up seeing Once Upon a Time in Mexico, a movie which I enjoyed, though I thought it was a bit disjointed. That's not what ended up being most interesting to me, however. Unintentionally, this ended up being the first end to end digital film I've seen.

I first suspected something was up during the previews. Sharp edges looked a little off. I thought they must now be running previews off a cheap digital to save some movie. Instead, this was the digital projection for the film. Even the DLP Cinema trailer had pixelation issues, showing that the technology is the culprit here, not misuse of it. During the movie itself there were probably 8 - 10 times where pixelation stood out to me, mostly when all or part of the screen made heavy use of white.

Afterward, while walking back to the car, I asked Kathy if she noticed anything different about the image quality. She's not at all a technical person, and to her the DLP trailer might as well have been the THX trailer, but even as someone completely unaware what was going on she imediately mentioned the issue with whites. To me it seems pretty simple that the problem is a simple one of resolution. HD resolution is simply not enough for a cinema screen. Sure, new DLP projectors double your horizontal res, but they're simply masking the symptoms. The problem is still there.

Practically, for now I think that if I'm aware a movie is digitally projected I'll make an effort to sit significantly farther back from the screen. Digital projection's day might come, but I really hope it's not soon.