By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)July 3, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (July 3, 2013) -- At the AAFES-run Katterbach Theater June 21, an audience of Soldiers, family members, civilians and more sat staring at a glowing screen. The audience wore glasses. After the national anthem and a few film trailers a movie studio logo appeared and scenes of an alien planet populated by humanoids and strange beasts appeared on screen.
The Katterbach Theater, which is at U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's Bismarck Kaserne, upgraded their projection system from a film projector to a digital projector in May.
"It's the same projector you would have at home but with a much bigger brain and a much bigger lamp and 3D," said Edward Dominique, the theater supervisor at the movie theater at Storck Barracks who is overseeing the conversion of the Katterbach Theater.
Most cinema theaters in the United States have converted from film to digital and major film studios are increasingly distributing their movies on hard drive rather than on film. For studios, the films on hard drive are less expensive to produce.
The quality of digital systems is also more consistent and, generally, better. Film, just by playing it, can accrue damage such as scratches and dirt; a digital file remains unchanged through multiple plays. Digital can also sustain a brighter image. With film, lamp brightness was limited so as not to risk melting the actual medium. With digital film, computer heating would be the only problem, and that is dealt with through ventilation.
"The picture quality between this and the old system is remarkably better, 200 percent brighter, I'd say," said Dominique.
One of the big changes has happened behind the projector. With the digital format, the distribution of the films has changed dramatically as well. The movies arrive on hard drives packed in hard-sided cases. These hard drives weigh less and take up considerably less space than the film would on reels. The film on reels would rotate through the different European garrisons, which meant that some garrisons would have long delays after a film's release date to see that movie.
"The movies here come pretty much the same time they're released in the states, which is a big plus," said Dominique. "You don't have to wait an extra month to see a movie."
The movies are uploaded from the hard drive to the projector's computer system. The projectionist inputs the encryption code from the studio to allow the file to play. The trailers and pre-feature public service announcements are put on a playlist with the feature presentation.
"Previously we didn't have Dolby Digital, which is the standard for movie theaters," said Dominique. "They had really nice speakers already in here, so we didn't have to buy [new ones]. It takes all its input directly from the projector."
"Before it was like listening to the computer," said Eddie Millan, one of the moviegoers at Katterbach Theater, who had attended films before and after the digital conversion. "Now you hear it around you and all over instead of just in front of you."
[Editor's note: During the film showing June 21, there were a few detractive technical issues with the sound.]
The digital projector also allows play of 3D films.
"In the playlist, when the movie says it's 3D, [the projector] will automatically change the filter on the lens," said Dominique. "A lot of customers before , they would go to Nürnberg or up to Wurzburg and see the movie in 3D in English. As long as they can do that, why would they want to see it in 2D, especially a kids' movie."
Now, of course, the families don't have to travel as far to see 3D family films in English.
The projector is also ready for the newest format. Beyond high definition, which usually has a pixel height of 1080, the newest format is 4K, which has a pixel height of 2160. This increase in pixels makes the picture data four times larger.
"Some of my regulars up in Illesheim that have come here, they really do love the picture," said Dominique.
During the 4th of July weekend, the Katterbach Theater will play White House Down at 7 p.m. July 5, Monsters University in 3D at 4 p.m. and The Heat at 7 p.m. July 6, and Monsters University in 3D at 3 p.m. and White House Down at 6 p.m. July 7.
To find out what films are playing at Katterbach Kaserne, visit www.shopmyexchange.com/ReelTimeTheatres/Movies-Katterbach.htm. To learn more, call 09802-83-1790 or DSN 467-1790.