Paris -- Analog Devices Inc.'s JPEG2000 video compression chip, the ADV202, has been designed into Doremi Labs Inc.'s movie mastering systems and digital cinema servers, ADI will announce today. The win supports industry hopes that digital cinema may finally be catching hold, driven by movie studios eager to capitalize upon its cost-saving potential.
Doremi develops hardware mastering systems for studio use and playback servers that are installed in digital cinema theaters. Doremi's systems comply with the JPEG2000-based digital cinema standard developed by Digital Cinema Initiatives LLC. DCI, which rolled out overall-system requirements and specifications a year ago, consists of seven major motion picture studios: Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios.
JPEG2000 meets all the basic requirements for digital cinema, including the compression algorithm's ability to support projectors with both 2K (up to 2,160 x 1,080-pixel) and 4K (up to 4,096 x 2,160-pixel) resolution. Thanks to its multiresolution scalability, JPEG2000 can do so from the same file.
Analog Devices launched its JPEG2000 chip in 2004, well before any other semiconductor company. Ricoh and Sanyo now also make compliant chips.
Several movies were encoded in JPEG2000 last year, including The Chronicles of Narnia and Chicken Little. This year's summer releases--The Da Vinci Code, Ice Age II: The Meltdown and Cars--are available in JPEG2000.
Screen Digest, a London-based market research firm, counted 849 digital cinema screens worldwide by the end of last year, representing a one-year growth of 150 percent. However, senior cinema analyst David Hancock noted that digital cinema's 2005 share was still only 0.85 percent of movie screens worldwide. By 2010, Screen Digest forecasts 17,000 digital cinema screens, mostly in the United States.
Hancock sees full DCI compliance as a major issue. "There are no end-to-end d-cinema systems that are fully DCI-compliant on the market, although this should be resolved by the end of this year," he said. "While the studios will allow their films to be screened on non-DCI-compliant systems at present, once the DCI-compliant systems are out there in the market, this attitude will harden."
That's where Doremi hopes to come in. "We are the only one offering hardware-based mastering solutions compliant with DCI," said Camille Rizko, technology director at Doremi Labs.
Using ADI's JPEG2000 codec, Doremi's DMS 2000 mastering station encodes films in DCI-compliant JPEG2000 files. Until now, studios have depended on rack-mounted systems--combining about 30 computers--for software-based JPEG2000 compression. "The hardware-accelerated systems cost less. They are easier to use and easier to install," said Rizko.
Computer farm-based solutions create a memory bus bottleneck that makes errors inevitable. Studios then must redo frames, observed Rich Greene, ADI's chief architect of JPEG2000 technologies. "It's a quality issue," he said, adding that Doremi's system "streamlines the process."
A single ADV202 is capable of real-time encoding and decoding of one stream of standard-definition video in JPEG2000. It takes two chips to handle a high-definition video stream.
For digital cinema, theater owners need a server plus a digital projector for each screen, all connected with Ethernet cables. Each Linux-based server incorporates a secured media block consisting of ADV202 chips and an FPGA, Doremi's Rizko said. Once a digital file--compressed in JPEG- 2000 and encrypted in AES128--arrives at a theater via satellite, the FPGA within the server's media block handles decryption and parses out a JPEG2000 stream. After ADI's JPEG2000 codec chips decode the file, the stream is again encrypted for delivery to each projector.
The overall encoder market is very small, estimated by Doremi as "a few dozens" of units. In contrast, the potential decoding market represents 160,000 screens worldwide, said Yuzo Shida, product-marketing manager at ADI's High-Speed Signal Processing Group. And "10 years from now, 80 to 90 percent of those screens turn to digital," he said.
Studios and film distributors have the most to gain from digital cinema. A major Hollywood release in the United States, such as Mission: Impossible III, requires more than 4,000 prints, at a cost of around $5 million. "This massive investment is essentially worthless after a few weeks--films recoup most of their box office in an increasingly short period of time (an average 44 percent in the first week)," according to Screen Digest. By sending films directly to cinemas without the need for physical prints, studios and distributors save massively on reproduction.
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