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Laurent Hebert • CST General Manager

'Silver screen'? No thank you!

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- With digital cinema comes the promise of better on-screen quality for less money. Laurent Hebert talks about the challenges in the digital age

Laurent Hebert • CST General Manager

The French Image and Sound Superior Technical Commission (CST) tests pictures and sounds and contributes to defining standards by working with institutions such as the SMPTE. Furthermore, the CST ensures the quality of the projections at the Cannes Film Festival. CST General Manager Laurent Hebert talks about the challenges of the digital age.

Cineuropa: How has the workflow at the Cannes Film Festival changed since there were more digital prints and fewer films on 35mm this year?
Laurent Hebert: This year we had to face the challenge to have many digital movies and only a few on 35 mm. Last year the balance was 50/50, this time it was 90/10. As soon as a movie arrives, we are responsible for verifying or making the KDMs. Sometimes the productions give us the master KDM then we have to generate the KDMs. If there is a problem, it is our responsibilty.

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What kind of software do you use to create the keys?
The CST has developed its own software, 'Can Help', for the festival; it is a play on words.The software can manage the content that is coming. We have created a KDM generator system, the CST KDM.

Why does CST want to ban 'silver screens' from cinemas?
The silver screen no longer makes any sense from a technical perspective. There are international norms that are required and fabricated by the SMPTE regarding brightness and lighting of screens. Luminance Uniformity at the corners and sides of the screen is specified at 85% of the luminance at the center of the screen. There is an allowed tolerance in theaters – 70% to 90% of the centre's level. The French standard is tighter, specifying no greater than 75% at the corners and edges. It is impossible to achieve that with a silver screen.

Were the French technicians the first to identify this problem?
No, let's be honest. All the American majors know that this is a massive challenge. In the production area of the majors they have 'silver screen - no thank you' buttons. It is a business problem. A company such as RealD is backed up by the majors. They are working alongside the SMPTE and they asked what was their opinion on that, because they created the norm. They said that they were running tests three years ago. From the CST perspective, the measurements take just a few hours. They should have come up with a decision by now. CST is working with the Fraunhofer Institute, and is very aware of this problem.

Why then has the roll-out of silver screens not yet stopped?
It is a regular technician business conflict. In Cannes, there are no silver screens. There is no point of making post-production work better and better with operating chiefs who are really fighting to get a precise image, calculating if the brightness is going there, what color they are choosing but then when it comes to projection such conditions are not taken into consideration. It is a little bit like listening to Mozart with a sound disortion. That is pointless.This is why we believe we are going to win.

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