Studios to send movies electronically to theaters

March 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pacific Bell will announce today a plan to conduct a test of technology for transmitting movies, live events and high-definition video directly from Hollywood studios to movie theaters in digital form.

The technology, using high-speed fiber-optic networks, will bypass the traditional system of producing multiple copies of films and physically distributing them to theaters.

Alcatel Network Systems, based in Richardson, Texas, will provide the video transmission and switching equipment for the test. The test will use Alcatel's technology to compress the movies into digital form for transmission, and decompress the signals at theaters so the films can be projected. In addition, new Alcatel switches, which serve as the digital video hub for transmission to multiple destinations, will be used for transmitting the movies.

"The current method of copying and shipping movies to theaters is outdated," Michael Fitzpatrick, executive vice president of Pacific Bell, said in a statement. "The imminent shift from 35-millimeter film to the delivery of movies in digital form is as momentous as the change from black and white to color."

But some analysts noted that digital-compression technology had not yet demonstrated picture quality on magnetic recording tape comparable to that of 35-millimeter film. Widespread deployment of digital distribution seems unlikely in the near future, these analysts said.

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