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Electronic Delivery of Content

What is the actual Environmental Benefit to Moving to Digital Cinema and Qube Wire?

Hailing from a film lab background, and a technical one at that, environmental impact has been a hugely noticeable part of my career in the Film and Cinema Industry. Remembering the amount of chemicals that flowed through the maze of pipework and then ultimately into the drainage system at some point always disconcerted me. Hopefully I am open to speak freely about this now, but there was a definite unease with what was being sent down that pipe! I’m sure that everything was regulated and above board, right?!?…

A major part of environmental impact for theatrical distribution was, like it or not, how the prints were delivered to theatres. This area of the food chain has seen major changes in the way that theatres receive their content.

Let’s look at where we were for decades, and the associated change. Content would be filmed using film in the camera, passed for processing to a lab, and then printed by the lab for viewing by the film crew the next day - the original dailies process. We then started introducing videotape for both shooting and viewing the dailies, but the general release was still through a standard 5 or 6 reels of film transported to the theatre.

We are now very much on our way to worldwide direct electronic delivery of content, after the interim phase of transporting physical hard drives for feature release. But with this process change has come an environmental change that doesn’t seem to be have been fully registered. The change to moving electronic data from actual film has been enormous and this has no doubt made a vast environmental impact. Just think of the amount of plastics involved in creating film in the first instance, never mind the transport.

The subsequent change from sending data on hard drives in planes, trains and automobiles to direct electronic delivery has made another major change to environmental impact. I have never seen any real studies into what both of those changes have meant in reduction of carbon and the like. I’d love to be able to supply you with numbers and interesting facts here, but alas that’s a project beyond my scope.

The driving factors to most of these changes has never included much in the way of environmental impact, and they have from time to time sadly been sniffed at when I have mentioned it. I strongly feel that we should own this monumental change, and it should be a major reason for why the change to direct electronic delivery makes total sense.

At Qube Wire, we have seen a reluctance to change to the electronic delivery method. Is this because our industry is sometimes slow and reluctant to change to anything full stop, or is it an economic factor or even something else? For those that are unsure, exhibitors very rarely pay for anything in the IP delivery chain and usually end up saving money, so the entire process ends up being a win-win for everyone concerned.

And, what does this mean in green savings? First, as mentioned, we have saved a literal ton in the way of plastics. I remember in the lab that on a good day we were producing 4000ft of print every minute, and that was just a single London lab. Figures from Kodak and the like must have seen an astonishing decline in production.

We should all own this, and make it an important factor in why we do what we do in developing cleaner and effective methods of content delivery. Finance is extremely important in our precarious industry and world, but let’s all try to make an impact when and where we can.

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