Welcome to the Digital Age

Posted on July 17, 2014 by Dave Petty

Categories: General, Training & Conferences

Last week we launched our new training initiative, Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition with a Forum at BFI Southbank. Read on for a diary of the day and an introduction to #TechSkillsUK from one of our newly appointed Technical Ambassadors – Dave Petty, AV Technician at Cornerhouse in Manchester, who’ll be available to advise independent film exhibitors in the North West Hub region as part of the scheme.

Over to our guest blogger, Dave!

Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition
The start of the launch at BFI Southbank

Being invited to the BFI Southbank is something any cine-literate tech geek was never going to turn down. Well, provided you’re not a born-and-bred Londoner, in which case the Southbank’s heady tourist pleasures may elicit less excitement. But, being a newly-appointed Tech Ambassador for the ICO’s Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition programme, created in conjunction with the BFI Film Audience Network, time away from the office with the prospect of soaking up a whole days worth of technical knowledge in the company of my fellow technical peers, well it was an opportunity not to be missed. But I digress.

The Tech Ambassador roles have been filled by around two dozen people, hand-picked from the length and breadth of the United Kingdom to offer their expertise and specialised knowledge of digital cinema and all its AV-related trappings to those in need of a helping hand.

Tech Forum
David Monk (left), CEO of the European Digital Cinema Forum, with Tech Ambassador Peter Knight of the BKSTS

Independent exhibitors, community cinemas, film societies and festivals – all entities that may have been comfortable with 35mm and domestic-level film exhibition (via LCD projectors et al) but who may be struggling with the transition to digital. And with the industry pretty much fully converted to digital-only exhibition, the Tech Ambassadors will hopefully be an invaluable resource for any individual or organisation that requires a peg-up onto the digital ladder.

After some brief intros from Hatice Ozdemirciler (ICO Head of Training & Professional Development), Tony Jones (Film Hub Central East) and David Sin (ICO Head of Cinemas), it was over to Jim Whittle from the Barn Cinema in Dartington, who outlined his prototype site visit to CUBE in Bristol.

This visit provided a framework for the Tech Ambassador pilot scheme to build upon. Jim’s extensive knowledge of D-Cinema gave CUBE the opportunity to convert to digital safe in the knowledge they had someone on hand who was familiar with kit, spec, and who crucially had worked with the handful of companies that install everything necessary to exhibit digital films to DCI-compliant spec. In a world of confusing acronyms and technical minutiae, someone like Jim is exactly what the independent sector needs; expanding that role to a fleet of Technical Ambassadors (of which Jim is one) will allow for a faster, more efficient flow of specialist knowledge for those who most require it.

Technical Ambassadors at Forum
The national spread of Technical Ambassadors 

Pressing on with the day, we had the pleasure of being bombarded with a whole array of info from David Monk, CEO of the European Digital Cinema Forum (if you ever need to know about colour spectrum separation, he’s your man) and Russell Would, Content Supervisor at the BFI, who gave us a whistle-stop tour of DCP (Digital Cinema Package) creation from the top level (Clipster) all the way to free, open source software.

Even for someone familiar with much of the areas discussed it was a lot to digest, but invaluable in terms of both brushing up my own technical knowledge, and being able to offer this knowledge to those in need as a Technical Ambassador.

All that remains is to be allocated sites across the country which we will visit to offer our advice with the fleet ranging from freelance AV techs to long-standing projectionists (and many technical areas in-between), it’s down to the ICO to assess applicants’ needs and fit an Ambassador to their requirements.

A bespoke service is being offered, and I for one am relishing the opportunity to help bring independent cinema into the digital age. For what could be an intimidating prospect for those making the transition, we as Ambassadors should be able to make the road travelled a little less bumpy.

Thank you, Dave!

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