Intermittent Issues:
You've Got To Start Somewhere

by David Meek

November 17, 2003

Currently showing The Matrix Revolutions...but not for long.

Do you ever start to wonder about the sanity of certain folks? Whether or not they're a few frames short of a reel? Well, I've been wondering that lately - ever since the editors here at Box Office Prophets asked me to write a recurring column on technology. But if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's not to lightly dismiss the requests of lunatics. So, this is the first in a series of irregular (in more than one meaning of the term) columns on technology. The primary focus will be on technology in the movie theater, but we may bring in home theater issues from time to time. (For your information, I tend to digress at the drop of a hat. Speaking of hats...) And, presuming that anyone actually takes the time to read this rambling mess: if there's a topic you'd like me to discuss or just want to vent about something technology-related, feel free to drop me a line using the 'Feedback' link below or click the word in this sentence.

I've written for the site before - my most recent piece was on the future of digital projection in commercial movie theaters. I do plan to revisit that topic in the near future. However, to get this inaugural column grinding to a halt, I thought I'd launch into a little historical surveying.

If I were to try to sum up over 100 years of technological advancements in theatrical movie presentation, I guess I'd break all of it down into three eras. Era one covers the beginnings of motion pictures through the development of on-film soundtracks; era two would run from the introduction of color motion picture stock through the advent of modern multiplex theaters; and era three begins with the introduction of Dolby Stereo soundtracks and continues through today.

This division produces a nice symmetry (as my old Music Theory prof would say, "It's a classic ternary form - ABA"). Eras one and three are primarily dominated by advancements in sound reproduction, and era two is primarily represented by advancements in visual presentation. Of course, you can't make divisions like that and expect them to turn out perfectly - I'll address the exceptions to my thesis as they come up.

You know, as I step back and take a look at how much I've managed to bite off here in my very first try, I guess I'll have to make this a multi-part topic. I'll devote the next several columns to each of the eras I've identified, talking about each and introducing ideas and issues that I'll take up in later columns. (For example, I'll discuss the background of this oddly named column as part of era two.)

Oh, and one closing note: I tend to define the term "technology" rather loosely, so don't be surprised if I end up discussing many things that don't involve electronics and the like. Hopefully, this column will fulfill its true purpose - producing a noticeable decline in overall productivity in the workplace. Only then will I be truly satisfied. See you next time.



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