The Latest on AMC Movie Captions

AMC Entertainment is moving right along with making theater captioning technology compatible with its digital format films.

Melissa Johnson, director of guest services with AMC Entertainment in Kansas City, shared the following information today with our Kansas City HLAA rep, Terri Shirley.

Response from Melissa Johnson, AMC Entertainment
I spoke with our Project Manager again this morning to verify that testing at Mainstreet [in downtown Kansas City] had been completed (per the last email I had sent).  Testing has been completed and was successful.  The next step is sign off from our Technical Group.  Once this has been completed, installations will be scheduled. 
 
Installation is a two-part phase.  First phase is pre-set up which is done by an AMC engineer followed by the second phase of a contractor performing infrastructure work.  The installation process can take up to a week.  Testing on the system to verify it is operational can take up to two weeks following.  We do have all equipment ready to go (pending any faulty items, etc.).
 
Our Project Manager assures me that we are closer than ever, but is hesitant to commit to a specific date.  We would hate to see a delay if there are installation problems.  Studio continues to be high on the list for installation and I am excited to share some news I found out this morning.  It looks as if Studio will have the original theatre (#19) RWC with SIX additional theatres outfitted as well.  I’m told that these six theatres may have high-tech equipment such as Sony glasses that capture the image inside the glasses… we’ll keep our fingers crossed on this one.
 
I’ve attached the below questions with answers (from your email).  As I continue to hear news, I will keep you posted.  Please understand this is a process that does not happen overnight and we’re working to ensure the systems are brought back efficiently and as quickly as possible.  Thank you for your continued passion for the project.
 
Regards,
Melissa      
 
I would appreciate if you could explain what CC/DV code is.  (as told by our Project Manager)
 
“Code” when talking about CC/DV could mean a couple of things, depending on the technology involved:
 
For assisted moviegoing accompanying 35mm film on strips, “code” most likely would refer to what is called “time code” in the A/V production industry.   It’s probably best explained with a diagram:
 
File:35mm film audio macro.jpg                              File:Anamorphic-digital sound.jpg
 
The left image is an extreme closeup of a side section of 35mm film.  The rounded rectangular holes are of course sprocket-holes used to guide the film through the projector head.  The movie’s visual frames would be to the side of this, as you can see in the right image. 
 
In the left photo, there are four distinct “tracks” of information represented that accompany the images that are projected on-screen.  As the film progresses during playback, these tracks are scanned by a special reader that shines a light through them and turns the visual data into audio information. 
 
The blue strip is Sony SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), an 8-channel surround mode.  The gray is Dolby Digital (note the tiny “DD” logo in the center of the square) and is a 6-channel surround mode.  These two tracks are, like a CD or DVD, fully digital—this “image” is essentially a bunch of tiny dots that are converted by the projector’s reader into digital sounds. 
 
The next track, the two vertical squiggly white lines, are optical stereo analog audio—just two channels, left and right.  These tracks are literally waveforms of the audio sound, very similar to an LP record, except that instead of a needle reading a groove for playback, it’s a tiny light reading this visual representation of the movie’s soundtrack, which is converted into audio.  Most modern movie houses are digital today, and optical analog audio is pretty rare any more.
 
Finally, to the right of the squiggly waveform lines is a trail of white vertical dashes.  This is the time code I’m talking about.  It’s essentially a stream of numbers that are represented as time (hours:minutes:seconds:frames) and is there to tell the projector exactly where the film is, chronologically.  This is important for 35mm—because the projector is mechanical, two different projectors may operate at slightly different speeds, depending on factors like the age of the machine, the humidity or temperature in the booth, the physical condition of some parts, etc. 
 
A closed captioning or descriptive video hardware component must have this time code information, in order to sync CC/DV content with the feature.  Without the time code, the movie and the captions or descriptive narration audio track will slowly lose sync.  At the beginning of the feature it might not be very noticeable, but as the movie progresses the sync will continue to degrade, and by the end of the film, the sync will be significantly off, which is obviously unacceptable. 
 
So this bring us to the crux of the problem: the digital feature files for digital projectors do not have time code tracks associated with their playback.  Without the time code information, they will not function, thus, when a theatre is converted from 35mm to digital projection, the existing closed captioning and descriptive video hardware components become unusable. 
 
The fix for this requires two things.  A digital feature must have CC and DV information accompanying it in digital files—that is to say, included in distribution of the feature, provided by the movie company.  (For 35mm projector assisted moviegoing, an outside organization, MoPix, provides and distributes CC/DV content to theatres on CD-ROMs.) 
 
This content by itself however, isn’t simply enough to make the existing CC/DV equipment, such as RWC panels or headsets, start functioning again.  Typically a device called an encoder is necessary to gather and broadcast or display the digital data (which could also be called closed captioning “code”). 
 
So to outfit a digital theatre with CC and DV, an encoder and all the accompanying infrastructure (cabling, mounting, networking, etc.) has to be installed and configured to function with the auditorium’s projector. 
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One thought on “The Latest on AMC Movie Captions

  1. This is awesome! The information AMC is providing and the continued communication/updates speaks volumes for the company’s desired to include the hearing loss community in its business.

    I am excited to see all this happening, keep up the great work Terri!

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