The Digital Cowboy
Japan was one of the earliest and greatest market opportunities for QuVIS Inc. and Joel Schiffman spent a lot of time there, working on different projects, in different roles.
DStorm Inc. was the first international distribution partner for QuVIS.
DStorm Office in Tokyo, Japan Schiffman in DStorm’s Lab, prepping material for a digital feature film release 2001
Exhibitor TJoy was one of the first to embrace DCinema, releasing Toy Story 2 in 1999, many subsequent US features including the Star Wars series, other Pixar Features, and many Japanese features as well.
Studio Ghibli, founded by acclaimed animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and long-time producer Toshio Suzuki was one of the first non-US Film Studios to embrace Digital Cinema and the company encouraged Japanese cinemas to embrace the new technology by digitally releasing award winning features such as ‘Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle” and more.
Studio Ghibli, sometimes referred to (respectfully) as “The Disney of Japan” for their vision and innovation, were early adopters of DCinema (QuVIS) servers in the animation production process.
With popular digital content available “locally” as well as from Hollywood, TJoy expanded their digital network nationwide to more than 30 screens by 2005, exclusively using QuVIS players.
Imagica, Japan’s largest postproduction facility joined the “process” by providing DCinema mastering capability.
While Japanese ticket-buyers quickly accepted and requested DCinema screenings, the technology was new, no industry standards existed, reliability far from the film projectors used daily for decades. DStorm offered 24 x 7 tech support, but early systems were poorly integrated.
Content was loaded to the servers from serial data DVD-ROMs or Exabyte data tapes. The process was slow and if the DVD discs or tapes were somehow damaged, failed. The video interface between the players and projector was a third party parallel to serial converter. Player audio output was digital PCM but many cinemas had only analog sound systems, requiring 3 digital to analog audio converters, one for each pair of the 6-surround sound channels (Dolby 5.1). Yet another player interface was connected to a house control system to open curtains raise or lower house lights and generally ‘run the show”. Technical communication and exchange between all the equipment providers was insufficient as different local vendors provided and supported the disparate equipment.
Projectionists had a rather simplistic perspective, based on their experience with industry 35 mm film projectors. If the projector lamp came on but there was no picture or sound, the DCinema player must be at fault. Understandable but not usually correct.
DStorm and Schiffman quickly acquired the broadest understanding of the system complexities, making them the “go to resources” for any problem. Even when a problem was proven not be caused by DStorm supplied QuVIS players, customers often pleaded, “but you’re the only ones who know what your doing”
From 2000-2006 it was more expedient for Schiffman to plan to attend Japanese premiers and other critical events to head-off problems before they developed.
Event support was not Schiffman’s sole role or responsibility, in Japan or elsewhere. TJoy’s DCinema network was the largest outside the US for a long time. As Director of International Products, he identified features and functions needed by international customers, convincing the factory engineers to implement them.