EVENT CINEMA ASSOCIATION .ORG
ECA INTERVIEW: UNIQUE DIGITAL
AUTHOR: MELISSA COGAVIN, MANAGING DIRECTOr (ECA)
ECA Member: UNIQUE DIGITAL
VISIT MEMBER WEBSITE: Uniquedigitalcinema.com
Ahead of the Curious About Scandinavia industry conference hosted by the ECA in Stockholm, Eyvind Ljungquist, Nordic Sales Director at Unique Digital Ltd had a chat with the ECA's Managing Director Melissa Cogavin about Unique’s newly launching product RosettaLive.
ECA: What was the thought behind RosettaLive?
EL: The thought behind it was really to try and bring broadband technology to live exhibition and leverage all the positive effects of the technology we now have available, such as increased reliability, lowered costs and improved automation. There is such a thrill with live content and to be able to capture and deliver this via IP and leverage these advantages has to be the objective in this field.
A preview of Unique Digital's RosettaLive interface
ECA: What about satellite technology? Seems to me that exhibition is already paying for this format and has been invested in this for some time.
EL: Satellite uplink has been great for the industry but broadband delivery is the future. For content owners without a broad footprint across multiple territories, satellite becomes cost negative. Satellite has a lot of good points, but can be problematic.
We have a network of cinemas using this system in Norway right now, delivering shows regularly which in many cases could not have been possible by satellite because of the problems that severe weather systems cause especially in this part of the world. We are even delivering to a cinema in the far north of Norway on the remote island of Svalbard – this wouldn’t have been possible without broadband technology.
ECA: What’s the difference between the RosettaLive, which has been on the market for some time now, and your new product?
EL: We first launched RosettaLive in Norway close to 1,5 years ago, and we’ve seen the strengths of the model. We’ve used the experience from this launch to develop new software and hardware before re-launching worldwide. We’ve completely re-imagined the solution, including everything that worked well and removing what isn’t needed.
We are currently making last preparations for delivery to market.
ECA: What’s the advantage of RosettaLive over other IP options out there?
EL: RosettaLive offers technology at a very competitive cost; we have modelled the business on our very successful line MovieTransit, which is similar in many ways. The equipment itself is free of charge – we only charge when the technology is used to deliver content.
In addition to the advantage through the commercial model – the solution also offers unprecedented integration with cinema equipment - ensuring operators will be able to operate the show just like they would any conventional movie exhibition.
Lastly – Unique’s experience from our extensive deployment of Movie Transit as well as RosettaLive provides peace of mind for both cinema operators and distributors – the show must go on!
ECA: What about any restrictions on current technology that the cinema might be using?
EL: The great thing about RosettaLive is it can use any network; we supply the hardware to cinemas for free but it doesn’t have to have MovieTransit to work. Any cinema can use it.
Our experience rolling out MovieTransit will enable us to deliver RosettaLive in a similar format and we will leverage our existing footprint to make this happen. We have 1800 sites online in Europe with roll-outs out taking place in Germany and several other territories currently, so we have a great foundation to work on.
ECA: Does this new system have any impact on how live events are captured at source?
EL: Definitely – especially when it comes to local productions – with RosettaLive there is no longer need for an expensive OB truck to distribute the show to other venues.
Local productions have been slightly underrepresented in the industry until now, and much of this is due to the prohibitive costs involved. A lot of funding is required to make local events available outside the source, which I would argue has impacted on the growth of the sector.
With RosettaLive we can eliminate the $10k costs of an OB truck – there’s no need for that. We’ve installed RosettaLive uplink at the Bergen Philharmonic Edward Grieg concert hall in Norway, (the orchestra is currently conducted by Edward Gardner from the ENO), and it works very well indeed.
ECA: Do you see a point when satellite will be completely obsolete? It strikes me that over time we’ve seen 35mm replaced by drives, then people were saying this about satellite a few years ago and now there is satellite AND IP – will we continue to have a multiple formats for cinemas to contend with or will IP win out over time?
EL: Technically RosettaLive and IP delivery is more reliable and with the option of running full 4K - the quality is far better. It’s limited only by the broadband capacity of the cinema, and that’s getting better all the time. There is peace of mind with IP delivery. In 5 years’ time I don’t think we’ll see any live content delivered by satellite. There won’t be any more hard drives delivered into our territories within 4 years either.
ECA: Bold words Eyvind, you sound very sure about that. What about problems with download? I have trouble streaming stuff at home, how do you counter that?
EL: We have highly sophisticated buffering systems in place so that doesn’t happen. The broadband capacity of the cinemas we deliver to is more than enough in the majority of connected sites. As this capacity is scaled for handling the delivery for MovieTransit anyway – live streaming is well within the margins. The system also supports the use of several connections, providing the cinemas with the possibility to remove a source of error.
Also, Unique is fortunate in that our unrivalled portfolio of products for the cinema market provides dozens of ways of integrating RosettaLive to ensure our clients’ shows are of excellent quality.
ECA: Sounds complicated. Will your cinemas need to understand a lot of additional technical stuff to get the hardware to speak to the software?
EL: Not at all. These days cinema managers have multiple roles – front of house, projection booth, even the popcorn and coffee machines; we are well aware of this and have designed RosettaLive so that it can even be controlled on an app on your phone – a cinema manager could even be away from the cinema building to control the show, and he or she can certainly be away from the projector.
ECA: The appliance of science! Amazing what you can do these days. How does it work?
EL: All the shows are pulled down through satellite at the moment to high end receiving kit and a dish at a professional TV studio, where it’s converted to an IP stream and is distributed through the RosettaLive Network. But we’re working to get away from the satellite component and feed directly from the venue where the live event is taking place.
ECA: Are you restricted by your existing network with the roll-out of RosettaLive?
EL: Not at all – we are completely agnostic and don’t favour anyone. Technically we will work with anyone who wants to use our product.
ECA: OK, this sounds like a good offering then. What’s the catch? It is expensive?
EL: We have deliberately designed a low-margin/high turnover business model; we are after blanket coverage. We will charge per delivery, like a VPF on a print. Cinemas are used to this so we don’t anticipate any issues there.
ECA: Will this product emulate what you’ve been doing for Hollywood studio content since 2012?
EL: Absolutely – electronic delivery is quick, reliable, cost-efficient. We have a very strong service reputation with a lot of experience in the field of electronic delivery. The solutions are predictable and widely used. We want to bring all those perks into the Event Cinema market and that’s where RosettaLive started taking shape initially. We are already distributing pre-recorded Event Cinema via MovieTransit so live events was an obvious next step for us.
ECA : Presumably security is a top concern for Hollywood but how do you get around that with live content? It’s widely acknowledged in the Event Cinema industry that the lack of encryption is a barrier for entry for some artists and content owners.
EL: The great thing about this system is that RosettaLive comes point-to-point encrypted, which is obviously very attractive to distributors. Security has always been a top priority for us. We have very strict guidelines and have signed agreements with the studios with extremely high security demands. We get our systems tested regularly to ensure our security is a high standard – and that will carry over into RosettaLive as well.
Ultimately we want to provide a delivery solution for live and non-live product in as many European cinemas as possible, and we feel the joint offering of MovieTransit and RosettaLive are just the beginning in a long evolution of delivery into cinemas. Unique is at the coal face of that evolution and it’s an exciting place to be.
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ABOUT THE MEMBER:
Name: Eyvind Ljungquist
Role: Nordic Sales Director
Company: Unique Digital
Eyvind joined the Unique group 2002, and has spearheaded many of Uniques largest projects in Scandinavia, including the Norwegian D-Cinema Rollout and the Movie Transit rollout across Scandinavia and the Baltics. Focusing on Content delivery and industry innovation, Eyvind heads up Sales for the Nordics for Unique.