A Culture of Innovation: GDC Technology continues to advance the movie experience

Features
Technology

In business, an innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which a company’s customers will pay. It’s certainly one of the most overused words to describe a product or service these days, and for good reason. It’s truly the one word that is synonymous with risk-taking and organizations that create revolutionary products or technologies and often defines a company’s success. However, as widespread as this word is, innovation starts with innovators—and they are rare to find. You see, innovators change the world and make our life different.

One innovator was Thomas Edison, who in 1891 invented the first motion picture camera and gave the world an opportunity to travel to the magical kingdom of movies. A century later, a new breed of innovators changed the face of the movie industry by bringing it into the digital era. One such innovator leading the industry into the future is Dr. Man-Nang Chong, founder, chairman and CEO of GDC Technology.

Passionate about digital movie research since the early 1990s, Chong led a team to win the first prize for his digital motion picture project in the 1995 Texas Instruments DSP Solutions Challenge. Chong then turned this world-famous, award-winning project into a commercial success by spearheading the design and production of Revival Digital—a product line used by Hollywood and global studios to digitally restore classic and decades-old 35mm feature films.

"I love the movies and it is nothing more than passion," Chong says. "I devoted my entire career to digital motion picture research. I proceeded to commercially introduce more advancement in delivering stories by reducing costs and improving the moviegoing experience that brings patrons to the cinemas. I feel we should be totally immersed in the cinemas—to enjoy, to laugh, to cry and to really feel good about the experience. A motion picture is such a wonderful invention where films that cost hundreds of millions to produce can be shared and enjoyed by moviegoers worldwide.”

Past Achievements

One of the most prominent distinctions of an innovator is taking risks to be first to market with an idea that is replicable at an economical cost and satisfies a specific need. Imitators take less risk because they will start by cloning an innovator's product.GDC Technology, under the management and direction of Dr. Chong, has been first to market with a myriad of pioneering products, including the first digital-cinema equipment manufacturer to receive the United States’ Federal Information Processing Standards security certification for its media servers.

During the early days of digital cinema, there were no standards, and developments which now seem to be obvious such as DCI specifications and hard disks to store a full-length motion picture in the form of a DCP (digital cinema package) were not immediately thought possible. In 2001, GDC was the first company to launch a software-based digital-cinema server and pioneered the use of hard disks to store encrypted digital movies for physical delivery to cinemas.

GDC always looks ahead, and it was not enough just to play a leading role in digitizing the cinema industry. By creating a culture of innovation—there’s that word again—to develop and pitch great ideas, GDC firmly believes digitization must lead to new markets and more benefits for its customers. One such pioneering technology was developed by GDC as a way to ease the operational procedures. The company was the first to produce its own theatre management system (TMS), which was used by Singapore’s first fully digitized multiplex in May 2004.

Subsequent to its TMS, GDC launched its Network Operations Center (NOC) software to facilitate the management of digital-cinema equipment and screens in different locations from one place. Its NOC software delivers content and information, creates show playlists and schedules, monitors playback and performs remote diagnostics and upgrades on the servers over the Internet or via private networks. The innovations in TMS and NOC software applications enabled GDC to further expand its business to provide virtual print fees (VPFs) to its worldwide customers.VPF is the name given to a subsidy paid by a film distributor towards the purchase of digital cinema projection equipment for use by a film exhibitor in the presentation of first-release motion pictures. Today, GDC manages VPF for over 6,300 theatre screens and with more than 650 studios or motion picture distributors worldwide.

Besides being innovative in technology and product development, GDC helped lead the advancement of China’s cinema industry with the China Film Group, forming a partnership to convert almost 1,000 screens into digital cinema in 2006. The China digitization project became the catalyst that expanded China’s movie industry into becoming the world’s second-largest movie market, with box-office revenues hitting US$6.8 billion in 2015. GDC also set up a joint venture in Beijing with China Film to provide 24-hour, real-time remote monitoring services for digital cinemas in China with its NOC.

Immersive Audio Technology

During CinemaCon 2015, DTS in collaboration with GDC introduced DTS:X, a flexible, scalable and more affordable object-based immersive audio format.

GDC was the first company in the world able to integrate a DTS:X decoder inside of their cinema servers, which resulted in cost efficiency and ease of integration for cinemas across the world. The new object-based immersive sound has taken China by storm, resulting in an unprecedented fast and massive rollout. In just over a year, more than 300 DTS:X screens have been installed or committed. To date, close to 200 auditoriums (including premium large formats) in China are screening on average four blockbusters per month with DTS:X soundtracks.

Movie studios have also embraced this technology, releasing over 50 titles, from Hollywood and local Chinese, as well as co-organizing movie premieres with GDC.

New Horizons

Although the technologies from GDC are hidden from moviegoers’ eyes, the company’s concentration on the inside of the auditorium as well as the operations has brought about revolutionary advancements to improve the moviegoing experience. However, new technologies must continue to be introduced. This is why GDC is entering into a new arena of taking new risks to convert new ideas into useful products not just for cinema but for the entertainment industry in general. GDC is determined to become the trusted name not only among movie professionals but also among moviegoers.

GDC continues to spend resources in developing new technologies that are likely to enhance the moviegoing experience, such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and High Frame Rate (HFR) research and development. More recently, GDC demonstrated its 2K 3D 120 fps (per eye) digital-cinema solution that is beyond DCI specifications.

Moving beyond digital cinema, GDC is also working on Virtual Reality (VR) projects. Although believed to be a concept of the future, VR technology is one of the most talked-about topics for movies. To date, the consumer VR experience is limited mostly to games and widespread in China more than anywhere else in the world. However, the experience so far is only a novelty factor and the movie industry is not yet making use of cutting-edge graphics and sound to deliver a real-world experience. For that reason, GDC has decided to step up and with its trusted partners bring high-quality VR experiences into movie lobbies and shopping malls. The idea is to concentrate not only on the visual part, but also the interactive and sound part. The problem of VR today is that while consumers have an amazing visual experience, it is not fully immersive. Why? Because your body does not respond to what’s happening in front of your eyes and secondly because the sound used is far from being high-quality. By combining stunning visuals, motion platforms and immersive sound, GDC will demonstrate its upcoming Virtual Reality experience during CineAsia 2016.

GDC is proud to receive the award as “Technology Innovator of The Year” at the most prestigious event in the Asian cinema industry, CineAsia. GDC promises to keep committing itself to a culture of innovation, quality and perfection in our beloved industry and beyond.