What's up with this movie screen/projector?
September 10, 2018 9:09 AM   Subscribe

This is billed as the fancy screen at my local dinner theater. The picture is a complete mess, and they seem unable to fix it. Is there a name for what's going on and is it more likely the projector or the screen?

I have one dinner movie place in my town with what they call an "MX"screen. The issue is that all images on it are unreasonably pixelated. I've been avoiding it for months, but I accidentally got a ticket to a movie in there on Thursday (The Nun). The movie had tons of candles and the flames weren't displayed like you'd naturally see on film, they legit looked like videogame pixelated candles.

A close up image of say a face is mostly fine. A slightly away of a body, you'll notice the jagged edges. One character was in a brightly lit room on a bed and his white shirt had an edge that was neon purple (?!) and jagged. I'm struggling to explain how pixelated the image is... would that be a screen issue? I've sat at middle and middle-close distance in the theater.

I guess I want to be able to go to them and tell them what the problem might be. I've seen three movies in that screen: Black Panther I just accepted it, Avengers Infinity War I talked to the manager and they sort of fixed it!, The Nun I didn't bother talking to anyone.

I first noticed it seeing Black Panther. All those scenes with people on the rocks, you can't distinguish any as actual people... the detail just isn't there. So anything small is just gone. I've never encountered this in another theater. I later saw IW again on another theater and of course it was crystal clear.
posted by OnTheLastCastle to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I noticed the same thing at the theater you are talking about at Black Panther as well so I am interested to know the answer (and for them to fix it!). It looked to me like something was out of alignment.
posted by starman at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2018

*checks profile* At Flix? Now that you mention it, I've noticed that once but it hasn't really been a persistent issue. I'm really curious how you'd tweak a digital projection system mid-showing without having the movie stop and restart, so I'll be watching the thread to try to satisfy my curiosity on that point.

I go to the same theater pretty regularly and will definitely provide feedback to the staff/manager if I run into that situation. If nothing else, a few more people pointing it out might cause some movement.
posted by mikeh at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2018

Yes, this is theater #5 at Flix Brewhouse in Des Moines, IA.

They didn't totally fix it during Infinity War but something improved. I was curious how they did it too...

I don't pay enough attention to remember if that theater does 3D showings. I think sometimes they do? Maybe it's something to do with calibrating it back. I haven't been able to find this in googling though.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have one dinner movie place in my town with what they call an "MX"screen.

MX is our Maximum Experience auditorium. These select MX auditoriums feature our largest screen and more seats than any of our auditoriums. It also is our Dolby Atmos certified auditorium which creates a completely immerse, 360 degree listening experience.
None of that should cause the issues you're seeing.
posted by zamboni at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2018

The purple fringing is chromatic aberration and it's probably that their projector is not converging frames on the screen correctly. They should absolutely be able to fix it. Complain.
posted by fshgrl at 9:55 AM on September 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't think that we're going to be able to diagnose it sight unseen. I think the simplest route here is to tell the theater that you want a refund because the movie looked like crap.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2018

To me it did look like chromatic aberration, would you say similar to this OnTheLastCastle?
posted by starman at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2018

It sounds like they use low resolution projectors and this lack of resolution is most visible when the screen is larger and further away which makes the pixels physically bigger.

This is exacerbated with digital content that does not compress well to MPEG, like flickering flames and rippling water. The low resolution makes the compression artifacts more noticeable.
posted by w0mbat at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2018

I've set up digital projection for film festivals, and the projection/media server systems are usually connected by two SDI cables. This is because the output from the media server is higher bandwidth than a single SDI cable can provide.

When setting these projectors up, I saw color fringes and jaggies when there was a problem with the secondary SDI cable, as it provides data above and beyond the primary.

The systems I used would work with just the primary SDI functioning, but would definitely have some strange artifacts on contrasty scenes.
posted by tomierna at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

To me it did look like chromatic aberration, would you say similar to this OnTheLastCastle?

YES!! Though even more pixelated.

This is billed as their biggest theater and screen so the focus has been on my mind, yes. To further clarify how oddly it looks, it's like the screen is composed of a bunch of straight lines and the image is segmented along them.

So a candle flame normally would be smooth and wavery, but in the shot at that theater you see a few distinct zones and it's more edged. Which a flame cannot be!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2018

While it definitely could be a lens problem, causing chromatic aberration as mentioned above, a bad (or disconnected) secondary cable will cause what looks like chromatic aberration in the signal chain.

If they have an intermittent secondary cable, it could get better and worse during a viewing.

Here's a photo of the color fringing which appears when only one SDI cable is connected to a digital cinema projector. (ignore the banding, that's because I took a photo of a DLP projector with an iPhone...)
posted by tomierna at 11:16 AM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

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