Getting the picture via satellite

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Thanks to ISIDE, cinema operators can now browse a catalogue of hundreds of movies, order online from the comfort of their office and their selections will be downloaded via satellite.

6 September 2011
As cinema owners worldwide begin to embrace new digital technologies via satellite, audiences are being given more ways to enjoy an evening at the movies.



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ESA has helped to pave the way to digital and electronic cinema by helping a consortium of Italian companies to develop a secure, cost-effective networked cinema system known as ISIDE – Innovative Satellite Interactive Digital Entertainment.

Thanks to ISIDE, cinema operators can now browse a catalogue of hundreds of movies, order online from the comfort of their office and their selections will be downloaded via satellite.

The network also assists in new forms of entertainment like broadcasting live sporting events in 3D, or offering virtual theatre. Such was the case when ISIDE contributed to a broadcast that put two groups of actors, one located in Rome and one in Burkina Faso (West Africa), together on the same virtual stage.

Satellite capacity is a costly resource. In order to make distribution via satellite cost effective, the same content has to reach a sufficient number of cinemas. ISIDE brings the convenience of satellite technology within reach. When multiple locations in the network download a film, the costs of satellite capacity are shared among them.

Top quality digital standards must be maintained, which involves the transmission of high volumes of data. A single movie can exceed 200 gigabytes – the contents of four blue ray discs. High transmission rates of up to 100 megabits per second must also be achieved.

The system is being put to use by Italian companies Microcinema and OpenSky. Today, Microcinema – with more than 200 cinemas connected in a network over satellite – has become a leader in Italy for providing film, audovisual content, live opera from Italian and European theatres and supporting cultural events. Microcinema distributes two or three live events per month, plus one or two flims per week.

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This graph shows schematically the ISIDE project. Content such as films, are made available to purchase via a website. The films are sent through a satellite link to the exhibitor for screening at cinemas.

OpenSky mainly delivers movies from major Hollywood studios and distributes live events to more than 500 cinemas spread throughout Italy, France and Germany. Most of the cinemas are equipped with the state-of-the-art receivers and projectors.

“The opportunity provided by the ISIDE project has been very instrumental to Microcinema, as it occurred when the company started to approach the market proposing possible satellite services,” explains Silvana Molino from Microcinema.

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The ISIDE hardware that is used to download the films.

Credits: ESA

“The successful pilot phase of the system, developed and tuned in 2010 during the ISIDE project, proved to be fundamental for cinemas owners’ persuasion.”

According to Walter Munarini from OpenSky; “The ISIDE project was fundamental to Opensky to implement the first European network of digital cinema capable of receiving satellite services like the live events and movies via satellite, as well as its evolution to live 3D events.”

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Typical satellite dishes that can be used to receive the digital films. These dishes were used to test the system at the Business Incubation Centre Lazio.

Credits: ESA

ISIDE was developed through ESA’s ARTES applications programme. The companies involved in the consortium included Microcinema, OpenSky, Skylogic and Digital Pictures, with the support of the Business Incubator Centre BIC Lazio in Rome.

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