Giant Screen Professionals’ Awareness and Attitudes Towards the Development of Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications
The National Science Foundation provided funding through NSF-ISE# 0946691 to support the Digital Immersive Screen Colloquium for Unified Standards and Specifications (DISCUSS), a seed initiative to nurture a shared Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications (DIGSS) for STEM learning film production at a scale and quality that is sustainable in the informal science education (ISE) community. The DISCUSS initiative engaged technical experts from across the GS community in concert with the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and developed a first draft specification that was presented to the industry at the GSCA's annual conference in September 2010. That presentation was followed by a year-long public commentary phase for industry input. The specifications built on the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) by advancing a clear set of shared, open specifications for brightness, resolution, aspect ratio, digital file transfers and other factors relevant to one of the most unique formats for science and informal learning films. DIGSS was intended to help establish a known expectation and help the theater operators, film producers, and film makers, determine their needs, expectations and a logical transition plan that can help the institutional segment of the Giant Screen (GS) field to go digital. The non-profit Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) served as the external, independent evaluator for the DISCUSS project. This report presents results from a November and December 2011 survey of GS film professionals' knowledge, awareness, and attitudes towards the DIGSS 1.0 and the future of the shared specification at close of the project. This study is the second in a set of studies undertaken to assess impact on professional knowledge, the first published separately, explored knowledge and attitude impacts for attendees at the GSCA conference immediately after the first draft of the specification was made available. This second study used an online survey of a potential audience of over 1000 industry professionals recruited through a direct email to GSCA members and a second invitation distributed to the readership of the industry journal LF Examiner in December 2011. The survey had a total of 107 respondents with 59 completing the entire survey. Summary of Key Findings: 1. Survey respondents were familiar with the DIGSS effort: 67% had been aware of the DIGSS effort for more than 6 months; 71% indicated they had some involvement with the DIGSS process, including attending conference sessions and talking to colleagues in the field; and 49% had looked at the DIGSS 1.0 draft. Based on these results, the project has increased industry knowledge, awareness and positively impacted attitudes about the factors related to digital conversion of GS theaters consistent with the aim of the original NSF grant proposal. 2. Respondents' answers to questions on how DIGSS contributed to their learning demonstrated statistically significant positive increases in knowledge of the technical issues related to DIGSS. 3. Over half of the respondents claimed that they commented on the specifications during development achieving the target goals outlined by the principal investigators. 4. Preserving the quality of the picture was a top-level concern for all respondents, especially where productions are intended to serve both the fulldome and GS format. 40% of those surveyed mentioned that digital technology will need to be improved for crossover to occur without a loss of quality and 23% felt that cross-over is going to be challenging and might have a negative effect on GS theaters by reducing picture quality. This concern demonstrates an increased understanding of the affordances and limitations that affect GS theaters. 5. Respondents were somewhat ambivalent on their support of DIGSS, demonstrating a relatively neutral stance towards supporting the outcomes (mean=4.93 on a 7 point scale). The project may have increased literacy surrounding the topic, but actual adoption of these specifications cannot be predicted because these ambivalent responses suggest low intentionality to pursue conversion based on this version of DIGSS. 6. Open-ended responses revealed a mixed view on how DIGSS had changed their thoughts about conversion to digital GS projection: 34% were more encouraged about conversation as a result of DIGSS, finding it helpful in understanding the importance of coordinating an effort to establish industry standards whereas 30% had increased doubts about the cost and time that might complicate conversion efforts. In either case, attitudinal change was noted as a result of this project. 7. The greatest common concern expressed by respondents was industry buy-in to a standard and a neutral response about the impact of the specifications on the industry, an attitude that may be more common given the generally neutral results from this survey (N=59) in comparison to the nearly 20% response rate for the post 2010 conference (N=77). Despite this response, it is noted that the GSCA board unanimously adopted DIGSS as an initial standard and have committed to pursuing this shared specification on behalf of the industry, suggesting that the concern about industry buy-in may be perception of the respondents rather than representative of the industry. 8. Respondents were generally positive about how DIGSS may impact the unique quality of GS theaters: 33% felt DIGSS would preserve or enhance the existing benefits of GS theaters, 13% emphasized improved accessibility and flexibility with software and film content and another 13% focused on the general positive impacts of DIGSS. 9. Respondents were neutral on whether DIGSS would be able to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology with some noting concerns about the pace of specifications development in the face of technology companies' work to advance digital technology in side-by-side testing of new proprietary equipment and systems, a contrast to the concern about buy-in noted in 7 above. 10. A substantial group of respondents (38%) indicated that DIGSS 1.0 needed either minimal or significant changes to be useful for the field. These respondents sought more detail and clarity around technical terms. These respondents were also quite concerned about a possible lack of buy-in from across the field and the technical issues that still remain to be addressed to support the conversion process. 11. A small group of respondents focused on specific technical issues related to conversion of existing theaters that they believe may hinder industry consensus. 12. There was clear concern that maintaining the picture quality that is attributed to traditional film was a key priority for most respondents.