European Digital Cinema Forum

EDCF and D-Cinema Training Support

Introduction

New technologies used in digital Cinema are transforming traditional professions and professionals of the Cinema industry, as well as changing training process into complex system.

Working in digital Cinema industry requires discipline and prepared professionals.

What does digital Cinema mean?

The way I see digital Cinema is that digital Cinema is the continuation of the Cinema Industry applying "other means". The "other means" used are new technologies (ICT - Information and Communication Technologies), new business models, new operational models and knowledgeable professionals.

Technically speaking, the digital Cinema is a new science. There is still a lot to learn in content and release preparation, distribution and exhibition, but it is difficult to compare it to video or film. Metrics are just different. We are looking at a complex system. On the other hand, if digital Cinema weren't such a complex system, its roll-out would have already completed, but this is not the case.

The majority of organizations operating for the accomplishment of digital Cinema roll-out emphasize their work on technical standards, specifications, recommendations and business models. There is not one document that analyzes another important aspect: the typologies of professionals necessary to make digital Cinema work and the required training models. Maybe someone else is expected to consider this aspect. But who? If we really want to have a “continuation of Cinema applying other means”, then we must not disregard the role of skilled professionals.

Digital Cinema has not yet initiated its full roll-out. What will happen when it will? Since one of the major future growth opportunities of Cinema industry depend on the technical innovation of digital Cinema, the enhancement of expertise should represent a top priority at an international level, at least for the next 10 years. This is the more critical time when both systems will work together: the 35mm and the DCP.

The following slide shows what the training requirements are. Such requirements have been collected through of an empirical analysis. For most of the people interviewed, we are facing a skill shortage. We therefore need to react as soon as possible.

Plenty are the "ready-for-use" recipes that globally indicate the amount and types of needs companies or training organizations face. This paper however firmly believes that an accurate identification of such needs must include different analysis units (such as organizations, professionals), methodological tools (from qualitative tools to quantitative and statistic types), and disciplinary approaches (from the pedagogic environment to the sociological and economic one). This pluralism is necessary in order to integrate tools and approaches that could otherwise lead to systematic distortions if adopted individually.

In no way does this short presentation intend to face the problem in an exhaustive manner. It yet hopes to open a debate on the argument.

In his book titled "Understanding Digital Cinema", Charles Swartz stated that "The best is the enemy of the good". It then affirms that waiting until all questions regarding standards and business models of digital Cinema are defined, would be too late to solve the skill shortage.
Hope and waiting is not a winning strategy!

Investing in human resources

Digitization of Cinema industry is just a means, and not the end. As explained earlier, digitization is a complex process comprising multiple steps and sub-sections, but an effort must be made to analyze this activity as a whole, because its various parts are closely interrelated. To address only one or a few aspects of it would be a serious mistake.

In brief:

  • D-Cinema make lives in an interdisciplinary world where boundaries between categories are no longer crisp.
  • The number of processes and steps are large.
  • Processes are highly intertwined and inter-dependent. Currently, a large number of activities are in the analogue domain. These are often highly labor-intensive, require highly specialized skills and capacity of analysis, and involve crucial decision-taking.
  • These skills are currently equally distributed between the analogue and digital worlds. However, because of the inter-relation of issues, staff must often be competent in both.
  • The techniques and technologies to be employed in d-cinema are very important, but most of the activities are not strictly "technical".

We need to invest now in human resources.

The investment made in human resources must be highly relevant in the digital Cinema roll-out. Digital Cinema cannot only limit itself to hiring someone from an IT faculty or just any kind of cinema or television professional.

Moreover, the specialization required by a new digital scenario makes also the self-training and the training on the job methods obsolete and inadequate.

The definition of the professional figure

The analysis of the professional requirements represents the most critical phase when elaborating the training course. The reason is that a positive relation between training demand and training supply depends on such analysis. In a broader prospective, the analysis of the professional requirements plays a strategic role in the construction of training policies, representing a crucial step towards the definition of a training supply that is coherent with the needs of the business models and production models of digital Cinema. As a matter of fact, one of the assumptions of this analysis is that education and training must have an anticipating effect on the supply evolution of professionals and professions.

In one of my recent research in Europe focused on Cinema industry, over 80% of the high school and university students interviewed stated they didn't know what digital Cinema refers to and what professional opportunities it offers.

Remaining 20% consider d-cinema as "visual effects" or "animation" industry.

Trainers and Teachers

Digital Cinema also suffers from a shortage of teachers and trainers with digital Cinema at their fingertips.

We need to know the number of schools worldwide that are equipped to educate and train for digital Cinema. We need to know how many and which teachers are prepared. We need to know what methods to use. We need to identify new and changing skill needs early enough to be able to react to them. How can we improve transparency and cooperation across companies, organizations and countries to achieve the early identification of skill needs? And how can research findings be transferred into training policy and practice?

I wouldn't want digital Cinema to be facing a paradox, where the supply of skills does not match demand!

Everything was far more simple in the 80’s: the phone was used to talk, television was watched, radio was listened to, computers were used to work with, and cinema was to fantasize. Roles were clear and defined, as were the professions linked to the supply chain of the different media.

Nowadays, media are continuously integrating, converging and diverging too. Like children, they constantly change day after day.

A new educational and training model for trainers, teachers and professionals is urgent.

The suggested model for digital Cinema is the "learning through work experience".

Learning through work experience, a suggested model for digital Cinema professionals

"Work experience" means the use of the workplace in a way which supports learners in connecting different types of knowledge, skill and experience. It is not assumed that simply having an “experience” of work provides the support for learners which is necessary”. (Source Cedefop EU).

This new typology of "learning through work experience" places the question of what is learnt, how it is learnt and how it is used at the center of studies and planning in education and training.

One of the issues recurring in educational and training policy discussions over the past 20 years has been the need to create closer links between school-life and working-life. Training and educational makers, both from the world of education and the world of work, have difficulty in understanding the relationship between the different kinds of learning taking place in these two worlds. In some people and organizations, there is an ipso facto assumption that employability and/or skill acquisition can be enhanced simply through having an experience of work. The implicit assumption is that experience equate with understanding. This means that solutions tend to be rigid and do not address the difficult question of how people learn in general and vocational education through work experience. Again, a new model is needed.

Conclusions

  • Cinema is one of the most important elements of the Communication system, and Knowledge represents one of the primary wealth sources.
  • Like other industries, the movie industry has had to adapt to changing technology.
  • New technology creates new contexts and working methods.

In the initial stages of technology implementation, the focus is on doing what we already do, but doing it faster, cheaper and somehow better. In the subsequent implementation stages, the focus shifts to doing new things, things that have never been done before.

The new digital tools offer filmmakers, studios, distributors, exhibitors and spectators as well an array of opportunities. High quality, significant flexibility, and maybe cost reduction are just a few of the benefits.

There are yet a number of problems and obstacles to overcome and solve.

"Skill shortage", the lack of skilled professionals in the sector, represents, in my opinion, one of the obstacles for the development of d-Cinema.

Today professional figures are continuously evolving and their evolution is strictly related to the advancement of technology. Consequently, the scenario of the professional resources is changing as well:

  • new professions that fulfill new needs and competences develop;
  • other professions change their profile, they are enriched by additional knowhow, they transform. We need a new education and training model.

Knowledge, however, is not a commodity that can be controlled, moved about or distributed at will.

Moreover, the Cinema industry does not improve simply by using pixels on hard disk, instead of traditional silver crystals imbedded in celluloid.

Cinema industry is made of numerous variables and "Value for Money" becomes paramount. As professionals of this exiting and dynamic Moving Images world, the d-cinema and d-cinematography are our opportunity and our future.

Angelo D'Alessio

Anyone interested in this Project please contact me at: adalessio@alice.it

"Education and Training for D-Cinema Professionals - Hope and waiting is not a winning strategy!"
Angelo D'Alessio June 2007