How Digital Cinema Works

Elements of Digital Cinema

Digital cinema is simply a new approach to making and showing movies. The basic idea is to use bits and bytes (strings of 1s and 0s) to record, transmit and replay images, rather than using chemicals on film.

The main advantage of digital technology (such as a CD) is that it can store, transmit and retrieve a huge amount of information exactly as it was originally recorded. Analog technology (such as an audio tape) loses information in transmission, and generally degrades with each viewing. (For more information, see How Analog and Digital Recording Works.)


Digital information is also a lot more flexible than analog information. A computer can manipulate bytes of data very easily, but it can't do much with a streaming analog signal. It's a completely different language.

Digital cinema affects three major areas of movie-making:

  • Production - how the movie is actually made
  • Distribution - how the movie gets from the production company to movie theaters
  • Projection - how the theater presents the movie

In the next sections, we'll look at each of these areas in detail to find out how digital cinema is different from conventional cinema.