On the day of a recent visit to the Wexner Center, Dave Filipi was anxiously awaiting the call announcing that it was time to push the button.
That button would start the new 4K digital projector and a test run of “The Guns of Navarone,” the film that will introduce high-definition digital projection to Wex audiences.
Over a year in the planning, the upgrade comes to a booth already equipped to handle basic digital presentation and everything analog from 35mm to VHS (“You never know,” quipped projectionist Bruce Bartoo).
Although most of the city’s theaters have already begun the digital transition out of necessity as studios such as MGM proceed with plans to stop striking 35mm prints, the move at the Wex is notable for two reasons.
With 4K presentation (named for its horizontal resolution), the image viewed in the Film/Video Theater will be twice as sharp as what you see on other standard, digitally equipped screens in town.
“It’s rare,” explained film/video curator Dave Filipi. “It doesn’t make sense for most theaters at this point.”
But it made sense for the Wex, which will use the digital format to show not just works by contemporary filmmakers who don’t shoot on film, but high-quality digital restorations of classic films such as “Guns.”
The upgrade also represents an acceptance of the realities of modern film exhibition for Filipi, long an outspoken proponent of watching movies on celluloid.
“Ultimately, the image is what’s most important,” he said.
They’re launching the new format with films from Sony, Filipi explained, because the company’s senior vice president of film restoration, Grover Crisp, helped him realize the potential of digital technology as a restoration tool.
“Sony’s goal is to make it looks as much like film as possible. It’s like a record versus a CD — you want a little of that pop and warmth,” Filipi said.
Filipi also noted that unlike most digitally converted multiplexes, films at the Wex will still be screened regularly on actual film.
“The line is, if a work was shot digitally, I have no problem doing that. If it was shot on film, we’ll make every effort to show that.”
Still, when that button was finally pushed, Filipi’s response to the 4K image indicated a growing comfort with the format.
“I want to go back and book all of this year’s summer blockbusters and watch them in 4K with our sound system,” he raved. “Man.”