I interviewed Espoo Ciné technological cordinator Antti Näyhä in August 2013. I asked him some questions regarding Espoo Ciné outdoor movies. Here is the whole discussion in written form. Translation from Finnish to English is done by me so all the misspelling and bad english is to be blamed on me, not Antti 🙂
How were you involved in this years (2013) outdoor screenings?
I was responsible for Espoo Ciné’s av-tech cordination and the outdoor screening as well. This outdoor screening is the biggest single happening in our festival and it includes much more work than any other screening in Espoo Ciné Festival. Traditionally our outdoor screening has been on the middle of festival center, at the Aurinkoterassi (sun terrace). But this year the pool was under construction work so we had to move screening to the WeeGee house yard. This was our only outdoor screening, but we also had one in co-operation with Helsinki Festival.
Are the same guys behind both events (Espoo Ciné & Helsinki Festival)?
Basically these are two separate events but we use the exact same equipment. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was part of Espoo Ciné listing but we arranged that one together with Helsinki Festival. We chose that movie and also took care of the rental expenses. Helsinki Festival also had one screening with Elokuva-arkisto (National Audiovisual Archive). So Helsinki Festival was doing co-operation with many different organizations.
But yeah, we used the exact same equipment. We saved some money doing so. People behind these events were different in theory, but the circles are so small we all know each other anyway. We call to each other and co-operate all the time.
How did you get all the equipment?
The film projector came from Tampere Film Festival. That’s the exact same machine everybody’s used through the years for example Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä. Tampere Film Festival usually uses this equipment in many different locations. The screen also came from Tampere but the frame structure and sound system came from Sound Engine company. We used this setup in both Helsinki Festival and Espoo Ciné.
How much do you have to pay for rights to show these movies?
It depends. Sometimes they (the owners of the rights) want provision of the ticket sales and sometimes we are giving them a fixed sum. Vicky Christina (Helsinki Festival screening) was still available from Finnish dealer. Before Sunrise (Espoo Ciné WeeGee screening) was not available that way so we had to purchase the screening rights from USA. That was a bit more expensive.
How do you think your screenings did?
I think we did well. Regarding Tapiola screening we were especially happy that people found the new location, the WeeGee house. This screening has been in different place for years. Also the Helsinki Festival screening had enough audience and we got lots of good feedback.
How do you see outdoor movies in general…
Well in Finland this is in small margin because of our climate. I am not a ”guru” in this field, but I have taken part in quite a few outdoor screening projects. Starting from backyard parties that had 16 mm films. Also in Ainola Park, Oulu there was a horror movie show in the middle of the night.. and in the dark woods. That was very nice project too.
I have also worked in Netherlands and Belgium. There is a dutch company that creates huge outdoor cinema screenings (http://www.olb.nl/uk/Frame.php). They have some very impressing hardware. They drive their trucks somewhere and those are filled with tech. They are able to set up everything for big screening in an hour.
Of course in those parts of Europe they have a longer season for doing this and they can have series running all summer and far to the fall. In Finland summers are bright and autums are cold. Season is very short. That is why it is hard to find big budget for this kind of action. There is no money if there are only couple of screenings in a year.
History of Outdoor Cinemas?
Movie screenings in their very original form were actually touring type. First ever screenings in Finland for example were this kind of shows that moved from place to place. This was in the late 1800s when Lumière brothers came to Helsinki to show moving pictures. And since the movies in the first place were touring, so they were presented in outdoor places too.
Of course those times you really needed a dark environment for screenings since the projectors were not so bright back then. I really cannot tell when the very first outdoor screening in Finland was. And those Lumière screenings were not outdoor screenings.
What about Drive-In?
Every now and then I hear that somebody has arranged that kind of screenings too. But they are not permanent, only some isolated projects or festivals. Tomorrow (August 29th 2013) starts Kino Ylläs. It is a 4-day movie festival and they show outdoor movies every night.
Is Outdoor Cinema a “rising trend” right now?
Well i quess you could say that. Nowadays it is so easy to watch movies in home theaters. And movies can easily be stolen from Internet. But if you can offer different kind of experience in some very nice environment, something different… And all of a sudden going to movies is interesting again. It’s a Social movie experience.
Well this is almost a routine for us as we have arranged this many times and not much changes over years. Sure, this year we changed the place but it wasn’t a problem really. Sometimes it is hard to co-operate with so many different parties. For example the fountains in the middle of the festival area have to be turned off because they are a disturbance. Also all the streetlights have to be turned off. And some of those lights are operated by town, some are operated by a public swimming pool and some by Cultural Centre. And if you call to someone, you can never be sure witch lamp was operated by who. Then you have to make a deal that those lamps turn off at a certain time in the evening at the specific day. It makes us a little nervous because if they don’t turn off, you cannot do anything about it in the late night time.
Why not serve alcohol?
We have not served alcohol in our events and we have no plans to do so. Surely it could be done, but it is a bit difficult in Finland. There are these cultural differences. In Finland, you cannot drink alcohol in movie theaters in general. In some other countries, it is a normal practice to take your own beer or wine bottle with you. But in Finland it is maybe connected to noisy behavior and that is why it is not a common habbit to serve alcohol in movies. I do not know any outdoor shows in Finland with alcohol service except some private events. Of course when we arrange picnic type events, you can bring your own bottles, but then selling it would be pointless anyway.
What about your crew? What is it like?
Well it is our executive director and me who make the decisions about the hardware choices, where we get it and who takes care of the logistics. This year we had a tarmac ground so we had to order some grass carpets. We loaned those from Flow Festival. On the screening area there is this Sound Engine who take care of the screen structure. They have professional builders and audio technicians. We buy this service from them. Then we have some volunteers, projectionist Markku Erikkson and me. Over ten people are involved in this project. After the screening everybody together (including our executive director) help to disassemble everything. And this year it was a fast operation.
Did everything work as planned?
Basically yes. Although we couldn’t turn off all the lights in WeeGee house. They have bit glass walls and there was no way to stop all the light. They had a happening of their own inside the building that night so they had to keep lights on the kitchen too. So that was our only small problem this year. Next year we might get a bit more bright equipment.
Tell me about this new Digital Cinema trend and digital projectors..
Yes, you can use digital projector outdoors too. In Finland there are many small digital projectors that are portable. They are not specifically meant for outdoor use but to show movies in random places (schools etc). But you can use them outdoors too, if the screen is not too big. We actually considered digital projector for our event too but after we decided to show 90’es movies, it was obvious that we should use film projector. Film copies were easier to get and they were in good condition and really beautiful. I don’t think the movie would have looked as good if viewed from Blu-Ray. But sure, if the movie had been new, say from last year, we would have chosen digital equipment.
This film projector equipment we use, have served us well for the last ten years. As long as I have been around in this festival tradition. And we have not had any problems with it. Of course when Helsinki Festival told us they wanted to show film too, we thought it was financially better to go this way too. We did not have to pay rent for two different projectors.
And about those 4K -projectors… we only have 3 of those in Finland at this time. And they are NOT portable. There have been 2K Digital screenings for a long time in Finland and some of those have been outdoors. 4K projectors don’t really differ much from 2K projectors apart of their size. But then again, our 35mm film projector is really huge too. When screen is really big, you start to see difference between 2K and 4K.
You can also rent those digital projectors. Sodankylä Film Festival 2014 is going to have 3 digital projectors. And there is only one real movie theatre in the whole town. Three other screening places are to be built from ground up every year. Last year there was only one digital projector, this year there was two and next year we will need three of them. Of course the prices have come down too.
What about sound system? What do you think about wireless audio solutions?
Those are used in some drive-ins. You use short wave radio signals in some certain frequency to you can use our own car radio for audio playback. This is how you avoid noise/disturbance problems and of course it would be hard to hear the audio in the car if outside speakers were used.
If you use wireless headsets in Picnic, it must be because you want to avoid disturbance problems for surrounding people. I personally think that outdoor screenings (just as any other movie) should have heavy sound systems that create the real sound space. And you need lots of bass as low frequencies tend to disappear in open spaces. It doesn’t matter if you have action movie or drama… good sounds make it much more enjoyable. I think if you used headphones in outdoor movies, you would also miss some of the social experience.
Couple of thousand euros. This is a tradion for us. We hope that free outdoor screenings also bring more people to our payed screenings. Sometimes we have discussions about this, if this is really a good use for our money. But so far we have decided to keep these screenings going.
Espoo Cine 2014? When is your next outdoor screening?
Next year we will probably be back in the Sun Terrace, right between Cultural Centre and Kino Tapiola. There is a very nice place for screening. We don’t know the movies yet, but the outdoor screening will take place at 28th of August 2014.
Thank you, Antti!
Read Espoo Cine review here ››
Read Helsinki Festival review here ››