Undead Pixels Mar Digital Projection

I’m a fan of digital projection. But I’m not blind about its faults. And one of the biggest problems with digital projection is the dreaded stuck pixel. Suddenly, you’ve got a distracting dot on the screen. When it happens, it’s worse than a scratch on a print, and it doesn’t go away until it’s fixed.

It’s also very expensive to fix. And that often means that it might not go away for a very long time.

As I write this, there’s a stuck pixel on the Castro’s screen. I noticed it when I saw Boyhood and Alex in Venice–a small but persistent red dot in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the films, although it might have if it had been near the center. But I would have enjoyed them more without it.

The red dot was most noticeable when the screen–or at least that corner of the screen–was dark. When the image was bright, you could barely see it. It disappeared entirely when the screen was bright red or white.

That told me that the red element for that pixel was stuck on. It was projecting red, even when there should be no red on the screen. Jason Weiner of Jason Watches Movies coined the term “undead pixel” for that particular problem.

Actually, he coined it two years ago, when a blue but otherwise similar stuck pixel appeared on one of the Kabuki screens. That was during the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival. It had apparently been there for a while, and was fixed before the Festival was over.

The Castro is in a difficult situation. According to some sources I have in the business, fixing the problem could cost $12,000 to $20,000. But leaving the problem unfixed indefinitely will lower the Castro’s reputation. One source, who works in the supply side of the industry, told me that the Castro “is pondering a repair vs. new 4K projector.”

If that’s true, I hope they pick the later choice.

Disclosure: I emailed my Castro press contact about this issue, but he could only give me information off the record.