The British Film Institute (BFI) has secured funding from the Department of Trade and Industry for a digital cinema test-bed at the National Film Theatre (NFT).

The so-called Digital Test Laboratory is being set up just as BFI parent the UK Film Council develops plans for a nation-wide circuit of digital screens costing close to £14m.

The BFI initiative includes digital cinema projectors from Texas Instruments and JVC and fibre-optic links to production houses and studios in the UK and US. The venture will take place initially over two years, with start-up costs of close to £1m covered by commercial partners along with the Government. BFI chair Anthony Minghella aims to secure further investment to extend the period.

"Digital cinema is arguably the most important development in film since the introduction of sound," Minghella said. "I am thrilled that the BFI will be at the heart of exploring this new technology and making it accessible to all sections of the film community, from film-makers to exhibitors, hardware manufacturers to distributors, educators to audiences."

Confirmed participants in the project include Christie Digital Systems, Barco Digital Cinema, QuVis, The Worx, JVC-DILA, Dolby, Texas Instruments, Snell and Wilcox, Screen Digest, SohoNet, Digital Theatre Systems, EVS, Panastereo, Sony, Panasonic and Digital Projection.