October 21, 2008
Theatrical Digital Projection Support

By Gary Reber

In early October, I visited Sony Pictures on their lot in Culver City, California for a ShowEast 2009 Preview, hosted by Sony Corp’s digital cinema groups. The event showcased Sony’s single-projector solution to 3-D exhibition. This was a progress report on Sony’s 4K digital cinema project and new R&D laboratory. (More on this in another blog posting.)

At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), also this week, five studios announced that they have agreed to help pay for a $1-billion-plus rollout of digital cinema technology on about 20,000 movie screens in North America. The effort to help the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a consortium of major theatre chains, is necessary to support showing movies in 3D. The structure of the deal is that the studios will underwrite about $1,000 per movie per screen to help offset DCIP’s costs, which amount to about $70,000 per screen. The $1,000 per movie per screen is about the same amount it costs the studios to print and ship a film version. Thus, over the course of exhibiting 70 digital movies, the theatre chains will have recouped their digital cinema investment.

This is great news for theatrical exhibitors and moviegoers, because it will mean an overall performance improvement and the capability to show 3-D feature movies. The creative community behind this are embracing the idea that at least A-title motion pictures should be produced in 3D. The rollout is expected to launch in early 2009 and take more than three years. There are currently only 1,264 3-D screens in the U.S. and Canada located at 873 sites. By the end of 2009, the DCIP expects another 1,500 to 2,000 locations, many with multiple 3-D screens.

The studios participating in the deal, in addition to Sony Pictures, are The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures, and Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. The DCIP hopes to sign several other studios by the end of the year, including Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., The Weinstein Co., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

I noted in a previous blog that during CEDIA JVC Professional and SENSIO demonstrated high-performance 3D. This is exciting, and points to the future of home theatre.

As for home theatres, enthusiasts should start thinking about how they will implement 3-D projection, as well as flat panel viewing, and stay on the lookout for the announcement of a pending 3-D delivery standard for the home. Display manufacturers are now experimenting with display technologies that will optimize the 3-D experience in the home. We can also expect new innovative companies to introduce “designer” 3-D glasses for this upcoming market. There will be all kinds of opportunities for “personalizing” your glasses to make what can be termed a “fashion statement.” If the engineers behind bringing this exciting experience to the home get it right, we are in for an incredible adventure that is sure to take home theatre to a new dimension.

We now have the capability to deliver via Blu-ray Disc (and only on this media) “holosonic®” discrete 7.1 spherical surround sound in the home via lossless Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™. As well, thanks to the D-BOX Motion Code™ System, we will be able to excite our motion senses in perfect synchronization with the 3-D visual and holosonic experience. This is, to me, the next frontier for THE home theatre. I think that the potential market for 3D in the home far surpasses that of theatrical exhibition. The last requirement is to settle on the standard for the home. Once done, then, as long as the studios deliver content, I believe the market for 3-D home theatre will explode. I caution filmmakers to not lose themselves in 3-D eye-popping gimmicks and stay focused on good storytelling in the classic sense of filmmaking.

In recent years, there have been several major motion pictures produced and shown in 3D, both in digital theatrical format and IMAX®. It will be interesting to see what Warner Bros’ achieves, in terms of image quality, when it releases in December The Polar Express in 3D on Blu-ray Disc.

You can find a series of articles recently published in Widescreen Review on the technologies competing to become the home 3-D standard. My personal bet is on SENSIO. Look for an article on SENSIO in the December issue.

Gary Reber
Editor-In-Chief & Publisher
Widescreen Review

Tags: - editor's couch - - 3D - - digital cinema - - Sony Pictures - - Universal - - Paramount - - Fox - - Lionsgate - - Warner Bros. - - Weinstein Co - - MGM - - Disney - - JVC Professional - - SENSIO - - Blu-ray - - Dolby - - DTS - - D-BOX -