Category Archives: Equipment Vendors

CJ@IBC EDCF Global Update

image

The EDCF annual IBC gathering is a smorgasbord of information about the latest developments in the digital cinema industry. More speakers than time, so without further ado, Dave Monk kicks it off handing over to the first speaker.

David Hancock (IHS) – “9 1/2 years I’ve been doing this slide,” Hancock said, “and in 12-18 months there won’t be the grey bar any more because analogue will be gone.” There are still a handful of territores where there is analogue (Turkey, Baltic States, Latin America). “Technlogy is now the currency driving cinema,” and that’s what he is focusing on today. Hard drives dominate still, even though some territories like Fance it only accounts for 1/3. But that’s all set to change. Most of the focus for DCP delivery today is on broadband, but that and satellite co-exist.

Ymagis takeovers of dcinex and Smartjog has created one major entity. That’s the biggest change in the last year. “The market is concentrating down to a few players,” such as Deluxe, Unique and Ymagis. “But as an exhibitor, how many suppliers do you want i your site?” Some countries have just one supplier for all sites.

Laser projection – some consumers cite lack of brightness as reason for not going to see 3D. It has not been proven to work, “but what we have now is the first generaton and not what it will be shipped to cinemas.” IHS predicts 100-200 this year and 400-500 in 2015, but mainly smaller projectors. “Laser is inectricably linked to the replacemnt [cycle] of the first generation of digital cinea projector.” Business model is needed for replacement machinery – there is no VPF for laser replacement, Hancock highlights.

Audio – “Recently the sector has re-discovered competition after a decade of lack of competition.” 1,500 screens equipped with Atmos or Auro by the end of 2014. But there is now focus on the home evironment, as well as markets such as automotive (cars). Where does it all lead, ancock asks. Premium cinema, particularly large format, is the answere Hancock notes. “Technology pushes the premium experience,” he observes. 1.,401 PLF screens 1h 2014 with IMAX capturing 45%. Conclusion: may you live in interesting times.

There is a tension between technology and cinema. “The cycle of technology does not match the technology of cinema.” Last observation particularly interesting: “physical decline [DVD etc.] ups cinema in Europe: the value chain increasingly underpinned by cinema.”

John Hurst (Cinecert) – First slide asks ‘Is Ten Years Too Long’ but his topic is the state of [digital cinema] equipment in the field. It looks like cinemas here in Europe are better maintained than cinemas in US in temrs of receiving SMPTE DCPs. You have to keep your software up to daye in your digital cinema server to take advantage of all new features – not just bells-and-whistles ad-ons.

He then calls Rich Philips from Arts Alliance (AAM) up to stage. AAM have spun off most of their digital cinema business, but they still have the digital cinema software technology. The message from Richard is that verisoning is not too bad in Eurpe, but that education is an issue, with most exhibitors clueless that there is another hurdle that needs to be jumped through. “That’s all I have to sya really.”

Chris Witham (Disney) is then called to stage by Hurst. He jams through it in two minutes. “For people to keep coming back to cinemas, we have to offer the best experience possible.” He then discusses Disney’s transition plan to SMPE DCPs with 2015 the target date.

Read More »

China’s ‘Last Mile’ Plan for Digital Cinema: Ditch Western Technology

Sun Xiaobin

Is Chen Xing the biggest and most important digital cinema company that you’ve never heard of? Quite likely.

With the conversion of existing cinemas to digital winding up around the world, future focus of manufacturers will be on territories with organic growth, before the the replacement cycle sets in towards the end of this decade.

And no market right now has more focus on it than China, with it strong (though likely unsustainable) growth of 18 new screens per day. This means that there is still a need for thousands of projectors, servers, speakers, screens and more every quarter in China. Even other emerging markets like Russia, Turkey and Indonesia can’t match that level of demand.

Given that China started early with digital cinema installations, it also means that its replacement cycle will start earlier than many other territories as next-generation laser projectors with HDR/HFR (high dynamic range/high frame-rate) come onto the market.

So it should come as a wakeup call to western digital cinema equipment manufacturers when a smart, ambitious and heavily R&D-focused Chinese manufacturer comes along as states that ‘cinema equipment autonomy will be China’s film industry digital revolution “last mile.”‘

Chen Xing Technology Development (Beijing) Co., Ltd. 

Chances are that you have not heard of Sun Xiaobin, or even the company that he heads, Chen Xing Technology Development (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or the Oristar brand under which its products are sold. But all that is likely to change soon.

Mild mannered and sweater-wearing, Mr Sun is nevertheless as laser-focused and as unwaveringly determined as Steve Jobs in his vision; by the time China overtakes the United States as the world’s largest cinema market it will be his company and not Christie, Dolby/Doremi or GDC that is the dominant technology player in the cinema technology space.

In a lengthy Q&A interview in China’s Enterprise Observer titled ‘Leader in Digital Cinema Revolution Last Mile‘ Mr. Sun lays down his precise vision and methodology for how Chen Xing is going about becoming the Mainland’s leading cinema technology company.

It is a vision that goes far beyond just new servers and technology autonomy, but encompasses a holistic view of the cinema technology environment. But servers are the obvious entry point for the company.

We see the enormous capacity of the Chinese film market and the fact that it relies on imports for digital cinema servers. We at Chen Xing Technology think that independently developed digital cinema servers can not only break the technical barriers abroad, but also has a huge market potential.

With 35mm film movies starting to be replaced by the digital cinema trend, starting in 2006, Chen Xing Technology homed in on the needs of the digital transformation of the theater with a systematic analysis and research of digital cinema encoding system, so that we developed sophisticated digital cinema servers and digital cinema auto show management systems.

In 2011 we had developed AQ10 digital cinema server, which finally passed the third grade U.S. FIPS security certification, also passed the certification test of DCI. Chen Xing Technology is unique in this whole industry because it is China’s first to achieve DCI-certified digital cinema servers. Previously, only foreign companies developed a DCI-compliant 2K screenings server. Now, AQ10 is on Disney’s official website as having also become a recognized facility.

Marketed as the Oristar AQ10 digital cinema servers, details about it can be found here. The focus on servers is a smart move as they are likely to be replaced before the digital cinema projectors they are tethered to. This is particularly true if servers are to offer HFR of 60fps or even up to 120fps, with the next Avatar films likely to push such an envelope, since many early servers can’t handle any DCPs encoded above 48fps.

AQ10 digital cinema server

But Chen Xing is thinking way beyond the server to a whole end-to-end technology ecosystem for the theatre.

Read More »

Ted Schilowitz and Barco Set To Announce New Secret Project at CinemaCon

Ted Schilowitz

Ted Schilowitz, Barco’s New CinemaVangelist

Ask Ted Schilowitz whether he works in either technology or motion picture production or computer hardware or high resolution imaging or marketing, and the answer you’re most likely to receive is, “Yes”. The technologist was recently tapped by Barco, the cinema technology company, to become their CinemaVangelist and help the firm launch its CinemaBarco suite of products.

That’s not the first non-traditional title Schilowitz has had. He’s also a consultant at Twentieth Century Fox where he holds the title of Futurist. Under the arrangement, which began at the end of last year, Schilowitz works with the studio’s President of Physical Production, Joe Hartwick, and President of Feature Post Production, Ted Gagliano, to identify and figure out what kind of technologies and storytelling tools and strategies a big movie company needs to pay attention to, you know, to make sure they don’t miss something really big.

Schilowitz’s title at Fox is almost tame compared to the ominous one he held at Red Digital Cinema; Leader of the Rebellion. Along with James Jannard, Schilowitz helped co-found one of the leading manufacturers of digital cinematography equipment as the company’s first employee. He remained with Red until September of last year.

With those kinds of credentials, it almost seems pointless to mention his role in founding G-Tech, a manufacturer of media storage devices which was purchased by Hitachi. Nor that he helped develop the video cards for AJA Video Systems in collaboration with a little company called Apple.

You can probably see why it might be difficult for someone with Schilowitz’s resume to provide a direct answer about the definition of his profession. Even so, during a recent phone conversation with Schilowitz as he drove to Las Vegas for CinemaCon, I figured its was at least worth asking him how he landed his most recent title with Barco and exactly what he’d be helping the company with.

The transcript of our conversation is a perfect example of how good Schilowitz is at building excitement around the technology used in modern motion pictures and television. What’s even more amazing is that he can manage to do this without divulging the details of a big new product Barco is announcing at CinemaCon, only managing to further build the suspense over just what it might be.

Celluloid Junkie: Okay, I’ve got to start with title. What’s the deal with the CinemaVangelist title?

Ted Schilowitz: My logic about titles in the modern world of business is that titles mean a lot less than they used to. It’s really what people do versus what they’re called that matters. When I started talking with Barco about what my title should be in this new role there were a bunch of very traditional titles that made me sound very self important. None of that really worked for me. It needs to be more fun. We’re in the entertaimnet business, we’re in the movie business, we’re in the fun business. I want this to be a kind of watershed moment for Barco in terms of the kind of environment that we’re creating and what I’ve been brought in to help spearhead is this new level of showmanship and this realization that technology doesn’t need to be boring, but that technology needs to be integrated with the wonder of storytelling and that’s where things get exciting. So we came up with like five or six different names and then the Barco execs said “We like CinemaVangilist we think that defines your role and it defines Barco and why we’re both very excited.” I’m thrilled to be a part of Barco and Barco is very motivated to have me helping that effort. It’s very bidirectional. It’s essentially evangelizing the art, the science and the fun of cinema, in all its form and functions. It doesn’t really have a hard definition.

CJ: What led you to Barco and what will you be doing for them?

TS: Well, at the same time as I’m doing this crazy gig for Fox, in the background, in secret, I’m working on this very interesting piece of technology and storytelling for Barco, which is an amazing company in so many ways. Not a lot of people know about Barco. They know Barco, they just don’t realize they know Barco, because every time they go to a cinema they see a Barco projector. They have the leading market share out of all the three or four big companies. They are in my opinion best of breed when it comes to this number one in terms of the technology and number one also in terms of servicing their clients and really making sure that they get maximum value out of the technology. So we’ve been working on this secret thing and Fox is involved in it along with one other big movie studio, but I’m not sure I have clearance to talk about them. It’s going to be launching on March 25th.

Read More »

Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?

Auro Technologies surprised the cinema industry by announcing partnerships for bringing its immersive audio format to the home cinema market at the recently concluded CES. With only some 100 systems installed in cinemas around the world it would seem early for a switch of focus to the home. However, underpinning the announcement is a complex control structure and ownership of the technology and brand by Barco, Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema) and Galaxy Studios. The question is what impact the announcement will have on future Auro cinema deployments.

The announcement itself is very straightforward in laying out the plan for conquering not just the home cinema, but also the car and mobile markets:

After the successful introduction of its technology in the digital cinema market, Auro Technologies announces the introduction of the immersive Auro-3D® audio experience into the consumer electronics market…Since the introduction of Auro 9.1 and Auro 10.1 at the AES Convention in Paris and San Francisco in 2006, the cinematic speaker layout Auro 11.1 was successfully launched in 2010 (Tokyo, AES Spatial Audio Convention), thanks to the great contribution of Barco, market leader in professional digital projectors and Auro Technologies’ exclusive partner for digital cinema. Until now, Auro-3D® has only been available to the public in professional cinemas equipped with Auro 11.1 by Barco around the world. Now, together with its official partners, Auro Technologies is pioneering once again and the first now to bring its revolutionary 3D Audio technology to all consumer markets.

Auro Technologies then sent out separate press releases the following days announcing the key partnerships, including the one with Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema), whose sound processor is at the heart of the Auro system:

The deal will see the companies collaborate in the development of a range of processors incorporating the Auro-3D® immersive sound format. The new processors will make Auro-3D® available across price points from entry level to high-end home cinema.

The technology partnership agreement builds upon the Auro-3D® license agreement that the companies signed in September 2013. The previous agreement brought Auro-3D® to high-end home cinema with its integration into the award-winning Datasat RS20i processor being demonstrated at ISE 2014. The new agreement will bring this important immersive sound format within the reach of those with more modest budgets.

The other partnership that merited a press release was with DMS for distribution of the technology in most major markets (except for China). Auro Technologies full list of official partners includes: Audiokinetic, California Audio Technology (CAT), Continental, Datasat Digital Entertainment, Denon & Marantz, McIntosh Laboratory, Steinway Lyngdorf (SL Audio) and StormAudio. Then there is of course Barco, with its exclusive right to use the technology in cinemas and which has been lobbying Hollywood studios and other film producers to release their films (preferably exclusively) in the Auro format.

Read More »

Cinemeccanica Brings Laser Projection to Europe

Italian projector manufacturer Cinemeccanica has announced a test bed installation of its Cinecloud™ Lux laser driven projector in Venezia Mestre, Italy. Calling it “Immersive Cinema” the manufacturer does not go easy on the hyperbole for the installation with IMG Cinema Multiplex:

The Multiplex, besides  modern and futuristic design, will be endowed of the most advanced digital technologies for film screening and sound reproduction, it will become the first cinema in the world where people, seeing a movie, will make a unique emotional experience never made before.

There is no word on what film allowed audiences to make this ‘unique emotional experience never made before’, but the opening date of 12 December suggest that it may have been The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This is also likely because the auditorium has at the same time been fitted with Dolby’s Atmos immersive audio.

Quoted in the press release, “Pier Carlo Ottoni, Sales & Marketing Director of Cinemeccanica says: “ To be the firsts to start the Immersive Cinema age, introducing laser driven projection and multidimensional sound in a unique auditorium, make us proud for the constant capacity to innovate and also because the first cinema of this type will be exactly in Italy”.”

Cinemeccanica is affiliated with Barco’s digital cinema projectors, though Cinemeccanica’s Sales and Marketing Director Pier Carlo Ottoni claimed that, “Our laser source could be installed in any DCI projector. For this first installation in Europe, we inserted the laser into a Cinemeccanica-Barco DPC4K-80. At the moment Cinecloud Lux reaches 50.000 ANSI lumens.”

Given the high cost of laser projector for the foreseeable future, it makes sense that this will initially be paired with immersive audio (though interestingly Cinemeccanica did NOT opt for its Barco partner’s Auro system) in premium venues where bright 3D is required for a large screen – such as Christie’s laser projector installation in Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre. Typically today this high-brightness is achieved by pairing two projectors, which when coupled with lamp and maintenance costs, start to make laser seem more affordable. But for now these will be high end one-off showcase test beds.

Can RealD Rival IMAX In The Premium Large Format (PLF) Market?

With Cinema Europe currently underway in Barcelona, two trends for premium cinema experiences that pull in opposite direction are hot topics for exhibitors gathering in Spain. The first is towards smaller, intimate venues that typically serve fine food and wine, as exemplified by The Electric in London or the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. But it is the super-sizing of cinemas in a bid to compete with IMAX and its ability to charge premium ticket prices that is attracting the most attention right now. And RealD wants to be the centre of that action.

With cinema admissions in most of Europe static or even down and 3D seeing its lowest admission figures yet in the US this week, the hunt is on for how to squeeze more out of the people that still go to the cinema. This is where the success of IMAX comes into play, with exhibitors either partnering the large format (LF) player or launching their own premium experience auditoriums, to be able to charge a premium above that of 3D. The track record of exhibitors that have launched their own IMAX-like screens has been mixed, with social media in particular abuzz with patrons venting their unhappiness about large screen up-charges. This blog called AMC’s ETX ‘an Excuse To charge Extra’ and is no less kind about Regal’s RPX.

With Digital 3D being a key part of the PLF experience, RealD has spotten and opportunity to try to create a branding on behalf of exhibitors. From their press release:

At a special presentation to European cinema exhibitors at CineEurope, RealD Inc. (NYSE: RLD) today introduced “LUXE: A RealD Experience,” a premium large format (PLF) initiative aimed at unifying the exhibition community under a single brand with a goal of becoming synonymous with the ultimate out of home entertainment experience. Minimum standards will assure all “LUXE: A RealD Experience” auditoriums feature massive screens, ultra bright 2D and 3D, enveloping audio and luxury seating for a premium movie-going experience. “LUXE: A RealD Experience” auditoriums will provide full flexibility with content, allowing exhibitors to show any movie at any time for optimized profitability.

The code words are clearly audible dog whistles for cinema owners. The first sentence effectively says, “you have largely failed with your efforts of creating in-house PLF brands that can take on IMAX.” The second sentence says, “too many of the PLF auditoriums have been poor IMAX-lite causing consumer backlash.” The third sentence is the most critical, because it tells cinemas not to tie themselves in with IMAX’s restrictive licence terms – “you will have to pay a licence fee to RealD, but it will be less than what you would pay IMAX and we also won’t tell you which films to play and for how long.” Not surprisingly the effort has won the backing of the studios, who are keen on premium ticket pricing, but not on IMAX dominating the market. [NB: The first point was made even more strongly in the ScreenDaily interview, where Mayson is quoted as saying, “There are more than 50 PLF brands worldwide. We’re trying to unify those brands on the grounds that it’s easier to create awareness around one experience."]

Bob Mayson is quoted in the Hollywood Reporter on the technical specifics:

“LUXE comes in response to our exhibitor customers, who are seeing increasing demand for premium cinema offerings but really want a single identifiable brand that will be a guarantee of quality to their customers,“ Robert Mayson, Managing Director of RealD Europe told The Hollywood Reporter. According to Mayson, the technical standards, which include wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screens of at least 16 meters (52.5 feet) in width; 3D sound; auditorium rakes and a screen brightness for 3D projections about twice the current norm, means LUXE will be an elite standard. “We are talking about the top five percent of cinemas, there will be many theaters that won’t have the capacity or the physical dimensions to qualify,” he said.

Note in particular the mention of ’3D audio’. RealD is careful not to pick a winner in the fight between Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro and would most likely prefer to see an open standard, as called for by NATO and UNIC [Dolby’s Artmos in its RPX screens, 3D audio will together with a big screen and bright projection be a cornerstone of the PLF experience. Though for exhibitors not willing to install two projectors, whether Sony or DLP, the equation will not truly be completed until the arrival of laser projection.

The next thing to note is the territories where this system will launch. THR identifies this as, “RealD plans to roll out the new LUXE initiative in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa. Europe in particular has seen strong growth in the premium segment of the cinema market.” Screen meanwhile lists, “Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans.” The thing to note is that it is the emerging markets that are of particular focus, which is why we get a quote from “Paul Heth, CEO of Karo Film, a leading cinema chain in Russia.” These are the markets that have not attempted a PLF brand on their own and that will build new multiplexes, so that the system does not have to be retrofitted into existing multiplexes. RealD is thus unlikely to try to persuade existing cinema clients in North America and Western Europe to ditch their own in-house PLF brand in favour of LUXE.

While IMAX is built on great technology and offers (depending on the site) a terrific viewer experience, there is nothing about it that cannot be replicated with todays digital technology – unlike the analogue 70mm systems of olden days. What sets it apart from in-house PLF screens is thus one thing: branding. IMAX has done a terrific job of re-positioning its brand from 60 minute documentaries for school groups that put bums on seats Monday through Friday 9am until 5pm, to one where people book tickets weeks in advance to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster on the opening weekend. This despite the backlash of the ‘IMAX-lite’ entry into the multiplex market a few years back. Vue Xtreme and Regal RPX have simply not been able to match the branding power of IMAX. RealD too has some cleaver technology, including launching the brighter screen this week, but there is nothing inherently unique about circular polarization 3D at the heart of their solution. The truth is that RealD too is about branding. Just like IMAX it charges a licence fee. Just not as much or with terms perceived as equally restrictive. If RealD succeeds with LUXE – and it stands a better chance than in-house PLFs – it is because the company understands IMAX and what makes it a success all too well.

Dassault demonstrates VR Paris in 3D for cinemas

In the car from Paris’ Gare de Nord station to Dassault Systèmes’ campus at the outskirts of town I got chatting to a British journalist for an education supplement. He confessed that he had never been to Paris before, but that he recognised the streets we were driving down from a video racing game. This got us talking about how you can do a tourist-like exploration of Venice and Florence playing ‘Assassin’s Creed II‘ and was an appropriate intro to the demonstration we were about to experience of Paris 3D. While a niche application for cinemas currently, it points to interesting potential future uses.

Dassault Systèmes, the sister company of aerospace major Dassault Aviation, specialises in simulation and CAD software with a particular focus on 3D solutions for 11 different industry sectors, ranging from automotive to architecture for projects such as the Guggenheim Bilbao. The company has recently begun focusing on 3D applications for culture, education and research, which is what lead it to cinema. As Mehdi Tayoubi, VP Digital & Experiential Strategy, stated at the start of the presentation, “3D is about how we can revolutionise science, culture and society. We are doing 3D to anticipate the real world.”

The first major fruit of this new focus was a two-year project with Harvard University and a staff of 10 from Dassault to create ‘Giza 3D‘, dubbed “reverse engineering archeology.” This allowed researchers and students to explore the Giza pyramid complex and figure out how it is possible to go about building these pyramids, which far from just stacking stones blocks, required complex engineering for the tunnels and chambers. The project was selected to be showcased at the South by SoutWest Interactive (SXSW) and the app is freely available here.

Next, the learnings from this project were poured into what Tayoubi dubbed a “real transmedia project”, the Paris 3D Saga. Remember the scene in “Inception” where Ellen Page’s character shows Leonado DiCaprio how she can manipulate the city and create new buildings? That’s what the team of engineers at Dassault have been doing, “using virtual reality as a key engine for different media” according to Tayoubi, only here in aid of research and education rather than popcorn. The result can be appreciated on the website, through an iPad app, on a Blu-ray/DVD, but is most impressive when seen on the big screen in full stereoscopic 3D.

The project does not simply capture contemporary Paris but allows for the exploration of the city over the past 2,000 years, going back to the early Roman settlements. This has meant re-constructing ancient buildings that no longer exist, such as Coliseums, but also more recent ones, like the Bastille that required extensive work with architects and historians. Interesting historical nuggets were unearthed, like the fact that the Notre Dame was not built from the ground up, as you might expect, but from left to right, in order to replace an existing church. Another is that the Bastille was far from the imposing building that history teaches us, as revealed in this article from the New York Times:

In a 1789 painting of the Bastille, the French artist Hubert Robert portrayed that Paris fortress as a huge, seemingly impregnable structure and the Parisian revolutionaries who razed it as small, vulnerable human beings. More than two centuries later, thanks to 3-D modeling software, a different picture of the Bastille emerges. In its recreated setting it is the Bastille that seems small, even vulnerable.

The dimensions of the Bastille are still known, but even one expert on the city’s history was taken in by Robert’s hyperbole — until he saw the 3-D simulation, which shows the Bastille nestled among surrounding buildings rather than towering over them. Now he sees the fortress, and the painting, in a different light.

“It was pure propaganda,” said Jean-Marc Léri, director of the Carnavalet Museum, which is devoted to the history of Paris.

The scale of the Bastille is one of many revelations that emerge from “Paris 3D,” an ambitious project by Dassault Systèmes, a French software company, in partnership with the Carnavalet, that has created an interactive 3-D, virtual-reality representation of Paris through the ages.

The project is on-going, so there are constantly more buildings, layers and information added. As Tayoubi stated, “we want this to be the on-line reference for Paris.” See the iPad preview below:

YouTube Preview Image

What is particularly impressive is the ability for a guide or controller to move freely around and zoom in on particular buildings or places, allowing the viewer to travel down the streets of historical Paris as if walking there, while the guide explains what we are seeing. The audience can thus ask questions or suggest places in real time and get a close up and explanation. This has interesting potentials for cinema, as will be explored at the end of this piece, but also inherent limitations. The easiest way to demonstrate this is to record a tour, machinema-style, with a narration which is what has been done. Screen Daily describes it in this good write-up:

The documentary, called “Paris: The Great Saga”, was a coproduction with Planète+ and ran this autumn on French TV. Directed by Xavier Lefebvre, the film was produced in two versions – a 90 minute feature and a 4 x 52 minute series. The film tells its story of Paris though a family’s tour over Paris in a hot air balloon that begins in 3000 BC. It’s a story device perfectly aligned to take advantage of the aerial flights of fancy that Dassault’s 3D virtual camera allows.

The directors could use the virtual Paris to create any kind of shot they wanted, on the fly, some of which were plates for additional action to be added later. The sophistication of the 3D model meant that a shot could start from high above the city and end on a tiny detail of Notre Dame Cathedral all with a high degree of resolution. Dassault’s Paris model also features a population of “extras”, virtual citizens of each period, dressed in appropriate costumes, filling the streets and buildings.

This project has also found a home in the cinema for the past three years, more specifically Paris’ IMAX at La Geode and in collaboration with French director Luc Basson, whose The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec feature extensive recreations of Belle Epoque Paris (and Egypt).

The interesting thing is how this could be now be taken further in cinemas, as opposed to film-making or other than to just screen the linear documentary. The limiting factor is the need for a guide (and narrator) at the controls of the computer connected to the projector, which makes each installation site-specific. Even so it opens interesting potentials for education and VR tourism, with groups of students or tourists being given a virtual guided tour of Paris – or any other city that develops a similar project. These events could be sponsored by a company with particular ties to the city. Given a high-profile speaker, it can even be used to resurrect the largely gone tradition of travelogues, where knowledgable and/or famous historians and explorers take their audience through exotic locations. Rather than just slides from an expedition to Borneo, this would showcase remote and historic cities, or even show people in the cities themselves perspectives that would otherwise not be available (such as climbing up the Eiffel Tower).

Dassault is not resting on its Paris laurels, but is already working on its next city, which is Brazil’s Rio. The company also demonstrated a fascinating 3D ‘cave’ solution, where deep sea divers were trained to walk around a sunken wreck in preparation for the real dive. There are also further augmented reality (AR) work with Nestle and Kung-Fu Panda 2, creating AR on cereal boxes. However, Tayoubi is also clear that there is a limit to what the company will do. “Our work is not to be a Pixar or DreamWorks [Animation] of tomorrow; we are not going to make CGI movies.” In a way, the VR 3D Paris points to a more interesting direction and potential for the cinema – as anyone who has played Assassins’ Creed II will testify.

Disclosure: the Paris trip to Dassault Systèmes was paid for by the company. They also handed out a Blu-ray to all journalists and served rather lovely coffee.

Japanese Earthquake May Not Impact The D-Cinema Supply Chain

Texas Instruments DLP

Shortly after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan on March 11th numerous rumors and speculation have swirled around the exhibition industry over its impact on the availability of digital cinema equipment. In part, this was spurred on by Texas Instruments reporting that their manufacturing plant in Miho, Japan, about 40 miles northeast of Tokyo, “suffered substantial damage” during the quake.

Because third of the output at TI’s Miho plant is dedicated to DLP production. The DLP chip is one of the most important parts in digital cinema projectors manufactured by Barco, Christie and NEC, so it was initially thought that the industry would once again face a shortage of equipment. However, since then both Barco and Christie have publicly said they have enough inventory on hand to meet demand for months, if not a year, into the future.

As the number of emails coming in to Celluloid Junkie with questions about the issue increased to more than two dozen, I felt it appropriate to give TI a call for an update. What I learned was that, most importantly, all of TI’s personnel are safe and unharmed. The company’s fabs in both Miho and Aizu-Wakamtsu (about 150 miles north of Tokyo) were damaged in the earthquake. At Miho, the building withstood the earthquake, though the manufacturing equipment inside was damaged as it got tossed around with all of the shaking.

By the end of March repairs at Miho were finished on the facility’s infrastructure systems that deliver water, gases, chemicals and air. Most significantly, the fabs cleanroom was recertified. At the time, 90 percent of the plant’s equipment had passed electrical tests.

Read More »

CinemaCon 2011: Dolby Lines Up New Releases For 7.1 Surround Sound

Dolby Surround 7.1 Logo.jpgDolby is using CinemaCon to announce a slate of new titles that will be released with Dolby Surround 7.1 audio.

Most of the films are highly anticipated summer tentpole releases and include Walt Disney Studios “Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides”, DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 2″, Disney/Pixar’s “Cars 2″ and Paramount Pictures’ “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon”. Dolby also landed the first Indian film to feature their enhanced audio offering; Ramesh Sippy Entertainment’s “Dum Maaro Dum” will be released in April with Dolby Surround 7.1.

Since introducing the product to exhibitors in June of 2010, more than 1,300 Dolby Surround 7.1 installations have been completed. Dolby now says it is one of the “fastest adopted cinema audio formats” in the company’s history.

Of course, what makes the enhanced audio offering possible are the 16 audio tracks, or channels, within digital cinema packages (DCPs). Including additional audio tracks in digital releases seems like a no brainer, however exhibitors still have to be equipped to playback the extra channels. That means having wiring in place for left rear and right rear surround channels, not to mention an audio processor that can route the audio to the proper speakers.

Read More »

Barco Expands In Latin America and India

Barco Logo.jpgAfter launching their 4K projector at ShowEast, Belgium based Barco is ramping up their global sales effort with the announcement of two new deals.

The first was a reseller partnership arrangement with Real Image in India, a country presently experiencing high growth in new multiplex openings. Real Image may be familiar to some as the company behind Qube Cinema. Barco will provide training, service and customer support to Real Image in a deal that should help the projector manufacturer strengthen marketing efforts and increase its install base throughout the territory.

Real Image will be able to offer Barco’s entire digital cinema product line to their customers, a necessity in a country where cinemas range from small single screen complexes in remote geographical areas to state-of-the-art venues in large urban areas. Arvind Rangnathan, Chief Executive Officer of Chennai based Real Image pointed this out in the press release announcing the partnership:

“The complete range of digital cinema projectors offered by Barco are ideal for this market, be it the mid-sized multiplex screen or the large single screen… we are now able to provide a stunning experience in 2D and 3D even on larger cinema screens.”

Read More »