Tag Archives: Dolby

CinemaCon 2014: Press Release Roundup

CinemaCon Logo

PLEASE NOTE: If we missed any individual press release it was not done purposefully. If you would like us to include a CinemaCon related press announcement in a future roundup, please forward it to tips@celluloidjunkie.com.

Historically companies and organizations doing business at trade shows and conferences have relied heavily upon press releases to get their message out to an industry. This has been especially true at CinemaCon and ShoWest before it. This year was no different.

The first day of the show always sees a flurry of announcements “hit the wire”. As the week (and convention) progresses the number of releases tends to dwindle. We thought it might be useful to sum up all of the announcements made at this year’s show, and when appropriate, provide a bit of insight or analysis. Here are the releases published during CinemaCon 2014 listed in alphabetical order by company name:


Arts Alliance Media
The London based digital cinema integrator and software developer is is always good for a few releases during industry trade shows. CinemaCon saw them release no fewer than four. The first announced the launch of a new software solution called AdFuser. The software was designed for all aspects of on-screen cinema advertising. The software is capable of planning campaigns and managing inventory, targeting ads to appropriate genres or audience demographics, automated ad playlist creation, ad content delivery, reporting and much more. AdFuser can be used in either an extremely granular or completely automated fashion.

Our Take: AAM’s cinema advertising software has been in development for years so it is interesting to see them finally launch the product. We have yet to have a close demonstration of the solution, but look forward to seeing it in action. The company is entering a niche market with a stiff competitor (Unique Digital) that has more than a decade head start in the space.

AAM announced a software deal with Vox Cinemas, a cinema chain based in the Middle East. The circuit will be employing AAM’s suite of software to manage their digital cinema technology and operations. This includes solutions such as Screenwriter Plus (Theatre Management System), Producer (Enterprise Circuit Management System) and Locksmith (Enterprise KDM Management) and Lifeguard (NOC Tools). Vox operates 9 complexes which account for 92 screens in Lebanon and the UAE.

Finnkino was already using AAM’s theatre management system (TMS) and will now upgrade to Screenwriter Plus, which has additional features for automation and monitoring. The circuit will rollout the new version of Screenwriter Plus throughout their 14 sites and at a later date has the option to include their 11 Forum Cinemas located in the Baltic.

AAM began as a digital cinema integrator with their own virtual print fees (VPFs) in Europe. They have now entered the complicated Latin American market with a series of partners, most recently Quanta-DGT. The trio announced three deals for VPF rollouts with three exhibitors in Uruguay; Grupo Cine, Life Cinemas and Movie.

Our Take: This agreement is a perfect example of just how complex Latin America can be for the motion picture business. While the combined 61 screens covered in the contract already have digital cinema equipment installed, these screens will now fall under AAM/Quanta-DGT’s VPF agreements.


Barco
CinemaBarcoThe Belgian based projector manufacturer was incredibly active during this year’s CinemaCon, showing up at the conference with half a dozen press releases. Many of the notices centered around their new CinemaBarco initiative, specifically the 60,000-lumen laser projector the company is bringing to market. The projector is DCI-compliant and capable of showing 4K content all the way up to 60 frames per second. The Barco 6P laser projector is capable of showing 3D content in 4K at 14 ftL and is fully integrated within the DCI-compliant projector. It will be commercially available immediately in the United States and China before being distributed in the rest of the world by the end of 2014. The company demonstrated the projector at CinemaCon without a “shaking” screen.

To prove just how market ready their laser projector is, Barco announced that Cinemark would be the first exhibitor to install the new technology. The release didn’t specify precisely which sites Barco would be installing its high-tech projector in, though don’t be surprised if Cinemark Century 16 South Point and XD winds up being the first. That’s the Las Vegas cinema in which Barco was conducting off-site demonstrations of its laser projector during CinemaCon.

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10 Reasons Why Dolby’s Atmos Will Bypass Your Living Room for Your Headphones

Right from its launch, Dolby has made no secret of the fact that it sees a business for its Atmos immersive audio (IA) technology beyond the cinema. Part of the grand plan was just revealed at the Mobile World Congress currently underway in Barcelona – and it is a very different path from that of rival Auro. Put it this way, DON’T hold your breath for Pioneer to come out with a Dolby Atmos home cinema amplifier but DO expect Samsung’s Galaxy 6/7 to feature AtmosM.

Everyone knows by now that Dolby and Barco are locked into a struggle about who will dominate the next generation of digital audio in cinemas, with the object-based Atmos fighting against the 11.1 Auro. So far the fight has largely gone Dolby’s way, with Atmos screens outnumbering Auro by a factor of 4 to 1, though with some countries such as India being more inclined to embrace Auro.

With Dolby in full control of the Atmos technology and patents, they can afford to bide their time a bit more and build up a larger footprint (earprint?) in cinemas. Particularly following the deal to acquire Doremi, which will help them expand and disadvantage Barco/Auro. Barco, meanwhile, only controls the Auro technology as it relates to cinemas and the patent owners are starting to look at consumer markets such as home cinema and automobiles.

When we asked the question a month ago ‘Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?‘ we quickly got a response from Auro Technologies saying “we’re happy to confirm that Auro has no plans to step away from the cinema market: quite the contrary in fact. We’re confident that expanding into the consumer market will only strengthen our growing presence in cinema.” The idea is that with more films mixed in Auro 11.1 and seen and heard that way in the home, people will want to experience it the same way in cinemas.

The logic makes some sense, if you consider that consumers who chose Dolby 5.1 in the home did have a positive influence on demanding the same or better in the cinema. However, it also points to the two-front battle that both Dolby and Barco/Auro are waging in the Immersive Audio War. One is to get take up in cinemas and beyond, the second is to get content owners to make their films, television shows and games mixed and encoded in their flavour of IA. Here both are sparing no effort in snaring the best content and creatives, with both Barco and Auro engaged in not just Hollywood but getting films, mixing facilities, preview theatres, directors and audio engineers in countries such as France, India and China familiarised and equipped with their technology. Content is very much King in this battle.

But when it comes to the consumer, the battle lines are drawn quite different, as we will see.

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Dolby Acquisition of Doremi Makes Perfect Sense – Here’s Why

Dolby Doremi Logo

The motion picture industry jump started their week with the surprising news that Dolby Laboratories, Inc. had reached an agreement to acquire Doremi Labs, a leading manufacturer of professional audio visual equipment, for USD $92.5 million in cash. The deal also includes a four-year earn out of USD $20 million which is contingent upon performance and other factors. As is customary, regulatory bodies both in the United States and internationally will need to approve the deal, though the acquisition should be complete by the end of 2014.

Dolby hardly needs an introduction. They’ve been providing audio and imaging technologies to the motion picture, broadcast and music industries for just shy of 50 years. The San Francisco based company is best known their proprietary noise-reduction systems, though they have also been at the forefront of multichannel audio, compression and broadcast transmission technologies. Dolby has annual revenue that has climbed from USD $327.9 million in 2005 to USD $909.6 million last year and net income that has grown from USD $52.2M to USD $189.2 million during the same time period. Its best year for both revenue and net income was 2011 when it rang up USD $961 million and USD $309.2 million respectively. The company’s current market cap is USD $4.2 billion.

Doremi Labs, founded in 1985, may not be as much of a household name as Dolby, though over the past 14 years it has steadily built a solid reputation within the industry as the manufacturer of digital cinema servers. Its servers and integrated media block (IMB) is installed in over 47,000 58,000 movie auditoriums around the world and has been purchased by exhibitors of all sizes. The company, which has offices in Burbank, CA and France, also markets broadcast and post-production equipment as well as closed caption devices. As a private company Doremi doesn’t report its revenue and earnings.

If one needed another sign that the global digital cinema conversion was coming to an end, beyond Hollywood studios ceasing the distribution of film prints, there is none better than this deal. Here is why we believe this acquisition is a smart move and makes perfect sense for both Dolby and Doremi:

Doremi

As mentioned, after more than a decade the rollout of digital cinema technology around the world has reached a saturation point. According to a February 8th presentation delivered by Media Salles in Berlin on February 8th, upwards of 87% of the world’s movie screens have converted to digital projection as of January 1st of this year. Doremi has grown quite steadily due to the brisk sales of its digital cinema technology over the past decade. While the company brought in revenue from the sale of pro-A/V equipment and technologies, the lion’s share of its earnings is likely derived from d-cinema related products.

Doremi would have seen sales volumes of existing digital cinema product lines plateau (if it hadn’t already) and potentially decrease during the next three to five years. Demand for d-cinema equipment (servers, IMBs and projectors) will decline and new sales will be dependent on the construction of new theatres (new builds) and technology refresh cycles. This in turn leads to the risk of a loss in market share should exhibitors select equipment from other manufacturers.

From all appearances Doremi was in good shape to weather a cyclical sales plateau or decline. The company, headed by Camille Rizko its founder and President, was right-sized with only 130 employees. In addition, Doremi’s strong engineering team is working on a slate of new products that include new hardware and software. An example of their handiwork is CaptiView, a closed caption system which was introduced a few years ago but the market for which is growing. Add to this the extensive and multinational dealership network Doremi has built up to sell such products.

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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.

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Is The Motion Picture Industry Discouraging The Next Ray Dolby?

Much has been written over the last several days about Ray Dolby, audio pioneer and inventor, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 80. Rather than add to the din of career-spanning obituaries of Dr. Dolby, instead let’s use his life and cinematic contributions to explore what the future of the motion picture industry might look like for those wanting to follow in his giant footsteps.

For those like me, born after the 1965 founding of Dolby Laboratories, the best explanation of who Ray Dolby was, the one that resonates the most, comes from Ioan Allen. Now a Senior Vice President at Dolby, Allen has worked with the company since 1969. In a video tribute which played before Dr. Dolby was was honored with the Charles S. Swartz Award at the Hollywood Post Alliance’s annual HPA Awards, Allen stated:

“The public doesn’t really know about Ray Dolby. He’s out there somewhere, but they’re aware of the fact that a cassette labeled Dolby sounds good. Dolby Surround sounds good…. And they’re kind of aware of the fact that Dolby on a theatre marquee sounds good. But all those things are possible because of Ray Dolby’s inventions which are at the heart of the whole process.”

This sentiment captures how I grew to know and appreciate Dr. Dolby’s achievements. As an adolescent growing up on a steady diet of “Star Wars” and Spielberg movies, Dolby was simply the logo on the marquee or newspaper advertisement that enticed me to patronize one cinema over another when both were showing the same film. Dolby was the button on the side of a Sony Walkman I would press because it dampened the hiss of analog cassette tapes. It wasn’t until I attended film school, and then afterwards, that I was properly introduced to Dolby Laboratories as a company, and more specifically, the groundbreaking work of its founder.

What Dr. Dolby’s death makes me think about most, more than any of the Oscars, Emmys and numerous awards he justly received for his innovations, is who will be the next trailblazer to make such contributions. Not just at Dolby Laboratories or in the entertainment industry at large, but more specifically in advancing the art form of motion pictures through scientific engineering and new technology.

My concern is not for film production; there will always be a Vince Pace to create next generation cameras or a Bill Warner to figure out a more efficient way to edit content. Home entertainment is also unlikely to suffer a lack of ingenuity, as some new company will always be coming up with smaller, faster and better versions of ever-evolving content mediums and distribution technologies. Motion picture exhibition, on the other hand, may be in for a dearth of innovation.

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Cinema Advertising Shows No Sign of Ageing at Cannes Lions

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Cinema advertising celebrated its 60th year at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity by positioning itself as the “magical, mysterious and creative media platform” of choice. The well attended seminar on Monday the 17th of June at the Cannes Palaise showcased examples of some of the most innovative technical and creative uses of the cinema advertising medium from countries all across the globe. There was mobile phone interaction, there were two-at-once film shows, stereoscopic 3D, innovation in audio and even tap dancing. The creatives leaving the event professed themselves inspired by the possibilities of cinema, which is an achievement given the dazzling array of technical platforms on show at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which rivals the Cannes Film Festival held in the same venue a month earlier in terms of the talent that it attracts.

The event began with an acknowledgement of the power of cinema by showing the last 15 minutes of the acclaimed film “The Artist” that had screened in Cannes a year earlier and went on to win a clutch of awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Cinema may have added colour, sound and wide-screen since those early days of silent movies, but SAWA (the Screen Advertising World Association) pulled out all stops to show that there was plenty more innovation left in the medium. After the introduction by the host (yours truly), a montage sequence put together by UK’s DCM showed clips from this summer’s blockbusters, mixed with some of the best adverts screened in cinemas, accompanied by what has become SAWA’s unofficial theme, Benny Benassi ft. Gary Go’s “Cinema (Skrillex Remix)“.

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Michael Hilliard from Australia’s Finch was up first to screen the Yellowglen commercial “Welcome to the House of Sparkling” that had run in Australian cinemas and tied-in with a big on-line campaign. Advertising a sparkling wine on television would be wasted on the beer-drinking masses, hence why cinema was the obvious medium for a more selective target group. The advert featured Fabien Ruiz, the choreographer who taught the two stars of “The Artist” how to dance, tap his way around a dark room, all the way up to the ceiling and down, with sparks flying off his feet. And as if appearing in the ad wasn’t impressive enough, there was a collective “whoosh” in-take of breath in the audience when Michael then announced that next up to stage would be Fabian Ruiz himself, who came on and performed a stunning tap dance sequence.

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Dreamworks Animation and Barco Pact For 3D Audio

Rise of the Guardians in Barco Auro 11.1As one of the early and most vocal advocates for digital 3D, it should come as no surprise that Jeffrey Katzenberg is also interested in adding dimension to audio soundtracks. On Thursday Katzenberg, the head of Dreamworks Animation, was on hand at a press event in Los Angeles to announce an agreement to distribute the studios next 15 titles with Barco Auro 11.1 3D sound mixes. The first film to be released under the new agreement will be “Rise of the Guardians” on November 21st.

Auro is an 11.1 sound format that Barco has been helping develop for the past several years. Based on audio technology from Auro Technologies, the format places audio in three separate layers placing sounds in traditional surround speakers, a set of height speakers and speakers mounted overhead on the ceiling. Rather than being track based, Auro allows for sounds to be placed as objects within an auditorium.

“At Dreamworks we really pride ourselves on using the finest state of the art technology, first to put in the hands of our storytellers in order to create the best possible experience for moviegoers and then look to the best possible technology for the presentation,” Katzenberg explained. “It’s why we’re here partnering with Barco so we can provide 3D sound that is every bit as spectacular as the 3D images.”

Before selecting Auro, Dreamworks Animation did their due diligence and investigated some of the emerging 3D formats making their way to market, such as Dolby’s Atmos and Iosono. “It became very clear to us that Barco’s Auro 11.1 3D audio format is actually the best,” said Katzenberg. “We believe they are going to be leaders int he market and we believe they are going to create a very valuable experience for our customers and also what will be a very attractive opportunity for our partners in exhibition.”

When pressed about a direct comparison to Atmos, Katzenberg said with a tinge of humor. “This is better.” He quickly turned more serious to mention another key factor in Dreamworks Animation’s selection of Auro. “I can not emphasize enough that the Barco financial proposition for the exhibitors is far more attractive, far more doable and far more practical. The ability that this will be able to roll out worldwide and be something that is affordable is critical. This is the highest quality and affordability. You can not separate those two.”

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No More Silver Screens In France

CNC LogoBy 8:00 am Friday morning I had three voicemails and five emails all either trying to pass along or confirm the same implausible news. Rumor was spreading fast that France’s Le Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, otherwise known as the CNC, had banned silver screens throughout the country, giving exhibitors a five year timeframe to comply. If true, it could have enormous implications in the 3D market.

I initially thought some announcement the CNC had made was being misinterpreted after the rumor mill twisted it into something far more alarming. As a part of France’s Ministry of Culture the CNC is responsible for regulating cinema as well as the production and promotion of “audiovisual arts” within the country, so it’s easy to see how such a rumor could be easily believed. However, a quick trip to the CNC website informed me the news was accurate.

At the start of a six day conference on technology in exhibition and distribution, CNC president Eric Garandeau announced an “agreement to ensure the quality of film screenings in movie theaters in the digital age.” In his opening remarks Garandeau acknowledged all the hard work that goes into making a movie and that, “if so many people put so much care to seek perfection in the image, it is necessary that these efforts are visible and even sublimated on the screen, in the most beautiful manner.” Wanting to see the difference for himself, Garandeau held a test screening to see “if a layman could make a comparison and tell the difference between a white screen and a silver screen.”

Garandeau says he saw the bright smile of Oscar winning actor Jean Dujardin switch from white to gray during the test and that the brightness level at the edges of the screen, compared to the center, decreased significantly. Not surprising since color balance, luminance consistency, and hot spots are the major drawbacks when it comes to silver screens, especially when they are used for 2D films.

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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.

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Designer Brands Give 3D Glasses A Makeover

Oakley 3D Tron Edition.jpg

Oakley's Limited Edition Tron 3D Gascan Glasses

Sometime last month I tagged a couple of blog posts about designer 3D glasses intending to write about them in the near future. After a Los Angeles Times story covered the subject yesterday, I figured it was about time to aggregate all the information into a post here.

More than a year after RealD announced that they would be teaming up with manufacturers to certify 3D glasses from name brand designers, the first models began hitting the market in October. Making waves first was Oakley, which announced they had created a pair of 3D specs with a proprietary technology named HDO-3D. The company claims their “premium glasses are engineered for unrivaled 3D performance, superior visual clarity and signature Oakley comfort”.

In a smart marketing move, Oakley is teaming up with Disney on the studio upcoming “Tron: Legacy” release by offering a special collectible limited edition “Tron” version of their Gascan 3D glasses which look as if they were take straight out of the sci-fi flick. A regular pair of Oakley 3D glasses will set you back USD $120, while the “Tron: Legacy” model goes for USD $150.

Gucci also began selling a pair of upscale 3D glasses last month for $225 and Marchon Eyewear has licensed their glasses to both Calvin Klein and Nautica who will sell pairs for between USD $95 and USD $150. Meanwhile, Australian based Look3D has been offering stylish RealD certified glasses since late last year.

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