We all know the complaints against 3D, and ultimately that battle for hearts and minds is already over. You love it or you hate it. What we can all agree on is that projection standards have not gotten any better as digital has taken over and 3D has proliferated. I’d argue that they have not gotten as much worse as many claim (there’s a lot of rose-colored glasses being shared by those talking about the days of yore), but there’s no doubt increased laziness and frugality are out there diminishing film images. Be it 3D lenses being left on for 2D films, luminosity dialed down on all movies to save money, audiences wearing glasses, etc… more often than not we’re watching beautifully crisp, jitter-free digital projection that looks muddy and dull.
I’ve been alluding to the answer to that problem in pieces about 48fps and IMAX conversion for a while now, and now it’s finally here: laser projection. A technology that every major imaging company has been developing from Sony to RED to Christie to IMAX, the first laser projectors have been promised to hit this year, and now we have our first public debut.
G.I. Joe: Retribution will be the first film to enjoy digital projection as an experimental two-week run at a Burbank AMC that will put audiences in front of unprecedentedly bright and contrasty 3D images. Supposedly the difference is startling, and even with glasses 3D films are brought up to the brightness levels of a well-projected 2D film, all in full 4K.
As you might imagine, “Laser Projection” is an imaging system that gangs together lasers in order to illuminate and project its images. This allows for less energy to be used for brighter images across bigger screens using systems that will last longer. IMAX intends to roll out their own laser projection systems (developed by Kodak) late this year, while RED has been demo’ing laser projection for some time now (their manufacturing/release timelines are always hazy though). Sony, which currently owns the high-end projection game with their gorgeous 4K machines, has laser tricks up their sleeve as well.
There are costs and benefits of this new tech- IMAX will likely put photochemical 15/70 film projection to bed for good once the laser projectors begin rolling out, for example. The big variable though, is cost. While laser lamps are more expensive than current xenon lamps, that cost could come down quickly, especially if, say, RED is able to be as disruptive price-wise with these laser projection systems as they claim. If that happens, they may well save thousands of repertory theaters across this nation that are currently struggling in the face of costly transition. It’s a big ole “if” though, and if the prices only get higher, then that obviously makes the already difficult climb for indie facilities even steeper. Not a good thing.
That said, I can’t wait to hear reports from the public showings of the Christie version of this technology once G.I. Joe hits. Even if it just affects high end theaters for the time being, anything that brings up projection standards in the market and reminds people what they’re missing when theaters dim their shit down is a good thing.
Full press release below.
LASER PROJECTION DEMONSTRATION LIGHTS UP G.I. JOE: RETALIATION AT AMC THEATRES®’ BURBANK 16, USING CHRISTIE TECHNOLOGY
Moviegoers in Burbank will be treated to a stunning visual experience as AMC enlists Christie’s laser projector technology to push the bounds of 3D movie presentation in ETX.
CYPRESS, Calif. (March 21, 2013) – Christie®, a global leader in cinema projection, is pleased to present Paramount Pictures’ highly anticipated G.I. JOE: RETALIATION on March 28 at AMC Theatres’ (AMC) Burbank 16’s ETX theatre. Christie is joining forces with AMC using laser projection technology to project the 3D movie at brightness levels of 14 foot lamberts (ft-L) – a ‘first’ in the world of commercial cinema projection – on a 65-foot wide screen. This technology test will last for a two-week period and will be the first time that the general public will be able to enjoy compelling, immersive 3D images delivered at 2D light levels.
Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM) and Skydance Productions, in association with Hasbro®, will release G.I. JOE: RETALIATION in digital 3D theaters across the U.S. and Canada beginning March 28.
“As a leader in innovation in the movie exhibition industry, AMC Theatres continues to push the envelope, looking for new ways to improve the moviegoing experience for our guests,” said Dan Huerta, vice president, Digital Systems, AMC. “We are delighted to work with Christie to host this technical demonstration that could equate to a major advancement in movie-illumination levels.”
Mark Christiansen, EVP of World Wide Operations for Paramount Pictures said, “We fully support the advancement of cutting edge technologies to further enhance the theatrical presentation for moviegoers. Laser projection provides incredible brightness, making each film look all the greater, but its impact on 3D is startling.”
Noted Dr. Don Shaw, senior director, product management, Christie Entertainment Solutions, “Audiences will be impressed with 3D shown at 14 foot-lamberts utilizing this future technology, which is much brighter than what current technology produces on most screens. This test of our laser technology will demonstrate how spectacularly a moviemaker’s vision can be realized when shown at light levels normally only possible for 2D movies. Audiences who attend the AMC Burbank 16 during the laser demonstration will see a significant increase in the typical contrast ratio for 3D on a crystal-clear 4K projector and we’re confident that the average moviegoer will relish this new level of immersive experience.”
Christie Laser-Projection Juggernaut Gaining Speed, Building on Previous Successes
Commenting on the laser projector test, Dr. Shaw said, “This is not the first time that Christie has employed laser technology to stretch the boundaries of digital cinema projection. Last year, Christie also showed select exhibitors in Asia how 72,000 Lumens could be achieved, in a demonstration of our prototype laser projector in Beijing.
“And at IBC 2012 Amsterdam this past September, I was pleased to preface the showing of Hugo 3D – the first CPG (Cameron Pace Group) certified movie – along with noted stereographers, Demetri Portelli and Corey Turner (‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’), which was then projected using Christie’s laser-light projector prototype.”
Christie hosted its first laser projector demo for cinema industry luminaries including Douglas Trumbull, Gordon E. Sawyer Academy Award winner, at its High Frame Rate Summit held in its manufacturing and engineering headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario in April 2012.
About AMC Theatres
AMC Theatres delivers distinctive and affordable movie-going experiences in 351 theatres with 5,083 screens across the United States and Canada. The company operates 20 of the 50 highest grossing theatres in the country, including the top three. AMC has propelled industry innovation and continues today by delivering premium sight and sound, enhanced food and beverage and diverse content. www.AMCTheatres.com.
Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc. is a global visual technologies company and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ushio Inc. Japan (JP:6925). Consistently setting the standards by being the first to market some of the world’s most advanced projectors and complete system displays, Christie is recognized as one of the most innovative visual technology companies in the world. From retail displays to Hollywood, mission critical command centers to classrooms and training simulators, Christie display solutions and projectors capture the attention of audiences around the world with dynamic and stunning images. Visit www.christiedigital.com.