CinemaCon 2017: Digital Reboot

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Sat, 04/01/2017 - 16:47 -- Nick Dager

If there was one lesson to be learned at CinemaCon 2017 it was this: The digital cinema transition was not the end of anything; it was very much the beginning of something even bigger. CinemaCon 2017 featured a dizzying array of technology possibilities that, depending on who you talked to, were exciting, intimidating or overwhelming. The trade show, held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, is the National Association of Theatre Owners’ annual gathering of exhibitors from around the world. More than one attendee labeled the show Digital Cinema 2.0. The digital cinema transition was not the end of anything; it was very much the beginning of something even bigger. That was because this year’s CinemaCon made it perfectly clear that the days of the basic 2K-projector, server and vanilla theatre management software package are numbered. To remain competitive, perhaps even simply to stay in business, exhibitors must learn to fully embrace new technology.

The good news? Most of the new technology on display at CinemaCon promises to be cost-effective or revenue generating and, in many cases, both. In the coming days, we will announce this year’s winners of the Catalyst Award for the most innovative technology introduced at the show. For now, here are some of the highlights from CinemaCon 2017.

Taking Care of Business

Dadi Cinema Group has announced that it plans to purchase 750 Dolby ShowVault/Integrated Media Blocks, 400 units of the Dolby Digital Cinema Processor CP750 and 25 units of the Dolby Atmos Cinema Processor CP850.

Dadi plans to deploy the Dolby ShowVault/IMB solution in both new and existing cinema screens and the Dolby Digital Cinema Processors in new cinema screens in China by the end of 2017.

“We are excited to work with Dadi to extend the amazing cinema experiences enabled by Dolby technologies to more moviegoers in China,” said Michael Archer, vice president, Dolby Laboratories. “With Dolby Atmos, audiences at Dadi cinemas can expect to be transported into the story with breathtaking moving audio.”

“Dadi is in pursuit of offering reliable and high quality experiences to meet the growing needs of our customers,” said Xin Yu, general manager, Dadi Cinema Group. “Dolby’s proven record in offering high performance, reliable products aligns with our goal to enable premium experiences for our patrons. We look forward to elevating the movie going experience by bringing more Dolby Atmos screens online this year.”

Wanda Cinema Line plans to purchase 800 units of Dolby digital cinema processors, including 790 units of the Dolby Digital Cinema Processor CP750 and 10 units of the Dolby Atmos Cinema Processor CP850, to deploy in its new and existing cinema screens in China through the end of 2017.

“Dolby has long been a trusted partner that delivers quality products with high reliability and great performance,” said Jack Wang, general manager, information and technology center, Wanda Cinema Line Corporation. “Our ongoing collaboration with Dolby shows we are committed to delivering high quality audio to our patrons. We look forward to expanding our Dolby Atmos footprint to more Wanda Cinema locations across China so audiences can truly understand what great sound brings to the movie going experience.”

“Dolby is committed to supporting the cinema industry through quality and innovation,” said Dolby’s Archer. “We look forward to offering the amazing cinema experiences to more moviegoers across China as the Dolby digital cinema processors are deployed in Wanda’s new and existing screens.”

Wanda Cinema Line plans to purchase 800 units of Dolby digital cinema processors, including 790 units of the Dolby Digital Cinema Processor CP750 and 10 units of the Dolby Atmos Cinema Processor CP850, to deploy in its new and existing cinema screens in China through the end of 2017.

“Dolby has long been a trusted partner that delivers quality products with high reliability and great performance,” said Jack Wang, general manager, information and technology center, Wanda Cinema Line Corporation. “Our ongoing collaboration with Dolby shows we are committed to delivering high quality audio to our patrons. We look forward to expanding our Dolby Atmos footprint to more Wanda Cinema locations across China so audiences can truly understand what great sound brings to the movie going experience.”

“Dolby is committed to supporting the cinema industry through quality and innovation,” said Michael Archer, vice president, Dolby Laboratories. “We look forward to offering the amazing cinema experiences to more moviegoers across China as the Dolby digital cinema processors are deployed in Wanda’s new and existing screens.”

Digital Cinema Implementation Partners and Moving Image Technologies announced that National Amusements of Norwood, Massachusetts will begin a roll out of DCIP’s enterprise software Cinergy across its U.S. market. MIT is DCIP’s distributor of Cinergy in The Americas. 

Encompassing nearly 400 screens, Cinergy will provide National Amusements with digital equipment health monitoring, proactive alerting, theater asset management, trailer scheduling, automated key delivery, and content and equipment log management, all controlled through a centralized Command Center that is also capable of generating user-defined alerts and advanced reporting to key management personnel within National Amusements. 

“This was a very important initiative for us. We looked at the various solutions in the marketplace and they all had their merits. Not only did Cinergy meet all our requirements, their flexibility to grow and evolve as our needs change, was impressive, and made them the obvious choice,” said Jon Kidder, director of cinema technology, National Amusements. 

Attendees saw a future without projectors from GDC with JetReel and, pictured, Sony's Canvas.Joe Delgado, executive vice president, sales and marketing of MIT said, “We are extremely proud that a circuit such as National Amusements, who have set a benchmark in operations and customer experience, chose Cinergy.  We view our commitment to National Amusements as more a partnership than a client-vendor relationship. Simply put, our industry continues to change, and solutions like Cinergy were developed to accommodate those changes. Our technology partners and friends at DCIP have provided National Amusements outstanding service and responsiveness throughout the test period, and having Cinergy available in Spanish and Portuguese further shows our commitment to National Amusements’ U.S., U.K. and Latin American markets.” 

Rich Manzione, president and CEO of DCIP said, “We are very excited and honored for the opportunity to see our Cinergy products implemented at one of the premiere exhibitors in the world. We look forward to continuing to grow and evolve Cinergy along with our friends at MIT and National Amusements and we remain committed to helping our partners solve the technological challenges of today and tomorrow by providing adaptable industry leading solutions.” 

Qube Cinema announced that Qube Wire enterprise users will now have access to increased security and assurance thanks to Wire Safe. This latest enhancement to Qube Wire’s key management and DCP delivery service will allow enterprise customers to have their keys stored on a Qube Wire Hardware Security Module from Thales within their own premises, to ensure an added layer of control over their content and keys.

Wire Safe customers can purchase redundant Wire Safe HSMs and will only need to provide power and internet connectivity. Once installed, Wire Safe customers can work exactly like other users of Qube Wire, accessing the Qube Wire web service from anywhere in the world to manage their distribution of DCPs and KDMs. The Qube Wire system will utilize the customer’s own Wire Safe HSM to generate all their KDMs.

A Future Without Projectors?

Two technology demonstrations suggested an 8K future without cinema projectors. One was open to everyone in the convention and drew a steady crowd. The other was invitation only for top executives from the major Hollywood studios and their exhibition partners. Both demonstrations were among the hottest topics of debate at the conference.

The image quality, size and scope that these two products deliver is simply jaw dropping. Once the creative community sees the potential they offer, there may be no turning back.

GDC’s entry in the 8K projector free world is JetReel Cinema, a branded ultra-premium large format cinema experience featuring 8K screen technology that combines unprecedented image quality with brightness 10 times the industry standard, near infinite contrast ratio, enhance color gamut, combined with immersive sound technology and distinctive interior design features and luxury reclining chair to captivate moviegoers from the moment they enter to when they exit the luxurious auditorium.

JetReel was kept behind closed doors at a theatre near the convention center and only key executives from the major movie studio and top exhibition chains are invited to see it.

"With its exceptionally high contrast, the audience will be drawn into the character’s point-of-view with vivid details in 8K that is more immersive than any entertainment experience," said Man-Nang Chong, founder, chairman and CEO of GDC Technology Limited.  “JetReel Cinema is a luxurious guest experience that reinvents moviegoing for audiences and making for filmmakers.” 

Sony’s offering in the 8K projector free world was a standalone display, called Canvas, which was on display for all attendees. It uses ultrafine LEDs in a unique surface mounting structure as its light source to deliver a visual experience not possible with even the highest-end conventional LED array. The self-emitting display technology uses red, green and blue ultrafine LEDs mounted on the display surface, with each pixel emitting light independently. Each pixel is only 0.003 mm2 in size, allowing the remaining surface area to be more than 99 percent black.

This high black-to-surface ratio contributes to the technology’s high contrast ratio in light and dark viewing environments. The surface-mounted light source also improves light use efficiency. The technology has a viewing angle of nearly 180 degrees, with corner-to-corner image uniformity in terms of brightness and color, even on a large screen.

The canvas has a brightness of 1000 cd/m2 (1000 nits), and will support high dynamic range content. The scalable system is made up of multiple display units (each measuring 18 x 16 inches) that can be joined together with no bezels to create a limitless and seamless large-screen display.

Sony’s Canvas is currently designed for commercial applications and immersive experiences, from industrial product design and manufacturing, theme parks, museums, and high-traffic lobbies to corporate boardrooms and broadcast studios – any environment requiring realistic simulation on a large scale and detailed video displays. The company was at CinemaCon to gauge the interest of theatre owners.

Judging from the conversations at the show for both JetReel and Canvas, the interest is high. Both companies say they could have systems ready for market by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Back in the World of Projectors

Christie previewed the CP4325-RGB, the newest entry in the Christie Freedom Series an innovative design that delivers significantly higher efficiency than lasers utilized in current cinemas.

The Christie CP2308 lamp-based projector.Based on the Christie CineLife Series 3 electronics platform – which also underpins the newly-announced Christie CP2308 lamp-based projector – the company says the CP4325-RGB will be an easy-to-operate RGB laser projector, as well as being simple to install. With a design that eliminates the current need for sub-ambient cooling, this compact unit will also provide a vast palette of colors, higher contrast ratios and low maintenance costs.

The CP4325-RGB is the forerunner of a line of Christie RGB laser projection solutions intended for mainstream cinema applications and as such could be an ideal replacement product for aging Series 1 and early installations of Series 2 projectors, as well as for new-build cinemas and those due for retrofits.

“Projection forms an important component of the complete cinema experience that Christie delivers to the global exhibitor community, as well as being a critical part of the workflow that award-winning filmmakers require to deliver immersive, awe-inspiring movies,” said Jennifer Smith, executive vice president, global market solutions & engineering, Christie. “As such, Christie continues to make great strides in RGB laser projection and is pleased to show its exhibitor and studio partners a sneak preview of what will become the gold standard for laser-illuminated projection in the near future.”

With the addition at the end of 2017 of the Christie CP4325-RGB solution, Christie Freedom Series projectors will be available in two unique platforms, as DCI-compliant solutions for mainstream cinemas, giant screens and Premium Large Format theatres.

The current Christie Freedom Series CP42LH fiber-coupled RGB laser projector produces brightness levels up to 60,000 lumens, a wide color gamut achieving the Rec. 2020 color space and enhanced contrast ratios, the CP42LH is the highest performing RGB cinema laser projector on the market. Scores of this Christie-branded solution are installed in diverse exhibitor chains worldwide, and in a customized version at Dolby Cinema locations.

Dolby and Christie co-developed the Dolby Vision laser projection system, with projectors that Christie installs, supplies, and services, and which can be experienced only at Dolby Cinema locations. Dolby has more than 250 of these solutions installed or on order worldwide.

Christie also introduced the CP2308 projector, a Xenon lamp-based unit designed for smaller exhibitors who have been eagerly awaiting a DCI-compliant, full-featured yet affordable digital-cinema option. The CP2308 has advanced electronics and is simple to operate, boasting many user-friendly features.

Engineered with the operator in mind, the CP2308 has several new, key features, including built-in automation that provides simplified playback, scheduling, and management of cinema content; a large touch panel controller with a newly UX designed intuitive user interface and expansion card support for additional control. 

“The CP2308 is capable of projecting 9,000 DCI lumens and boasts the latest Christie electronics platform – the CineLife Series 3 – which will underpin an expanding line of DCI-compliant projectors manufactured, designed and integrated by Christie,” said Allan Fernandes, product manager, Christie.

The unit supports alternative content sources through dual HDMI ports and can be ordered with a Christie Series 3 Integrated Media Block, as well having backwards-compatibility with third-party Series 2 IMBs.

“Christie promises the right light for the right application and Xenon-based projectors still shine in small-screen installations, besting the image quality of laser-phosphor cinema projector alternatives,” said Smith. “Coupled with their low cost of ownership and reliable performance, lamp-based projectors continue to form an important option for many exhibitors, as they manage their transition to RGB laser projection.”

Minds Eye Entertainment’s sci-fi thriller The Recall, starring Wesley Snipes, will premiere June 2 in Barco Escape theaters across North America. The CP2308 will ship in June and will be available globally.

Barco is making strides with its panoramic, multi-screen format, Escape. At the convention the company announced that the Minds Eye Entertainment’s sci-fi thriller The Recall, starring Wesley Snipes, will premiere June 2 in Barco Escape theaters across North America. The Recall is breaking new ground for immersive cinema experiences as the first movie shot natively for Barco Escape to release in theaters.

On the same day, Minds Eye in association with SkyVR will also preview The Recall’s universe with Abduction, a 12-minute virtual reality short featuring Snipes that brings audiences into an alien invasion through the eyes of co-star R.J. Mitte’s (Breaking Bad) character. Following the VR release and a two-week exclusive theatrical window in Barco Escape, The Recall will open in select 2D theaters.

“Barco Escape is an incredible new way to watch movies and feel like you are completely inside the heart-stopping action we’re bringing you with our thriller,” said Snipes. “The Recall is setting the bar for how movies should create a mind-blowing experience for fans across all platforms.”

“We jumped at the chance to create one of the first films shot natively for Barco Escape, which is changing the way movies are experienced in theaters," said Kevin DeWalt, CEO and producer at Minds Eye Entertainment. “Our goal is to bring audiences unique, immersive experiences with The Recall. We can't wait for fans to join Wesley, RJ and our talented cast in this incredible universe director Mauro Borrelli created."

Directed by Mauro Borelli, The Recall centers on a group of friends vacationing at a remote cabin lake house when aliens attack Earth. Charlie (Jedidah Goodacre) and his friends Brendan (R.J. Mitte), Annie (Laura Bilgeri), Rob (Niko Pepaj), and Kara (Hannah Rose May) are forced to rely on an eccentric and mysterious hunter (Wesley Snipes) with special knowledge of the attack, explaining this day has been prophesied for years.

Minds Eye Entertainment produced The Recall in association with Bridgegate Pictures Corp, VMI Worldwide and Invico Capital Corporation. North American distribution is with Freestyle Releasing and international distribution is with VMI Worldwide.

Feature film production on The Recall was made in multiple formats including Barco Escape and made possible through the Creative Saskatchewan Screen-Based Media Production Grant Program, with the participation of the Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit and Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.

NEC Display Solutions of America announced its newest digital cinema projector, the NC3541L – a 4K projector that features precise red and blue laser phosphor technology to deliver richer and brighter colors.

CinemaCon 2017 attracted a diverse crowd from all around the world.The NC3541L projector is designed with medium to large screen operators’ needs in mind, featuring 35,000 lumens of brightness powered by an industry-first RB laser system. The new laser system features red and blue lasers paired with green phosphor to produce a rich color spectrum for the ultimate movie-going experience. Cinema operators benefit from a reduced total cost of ownership and less maintenance because the RB laser design eliminates the need to replace a lamp, which extends the projector’s lifetime, and the internal cooling system adds versatility.

“NEC Display evaluates the total needs of the cinema marketplace and delivers products that consider total cost of ownership and feature the most innovative technology to enhance the theater experience,” said Rich McPherson, NEC’s senior project manager for projectors. “NEC stands out in the industry by offering customers one point of contact for all their cinema projector needs, and the NC3541L adds to the value we bring exhibitors.”

Immersive News

The idea of an immersive experience at the movie theatre is very much here to stay and there was evidence of it throughout the exhibit hall.

CGR Cinemas Group and Philips Lighting announced a collaboration to develop LightVibes, immersive movie experience in more than 20 theaters. Luc Besson and EuropaCorp will join CGR Cinemas for a World Premiere of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in LightVibes, on July 26.

Returning to CinemaCon for the fifth consecutive year, CJ 4DPlex introduced motion seats featuring the newest Sway and Twist motions, a new virtual reality sports attraction unit (Bike Type) and 4D conversions of upcoming film trailers.

The two new movements increase motion degree by more than 400 percent, resulting in 170 degrees of possible motion. The combination of Sway and Twist enlarges the up and down movement possibilities while also allowing right, left and rotational movement simultaneously, creating dynamic motion movements that revolutionize the viewing experience of action-packed scenes such as car chases, flying, rolling seas, and spacewalking.

The VR sports attraction units combine traditional motion synchronized seating with VR content, bringing sports and leisure activities to life to create a fun, exciting total immersion experience. The Bike Type is designed to re-create extreme sports such as mountain biking and motorcycling and was showcased for the first time in the US.

CJ 4DPlex also announced a partnership with Village Cinemas that will bring 4DX to Australia for the first time, beginning with the Village Cinemas Century City location.

Additionally, CJ 4DPlex announced a new partnership with Cinemax, the leading cinema exhibitor in Angola, further extending the reach of 4DX in Africa. Through this deal, three 4DX locations will open in the country’s capital city, Luanda, by the end of 2020, beginning with Cinemax Talatona this year and followed by two other sites also located in Luanda. 4DX first came to Africa through an agreement with Nu Metro Cinemas in South Africa, announced in 2015.

“We are excited to announce that we have finally expanded our reach to Australia with Village Cinemas, the country’s leading cinema company and top exhibitor in Melbourne. Following the first site opening at Century City, 4DX aims to establish a path to broaden its market throughout the continent,” said Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPlex. “With this upcoming debut in Australia and further expansion in Africa with Cinemax, and around the world, we continue to broaden our worldwide footprint and lead the industry in progressing immersive cinema into the future.” 

“We are continuously looking for ways to innovate and put the power into the hands of our customers. The addition of 4DX cinema is another way for our guests to customize their experience,” said Kirk Edwards, CEO of Village Cinemas. “Introducing 4DX in Australia reaffirms our commitment to offering our customers the widest range of movie experiences and how they wish to consume their favorite movies at the cinema. 4DX has transformed the way the rest of the world is watching movies, and we can’t wait to share this experience with our customers.” 

“We are very happy to have closed a partnership with 4DX,” added Cinemax executive director Michel Ferreira. “We are confident that 4DX technology will allow us to significantly improve the movie experience of our customers and bring something new and different to Angola’s exhibition market place. That’s why our partnership with 4DX includes several Cinemax sites. Together we will change the way people see movies in Angola.”

Nomadic VR was at its first CinemaCon and is, in fact, a relatively new company. Founded by a former special effects artist at LucasFilm, Doug Griffin, its concept is simple. Exhibitors dedicate a small auditorium or other space to a dedicated Nomadic VR room. Patrons put on virtual reality goggles and, once they enter that room, they become a player in an ongoing VR game.

Sound Ideas

Harman Professional Solutions introduced JBL 200 Series two-way ScreenArray cinema loudspeakers, helping small and mid-sized cinemas upgrade to next generation JBL technologies for improved coverage and smooth sound reproduction at an accessible price point. Featuring patent-pending Dual Dissimilar Arraying and Acoustic Aperture Technology, the 200 Series continues the JBL legacy of leadership and innovation in cinema audio, combining a compact design with the latest technology for superior performance and better coverage for raked seating.

Mag Cinema introduced its new sub-woofer, Thor.“With smaller rooms becoming more popular, cinemas need to give customers a captivating and accurate audio experience from every seat in the house,” said Dan Saenz, Harman’s cinema solutions manager. “The new JBL 200 Series helps small and medium cinemas provide a great sonic experience at every seat, offering next-generation technology for improved coverage and exceptional performance for raked seating configurations. With the release of the 200 Series, we are thrilled that cinemas can now upgrade to industry-leading ScreenArray technology at an accessible price point.”

The JBL 200 Series was designed to offer cinemas an affordable solution for creating the best possible audio experience in small- to mid-sized rooms. By including new, patent-pending technologies that complement the legendary sound of JBL cinema loudspeakers, the 200 Series offers a solution without compromise—improving performance and coverage while dramatically lowering the total cost of ownership.

JBL’s patent-pending Dual Dissimilar Arraying design combines two asymmetric high-frequency drivers in tandem, making it possible to sculpt the geometry of modern cinemas. While traditional configurations require three-way loudspeakers to achieve this level of performance, Dual Dissimilar Arraying creates coverage patterns specifically designed for raked seating in modern cinemas. And with the 200 Series, simultaneously lowers the total costs of ownership of such a system.

The JBL 200 Series also includes Acoustic Aperture Technology that works seamlessly with its low-distortion 15-inch driver. The integrated Acoustic Apertures create a horn-loading effect, helping to maintain a wide horizontal coverage pattern through the crossover range while improving speech clarity. The result is even coverage of the entire cinema seating area, making every seat the best seat in the house.

Mag Cinema unveiled what it called its unique premium cinema subwoofer Thor utilizing for the first time in the cinema industry the newest Powersoft M-Force transducer technology. The company says this allows every moviegoer to hear (or better feel) subsonic and physically perceived features in movie unavailable with conventional subwoofers today.

The proprietary sub bass system, designed and developed specially for cinemas by Mag Cinema in collaboration with Powersoft, offers a system that significantly outperforms conventional subwoofers and produces a natural and controlled sound with negligible power compression even at the highest sound pressure levels.

Mag Thor subwoofer delivers an SPL and frequency response, reaching 18 Hz (-3dB), while having maximum SPL of about 145dB. It is a powered subwoofer complete with a dedicated M-Drive built-in power amplifier.

“We are very proud to be able to bring this innovative technology into the cinemas,” said Mag Audio CEO Alexander Khasin. “For me this new technology is created for cinemas! It really brings a new immersive aspect. You can feel every sound effect in your body.”

Screen Gems

Harkness Screens unveiled its 3D BIM (building information modelling) content library aimed at helping architects and those involved with cinema design improve the outcome of their digital modelling projects. The new content was developed to support those designing cinemas using Autodesk’s Revit platform, the world’s leading 3D BIM platform.

“The pace of technological change in the construction industry has been very similar to that which the cinema industry undertook when converting from 35mm to digital projection.  Over the past ten years, the wider construction industry outside of cinema has moved from designing in 2D CAD to a significantly more collaborative, dynamic and data-rich 3D environment,” said Richard Mitchell, vice president global marketing and commercial development at Harkness Screens.  “This change has helped project teams deliver better outcomes for their clients through improved project planning, reduced risk, smarter project coordination and increased levels of information which enable the client to manage their asset (a building) more efficiently.  A key component to providing clients with a rich level of information about their building is relevant content from product manufacturers.” he adds.

The new Harkness Screens BIM content library covers the company’s complete portfolio of cinema screen products, including Perlux, Clarus XC and Spectral and allows cinema designers to size screens based on common screen formats or custom sizes and then use innovative technology to analyse the impact on potential viewing experiences based on auditorium and screen design within the BIM model. In addition the content library also feature the company’s screen packaging which allows design teams to identify potential on-site clashes that may occur when transporting screens into the auditorium and plan construction sequences accordingly to mitigate on-site delays or costly errors.

“This latest addition from Harkness further extends our commitment to helping enrich every cinema experience by providing innovative solutions to support architects, exhibitors and integrators in improving design, specification, install and use of cinema screens and their ongoing maintenance,” said Mitchell.

Harkness Screens also announced a new wave of research and development into screen perforation.

“Our 4K Digital Perforation Pattern has proved an enormous success since its launch,” said David Harrison, chief technical officer at Harkness Screens.  The current pattern which significantly reduces moiré fringing, has smaller holes and less open area was specifically engineered to meet the requirements of today’s cinema exhibitors and whilst this is has been a huge step forward for the industry, we believe that there is significant work still to be done.

Harkness’ imminent research project will involve inputs from audio companies and leading educational establishments including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton University.  The next phase of research will focus on further improvements to speech intelligibility, screen resonance and reduction in sound reflecting between screen and speakers.

“We’re focused on applying scientific expertise to our manufacturing to help improve both audio and visual performance.  By applying complex audio-based algorithms we believe we’re able to further push the boundaries on sound performance from the current performance with Digital Perforation.  The aim is to create a pattern, which has even less open area (through smaller holes) than our current pattern whilst improving audio transmission particularly in the spoken range. By doing this we believe that we can help exhibitors to further enrich the cinema experience with the next generation of cinema technology,” Harrison said.