DIGITAL CINEMA PROJECTORS
While exhibition remains the primary marketplace for digital cinema projectors, post production houses of all sizes are purchasing units for digital dailies, DI work — including final color grading, quality control, 2K and 4K cinema mastering — and Blu-ray DVD mastering. New products with smaller footprints, built-in 3D cinema capabilities and extensive color features are attracting post production customers who may not have been candidates for digital cinema projectors just a short time ago.
Christie (www.christiedigital.com) has enjoyed a prime position in the post production space since it launched the first of its CP2000 series of digital cinema projectors in fall 2003.
“The first 2K projector we created was sold to ILM,” recalls Brian Claypool, senior product manager for Christie’s entertainment solutions. Now Christie has its 2K DLP cinema projectors at Digital Domain, Skywalker Sound, Rhythm & Hues, LaserPacific and Modern Videofilm, to name a few, as well as the major film studios. And Claypool is hopeful that independent content creators and smaller post houses worldwide will soon be investing in systems, too. “The technology and lower price points will enable them to have digital cinema projectors in-house for the first time so they won’t have to go to outside vendors to complete the production pipeline,” he states.
Christie’s CP2000-S series comprises the majority of installations, but the CP2000-M series, which made its debut at ShoWest in March, is likely to broaden the customer base considerably.
Light and compact, the new model delivers up to 12,000 lumens and is designed to maintain DCI luminance requirements on screens up to 35 feet wide.
Based on Texas Instruments’ new .98-inch DLP Cinema chip, the CP2000-M series incorporates proprietary Christie optics to produce an image of “exceptional quality,” they report. The new digital cinema projector is available in a special post production configuration, the Christie CP2000-MR, designed with optical improvements to meet the more stringent DCI requirements for review rooms.
“With the new smaller chip set, we saw an opportunity to build a compact projector that fits in small color timing suites,” says Claypool. “It’s always been a challenge for smaller rooms to work in the DCI color space: Those rooms are designed for small film projectors and CRT monitors, not big digital cinema projectors. Now they can keep their film projectors and monitors and add a ceiling-mounted retractable CP2000-MR for optimum flexibility.”
The projector uses new, high-efficiency CDXL-20SD 2,000-watt Xenon lamps and features a new Intelligent Lens System for reliable motorized lensing with a selection of eight zoom lenses. The 95-pound unit requires no additional heat extraction — the first of Christie’s models to do so — negating the need for ducting. HDCP decryption on both DVI inputs are standard, allowing the display of copy-protected alternate content, Blu-ray disc, and even outside HDTV broadcasts.
Production prototypes are now being demo’d; the CP2000-M series will start shipping in June.
The DI market has continued to explode for Barco Digital Cinema, North America (www.barco.com). “Many of our original customers are adding second or third projectors,” reports Joe DeMeo, director of sales for Barco’s digital cinema division. “Where they were once just getting into DI, now they’re really getting into it. This repeat business means the marketplace is still quite healthy.”
DeMeo cites two other trends as well. “We’re seeing 3D capabilities in these facilities, and our projectors are 3D capable out of the box,” he says. In addition, executives at post houses have begun to outfit their home theaters with small digital cinema projectors “so they can bring work home.”
All of these developments spell new revenue streams for Barco. The company’s d-cinema projectors are installed at Post Logic, Hollywood DI, IVC, Company 3, DreamWorks, the post production operations of Warner Bros., Efilm, Deluxe Labs, DR Group, Hydraulx, Matchframe/Wildfire, Cinema Pixel, Stealing Time, PostWorks, Autodesk’s Canada facility, Imagi, HTV, IO Film, Chapman, NT Audio, Digital Jungle, Encore Video, Kerner Optical and Pace.
Barco’s D-Cine Premiere DP90P, which began shipping last year, is based on the discontinued DP90. The compact projector has a higher contrast ratio than its predecessor to suit screens 20 to 25 feet in size and boasts motorized lenses. Most significantly, the DP90P features “extended color gamut not found in any other digital cinema projector,” reports DeMeo. “For DI cinema mastering users need to adhere to the standard color space, but when they want to extend the color gamut — for hyper color or stylized color effects — they can now do it.” Efilm recently took delivery of a DP90P; the projectors are hand built at the Barco factory to achieve the “tight tolerances required for post,” DeMeo notes.
Also new last year is Barco’s D-Cine Premiere DP1500, which is based on Texas Instruments’ .98-inch chip whose full 2K resolution is applied for 3D to the maximum benefit of customers. The projector, suitable for screens up to 45 feet wide, features smaller optics and a built-in power supply, and uses up to a 3K bulb. The projector employs Osram and Ushio bulbs, available through dealers or the bulb manufacturers. This results in “greater integration with the projector and increases efficiency all around,” according to DeMeo. In addition, the airflow output required for the projector is the same as for film projectors “so facilities don’t need a higher CFM scenario.”
Moving Image Technologies, a VAR in Orange County, CA, is working on a Barco-approved kit for the DP1500, which will offer even higher contrast ratio.
Both D-Cine Premiere projectors are fully compatible with Barco’s D-Cine Communicator advanced projector control and diagnostics software. “We’re constantly upgrading the software and have a new post production release for these projectors,” DeMeo points out. “The GUI is even more user friendly now and still includes many hooks into the 3D LUTs.”
With the 90P and 1500, Barco has “a lot of bases covered in the post marketplace,” he says. “And customers find our previous models are still workhorses that are making money for them.” Two-and-a-half-day training classes for all Barco Digital Cinema projectors are held in Sacramento on a monthly basis for customers. More information on these classes can be found at www.CourseMAX.com/barco.
NEC Corporation of America (www. necam.com) is “very enthusiastic” about the post production market for its digital cinema projectors, according to Jim Reisteter, the newly-named GM of NEC’s digital cinema division. “We’ve seen about 50 percent year-to-year growth in post houses adopting digital cinema projectors, and we expect that to continue for the next few years,” he says. NEC’s products are attracting both repeat and new customers. FotoKem and Technicolor have “significantly extended their DI suite capabilities” and added projectors, he notes. Units have also found homes at Efilm, LaserPacific, Sony Imageworks, PostWorks, NY, TR Technologies, CineWorks, Rainmaker, Shooters Post and Transfer, Disney, Warner Bros. and Pixar.
In NEC’s Starus family of digital cinema projectors, the NC800C — for eight- to 28- foot-wide screens — is the best fit for most post facilities. The compact, lightweight unit “emulates all the performance characters of projectors used in exhibition,” Reisteter points out. The NC800C was intentionally designed around an existing NEC staging and rental video projector, combining portability and robustness with reliability for on-road applications.
With the contrast ratio of 2,000:1 minimum, the NC800C “well surpasses the standard set by the DCI,” he reports. The projector also features lens-memory pre-sets, lamp memory, simple and quick lamp exchange, auto brightness control and 3D content capabilities.
The latter is “a major driver for digital cinema right now,” observes Peter Nicholas, director of sales at NEC’s digital cinema division, who cites 11 feature films scheduled to release in 3D starting next March. The additional revenues 3D titles can bring to exhibitors are a great incentive for them to acquire digital projectors, and post houses working on these titles need to install 3D-capable systems in their facilities, too.
The newest addition to the Starus product line is the NC1600C for screens 12 to 65 feet wide. It has all the features of the NC800C and uses the new Texas Instruments .98-inch DLP Cinema chip, which offers an even higher contrast ratio. This projector is an extremely compact design in relation to its high level of brightness. It also employs a conventional film projector lamp for economical operation.
Although it is somewhat larger than the NC800C projector, the NC1600C is sprouting up in DI suites throughout North America, especially in cities where real estate is not at a premium. “In Canada, for example, some DI suites have 36-foot screens, so the NC1600C fits well there,” Nicholas notes.
NEC also offers the MM2000 multimedia switcher as an option for the NC800C. “It’s regarded as one of the highest-quality switchers in the industry,” says Nicholas. “It features scaling technology developed by Teranex, which is favored by post production houses.”
The company has also introduced the MM2000B for the NC1600C. Both multimedia switchers boast optional HDCP decoding for anti-piracy content protection as part of the new DVI interface board.
More than 10 years ago, Digital Projection International (DPI) partnered early on with Texas Instruments to develop the DLP display technology, which eventually made the transition to digital cinema possible and practical. DPI built the first three-chip DLP projector and won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development.
Since then, the company (www.digitalprojection. com) has “stayed committed to our history and expertise in manufacturing precision DLP projectors,” says marketing communications manager Richard Hill. “All of our products have crossover uses in every market and every application imaginable.”
DPI has consistently been the official provider of digital projectors to the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival; its precision displays have been used on the Academy Awards, Emmy and Grammy Awards shows for the past decade.
Among the post houses using DPI projectors is NFL Films, which uses them in its telecine suites and for screening in-house post work. DPI’s projectors are also used in DI applications and as reference screens for soundtrack mixing, Foley work and HD transfers. DPI’s flagship family of projectors is the Lightning Pro Series II, which is best suited for larger-venue applications. Two new models feature 1080p resolution with the Lightning 30-1080p delivering 15,000 lumens and the 40-1080p 20,000 lumens.
“There has been a major swing in the entire projection industry to 1080p,” says Hill. “HD used to mean 720p but now 1920x1080 is the new standard in resolution.” If required, the company also manufactures a true 2K (2048x1080) resolution Lightning platform.
Hill points out that “while 3-chip DLP projectors inherently deliver a broad color gamut for incredible color depth and saturation,” the two new Lightning Pro Series II models also feature DPI’s own ColorMax technology for enhanced seven-point colorimetry (RGB plus cyan, magenta, yellow and white), which allows users to take control of specific coordinates in the entire color gamut. The Lightning Pro Series II projectors use true Xenon lamps and are calibrated for perfectly balanced true-life color representation. “If you’re doing color-critical post production work, you want to know there’s no variation in what you see on the screen and what the final product will be,” Hill notes.
Another Lightning model, the 45HD-3D, is a 30,000-lumen projector whose twin DVI inputs can produce active 3D projection. “With the emerging trend of feature films coming out in 3D, DPI can serve post production needs for 3D projection capabilities as well,” Hill reports.
For the smaller post facility, DPI offers the compact Titan Professional Series: the Titan 1080p-600 (10,000 lumens) and the 1080p-500 (6,000 lumens). The Titan projectors employ cost-efficient metal halide lamps, which can activate a Xenon color mode to more closely imitate the color temperature of true Xenon bulbs. Combine that with ColorMax and Titan customers “can now truly define a very accurate color space that will rival the Lightning,” says Hill.
All of the company’s 3-chip displays also benefit from radically-efficient and environmentally-friendly operation. Developed on DPI’s CoolTek engineering core, these products provide maximum light output with less power consumption than any other projectors in their class. “We’re constantly striving to lessen the impact our projectors have on the environment through thermal system innovation,” says Hill. “The Titan operates at a very cool temperature and produces a much higher light output at a much lower rate of power consumption than the competition.”
Sony’s SRX-R110 and SRX-R105, the first two products in the SXRD family of 4K projectors, have been “evolving and improving” since they began shipping two and a half years ago, says Andre Floyd, marketing manager for SXRD systems at Sony Broadcast & Production Systems Division (www.sony.com/sxrd).
“The technology was originally designed for the digital cinema market. We worked with Hollywood before the Digital Cinema Initiatives [a joint venture of Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. to establish a standard architecture for digital cinema systems] was set up to determine the requirements of cinema projectors,” he explains. “The response was that HD was not enough; the projectors had to be 4K resolution. So we developed the technology behind the projectors, and they became kind of Swiss Army knives with a lot of functionality, multi-screen capabilities and multiple inputs for uses outside digital cinema exhibition.”
Indeed, the SRX-R105 and R110 have been well received by the post production marketplace, with two units at Warner Bros.’ 4K DI and mastering facilities, several at the Sony Pictures Entertainment studio and others at FilmLight’s Burbank demo facility for its Baselight 4K DI software; the Los Angeles Film School; the USC Film School; DuArt; Boston’s Finish Editorial; and New York City’s Broadway Screening Room and Creative Mega Playground.
The two projectors differ only in brightness with the R105 having a maximum of 5,000 lumens and the R110 a maximum of 10,000 lumens. They display 4K content using dual DVI or HD-SDI as both single-wire and dual-link connection, and have YUV, RGB and XYZ decoding at both legal and full-range bit levels. The SXRD projectors’ internal scan converter enables easy viewing of dailies from DVCAM, HDCAM, 4K server or DVD sources by changing the input format using the system control on the projector. Their self-contained, dual-lamp systems assure redundancy.
According to Floyd, the projectors’ biggest appeal for post production customers is resolution. “Their 4,096 pixels horizontal by 2,160 pixels vertical are more than you get anywhere else,” he reports. “For those releasing 4K titles, it’s the only way to see them.” The more than 2,000:1 contrast ratio is important for detail definition and picture quality and deep black levels.
“If you’re doing color matching and other finishing you can put up two different images in separate windows. Because both pictures are coming from a single imager, there’s no question about color matching like you get with other devices that need to be calibrated to match,” Floyd adds. The projectors support up to four full HD windows.
A recent software upgrade enables users to enter custom looks. “You can work in any color space and match to it. You’re not tied to film stock,” he explains. “Animators can pick their color space and work in it throughout production.” More software upgrades are planned for this year.
Floyd believes the post marketplace for product will continue to grow. “4K digital cinema is catching on so facilities are starting to really see the need to upgrade their screening and DI capabilities to deal with full HD and, for high-end facilities, up to 4K material.”
Although Panasonic Projector Systems Company (www.panasonic.com/projectors) does not make DCI-compliant digital cinema projectors, it offers several solutions that can be used in pre-show advertising, post production, rental and staging applications.
Last year the company introduced the PT-D10000U (1400x1050 pixel) and PT-DW10000U (1920x1080 pixel) 3-chip DLP projectors for large venues. Both of the full HD projectors deliver 10,000 lumens through an AC quad lamp system and operate from a standard 120-VAC outlet increasing energy efficiency compared to other models.
The new models feature Dynamic Iris, which helps produce a 5,000:1 contrast ratio and reveal more detail in both dark and bright images. Both projectors include 10-bit video processing for smoother tonal expression. A 3D Color Management feature helps optimize color saturation, hue and brightness level for customers such as Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks, which use the projectors for previewing within their facilities, says engineering manager John Meehan.
The system’s AC quad lamps provide economical and extended lamp life. “Mercury lamps are about half the price and last roughly twice as long as Xenon lamps,” Meehan reports. The projector may be run with single, double, triple or quad lamps depending on the brightness desired.
Panasonic’s PT-DW7000U 16x9 and PT-D7700U 4x3 large-venue DLP projectors are still in production; they’re popular choices for color grading, staging and rental.
The projectors’ 4,000:1 contrast ratio uses Dynamic Iris for optimum black performance; BriteOptic dual-lamp technology and six-vector color correction are featured. DPs can perform color correction, store it in the system’s memory and recall their color preferences as needed.
Last fall Panasonic began shipping the PT-AE2000U widescreen LCD projector, “a home theater projector which is finding use in post production,” says Meehan. With HD colorimetry and DCI colorimetry modes, the AE2000U has already found a home in facilities like LaserPacific for color grading.
“We worked with colorists and DPs in Panasonic’s Hollywood Labs” to develop the new projector, he notes. “It gives a real film-like look, especially in the greens.” The AE2000U delivers 1,500 lumens, a contrast ratio of 16,000:1 and full 1920x1080 high definition projection.