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April 2014
Issue: April 1, 2009

DIGITAL CINEMA: MUVICO OPENS ALL-DIGITAL MEGAPLEX

By: Daniel Restuccio & Nicholas Restuccio
THOUSAND OAKS, CA — Thirty-seven miles from Hollywood, digital cinema history was made in the suburb of Thousand Oaks, where the first all-digital 4K projection theater in California opened its doors in late February.

The majestic 108,000-square-foot complex was built by Muvico (www.muvico. com) and equipped with the latest Sony SRX 4K digital projectors, LCD displays, VAIO computers, PlayStation gaming systems and a JBL-Harman Pro sound system.

“Technology such as all-digital [projection] allows us to do other things besides showing movies,” says Mike Whalen, president of Muvico. “While movies are always going to be the prime showing at these theaters, it opens up a whole new window to alternative content and other forms of entertainment. Muvico was a small Florida company a couple of years ago, now we’re expanding nationally, and there’s no better place to be than in Thousand Oaks.”

Mike Fidler, VP of Sony’s digital cinema solutions and services group, adds, “Muvico’s vision is that exhibitors need to offer more complete services. They’ve extended their focus far beyond the auditorium and into the lobbies, restaurants and more, truly turning the movie theater into a digital destination. Working with them to further the use of 4K technology will simply elevate this experience to an entirely new level.”

The two-story Paris-themed building boasts reserved and premier balcony seating, a game room and a full-service restaurant and bar. The 14 theaters have screen sizes ranging from 31 to 64 feet and a total audience capacity of over 2,500. Ten screens are equipped with Sony SRX-220 projectors and four with SRX-210s. Four theaters are also equipped for 3D and have silver reflective screens to boost the light going through those polarized glasses.

THE PICTURE

Sony’s silicon crystal reflective display (SXRD) SRX-R220/210 projector touts a 4K-plus resolution (4096x2160) and a contrast ratio of 2000:1. The SRX-220 has a 4KW Xenon lamp, which pumps out 18,000 lumens at the screen. Sony’s projector is an application of liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technology. Liquid crystals are applied directly to the surface of red, green and blue silicon chips coated with an aluminized layer. The system claims higher resolution and higher contrast images than transmission liquid crystal projectors or DLP micro-mirror technology.

Opening night feature films included The Jonas Brothers: 3D Experience, Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taken, He’s Just Not That Into You, Friday 13, The International, Fired Up and Echelon Conspiracy.

TECHNICOLOR

Technicolor prepped the digital files for  My Bloody Valentine 3D, Coraline and Madea Goes to Jail, which played opening night.

Marco Bario, VP of theatrical post production at Technicolor, says, “For example, My Bloody Valentine was shot on the Red camera and Silicon Imaging’s SI-2K, and it was shot in 3D. So there were two streams, a left eye and right eye in the post process. The original Red and SI-2K footage was converted to Sony HDCAM SR (1920x1080). The picture was edited in offline then, using the EDL, HDCAM SR video was converted to DPX files and conformed in Autodesk’s Smoke. Both streams were graded in the da Vinci using a projector calibrated to DCI-P3 linear color space and re-rendered as DPX files. These are converted to TIFF files in XYZ color space.”

Those files are handed over Nick Mitchell, director of Technicolor digital cinema mastering services, who transforms the movie into an encrypted Digital Cinema Package (DCP). “We take those XYZ TIFF files,” explains Mitchell, “encode them to JPEG 2000 format and wrap them into encrypted MXF files. A typical two-hour feature of TIFF files is about a terabyte and a half. The JPEG 2000 codec knocks that down to between 100 and 300GB. We also wrap and encrypt 24-bit 48K WAV files into MXF files, given they’re really only a few gigs, we don’t compress them.”

The picture and sound MXF files are packaged with a set of XML files containing an instruction set that allows the filmmaker control over how the movie gets played back in the field. Technicolor distributes digital prints 95 percent of the time on hard drives and five percent via satellite. The hard drives are delivered in CRU DataPort sleds with an added boot to allow USB and SATA output for fast uploading to the projector server. Key Delivery Messages (KDMs) are emailed to the theaters to unlock the content and convey not valid before and after dates and times.

Mitchell notes, “There are so many color spaces, file formats and delivery requirement combinations, we have to come up with new workflows and better efficiencies every day.”

Right now most of the movie files are 2K prints upscaled to 4K in the projector.

WHAT’S NEXT?

In coming months, Sony and Muvico are planning to open new theaters. Whalen is looking for property in New York City.