The most exciting news is Dolby's collaboration with Christie to make a high dynamic-range projector for premium venues.
Dolby has long been deeply involved in commercial cinema, first with sound (Dolby Surround), then with picture (Dolby 3D), and most recently back to sound (Dolby Atmos). Now, the company is putting it all together in a program called Dolby Cinema, which combines sound, picture, acoustics, and theater design into a stunning package.
The design elements were created to draw audiences deeper into the story. Theater owners can select features such as a signature entrance with a dynamic audio/video pathway that provides a new canvas for studios to begin telling the story before the movie even starts. Other features can include a wall-to-wall-to-ceiling screen, atmospheric lighting, and faceted acoustic panels designed to enhance the sound and heighten the sense of immersion. And all Dolby Cinema theaters will undergo a sophisticated visual and acoustic room treatment to optimize the cinematic experience.
A Dolby Cinema theater can have a specially designed signature entrance as imagined in this rendering.
Of course, a Dolby Cinema theater will have a Dolby Atmos sound system—in this case using Vive speakers and class-D amplification from Christie, a leading provider of digital-cinema projectors and sound systems. This gives me pause, because in every demo I've heard of the Vive system, the sound quality was quite bright, sometimes becoming harsh, and always too loud. Hopefully, these attributes will be tamed in Dolby Cinema theaters.
But what really got my attention is the announcement that Dolby is working with Christie to implement Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut (WCG) for commercial projection. There are few specifics about how this will be accomplished; when I contacted Christie to get more details, the reply was, "The IP [intellectual property] is confidential and we really can't talk about it until sufficient patent protection is in place. However, we can say that you need laser illumination to build an HDR projector suitable for a cinema-sized screen, because we need extra light that we can 'throw away' or trade off for improved dynamic range and contrast performance. Currently, we don't actually know the limits of what can be achieved for contrast ratio, but we can tell you it is orders of magnitude beyond what a conventional D-Cinema projector can achieve." One of the press releases associated with Dolby Cinema reveals that the system will use two projection heads with a highly customized light path—perhaps one for low luminance and the other for high luminance, but that's only a guess.
We also know that the projectors will exhibit 4K resolution and high frame-rate (HFR) capability. In addition, they will utilize a 6P (6-primary) laser light source, in which the wavelengths of two groups of red, green, and blue are slightly offset from each other. This allows the use of Dolby 3D "color-separation" glasses to isolate the left and right images without requiring a polarization-preserving silver screen, and it provides an extra-bright 2D image. According to Don Shaw, Senior Director of Product Management at Christie (and a guest on Home Theater Geeks last year
), "We'll be delivering audiences a richer, more detailed viewing experience with up to 14 foot-lamberts onscreen in 3D and up to 31 foot-lamberts for 2D Dolby Vision content, far exceeding any 'ultra-bright' industry standards, to all Dolby Cinema locations."
A Dolby Cinema theater will feature a wall-to-wall-to-ceiling screen, Atmos sound, and unique design elements along with HDR/WCG imagery.
Speaking of locations, one of the first Dolby Cinema venues will be JT Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The newly constructed cineplex will open on December 15 with eight screens and a total of 1546 seats, and the premier screen will feature Dolby Vision starting in 2015, when the projector and appropriately graded titles are expected to become available.
I'm already a big fan of Dolby Atmos, and I can't wait to see HDR images in a commercial—or any—setting. For more on Dolby Cinema, check out the web page
Here's a short CGI rendering of a "walkthrough" in a Dolby Cinema theater:
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