CinemaCon is the annual convention of the National Association of Theater Owners, which is happening this week in Las Vegas, NV. Members from all over the world gather to view trailers and exclusive screenings of upcoming movies and check out the latest technologies for presentation, concessions, seating, and more.
The Samsung Cinema LED Screen made a huge splash at last year’s CinemaCon. As you may know, the Cinema LED Screen consists of tiny red, green, and blue LEDs that form the pixels directly. They can be far brighter than any projected image—up to 500 nits, which is 10 times the peak luminance of a conventional-cinema presentation. And they can also be turned off completely to create pure black. As a result, the Cinema LED Screen can easily render high dynamic range (HDR) imagery.
There’s only one problem—which HDR format to use? Of course, there is Dolby Vision, but it’s implemented only in Dolby Cinema theaters, and the commercial version is based entirely on projection technology. So, Samsung is collaborating with Ymagis, a France-based cinema-technology firm, to use its EclairColor HDR system with the Cinema LED Screen. The companies are presenting a joint demonstration at CinemaCon this week.
Residents of the US might not have heard of EclairColor HDR, but many Europeans have already experienced it. As of this writing, the system has been installed in 126 theaters, including 59 in Germany, 54 in France, and three in the UK. And just last week, Texas-based theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced it will install EclairColor HDR projection systems in 10 of its locations in Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, and Virginia.
I’ll write about EclairColor HDR in more detail in a separate article. For now, here’s a summary from the EclairColor website:
“EclairColor is a new digital HDR color technology that combines an innovative mastering process with the optimization of select projection system technologies readily available from CinemaNext [Ymagis’ distribution service].
“EclairColor technology does not necessitate any changes during filming as the process only applies to the mastering and projection phases. In post-production (mastering), each image is processed in EclairColor thanks to a standard software suite customized by Eclair’s engineers to provide a wider color range. Colors are therefore more natural, particularly as seen in landscapes or on faces.”
Lest you think that EclairColor HDR might be a flash in the pan, it has been used to master over 70 mostly French movies since September 2016, including the French release of La La Land. Another five titles will be released next month.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Cinema LED Screen has been installed in several locations around the world, including two in South Korea and one each in Zurich, Bangkok, and Shanghai. AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger got to see one in Seoul, South Korea, an experience he recounts here. Just last week, another installation opened to the public in Los Angeles, CA, which I plan to visit as soon as possible. However, I’m told that it is currently showing images in standard dynamic range, not HDR.
I’m extremely excited about the potential of Samsung’s Cinema LED Screen to enhance the commercial-cinema experience well beyond what projection can do. When combined with HDR content using EclairColor or another HDR format, the effect should be nothing short of astounding. It’s a great time to be a movie and theater geek!