The 2nd Annual Moody Gardens Digital Cinema Symposium was held in Galveston, Texas, this month. This event is targeted to the large format crowd, showcasing digital projection on the facility’s 70 ft (21 m) screen. Barco and Qube provided the equipment for this year’s event, demonstrating several firsts for large format cinema:
- Laser illumination of 50,000 lumens
- 2-projector 4K 3-D, 60 fps per eye at 800Mb/s
- Auro 3D 11.1 sound
This was a ground breaking event in many ways. It was an opportunity for Barco to show off its latest R&D, but it was also a unique time for Qube to stand out in front of its competitors. The Qube Xi IMB with XP-I server solution is based on the Mikrom in-projector media block. (Dolby demonstrated the Mikrom IMB at ShowEast with Barco.) The Mikrom IMB is capable of synchronizing with a 2nd Mikrom IMB in a 2nd projector, enabling Qube to play synchronized Left-Right 4K 3-D streams on two projectors. With 2 IMBs in use, each capable of decoding 500 Mb/s compressed bit streams, Qube became the first to demonstrate high compressed bit rate, high frame rate decoding. The content shown was compressed at 400Mb/s per eye, or 800Mb/s total. Qube’s demonstration was significant, as early testers are saying that 400Mb/s isn’t enough for 60fps per eye at 2K, Cameron’s preferred format for the next Avatar.
Barco impressed the audience with 50,000 lumens of laser illumination, using the two 4K projectors. This was a prototype light source, unlikely to be in production for some years. Notably different to the Kodak laser light design, Barco’s laser primaries map to the so-called “DCI P3” color space, producing an accurate color spectrum. The projectors lit up the 70 foot screen with approximately 22 ft-L of light for 2-D presentations, and 4.5 ft-L of light for 3-D. (Assuming a 3-D add-on efficiency of 18%.)
Picture looks a lot better with big sound, and Barco had that pitch to give, as well, with its Auro 3D 11.1 sound system. The timing was good, as Lucasfilm released Red Tails in Auro 3D this month.
If pitching these new tricks for use in mainstream cinema, it would invite grumbles and deaf ears. After all, exhibitors have invested heavily in new digital projection equipment. Showcasing the newest in technology for large format was smart. But there’s also a competitive edge to this, of course. Barco would have been eager to blowout Christie Digital’s wave of high frame rate press releases last year. But equally so, the combination of laser light, dual synchronized 4K IMBs, and 11.1 sound is unlikely to be matched by Sony.