This year’s Technology Summit on Cinema, which runs April 11–12, is one of the premiere conferences signaling the start of the 2015 NAB Show. As this year’s timely gathering will demon- strate through moving images, sound, presenta- tions and discussion, continuing digital advances have dramatically reshaped the art and science of cinema in recent years — thanks to pioneer- ing engineers uncovering breakthroughs and to the hundreds of millions of moviegoers who welcome those often-unknowing advances at the box office.
This year’s conference, titled “Building the Future of Storytelling,” is produced in part- nership with the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers, which will mark its 100th anniversary next year.
Laser-illuminated projectors hold the promise of several important benefits, including lower cost of ownership for theater operators lower power consumption and reduced environmental impact, according to SMPTE Past President Pete Ludé, a senior vice president at RealD. “What the ticket-buying public will notice most are the dramatically brighter images for 3D cinema” he said. “We’ve been struggling with Xenon lamp-based projectors, which can’t achieve the optimal luminance in large-screen 3D auditoriums. Laser projectors can rectify the brightness problem for 3D [movies], and potentially increase luminance levels for 2D movies, as future industry standards emerge,” Ludé said.
“Laser projectors can rectify the brightness problem for 3D [movies], and potentially increase luminance levels for 2D movies, as future industry standards emerge.” — Peter Ludé, RealD
Laser projectors also could mean a wider color gamut and increased contrast ratios, or high dynamic range (HDR) —meaning that, in addition to brighter highlights, movie-goers could also enjoy blacker blacks. Ludé will be talking about achieving blacker blacks in HDR cinema in a 30-minute presentation, Saturday, 11:35 a.m. Also, a 30-minute update on laser illuminated projectors’ accelerating entry into theaters is set for Sunday, 9:45 a.m., with Dan Huerta
of AMC Theaters.
Ludé chairs the SMPTE Interoperable Immersive Sound Working Group, which is currently working on a single standard for immersive audio — basically defined as the addition of speakers fully surrounding the audience, including overhead, in order to more accurately reproduce real-life soundfields.
SMPTE Education Vice President Pat Griffis, of Dolby Labs, believes the move to ob- ject-based coding of individual sound elements “provides the creative increased flexibility in positioning sound anywhere in the audience, enhancing the entertainment experience. Technologies such as Dolby’s ATMOS [among others] make the positioning and mixing of sounds a much more compelling experience for the audience.” A panel of experts will discuss immersive audio Saturday, 2:15 p.m.
Griffis also sees some interesting synergy between broadcast digital and cinema digital.
“Cinema started first with 4K pixels and now television is catching up,” he said. “Television traditionally has had higher frame rates and now cinema is catching up. Advancements in better pixels apply equally to both. In fact, research has shown — contrary to conventional wisdom — the preferred dynamic range for both [HDTV] and cinema is the same, although the peak white-light levels are different.”
Conference attendees also will have the chance to screen a “first look” at the new SMPTE 4K documentary, “Moving Images,” produced by veteran HDTV cinematographer Randall Dark and directed by Howard Lukk.
“Having been heavily involved in the evolution of television from 4×3 NTSC to 16×9 HDTV, I’ve enjoyed the practical, day-by- day, real-world experience of a major technology shift. SMPTE was an integral part of this, so it’s a big deal to me to help tell this story,” Dark said. The brief 4K preview screening by Barco will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
Another rapidly emerging issue for digital cinema is cloud storage, which experts say is reaching commercial maturity from a pricing point of view. This reality is going to make it very difficult to ignore for both movie catalogs and digital archiving, according to Richard Welsh of Sundog Media Toolkit, who is a SMPTE governor for several regions out- side North America.
The cloud is expected to be considered from various angles throughout the Technology Summit on Cinema. But Welsh said, while it makes sense for anyone offering a large Digital Cinema Package (DCP) catalog on-demand to use cloud, the real power is not storage alone.
“It’s the gigantic network capacity alongside storage that will make an impact in cinema,” said Welsh, who moderates a session on virtual reality, multi-screening and immersive cinema on Sunday, 5 p.m.
“At the front end, in both production and post production, we’re observing the use of more and more cloud applications. Replacing traditional on-set and post-production infrastructure with an on-demand equivalent is something very attractive to film production, which, by its very nature, has short, very high peaks of demand for particular processes or capabilities.
“This carries right through from production dailies to editorial/ VFX/grading and finally for mastering and versioning. Overall, cloud is already making inroads into cinema — through the chain from lens to screen. Yet we’re still much closer to the start of that journey than the end,” Welsh concluded.
All sessions and other Technology Summit on Cinema events will be held in the South Hall (S222) of the Las Vegas Convention Center.