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Sony Projector Impact

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Hoping to gain a foothold in
the huge but still emerging market
for equipping movie theaters with
digital cinema projectors, Sony
recently unveiled a new 4K projection
system, said to be the first of
its kind.
The Sony system offers a
resolution of 4096×2160 pixels.
That’s four times the 2048×1080,
or 2K, resolution from Texas
Instruments’ DLP Cinema technology
chip, the standard by
default already installed in some
60 movie houses around the U.S.
But that number of theaters is
only a drop in the bucket. With
some 35,000 indoor screens in
business in the U.S. at the end of
2003, according to the National
Association of Theater Owners,
and a new digital projection system
estimated to cost around
$100,000, the payoff for manufacturers
whose products win out
could be enormous. And that’s just
the domestic market.
Sony’s theater projection system
comes in two models, the
5,000-lumen SRX-R105 and the
10,000-lumen SRX-R110—the
latter for 25- to 40-foot screens.
Optional lenses permit the new
projectors to fill screens up to 70
feet wide or as small as 15 feet.
Both projectors are based on the
company’s Silicon X-tal Reflective
Display (SXRD) chip technology,
already in use in a 2K format in
Sony’s high-end Qualia projector
designed for consumer users.
“We believe we’ve hit a quality
level that represents a truly distinct
experience for the moviegoer,
and at 4K, a technical level the studios
have been wanting and asking
for,” said Andrew Stucker, general
manager of Sony’s Broadcast and
Production Systems division.
Sony has made sure its new
projectors are in sync with guidelines
still being drawn up by the
Digital Cinema Initiative,
a consortium of seven
Hollywood studios, which
is trying to smooth the
transition to an all-digital
environment, in part
by dissuading equipment
makers from pursuing
incompatible technologies.
DCI has been working
on standards for
both 2K and 4K digital
projection systems.
Sony also has “the ability to
provide this new technology on a
timeline much shorter than previously
anticipated,” said Stucker.
Sony plans to have models available
for purchase by early in 2005,
but it hasn’t yet announced a price
for the equipment. In the wake of
Sony’s announcement, TI, in the
digital projection business for over
a decade, indicated it intends to
stick with its 2K chip. Meanwhile
Kodak is working on its own 4K
projection system.
Despite Sony’s understandable
enthusiasm, not all present at a
demonstration held at the Digital
Cinema Lab in Hollywood in
early June thought the projection
system yet met the goals being
sought. “It was promising as a
work in progress,” said Curtis
Clark, ASC, head of the technology
committee for the American
Society of Cinematographers.
“But I didn’t think it was yet
ready for prime time in terms
of color quality and contrast,
among other issues.”
“I would not suggest that
with 4K we’re setting the
industry standard; the marketplace
will be setting the
standard,” said Stucker. And
dollars and cents will be a major
consideration. “Economics
will determine how good the
technology gets. Everyone
wants digital projection to be as
good or better than the moviegoing
experience already available
But the industry’s goal is to make
this sea-change once, because it’s
such a large investment.”

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