Lasers…somebody knows…Barco? RED???

The basic exception was Laser Light Engines (LLE), who have a deal with IMAX to put lasers into the big room cinemas. If ever there were a nice niche to start this adventure with, this is it. Specialized, contained to dozens and hundreds instead of 10’s of thousands, able to absorb any exceptional pricing, able to evolve. Delivery was scheduled to begin in Spring 2012.

Then the film maker turned digital imaging specialist Kodak shows a system that they clearly are not productizing. But they are playing in the game. They helped set up the organization which is working (throughout the world?) to take projection booth laser systems out of the field of laser entertainment systems, which require a special technology variance for every set-up. Kodak was able to get one by themselves, but the Laser Illuminated Projection Association – LIPA – includes Sony and IMAX, plus LLE and Kodak in this effort. In the US, the over-riding entity is the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which is in charge of ensuring laser equipment safety.

This spring, LLE showed up in Hollywood at that chapter’s SMPTE meeting with Sony and Barco giving powerpoint presentations. Sony had made a couple of public remarks previously, but one had to be culling their online tech papers to notice. And until this point Barco had been quiet…except that the week before they did a demo at the RED Studios Hollywood lot. Nice splash.

Then nothing. No remarks from anyone at CineExpo or CineEurope. The idea has gelled that digital laser projection is 2 years away, or more.

Then this week. The RED user group message board lit up after two pre-viewer comments placed at the head of a thread by RED owner Jim Jannard: Mark L. Pederson of OffHollywood and Stephen Pizzo, Co-Founder of Element Technica and now partner of 3ality Technica, make remarks about having watched a demo of RED’s laser projector. “Vibrant”, “clean”, “never seen projection so …”, etc. Then a few non-answers to poorly phrased guesses (for example, that 4K is a benchmark, and passive 3D did leak out, but both could mean several things) and that was that…25 pages of wasted time thereafter. [Can anyone please vouch for the merits of Misters Pederson and Pizzo as to their ability to discern whether the technology they viewed is comparibly better than what has been seen otherwise?)

Barco, on the hand (and yet similarly) have made an announcement that 9 and 10 January will be their big days. – D3D Cinema to Present Giant Screen 4K 3D Laser Projection Demo at 2nd Annual Moody Digital Cinema Symposium – Well, actually, no. Barco only said, “We’re fully committed to providing the highest quality solutions for giant screen theaters” and some similar non-relevent info about how wonderful their partner is. Basically though, their name is on a press release announcing that they will butterfly laser driven digital cinema light against 15 perf 70mm and 4 other “revolutions”:

  • The FIRST demonstration of Barco’s revolutionary laser light engine on a giant screen
  • The FIRST demonstration of true DLP 4K resolution 3D on a giant screen
  • The FIRST 4K 3D comparison of ‘ultra-reality’ 48 frame/sec & 60 frame/sec content
  • The FIRST giant 3D 500 mbps comparison, nearly double the current cinema bit rate standard

Not withstanding the lack of filtering for marketing bits, and regardless of how some of the terms have been ill-defined in the past (4K 3D, for example), this is still a pretty good line-up.

Prediction: 2012 will be the year that several studios tell their exhibition partners a final date for film distribution (in 2013) and 2012 will have more than one commercial laser system in the field.

Prediction 3 – there may not be more than one DCI compliant system in the field though. RED might find that, if they thought bringing a small camera to market was a difficult trick, supporting projectors is a whole different matter…even if it is only to post-houses and their owners.

Regardless, this is mostly good news. That the RED is using passive doesn’t exactly mean silver screen passive. Perhaps Dolby passive, which would certainly be good news. If it is silver screen passive, that is bad news. Since silver screens don’t comply with SMPTE standards, they may end up on the scrap heap of history. But that is a different story for another article.

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