With 4k mastering becoming gradually more common in Hollywood, Sony's SXRD 4k projector is helping lead the way in 4k projection of films like The Da Vinci Code too, writes Carolyn Giardina.
The early roll out of Sony's SXRD (Silicon X-Tal Reflective Display) 4k digital cinema projector has already involved the screening of features that were mastered in 2k and upconverted for exhibition. More recently in Los Angeles, a Sony 4k projector was installed for evaluation purposes at the AMC Theater's flagship venue, Century City 15. And for the past few weeks, it has been showing Sony Pictures' The Da Vinci Code, which was posted in 4k at Hollywood-based post house E-Film, playing off Sony's Media Block server system.
Sony reports that The Da Vinci Code presentations are the first US screenings of a 4k mastered motion picture to play in 4k for paying audiences enabled by the full Sony 4k digital cinema projection system. This includes Sony's SXRD projector and the Media Block server, which stores and plays a compressed, encrypted file of a film using JPEG 2000. JPEG 2000 is the compression scheme recommended by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a joint venture of Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios that last summer completed and released voluntary specifications for an open architecture for digital cinema.
"For Sony, this represents a really good start," says Andrew Stucker, manager of Sony's digital cinema systems group. "We still have a lot of evaluating to do... but for digital cinema, seeing is believing. It's working; and its doing what DCI called for and delivering superior quality for movie goers."
In additional to The Da Vinci Code, the AMC Theater has been screening several trailers including Disney's Cars, Warner Bros.' Lady in the Water and Sony Pictures' Casino Royale, all posted in 2k and upconverted for 4k projection.
Hollywood studios typically post features and trailers for digital cinema release in 2k, but some are looking toward 4k. In addition to The Da Vinci Code, Sony Pictures has finished a couple of other titles in 4k, including the recently released RV.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has demonstrated a commitment to 4k, finishing titles in 4k such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and more recently Poseidon . Additional studios are also exploring 4k possibilities.
Stucker is among those who expect to see 4k finishing become more prevalent, but states that the Sony 4k projection system is a benefit to 2k or 4k features. "We are as interested in screening 2k on the projector as 4k," he says.
He also reports that R&D continues. The SXRD projector currently goes as high as 10,000 lumens of brightness, but Stucker says that Sony plans to introduce an 18,000 lumens projector prototype during the summer, which he expects would be released toward the end of '06 or early '07.
He added that further out, Sony intends to develop the projector so that it could accommodate 3D, which was a key topic at the recent NAB with proponents including Academy Award winning director James Cameron (Titanic), who announced that his next two features would be 3D releases.