When it comes to innovations for the big screen, few people have a better picture of what’s next in cinema technology than our very own Dave Duncan. As the manager for our DLP® Enterprise and DLP Cinema® business, Dave has one foot in the world of Hollywood and another firmly planted in the science and engineering of our unique chip technology.
We recently spoke with Dave fresh off his visit to CinemaCon to get his thoughts on what kind of cinematic experiences may be coming soon to a theater near you.
What is CinemaCon, and what was the overall tone this year?
CinemaCon is the largest gathering of movie theater owners from around the world. This important event is a great opportunity to come together and discuss the latest trends and innovations. The mood this year was very lively thanks to a record-setting 2015. Last year’s global box office sales rose 5 percent to a new all-time record high of $38.3 billion. In the U.S. and Canada, the box office tally rose 8 percent over the previous year, to $11.1 billion in 2015. And perhaps most importantly, 93 percent of the world’s cinema screens are now digital instead of film-based. Don’t take my word for it – these stats all come from the Motion Picture Association of America.
What role does TI play in digital cinema?
TI introduced digital cinema powered by DLP® Products in 1999, and today it dominates the industry. Our technology is deployed to well over 100,000 screens, and the number continues to soar, especially in rapidly growing Asian markets like China. I think DLP technology advantages in terms of flexibility, reliability, and energy efficiency enable cinema projectors with impressive brightness and image clarity. It makes digital cinema powered by DLP technology a compelling choice for theater owners, movie makers and film fans around the world.
What were some of the key takeaways from the show?
The movie industry is always looking for ways to keep audiences coming back to the theaters. While today’s home theater systems are incredible, nothing quite compares to the communal experience of watching a movie premiere on a 105-foot-wide screen and an amazing sound system.
The biggest trends I saw at this year’s CinemaCon were things meant to keep movie lovers coming back to the theater: large format screens, higher 4K resolution, and the use of lasers to illuminate the projectors instead of Xenon bulbs. Most digital theaters currently use 2K resolution projectors, which we all continue to be impressed with. But, emerging 4K resolution technology becomes an intriguing option for upgrading theaters in the future. Meanwhile, older projectors use Xenon bulbs that become dim over time, negatively impacting the movie experience. So it’s really the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone – quadruple the resolution and get a projector that uses laser illumination, which is more reliable, much brighter (which is especially important in 3D films), and results in a crisper, vibrant image. Another big benefit is that lasers last significantly longer than bulbs -- up to 30,000 hours of continuous use before they need replacing.
At the same time, there are many new techniques that some directors are experimenting with and that DLP technology can help enable. I hear a lot about high frame rate (HFR) cinema which allows for much smoother, more fluid motion. And then there’s high dynamic range (HDR), which allows for a greatly expanded contrast ratio for more separation between the blackest black and the most vibrant bright white you can image. Some filmmakers are already using these technologies, and it will be exciting to see what they can develop.
So what’s next for moviegoers watching content on digital cinema?
As I mentioned, theater owners and content makers are always thinking about ways to fill seats. That’s why things like 3D have been successful. I think the next step is using digital cinema to showcase content we haven’t necessarily seen in a movie theater setting before. Think about things like concerts, operas and other non-movie types of content. I’ve even heard of some theater owners who are using social media to basically crowd-source content from sources like YouTube for viewing on the big screen. With all of this experimentation in the industry, the future of digital cinema looks bright as we tap into its full potential. What really excites me and makes me proud is how DLP technology continues to innovate and be right at the heart of it all.