Even 15 years after the first digital cinema public showing of a major movie, there are many in the film industry who remain unconvinced that digital projection can ever equal – let alone surpass – traditional projection.
Barco set about demonstrating the significant progress made since 1996 at the inaugural Digital Cinema Symposium presented by D3D Cinema and Moody Gardens held in Galveston, Texas where Barco's DP4K-32B 4K DLP Cinema projector was set up in a first ever shootout side-by-side with 15/70mm film.
It was also the first time that Barco's 4K projector had been used to present a movie on a giant 80-foot screen, the first time dual DP4K-32B projectors were used to project 3D, and the first time that Barco projectors showed four different types of 3D technology.
Held before a sizable audience of movie aficionados from museum, movie theatre and other major attraction businesses, the format of the shootout entailed simultaneous projection of both film and digital formats on a split-screen to enable experts to compare and contrast the two technologies. For the digital version, 70mm film was scanned at 11K resolution and converted to a 4K DCP. The content chosen for the main event were trailers from “Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey” and “Wild Ocean,” both large-format films produced for IMAX and other giant screen cinemas.
According to Barco, the split-screen demonstration was revealing, accentuating the anomalies of film-based projection such as noticeable vibration and dirt, effectively lowering the perceived resolution of the image, while the digital version featured excellent colour depth, a cleaner picture, and greater image stability.
“Film purists thought that we were years away from a day when digital would equal or surpass large-format film presentation. However, in an informal straw poll of roughly 120 industry veterans in attendance, an overwhelming majority favored Barco's 4K digital version, both in terms of image quality and overall presentation,” said Andy Wood, senior vice president, D3D Cinema. “This is an incredible milestone for our industry, elevating digital as a viable giant screen exhibition solution among some of the world's finest cultural institutions.”
“The shootout opened a lot of people's eyes to the potential of digital on the world's giant screens. It's already fueling many discussions that weren't occurring two months ago,” said Art Mercurio, vice president of technical services for D3D. “We were really excited to partner with Barco – they're always a step or two ahead, always pushing the industry, and the first to support new technologies as soon as they hit the market.”
Rounding out the agenda was a demonstration of all current 3D technologies, including the various types of 3D glasses. Barco's 4K projectors were also used to present an “Alternative Content Showcase” featuring demonstrations of live video sources, including HD TV, video games, PowerPoint and Blu-ray, and to screen 2D, 3D, and 4D movie premieres and the latest trailers.