David McIntosh, Sony’s VP of Sony Digital Cinema, talks about Sony’s 4K digital projection strategy and the future of cinema.
While other digital projection technologies over the past decade have aimed for a high quality 2K image, Sony has from the beginning aimed to make available the best possible 4K projector. David McIntosh says the reasoning behind the plan was simple – the resolution of a 4K digital image is roughly equivalent to that of 35mm film. Sony saw no reason to step backward from the image quality generations of filmgoers have come to expect. This early adoption of 4K has paid dividends for the company, as it now sees its mature 4K products widely distributed in theatres.
Last year, UK cinema chain Vue, signed a deal to install Sony 4K projectors across all its 650 theatres in the UK and Ireland. Vue has made this jump to 4K image quality a major feature in its marketing strategy and the exhibitor has just this month completed its final Sony 4K installation in Cardiff. Major international chain Showcase Cinemas is also employing Sony 4K. Sony aims to expand the availability of 4K into as many venues as possible. In November, the company will make available a smaller, more affordable 4K projector for smaller, independent cinemas.
McIntosh also noted the differences between Sony’s 3D projection technology and DLP 3D projection. Whereas DLP relies on a triple flash technology in which left and right eye images for each frame are shown flashed in rapid succession, the Sony technology features two lenses which project both sides of the stereoscopic image continuously, resulting in, Sony believes, a superior, richer image.
McIntosh believes that understanding the evolving nature of the cinema experience is key to Sony’s future strategy. Cinemas, he says, are no longer venues solely for viewing feature films. They should be thought of more as places where media of all kinds is consumed in a social environment. Cinemas will be increasingly likely to show – in 2D or 3D – live transmissions of sport or music events, theatre productions, as well as legacy content in the form of digitised classic films, all of which are can be made easily available with current digital distribution technologies. A versatile, robust projector that can easily handle 3D and variable frame rates will be key to facilitating this transition to multiuse cinemas. The only real barrier, he says, is the traditional caution among the various branches of the entertainment industry – film, broadcast, theatre, music – that sometimes makes them unwilling to share their pitch with each other.