Sight, Sound, Setting…Dolby Cinema covers it all at Holland’s JT Eindhoven

Features
Technology

On December 15, 2014, in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, JT Bioscopen opened eight screens offering 1,546 seats, including VIP sections and a private 50-seat auditorium. Among the many features of this flagship location in the 22-cinema-in-21-cities and all-Dutch-owned chain is the world’s very first Dolby Cinema. While Dolby Atmos comes “standard” as part of this “branded premium cinema experience,” as well as sounding off in a second auditorium in Eindhoven, Dolby Cinema has much more to offer. As the companies state, the JT Dolby Cinema “combines spectacular image and sound technologies with inspired design” with the goal of turning every single visit into “a completely captivating cinematic event.”

Three key elements are activated in delivering the full presentation package, Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s director of content and creative relations, confirms. In addition to Dolby Atmos for an all-immersive sound that empowers Christie Vive amplifiers and speakers, Dolby Cinema addresses the subject of sight with equal excellence. Unlike the usual components of projection and screen–and both of these receive special attention too, the latter by being of the curved and “floating” variety–this includes the careful development of the auditorium space itself. “We have chosen specific elements to create a truly inspired design, to change the look and feel inside a cinema,” Bowling says.

And that starts with the entrance. To set the movie mood, the Dolby Cinema not only has standout signage but features a passage with ceiling speakers above and alongside a curved video wall that is illuminated by Christie equipment. “This model acts as an attraction towards the entrance of the Dolby Cinema,” Bowling elaborates. “Instead of using the video wall in a traditional way, such as showing ads and trailers, we are…trying to have the moviegoer transition from the lobby into the world of the movie.” For the last Hobbit adventure, which debuted with the Dolby Cinema at JT Eindhoven, “we were able to get a CGI automatic of the Shire,” he recalls. “If you walked in, you saw all these beautiful images of the Shire. There was motion in there and you could hear all the familiar sounds and the music of The Hobbit. So it was really putting you into that mindset of going on the journey.”

Bowling will address more details for our Construction & Design issue later this year; for now he will focus on “keeping track of the quality of the image that’s being projected onto the screen. The more ambient light you have inside the theatre,” he explains, “the less contrast you have on the screen… So we wanted to make sure that we could deliver the best-looking picture possible. And the first step is having a black interior for the auditorium. With that, we also use new lighting technology that controls the dispersion of light inside the theatre.” One such advance is RGB LED flow lighting, that keeps the illumination “focused there and to the safety code, but without the glaring back into the audience that becomes a distraction.”

Dolby Cinema projection is equally focused on delivering never-before-seen high-dynamic contrast and color ranges. The new and, with Christie, jointly developed equipment was not ready at the launch in Eindhoven, but Dolby Vision-branded projection did light up in time for the release of Tomorrowland, the first Dolby Vision-rendered picture. In North America, “we currently have four screens operational with Dolby Vision projection,” Bowling confirms. Three of those are at AMC Prime for now, with additional Prime plans announced for 50 AMC Theatres by 2018 and 100 by 2024. The fourth is installed at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The dual-projector system features Christie’s advanced 6P laser-illumination with 4K resolution, high-frame-rate 2D (with 31 foot-lamberts) and Dolby 3D capabilities (14 fL light output).

3D projection is optional, however, and “we do not put up silver screens,” Bowling reminds us. “Our goal is just to deliver the best possible looking image.” By installing two Dolby Vision projectors, Dolby Cinema auditoriums are giving “the filmmaker the ability to have highlights anywhere in the picture where they need to.” In the past, “unfortunately,” 3D was talked about as “not being light-efficient, with low light levels, a somewhat poor experience and less color saturation… Now using 6P laser technology means that we have nothing inside the projector, the lasers are tuned to each of the Dolby 3D glasses…delivering 14 foot-lamberts with amazing contrast levels.”

Delivering that high contrast across the color-grading process, Dolby now covers both elements of the quality chain. By maximizing rendering and delivery, Dolby Vision is removing the limitations set by current projection standards. “We’ve been working on the next-generation imaging technology for over five years now” and the key is contrast, Bowling reiterates. Dolby Vision optimization begins with a 42-inch (107 cm) color-grading monitor that is “capable of rendering the more dynamic range that our Dolby Vision projectors now have. That is where the filmmaker can see for latitude. Our color-grading monitor is capable of 19 stops, and that actually exceeds today’s standards. But, obviously, time and technology will move forward, so they’ll have more latitude available.”

For the business model, there is latitude to be had as well. According to Bowling, Dolby is looking at sharing revenue with Dolby Cinema. “We made the program as flexible as possible in order to open this opportunity up to many different exhibitors.” With that, Dolby is not only providing technology but offers additional services as well. “Dolby helps control the entire process,” he assures, from design and planning to project management and execution. “It’s not like we just deliver a document and guideline to the exhibitor and say, ‘Okay, we’ll see you when you’re all ready.’ We work hand-in-hand with them.” Dolby employs an in-house architect now and dispatches a Dolby Cinema-specific group of in-house project managers. “They are overseeing the entire process, communicating with the exhibitor and building crews, with the technicians.” In addition to regular meetings, project managers will be “on-site during installation and commissioning and signoffs. In that way, we can take some of the burden away from the exhibitor.”

Asked about his takeaway from being involved with this truly premier location, Bowling says that JT Eindhoven materialized perfectly. “We were working on so many new things that all we ever had as a record were computer-generated renderings of what we were trying to achieve. So being able to walk into Eindhoven and see that as a reality was amazing.”

Whenever he shows a picture of Eindhoven, people still think it’s a rendering. “I say, ‘No, this is the real deal.’ It has turned out beautiful. It’s such an amazing experience to watch and hear the movie that is showing in there.” Dolby Cinema design and technology, he asserts, have the audience “pulled into the story as to what’s [happening on] the screen. And I think for a premium offering, this now truly raises the bar on giving the moviegoer exceptional value. Dolby Cinema is offering them a way of seeing the movie that is just as excellent as when the filmmakers go and watch their work behind studio walls.”

Except there is also a video-walled entrance that sets the mood at the Dolby Cinema. And that’s almost as good as being on the set.