Christie: A practical roadmap to 4K


The industry debate over the value of resolution in digital-cinema formats reached a turning point this past June, when Texas Instruments’ DLP Cinema division and its three projector manufacturing partners, Barco, Christie and NEC, announced that they were developing new 4K technologies. The news came within a few months of top theatre circuits Regal and AMC signing a deal to install thousands of Sony 4K systems, which offer a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, compared to 2K’s resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels. For our annual special section on digital cinema, Film Journal International went directly to the manufacturers to get their vantage points on 4K vs. 2K.

For Christie®, 4K projection has always been on our roadmap for the future, but our first priority is always to understand the needs of our customers. We are focused on providing high-quality products with a proven track record of reliability. Our 4K projection solutions will be built on the same reliable high-performance DLP Cinema® technology that is currently used in our 2K projectors. Leveraging industry-proven, time-tested technology with a modular design that offers our customers flexibility will ensure Christie’s 4K resolution projectors continue to be the industry leader. Like our 2K solutions, our 4K projectors will continue to deliver the lowest cost of ownership of any digital projector and provide ease of serviceability.

As we announced recently, Christie 4K resolution digital cinema projectors will be ready for sale in the fall of 2010. We have added engineering resources and are focused on completing our development with a projector design that exceeds our customers’ expectations. In the meanwhile, while 4K resolution may have a place in the future of the industry, 2K DLP Cinema still represents the better value proposition. Remember that today, less than 5% of cinematic content is distributed in 4K; and 3D content, which is currently driving digital-cinema installations, is only available in 2K resolution.

Even more significant are the tests and surveys that indicate most patrons do not notice any difference between 2K and 4K images in most cinema environments. This is due to a variety of reasons, but mostly because cinemas show motion pictures, not still pictures. For exhibitors, therefore, there is no real benefit to installing more expensive 4K systems today because they don’t provide the same return on investment that 2K does.

Meanwhile, our new DLP Cinema Series 2 projectors will handle 2K data rates as well as those required for 4K content. All that is needed is for Texas Instruments to introduce the 4K imager for Christie to complete the final design and begin the manufacturing process. When Christie introduces its 4K systems, they will be based on proven DLP Cinema technology, backed by millions of hours of “pre-testing” on the world stage, offering the highest level of reliability and performance to our customers.

While we wait for the 4K technology from Texas Instruments, we are continuously seeking ways to improve our existing 2K projection systems by adding further cost-of-operation enhancements, such as full-panel triple-flash capability—which we call Christie Brilliant3D™—to ensure the brightest image for 3D applications. We have also developed the fastest, most accurate motorized lens system in the industry, making Christie projectors easier than ever to operate. These enhancements provide our customers with the lowest cost of operation because lower-power lamps can be used. Christie projectors also offer a simpler, single-lens solution regardless of the format of the material being displayed. The Series 2 platform will allow both Christie’s mid- and high-power models to be 4K-upgradeable right out of the starting gate.

Brian Claypool is responsible for developing and managing Christie's expanding portfolio of digital cinema products worldwide.

Christie® is a registered trademark of Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc. Brilliant3D™ is a trademark of Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc. DLP Cinema® is a registered trademark of Texas Instruments.