It's a 4K world: Sony Digital Cinema projects next generation in Barcelona
“The 4K world is here now. It is the future of moving images, whether in a cinema, at home or on your games console.”
David McIntosh, VP, Sony Digital Cinema, Sony Europe, thus invites exhibitors to “partner with Sony Digital Cinema 4K to enhance and differentiate your business in the long term.” There’s no better place to do so than CineEurope, where Sony not only has a strong presence on the tradeshow floor with a “private cinema,” exclusive demos and new products and services, but is also joining the parallel International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA) conference, participating in several panels and co-hosting a session with its sister company, Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Sony Digital Cinema has now shipped some 13,000 4K projectors worldwide, with the main growth stemming from the European market in the last 12 months. “Needless to say, Europe is not a single country,” McIntosh notes. “Whilst some countries such as France or the U.K. have almost completed the conversion to digital screens under direct or third-party VPF programs…other European territories are way behind, mainly due to commercial—if there are no VPF agreements available—or economical challenges.”
Citing successful deals with Vue, Apollo, Everyman and Showcase cinemas in his U.K. home market, McIntosh reminds us that Sony also has VPF contracts in place with six Hollywood studios and with more than 60 European film distributors. Sony Digital Cinema can “offer both funded VPF digitalization options over eight- to ten-year terms as well as an exhibitor-funded option,” he explains. “For those who wish to manage their own financial relationships with distribution, local government subsidies and national funding schemes, we can supply equipment via our dealer network or directly if required. We have also developed a direct ‘box sale’ purchasing offer with direct financing over five to seven years to enable each exhibitor to harness the power of digitization whatever the external environment.
“As we reinforce our commitment to be a long-term partner to exhibitors, we tailor our offering to each and every one of them,” he continues. “The ongoing digitization of cinemas and the pressure to find new revenue streams mean that exhibitors like Vue in the U.K. or CinemaxX in Germany are constantly looking to us to deliver the ultimate viewing experience for their customers, whether it be in the lobby or during the actual screening.”
McIntosh and his country teams (refer to "Meet Your 4K Match" below) have also seen “strongly growing interest” from independent cinemas. “They have realized that the superior image quality of Sony 4K and also the power of our brand allows them to enhance and differentiate the experience they provide to their customers significantly. The Netherlands are a good example, where most of the initial rollout was based on a lower-resolution HD standard. Those who did not join the program are now very much interested in differentiating themselves and enhancing their customers’ experience—and Sony provides them with everything they need to do so.”
Enhancement is particularly important to McIntosh in view of the larger picture he has painted above. “With new 4K offerings coming to market from our consumer group, as well as those from Panasonic, Canon and LG, we are now truly seeing the arrival of the 4K-resolution world.” In addition to the consumer space, McIntosh points out that with Sony’s F65 digital motion picture camera “taking Hollywood by storm, we now see true 4K film production—based on a full 4K workflow—as the benchmark for future filmmaking.” He is clearly delighted that “with Sony 4K in their cinemas, so many exhibitors…will stay ahead of the home environment and be able to give their customers a superior-resolution picture experience regardless of screen size. Ultimately it’s the image on screen that matters most and foremost to moviegoers.”
In Barcelona, Sony will present the full range of technology and software that 4K Digital Cinema has to offer in such matters. “We have chosen CineEurope as our worldwide platform to launch our ‘next-generation’ 4K projector which will bring to all exhibitors,” McIntosh promises, “the ultimate resolution of 4K and Sony’s ‘easy on the eye’ 3D.” While incorporating “the immersive, natural viewing experience of our dual-lens 3D technology,” the next-generation 4K d-cinema system is a “completely newly developed projector equipped with high-pressure mercury lamp, IMB, server with standard storage capacity of 4TB and capable of high-speed content transfer, a 15” touch panel monitor” and more.
“The private ‘cinema’ next to our meeting room in the conference center is open to all to come and enjoy the incredible 4K images that this new projector produces… The image quality has to be seen to be believed,” he enthuses. “So we recommend everyone to ensure that this product demonstration is part of their show experience.” If anyone still needs convincing, “Sony aims to bring these 4K benefits to all exhibitors with lower price and lower cost of ownership,” he offers.
The tradeshow stand “will also feature details of Sony’s other key products.” McIntosh continues with his exclusive preview for our readers, naming the “industry-leading Theatre Management System (including a new ‘lite’ TMS developed for the independent exhibitor), lobby and concessions signage software and hardware solutions, and our remote monitoring and support system called Cinewatch.” Also on the agenda are Sony’s lightweight Entertainment Access Glasses with Audio Assist, “which allow hearing-impaired and visually impaired customers to join any film screening with the other visitors for the first time,” as well as sharing “our experience in bringing content like Wimbledon Live in 3D to cinemas worldwide.” (For more alternative content, see Melissa Keeping’s report in this issue.)
That leaves high frame rates and laser as the latest and, for this report, last buzz words to be discussed. Sony will join the laser panel at CineEurope, McIntosh confirms. “The successful laser technology demonstration that we made at CinemaCon and NAB in April…showed laser is able to deliver rich color reproduction, and is a high-brightness solution. There is still significant development to come, but we do think that laser will be a key technology for Sony Digital Cinema in the future.”
Already here is Sony’s HFR software. “Sony is unique among manufacturers as we are able to offer high-frame-rate capability to all our existing installed projectors with a simple software upgrade, which can be applied remotely.” In other words, “on Sony equipment, no hardware change or upgrade is needed for HFR.”
In closing, David McIntosh once again assures, “Sony is committed to the cinema and exhibition industries and will to continue to offer new products, features and benefits to all its existing solutions. A partnership with Sony Digital Cinema 4K ensures not only the best possible viewing experience but is also the platform to differentiation and brand enhancement for exhibitors.”
Meet Your 4K Match
Sony Digital Cinema will “have a significant team in attendance with both Japanese engineers and management as well as local sales advisors to support their customers wherever they are,” the company noted. Sony is also bringing in the pan-European engineering support team, thereby “facilitating direct local-language second-line support to all Sony dealers and customers.”
Pierre Frank Neveu, Country Director, France
Tim Potter, Country Director, United Kingdom
Tore Mortensen, Country Director, Nordics and Benelux
Enrico Ferrari, Country Director, Italy and Spain
Tamas Kelemen, Country Director, Eastern Europe: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Southeast Europe and Turkey
Stefan Zingel, Country Director, Germany
David McIntosh, VP, Sony Digital Cinema, Sony Europe
Oliver Pasch, Director of Sales, Sony Digital Cinema, Sony Europe
Francesca Jones, Director of Marketing Communications, Sony Digital Cinema, Sony Europe
Michihiro Tobita, Director of Product Marketing, Sony Digital Cinema, Sony Europe
7K Enjoy 'MIB3' 4K in Berlin
In a follow-up to May’s “European Update” column, Sony Pictures Releasing Germany was happy to report that, with 6,819 guests attending, the Berlin premiere of Men in Black 3 made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Walking 280 meters of red carpet (920 feet) and a 40-meter press line, Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Nicole Scherzinger and director Barry Sonnenfeld entered the O2 World arena, where Sony Digital Cinema had set up everything and more to light up the 25.9 by 14 m polarized Harkness screen (85 by 46 feet).
German trade weekly Filmecho reported that in order to get the best possible 3D image and brightness in such a huge venue, a special color-for-brightness corrected DCP was created and then approved on-site by a grading expert who was flown in from the United States. Whereas 4.5 foot-Lamberts onscreen is a generally accepted standard for 3D, Sony Digital Cinema Europe’s sales director, Oliver Pasch, noted that the Men In Black were shining bright at 6.1, with the possibility of going as high up as 8.5 foot-Lamberts. Sony installed four of its SRX-320 4K projectors—plus two as back-up systems—carefully aligning all the images for perfect sync and overlap. Unlike other 3D systems, he pointed out, Sony projectors and attached RealD systems do not alternate the images for each eye but show them concurrently on top of each other. Last but not least, Dolby Laboratories assured that the sound was correctly calibrated for the movie and general acoustical properties of the hall. A recorded live stream from the premiere is available online.