Sony Electronics (Los Angeles, CA; www.sony.com) has not been a big player in the Digital Cinema revolution so far. DLP projectors with 2K (2048 x 1080) resolution are the mainstream approach today and into the foreseeable future. But Sony has developed a 4K (4096 x 2160) SXRD projector for digital cinema that it believes will be the next generation system. Judging by some of the company’s recent moves, that next generation roll-out is ready to begin now.
Senior Analyst and Editor
for Insight Media
At ShoWest for example, Sony announced the formation of a new integrated business group that will provide movie theater owners with a variety of tools to support the sales and marketing of 4K CineAlta digital projection systems in the United States.
The new Digital Cinema Services and Solutions Division will be based in LA and provide a turn-key solution for exhibitors, as well as services including equipment installation, maintenance and financing programs, plus the necessary expertise to create alternative sources for entertainment content. It will focus on developing a seamless business-to-business model that features everything from projectors and servers to advanced security and content production.
To achieve this goal, the group will coordinate its activities with other Sony operations, including Sony Electronics’ various sales and marketing units in the US, as well as Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Sony Digital Cinema development team in Tokyo. The group will also work with an array of other companies in order to facilitate the overall growth of the digital cinema industry.
Naturally, Sony is optimistic about the prospects for 4K cinema. Apparently, most film scans are now done at a 4K resolution, making them quite compatible with the projector. This means Sony will be looking to its archives to find content to run on these CineAlta projectors. In addition, it wants to support the display of alternative content such as sporting events. For example, on March 25th Sony plans a private demo of the system to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HD Net. The demo will consist of a transmission of one of the Dallas NBA games.
A similar digital content distribution service for movie theaters in Japan was also announced just after ShoWest. Sony will reportedly digitally record and distribute the content of theatrical plays, musicals, theatrical arts and sports events to cinemas across Japan. Out of more than 3,000 screens in Japan today, there are only about 100 digital screens, so there is plenty of opportunity to sell 4K projectors.
In May 2008, Sony will start distributing the recording of the musical "Metro ni Notte (Riding the Metro)," which was performed at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space by Human Design Co. Ltd. in December 2007. Initially targeting cinemas in the Kanto District, the company is planning to operate the business nationwide later, Sony said.
Today, Sony’s only 3D solution is a dual-projector approach, but Sony acknowledged it is working on a single-projector solution as well and thinks this is about a year away. The company also acknowledged that getting the switching speed of the SXRD panels fast enough for 3D will be a challenge. When we discussed the possibility of developing a single chassis, dual-engine solution to the 3D problem, Sony understood the benefits of this approach and acknowledged this may, indeed, be a good solution. Sony also acknowledged it was working with Dolby on the 3D solution, which would lend itself quite well to a dual-core solution.
So far, the company has rolled out 4K solutions to about 100 screen locations including some AMC theaters and Landmark theaters, plus some Muvico sites in Chicago.
Clearly, 4K projectors have 4 times as many pixels as 2K projectors, so you would naturally assume that for the huge IMAX screen, a 4K projector would trump a 2K, right? At ShoWest, IMAX turned that notion on its head as it announced it would go with a 2K DLP solution over the Sony approach. I guess pixels ain’t what they used to be.