The Catalyst Award 2019: HFR, LED and HDR

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Fri, 03/22/2019 - 11:51 -- Nick Dager

In a week or so, industry professionals from around the world will gather at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for this year’s CinemaCon, the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners.In a week or so, industry professionals from around the world will gather at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for this year’s CinemaCon, the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners. There, from April 1-4, they will discuss the latest issues, trends and technologies in motion picture distribution and exhibition. For many of them, new technology will be the focus of their attention. This year’s technology conversations seem certain to include three acronyms in particular: HFR, LED and HDR. Chances are, technology centered on one of these will earn a Catalyst Award. But there are always surprises at CinemaCon.

There, from April 1-4, they discuss the latest issues, trends and technologies in motion picture distribution and exhibition. For many of them, new technology will be the focus of their attention. This year’s technology conversations seem certain to include three acronyms in particular: HFR, LED and HDR. Chances are, technology centered on one of these will earn a Catalyst Award. But there are always surprises at CinemaCon.

As has been widely reported, Paramount sent a letter to exhibitors recently to ask them to test their theatres to ensure that they are able handle high frame rate technology, in both 2D and 3D, this in anticipation of Ang Lee’s newest film, Gemini Man starring Will Smith.

The sci fi thriller will be presented in 60 frames per second 3D, and 120fps 2D in 4K-resolution as opposed to the standard 24fps 3D and 2D.  In the letter, Paramount said, “We want to do everything possible to make projecting the high frame rate version of Gemini Man a turnkey experience for you and provide audiences with the latest technological advancement in cinema.”

It’s not surprising then that several manufacturers have indicated they will be showing HFR technology at CinemaCon.

Samsung and Sony both unveiled prototype LED cinema screens at CinemaCon two years ago and Samsung brought its Onyx screen to market last year. While sales have been slow to date, there is no question that the technology has caught the attention of exhibitors worldwide and especially in China. Look to see upgrades in the technology next month as well as the possibility of one or more new LED companies entering the field.

For the fifth year in a row we will present the Catalyst Award to the best new technology at CinemaCon.For several years now, filmmakers have been lobbying to shoot and show their films in high dynamic range. Many exhibitors have pushed backed, largely because the technology is admittedly more costly than standard movies. The question is whether audiences can tell the difference enough to justify the cost.

Finally, we could add one more acronym to the mix: PLF. Premium large format theatres have been a trend for several years now and that shows no signs of slowing down. Exhibitors see at least two benefits to PLF auditoriums: they can charge a premium for tickets and they can deliver an experience that their patrons simply can’t get at home.

This year, as we have for the last five years, Digital Cinema Report will present Catalyst Awards to the companies with the best new technology introduced at the show.

Catalyst Award winning products spring from concepts that don’t simply improve a particular distribution or exhibition process; they often point to a completely different way of doing things. Some people call these developments disruptive and often that’s true. But the best of these ideas catch on as people see the value they provide, regardless of the cost and in a very short time they become the way everyone works. These are the technologies that merit a Catalyst Award.

See you at CinemaCon.