Each year, Digital Cinema Report presents a Catalyst Award to the best new technology introduced at CinemaCon, the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners. At this year’s show, held April 1-4 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, motion picture professionals from around the world gathered to discuss the latest issues, trends and technologies in motion picture production, distribution and exhibition. But this CinemaCon was noteworthy as much for the technology that was not on display there as for what was.
A case in point was the absence of any LED screens for cinema on display. Most observers thought that at least one and perhaps two new LED companies would exhibit at this show but there were none. Samsung and Sony had a presence but neither brought an actual LED screen. And while there were a few augmented and virtual reality demonstrations, neither AR nor VR had the kind of presence as in previous years. It was as if the industry as a whole was catching its breath. That is not uncommon in technology-driven events, which is what CinemaCon is increasingly becoming in the digital cinema era. This kind of pause enables manufacturers to focus on selling and their exhibitor customers to breath a sigh of relief that their investments won’t be obsolete before the ink is dry on their purchase order.
That said, there was new technology introduced at the show and several new products that stood out for special attention. Here, then, in alphabetical order, are this year’s Digital Cinema Report Catalyst Award winners:
Cinionic Barco 4K Laser Projector
The Barco Series 4 projector from Cinionic, the joint venture between Barco, CGS and ALPD, is future-proofed for tomorrow. It leverages 4K, RGB-laser, as well as being ready for 4K 120fps high frame rate, high-dynamic-range and wide-color-gamut capabilities. The Series 4 is designed with both exhibitors and audiences in mind, building on Barco’s heritage in cinema projection. Cinionic market experts and Barco’s R&D team spent several years working directly with customers to solve the challenges they are facing in today’s cinema landscape. The result is a brand-new projector family, specifically designed for the cinema of today and market of tomorrow in mind. The Barco Series 4 laser projectors offer Barco Active Image Management to deliver an unmatched image on screen and Barco EcoPure design to make it the greenest cinema projector ever created.
“Cinionic was founded to meet the demands of the evolving cinema industry. As more filmmakers are creating content in 4K, exhibitors need to showcase these advancements on screen. Our Barco Series 4 laser projectors provide a unique opportunity for exhibitors to bring 4K into mainstream theaters by combining the technology advancements of laser with efficient set-up and unprecedented financial solutions,” said Wim Buyens, CEO of Cinionic. “Our new generation of laser projectors makes it easier for any theater - from independent cinemas to multiplexes - to offer audiences differentiated experiences. We are excited to showcase these and many more enhanced solutions during this year’s CinemaCon.”
The integrated and silent design makes the new platform ready for all theatre designs, including boothless setups. The new design makes doing repairs and maintenance easier than ever. The first four projectors models of the Barco Series 4 line-up are now available.
Dolby CP950 Cinema Processor
The Dolby Cinema Processor CP950 is the newest innovation in Dolby’s line of cinema processors. It has more of the capabilities exhibitors want — and less of those they don’t — in a flexible, modular, cost-efficient design. The CP950 supports the company’s most seamless means of installing Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound, and includes an expansion slot for future upgradability to Dolby Atmos to deliver the most memorable and creatively accurate sound experience for your guests.
A brand-new feature set includes a built-in booth monitor, an intuitive front-panel user interface, a color touchscreen, and a web interface for enhanced access and usability. Other features optimized for today’s cinemas include internal loudspeaker crossover, a high-resolution multi-rate EQ, 16 channels of analog output, audio-over-Ethernet supporting both AES67 or Blu-Link protocols.
Other feature of the CP950 include:
Upgradeable to full Dolby Atmos capability (with future Dolby Atmos expansion card)
Built-in booth monitor to simplify operations and QA
Touchscreen front panel interface for easy control
Web user interface for remote configuration and control
Dolby Atmos Designer compatibility for setup and precise system calibration
Internal crossovers to enhance sound and reduce installation cost
High-resolution multi-rate EQ
Modular mechanical design for field upgradability and serviceability
GDC Technology FAST Media Servers
GDC Technology’s two new media server series, the SR-5400 and the SR-6400, are designed with advanced features to enable the cinematic techniques used by filmmakers to enhance the imagery. The SR Series media servers offer Flexible Architecture Stable Technology (FAST) for 4K high frame rate and next-generation 4K 3D.
The newly designed web-based UI is user-friendly and intuitive. With drag-and-drop, filtering and navigating functions, operators can easily switch between tabs or pages. Wireless access is also enabled by using mobile devices such as a smart phone or tablet.
The SR Series list of features includes:
Capable of playing DCP content in 4K 3D and 4K@60fps
Seamlessly integrate with new DLP Cinema projectors including the Barco SR-5400B, Christie SR-5400C and NEC SR-5400N
Designed with diskless CineCache built-in cache memory playback
Content playback can be performed without the need of local HDD storage.
Ultra Storage technology that enables the playback of more 2,000 movies with Cinema Automation CA2.0.
“In 2012, moviegoers were introduced to a new filmmaking technique to show greater detail. GDC supported this high frame rate technology by introducing solutions for cinemas worldwide to playback the filmmaker’s intent”, said Dr. Man-Nang Chong, founder, chairman and CEO of GDC Technology Limited. “In this industry and in others, the word game-changing is used often. The SR-5400 and SR-6400 IMB Series continues the company’s history of first to market solutions and passion to constantly improve the moviegoing experience. These two new media servers are going to truly change the way the world watches movies with the capability to show futuristic cinematic techniques.”
MyCinema RacerX Club NASCAR Race Car Simulator
eSports is relatively new to mainstream exhibition but it is clearly an event cinema trend with tremendous potential. While the technology offered by myCinema’s RacerX Club NASCAR Race Car Simulator is not strictly new, the concept it is presenting is new to movie theatres and offers exhibitors a brand new event cinema opportunity. Cinemacon 2019 was the launch event for the myCinema RacerXClub.
As the company claims, “the RacerX Club is one of the more unique in theatre offerings to hit the CinemaCon floor and is designed to drive new audiences for in-theater experiences.”
The concept is simple. The myCinema RacerXClub includes a loyalty program and club member management software. A consumer can join a club or find new clubs as they move or travel. The software allows them to qualify to be part of a local team that would represent the local club in league competitions. In 2020 the company plans to organize the local clubs into myCinema RacerX Leagues, which will operate much like any sports league.
The simulator can be run like an arcade for qualifying runs in the lobby. Then, on race day the simulators are moved into theatre auditorium and the competition is streamed via myCinema to the big screen. On race day movies and other racecar related programs would be screened in between events.
I took a test drive and, as someone who loves to drive fast and has my fair share of speeding tickets to show for it, I found the experience realistic, exhilarating and addictive.
Canadian exhibitor Cineplex currently has myCinema RacerX Club NASCAR Race Car Simulators in four locations in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. All of them are in the arcade configuration.