Will Be First Public Showing of a Laser-Projected Feature-Length 3D Film

IBC has just confirmed that a 3D screening of Martin Scorsese's Hugo, prepared for a 14-foot lambert presentation (2D brightness levels with 3D glasses) via laser-illuminated projection, will close the IBC Big Screen showcase on Monday, September 10. The screening, courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Christie and XPAND 3D, will be the first public showing of a feature-length 3D film using laser projection and also the public premiere of Christie's prototype laser-engine projector.

Laser-illuminated projection, which Christie in particular has been promoting alongside high-frame-rate (HFR) content, made its official premiere on April 25 at CinemaCon. There, a prototype Barco projector showed attendees what a variety of formats, from 2D and 3D to 4K, look like when projected via laser illumination on to a 70-foot screen. Twelve days earlier, Christie hosted a one-day "HFR Summit" at its Kitchener, Ontario manufacturing plant, giving heavyweights like Matt Cowan, Doug Trumbull and Demetri Portelli the first demonstration of HFR content projected by its prototype laser projector. Earlier this month, Trumbull and Cowan joined VFX guru Dennis Muren and Avatar producer Jon Landau at SIGGRAPH to discuss HFR in a panel sponsored by Christie, though laser projection was only a footnote to talk of how HFR will change post workflows.

Why Laser?
As Christie sees it, laser projection will improve the current state of dimly lit cinema screens, particularly those showing 3D content, by merging the "perfect light source" with "the perfect processor" through DLP technology. The combination is intended to give audiences exactly what filmmakers obsess over during the production and post process: the broadest possible color gamut, sharp contrast ratios and brightness levels that showcase their images the way they intend them to be seen. On the business side, Christie maintains, theater owners should get a more reliable projector and a lower cost of ownership when investing in the technology. The Laser Illuminated Projection Association (LIPA), a nonprofit consortium of like-minded companies and individuals, has a collection of related articles and additional information on the technology, some of it emphasizing the environmental benefits of laser projection over the heavy-metals-based xenon short-arc lamps that have been used in cinema projectors since the 1950s.

That last point gets a bit more complicated when you remember that laser is actually an acronym for "light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation" and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which classifies laser use for medical, business and entertainment applications. LIPA is aiming to modify the current FDA requirements for lasers, first implemented during the height of laser light show popularity in the 1980s. As the consortium points out, "the projected light from a laser illuminated projector is essentially no more hazardous than the light from current cinema projectors." In fact, they argue, because the light emitted from laser-illuminated cinema projectors is processed through DLP when it leaves the projector, it doesn’t legally qualify as laser light in the first place.

IBC organizers have scheduled a variety of other screenings on the IBC Big Screen, including presentations by ARRI, Assimilate, Canon and RED, for the duration of the show. The conference runs from September 6 – 11 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam.