Will laser projection see 3D films finally be a success?

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One of the most common complaints about 3D films is that they tend to be too dark – partly due to having to wear those glasses.

3d-cinema-audienceOne solution being worked on is a glasses-free 3D system – which, for most filmgoers, is the preferred option. But in the meantime, a new system from projector maker Christie could make a lot of cinema-goers happy.

At the IBC Big Screen Experience 2014 cinema and TV trade show in Amsterdam this week, Christie showed off its new 3D 6P Laser Projection system.

The laser projector was used to show the 3D films Life of Pi and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to the conference audience.

The new projector system uses Dolby 3D glasses that have been engineered to match the six primary laser light wavelengths, which Christie says yields very high light efficiency.

Dr Don Shaw, the senior director of global marketing solutions at Christie, said in a statement: “Some attendees leave 3D movies complaining of headaches, fatigue, and sore eyes. Just like reading a book in low light levels, low brightness on the movie screen is one of the reasons for these complaints.

“Delivering more lumens to the screen will help address these effects, as will the advent of ‘eye-easy’ high frame rate movies.

“Christie’s latest laser projection technology, using six specific primary colours rather than filtered or polarised broad-spectrum white light, brings dramatically improved 3D efficiency to projection systems, regardless of the size of screen in premium movie theatres.”

Shaw did not say when the laser projection system would be ready for commercial use in cinemas, though it is expected to be three to five years before the technology is economical enough for exhibitors to install.

However, the cost of the equipment – which, at around $500,000, is up to 10 times that of existing digital projection systems – means units are likely to rolled out first in specialist large-format cinemas.

3D-laser-projectionThe old “polarisation” 3D technique uses a single projector to beam two rapidly alternating image streams, each capturing the action at a slightly different perspective.

Polarised filters in the 3D glasses separate the streams so that each eye sees a different one, delivering a sense of depth. But a side-effect of this method is that the film appears darker than in 2D projection.

The new laser system uses two projectors to send the separate images at the same time, allowing both versions to be brighter before they are separated by a new type of glasses.

Rather than using polarisation to separate the images, the new system depends on lasers that use different mixes of light wavelengths to create each colour seen on screen.

Each of the glasses’ two lenses is customised to only allow the wavelengths shown by either one or the other projector through.

Of course, for 3D to continue pulling in audiences, we need to see filmmakers actually shooting films in 3D, rather than relying on post-conversion, and also using the technique properly to give us a film that is actually worth seeing in 3D.

Recent box office figures have indicated that while audiences worldwide preferred to see the 3D version of a movie five years ago, they now favour the 2D version.

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