With Hollywood set to give us over a dozen 3D feature films in the next twelve months, demand for 3D technology is at an all-time high. As the roll out of digital cinema has taken the industry longer to implement than expected, Thomson’s Technicolor Business Group has announced what it says is an affordable alternative 3D process that works with existing 35mm cinema projectors. While the introduction of such technology will expand the current reach of 3D, not everyone, it seems, is singing Technicolor’s praises.
The Technicolor 3D Solution uses an existing technique known as “over under” which splits the film frame in half horizontally, each part of the film being printed with a separate image for each eye. Technicolor has patented a lens system that assembles the left and right images as the film runs through a conventional 35mm projector, resulting in a high quality 3D image being produced. Two necessary additions are a silver theater screen, which can also be used for digital 3D content once the changeover is made to digital, as well as the circular polarized glasses currently used for existing 3D digital cinema.
Of the 40,000 theaters in North America, currently an estimated 6,500 screens have been converted to digital. Of those, it is thought that around 2,500 screens will be 3D – ready by year's end. Technicolor states that its new 3D technology is an opportunity to “bridge the gap” until digital cinema takes the helm, as well as being “within economic reach” to exhibitors who have been unable to make the hefty financial investment that changing over to digital requires. It argues that the system can be easily installed and doesn’t require a significant re-fit or the like, and features the added benefit of increased revenue through higher ticket prices for 3D features.
The announcement of Technicolor’s plans has been met with a mixed reaction from industry pundits. Some believe that prolonging the use of older technology will deter moviegoers from further embracing 3D film, when many are only just starting to take it seriously. They claim the “over under” technique has inherent image steadiness issues and question whether exhibitors will take on the extra cost of installing silver screens in their theaters.
Ahmad Ouri, Technicolor’s Chief Marketing Officer has refuted claims of this nature, stating that Technicolor is not trying to take on digital 3D, but rather offer a solution to the scarcity of 3D screens currently available – again, slowed by the delay in the change to digital. Ouri also points out that the outlay for the silver screens will pay for themselves as they are compatible with future digital 3D technologies. Critics have also raised the issue of whether the format offers adequate brightness, with Technicolor stating it was satisfied with recent trials using a 4kw lamp resulting in a luminance of around 5.0ft-L (a measure of brightness). Research firm OTX recently ran a poll with 300 moviegoers who favorably ranked Technicolor 3D as being comparable to digital 3D cinema.
So will the Technicolor 3D Solution ultimately promote and increase accessibility of the 3D genre, resulting in a happy Hollywood ending? Only time will tell.
Credit: Digital Cinema Report