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Dolby Cinema combines 
HDR video, immersive surround sound

By Mel Lambert

In addition to its advances in immersive surround sound, culminating in the new object-based Atmos format for theatrical and consumer playback, Dolby remains committed to innovating video solutions for the post and digital cinema communities.

Leveraging video technologies developed for high-resolution video monitors targeted at on-location, colorist and QC displays, the company also has been developing Dolby Cinema, which combines proprietary high dynamic range (HDR) Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos immersive sound playback.

The first Dolby Cinema installations comprise a joint venture with AMC Entertainment — the nation’s second-largest theater chain — and, according AMC’s EVP of US operations, John McDonald, the companies are planning to unveil up to 100 such “Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime” theaters around the world within the next decade. To date, approximately a dozen such premium large format (PLF) locations have opened in the US and Europe.

Dolby Vision requires two specially modified, HDR Christie Digital 4K laser projectors, together with state-of-the-art optics and image processing, to provide an HDR output with light levels significantly greater than conventional Xenon digital projectors. Dolby Vision’s HDR output, with enhanced color technology, has been lauded by filmmakers for its enhanced contrast, high brightness and gamut range that is said to more closely match human vision.

Unique to the Dolby Vision projection system, beyond its brightness and vivid color reproduction, is its claimed ability to deliver HDR images with an extended contrast ratio that exceeds any other image technology currently on the market. The result is described by Dolby as a “richer, more detailed viewing experience, with strikingly vivid and realistic images that transport audiences into a movie’s immersive world.”

During a recent system demo at AMC16 in Burbank, Doug Darrow, Dolby’s SVP of Cinema, said, “Today’s movie audiences have an insatiable appetite for experiences. They want to be moved, and they want to feel [the on-screen action]. The combination of our Dolby Vision technology and Dolby Atmos offers audiences an immersive audio-video experience.”

The new proprietary system offers up to 31-foot-Lamberts of screen brightness for 2D Dolby Vision content, more than twice the 14 fL required by the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) specification.

Recent films released in Dolby Cinema include Sony’s The Perfect Guy; Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation; Fox’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials; Fox’s The Martian, Warner’s Pan; and Universal’s’ Everest. Upcoming releases include Warner’s In the Heart of the Sea; Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Disney’s The Jungle Book.

During a series of endorsement videos shown at the Burbank showcase, Wes Ball, director of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, said, “It’s the only way I want to show movies.”

The new theatrical presentation format fits into existing post workflows, according to Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s director of content and creative relations. “Digital cameras are capable of capturing images with tremendous dynamic range that is suitable for Dolby Vision, which is capable of delivering a wide P3 color gamut. Laser projection can also extend the P3 color space to exceed Rec. 2020 [ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020], which is invaluable for animation and VFW. For now, however, we will likely see filmmakers stay within the P3 gamut.”

For enhanced visual coverage, the large-format screens extend from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with matte-back side wall and fittings to reduce ambient light scattering that can easily diminish the HDR experience. “Whereas conventional presentations offer maybe 2,000:1 contrast ratios,” Bowling stressed, “Dolby Vision offers 1,000,000:1 [dynamic range], with true, inky blacks.”

Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service. He can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

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