3D Projection is Simply Not Bright Enough! Is it Killing the 3D Cinema Industry?
The Hollywood box office has been suffering, experiencing one of its worst summers in nearly a decade! With the simplicity of in-home entertainment these days and captivating series like HBO’s Game of Thrones, it is becoming increasingly hard to get people out to the theater. Retail stores especially are struggling drastically and most are turning to more experiential based retail and immersive entertainment. Can the cinema industry step up its experience by offering higher quality immersive solutions?
In a recent interview on “The Future of the Movie Industry” with Mark Malinowski of National Amusements (a world leader in the motion picture exhibition industry operating more than 950 movie screens in the U.S., U.K. and Latin America), Mark mentions 4D Motion theaters as a possible solution to draw people back to the theaters. While we fully agree, 3D has been losing its appeal for quite some time. Why is this and can it be solved to be made better?
The number one issue with 3D in current cinemas is that 3D projection solutions are simply not bright enough!
For example, when doing lights-on displays experiments, we in presentation AV shoot for min 60 FtL (FtL = foot-lamberts) from a projector-screen combo or min 206 nits from a flat panel display.
Due to the brightness of modern displays, we typically achieve more than twice this amount (e.g. 600 NIT LCDs are almost 3 times as bright as the minimum)
2D Cinemas are required a minimum of only 14 FtL – this is less than 1/4 of the min lights-on brightness (and have to drop the lighting as a result)
3D cinemas are only required to provide 3.5 FtL (less than 6% of the light-on brightness threshold)
Sadly, at 3.5 FtL projected 3D is extremely poor quality! This is due to a combination of at least 3 factors:
Polarization (and other 3D) systems reduce projector light output significantly (as much as 50% or more).
Silver screens (required to maintain polarization) are naturally high gain, meaning that they provide much reduced brightness when sitting off axis from the center of the theater. The very thing that maintains polarity also cuts brightness for most seats.
Required glasses again cut the light available to the eye. (as much as 50% or more)
Our team at HSI Immersive measured the light reduction of an Epson/polarizer combo (even leaving out silver screen off axis losses) and measured that only 22% of the projected light was available to the eye. If you sit off axis in this system, the silver screen will cut it even more. If you sit dead center, you should see more than 22% (due to the on-axis biased nature of silver screens). While we did discover that the new “matte white” 3D screens by Harkness, RealD, and others are bringing up brightness somewhat, they still result in light efficiencies of 12% – 27%, according to Harkness. These are not the matte white that we know, they are just using that term to describe the lower gain of their still highly specular screens.
Bottom line is that projectors, no matter what screen is being used, are simply not bright enough for a satisfying 3D experience. If the cinema industry wants to dive deeper into immersive experiences, and really bring people back to the theaters, they are going to have to invest in LED technology. At 600 Nits for DCHD (double channel high definition) 3D LED, even with a 50% reduction from passive glasses, 3D LED is still at about 88 FtL or more than 6 times the 2D Cinema min of 14 FtL. and more than 25 times the current 3D standard.
With this enhanced quality, viewers can once again enjoy 3D cinema! The cost is still slightly higher, but there are many advantages besides the quality. Overall maintenance is less, the doors are opened for enhanced creativity, design flexibility, and more! What are your thoughts on projection vs. LED for cinema?