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LCoS DIGITAL CINEMA DISPLAY TECHNOLOGY RUINS THE CLASSIC BLACK AND WHITE LOOK OF CASABLANCA Print E-mail
Written by Kevin Miller   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012

casablanca-poster.jpgOn Thursday April 26th, Casablanca was shown across the country at select theaters using Digital Cinema grade projectors. I was very excited to catch this event at our local Island 16 theater in Holtsville, New York, which is outfitted with Sony's latest 4K SXRD Digital Cinema projector, which is basically a very large 4K resolution LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projector. I was expecting a true 4K resolution presentation via a server as my understanding is this film and many others have been archived in the new 4K format. Unfortunately, the source was a 1080p DishNetwork satellite broadcast distributed by Fathom Events.

Dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, the color temperature for projected black and white film with projectors using Carbon Arc lamps was between 5000 and 5500K. With the introduction of the Xenon Arc lamp, replacing the Carbon Arc lamp, the color temperature inched up to somewhere between 5400 and 5600K, which applied for both color and black and white film presentations. In the 1960s when the screens became larger dichroic-coated reflectors and heat filters were added to the light path resulting in another color temperature increase between 5400 and 6000K. To have an accurate black and white presentation, any digital projector should be calibrated to a color temperature of 5400 to 5600K.

I brought in my Minolta CS200 chroma meter to take some screen shots to determine if the theater had calibrated the projector to a black and white color temperature or left at the DCI specification for color film presentation. I was only able to get one measurement off of the screen at the very opening of the film as the narrative began. It was a medium bright scene at the beginning of the film that measured x=323, y=344. The x and y coordinates are closer to the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specifications (x=.314,y=.351)  even though the content was delivered in the Rec 709 HDTV format, which means that the projector was setup to a different reference than the content was delivered in.

To my trained eye the picture in the Holtsville, New York Theater where I saw the film did not seem to be anywhere near the Digital Cinema specification of a minimum of 14 Footlamberts of peak light output. Black level was also way too high, which indicates to me the projector was not setup correctly at all. The real deal breaker was the lack of white field uniformity, which was atrocious. In most of the scenes, the image was minus green on the left half of the screen which gave a magenta cast to that side of the screen, and distinctly green on the right half of the screen, which gave everything on that side of the screen a green hue. These color shifts were so distracting that if it weren’t for the fact that I love Casablanca as a movie, and wanted to see it again, I would have left the theater in disgust.

John Bishop of Bishop Audio Services in New England and Jim Doolittle, a fellow calibrator based in Boston also saw the movie in a theater outside of Boston. The screen shots below taken from the presentation they both experienced show the magenta and green color shift, which was dramatically worse than the one I experienced. The discoloration was also in a much larger portion of the overall screen area than the one I observed. The theater they went to also used a Sony 4K projector, but the projectionist told John Bishop that it had been calibrated for a peak light output of 18fTL. at the center of the screen, which was definitely not the case with the projector in the theater I was in.

casablanca1.jpgThe Blu-ray version of this film looks far superior in my home theater on a calibrated Samsung SP-A900B 1-chip DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector projected onto a Stewart Filmscreen Vistascope screen with StudioTek 100 material. When calibrated to D65 for color, the Samsung automatically derives a black and white setting, which is roughly 5400 to 5600 Kelvin in the Movie 2 picture mode, a nice side benefit to calibration. The fact of the matter is that Digital Cinema grade DLP projectors at half the resolution (1920 x 1080) deliver far more accurate and engaging pictures with none of the white field uniformity issues we saw on the Sony LCoS projector.

Mainly because of its White Field Uniformity problems, LCoS or SXRD display technology introduces color uniformity problems in color films, and these color uniformity issues are exacerbated when reproducing black and white content. We all agree that the Sony SXRD display technology for Digital Cinema theatrical presentations is woefully inadequate for the job, and will not do justice to any film presentation, and is particularly poor with black and white reproduction.

If this is the future of Digital Cinema projection in theaters, then theatrical presentations will no longer be capable of delivering the film director’s artistic vision accurately.  We need to lobby Hollywood and the DCI to set standards for Digital Cinema presentations that will prevent the use of sub-standard visually inaccurate displays from destroying our film heritage.

 

casablanca2.jpg

 

 By Kevin Miller with contributions from Jim Doolittle Display Color Specialist, fellow professional video calibrator, and member of The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects, and John Bishop of Bishop Audio Services and founder of The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects.

 

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Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 May 2012 )
 
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