I have presented or viewed demos of Barco’s revolutionary DP4K-60L around the world - 2D and 3D; 6P and Polar - anticipating these “by invitation” demos came with more than the usual “anticipation” (read anxiety). Finally, I would have the opportunity to see and hear first hand, the reactions of hundreds of critical, creative viewers over two days and seven sessions. Surprisingly, more than eight in ten (by show of hands) in each session had not yet had the opportunity to view and react to this exciting new cinema exhibition technology.
Barco introduced its first flagship model, the DP4K-60L, at Cinemacon in early 2014 and has been selling and installing these integrated, high-brightness, direct laser projectors around the world since. At Cinemacon this year, we introduced three more DP4K-L models, the 45L, 30L and 22L and made our vision clear: to provide “the perfect laser for every screen” - not just for PLF rooms or giant 3D screens. To further reinforce this ‘all laser’ message, we previewed the first model of our coming laser retrofit line - an 18,000 lm laser retrofit kit installed in a stock Barco DP2K-20C, the most widely deployed digital cinema projector in the Barco portfolio. At Cinemacon, Barco announced the future availability of a “laser retrofit kit” for all Series 2 models in the field: C, B and S series; 2K and 4K – the perfect laser for every screen from 5,000 to 30,000+lm.
The goal of our DGA demo sessions was to expose the audience to what the DP4K-L platform is capable of in terms of image quality, consistency and operating flexibility. We started the sessions with two extended clips from Fox shown on Barco Laser3D – single projector 6P at 14fL. We selected a colorful live action scene from the Life of Pi and the hilarious finale of the animated Rio 2 in 3D. Then we introduced some special content supplied by ARRI - sweeping natural scenes, illustrating the hyper-realism of the full 4K laser, a high-contrast clip showing off the enhanced capabilities of the DP4K-L series. From there, the system seamlessly switched to a comparison of two London fly-overs, both with incredible detail and resolution. The first, shot at 24 fps, illustrated the breakup of the high-speed pans at such a low frame rate. The second clip, which combined a high-speed flyover and a final zoom, held up very well in 4K at 60 fps. Finally, the audience was treated to some abstract, night scenes around London to illustrate excellent blacks with saturated colors in the car lights and signage.
Audience reactions were consistent and characterized by both surprise at how good the images looked and instant excitement for this new technology. All of my preshow apprehension disappeared after the first session. Applause, insightful questions, and requests for information followed each of the demos. Each of the seven sessions was unique but all were enjoyed with great enthusiasm.
What makes it so good?
Discussions evolved after each session as viewers tried to put their fingers on what exactly makes the Barco Laser image look so good, while staying within the DCI specifications. The consensus seemed to be a mix of four fundamental benefits of the DP4K-L series of direct (6P RGB) laser:
- 2D and 3D brightness levels at the high end of the DCI specification
- Extremely uniform brightness and color across the frame, macro and micro, into the corners
- High contrast 4K ~2,500:1 (in a very good dark room at the DGA)
- Saturated direct laser colors
In addition to these fundamental benefits, confirmed in the relatively short demos, other benefits were introduced as well. Smooth, high stereo contrast ratio 3D from any seat in the house; full 4K at 60 fps, and the ability to switch quickly from 14fL 3D to 16fL 2D, via macro presets, preserving the pre-calibrated color and brightness levels of each and from 24 to 60 fps.
What the audience did not get to see but can count on is the consistency over time
that the DP4K-L series provides – 30,000 – 40,000 hours of consistent laser brightness and color with no lamp changes ever again.
Let’s get technical
Demo technical particulars were as follows:
- Barco DP4K-45L flagship premium laser projector – running 2D at 20% of full power
- 31x14’ 1.5 gain Stewart Ultra-mat 150 White - 51’ throw
- Barco 4K 6 primary Laser3D at 14fL
- 4K 2D content at 16fL
- 4K 24 and 60 fps content
- Barco Alchemy Series 3 Integrated Cinema Media Processor (ICMP)
Each DGA member and invited guest left his or her session awake to the power of Barco DP4K-L series laser projectors to exhibit their future creative projects – higher, more uniform brightness levels, higher 4K contrast; consistent, more saturated colors; flexible frame rates, and with the confidence that their movies will look outstanding at the premiere, and for every subsequent show.
Special thanks to the DGA for their gracious invitation, beautiful facility and technical support; Fox studios for their specially created 14fL 3D content, ARRI for their Alexa 65 demo content and Moving Image Technologies (MIT) for their support in preparation for and throughout the demos. With the most digital cinema installations (54,000) and the largest installed base of digital cinema laser projectors in the world, it's no surprise Barco leads in market share.