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people in 3D glasses watching a movie in a cinema

Visiting the cinema

Whenever you're visiting the cinema to see the latest Hollywood super-production, or when you're buying popcorn and falling into comfortable chair to see your favorite movie, did you ever wonder what technologies are standing behind the whole process related to what you can see on the screen? What does it look like from the scratch? If you look way behind, it seems like people have always loved hearing touching stories that would expand their imagination.

At first, it was all in the verbalization, then - after the invention of print - in books. At the very end of XIX century, two significant inventions were presented to the world. Both of them were milestones towards art and media communication development. First, in 1896, Paris, brothers Lumiere, using their very own invention called cinematograph, presented the first movie to the audience. Then, during the same year, in London, the first broadcasting station occurred. From now on, it was possible to show moving pictures and hear voice records throughout the whole world. It created an opportunity for the development in the movie industry and basically, it is considered as a beginning of a showbiz.

Do you know that barely 10 years ago, around 90% of every cinema in the world were using quite the same technology as the brothers Lumiere's cinematograph? It was still the time of analog tape. The great breakthrough happened in 2009 when Avatar by James Cameron saw the daylight. It was created from the scratch in the 3D technology, and so it needed to be played on digital projectors. The unexpected success (almost 3 billion$ box office) forced all the industry for the inevitable change - digital technology conquered the world. Interestingly, to this date, only 4 manufacturers produce digital projectors - Barco, Christie, NEC, and Sony.

Three of them use highly advanced screen modulator by Texas Instruments (based on DLP Technology). It is based on micro-mirrors in nano-technology processes. Every single tail measures about 2 inches and contains 2-10 million data files. Sony, on the other hand, uses its own technology, which is called L-CoS (it's based on LCD technology). Standards, that were imposed by 7 biggest studios, contain DCI format and it has been widely accepted by all the industry. It is appealing that the technology known as a today's canon was adopted from the TV industry.

DCI standard imposes all the aspects required in the digital video, such as resolutions (2K and 4K), projections formats (Scope and Flat), protection against illegal copying and the way every file has to be prepared for final display. Nevertheless, due to quality expectations, this technology is constantly evolving. The 3D technology was introduced by such brands like RealD, Volfoni, Depth-Q.

They started to use polarization systems, Dolby3D (with color filtration) and Xpand (active snapshot glasses). All of the above, however, is based on a simple trick, that play on the inertia of a human eye. If both of our eyes witness separate picture with appropriate timing, our brain interprets it as a three-dimensional environment. Apart from video, audio has seen a significant improvement in the last few years as well. Modern cinemas use Dolby Atmos system, which works great with immersive sounds, and creates a surrounding effect. To make the experience even more realistic, speakers are placed also on the ceiling - it moves spectators even closer towards the action. You might want to ask how would the future of the movie industry look like? Is there anything else left that could create such revolutionary changes as we have been witnessing lately? As for today, there are new digital projectors with laser sources of light about to be introduced on the wide-scale.

They are being made by 3 brands - Barco, NEC, and Christie. This technology occurs in 2 variants. First one is designed for common screens (phosphorus lasers), and it is based on the blue lasers and phosphorus filter that move the spectrum of the blue light towards the white light. The second technology contains RGB lasers and is both much more expensive and efficient - the white light is being created with the mixture of polarized laser diodes working on base colors (red, blue and green) of the white light. This method, apart from the fact that it has an inconvertible source of light, provides even better quality of the white light (without any twinkling). The visible effects have improved contrast and color rendering. Projectors based on the RGB technology are also capable of generating much stronger light, which creates an opportunity to display the video on much bigger screens - there are already movie theaters with humongous PLF (Premium Large Format) screens.

The second revolution to come is a projection of extended scale of brightness (HDR - high dynamic range), which increases the number of details in both dark and bright pictures. Other than HRD, the HFR (high frame rate) has already been widely presented. It displays more frames per second and we have already had an opportunity to see how it works in the Hobbit trilogy. Both of these technologies are a huge step in order to increase realistic of movement and details on the screen. There are also highly advanced steps on the active screen technology. It has been introduced by Samsung, and it eliminates completely the need for a standard projector - instead, the screen itself takes over the role of the active matrix. First cinema that supports this technology has been already opened in Switzerland.

Technology is constantly evolving and we can remain sure that producers and film studios will surprise us with new tech-innovations and spectacular film productions in the very near future. It is, however, crucial that new plots and stories would not only be visually attractive but also interesting, funny and clever - so that the nature of the storytelling would remain the same as it was at the very beginning. With emotions, deepness, inspirational acts and wisdom, which we wish for both us and you.