HDR on the big screen

Abstract: The best image belongs on the big screen and with improved colors and contrast, cinema can once again be the undisputed go-to venue for immersive story-telling and blockbuster releases.

There are active efforts and early rollouts of display solutions for cinema that focus on basic image quality, including improved high-contrast projectors, IMAX GTX projectors, Dolby’s enhanced dynamic range (EDR) Vision projectors, and more recently demonstrations and installations of high dynamic range (HDR) LED walls by Samsung.  There’s clearly an appetite to improve the image quality on the big screen.

It remains unclear exactly what specs are desirable in a cinematic venue, and what is possible.  HDR solutions are costly, either by multiple levels of modulation to reach deep blacks, or exponential increase in light source size in order to overcome the human visual system’s near logarithmic response to luminance.  Desirable specifications can be estimated and agreed upon, and technical hurdles can most likely be overcome in order to reach them. However, early HDR solutions lie well in the premium segment of cinema, and a premium solution for a mainstream rollout remains elusive.

Incredible Image quality and acceptable cost-levels to the exhibitor has been at the core of the engineering effort that’s gone into Barco’s high-brightness HDR light steering projectors.  The technology reaches deeper blacks and brighter highlights by redistributing or steeringthe light where it needs to go, rather than blocking it which is common in conventional projectors.  The technology has been show-cased in two recent public events, CinemaCon in Las Vegas and Advanced Imaging Society (AIS) in Los Angeles, where custom graded HDR-content from 20thCentury Fox was shown and was received very favorably by exhibitors and movie-professionals.

In this talk, technical aspects, capabilities and limitations of light steering projection will be discussed.  As there appears to be several approaches to HDR being developed, a consistent approach to content reproduction will be discussed and we focus on desirable features in a new DCI specification that allows for interoperability between different HDR technologies (LED, light steering and high contrast displays).

Speaker: Anders Ballestad, CEO, MTT Innovation

Bio:  Anders Ballestad, PhD, is the CEO and co-founder of MTT Innovation Inc, a Barco company that researches and develops high dynamic range solutions for digital cinema and home theater entertainment markets. He has 20 years of experience in R&D focused on physical simulation and imaging and optics applications, color management and tone mapping solutions for HDR and SDR interoperability. As CEO of MTT, he is taking the dream of bringing HDR to the big screen with a team of committed engineers and scientists.  Anders holds a PhD degree in Physics from the University of British Columbia.