At the beginning of December 2013, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview David McIntosh, the Vice President of Sony Digital Cinema. Unfortunately I was unable to meet David directly in person, so had to conduct the interview via telephone, but we were still able to have a productive and interesting discussion that focused on looking back at 2013 and what was coming up, specially for Sony.
Look back in 2013 – Sony & Digital Cinemas
A reasonable amount of the interview was not surprisingly about the new Sony SRX-R510P projector which had been publicly announced the day before. You can read the full press release, with photographs here, but in summary this is a projector which is based on the RX515P aimed at screens up to 10 metres. For Sony the SRX-R510P projector launch represents what they consider to be a full suite of projectors from the smallest to the largest, which 18 months ago they did not have.
For David the other big thing for Sony was that 4K has really hit the consumer market through a variety of different manufacturers. All the television manufacturers and others are talking about 4K devices, and the first test broadcasts have started to take place in the UK. It is about image quality is really important and according to David, Sony produces “the best image quality”. (Image quality was a phrase which was used repeatedly throughout our interview).
With the introduction of the SRX-R510P and the expected price to be in the 32-35k euro mark it starts to become possible for community and pop-up cinemas to think about installing or making use of one for film screenings, especially if it also offers the opportunity if 4K images. Added to this, as David pointed out a few times, is a lower cost of ownership due to the configurable nature of the bulbs and therefore the length of their use. Many cinemas only need to run 2 bulbs for a 2D film meaning that it could be several years before there is a need to replace them.
We talked about other highlights from the year, included the demonstration I saw of the SRX-R515P projector at the Norden Farm Centre of the Arts, and how the 4K projector has helped to definite it from the other cinemas in the local area. You can read about this here.
This how area of a smaller projector and the Sony family of projectors and about the other benefits to smaller cinemas of having digital projection which was around the availability of the content. In the 35mm days cinemas such as Thurso Cinema would not have been able to have got hold of print, but these days they are able to show 5 different films over the course of the weekend depending on the requirements of the local community – it can now dynamically change the films and that in turn will change the market.
The SRX-R510P is based on the same technology of the SRX-R515P and in fact they have the same foot print. Although the SRX-R510P is able to show 3D content, Sony is not recommending it. But along with the three projector family, Sony also has three different 3D options (RealD, Sony 3D and Dolby) depending on screen type and licensing requirements. But like the other two projectors there still needs to be a lens change between 2D and 3D. David claims that with the aid of the lens change table it even he can do the change in under 20 seconds, and the bulbs can also be changed equally as quickly and easily.
Over the year Sony has put a lot of effort into their training including putting more of it online, including the launch of a training portal and a dealer portal with lots of background material to help support content around Sony projector and 4K films.
Other Key Developments
Apart from the full range of products the other key development is 4K coming to the consumer world. Even the Apple Retina is now 3K, which is more than simply HD thus proving that the journey from HD to higher resolutions is really happening even in computing. Sony sees as helping to back-up their long stance of only ever releasing 4K projectors. Seeing the 4K world happening is seen as the same as going from Standard Definition to High Definition.
So with all this 4K being mentioned in the consumer world, I asked David whether he thought that it was essentially watering down the brand? But David thinks that instead it helps as it shows that cinemas are at the leading edge of technology. It is in the cinema now and can be experienced by the consumer, it will take a while before it is common place in the home and by that time 8K maybe available, byt that is a way off for either the cinema or consumer.
Talking about 4K we talked briefly about arching of content, which David said was an interesting area and we talked briefly about Grover Crisp, – old digital restorations needs to be done at 4K because it is close to the natural 35mm negative. You can read about the restoration of Lawrence of Arabia here.
While the Nordics, France and UK have pretty much finished converting to digital there are still opportunities in the rest of Europe, especially Turkey, Spain, Greece and Italy. And with the introduction of the RX510P it means that the smaller screens which may not have converted are not left behind.
But David also said that they are starting to see exhibitors who originally invested in 2K in the early years who are looking to replace their machines and replacing them with 4K, thus helping the market. So Sony are seeing an opportunity and possibilities in the equipment replacement and upgrade market.
During 2013 there have been a number of different stories around the use of Lazer light in projection, so it was eventual that I was going to ask about this. Sony had showed off their laser light projector at NEB a few years ago, and although it is coming and being worked on, it is a little way away just yet. Especially as there are a number of regulations and other issues for the use of laser light is still to be resolved.
The final part of the conversation was about distribution in the new digital world. Once digitisation happens in any industry change starts to speed up. Digitalisation has been going on for a number of years. Ultimately think that both methods (satellite and LAN) will be seen in the future; David’s predication is in about a year we will see a major change. From a studio point of view they want to capture on the investment.
This was the first time that I had the opportunity to “meet” David, and it was a very interesting and quick hour of discussion. Image quality ones one of the main phrases which came up again and again, usually in response to both 4K and the Sony Projectors. I didn’t get the opportunity to see the SRX-R510P operating but I enjoyed theSRX-R515P earlier in the year and it produced a great image. It is what we all want for the audience is the best possible picture (and sound) they possibly can have to help provide the best possible cinema experience. I will be taking David up on the opportunity to visit the Sony offices in Basingstoke and see the projectors for myself and will report back when I do.
Sony Digital Cinema have obviously had a good 2013 and enter 2014 in a strong position
My thanks to David McIntosh for his time and the team at Bite Global PR for arranging it.