Sony Puts Record Straight on High frame Rates

Sony has hit back at perceptions that competitor Christie is leading the charge to introduce high frame rate projection systems into cinema exhibition, claiming that its systems are already advanced for HFR display today.

Christie made headlines when it received the backing of James Cameron in demonstrations of HFR at Cinemacon and IBC earlier this year. It also signed a five year pact with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment to develop and market high frame rate systems.

The series II projectors of Christie and its fellow DLP-based TI licensees, Barco and NEC, require a software upgrade and the installation of an Integrated Media Block (IMB) which overcomes the bandwidth limitations in the connection from server to projector.

All the major projection systems vendors are likely to offer the relatively simple HFR upgrades so that exhibitors avoid having to fund a full system replacement. One estimate puts the cost of an IMB plus firmware upgrade at US $3,000.

Sony also requires a firmware upgrade but has an IMB already incorporated in the design of its SXRD 4K projectors. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit could be projected at 2x48 fps (96 fps) today with the addition of that firmware, Sony claims. All that is missing is the revision of the DCI specifications, which currently only support 48 fps mainly for the purpose of 2x24 fps playback for 3D.

HFR is claimed to improve the image quality, particularly over standard 24fps, on fast-moving scenes and camera pans by reducing visual artefacts such as motion blur, judder, and flicker. The effect is even more apparent on 3D features, since the human eye and brain are more sensitive to such artefacts when separate left and right images are projected, “in particular with systems using triple flash,” said Oliver Pasch, head of european digital cinema sales at Sony Professional.

In fact, the brunt of the cost of switching to higher frame rates will be borne by post production, which is required to increase disk storage space and allocate more time to render special effects. This increases again if 4K projection of 3D content (96fps 4K) is desired.

The DCI specifies that films must be compressed using JPEG 2000 with a maximum bit-rate of 250Mbps. That would ramp up to 400-480Mbps for 48fps and 500-600Mbps for 60 fps. The size of the DCP will increase in similar proportions.

Matt Cuson, senior director of cinema, Dolby Laboratories, notes that some industry studies suggest that an 8K resolution really starts to have a dramatic effect, but HFR will be the most dramatic visual improvement the industry will see in the short term.

Source: TVB Europe