First public demo of Sony 4K projector and media block
Thanks to the fine people at Sony Electronics PR, I had a chance to be in the audience last night at the AMC Burbank for two successive demos of the Sony 4K digital cinema projector. The Sony execs present said this was the first time that a production unit had been shown (earlier demos were run on prototypes). Sony was also using a prototype media block last night that was being shown publicly for the first time; the media block is a device that decrypts and decompresses the video stream coming from the server.
Just some quick impressions, since I'm off to more meetings and interviews today:
- Damn the picture was good. They showed a clip from "The Sound of Music" (the "Do-Re-Mi" musical sequence), and you could see every individual blade of grass on the mountaintop waving in the breeze. A clip from "Star Wars: Episode III" looked just like it must've looked when freshly rendered by the folks at ILM. "Mystic India," an IMAX film, looked bright and crisp - especially a shot with hundreds of worshippers holding candles. During the 6 PM demo (for which I was a bit late), I sat in the second row; in the second demo, I was halfway up the stadium-style theater, in a row that had been marked by the Sony folks as "two screen height."
- The media block prototype was still flukey, dropping audio at one point during the first show, and requiring a reboot. "I have to state, this is a prototype. The projector is real, but this is a prototype," said Sony exec Gary Mandle, whose microphone had stopped working, too. Someone in the audience cracked, "This is a talkie, right?"
- Sony hinted to me that they'll have some big announcements about customers for the 4K projectors at the Showeast trade show in Orlando next week. (At this point, they haven't yet started delivering the 4K projectors - they said that the first few will be shipped later this month. Some customers I've spoken to, like Landmark Theatres, have been expressing frustration at the delays and threatening to consider other options from 2K projector makers.)
- The projector Sony was using was their 10,000 lumen version - list price, $98,550. It's not 3-D capable, and nor will the forthcoming 16,000 lumen version be. Sony execs indicated that they'll work on 3-D once they've finished the 16,000 lumen version (which they hope will actually be 20,000 lumens by the time they're done with it.) Sony said they hope to be cranking out 100 projectors a month by the end of this year.
- They compared a still slide projected by the Sony SXRD-110 to one shown by the Christie CP-2000 (not moving images, though), which didn't look too shabby. The Sony projector offered a bit more detail - for instance, making individual hairs discernable.
- Sony said they'll have more demo units of the SXRD in Hollywood by December, for on-going demos and testing.
- The projector uses two Xenon short-arc lamps, but Sony said it could operate with just one in a pinch.
- It's going to be exceptionally interesting to see whether the industry judges 4K worth waiting for, and puts any plans for 2K roll-outs on pause. Sony seems to be hoping that'll happen, but several people I talked to last night had questions about whether the 4K projectors were ready for a real-world environment - just plug them in and go. Last night, I counted eleven people in the projection booth supervising the demo, including at least six Sony engineers.
As 2K projectors drop in price, the questions on everyone's mind will be, do audiences notice the difference between 2K and 4K? (And when can we see a side-by-side comparison of moving images at both resolutions?) Is the cost differential between the projectors worth it? Will being able to show 3-D films be considered crucial by theater owners?