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Monday, July 31, 2006

Dolby's new 3-D technology ... Two upcoming events

- Dolby is announcing a deal with a German company, Infitec, that will allow theaters to project digital 3-D movies on standard movie screens, rather than the more expensive silver screens required by Real D's 3-D system. Since exhibitors bear the cost of 3-D technology, in general, having two competing vendors could help propel 3-D projection into the mainstream, and keep it there.


I had a chance to chat last week with Dolby exec Tim Partridge about the deal. He says the new Dolby/Infitec system should be available by the spring of 2007, and that he hopes to do demos before then -- but he didn't commit to a specific date.


Right now, he said, digital files of 3-D movies like "Monster House" are mastered for the Real D system. Dolby is hoping to have a digital 3-D standard created (by working with SMPTE) that can work on both systems. That'll be a challenge.


"We think this will be cheaper [than Real D]," Partridge said, as well as more flexible for exhibitors. With just one silver screen in a multiplex, for example, that means 3-D can only be shown in one auditorium. (Of course, moving it around even with the Dolby/Infitec system would probably require moving some hardware from one projection booth to another, along with the movie.)


"We want to grow," Partridge said, "and be widely adopted. [3-D is] a technology that clearly enhances the theatrical experience, and therefore it fits right into our mission. Yet the current solutions are not ideal."


Will Dolby actually prove to be the low-cost provider of 3-D tech? How good will the imagery look on the screen? Could this spark a price war between Real D and Dolby? I suspect we'll have the answers to at least some of those questions by ShoWest 2007.


- Two upcoming events worth knowing about: Building Blocks 2006, coming up August 15-17 in San Jose, and Digimart: The International Digital Cinema Market, coming up October 16-18 in Montreal.

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