We've often heard about the term digital cinema but never really got down to knowing what it's all about. Did you even know that some of the movies shown on the cinema screens today are based on Texas Instrument's DLP Cinema projectors? If you didn't know, that's probably because its quality was so good that you probably didn't even realize it's not based on the traditional film format. TI has invested much of its resources into their DLP projection technology and it has finally gained momentum in recent years, especially when their DLP Cinema technology has won the hearts of many Hollywood studios and directors like George Lucas and Steven Soderbergh.
DLP Cinema projectors are basically digital based projection systems that uses a three-chip DLP configuration. Each chip handles one of the three primary colors, namely, red, green and blue. The DLP Cinema chip is specially designed for cinema grade projection and they come with different resolutions, with the highest at 2K. With DLP Cinema, TI plans to deliver a true digital picture with all the clarity and vibrant colors that you've come to expect from a digital movie experience. You'll no longer experience color fading, jump and weave, scratching and dirt accumulation - all of which are common problems of traditional film print. Movie-goers can expect to view a movie in its original condition, the way the director intended it to be, without any quality degradation even after weeks of continuous run. TI hopes that DLP Cinema will become the Dolby Digital of movie projection.
We met up with Brooke Williams, who is the Asia Business Development & Field Ops for TI's DLP Cinema products, and we had the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about DLP Cinema and its underlying technologies.
HWZ : Hi Brooke, glad to have you here with us. Before we go in-depth, tell us a little more about DLP Cinema.
Brooke Williams :
Brooke Williams, Asia Business Development & Field Ops of TI's DLP Cinema Products holding a 2K DLP Cinema chip.
We started with Hollywood and the creative community, the cinematographers and directors as well as the studios back in 1997. We took a prototype DLP projector out to Hollywood and showed many 'golden eyes' and they gave us very good feedback on what kind of image quality improvements we needed to make on the technology and other features that were required for showing movies in movie theatres as opposed to DLP which is (just) video and graphics based. So we spent about over two and a half years working collaboratively with the Hollywood community and in the end, they wanted their own technology and their own brand, to which we created DLP Cinema. So, DLP is for video and graphics while DLP Cinema is only reserved for showing movies in movie theatres.
So it's a separate technology designed for movie theatres. In June 1999, we showed Star Wars Episode 1, our first movie. Quickly after that showing, quite a few studios were interested in how many we could make to do a testbed. So TI, the studios and the exhibitors jointly introduced 30 units to the field from late 1999 to early 2000. We installed 30 systems as an early testbed. Since then, there have been over 120 movies shown in DLP Cinema format so the content has actually been a successful part of that field demonstration program following its commercial deployment. So in 2001, we licensed the DLP Cinema technology to three manufacturers, BARCO, Christie and NEC/Digital Projection International. Those are the only three projector manufacturers you'll see with digital cinema projectors. They started production in late 2001 to early 2002 and have now deployed over 230 screens around the world.
There are over 100 in Asia, which is the most populated region, the Americas have right around 90 systems and Europe has the balance. It's exciting to see Asia growing faster than the rest of the world. The most significant in terms of numbers is China, they have 54 screens and they announced plans to install another 50 screens. The fastest growth happened recently in Singapore. It's happening today with Cathay putting in one DLP Cinema system and Eng Wah announced plans to install 20. (Eng Wah) is more than halfway through that. I think they have 14 systems installed today, and they'll complete the next six in the next month or two. It's nice to see Singapore embracing DLP Cinema / digital cinema so rapidly.