High Frame Rate (HFR) Projectors Tech Update

Another hot topic at CinemaCon 2012 was High Frame Rate (HFR) technology. The goal of HFR technology is to present a clear difference to audiences in regards to motion. With HFR, movie pans can be faster, because it eliminates motion blur. In addition, as motion becomes less blurred, peripheral vision detects more information, leading to a more immersive experience. Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” will be the first theatrical release filmed at 48 FPS. It will be released in December 2012, so we’ll have to wait to see how well HFR technology is received by movie-goers. In the mean time, each of the 4 DCI projector manufacturers has a solution ready to be deployed.

Barco has partnered with digital cinema server company Doremi for their HFR solution and announced fully-integrated projector and media server packages. These packages will be available for Barco’s DP2K and DP4K series projector. Each bundle is comprised of a Barco projector and a Doremi ShowVault and IMB media server.

Christie introduced the Christie IMB, an integrated media block solution that seamlessly converts and delivers feature-film and alternative content within a secure environment to all of Christie’s 2K and 4K, DCI-compliant Solaria® Series 2 projectors. The Christie IMB operates within the projector, becoming an integral part of the display device. The result is a secure connection that can manage the high bandwidth required for HFR and 4K content while maintaining image quality.

All NEC digital cinema projectors (2K models – NC1200C, NC2000C, NC3200S and 4K NC3240S models) were upgraded in December 2011 to prepare for HFR. These upgrades allow for NEC projectors to support HFR through an IMB, allowing for 60 FPS in 2D/3D and 48 FPS for double flash 3D. The HFR upgrade is available for all Series 1 & Series 2 projectors. For Series 1 models, the HFR upgrade will handle 2D. For Series 2 models, the HFR upgrade will accommodate 2D and 3D. The upgrade is available via a firmware download, and is being offered at no cost by NEC.

Sony also announced their High Frame Rate Upgrade program. Available for all existing Sony projectors, this software upgrade will be available this fall with a price tag of $3,000 per projector/server system. Sony’s upgrade will expand the range of projection options from 24 fps to 48 and 60 fps for 2D 2K and 3D 2K. The upgrade will also increase maximum bit-rates from 250 Mbps to 500 Mbps.

Pacific Media Associates, who tracks the Digital Cinema market, will follow HFR technology closely through it’s projector market research efforts.