December 19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Gets a Smoother Road with Qube Cinema


Fantasy buffs the world over got a treat with the launch of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" in theaters, but for the world premiere in Wellington, New Zealand's Reading Courtenay theater, it needed a little extra punch. Thus, the folks at Qube Cinema stepped in with a variety of products to make the premiere of this major release everything it could be.

While the Reading Courtenay theater had a lot of power in its own right, including a Titan XC screen, it still needed that extra push to fully realize its overall capabilities. For instance, Qube supplied an XP-I server designed to provide a 48 frames per second presentation in stereoscopic 3D, and also offered up a pair of Qube Xi Integrated Media Blocks (IMBs) to make the presentation as crisp and downright realistic as it is possible for a movie about dwarves and hobbits to be. The footage from the IMBs was then reportedly routed to a pair of Barco DP2K-32B projectors, with sound for the presentation routed through 7.1 channel surround sound in the Wellington premier, and Dolby Atmos sound for the London premiere. 


Image via Shutterstock

The Qube equipment also made the London premiere at the Empire Leicester Square, and represents the first time a movie has ever been distributed in 48 frames per second. Qube, naturally, is quite excited about the partnership between themselves and the distributors of the Hobbit films, with their president and CTO Rajesh Ramachandran calling it "...the next big leap into the future, at a high frame rate."

Qube made its earliest demonstrations back at the CinemaCon event in Las Vegas back in May, with a Qube XP-I streaming to two Qube 4K Xi IMBs with two projectors, allowing for a maximum presentation of 3D at 60 frames per second. This approach actually makes projection easier as all the data is dealt with at just one point before it's routed to the IMBs for presentation.

But with the rise of HFR 3D as a possible new standard, this new high frame rate presentation is likely to pose a significant problem for movie theaters worldwide. Already, theaters are facing stiff competition from the home theater market. Impressive new hardware in both audio and video is landing, and content is steadily on the march. Someone hitting a traditional multiplex might have 16 choices, but with the growth of DVD by mail and video on demand, by streaming or by cable provider, thousands of choices are available immediately.

The theater only has so many points in its favor at this point: 1. the "theater experience", in which users can congregate and discuss their favorite points of what was just shown. This is rapidly being lost to online equivalents, but some will always prefer the physical approach. 2. the first arrival of new movies. This is also being lost as the DVD release window has been shrinking in recent years, and as many consider waiting a small price to pay for the advantages of home theater. 3. technological edges, and this is where things like the Qube systems really shine.

But how many theaters, already seeing competition brisk on all sides and a bad economy keeping pressure on ticket sales--yes, revenue has gone up in recent years but so too have ticket prices thanks to things like IMAX presentations--will be willing to put out the capital required to make those presentations in their own theaters?

Entertainment is a tricky market, and advances on all sides will likely make it volatile for some time to come.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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