RealD move to 3-D haunted by 'ghosts'

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Now that the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, representing the top theater chains, have signed an agreement with five studios, the digital- cinema rollout should gather momentum.

However, 3-D still doesn't have a smooth road ahead. One still-contentious topic is a technical issue called "ghost-busting," which involves the RealD 3-D system.

Although RealD said it is working on a solution, a number of Hollywood execs are increasingly frustrated and angry that the 3-D system provider hasn't resolved how it handles its "ghosts."

To explain the technical challenge: When the left and right-eye images required for a stereoscopic 3-D movie are projected, those images can leak into each other, causing a ghosting effect.

To compensate for the leakage, the RealD system now requires that the 3-D digital movie files that are sent to theaters are preprocessed to eliminate ghosting.

Other systems don't have a ghost-busting issue. So if a studio is shipping a movie file to a theater that uses other 3-D systems, such as Dolby, Xpand and Master Image, it ships a nonghost-busted file to those theaters.

The studios don't want to have to shoulder the responsibility of creating both ghost-busted and nonghost-busted files for each film to support the different systems. It creates the added complication of making sure each version goes to the correct theater installation and adds costs.

As a result, the studios are telling Read D to fix the problem.

"We have recognized this as an issue and are working toward a solution," RealD chief scientific officer Matthew Cowan said.

RealD president of worldwide cinema Joseph Peixoto said that RealD is developing a method whereby the ghosts would be eliminated in the process of projecting a regular, non-ghosted file. That way, the same digital 3-D file could by used by both RealD and other systems.

Peixoto said RealD has been working on a solution since 2007 and is examining hardware and software-based methods.

Cowan estimated that the new technology would be ready in mid-2009, and Peixoto added that the exhibitors that have RealD systems in place by then would not be asked to cover the cost of the upgrade.

According to several sources, though, RealD promised the studios as far back as January that it was working on a solution that it could begin implementing in early 2008. Cowan and Peixoto said they don't recall saying that.

The 3-D specification from the studio's DCIP consortium recommends a single 3-D deliverable standard that doesn't involve preprocessing in order to create an open market so that a 3-D files could play on any system.
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