CinemaCon: Dolby Readies Dolby Vision, Installed at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre

Dolby reveals new details behind its preparation and future plans.
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

The Dolby Vision format has been quietly dazzling studio execs and filmmakers in private demos for more than a year, and Wednesday at CinemaCon, Dolby will host the first screening of a full motion picture in the format, Disney/Pixar's June 19 release Inside Out.

The Dolby format offers a high dynamic range (HDR), meaning a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks in a picture, along with features including a greater contrast ratio and color gamut. It can be projected in theaters with a Dolby Vision projection system that use Christie laser projectors.

Disney's CinemaCon slate presentation will include the screening of Inside Out and a clip from its May 22 release Tomorrowland in Dolby Vision. These are the first two titles that will be released in the format, and they will also be available with Dolby Atmos sound.

For the presentation, Dolby has installed both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in Caesars Palace's Colosseum theater — an ambitious plan that "freaked out all of the technical people," admitted Dolby's senior vp cinema Doug Darrow. "With [scheduled performances] in the Colosseum by entertainers such as Jerry Seinfeld and Elton John, we had a limited window for setup. These are beta units from Christie and we needed more time. So we rented a warehouse down the strip and pre-built 80 percent of the setup, where we did the testing and calibration. It was moved and installed at the Colosseum late last week."

Grading of the Dolby Vision version of Inside Out recently took place at Hollywood's Harmony Gold, where Dolby has set up a demonstration system and color-grading capabilities. Colorist Mark Dinicola did the grade, working closely with the key filmmakers from Pixar including director Pete Docter. Brad Bird's Tomorrowland was graded at Company 3's new facility in Santa Monica (which is still under construction), by colorists Stefan Sonnenfeld and Stephen Nakamura.

For moviegoers, Dolby Vision projection was, appropriately, recently installed at the Disney-owned historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Additionally, Dolby confirmed that it intends to install Dolby Vision projection in Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, the home of the Academy Awards, at some point in the future.

The bigger play for Dolby is the introduction of a premium branded cinema system, Dolby Cinema, which includes Dolby Vision projection, Dolby Atmos immersive sound, and design elements including a 7-foot video wall entrance and special fabric walls that conceal speakers, "removing the obvious reference points to where the sound is coming from," Darrow explained. (A diorama of the Dolby Cinema concept is on display at Dolby's CinemaCon exhibit).

The first such Dolby Cinema system was installed last fall at JT Cinemas in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Additionally, last week Dolby announced a deal with AMC to convert AMC Prime premium auditoriums to "Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime," meaning they would converting AMC Prime theaters to additionally support Dolby Vision projection (these theaters already offer Atmos, as well as power seating). The first four will be at AMC theaters in Burbank, Atlanta, Houston and Kansas City. Phase two will include sites in Los Angeles' Century City, New York, and second sites in Houston and Kansas City.

On the content side of the equation, Darrow related that "most directors we have shown this to are thinking about it for their next feature." Disney has also announced that its Jon Favreau-directed The Jungle Book is scheduled to get a Dolby Cinema release when it opens in 2016.

Whispers and speculation about additional future Dolby Vision titles abounds. One focus of this discussion is Tron 3, which wouldn't be a surprise since it's director, Joe Kosinski, has acknowledged that he's a fan. (Also, Kosinski helmed Oblivion, clips from which were remastered in Dolby Vision and used for demonstrations at CES 2014 when the format was unveiled for home entertainment).

Rumor has it that Ang Lee is considering an HDR finish for Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which could be incredibly inventive as he's said to additionally be experimenting with varying frame rates.

What else might go Dolby Vision? We can't rule out J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A clip from the director's Star Trek Into Darkness was used in early Dolby Vision cinema demonstrations for studio execs and filmmakers. Additionally, Abrams' Bad Robot uses the SGO's Mistika system in house, which is a color grading and postproduction system that already supports Dolby Vision.