NAB: Imax Exec Urges Exhibitors to Maintain Proper Light Levels in Theaters

Speakers warn that most directors don't have full control over their creative intent.
'Furious 7'

Powerful directors such as Christopher Nolan have the budgets and control to maintain their artistic vision, but there are only “about a half dozen” such directors — and most are working with tight budgets and don’t have the control that they desire.

That was the message from Imax’s chief quality officer and executive vp David Keighley and Warner Bros. senior colorist Jan Yarbrough, who used this point to discuss the issues and new technologies that impact creative intent in production, post and even archiving, on Saturday in a keynote at the National Association of Broadcasters Show's Technology Summit on Cinema.

Noting that many cinema screens are too dark, Keighley asserted that most theaters don’t get their light levels up to meet the digital cinema standards. And he called on the industry to get those levels up to the specification of 14 footlamberts (fL, a measure of light). For 3D, there are reports of levels reaching just 3-4 fL.

The Imax exec believes emerging laser projection systems will go a long way toward addressing that issue. Imax’s new dual-laser projector system — which was recently installed at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, debuting with Furious 7 — can reach as high was 31 fL, Imax reported.

But with varying light levels, filmmakers are now making multiple versions of their movies with different grades. Asked if they see a path on which Hollywood could eventually get to one single grade, both Keighley and Yarbrough agreed that it’s “not going to happen.”

For archiving, the speakers pointed out that film is proven to work. Yarbrough added that the only new option he sees on the horizon is DOTS (Digital Optical Tape System) from Group 47. He hopes to see that come to market.

The Technology Summit is co-produced by NAB and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Carolyn Giardina moderated the discussion.