3-D stands for Dolby does digital

New color filter system looks to compete with Real D

As ShoWest gets under way today, Dolby Laboratories is set to announce a new 3-D digital-cinema solution aimed to compete with the popular Real D system that now is in nearly 700 theaters.

Dolby's system is based on color filter technology and does not require a special silver screen like Real D. The system adds a retractable color filter wheel accessory to the digital projector and screens on the traditional white screen used in most theaters.

The Dolby system is ready for its beta trials -- deploying a small number of undisclosed theaters at month's end. The timing coincides with Real D's expected deployment of 700 screens for Walt Disney Pictures' 3-D release of "Meet the Robinsons," set for March 30.

"We've developed a system which we think is great, very high quality," Dolby senior vp and GM Tim Partridge said. "We hope that our system will be commercially available by 'Beowulf' (which Sony Pictures is set to bow Nov. 16 in 3-D). We hope at that time to deploy in reasonably large numbers, but that all depends on the theaters and, of course, how many digital theaters will be out there at that time."

Partridge said the color filter technology improves the clarity and sharpness of the image. The system also is based on lightweight passive glasses, ones that require no batteries or chargers. However, Dolby initially expects the glasses to be reusable to minimize the waste associated with disposable glasses.

Dolby is confident that its technology can co-exist with Real D. "Every theater technology out there has more than one provider," Partridge said. "I don't see why (ours and theirs) can't exist."

Dolby also maintains that its technology simplifies the process of creating and distributing 3-D movies. The company said there is no need for extra color correction or other compensation processes in postproduction because all the processing is performed on the server.