DLP making the jump to 4K

Follows on heels Sony d-cinema deal with Regal, AMC

DLP Cinema is going 4K.

Facing a competitive challenge from Sony Electronics' sale of thousands of 4K-resolution digital systems to Regal Cinemas and AMC Entertainment, execs at the d-cinema vendor is set to announce today that DLP will offer chips and related electronics for use in 4K projectors to be manufactured by partner hardware companies Barco, Christie and NEC. The news follows by just a few months DLP's announcement of a next-generation 2K platform.

DLP will make its next-gen projector platform available by year's end, with its three partners expected to deploy d-cinema systems incorporating its 2K upgrades beginning next year. It's unclear when systems using DLP's 4K chips will be ready.

There has been a debate for years over whether the optimum resolution for d-movie projection is 2K or the more ambitious 4K.

The greater resolution capabilities of 4K systems are mostly theoretical until filmmakers begin using digital cameras capable of 4K image-capture. That's because films generally are transferred only into 2K digital versions, and even most digital cameras capture only 2K images.

Meanwhile, nobody can say when -- or even if -- filmmakers might start making broader use of 4K cameras. But this year's pacts between Sony Electronics and the nation's two biggest theater circuits offer indisputable evidence of a shift in momentum toward Sony and its once-flagging 4K campaign.

Sony's 4K systems will be integrated into hundreds of Regal and AMC theaters in waves of deployments planned into 2012. Most new d-cinema implementation -- and related 3-D hardware installations -- has been held up by the protracted credit crunch, which stalled efforts to finance the costly rollouts.

DLP's next-gen projector platform was announced in March at ShoWest. But its sudden move to include 4K in its product plans is an acknowledgment of a continued emphasis in the marketplace on raising image quality.

"DLP Cinema remains dedicated to its customers," said Kent Novak, senior vp and GM of DLP Products. "Through shipping millions of units, we are able to provide a significantly lower cost structure in comparison with our competitors."

DLP products manager Nancy Fares declined to say when projectors using DLP's 4K electronics might hit the market. But No. 3 U.S. exhibitor Cinemark has committed to using such hardware when available.