The UK digital 3D cinema explosion

3D movies are hitting cinemas at an impressive rate. In 2010 there will more than 30 3D movies hitting the big screen. Given that the technology brings with it a premium viewing experience, the industry expects that audiences are willing to pay that little bit more.

"Being able to attract and maintain a higher ticket price for 3D is huge," says Bob Mason, Managing Director of RealD, one of the companies equipping cinemas with the tech to play 3D movies.

"It's bringing back people to cinema who haven't been for a very long time. 3D is completely beating 2D at box office at the moment, so that highlights how crucial it is."

Sony 4k

4 PLAY: Sony's digital 4K CineAlta system

When it comes to digital cinema, the minimum specification for screen resolution is 2K. This was something that Hollywood agreed on back in 2005.

Since then, every man and his dog has bought a Full HD TV, which essentially brings the same sort of image quality to the home: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels compared to 2K's 2,048 x 1,080 pixels.

Sony is hoping that its 4K cinema systems – which boasts 4x the pixel count of a 2K setup – brings picture quality exclusivity back to the cinema screen.

"The Holy Grail of digital was to create a new standard for images in cinema. That is why the DCI [Digital Cinema Initiatives] standard was created," says Oliver Pasch, Head of Digital Cinema Europe for Sony.

"So, why has Apollo gone straight to 4K? The Apollo auditoriums are built so you are sitting close to a large screen, so you really benefit from the detail which can be seen."

Pasch was quick to explain that, despite Sony playing the pixel-count game at the moment, we aren't likely to see 4K surpassed soon: "We are not going into the digital camera arena where megapixel count is increased every Christmas – it's all about quality."


SONY DEAL: Apollo Cinemas is installing the tech into 83 venues

The CineAlta 4K digital cinema is very much a forward-looking creation, and one that goes against the whole 'further away you are, the better the picture' notion which is what is used in the home.

On-screen pixel size for 4K is extremely small, approximately one quarter the size of pixels displayed by equivalent HD and 2K projectors. Essentially this means that if you are in the front two rows of an Apollo cinema kitted out with this technology, then picture quality shouldn't diminish.

"Having 4K as an image is a differential to the quality you can see in the cinema and what you can see in the home," explains Robert Arthur, Managing Director, Apollo Cinemas.

"So, having a 4K image means the images are better than in the home. If you don't have a 4K image [in your cinema], then there is not much difference to what you will see in the home."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.