Japan’s first Dolby Cinema production, “Hikinige”, was written and directed by Yutaka MIZUTANI and will be released nationwide on May 10th. Prior to the release, color grading and mastering for Dolby Cinema were done at the Dolby Screening Room Hollywood Vine theater in March. Dolby Cinema is characterized by “dramatic images: ‘Dolby VisionTM'”, “audio that shakes you to the core: ‘Dolby Atmos'”, and “a theater design optimized for complete immersion in the movie experience.” This production, edited for theatrical release, was color graded and mastered specifically for Dolby Cinema.
The Vine Screening Room, which was designed for Dolby Cinema, is at the cross-section of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, right in the middle of Hollywood. The exterior has retained its old-time movie theater feel, but the interior is set up with the latest Dolby Cinema facilities.
The latest theatrical system for Dolby Cinemas is…
Dolby Laboratories developed a package containing the latest technology innovations and an interior equipped to handle the acoustics (Dolby Atmos) and imaging (Dolby Vision) created specially for theatrical viewing in the latest theater: Dolby Cinema.
There are 3 major features of Dolby Cinema. Regarding the technology surrounding acoustics and imaging, “Dolby Atmos” (acoustics) creates a full audio atmosphere and has already been adopted in theaters around the country, and “Dolby Vision” (imaging) actualizes the darks and white highlights that people are able to see with the naked eye and make adjustments for gradation and a range of colors in a realistic HDR (high-dynamic range). “Dolby Cinema” distinguishes itself from other theaters that have installed Dolby Atmos and contain an interior, walls, and seating layout that have been optimized so that the audience can be fully immersed in the viewing experience.
Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision
The first feature is the power of expression of its surround-sound acoustic system “Dolby Atmos”. Without any restrictions as to the number or placement of the speakers, it utilizes surround-sound acoustic technology that distributes a maximum of 128 audio tracks or “objects” in a 3D space. Unlike the channel systems in use until now, like the 5.1ch, Dolby Cinema Theaters allows for the mounting of speakers not just at the back or on the walls, but also on the ceiling, supporting up to 64 individual speaker feeds. This allows for the detailed adjustment of audio track movement and as well as the detailed expression of audio tracks of everything from loud sounds, noise, to very quiet sounds in order to heighten the total immersion experience. The noise from a street scene, for example, or the silent expression of an actor’s internal feelings can be expressed on a whole different level from what we are accustomed to.
The number of speakers depends on the size of each theater while still maintaining compatibility with the 5.1ch and 7.1ch of old, and makers can now position discreet audio sources within the theater.
Another outcome is the latest HDR imaging technology “Dolby Vision”’s high-resolution imagery. At first, Dolby Vision was developed as the technology for TV monitors to render HDR (high-dynamic range), but with the adoption of Dolby Cinema’s high-intensity laser projectors, the theater facilities have benefitted from this as well.
After the viewing, what stood out the most was the rendering of the darkness. In your normal theater, even when the entire screen goes dark, the screen itself actually looks like a dark gray. This is because the original color of the screen is white or silver, so when the scene goes dark, the light emitted from the projector gives off a small amount of light, and until now it was nearly impossible to eradicate it. But with Dolby Cinema, complete black = recreation of inky jet black. So for example, even before a theater performance begins, the emergency exit lights are extinguished and the entire theater is in complete darkness – and you can recreate this exact same situation in the movie theater. What’s more, you can make detailed adjustments to the blacks even within an image, so you can render with incredible accuracy the expressions on an actor’s face or a small detail in the landscape.
The Ultimate in Theater Design
The third major feature is that Dolby Theaters have a unique design in terms of its facilities. The first thing you notice is the entrance to the theater. In the entryway you can see the logo “DOLBY CINEMA” and the images from the movie being screened. When you go inside, the floor, ceiling, walls, and even the seats are totally black, and Dolby Cinema’s original colored blue light creates a line surrounding the seating area. The number of seats is appropriate for the size of the theater, and they were careful to adopt non-light-reflecting materials inside so that no matter where you sit, you can enjoy the ultimate in acoustics and imagery when viewing the movie. So that the audience can concentrate on watching the movie, it is stripped down as much as possible and the interior acoustic design has been created for acoustic insulation and vibration control to create the ultimate theater design.
The latest HDR imaging technology
Dolby Vision, which provides high intensity images, is powered by two specialized 4K laser projectors for dual-laser projection (※1). This can be fine tuned with Dolby’s own system, offering a high contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 which is 500x that of the average system. Furthermore, the intensity is 108 nits=31 feet/lamberts (※2), which is about 2x the brightness compared to standard screens, creating HDR images.
When screening 3D productions using 2 projectors, there is no need to use a color foil in front of the lens, making it possible to display images for the left and right eyes. It has done away with the flash and shutter of 3D film, and compared to what we’ve seen with the 3-7feet / lamberts of 3D in the past, “Dolby Cinema 3D” has made it possible to achieve double the brightness at 14 feet / lamberts (48 nits).
Dolby Vision allows for HDR, and in terms of facilities that make mastering possible for home use, currently there are around 80 locations worldwide: there are about 50 facilities in North America, including the post-production establishments for the major studios; 13 in Europe; 13 in Asia; 3 in South America; and 1 in Qatar. In Japan, Sony PCL has facilities set up for Dolby Vision mastering. The Dolby Cinema Theaters within Japan include T-Joy Hakata, the first Dolby Cinema Theater in Japan, which opened on November 23 last year in Hakata Station, Fukuoka. This will be followed by MOVIX in Saitama, set to open in April 26, 2019. There are two more domestic locations that will open within the year.
Note 1) It is not stipulated by Dolby Cinema that 2 projectors are absolutely necessary. Even in a narrow theater, if you can allot 108 nits of luminance, then it is possible to use just one projector. In this case, 3D projection is not possible.
Note 2) The luminance of an HDR-ready industrial monitor is said to exceed 1000 nits, but this is in the case of a light-emitting monitor display. Compared to the average theater projector, the luminance of this theater projector emits 14 feet/lamberts: around 48nits.
Worldwide Expansion of Dolby Cinema Theaters
The first Dolby Cinema Theater was JT Bioscopen (now Vue Cinemas) opened in Eindhoven, The Netherlands on December 15, 2014. Since then, the numbers have increased, and now there are over 400 screens (including the ones in planning) in 11 countries installed by over 20 companies worldwide.
With regard to Dolby Atmos, there are over 4,800 screens (including the ones in planning) in around 90 countries installed by over 47 companies. Regarding the significance and appeal of aiming for Dolby Cinema compatibility, many famous directors have spoken highly of its application and rendering capability, sharing their opinions as makers. Bradley Cooper, who directed and acted in “Ali / A Star is Born”, which won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Song sung by Lady Gaga, speaks of Dolby Cinema’s appeal for him as an artist.
Allure of Dolby Cinema Bradley Cooper talks
Dolby Cinema Productions Continue to Increase
More than 210 titles of Dolby Cinema productions made since April 2019 (this includes released as well as those coming soon) will be re-released. The surround-sound acoustic Dolby Atmos productions released since February 2019 number over 1,000 titles, and these have also been re-released.
Japan’s Dolby Cinema Productions
“Fantastic Beasts 2” (Warner Japan)
“Ali / A Star is Born” (Warner Japan)
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (20th Century Fox)
“Mary Poppins” (Walt Disney Japan)
“First Man” (Universal)
“Aquaman” (Warner Japan)
“Spider-Man / Spider-Verse” (SPEJ)
“Captain Marvel” (Walt Disney Japan)
“Avengers / End Game” (Walt Disney Japan)
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” (Toei)
Due to be released
May 31, 2019 / “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (Toho)
June 7, 2019 / “Aladdin” (Walt Disney Japan)
June 14, 2019 / “Men in Black: International” (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Summer 2019 / “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
July 12, 2019 / “Toy Story 4”
The Dolby Cinema Theaters within Japan include T-Joy Hakata, the first Dolby Cinema Theater in Japan, which opened on November 23 last year in Hakata Station, Fukuoka. This will be followed by MOVIX in Saitama, set to open in April 26, 2019. There are two more domestic locations that will open within the year.
Domestic Dolby Cinema Theater Facilities
Hakata, T-Joy Hakata / Opened Nov. 23, 2018
Saitama, MOVIX Saitama / Opened April 26, 2019
Osaka, Umeda Burg 7 / Planned for Summer 2019
Tokyo, Marunouchi Piccadilly / Planned for Autumn 2019
VARICAM LT · AU-EVA1
Taking advantage of noise,
Director of Photography Masahiro AIDA〈UPSIDE〉
In “Hikinige” we wanted characters to relay a sense of reality. We used the Panasonic VARICAM LT and EVA1 for this shoot. Both are good in the dark, and the built-in dual native ISO was a major reason for our choice, but there were other reasons, too. It’s not important for every scene in a movie to be high resolution; for example, what we considered important in the EVA1 was its mobility for many scenes, but it is sensitive to darkness. So of course the noise increases, but the quality of that noise is decent. It’s not as though I’m aiming to achieve filmlike quality, but when you’re looking at the images, in some places you can tell that noise = dark. As a means of expression in the darkness, I thought it would be great if I could take advantage of that noise. In those fighting scenes that really were in the dark, whereas I would have used the VARICAM LT in the past, I was aiming for mobility and increased noise, so at times I went with the EVA1.
When I was shooting lots of scenes that required mobility and multiple cameras, I felt it was important to prioritize color matching between cameras, and chose the camera accordingly.
©️2019 “Hikinige” Movie Partners
About Dolby Cinema, I think it’s fine to say that in general it has broadened the power of expression. Technically speaking, the degree of brightness and color, as well as information capacity has increased, and with respect to the acoustics, with so many speakers in the ceiling, the audio flows all around you. Dolby Cinema intensifies reality, and when it comes to expressing people’s inner life, in the way that the director MIZUTANI hopes, it has achieved that sense of reality and increased the feeling of immersion – whether it’s that sense that someone is there, a light in the eye, or the atmosphere itself.
The fact that it can achieve “darkness” makes it a whole new cinematic experience. It is the same darkness that you sense when you close your eyes, which broadens the scale of image rendering.
There are some scenes in the dark in this production, too, and because we were able to achieve the feeling that you were actually there = the allure of the dark, it added to the tension during suspenseful scenes. By the same token, it made it possible to feel the brightness during the light scenes as you would in real life, making this a new kind of experience.
See more on the HOTSHOT YouTube Channel
Movie: “HIKINIGE” x Dolby Cinema
Senior Colorist / Soichi SATAKE〈Toei Lab Tech〉
With Dolby Cinema, you can achieve a true black – blacker than black, a deep black – compared to digital cinema so far. And because of this, it creates a sense of depth in the image. The breadth of contrast has also increased, so for example in landscape scenes or nature scenes in which some sections might have looked hazy now look more three-dimensional, and there is more depth to it. This ability to express more allows you to achieve a look that is closer to the actual scene in front of your eyes during a shoot. As for the scenes that would have been simply dark scenes in the past are no longer that way, but allow for the expression of darkness in which you can still see.
For the conversion over to Dolby Cinema in Hollywood, we brought with us HDR data that we had adjusted using a 1000nits monitor in Japan, but when we actually saw it on the Dolby Cinema screen with the 4K dual projection, the 108 nits HDR image was so different from how it looked on our monitor. As a result, we had to redo all the data on site. I have created HDR images myself, but after dealing with Dolby Cinema production this time, my understanding of HDR has changed significantly. It’s closer to saying something like: “It goes well beyond the images of the past to create something more high resolution” when compared to HDR’s flashy look and high contrast images.
See more on the HOTSHOT YouTube Channel
“Dolby Cinema Examined from the Colorist’s Viewpoint/ Soichi Satake
Kanto’s First Dolby Cinema Opens at MOVIX Saitama on April 26!
Shochiku Multiplex Theaters (SMT) opened the first Dolby Cinema in the Kanto area on April 26 at MOVIX Saitama. The first to open nationwide was in November of last year at T-Joy Hakata in Fukuoka, making T-Joy Hakata the second such theater in the country. The plan is to convert 11 theaters to Dolby Cinema. The new screen size has a width of 13.92m x height of 5.80m (pre-conversion width 14.40m x height 6.03m), 290 seats + 2 wheelchair-accessible seats (pre-conversion seats: 418, 2 wheelchair-accessible seats) and a theater environment optimized for viewing the movie from any location. Tickets will be priced higher; Dolby Cinema productions cost an additional 500yen, and an additional 900yen for Dolby Cinema 3D productions.
SMT is planning to introduce Dolby Cinema down the road, and this autumn is planning to unveil Tokyo’s first Dolby Cinema at Marunouchi Piccadilly.
Go to the Official Website: Click here
(From left) Senior Colorist Soichi SATAKE, Director of Photography Masahiro AIDA, Colorist Group Leader Megumi HIYAMA