In fact it’s so premature that theater owners had to sign a legal waiver this morning before they were allowed into a demo and presentation on the subject at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. It seems that there are still some concerns — exaggerated, the audience was told — about things like radiation exposure and eye damage. In any event, attendees were treated to tantalizingly sharp and bright 2D and 3D clips from test films, and from Paramount’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocal. When everything’s worked out, it should be relatively easy for theater owners to offer the same experience and save money at the same time. Laser projectors use less power than conventional ones do today, and can illuminate a screen more effectively from edge to edge. But experts told exhibition execs not to expect too much too soon. There’s still a a problem with what they call “speckle” — a twinkling effect that may be unnoticeable to most audiences but that pros can detect, especially in the color green. The industry is working on technologies to reduce it. Another potential obstacle: Food and Drug Administration regulations governing laser shows. These rules from the 1970s were “created to protect audiences at rock concerts” that had laser light shows, Peter Lude of Sony Digital Cinema Solutions said. Studios have united to commission tests that will demonstrate to regulators that laser projection — a far different technology than laser light shows — poses no threat to viewers. Finally there’s the issue of cost. The expense to produce a laser projector is “still too high” for theater owners, says Jerry Pierce of Inter-Society’s Digital Cinema Forum. He forecasts that projectors will be commercially viable by the end of next year. But theater owners may not be in a mood to buy after collectively spending $2.5B to convert to digital projection. Laser projection advocates acknowledge that they’ll have to come up with a way to retrofit existing digital projectors, instead of asking theaters to buy new ones. “My advice to exhibitors is to get comfortable with what you have,” says Jim Reisteter of NEC Display Solutions of America. The demo is merely “a glimpse into the future.”
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