Samsung sent me to Cinemacon in Las Vegas recently, a convention where vendors go to show off the latest technology for movie theaters. From new ticketing solutions, to sound systems, 3D tech, and even those crazy moving chairs (really not a fan of those chairs).
But the reason Samsung was there was because they’re breaking into the theater business in a big way.
The Samsung Onyx Cinema LED Screen
This is the Samsung Onyx and it’s a giant LED screen meant to be used in movie theaters (it’s called Onyx because of its ability to produce pure blacks, but we’ll get to that in a sec).
It’s essentially a giant 34-foot 4K LED screen built out of these panels.
Now, honestly, when I heard about the concept it just seemed like a no-brainer: why not put a giant TV in a theater and why haven’t we done this yet?
Turns out we’ve been using projectors in theaters since 1895 with a switch to using digital projectors in 1999 and haven’t changed from that essentially for almost two decades now.
With the loss of the projector, there are some challenges and benefits that come with it.
Benefits of Cinema LED Over Projectors
Firstly, without a projector, the theater no longer needs a projector room. This means a few things can change. The projector room can be removed (or not built in the case of a new theater saving a ton of money in building costs) and additional seats can be added meaning more potential revenue per showing for the theater. One example we were given of a screen that was installed, gave 3 more rows to the theater totaling 36 more seats.
Also, because the image isn’t being projected from across the room, there is no need for line of sight with said projector and screen which means seats can be placed higher to the roof and so more stadium like seating (less backs of peoples’ heads? Yes, please.).
The next thing the Samsung Onyx has over a projector screen is resolution and image quality. The screen comes in a 4K resolution and can show movies back in 4K, 2K (which is most normal projector screens standard resolution by the way), 3D or 2D, and SDR or even HDR.
We watched an SDR clip of Planet of the Apes followed by an HDR one and there’s definitely a difference. If you’re not familiar HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and translates to more colors that can be displayed as well as higher bit depth or more shades of each color. Without going too much into technical detail, this basically means brighter whites, deeper blacks, more vibrant colors.
In the mentioned clip there is a scene where Caesar, our protagonist ape, is silhouetted by the bright background in SDR but in HDR you can make out details of his gun strap along with much brighter colors and other things previously mentioned.
We were also shown a 3D clip, which I, unfortunately, have no way of showing you with the 3D effect, so you’ll have to just trust me when I say, with the 3D glasses we were given, it looked like any other 3D film, just sharper.
Besides the better quality, the image is also much brighter. It’s about 10x brighter than a standard theater projector screen image at 146 foot-lamberts compared to 14 foot-lamberts. (A foot-lambert, by the way, is a unit of measurement for luminance that theaters and fighter pilots use that I don’t have time to go into here, but just know 146 is way better than 14). This means not only is it just a brighter image but also you don’t need a pitch-black theater.
Of course, you would still get the traditional theater lighting normally and it would just look even better, but because it doesn’t need it, a theater can use it in other settings like dine-in movies where some light would be good for servers to find movie-goers and movie-goers to be able to make sure they’re not stabbing their date with their fork. As well as maybe e-sports where people all have ambient laptop light in the room with the big screen playing the event for on-lookers, etc.
Now, one of the challenges with having a screen like this is that traditional projector screens in theaters use a sound system that projects sound through the screen, which isn’t possible with an LED screen, so Samsung-owned JBL made a custom sound system capable of Dolby Surround 7.1 with some clever speakers positioned above the screen that have been tuned to sound like the sound is coming from the screen. I had a chance to listen to this system at the event, and I can say it sounds amazing and exactly as a movie theater should.
All in all, it just feels like such a no-brainer evolution for the movie industry that I truly hope it catches on.
It’ll future-proof theaters for higher resolutions, HDR, etc. while giving them more seats to earn more revenue per movie, and it’s apparently easy to repair (Samsung provides everything needed to set it up as well as extra LED panels for them to easily replace themselves for no downtime while they send the damaged one in for repair), and lasts a long time (as we know LEDs do).
Now, right now we don’t know if this type of theater will cost more to see the movie, but if it’s close enough in price, it just might get me to go to the theater more often.
Let me know what you guys think below!
Allied Content: This was sponsored by Samsung (but it is something I thought was interesting to talk about or I wouldn’t have done the video 🙂 Hope you enjoyed it!)