RealD has shaken up the 3D market by launching the Precision White screen, designed for both 2D and 3D films. The company claims the new screen offers forty per cent more light and the edges of the screen are 4 to 5 times brighter than a standard silver screen providing more uniformity of light across the screen. This minimises the 'hot spot' effect that silver screens have suffered from when showing 2D films. To achieve the same results as a silver screen, exhibitors will need to increase the light output of projectors. The screen is initially only available through Ballantyne Strong (Strong/MDI) who is the partner on this screen, and only to customers of Real D. Masterimage also needs a silver screen and this obviously puts the ball in their court as to finding a solution. Harkness Screens, another leading screen manufacturer, is working on a solution for 3D presentations that can also accommodate 2D films.
There is a significant risk factor with silver screens, given that the influential French film agency CNC has stated that all cinema screens in France will have to conform to AFNOR (the French standards-making body) standard NFS 27100 by 2017. The AFNOR standard says the drop off in brightness from the centre of the screen to the edge can't be more than 20 per cent. With a silver screen, the drop off in brightness is typically around 50 per cent. This effectively means that the silver screen is banned in France and those exhibitors that have chosen RealD or Masterimage (also applicable to IMAX) need a solution.
The CST (state-backed cinema technology organisation) has made no secret that this decision is a challenge to the industry as a whole, and calls on other countries to follow suit. Several French organisations, and others around the world, are extremely unhappy with the image quality and light levels on silver screens. Both 2D and 3D are supposed to be played at 14 ft L (foot Lambert is a light measurement system) and while most 2D films are screened at or around that level, 3D is very light hungry and light levels of 4-5ftL are not uncommon.
Consumers have noticed this lack of light and it is one of the assumed reasons that 3D is said to be less popular than it could be. However, according to a recent US study, it is not the major reason. A survey by the Worldwide Motion Picture Group cited cost as the major reason cinemagoers did not choose 3D, with 52 per cent of respondents saying this, 51 per cent saying 3D is not worth the money and 42 per cent do not like the glasses. This highlights the position of 3D in the market now, as a mature element of the overall box office, worth around 20 per cent of the market and needing to improve to fight its place. It is clear that the rash of rushed conversions to cash in on 3D has taken its toll on consumers and filmmakers need to work very hard on making high quality original 3D content. Avatar and The Life of Pi show this can be done.