Continuing his series of in-depth looks at major projector manufacturers, in Christie Peter Knight finds an established specialist that puts image quality and value of the experience at the heart of all its product lines.
Unlike some more recent digital technology manufacturers, Christie has its roots firmly in the days of film projection, 90 years back, in fact, to 1929 — barely two years after “The Jazz Singer” introduced the world to the talkies. The firm has worked with cinema technology for the past 70 years, and made its name as a manufacturer of 35mm projectors, as well as lamp houses, lamp consoles and film player systems. Later, it began importing Japanese-made xenon bulbs before acquiring the digital projection business of Electrohome Limited, of Kitchener, Ontario in 1999. Roll on from 35mm days and today Christie is a global audiop and visual entity that offers solutions for business, entertainment and industry. Worldwide, Christie employs over 1,500 people and has installed no fewer than 65,000 projectors that have powered over 10million screenings. The company’s commitment to the film industry is seen through innovative solutions including 4K high-resolution projectors, immersive audio and the introduction of RGB laser projection, as well as its long-standing relationships as technology provider to major festivals, including Cannes.
A look inside the product line
Christie’s cinema projection offering is divided into two distinct series: the CineLife Series — its more advanced line-up — and the Solaria Series. The Cinelife Series is primarily composed of a trio of RGB laser projectors (more on this later), which feature its RealLaser™ technology. This RGB pure laser light source is engineered to take full advantage of the latest innovations in laser technology.
The Solaria Series consists of DCI-compliant lamp-based DLP cinema projectors and it offers choice in frame rate, brightness and resolution. The aim is to deliver value with reliability and low total cost of ownership. Contained within this range are the Christie CP2220 and CP2230, which were designed to be fully upgradable to 4K technology via a fast, cost-effective upgrade path.
A single-minded approach to laser
Whilst other manufacturers have pursued implementation of laser phosphor technology, Christie has followed its own path. The company’s perception is that laser phosphor does not offer a significant enough advantage over traditional xenon illumination to warrant the upgrade. Consequently, Christie has focused on its RGB laser technology, which has seen the steady development, and subsequent rollout, of a line-up of RealLaser cinema projectors, comprising the CP4325-RGB, CP2315-RGB and CP2320-RGB. Often referred to as “pure laser”, as the acronym suggests RGB laser technology uses distinct red, green and blue lasers to generate light.
Christie’s flagship CP4325-RGB pure laser cinema projector, introduced last year, delivers a premium movie-going experience for mainstream theatres. Featuring CineLife™ electronics and RealLaser illumination, Christie believes exhibitors can fill auditorium seats by attracting audiences with the colourful and detailed images delivered by this compact, all-in-one DCI-compliant unit.
“With its all-in-one direct-coupled RGB illumination system, we think the Christie CP4235-RGB is the most advanced laser projector on the market,” explains Christie’s Allan Fernandes, senior manager in the global cinema product management division. “Using next generation, pure red-green-blue direct-emitting laser technology, the CP4325-RGB offers an authentic, immersive experience for the mainstream market. It provides all the advantages of a high-performance laser projector in a compact form factor that eliminates the need for sub-ambient external cooling, while providing rich colours, higher contrast ratios and low total cost of ownership.”
Christie has recently introduced 2K versions of its RGB units — the CP2315 and CP2320 — which offer what it bills as the industry’s first affordable RGB pure laser projectors. Recent high-profile purchasers of the RGB laser range include CGR Cinemas in France, where 200 CGR Classic auditoriums will be redeveloped for Christie RealLaser over the next two years. This followed initial success of RealLaser’s implementation as part of CGR’s hugely successful ICE (Immersive Cinema Experience) theatres. Indonesia’s the largest cinema chain, Cinema 21, has purchased 50 units of Christie’s next-generation CP4325-RGB projectors for deployment in its new multiplexes across the country.
Backing the British Film Institute
Christie has been a proud sponsor and supporter of the British Film Institute in London for some time. This support has extended in the past three years to the supply of equipment for the ‘pop-up’ cinema that the BFI erects in Embankment Gardens for the London Film Festival, last year powered by a Christie RGB laser projector.
Filmgoers in the UK experienced Christie RealLaser for the first time at last October’s BFI Patron’s Gala showing of “Colette”. An independent British film starring Keira Knightley as the infamous French writer, this was the first of several films screened at the popular Embankment Gardens site using Christie laser projection.
Last October’s festival was the third outing for the unique, full-scale, 820-seat cinema in the surroundings of Victoria Embankment Gardens, complete with tiered cinema seating, black box lining with serge, plus a full box-office area. A stone’s throw from the Thames and Leicester Square, the temporary cinema hosted strand galas and films seen at the site on Christie projection included “Sorry to Bother You”, “Suspiria”, “Border”, “Beautiful Boy”, and “Wild Rose”. Dominic Simmons, head of technical services at the BFI, was keen for the festival to embrace technology trends currently transforming cinema viewing: “We’ve had more than 60,000 filmgoers pass through the Embankment Garden Cinema since 2016 and audience feedback has been amazingly positive,” he explained, “For last October’s event, we decided to raise the bar, and — thanks to Christie — let our audiences experience the colours and high contrast ratios of laser projection. Our 16 metre-wide, matte white screen, was the optimal film projection surface, and, as the premier film festival on these islands, I’m delighted we were the first in the UK to showcase RealLaser.”
Phil Lord, Christie cinema sales manager in EMEA, was pleased to be involved in the project: “It was no small task to assist the setup of a fully-functioning, 800-plus seat venue for such a prestigious organisation as the BFI. But the results are always worth the effort, and I’m pleased that audiences were able to experience our flagship technology. We are determined to make the premium laser experience affordable to mainstream exhibition,” notes Phil. “We have proprietary technology that offers superior brightness and higher contrast than conventional projectors. RealLaser can show colours never seen before by the human eye.”
On the global stage
Christie has maintained a strong commitment to other key international festivals, supplying equipment as technology partner to other globally renowned institutions. At Cannes in 2018, the company supplied no fewer than 29 projectors from across its portfolio, including its leading, 4K lamp-based model, the CP4230.
Technical specification for the projection technology in the festival and market screening rooms was overseen by the CST (Commission Supérieure Technique de l’Image et du Son). Francis Zee, a consultant on the technology side at Christie, commented that: “The technicians that make up CST are the cream of France’s cinema and broadcast industries and they have a huge task overseeing tech ops at Cannes. It’s always gratifying that things come together so well and it’s in no small measure thanks to the work CST have put in, especially around DCP/DCI over the years. They have high standards and so do we.”
During last September in Toronto, Christie’s Solaria Series CP4230/4220 projectors powered almost all the festival venues. “TIFF has worked with Christie for nearly two decades, delivering a long-standing service of cinema excellence and innovation,” explained Diane Cappelletto, TIFF’s director of technical production services. “Their support for cinema experiences as delivered on large screens across our festival venues is laudable and we value their partnership and collaboration.”
In a further long-standing collaboration, the CP4230 projector was again in action at Shanghai International Film Festival, where it was deployed to screen both the opening and closing films. Christie also supplied a CP2215 cinema projector for the adjudication of films nominated for the prestigious Golden Goblet Award for Best Film. Also on show was Christie’s Vive Audio cinema audio solution.
Not just pictures, sound too
While most know Christie as a big name in projectors, it is one of the few major manufacturers to develop cinema-specific audio products too. Launched in 2013, Christie Vive Audio completes the movie-going offering with audio to complement its high-brightness, high-resolution displays.
Vive Audio supports existing formats including Atmos and Auro, as well as 5.1 and 7.1. The range includes Class D amps, speakers, subwoofers, integrated media blocks and cinema processors. It’s an extensive line-up which means Christie is able to offer immersive solutions to suit a variety of budgets and venues, from smaller theatres like the Parkway Cinema in Beverley, UK, to PLF venues in vast halls, such as the recently installed Cinecittà in Nuremberg, Germany.
Christie has addressed disparity in audio quality in the auditorium via the use of ribbon driver line array technology, and this forms the cornerstone of Vive Audio. Producing a focused linear sound, it delivers clarity and a smooth, even audio coverage wherever you are seated. It has been designed to increase the optimal listening area up to four times in comparison to conventional compression driver-based audio systems.
A View from the top
Brian Claypool, VP of product mangement, global cinema
Christie is seeing ongoing growth in our cinema products as customers add new installations and upgrade existing venues. We’re excited to by what the future holds and have been thrilled by the response to, and uptake of, our RGB laser projection systems. We’re committed to investing in R&D for cinema projection — at CinemaCon last year we announced our agreement with Wanda Film Holding to establish a joint R&D centre in the Wanda Studios’ site in Qingdao, China. Christie will exclusively operate the facility for advanced R&D of digital cinema projection systems to explore solutions that enhance the experience. This work includes customised RGB laser technology for Wanda and its affiliates, RGB laser retrofit solutions for xenon systems, solutions for Wanda’s PLF auditoriums, LED screens, service solutions for network operation centres, and testing of xenon vs competitive illumination technology.Projection, alongside leading audio technologies such as Dolby Atmos and Vive Audio, can enhance the viewing experience. In our view, LEDs do not enable these options better, now, than projection — it still has to evolve for cinema needs.
Christie: powering Dolby Cinema projection
Dolby Cinema features the Dolby Vision projection system, which uses state-of-the-art optics and image processing to deliver high dynamic range (HDR) with enhanced colour technology. Praised by filmmakers and audiences alike for its astonishing contrast, high brightness, and a colour range that more closely matches what the human eye can see, this proprietary HDR technology uses two custom designed, high-frame-rate (HFR) capable Christie 4K laser projection heads that feature a highly customised and unique light path that can provide 6P RGB pictures to the Dolby Cinema brightness standard of 108 nits, (31.5fL).