Samsung Super S kiosk outside the theater in the Lotte Cinema World Tower in Seoul, S. Korea, sheds light on the company’s display expertise.

Samsung is taking its reputation as one of the world’s leading developers of big-screen picture quality outside the home and into the movie theater with a new large-format Cinema LED screen for professional exhibitors.

The company recently embarked on a crusade to bring the self-emissive flat-panel technology supporting 33.8-foot screens with 4K (4,096 x 2,160p) resolution, to theaters around the world, like those installed in the Lotte Cinema World Tower theater in Seoul, South Korea, which we recently visited as Samsung’s guests.

Read more about our visit to see the Samsung Cinema LED theater screen after the jump:

The theater’s Cinema LED screen produces large, bright (Samsung says up to 10x brighter than the 14-foot lamberts established for projectors under the Digital Cinema Initiative recommendations) images, with a near infinite contrast ratio and high dynamic range (HDR). Images are also fully compliant with the wide DCI-P3 color space and appear richer than images seen on typical movie screens.

Samsung’s Cinema LED is also designed to immerse audiences with accompanying advanced surround sound technology, complete with seat-rattling subwoofer effects. The overall aural experience is produced using the expertise from Harman (JBL), which Samsung recently acquired.

The technology enables presenting dialog that sounds like it is coming from the screen, although no rear-screen speakers are used, as is usually the case in projection set-ups. Instead, large speakers are positioned along the edges of the screen and carefully tuned to create the perception that dialog and sound effects are naturally coming from the screen. Samsung said this helps to deliver clearer directional sound produced more efficiently than typical theater systems today.

Samsung tested the experience with audiences and found 85 percent of those surveyed rated a “perfect satisfaction” level with the surround sound they witnessed.

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The move into professional theaters with what may prove to be that industry’s first practical flat-panel solution provided clear evidence that the South Korean-giant is looking to take on Dolby in areas beyond HDR solutions.  Dolby is also championing its Dolby Cinema set-ups for professional exhibitors, offering advances in HDR images (Dolby Vision), 3D surround sound (Dolby Atmos) and special seating synchronized to the audio to produce vibrations that audiences feel as well as hear.

At the same time, in HDR, Samsung (championing HDR10+) and Dolby (backing Dolby Vision) are currently in competition for the use of HDR platforms that make use of new dynamic metadata approaches.

In our demonstration of a full Cinema LED “Super S Theater” at the Lotte World Tower complex in Seoul, HD Guru saw portions of the new remake of Stephen King’s “It”. We immediately noticed the increased brightness making ample use of both dark shadow detail and bright backgrounds in the same frame. This provided a nice range of light with no distractingly obvious “screen door effect,” where spaces between LED pixels are visible from typical seating distances.

We were immediately struck by how much clearer images appeared on the birghter screen.

Unlike so-called “LED TVs” for the home, Cinema LED technology uses self-emissive screens. This means lighting comes directly from the LED source without the need of transmissive LCD picture layers. This produces the deep black levels and bright whites we witnessed on the same screen at the same time, along with what seemed to us to be natural-looking color. Samsung said the system is capable of perfect color accuracy at up to 500 nits of peak brightness.

Samsung said the Cinema LED technology also presents 100 percent corner-to-corner screen uniformity, which is unlike a condition sometimes seen in lesser LED-LCD TVs and some projectors, where visible smudging or dark-corner vignetting effects can distract the eye.

Samsung has installed the Cinema LED screens in two theaters in South Korea and recently announced that the technology will next be installed in the Siam Paragon complex in Bangkok, Thailand.

Due to the screen brightness, Samsung expects Cinema LED will have applications outside of movie theaters, including exhibitions and events in environments without controlled lighting conditions.

Just how quickly Samsung can convince theater owners to change over relatively new digital cinema projectors for Cinema LED screens isn’t known. Samsung executives declined to give the price of a typical theater upgrade, citing different conditions, installer fees and theatrical limitations in almost every individual case.

However, Samsung said a theater owner should be able to see in five years a “return on investment,” where a greater profit is realized from a Cinema LED conversion than from a digital projection system. Among the factors are a calibration process designed to take no longer than 2 hours. Re-calibrations are not required for 3 to 4 years.

In addition, Cinema LED displays should not risk image retention (or burn-in) issues like other self-emissive flat-panel technologies, including OLED screens.

A kiosk promoting Samsung’s QLED gaming monitors promotes the products’ advanced capabilities inside the Lotte Cinema complex.

Where the technology might start paying immediate dividends for Samsung is in the electronics manufacturers’ ability to cross-promote its own home-based QLED 4K Ultra HDTVs and monitors with the advanced theaters.

As for why the screens don’t support 8K high resolution, like those in development for next-generation home based systems, Samsung executives said that Cinema LED screens could easily  support 8K resolution today by putting together additional panels, but the limiting issue is the lack of any available content to warrant the additional cost to theater owners.


By Greg Tarr


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