The first commercial installation of Qube Cinema’s single-server 4K 3D system has been completed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Using a single Qube XP-I server, the new configuration streams 4K image data to two Barco 4K projectors each with its own Qube Xi 4K Integrated Media Block (IMB). Visitors can now enjoy stunning 3D digital imagery on the giant screen, delivered from a system that is much easier to operate than the 70 mm film setup the museum used previously.
The digital cinema playback system at the museum’s Wortham Giant Screen Theater features a Qube XP-I server paired with two Qube Xi 4K IMBs installed in two Barco DP4K-32B projectors. Using a single DCP, the system is capable of streaming up to 1,000 Mbps of data through a dual Gigabit Ethernet interface, sufficient throughput to support dual 4K projectors at up to 30 fps, an industry first.
“Giant screen theaters have been anticipating 4K 3D for years. We’re very pleased to have partnered with Qube to finally make it happen,” said Derek Threinen, vice president, business development at D3D Cinema, which designed and integrated the new theater system. “The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the most prestigious giant screen venues in the world. To see full 4K content on the giant screen at HMNS is an important milestone for the industry.”
Moving from Film to Digital
“We decided a while back that we wanted to upgrade from 70 mm film to digital 3D,” said Charlotte Brohi, VP giant screen operations and film production at the museum. “When we saw a demonstration of the Qube technology in January, we knew we had found the way to do it. We showed our first 4K 3D digital movie on Feb. 19.”
“We wanted to give our audience the image quality they were used to with 70 mm film,” explained Brohi. “With the Qube Cinema 4K 3D system, not only are the images picture-perfect, but they’re steadier. And the artifacts we used to get from the wear and tear on film are gone. The quality exceeds that of 70 mm film.”
“Our projectionists love it because it’s so much easier to operate,” added Brohi. “Our techs used to have to haul 200-lb film reels up several flights of stairs to get them to the projection room – and then they had to load them onto the platters in our tight booth! We only had enough space for three 3D films at a time. It was a logistical challenge if we wanted to bring in a new film for a special event.”
With the new system, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is currently showing four different digital 3D movies: Space Junk 3D, Tornado Alley 3D, Flying Monsters 3D and Ultimate Wave 3D.
Established over a century ago, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the premiere institutions in the U.S., hosting over two million visitors per year. HMNS opened its movie theatre in 1989. The theater was converted to 3D in 2006, and has been one of the museum’s key attractions. The transition to 4K 3D digital technology allows the Wortham Giant Screen Theater to enhance its offerings while cutting costs and streamlining operations.
“Screening movies on the giant screen has always been a good revenue generator,” Brohi explained, “and that will continue. But we needed to find a way to reduce our expenses while maintaining, or in this case improving, the quality of the experience for our audience. We estimate we will save at least $200,000 in operating costs each year with the move to digital.”
HMNS is one of a very few museums which distributes and executive produces large format films in addition to screening them. According to Brohi, they will soon make the move to an all-digital pipeline. “Sticking with digital prints saves money while keeping production quality really high,” she noted. “Other theaters will be looking to us as a leader using this technology. Very soon there will only be digital film in the giant screen theaters.”
“3D movies allow museums to extend their visitor experience, giving their audiences an immersive experience with documentaries which augment exhibitions and promote lifelong learning,” explained Threinen. “Visitors love them, and the simplicity and quality of the new Qube 4K 3D system makes this a win-win for the public and the exhibitor.”
The Qube XP-I server and Qube Xi 4K IMB are available now from Qube Cinema and its worldwide network of resellers and system integrators, including D3D Cinema. For more information visit www.qubecinema.com/products