RTS Northern Ireland Centre received a behind-the-screens visit to Belfast’s Yorkgate Cinema in early October to see in close-up how a digital cinema works.
Yorkgate, which switched to digital projection five years ago, is a huge multiplex with 14 screens. The Centre saw a mix of Barco 2K-12C and Barco 4K-23B digital projectors, although as Brenden Leaden, IT manager at the cinema explained, the majority of films shown are still shot in 2K.
The Barco projectors are lamp-based with a xenon light source, suitable for screens up to 12 metres wide, and are based on Texas Instruments’ digital light processing cinema chip.
All 14 projectors have a Dolby Integrated Media Block (IMB) that handles the decryption of the content between the storage medium and the projector.
Leaden explained that the brain of the entire site is the Theatre Management System (TMS), which has 20TB of RAID storage. This is the central repository for all content, no matter how it is delivered.
The TMS communicates with all other external systems, including advertising and film distribution systems. It pieces together all the content into a playlist, which it delivers to each auditorium. And the system also monitors the quality of lighting, projectors and sound tracks.
Leaden predicted that the next step in projector technology will see the xenon light source replaced by laser technology, which is easier and cheaper to operate – and of higher quality. A laser light source has twice the brightness of the xenon-based projector and a lifetime in excess of 30,000 hours.