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DCI-Compliant Projection
in Non-Theatrical Cinema Spaces
or
How I Spent My Covid Vacation


Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing interest in the desire to integrate distributed cinema content in special-venue spaces not traditionally intended for cinematic presentation. Our clients are finding a real need, driven by public desire, to show movies in their non-cinema-designed spaces. Venues such as museums, special-venue presentation spaces, theaters- many public presentation facilities that are suitable but not purpose-built to comply with the rigorous standards of the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI).
 
Such was the case at one of our local institutions- the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. The Aquarium has recently completed a beautiful new addition to their facility- the Pacific Visions Theatre. Designed by Cortina Productions, this new, state-of-the-art theatre incorporates an array of presentation technologies to create an immersive environment to support one-of-a-kind audio, visual and tactile presentations.
Interior of the new Pacific Visions Theatre at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.
Employing more than 300 stadium-style seats facing a 32-foot-tall, 130-foot-wide screen that is curved in a 180-degree arc to capture viewers’ entire range of vision, the theatre was a logical choice to present and display cinematic content. And, the Aquarium was already showing licensed theatrical content in a smaller theatre on their campus, so it made sense that the concept be expanded into their new theatre.
Exterior view of the Pacific Visions Theatre...
And so began the odyssey of bringing stunning, 4K licensed digital cinema playout to Pacific Visions.

Working with our partners at Christie Digital Systems, AME began a year-long process of designing and integrating 30,000 lumens of laser-illuminated, DCI-compliant cinema playback in the space.
 
Having been purpose built to support the Aquariums existing presentation pieces, the first hurdle was determining how to best integrate the projector into the aesthetic of the theatre’s environment. Having determined early on that a typical booth-located projector would not be feasible, AME modelled a number of positions within the facility to assess geometry, screen coverage and general compliance for cinema projection performance and DCI compliance.
Preliminary projection geometry analyses...
Because the projector was to be located in the audience plenum- known as a “boothless” design- we knew we had to enclose this hulking projector in an enclosure to attenuate the operational noise of the projector. We specified a “hush” enclosure manufactured by Tempest enclosures. It soon became clear that this assembly would not easily be integrated within the clean lines of the theatre space. It was then that it was decided that the projector and enclosure assembly would need to be suspended from the facility ceiling and brought into position using an articulated projector lift.
 
Working with the project architects at EHDD, we arrived a specification for a lift assembly manufactured by a local vendor, Adaptive Technologies.
Theatre modeling to confirm projector positioning and facility impact...
We worked with the project team to determine the positioning of the lift, articulation envelope, geometry- all modeled in 3D and integrated in the facility model. This effort fed the facility engineers with the information required to relocate existing HVAC and other facility infrastructure.
Projector, enclosure and lift integration...
With accurate and properly formatted and equalized audio reproduction being a significant factor in DCI presentation spaces, we were fortunate to have a pre-existing audio playback system that was easy to integrate with the 7.1 surround audio sourced from the systems Dolby IMS3000 media block.
 
With the design and facility impact complete, installation began in earnest in mid-September. At this time, the interior spaces at the Aquarium had been closed due to Covid restrictions, so installation was unhampered by daily operations and proceeded quickly. In mid-November, AME, in concert with Christie’s cinema support division and Neil Shaw of Menlo Scientific Acoustics, the system was commissioned for DCI projection gamut compliance and properly EQ’d and balanced audio reproduction.
Projector and enclosure in the fully lowered maintenence position...
The theatre now sits quietly awaiting the return of Aquarium visitors- ready to display theatrical cinematic releases in pristine, perfect high-resolution quality in an environment that befits a unique and moving cinematic experience.
The world of content distribution and viewing environments has and continues to change rapidly. Despite these changes, the experience of viewing a motion picture in a large-screen, theatrical environment remains an immersive and moving experiences like no other. Some day soon, the world will return to conditions that will allow us to gather and share these cinematic moments together and in real time. And, the ability to move this experience into non-traditional environments is likely one more in a long line of changes in this environment. We’d be happy to help If you’d like to explore being able to implement cinematic content distribution in your facility…
 
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