Samsung's LED Cinema Screen Can't Beat Traditional Theater Setup
A few months ago, Samsung launched their first 'prototype' of a 34-foot LED Cinema Screen at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Today, their first commercial installation is complete at the Lotte Cinema World Tower in South Korea.
At a 4096x2160 resolution, the LED screen runs entirely projector free, is HDR compatible, and manages a peak brightness of about 500 nits - or five times Dolby Vision's 106 nits and nearly ten times the Digital Cinema Initiative of 48 nits. On the other end of the spectrum, LG's OLED hits over 1,000 nits, but it's apples to oranges when comparing a 65-inch TV to a 34-foot screen.
The biggest advantage is the Cinema LED Screen doesn't suffer from ambient light issues, unlike Dolby Cinemas that become affected by even the smallest of light sources - think aisle lights and exit signs. The nature of LEDs also lets the Cinema Screen turn completely off, creating an actual black spectrum.
Finally, a wall of LED screens can provide a "distortion-free presentation" thanks to the rigid LED display.
On paper, Samsung's LED Cinema Screen seems to solve a lot of the big problems with traditional commercial theaters. However, it also adds a new set of challenges to the equation, the most significant being audio.
Traditional screens have a level of acoustic transparency that allows speakers to produce a more immersive sound. The current work around is the Sculpted Surround sound setup from JBL by HARMAN that is arguably more than acceptable but will be interesting to see how it stacks up to traditional setups.
Secondly, while 34 feet seems big for what is essentially a glorified TV, it looks pretty mild next to the average 45-foot commercial screen and really meek next to the 72-foot IMAX. Samsung hasn't yet reported how much it costs to maintain or produce the screen, but early speculations lead me to believe it will be very, very pricey.
Samsung's limited information also leaves out any information on recalibrating broken panels or what happens when a rogue popcorn bucket smashes into the display. Okay, maybe that's a bit far-fetched but a screen can definitely take a bit more abuse than a rigid panel display. Additionally, there was no mention of this technology bridging the gap between LED TVs and LED Screens in home cinemas.
My final thoughts are this has successfully moved from a really cool proof-of-concept to an interesting piece of technology. However, I think the conversation needs to stay away from comparing it to traditional theaters. There are too many different elements that make this an entirely new venture, not a way to replace a traditional setup.