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Laser ULTRA enhances cinema feeling with Kinepolis

Marc Maes attends a world première for movie audiences

On 10 December, the Kinepolis Group, a major chain of cinemas, launched a brand-new experience: with Laser ULTRA, cinemagoers are surrounded and immersed by images and sound of a “never-seen-before” quality.

The core of Laser ULTRA consists of the combination of both (Belgian projector manufacturer) Barco’s latest technology and the Dolby Atmos cinema audio system. Laser ULTRA was presented for the release of the movie The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies simultaneously in Kinepolis’s flagship theatres in Brussels, Antwerp, Madrid and Lomme (France).

Laser ULTRA by Kinepolis is making use of Barco’s newest laser projector, the only one in the world offering 4K content at a speed of 60 frames per second and capable of projecting 3D movies with an exceptional light output of 60,000 lumen.

Laser ULTRA’s multidimensional sound is provided by the Dolby Atmos system. For those who have yet to catch up, Atmos supplies 64 individual audio channels in the cinema theatre, offering an ‘immersive sound’ experience. “Dolby Atmos was brought to the market two years ago,” explains Bob Claeys, R&D director of the Kinepolis Group (picture). “Today, some 200 film titles have been released with the specific Dolby Atmos audio mix. Dolby Atmos is all about the difference between channel mixing and object mixing – the result of films becoming more and more immersive, with characters and objects coming out of the screen towards you.

“Mixers wanted to have the option to place more accurately specific sounds in specific places, which wasn’t possible with 5.1 or 7.1. Dolby understood this frustration and added a new layer of speakers.”

Claeys says the four Laser ULTRA theatres have been upgraded for the Dolby Atmos configuration, allowing them to position the ‘noise’ exactly where the director wants it. All of the speakers in the new-technology venues are from the QSC cinema range.

Nicolas Hamon, projection and sound manager of Kinepolis Group (pictured right), says that Kinepolis gradually replaced the existing Crown amplifiers in its theatres with QSC amps and processors: “The four Laser ULTRA theatres also have the newest QSC speakers. Speakers and amplifiers are controlled by a Q-SYS Core 500i network-based sound processor. The Atmos audio signal is live rendered in the Dolby CP850 processor and sent via the network to the Core 500i – over 64 digital channels to the QSC DPA-Q series network amplifiers – offering analogue output to the speakers.”

The Laser ULTRA audio configuration consists of some 25 QSC four-channel amplifiers adding up to 100 channels of individually controllable sound, allowing the exact 85dB speaker coverage as stated in the Atmos Dolby references.
“We have five three-way speakers behind the screen and one subwoofer channel and two types of surround speakers in the theatre,” continues Hamon. (The theatre has 52 surrounds in total: 11 side and ceiling surrounds, both left and right, and eight back surrounds, each individually addressed.)

“The front surrounds closest to the screen are bi-amped, stereo-bridged QSC AP-5152 speakers; closer to the reference point we use QSC SR-1290s, more ‘traditional’ single-channel surround speakers. The surrounds are supported by aset of stereo subwoofers ceiling-mounted in the back of the theatres, two QSC GP-218s.”

Kinepolis Group operates 35 film theatres in six European countries, employing over 2,100 people. The group has always been on the edge of offering new technology, offering a total cinema experience to millions of cinemagoers.