The jewel in the British Film Industry’s crown, the National Film Theatre is generally acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest cinemas, offering the biggest and best choice of films dating back to the origins of the industry (it is the only public cinema that can still show inflammable nitrate film).

With three screens showing over 2,000 films, head of technical services, Richard Boyd knows that while they face a critical audience of purists, technologically times also move forward. The principal auditorium already boasted digital sound and recently the NFT decided to review its projection equipment. The 450-seat NFT1 boasts a 12.5ft high screen, and when it came to researching the market for the new generation of DLP digital video projection Boyd scrutinized the market closely before opting for a fully-featured, three-chip DLP Christie Digital Roadster X4, fitted with a 4-7:1 lens.

The NFT project manager, Ed Mauger and independent software programmer Tony Hay, along with control and display solutions specialists Planet Communications and Christie Digital support teams, designed a complex system that allowed for fast switching, cueing and parameter changing of the X4. This has been achieved via a Crestron CNMSXAV control processor and LC1600L 6" passive matrix colour LCD rackmount touchpanel, which has been integrated into an Ed Mauger-designed custom panel with faders. This takes care of the remote cueing and switching of all the theatre’s playback sources - DVD, VHS, S-VHS, Betacam and U-matic hi- and lo-band - as well as satellite, TV and PC. The NFT also hires in DigiBeta players on demand. All the playback and monitoring equipment was already owned by the NFT and so Mauger installed a patchbay and an Extron System 10 switcher, also supplied by Planet, which will allow any input to be routed to one of three output ports (for RGB, S-video or composite video) depending on the type of signal on the input. Each channel is assigned a code on the Crestron keypad and cued manually, before being activated by the master Go switch. The Crestron program displays all the projector settings (aspect ratio, brightness, contrast, colour, detail, bass and treble) on the LCD touchscreen and allows the projectionist to alter them manually if required.

The Christie Roadster X4 offers a channel capacity of 99 and presently there around 25 programmed in. "For example," says Boyd, "Beta 1 and Beta 2 are identical in the way the Christie sees the signal, but they are on a different switcher input. So you will look for the channel assignation, and then key that number in on the Crestron keypad. Nothing you hit accidentally on the keypad can stop the show as it’s all pre-select. You simply start the appropriate player and the Crestron will change the Roadster X4 and update all the picture settings."

Issues of synchronization and compatibility - in the sound and visual domains - have also been taken care of via an Evolution G2 time-based corrector, along with a Rane audio delay, set for 140mS delay time and supplied by Planet Communications.

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