Digital conversion: Lovell’s movie palace now state of the art

It’s truly a movie palace. That’s how Mark Gulbrandsen and Randy Barker describe the Hyart Theatre, which is both regal in its history and cutting edge in its technology thanks to the digital conversion under way this week.

Gulbrandsen, of Cinema Service of Salt Lake City, is the installer and technician and has worked with the Hyart since it re-opened in 2004. Barker, owner of General Theatrical Supply of Salt Lake, is the distributor of the equipment that will make the Hyart arguably the finest movie theater in Wyoming, if not the Rocky Mountain West. Both have been in town for about a week now.

Installation began last week, and no movies were shown over the weekend. Work continued this week, and most of the work was completed by midweek, but electrical work, followed by final testing, means the theater won’t re-open until the weekend of April 5-6. But when it does, watch out!, Gulbrandsen and Barker said.

Jonathan and Aaron Barker peek down from the top of the frame while threading the new screen at the Hyart Theatre Saturday morning. The new system is being finalized and tested this week, and movies are scheduled to resume April 5-6.
Jonathan and Aaron Barker peek down from the top of the frame while threading the new screen at the Hyart Theatre Saturday morning. The new system is being finalized and tested this week, and movies are scheduled to resume April 5-6.

The Hyart’s new NEC projector — a Texas Instruments-based digital light processing system – is a state-of-the-art projector with 4K resolution: 4,096 pixels horizontally and 2,048 vertically, with twice the horizontal and vertical resolution as 2K projectors, which make up 95 percent of digital projection systems across the USA, Gulbrandsen said. A 4K projector has four times the resolution of a 2K projector and is perfect for lighting up the Hyart’s 40-by-20-foot screen from the projection booth 152 feet away, he said.

“4K DLP has only been out for about a year,” Gulbrandsen said, noting that each DLP chip in the system has 8.4 million moving mirrors about half the width of a human hair. Each chip is for one for one of the primary colors in theater projection: red, blue and green.

Moviegoers will notice a Hyart screen that is much brighter, sharper and clearer than the old system, with “no dust or scratches ever,” Gulbrandsen said, adding that the screen will now display movies at the industry standard 16 foot-lamberts rather than the 10 to 11 foot-lamberts of the older system.

The projector features a 4,000-watt Xenon bulb, with a spare always available for replacement.

As for the sound, the Hyart will now feature 7.1 surround sound, whereas the older system had 5.1 surround. That means there will be no gaps when a person walks from left to right on the screen, and the sound will be crystal clear.

“With the digital sound it’s a pure mix as it comes right from the studio,” Barker said. “There’s no compression. It’s exactly how the studio mixed the sound.”

The system has close to 10,000 watts of amplified power. There are eight speakers along each wall, four across the back and seven behind the screen –four dual 18-inch sub-woofers and a trio of tri-amplified left, center and right speakers.

Barker said the amps and speakers are QSC Audio Cinema System components designed specifically for the Hyart by QSC based on drawings submitted by Hyart Redevelopment Corp. board member Jerry Capellen.

With its nearly 1,000 seats and large area, the Hyart is the same size in volume as an IMAX theater, and the system being installed is as powerful as an IMAX system, Gulbrandsen and Barker said.

Another interesting aspect of the new system is the way movies are delivered to the theater. Instead of the film arriving in a 70-pound film can that costs $80 to $90 to ship, the movie arrives in the form of a hard drive that the projectionist plugs into the projector.

The 4K projector also allows the Hyart to play the new high frame rate movies that are coming out. Most movies play at 24 frames per second, but “The Hobbit” plays at 48 frames per second and the new “Avatar” movie will play at 60 frames per second, Barker and Gulbrandsen said. The only thing the Hyart won’t have is 3D capability.

The final component of the new and improved Hyart is the new screen, which was hung and strung on the frame Saturday. Screens yellow over the years and don’t reflect as much light, making the picture appear dimmer. The new screen is 1.4 gain from Harkness Screens.

The project

Craig Walker and sons Shane and Richard took down the old speakers and spaced and hung the new speakers last week, and Action Electric went to work on the wiring. David Briggs donated his time to the project, Craig Walker said. The old projection equipment was also removed.

The new projector and amps were set in place and wired, and on Saturday the new screen was hung and woven into the frame, largely by Barker’s sons Aaron and Jonathan. More wiring work was being done this week, and the installers were also awaiting the arrival of a lens after the wrong lens was shipped.

Speakers were to be wired Wednesday, and by today (Thursday) the system should be operational, Hyart Redevelopment Corp. President Mike Steenbakkers said, with fine tuning to take a couple of days. But in case there are any glitches, a movie for the public will have to wait, he said.

“We fully anticipate having a movie next weekend,” Steenbakkers said.

Movie palace

This week’s project was Cinema Service’s 172nd digital conversion, Gulbrandsen said, and Barker said GTS has sold some 40 to 45 systems. But both were excited about how the Hyart will look and sound. They said it will be the only 4K projection system in the region, with no others in place in the Big Horn Basin or in Billings. The closest 4K projector may be in Casper, Gulbrandsen said.

And the size of the Hyart makes it a rare treat in this age of chopped up theaters. Gulbrandsen said the Hyart is the largest theater in Wyoming and one of the largest in the Rocky Mountain region, with perhaps only the Wilma in Missoula (1,067 seats) and the Washoe in Anaconda (1,000 seats) being larger, and not by much. Built in 1950 with 1,001 seats, the Hyart now has 940 seats.

The Hyart is a movie palace, Barker said, with Gulbrandsen adding, “There aren’t many of those left.”

“It’s going to sound freakin’ awesome,” Barker said. “The sound and picture will be phenomenal. This (conversion) has the potential to make it a profitable operation and to run movies more days. Of course, that will be up to the committee.”

By David Peck