Reflecting back on 1929, the LA Times predicted that a global Airship network would link Los Angeles to the world and the first-ever talking picture was honoured at the first-ever Oscars Awards. Tintin was in the funny pages and new radio stations were broadcasting concerts into people’s homes.
Type ‘1929’ into a search engine today, and it’s likely to show you the Wall Street crash, the stock exchange had danced a little shimmy, but that was nothing new. What was new in 1929, was a world of technical wonders as far-reaching and as full of promise as any you’ll see today.
Of all the places you could be in 1929, none was more exciting than California and the movie business. That year, the year S.L. Christie built his first projector, around 800 U.S. feature films were released, the Marx Brothers were on the screen and Mickey Mouse had spoken. Unfortunately, that little shimmy spun into a wobble that set the entire global economy awry and Christie Inc. – a child of optimism – had to grow up and grow up fast.
This was at a time when cinema was establishing itself as the people’s entertainment when a handful of coins could buy you an entire afternoon of escapism. However, pictures that moved, actors that spoke and colours that shone all depended on projection – and Christie had a flair for that.
Carbon arc lamps were noisy, unreliable and tended to catch fire – Christie introduced xenon lamps. Film reels had to be changed mid-feature – Christie introduced platter systems so they didn’t. Christie also invented gearless and self-lubricating projectors – innovations that kept the drama on the screen and out of the projection booth. In that century, as in this, cinema and Christie were inseparable.
Meanwhile, north of the border, Christie’s future partner Dominion Electrohome Industries was treading a distinctly domestic path. A respected Canadian manufacturer of phonographs, they first expanded by pressing the records you played on their phonographs. Then they made radios, then furniture, then electric fans and by 1954, there was an Electrohome run TV station – and Electrohome TV sets to watch it on. Come the late 1960s, it was Canada’s first and only manufacturer of colour sets.
Christie, for example, had long believed that movies would someday go digital and Electrohome believed that digital TV should offer movie-like experiences. Until they joined forces, however, neither was entirely sure how.
By the time the two companies joined forces as Christie Digital in 2000, they were convinced that Texas Instruments’ DLP® technology could change all that. Here was a technology that promised brighter colours, higher resolutions, and faster frames rates than anything film could manage.
By the end of 2017, not only had 98% of the world’s cinema screens gone digital – but now that same technology had driven wider revolutions in the wider AV world.
We’re now quite comfortable with posters that move and projection mapping that turns outside spaces and theme-park rides into immersive spectaculars. We expect and accept projection as part of the shows we enjoy, the opening ceremonies we cheer and the sporting events we attend.
Pure RGB laser projection is already here, the worlds of IT and AV are continuing to converge, and artificial intelligence is changing the way content is created.
It’s now ninety years since Christie made its first projector and nineteen since Christie and Electrohome became Christie Digital. Laws now prevent another 1929-like stock market crash – but the Airship to California still hasn’t arrived. Some dreams don’t come true but many do through hard work and perseverance – and it all starts with an idea.
For the full story, read Christies latest edition of Avenue HERE