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Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

New technologies expand market. 5/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




NEC NP4001

NEC NP4001

Thanks to evolving technologies, we may be seeing the rise of a new category of digital-video projectors: high-brightness projectors that are capable of producing true HD-resolution images. This is a new market niche for digital projectors, and one that some may consider a contradiction. After all, the idea of a large-venue projector has traditionally been a unit designed for big audiences who are sitting too far from the screen to notice that the resolution is somewhere south of XGA.

Because this Extended Graphics Array (XGA) standard — introduced by IBM in 1990 — commonly contains 1024×768 pixels in a square 4:3 aspect ratio, it is not really capable of displaying even the least dense of today's accepted widescreen HD resolutions, 720p. Designed by AT&T Bell Laboratories in the late 1980s to rival the early Japanese analog Hi-Vision system, 720p presents the screen with 1280×720 pixels. For years, projector manufacturers have used some ingenious scaling approaches in an attempt to simulate either 720p or 1080i through their brightest XGA projectors.

Yet today, people expect to be presented with real HD images even though many can't tell the difference between true high-definition and standard-definition video as seen from a DVD (480p). Like the '80s cry of “I want my MTV,” the public has embraced the drive for HD — although few understand why. Test yourself. You can probably remember the popular TV ad where Miss Ditsy Blond coos “1080i. I totally don't know what it is, but I want it.” But can you remember either the vixen who said it or the product she was pitching? (Answer: Jessica Simpson for DirecTV.)

Ever since 2003, the large-venue display gallery at InfoComm has spotlighted projectors specializing in spectacular brightness levels. Organized by Steve Somers, vice president of engineering at Extron, the large-venue display gallery last year stipulated a brightness level of 5000 lumens to qualify. For this article, a similar threshold of brightness was originally set to qualify large HD projectors. However, to be as inclusive as possible, a few players just below that level have also been added to the team roster.

But there is the conundrum. What we used to think of as large-venue displays don't necessarily produce HD resolutions, while traditionally, real HD projectors have been found mostly in home-theater installations where more intimate audiences are happy with brightness levels of 1000 lumens or below. The evolution of this new high-brightness, large HD-projector market niche seems to have evolved from a combination of the reality-based desire to present onscreen video and data in the highest possible resolution to audiences in rooms bathed in ambient light, with the more marketing-oriented lust for “HD for HD's sake.”


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




BenQ SP831

BenQ SP831

The term “future proofing” even pops up often to justify high-definition resolutions being shown to corporate boardrooms, training centers, and employee gatherings in which viewers are sitting too far from the screen to appreciate HD's enhanced detail. This remains pleasantly oblivious to the reality that resolutions far higher than HD are already being used in many business applications, but that hasn't stopped lots of people from investing in HD projectors. Pacific Media Associates, a high-tech market-research and publishing firm that specializes in providing information on large-screen display products, predicts sales for HD projectors in general to grow to $150 million next year.

Much of this has been made possible by the fact that what was already pretty good has recently become even better. Of the three technologies behind the light engines in large projectors — Digital Light Processing (DLP), Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), and its derivative Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) — it is LCD that powers most projectors overall. LCD panels transmit a light source through color-twisted nematic liquid crystals mounted on a glass substrate with transparent indium tin oxide (ITO) electrodes directing their alignment. Therefore, it is a transmissive technology, depending on the ability of those crystals to either block or pass the light shined through them.

The single-chip LCD approach has developed into 3-chip designs largely with the support of a consortium of chip manufacturers called 3LCD for front-projection systems. The largest manufacturers of the chips themselves are Sony and Epson, and these are incorporated into many projector brands. In February 2008, Pacific Media Associates said that 3LCD finished 2007 as the clear technology choice of the pro AV market with more than 75-percent market share for the period of January 2007 through December 2007.

Due in part to their vulnerability to heat even when using the more recently developed inorganic liquid crystals, 3-chip LCD projectors currently top out at 15,000 lumens with XGA resolution. HD projectors using LCD chips in the 5000-lumen to 10,000-lumen range are becoming increasingly popular.

This brings up the question of what those brightness measurements actually mean. An ANSI lumen is a measurement of light that has been standardized by American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For a techno-geeky description: If a light source emits one candela of luminous intensity into a solid angle of one steradian, the total luminous flux emitted into that solid angle is one lumen. But you probably already knew that.


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




Canon REALiS SX7

Canon REALiS SX7

Specs referred to as “ANSI lumens” are actually the average of measurements taken from nine areas across a screen's surface in a 3×3 matrix. Sometimes a more accurate figure is called “center lumens,” which is the brightness of maximum white in the center of the screen as measured with a spot photometer. Center lumens is typically a higher value because it is a record of the brightest portion of the screen. The best lumens information available from each manufacturer will be included in this article.

At the beginning of this year, 3LCD announced its support for the new color brightness metric that is being submitted to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for light output measurement. Color brightness specifies a projector's ability to deliver the levels of the red, green, and blue of a projector's output — not just its whiteness — and should empower more accurate comparisons of different projection systems than straight lumen measurements.

Texas Instruments is the manufacturer of Digital Light Processing (DLP) chips, which use arrays of tiny reflective surfaces to direct light onto a screen. These optical semiconductors are called Digital Micromirror Devices, with the amount of mirrored surfaces in each array determining the output's potential native resolution. Three-panel DLP technology is used in projectors from around 8000 lumens soaring up to 30,000 lumens and higher.

For many years, those reflective surfaces have been 0.95in. diagonal measurement with resolutions ranging up to WXGA (Wide XGA) for 1366×768 pixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9, and WUXGA (Widescreen Ultra XGA) for 1920×1200 pixels at 16:10 screen aspect ratio. Texas Instruments has recently brought out an array with 0.7in. reflective surfaces, which could potentially cut the cost of high-definition DLP projectors in half, depending on how much investment the manufacturer puts into the rest of its projection system.

In 2005, Texas Instruments brought out its BrilliantColor technology to enhance color processing by adding yellow, cyan, and magenta colors to the rendering of the image so a DLP projector can maintain bright white points while providing deeper red, green, and blue colorimetry. BrilliantColor also improves the optical efficiency of DLP display engines, letting them achieve up to 50-percent improvement in brightness over traditional three-color solutions.

There is also the LCoS approach to lightengines, which is a reflective technology similar to DLP projectors, but using liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors. Several companies produce their own proprietary version of LCoS, such as Sony with its Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) approach and the JVC Digital Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier (D-ILA) concept.


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




Digital Projection dVision 30-1080p

Digital Projection dVision 30-1080p

So with all these options empowering the new category of large HD projectors, here are some of the most interesting models on the market.

The NH-12 network-centric 3-chip DLP projector from Barco, producing 12,000 center lumens brightness, is the world's only 1080p HD presentation projector with Microsoft Windows desktop-integration capabilities. That means the PC working with the NH-12 can run Barco desktop software, which is able to display separate local, connected, or networked sources simultaneously in individual windows as you would on a normal desktop.

If multiple projectors are run in a multichannel system, the NH-12 even has built-in edge blending. Barco has specially designed the NH-12 with durability in mind, because its sealed optical engine prevents environmental contamination of its image quality and its liquid cooling helps to reduce noise levels to a minimum. As a result, Barco claims the NH-12 can attain a lifetime that is 60 percent longer than that of typical 3-chip DLP projectors. In addition, the XDC-3000 projector — combined with Barco's award-winning XDS-1000 display management system — is a single-channel, 4500-lumen LCoS display wall with 10-megapixel resolution on a high-contrast super flatscreen.

Claiming it was the first projector to have real splitscreen capabilities when it was released late last year, the SP831 DLP projection system from BenQ puts out 4000 ANSI lumens at a 2000:1 contrast ratio. It offers BrilliantColor processing in WXGA (1280×768), which enables higher brightness levels by boosting mid-tone colors. The SP830 is able to process a full 10 bit of color data to distinguish and display more than 1 billion colors in HQV enhanced-detail video quality. With its Signal Shuttle, the distance between the SP831 DLP projector and a computer can be long as 328ft. without image deterioration.

The Canon REALiS projector combines the brilliance and sharpness of LCoS technology with Canon's proprietary AISYS light-engine technology. The SX7 is the top of the REALiS line of projectors at 4000 ANSI lumens, but thanks to its proprietary AISYS optical system and wider aperture, the REALiS SX7's perceived brightness is considerably more. AISYS has three components: the illumination system, the color-separation and combination system, and the LCoS panels. The SX7's 1.7X ultra-wide powered zoom lens with autofocus provides the widest zoom range of any of Canon's projector lenses, while its DVI-I terminal empowers the projection of high-quality video from satellite and digital-cable boxes, as well as the output of DVD players.

The HD8K is the first Christie Digital native HD resolution (1920×1080) 3-chip DLP 8000-lumen digital projector using Xenon illumination with a variable contrast ratio of 1600:1 to 2000:1 for crisp, detailed images. The HD8K also features standard built-in edge blending, two HD input channels that will also allow 4:4:4 signals, digital dark-level adjustment, ILS on zoom and focus, and DMX 512 communication capabilities. Its 10-bit image processing offers high-bandwidth signal processing and features high-quality lenses specifically designed to increase image sharpness and provide manual-contrast adjustment for improved image control.


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




Christie Digital Roadster HD18K

Christie Digital Roadster HD18K

At the higher end of brightness, Christie's Roadster HD18K 3-chip DLP 17,500-lumen projector presents 1080 HD capability with a Xenon bubble-lamp system that provides repeatability of photorealistic colors and an ability to accurately color-match images. At the top end, Christie's Roadie HD+30K HD digital projector produces 30,000 ANSI lumens with native 2048×1080 HD resolution at a 1600:1 to 2800:1 contrast ratio.

Digital Projection, Texas Instruments' first DLP partner and the original innovator of the 3-chip DLP projector, has its Titan Proseries of large HD projectors, including the HD-500, HD-600, and XG-500 — which use the latest in Texas Instruments' 720p and XGA dark metal, 3-chip DLP technology to deliver up to 8000 lumens and 1800:1 contrast. The projector includes sealed optics to protect DMDs and other focal-plane components from airborne contaminants. It also features DPI CoolTek engineering, which delivers improved lumen performance with lower heat and noise-level output.

Digital Projection also has its dVision 30 series projectors, which are dual-UHP lamp designs based on single-chip DLP technology. They are available in 720p and 1080p HD resolutions (in addition to XGA and SXGA+), and they put out 6500 ANSI lumens at a contrast ratio of 7500:1. Every dVision projector also comes with a motorized light shutter and a backlit projector-information display to provide users with all relevant data regarding the projector's operating status.

Just released last February, the LC-W5 LCD projector from Eiki International can output 6000 ANSI lumens brightness at 90-percent uniformity and a 2000:1 contrast ratio at 720p (1366×800) resolution. It supports both analog and digital computer and video inputs in all color standards, and the LC-W5 self-advancing 10-step cartridge air filter reduces maintenance. It has 10-bit color processing for superior color reproduction, durable inorganic LCD panels for extended use, and a mechanical shutter for true black-screen no-show. A wide range of optional lenses is available for the Eiki LC-W5 that can project images up to 400in. diagonal.

With its 1920×1080 resolution and its splitscreen feature to accommodate dual computer and video images, the FL7000U HD projector from Mitsubishi Electric can easily keep presentations on a single screen side by side with full-size graphics to showcase your entire story. This 5000-lumen native 1080p projector saves the expense of frequent lamp changes with a temperature control system that supports a bulb life up to 4,000 hours in low-lamp mode. The FL7000U includes an RJ-45 connector for connection to a local network and software to enable a simple interface for remote projector management, monitoring, and control.


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




The single DLP chip NP4001 from NEC with a WXGA (1280×768) native resolution has two options in its color wheel: either four segments for maximum light output or six segments for the best color depth. At 4500 ANSI lumens, the NP4001 features Eco-Mode technology — which extends lamp life by up to 25 percent, and BrilliantColor technology for advanced video processing. The NP4001 also offers a DynamicBlack capability that monitors the incoming video content and dynamically adjusts the contrast ratio to optimize picture quality for each video frame. Its AutoSense system automatically syncs the NP4001 with any computer signal. NEC's single-DLP-chip NP4001 features one-touch image optimization with 64-step image magnification with location control, and its sealed optical block minimizes the effects of dust to ensure the delivery of distortion-free images.

The PT-DW10000U from Panasonic is the world's smallest widescreen HD 3-chip DLP projector with 10,000 lumens of brightness at a 5000:1 contrast ratio. To enhance its portability, the four mercury lamps in the PT-DW10000U can run on standard 120V circuits. The projector's 75ft. throw distance makes it possible to place the projector in a control room, rather than on a stand in the audience. The Dynamic Iris in the PT-DW10000U opens and closes as the input signal changes for realtime control of light striking the DLP chips with minimal effect on light uniformity.

Panasonic also offers the PT-DW5100U, a 1280×768-pixel projector putting out 5500 lumens and a 2000:1 contrast ratio. A unique control technology in the PT-DW5100U is used to maximize the color-segment areas of the color wheel, and it comes with progressive cinema scan (3/2 pulldown) for the smoothest film presentation.

Due out early this summer, the latest three-DLP chip projector from Projectiondesign is the 8000-ANSI-lumen F80, a 1080p design with RealColor calibration technology and Projectiondesign's proprietary optical design for increased brightness and contrast levels of 10,000:1. With its patented DuArch dual-illumination architecture, lamps in the F80 can be replaced while the projector is still in operation. The F80 can be delivered with a range of pre-installed, application-specific optical filters.

In addition, the F30 projector series is Projectiondesign's top-of-the-line single-chip DLP model offering 1080p (1920×1080) or SXGA+ (1400×1050 pixel) resolution options at 6500 ANSI lumens. The F30 is available in special versions for 3D stereo display and visualization. A set of two F30 projectors can be set up to show passive 3D stereo for small or large groups with the help of Infitec wavelength multiplex imaging. The F30 can switch from 2D to 3D by deactivating the filters with an easy switch control.


Technology Showcase: Large HD Projectors

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New technologies expand market.




The PLV-HD100 from Sanyo is a true HD 16:9 mulitmedia projector outputting 5500 ANSI lumens from four 250W UHP lamps with an efficient lamp-management system for longer life. With an SDI connection, the PLV-HD100 can even put out 24p images from its three 1920×1080 LCD panels. Thanks to its new high-contrast optical system using microlens technology, the PLV-HD100 is able to achieve a contrast ratio of 1000:1. A microlens is integrated into each individual pixel on the three LCD panels increasing light efficiency, which results in significantly brighter images.

In addition, the Sanyo PLV-HD150 increases the brightness to 7000 ANSI lumens with four 300W UHP lamps, and offers Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectivity and a 6500-degrees-K color-temperature optical system. It boasts a 12-bit progressive IC for 2/3 pulldown and 1080i-to-progressive conversion with either 24p or 60p true high-definition resolution. The PLV-HD150 even captures logo files and displays a preset logo on screen during the projector's short period of warm up.

Due out in June, the three-DLP chip XG-P560W will be the first projector to use the new 0.7in. Texas Instruments DMD arrays, and that will be reflected in its reduced cost for a WXGA, 5000-ANSI-lumen display system that complies with the ISO 21118-2005 ANSI brightness specification. Sharp's breakthrough XG-P560W offers compatibility with standard XGA and 720p HDTV, as well as “pixel-perfect” 1280×800 resolution from the newest generation WXGA PCs. The XG-P560W, with approximately 20,000-hour DLP life, has an intelligent dual-lamp design that can use one of the bulbs as a redundant backup in lower-light mode for enhanced reliability.

Just starting to deliver last March, the VPL-FW300L is the first fixed-installation 3LCD business projector from Sony featuring WXGA+ (1366×800) resolution with 7000 lumens brightness. In addition, the VPL-FH300L is Sony's first fixed-installation business projector featuring 2K HD-resolution (2048×1080) imaging panels at 6000 lumens brightness.

Both models employ Sony's new BrightEra 3 inorganic LCD 1.22in. WXGA panels and feature a two-lamp design with each requiring just 275W to reduce cost of ownership. That's because of the efficiency of Sony's BrightEra technology, which also means the projector can run as long as 6,000 hours before needing a lamp and filter change. Five lens options are available to cover almost any installation situation with throw ratios from 1.4 to 8.0 with no gaps, and their integrated cable-management system hides wires and connector panels for a clean look.


Jay Ankeney is a writer and video consultant in the Los Angeles area who has worked in professional film/TV for several decades.


For More Information

Barco
www.barco.com

BenQ
www.benq.us

Canon
www.canonprojectors.com

Christie Digital
www.christiedigital.com

Digital Projection
www.digitalprojection.com

Eiki International
www.eiki.com

Epson
www.epson.com

Extron
www.extron.com

Mitsubishi Electric
www.mitsubishi-presentations.com

NEC
www.necdisplay.com

Panasonic
www.panasonic.com/business/projectors

Projectiondesign
www.projectiondesign.com

Sanyo
www.sanyoprojectors.com

Sharp
www.sharpusa.com

Sony
www.sony.com/projectors

Texas Instruments
www.ti.com


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