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Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

The most innovative front-projector systems. 8/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




Digital Projection dVision 30-1080

Digital Projection dVision 30-1080

These are awkward times for the home-theater front-projector business. Despite the fact that prices are dropping even while projectors' features get more exciting every year, recent sales have been disappointing.

Quixel Research, a market-research provider covering the consumer market for advanced TVs, has been tracking this trend. After hitting a peak of 338,972 home-theater projector units in 2006 — accounting for $657.9 million in sales — Americans purchased only 289,459 front-projection systems for the home in 2007, for a total of $579.5 million. Quixel Research predicts a 43-percent drop in sales from Q4 2007 to Q1 2008 for mainstream consumer projection systems — although the high-end enthusiast market, including models that the total installed costs can often top $100,000, remained solid.

In addition to our country's economic slowdown, the dip in domestic sales of mid-level projectors may be due to the lowering cost and increasing screen sizes of competing flatpanels — which are easier to see in ambient light for many viewers. Another factor may be the limited lamp life of most projectors, which often need to be changed after several thousand hours compared to the more than 60,000-hour to 80,000-hour half-life of most flatpanel illumination systems.

With two major technologies vying to provide the light engines inside the projectors, according to Quixel Research, the LCD approaches — including the reflective LCoS implementation of liquid-crystal technology — represented almost 70 percent of sales in Q1 2008. The remaining 30 percent were using the DLP technology from Texas Instruments.

Home-theater enthusiasts who can afford the top-of-the-line front projectors are reviving the concept of a screening room that was once only applied to film-projector setups adorning the entertainment salons of Hollywood's rich and famous. At the center of this trend is the increasing move toward installations that can accommodate the 2:35 aspect ratio that most widescreen films are actually shot in.

BenQ W20000

BenQ W20000

When Thomas Edison established the first de facto aspect ratio for his films in 1892, he did it by deciding the 35mm film frame would be 4-perf tall — giving it a ratio of width divided by height of 1.33. This lasted, with lots of variations, throughout the silent era. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sought a standard that could include space for a soundtrack in 1932, they established the Academy aperture frame of 1.37 by making the frame lines thicker. This remained the nexus of projection apertures until Hollywood decided to answer television competition by giving audiences a widescreen experience in the early '50s.

The CinemaScope system, which 20th Century Fox introduced with The Robe in 1953, was superceded when Robert Gottschalk founded Panavision later the same year. Panavision has since supplanted its predecessor, most famously when Frank Sinatra insisted Fox dump CinemaScope in favor of Panavision when filming Von Ryan's Express in 1965.

During most of the 20th century, theatrical-film audiences were presented with aspect ratios ranging from the early European widescreen standard of 1.56 to the 2.76 of MGM Camera 65 used on 1959's Ben-Hur. TV viewers, however, were stuck with the boxy 1.33 raster of the boob tube — which has also become known as the 4:3 aspect ratio.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




InFocus X10

InFocus X10

Then came the move toward HD television. The first consumer HD system — developed by Japanese broadcaster NHK in 1969 — used a 5:3 aspect ratio, which was copied by the United States for the first demonstration of HD in 1981. When the Grand Alliance backed the HD standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee — which was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1996 — it was more concerned with bandwidth and resolution than adhering to any previously established aspect ratio. Thus, to the dismay of many veteran cinematographers, the 16:9 aspect ratio was set as the standard for HD presentations.

Back in the heyday of Hollywood, movie palaces could accommodate different aspect ratios by changing the lenses on projectors and shielding the screen by moving curtains in or out from the sides. But fitting theatrical widescreen into HD widescreen in the home required cropping the celluloid image to fit the HD display. For those who can afford it, that is not to be tolerated.

Everything would be so much simpler if theatrical films were actually shot in exactly 2.35, but the fact is that the real ratios used by directors of photography can vary considerably. In fact, the true mathematical ratio set by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in 1993 for the unsqueezed image is 2.39 — and some DVD and Blu-ray Disc cases list their version as 2.40. Still, 2.35 has become the generally recognized ratio for the most uncompromising home theater. The problem is that it is considerably wider than the specs for an HD frame.

How do you square that circle? The same way French astronomer and inventor Henri Chrétien did in the early '20s with a film process that he patented as Anamorphoscope, which uses what we now call an anamorphic lens. It takes the wide, rectangular image in front of the lens and squeezes it horizontally it until all the people look tall and skinny in the recorded frame. Upon playback, a similar lens reverses the process.

This proper aspect ratio can sometimes be seen in an unmodified HD display with letterbox black bars on the top and bottom. The easiest and cheapest way to eliminate those bars is to use a projector with a powered zoom lens and vertical lens-shift capability. However, this means you are only using some of the pixels put out by your projector's light engine, so you are sacrificing its potential resolution. Or you use some kind of inboard or outboard signal-processing scaler to squeeze the 2.35 film image onto your HD display and then shoot it out through an anamorphic lens. Because all the vertical pixels on the imaging system are in full use, this is often referred to as a “constant height system.” Now all the pixels on the projector's original imaging system can beam out that tall/skinny image through the lens' horizontal stretch, and voilà, you have a 2.35 widescreen image that takes advantage of all the resolution the projector can put out.

Since 2001, Panamorph has made the most popular of these anamorphic lens systems. These can involve either a fixed lens that has to be manually placed in front of the projector or a robotically controlled lens system that slides out on a sled when it is needed and retracts when it is not. Although this system can cost many times the price of entry-level projectors, for those installing state-of-the-art screening rooms, it is just butter on the popcorn.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




Planar PD8150

Planar PD8150

To eliminate the need to position that expensive lens, some projector manufacturers have even come up with clever schemes that let you leave the anamorphic squeezer in place all the time and compensate with internal circuitry to get originally sized 16:9 images to come through it.

So whether widescreen, letterboxed, 4:3, or 16:9, here is a look at some of the most innovative front-projector systems intended for home-theater installations being offered today.

The value-oriented X1160 4:3-native projector from Acer features complete wide-format support with its SXGA (1280×1024) resolution and 16.7 million displayable colors. Using a six-segment color wheel, the X1160 includes Acer ColorBoost and SmartFormat technologies for rich, vibrant imagery. The X1160 boasts an innovative Blackboard mode that allows users to instantly project onto a green chalkboard without setting up a separate white screen. It provides a USB connector for remote computer control. If the user is in a hurry to leave, the power cord can be unplugged right after the projector is turned off without needing to wait for the projector to cool down.

The BenQ W5000 and W20000 projectors with Senseye technology present 1080p full HD with BenQ's ultra-high-contrast-ratio Dual Iris technology that combines an advanced continuous mechanical electronic iris with Texas Instruments' DynamicBlack software. To remove burrs along edges of moving objects, BenQ's advanced filtering technology can effectively handle this — even those at shallow angles of 5 degrees to 7 degrees. Its VIDI lighting technology pulses electricity at different frequencies through the bulb to produce enhanced color, smooth video-stream performance, and HQV (Hollywood-quality video) that renders standard-definition material in full-HD-like 1080p video quality even from analog, 480i, 480p, or 720i sources.

Having evolved out of the film-oriented Rank Organization, Digital Projection International (DPI) produced the world's first DLP projector in 1997. This earned DPI two Emmy awards for in 1998. Today, Digital Projection's dVision 30-1080p home-theater projector features cutting-edge DLP technology using a .95in. DarkChip3 DMD for native 1920×1080 resolution. Dual seven-segment color wheels produce a user-adjustable 500 ANSI lumens to 5500 ANSI lumens and 7500:1 contrast. Its VIP image processor, an external video processor featuring the Realta integrated circuit from Silicon Optix, provides connectivity to input devices.

Digital Projection also offers the single-lamp Titan 1080p-250 projector, producing 2000 lumens and 5000:1 contrast. The Titan 1080p-250 also has a user-selectable Xenon color modem. Its super-accurate user control over the projector's colorimetry ensures precise white-point definition with extensive control over gamma, color, and grayscale tracking.

Epson has launched a new projector called the PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB that delivers true 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) resolution and contrast ratios measuring up to 50,000:1. This value-priced projector takes advantage of the newest-generation 3LCD optical engine, the D7 chip set with C2Fine and UltraBlack technology. Epson's 3LCD technology maximizes the visual benefits of today's advanced multimedia entertainment devices — such as HD cable and satellite tuners, Xbox 360, and 1080p-based technologies such as Blu-Ray Disc and Sony PlayStation 3. It also offers 12-bit video processing, two HDMI 1.3 inputs, a 96-degree vertical lens shift, and a 47-degree horizontal lens shift.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




Samsung SP-A800B

Samsung SP-A800B

The InFocus IN83 home-theater projector, the most powerful home-cinema projector in InFocus' lineup, integrates the latest in digital-imaging technology with the 1080p DLP DarkChip4 chipset from Texas Instruments. The IN83 delivers DeepColor support and 1600 ANSI lumens after D6500K calibration. Its 5000:1 native contrast can be boosted to a maximum 15,000:1 by activating the onboard iris. Leveraging the latest Pixelworks DNX 10-bit video processing, the InFocus IN83 also has built-in scaling support for 2.35 aspect ratio.

If you are looking for a cost-effective projector for the kids' room, the entry-level InFocus X10 features advanced tuning of BrilliantColor technology to display HDTV or full-HD (1080p) video with stunning accuracy. Connectivity offered by the InFocus X10 includes HDMI 1.3 with DeepColor support, M1-DA, component video, RS-232 control, and wired-remote and screen triggers.

Upgraded from the DLA-RS1U, JVC's new DLA-RS2U can claim the industry's highest native contrast ratio of 30,000:1 — which is achieved without having to depend on technologies such as a dynamic iris. In fact, the company calls it a “reference-series home-cinema projector.” The DLA-RS2 is powered by three 1920×1080 D-ILA (direct-drive image light amplifier) devices — JVC's version of LCoS — with no color dithering, no color wheel, and therefore no rainbow effect. A high-performance all-glass Fujinon 2X motorized zoom lens enables flexible setup with a ±80-percent vertical offset and a ±34-percent horizontal lens shift to accommodate a wide range of screening-room geometries during installation.

JVC also offers its DLA-RS1X, with 15,000:1 contrast and two inputs with HDMI 1.3 connectivity. The new RS1X now allows for sophisticated gamma settings, letting you optimize the projector for a variety of viewing conditions.

The new 400 series of 1080p home projectors from Knoll Systems — including the 1080p-resolution model HDP460 — are calibrated, pixel-scanned, and QC-tested for burn-in before they are shipped so they can be guaranteed for two years against pixel freeze and dead pixels. The HDP460 — with DLP DarkChip4 and Pixelworks DNX 10-bit video processing — delivers enhanced brightness of 1600 video-optimized lumens with a contrast of 5000:1 native, or up to 15,000:1 by activating the onboard iris. The HDP460 is bright enough to deliver film-standard, D6500K color even with ambient light or daytime viewing. It also has built-in scaling support for 2.35 aspect ratio.

Marantz America recommends its VP-11S2 HD DLP front projector, which was the world's first 1080p HD projector to feature hand-selected Texas Instruments DarkChip4 chips. The VP-11S2 features HDMI 1.3 inputs with DeepColor capability. It also includes the Gennum GF9351 processor, a programmable video processor that can do calculations on the order of 500 million floating-point operations per second. The VP-11S2 is designed for maximum installation ease and compatibility with all types of components and home-entertainment systems. In addition to its HDMI 1.3 input, the VP-11S2 provides HD component video, S-Video, composite video and analog RGB connections, RS-232C serial control ports, and two DC trigger connections that can trigger two independent operations. This allows the projector to reconfigure a dual-aspect-ratio projection screen whenever the aspect ratio of the program source changes from 16:9 to 4:3 or from 16:9 to 2.35.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




The Meridian 810 projector, launching at CEDIA Expo 2008, is the world's first projector capable of delivering 10-megapixel resolution. It features a 4000×2400-pixel D-ILA 4K light engine, an 850W lamp, a video processor and scaler, and custom lenses to accommodate different screen and room sizes — along with an additional 2.35 widescreen lens. Each unit undergoes four days of custom calibration in the Meridian U.K. facility, which gives it perfect white field and color uniformity.

Mitsubishi is boosting the features of its entry-level 1080p-resolution home-theater projector, the HC5500. It is designed with inorganic LCD panels, which are more durable and provide a more consistently toned color image than previous-generation LCD panels. It also includes an improved automatic iris function for quicker black-to-light image shift and increased the contrast ratio to 10,000:1. It comes with the Silicon Optix Reon-VX video-processing chip that is often found in more high-end devices and a HQV high-performance video processor for an enhanced 1080p display.

As a low-cost 720p option, Mitsubishi's HC1600 DLP projector puts out 1700 ANSI lumens and 2500:1 contrast. It benefits from Texas Instruments' BrilliantColor and a seven-segment color wheel. The HC1600 DLP projector operates at a hushed 25dBA in low mode. It includes both vertical and horizontal digital keystone correction.

With a high-brightness level of 2400 lumens, the Optoma HD71 native 720p-resolution crossover home-theater projector has multiple HD inputs — including HDMI v.1.3, DVI with HDCP, and component video. With the latest in multicolor processing capabilities, it delivers rich and deep textures with ease in non-light-controlled environments. Optoma also features its new 1080p DLP-based HD806 projector. At 2000 lumens and with HDMI 1.3 support, the HD806 is targeted toward the entry pricing for 1080p projectors.

The Panasonic PT-AX200U is a 720p projector designed for watching sports or playing video games in daytime conditions as well as for viewing movies in a dark room, thanks to its 2000-lumen brightness and new Light Harmonizer 2 technology. Its Game mode features improved signal processing for optimized frame response, enabling gamers to enjoy lag-free play. It also benefits from expanded detail reproduction, which reveals gradation in saturated areas otherwise lost in darkness.

For full-HD 1080p reproduction, Panasonic's PT-AE2000U LCD projector was developed with the cooperation of leading Hollywood filmmakers. It features onscreen vectorscope and waveform monitor displays. It delivers 1080p images with a carefully tuned lens system for enhanced detail and clarity with 1500-lumen brightness and a 16,000:1 contrast ratio. It offers a split-adjust mode that allows you to freeze a scene and make adjustments while comparing the original and adjusted images side by side. It also incorporates next-generation, full-HD C2Fine LCD panels — which are characterized by an inorganic alignment layer and vertically aligned liquid crystals for enhanced black-level performance.

Planar's home-theater division now encompasses three brands: Runco at the highest end for limited specialized installer distribution, Vidikron for custom-channel system integrator access, and Planar for value-oriented home theaters. The Runco line just introduced its 3-chip DLP, THX-certified VX-22d projector with Runco's latest next-generation, all-digital DHD controller — featuring advanced Vivix II video processing, superb scaling and aspect ratio control, and 1920×1080 SuperOnyx DLP resolution. Runco's exclusive CineWide and CineWide with AutoScope technology options are available on the VX-22d for true 2.35 presentations.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




Also THX-certified, the new Vision Model 110 3-chip DLP features proprietary Imagix video processing to achieve near-HD image quality even from standard video sources — in addition to artifact-free scaling of higher video resolutions all the way up to the projector's 1920×1080 native resolution.

Planar's PD8150 home-theater projector offers 15,000:1 contrast ratio, 1000 lumens, and 1080p single-chip DLP resolution. It has two lens options, horizontal and vertical lens shift, future-proof connectivity, VXP video, and a darkroom-optimized remote.

The pictures will jump off the screen at you with Projectiondesign's F10 AS3D. It is the first projector that enables full 3D stereoscopic presentation from a small, single-lens chassis at the full 120Hz refresh rates commonly used in stereoscopic systems. With two DVI inputs and patented 3D stereo display technology, the F10 AS3D is compatible with both IR-transmitted and Texas Instruments' DLP Link active-shutter 3D glasses. Because there is little 3D source material available yet for home entertainment, the F10 AS3D is a tool not only for the scientific visualization and simulation industries, but also for DI, visual-effects creation, and video and film production. Still, you know that 3D entertainment for the home will not be long in coming.

The Samsung SP-A800B projector leverages an advanced 1080p single-chip DLP engine to deliver color and image quality that is traditionally only found in studio-grade monitors and commercial movie theaters, because Samsung teamed up with Joe Kane Productions — an authority on visual-imaging equipment — for its development. It delivers more detailed blacks and whites through a constantly shifting contrast ratio, features a 24-frame true-film mode, and operates at a virtually inaudible 24dBA. Its enhanced HDMI 1.3 provides a broader bandwidth for full support of all existing Dolby and DTS compressed audio formats.

The Sanyo PLV-Z2000 outputs 1200 lumens with a high contrast ratio of 15,000:1, along with an advanced lens-shifting function. Offering full 1920×1080 resolution, it delivers deep and accurate colors — thanks to Sanyo's exclusive Topaz Real HD technology, a color-management system that addresses changes in color phase and color level to obtain perfect color reproduction. It uses a Durable Inorganic Optical System (DIOS), which includes the projector's LCD panels and polarizing film. It is also equipped with a large-aperture, low-noise Sirocco cooling fan that never rises above 19dB in economy mode.

The Sharp XV-Z3100 is a portable DLP front projector with 720p HD resolution that doesn't require a ceiling mount. With a resolution of 1280×720, it boasts a 6500:1 contrast ratio; a brightness rating of 1000 ANSI lumens; and a six-segment, five-speed color wheel that provides accurate color reproduction.

Sharp's flagship SharpVision XV-Z20000 is its first 1080p single-chip DLP home-theater front projector. A contrast ratio of 12,000:1 and a high brightness level of 1000 ANSI lumens presents a clear, crisp picture. Sharp's proprietary CV-IC III video-scaling circuitry upconverts standard-resolution signals to the native 1080p resolution of the projector. DVI/HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) and two HDMI terminals provide a secure digital connection with compatible HD set-top boxes.

The SIM2 D80E — the top entry in the Domino series — is a single-chip, DLP-based model building on the success of the company's original D80 by integrating advancements trickled down from the Grand Cinema series. It adds the Unishape lamp system that yields greater light output per watt of consumption, improving contrast so that the D80E Domino can produce an exceptional optimized contrast ratio (full on/off) of 4500:1.


Technology Showcase: Home-theater Projectors

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

The most innovative front-projector systems.




SIM2's Grand Cinema C3X 1080 is the smallest and highest performing full-HD, 1080p/24fps 3-chip DLP projector on the market. The C3X 1080 is housed in a stunning, high-gloss sculpted cabinet designed by Giorgio Revoldini.

Building on technology developed for its original ultra-premium Qualia 004 SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) home-theater front projector first introduced in 2004, Sony is now recommending two full-HD 1080p Bravia projectors — the VPL-VW200 and VPL-VW60. Both feature all-digital video-signal processing via the Bravia engine that has unique algorithms for noise reduction and color enhancement. When combined with Sony's Advanced Iris technology, the newly designed SXRD panels in the VW200 and VW60 help to deliver a stunning 35,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. The VW60 features improved brightness of 1000 lumens. The VW200 projector also has new high-frame-rate SXRD (120fps) panels, and it offers three motion-compensation modes that enable users to adapt performance based on content for the best possible motion reproduction with moving images.

Want to take your home-theater projector over to your friend's house to watch the big game? Toshiba would recommend its line of lightweight DLP projectors that just started shipping last July, the TDP-XP1U and the TDP-XP2U. The TDP-XP1U and the TDP-XP2U offer 2200 ANSI lumens and 2500 ANSI lumens, respectively, and 2000:1 contrast ratio. Both projectors are native 4:3 (XGA 1024×768), but they can scale 16:9 output for widescreen content. The projectors boast an extended lamp life of up to 3,000 hours in standard mode and 4,000 hours in economy mode. Each features a 2W monarual loudspeaker for enhanced presentations and a special monitor-out capabilities to display and view images on an outboard monitor and the projector screen simultaneously.

ViewSonic has announced its entrance into the luxury home-theater lifestyle category with the first offering in its Precision series: the Pro8100 projector with 1080p resolution; 13,000:1 contrast ratio; 1000 lumens of brightness; auto iris; and full-HD optics. The Pro8100 uses ViewSonic's proprietary Precision Color System (PCS), an image enhancement technology that renders natural colors with extensive tuning capabilities. PCS features include 3D color management, auto contrast, H-Edge enhancement, 33 levels of gamma correction, and a daylight-mode function to automatically adjust the image to suit the lighting environment. The Pro8100's connectivity includes all standard connections as well as two HDMI 1.3 inputs with HDCP that allows it to interface with multiple devices — such as game consoles, HD broadcast receivers, and Blu-ray Disc players.


MORE INFORMATION

Acer
us.acer.com

BenQ
www.benq.us

Digital Projection International
www.digitalprojection.com

Epson
www.epson.com

InFocus
www.infocus.com

JVC
www.jvc.com/pro

Knoll Systems
www.knollsystems.com

Marantz
www.marantz.com

Meridian
www.meridian-audio.com

Mitsubishi
www.mitsubishi-hometheater.com

Optoma
www.optomausa.com

Panasonic
www.panasonic.com/projectors

Planar
www.planar.com

Projectiondesign
www.projectiondesign.com

Samsung
www.samsung.com

Sanyo
www.sanyoprojectors.com

Sharp
www.sharpusa.com

SIM2
www.sim2usa.com

Sony
www.sony.com/projectors

Toshiba
www.toshibadirect.com/projectors

ViewSonic
www.viewsonic.com


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