Infocomm 2009 Part A: Not as exciting as last year, but Orlando never is.
This year’s Infocomm 2009 Trade Show in Orlando, Florida wasn’t nearly as exciting for me as last year’s show in Las Vegas. I could blame it on the location (Orlando? BOOORING!) and the flattened economy (both obvious contributors to lower attendance). But could it also have been that last year I was a wide-eyed newcomer to a show that tries to cover everything from professional audio equipment to “Minority Report” style display technologies?
This year’s show certainly boasted a greater assortment of thin, large screen TVs, some of which featured high resolution beyond the once leading edge 1080P format (until you see an image on a 6 or 8 Megapixel, 56-inch screen you won’t be able to imagine how gorgeous it looks. But if you have to ask how much it costs, it’s not for you!) Video display wall technology also jumped up several notches, with new LED backlit displays adding color way beyond NTSC standards. And everywhere I turned the big AV players had multiple large screen monitors grouped together to display extremely high resolution (or wide format) photographs, CAD drawings, and art work.
With video walls, you could still see the narrow seams in between monitors if you look closely, but projector displays used a combination software/hardware solution from Scalable Display Technology to seamlessly stitch multiple images into one. I’m still dizzy from the flight simulator walls that showcased this technology, and can’t wait till it becomes more affordable.
Next, there was an abundance of new 3D displays from HDTV manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, and even a few DLP-projector manufacturers. Most of these displays required the use of special glasses to sync the right and left stereo pair images, but using these glasses provided a truly remarkable 3D experience. (Forget using those crappy old paper and plastic 3D glasses, that’s not even close to the new 3D experience.) But the real challenge will be providing enough quality content to convince 3D enabled HDTVs to purchase multiple pairs of 3D glasses. While there are some auto-stereo monitors on the market that don’t need glasses, they’re still too small for home theater use, and the viewing angle is very limited.
Last year there was a lot of hoopla about the arrival of pico projectors, and this year there were more units on display. However, most of the discussion about those small devices centered on slightly increased Lumens ratings, and the entry of LCOS-based imaging engines with LED light source, where where once single-chip DLP and LED ruled. From my perspective, pico projectors don’t offer enough brightness (or overall value) to be commercially competitive with current projectors, whether DLP or 3LCD based. However, I predict we’ll see pico projection technology sneaking into a wide variety of devices in the next year, from minivan ceilings to portable digital cameras (who needs a big LCD monitor when you can project your photos on the floor, wall, or ceiling?)
Predictions for LED lights eventually replacing the current bulbs used in the projectors continued, mostly by the manufacturers of LED (such as Phlatlight) and the DLP camp. But as I mentioned, the Lumens output isn’t yet up to par, even though LED lights do boast much longer life spans on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 hours or more. Last year, I heard a DLP presentation claiming that the upcoming wave of 3-LED-based DLP units would be capable of displaying billions of colors, with as many as 200 trillions someday. I argued that claim, (and might be for several years to come if the same folks who once claimed sealed optics are writing the copy on 3-LED color.) This year, I heard claims for billions of colors in a shipping product at the DLP booth, but the fact is there is no such thing as billions of colors and there never will be. (Color scientists and opticians agree—the human visual system is only capable of discerning about 12 million colors. Perhaps a few of us can see the 16.7 million colors in a top-grade 24-bit monitor or TV, but no one can rightfully claim a display system with billions or trillions of colors.)
Upon close inspection of the 3-LED projector images being shown, I noticed there were lots of oversaturated colors, the likes of which could never be created by a single chip DLP projector (but easily within the realm of a 3LCD projector). I didn’t hear the rep boast of how the 3-LED projector brightness had improved from 400 Lumens in 2008 to 1100 Lumens just one year (a significant improvement), or how using 3 primary color LED’s had dramatically improved the color gamut and quality over the use of a multi-color wheel (wait, that would sound like a 3LCD presentation!). Instead, both the DLP and Phlatlight reps claimed (in two different presentations) that a focus group had agreed the 3-LED projector on display produced a “perceived” brightness of nearly 2100 lumens, nearly a 1000 lumens more than its tested Lumens rating! Neither could explain why a focus group came to that conclusion, other than to suggest it had to do with the perception of bolder colors on the screen (PS: Not a scientific explanation by any means). But I figured the focus group might have come to that conclusion after it compared the output from a single-chip DLP projector (with a claimed 2200 Lumens output, and a tested color light output closer to 1000 lumens) to the actual 1100 Lumens rating of the 3-LED projector.
Background голова болит секс голова болит секс : As a photographer, videographer, and image-quality expert, I’m not a big fan of single-chip DLP projectors. I have yet to find (or test) a single-chip DLP projector that can match the color gamut and overall image quality of a similar-priced 3LCD projector. And as a color scientist, I can disprove the DLP claim that projecting white light through a high speed, spinning color wheel containing subtractive primary colors (such as M, C, Y) in addition to R, G, B creates superior color accuracy and gamut to a 3LCD projector. Many DLP projectors I’ve tested don’t live up to their claimed lumens either, coming in at 20-30% lower even in their bright modes. Sure, if you set a DLP projector to its Film, Photo, or Video modes (instead of Bright mode), image quality and color improves dramatically, but projector brightness often drops in half compared to 3LCD projectors with similar Lumens specs. Lastly, I’m also bothered by rainbow effects that plague single-chip DLP projectors, especially when viewing b&w photos, high contrast scenes, and a wide variety of movies. That said, 3-chip DLP units are in a different league altogether when it comes to image quality, but they’re also 10X the cost of single-chip units. And despite the claims on the DLP website, they are not capable of displaying 35 trillion colors. What they apparently meant to say, and I hope somebody at TI is listening, is that a 3-chip DLP projector may be capable of forming 12 million to 16.7- million visible colors using up to 35 Trillion color data combinations. After all, by definition color is a human visual experience, and if no human can tell the difference between two “color data combinations” then there is really only one true color present.