Posts Tagged ‘Projector’
One Size Fits All
- Published on Tuesday, 29 March 2011 15:30
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
Yesterday, Panasonic and XPand announced that they have developed M-3DI, which is intended to be a new interoperability standard for active shutter 3D glasses.
M-3DI is actually a communications protocol used to signal and sequence the glasses in step with the rapid flashing of left eye and right eye 3D images. Until now, you couldn’t use one manufacturer’s brand of active shutter glasses to view another manufacturer’s TV, due to different signaling codes. Panasonic AS glasses do work with 2010-vintage Samsung 3D TVs, but that was the exception.
This incompatibility problem was one of the reasons consumers cited for holding off on 3D TV purchases last year. It will still be an issue for Samsung TVs in 2011, as the new line employs the Bluetooth communications protocol instead of infrared linking.
XPand announced last year that they would come out with so-called “universal” active shutter glasses that could learn IR signaling codes, just like a universal TV remote control does. But this announcement takes things a step further by ensuring greater support among multiple manufacturers, including Changhong Electric Co., Ltd., FUNAI Electric Co., Ltd., Hisense Electric Co., Ltd., Hitachi Consumer Electronics Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Seiko Epson Corporation, SIM2 Multimedia S.p.A. and ViewSonic Corporation.
What really caught my eye in the press release was this statement: “The technology will let consumers enjoy the immersive 3D experience across all types of compatible 3D displays as well as at movie theaters, with a single pair of 3D active-shutter eyewear.”
Currently, movie theaters do not use active shutter viewing systems as the cost of glasses would be prohibitive – and they’d break down pretty quickly. Apparently, Panasonic has plans to expand into that arena, possibly with their line of high-brightness digital cinema DLP projectors, but we’ve not heard any details previously.
The M-3DI standard will also cover active shutter eyewear for computer monitors and front projectors for home theater and commercial AV applications. But the big question remains: Will the other major players in active shutter 3D (Samsung and Sony) come aboard?
Rumors have abounded that Sony may add passive 3D TVs to their product line in the near future, something that will no doubt be influenced by LG’s success – or lack of it – with their new passive Cinema 3D TV line.
Regardless, this announcement is long overdue. And Samsung and Sony really ought to join the parade if only to help 3D TV sales pick up some momentum.
CES 2011: Afterthoughts
- Published on Thursday, 13 January 2011 17:38
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
CES is a strange show. It’s so big and has so many exhibitors that you keep thinking about what you’ve seen for weeks afterwards – kinda like mental ‘aftershocks’ and flashbacks. And I’ve had a few of those since returning home almost a week ago.
Here, in no particular order, are some afterthoughts from CES:
Gesture Recognition – Hey, Where’d it Go? In 2007, 2008, and 2009, gesture recognition for TV operation was a BIG deal at CES. Hitachi, Toshiba, JVC, and others all showed sophisticated gesture-recognition systems at previous CES shows, and last year’s Toshiba exhibit managed to combine GR, their Cell processor, and 3D in a most impressive demonstration.
This year? Hardly any GR demos at all, aside from some rather crude examples found in the Hisense and TCL booths that barely worked. The TCL demo was so insensitive that visitors to that particular exhibit looked like they were swatting at flies, while the Hisense demo consisted of someone doing a work-out while following an animated trainer on a nearby LCD TV.
OLEDs – We’re Still Waiting: Every year, Samsung, Sony, LG, and others tease us with demonstrations of gorgeous-looking OLED TVs in a variety of screen sizes. Yet, we continue to wait, and wait, and wait for production models to come to brick-and-mortar stores. (The XEL-1 doesn’t count.) Sony even built an autostereo screen into a 24.5-inch AM OLED display, while Samsung’s 19-inch AM OLED was 50% transparent.
We’d all like to replace our LCD and plasma TVs with OLEDs, but it looks like we’re going to be drooling and waiting a LONG time before that happens. Smart phones have already beaten us to the punch and it looks like tablet computers will be the next place to roll out (literally) OLED screens.
And yet, every year, we get our hopes up again…
Picoprojectors: Vaporware? After reading a recent Display Daily post by colleague Matt Brennesholtz at Insight Media, I fired off an email to eight different IM analysts, asking them if they had ever seen a picoprojector in use in 2010 other than at a trade show or a display technology conference.
This may surprise you, but each one of them responded with a simple, “No.” None of them had spotted any at retail, either. And yet, companies like Pacific Media Associates continue to issue optimistic sales forecasts for picoprojectors, while Texas Instruments had a full suite of “picos” at CES that were built into smart phones, a tablet computer, cameras, and pocket projectors.
I think tablet computers may derail picoprojectors, or obsolete them completely. How about you?
Hey Sharp, 3D was SO 2010! Sharp once again had an enormous CES booth filled with big, colorful LCD TVs (70-inches was the big news this year) and finally had a few 3D Blu-ray demos to go with them. Well, a year late isn’t too bad, I guess. The only problem is; Sharp’s share of the U.S. TV market has been steadily dropping since 2005 and is below 3%, according to NPD Display Search’s 3rd quarter 2010 numbers. That’s embarrassing! Even Panasonic now ships more LCD TVs than Sharp, who pioneered the LCD TV biz a couple of decades ago.
The four-color Quattron technology, while intriguing, doesn’t appear to have caught on with consumers so far, and we all know how disappointing sales of active shutter 3D TVs have been to date. To add to Sharp’s problems, Sony has not fully committed to fund its share of Sharp’s new Gen 10 LCD plant. Sony was originally on the hook for a 34% stake, but according to multiple reports may cap that investment at 12% and look to China for a cheaper source of LCD panels.
This would be a good time for a comeback, kid…
Mitsubishi Thumbs its Nose at the Experts: Yep, those ‘diamond’ guys are still making rear-projection DLP TVs, and apparently selling plenty of them, too. Their 92-inch roll-out at CES drew big crowds and will probably ticket around $5,000, which is less money than a decent front projector, screen, and home theater in a box will cost you. Did I say it could do 3D, too? Side-by-side, top+bottom, frame packing, checkerboard – you name it.
We “experts” predicted Mits would fall by the wayside as the LCD and plasma juggernauts rolled through the market. Uh, not quite. And with Mits’ new laser light engine, the issue of lamp replacement will eventually fade into the sunset. Texas Instruments is thrilled that they still have a RPTV customer, and as long as Mits can manage its bill of materials (BOM) costs, they can remain in the catbird seat for a few more years until something better comes along.
(Sound of a big raspberry coming from Irvine…)
DisplayPort: On Your Mark…Get Set…Get Set…Get Set: Is DisplayPort ever going to take off? I saw several cool demos of multi-monitor support and embedded 3D notebooks through DisplayPort in the IDT suite, along with a basic booth in the lower South Hall showing wireless DisplayPort over WHDI and a multi-channel audio concept demo. But who’s using it, aside from Apple?
In the meantime, HDMI (Silicon Image) showed ViaPort (multiple connections to a TV hub and one to a AVR with automatic streaming for the highest-supported audio format), MHL (Mobile content through a mini HDMI interface to TVs and other devices), and ViaPort for digital signage (Blu-ray at full resolution to eight daisy-chained TVs through single HDMI connections).
Maybe they misplaced the starter’s gun.
VIZIO – The Next Apple? Not only has VIZIO staked a big claim in the TV marketplace, they also rolled out a tablet computer and a smart phone at CES. The VIZIO Phone has a 4-inch display, GPS, WiFi, two built-in cameras, HDMI output (MHL), 2 GB of storage and doubles as a universal remote for VIZIO products.
The VIZIO tablet is pretty impressive, too. It also has WiFi, GPS, and a high-rez camera for videoconferencing, HMDI output, three internal speakers, and 2Gb of internal storage plus a MicroSD card slot. And yes, it can also work as a universal remote. The guys at VIZIO also thumbed their noses at all of the active-shutter 3DTV manufacturers and opted to go with passive 3D in a 65-inch LCD set that uses inexpensive RealD (circular polarization) glasses.
What’s next, Mr. Wang? Brick-and-mortar ‘VIZIO Zone’ stores in selected cities and malls? (Don’t laugh, he might just try it!)
Active Shutter 3D – Has it Peaked Already? In addition to VIZIO, LG and JVC also showed new large LCD TV products with embedded micropolarizers and inexpensive passive 3D glasses. I saw a few passive demos here and there, but these were the big three as far a product rollouts. LG even had large bins with passive glasses at the numerous entrances to their booth.
While passive 3D certainly solves the problems with fragile and expensive glasses, it can play funny tricks with screen resolution as every other horizontal row of pixels has micro-sized circular polarizers that work in opposite directions. That can make the screen appear to have noticeable black lines on it when viewing normal content, a problem that would be solved by moving to 4K native resolution (thereby adding to panel complexity and costs).
Still, passive 3D could put a crimp in 3D TV sales this year as it feeds into the average consumer’s wariness of another TV ‘format war.’
Step Right Up and Getcha 3D Camcorder! This product category went from 0 participants in 2010 to “I lost count’ in 2011. Panasonic, Sony, ViewSonic, JVC – you name the company, they had a 3D camcorder out for inspection somewhere in their booth. And it wasn’t just the big boys, either. Ever hear of Aiptek? Didn’t think so. They showed a palm-sized 3D camcorder under their name that coincidentally appeared in the nearby ViewSonic booth.
The question is how many of these cameras were using conversion lenses (Panasonic) and how many were capturing video through true 3D optical assemblies (JVC, Sony). The Aiptek model in question may also have been converting 2D on the fly, but it was hard to tell from the sketchy details in their booth. Also, Sony’s and JVC’s cameras use the full-resolution frame-packing format, similar to Blu-ray DVD.
OK, who wants a 3D camcorder? (And a 3D TV to go with it?)
Hey, Didn’t You Guys Just Lose $8.5B? Once again, the United States Postal Service occupied a healthy-sized booth in the upper South Hall. And once again, they were shilling for Priority and Overnight Mail, package shipping, and a new service called PremiumPostcard.com direct mail marketing. They also featured something called the Fast and Furious Challenge, although no racecar was in sight this year.
Ordinarily, I’d be kinda upset that taxpayer money was spent this way…except that the USPS operates as a quasi-private agency, living entirely off revenues from mail delivery. So maybe I should instead give them props for trying to drum up more business, except that it’s hard to understand how many of the surrounding Chinese manufacturers would benefit from any USPS offerings.
As long as they don’t drop Saturday delivery, I guess I don’t care…
CES 2011: Applications? Plenty! Buzz? Ahhh, Not So Much…
- Published on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:49
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
If you still needed any convincing that the U.S. economy is on the rebound, the 30-minute-long cab line at McCarran Airport did the trick. Attendance at this year’s running of the world’s ultimate gadget expo was WAY up, probably hitting 2007 levels. (CES claimed 140,000 in attendance, but my guess is that the real number was more like 90,000 – 100,000, based on cab lines and traffic.)
But CES was a vastly different show than in recent years. True “wowza!” product demos were few and far between. Instead, what we saw were ‘apps’ – practical, real-world applications of technologies introduced in the past couple of years. (And of course, umpteen million tablet computers.)
Smart phones were huge this year, and they were doing everything from shooting videos to doubling as game controllers and even talking to ovens and refrigerators. The Android OS rules this space, with Windows coming up far behind. If there was a possible use for a smart phone, someone demonstrated it in a booth (including 3D).
Discussions of “the cloud” were heard in every hallway. For those readers who don’t know what “the cloud” is, it’s the concept of storing and accessing media files from remote servers, streaming or downloading it to view on portable and desktop displays. Netflix streaming is a good example of “the cloud,” and many industry analysts believe “cloud” delivery of content is where everything is headed – no more big hard drives or optical disc readers, just fast wireless and wired Ethernet connections.
Speaking or wireless, it’s all the rage. I lost track of all the wireless connectivity demos, ranging from wireless USB 3.0 docking stations to full-bandwidth 1080p video and multi-channel audio streaming to TVs from Blu-ray players, using the 6 GHz radio frequency band.
And those tablet computers…they were everywhere, so many that tablets suffered the ignonimous fate of moving from the most anticipated new product at the opening of the show to “so what?” products by its closing. I saw just as many off-brand and white label tablets in the lower regions of the South Hall as I did at the Blackberry, ViewSonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Panasonic booths. Can you say, “buzz kill?”
Last year’s show was dominated by 3D. You couldn’t get away from it! This year, the 3D pickings weren’t quite as abundant, although a few companies (Sony and Panasonic) continued to place a heavy emphasis on stereoscopic TV viewing in their booths.
Toshiba did too, except they chose to emphasize glasses-free (autostereo) 3D exclusively in their booth. LG opted to show passive 3D products that use inexpensive circular-polarization glasses, along with a single autostereo LCD TV. Meanwhile, Sony had concept demos of a portable 3D Blu-ray player and a 24-inch autostereo organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV.
The reduced emphasis on 3D might have something to do with the paltry sales of active-shutter 3D TVs in 2010. Sales numbers were nowhere near what anyone predicted, which could partly be blamed on the recession. But it could also be blamed on a perception that there is a format war brewing in the world of 3D TV (shades of the 1080i vs. 720p battles from ten years ago).
Toshiba’s recent announcements of glasses-free 3D TV certainly added to that perception, and that’s all they showed at CES. Meanwhile, LG and JVC seem to be leaning towards passive 3D (embedded polarizing filters) in their LCD TVs, and in fact LG had large baskets of passive 3D glasses available to both visitors.
The LG autostereo LCD TV worked about as well as the Toshiba models. As you change your viewing position, patterned film retarders (PFRs) built-in to the LCD surface create a new perspective and viewpoint, blocking some pixels and revealing others. It works, but you’ve seen the same effect before with static digital signage displays in retail stores and in airports. And it’s not easy to watch 3D video this way for very long.
There were plenty of autostereo handheld display demos. LG’s new Optimus smart phones were shown as game controllers for 3D gaming systems, but were also displaying mobile 3D content. Nearby, LG had a demonstration of autostereo 3D as broadcast from Las Vegas DTV station KLVX, using the MH mobile digital TV standard.
Sony showed an autostereo media player in its booth, along with the aforementioned portable Blu-ray player with autostereo screen. (Frankly, I think the market for portable BD players is pretty miniscule, but the autostereo images looked quite nice.)
Sharp, who last year missed the boat on 3D – and whose U.S. market share in TV sales continues to drop precipitously – rolled out the 3D bandwagon this year, with a full line of Quattron 3D TVs out for inspection, including a new 70-inch model. Hidden away in another part of their booth were demos of 3.8” and 10.6” autostereo LCD displays for handheld devices.
JVC, who has been concentrating more on projection products lately, unveiled their first consumer passive 3D TV. It’s a 65-inch, edge-lit LED model with embedded micropolarizers that work with RealD theater glasses. Back in the Central hall, Hisense, Konka, and TCL all showed Chinese-made 3D sets with active shutter glass technology, while VIZIO threw its hat in with the passive 3D crowd, unveiling several models that use embedded polarizing filters and passive eyewear.
Hmmm…maybe there IS something to this 3D format war, after all…
It was hard to find a TV at CES that didn’t sport some sort of Internet connection. Panasonic (VieraCast), VIZIO (VIZIO Internet Apps), Sony (Google TV), LG (Smart TV), and Samsung (Samsung Apps) all had full plates of NeTVs out for inspection, along with numerous connected Blu-ray players. By the way, the ‘connected’ part of Blu-ray players is the big reason they are finally selling so well, as consumers apparently can’t get enough of YouTube and Netflix streaming.
There were also plenty of demos of smart phone control of TVs, using WiFi to stream back a lower-resolution version of the content being displayed on-screen. I’m not really sure why anyone would need that functionality, especially if they are already sitting in front of the TV watching whatever program or movie is playing out. Maybe it’s just in case you need to run to the bathroom?
LG went everyone better with their ST600 Smart TV adapter. Remember ATSC set-top boxes from the DTV transition? Well, the ST600 is an Internet TV adapter that works with any set through its HDMI port. It costs about $150, and gives you a Web browser, plus one-button access to popular Internet TV sites like Netflix, CinemaNow, VUDU, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB TV, Pandora, and others.
Sony prominently featured their Sony Smart TV product line, based on Google TV. This product has really stumbled out of the gate, probably because of the incredibly complex keyboard remote control (remember Web TV, anyone?) and the fact that a majority of Web video surfing can be accessed with directed one-button Hulu Plus, Netflix, and YouTube apps. Maybe we’ll see a simplified version of the product from Sony in 2011.
Panasonic rolled out its own tablet computer, as previously mentioned. The Viera Tablet is part of a “cloud” focused content delivery strategy (there it is, again!) that will let consumers access on-demand and VIERA Connect content. The tablet will actually be available in several different sizes, ranging from 4” to 10,” and also functions as a TV remote control.
Sharp also featured connected Blu-ray players, with directed apps for VUDU taking center stage. Three new models use wireless connections to access Netflix, VUDU, Pandora and YouTube content via streaming connections. They also took the wraps off a 70-inch Quattron LCD TV with built-in WiFi and a support for CinemaNow, Netflix, VUDU, and DLNA video streaming.
Samsung didn’t have quite as many sexy NeTV announcements, but they did have the largest LCD TV at the show (75 inches) and prominently featured their Smart Hub technology. You can access the usual suspects through wired and wireless Ethernet connections, along with Blockbuster, MLB.TV, AccuWeather, Facebook, Hulu Plus, and History Channel content, among others.
There wasn’t a lot of projector news from CES. Texas Instruments used the event to launch a new line of DLP Pico HD chipsets. These are tiny WXGA-resolution (1280×800 pixels) digital micromirror devices (DMDs) that are used in picoprojectors and pocket projectors, and there were plenty on display in the TI suite. They had picos running in GE digital cameras, Sharp smart phones, and even a prototype tablet computer.
Sony even showed a DLP-based picoprojector in a new digital camera at Digital Experience, an interesting development considering that both companies parted ways back in 1996 after Sony built its first and only SVGA DLP high-brightness projector.
Other picoprojectors were shown from LG, ViewSonic, Acer, and Optoma. The Optoma iPod docking station with built-in picoprojector was a clever product, as was the GE digital camera. But most of these projectors cast small, dim images, and you have to wonder how the explosion of tablet computers will affect this market, considering that both picos and tablets would be used for very small group presentations.
Several 3D projectors took a bow in Las Vegas. Mitsubishi finally has a model number for its LCoS 3D projector (HC9000), while Sharp announced the XV-Z17000 DLP 3D chassis. Samsung’s also got a new 3D box, the SP-A8000, which also uses DLP technology. Over in the JVC booth, the previously-announced DLA-X9 and DLA-X7 D-ILA (LCoS) 3D front projectors now have THX 3D certification – apparently the only models to earn that appellation so far. The general consensus is that DLP produces better blacks and higher contrast than LCoS 3D projectors, but that will remain to be seen. (I expect to have a review sample of the Mits unit in mid-March.)
Mitsubishi’s big screen TV division continues to hang on in the rear-projection DLP marketplace and is actually doing quite well, thank you very much. (It’s easy to capture 100% market share when you are the only player!) They launched a 92-inch DLP set with 3D compatibility, and while it doesn’t have a model number yet, expect it to sell in the mid-$5000 range, with active shutter glasses an extra.
WIRED VS. WIRELESS NETWORKING
I met with most of the major networking groups at CES. Two of them (HDBaseT and DiiVA) are very close in theory and practice, with structured wire being used to distribute video and audio between connected devices. Both systems also support USB connectivity for remote gaming control, and both systems can deliver power to connected devices (100 watts for HDBaseT and 24 watts for DiiVA).
Many commercial interface manufacturers are incorporating HDBaseT infrastructures into their AV switching products, the latest being Crestron (Digital Media) and Gefen. AMX already uses a version of HDBaseT in their AV switchers and distribution amplifiers.
DiiVA is apparently gaining popularity in China, where new apartment buildings and houses all have structured wire pulls. Most of the companies that have DiiVA-compatible products are also (not surprisingly) based in China.
On the wireless side, Summit Semiconductor, Aeleron, and Amimon all showed system-on-chip solutions for high-bitrate video and audio distribution. Amimon is the founder of the Wireless High Definition Interface (WHDI) and showed wireless display connectivity to remote PCs, as well as Blu-ray 1080p playback to specially-equipped LG and Hisense wireless LCD TVs.
Aeleron featured Ultra WideBand (UWB) connectivity of 1080p streaming and docking systems that work with TVs, laptops, smart phones, and other media players. They also featured DLNA-compatible UWB adapters for in-room signal distribution (UWB can’t go between rooms) and driverless HDMI interfaces.
Summit’s demo was perhaps the most interesting. It featured uncompressed distribution of wireless multi-channel surround audio to randomly-placed powered speaker columns. A special remote activates a supersonic Doppler system that automatically adjusts the levels of all speakers so that you are sitting in t ‘sweet spot,’ no matter where you are in the room, or where the speakers happen to be placed. It takes all of ½ second for this adjustment to be made.
Back over in the Hilton, Sigma Designs has found a way to reduce line noise and broad spectrum interference in HomePlug systems. Turns out, all those battery chargers and AC adapters are pretty ‘dirty,’ which clips the available bit rate for moving video and audio through decoupled AC power lines. With the Sigma enhancements, the receive speed (to a media player or TV) is as much as 65% of the transmit speed (from the playout source). With normal HomePlug appliances, the receive speed can drop to as little as 20 – 25% of the transmit speed.
There was so much more to report on from CES. Many of the new TVs and accessories will be featured in upcoming spring line shows, where I’ll take a closer look at each. You can also find news about specific model numbers and pricing at many other media outlets, along with each manufacturer’s specific Web sites.
If there was anything to take away from the show, it was that TVs were not the big news at CES this year. Instead, multi-function smart phones and connected media appliances generated all the buzz. We’re definitely in for a protracted battle between the “your TV should be the hub!” advocates and the “Connect outside the TV!” evangelists, not to mention the “go wireless!” and “use wired connections!” camps.
I tend to favor the “connect outside the TV” and “go wireless” arguments, although it is a tricky task to stream high-definition video in an uncompressed format between rooms in a house. (And no, the FCC taking away more UHF TV channels won’t help at all – there’s not enough spectrum space in the UHF band for 512 MHz channels!)
3D will continue to muddle along this year, as the economy slowly recovers and consumers sit on their hands. The confusing “glasses or no glasses” messages won’t help. Active-shutter 3D and passive 3d are clearly superior to autostereo 3D for viewing TV shows and movies, but you have to test-drive all three modes first to understand why. Look for the passive systems from LG, JVC, and VIZIO to pick up more market share as the year winds on and consumers realize they can use their freebie movie theater glasses at home.
NeTVs are here to stay and potentially a lot more popular than 3D. Sony’s Google TV approach may be too complicated for most consumers, who are likely to favor the simpler direct channel apps offered by everyone else. And if they can access Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu Plus, they may not need much else. Look for LG’s Internet converter box to be copied by other manufacturers so that older TVs can join in the fun.
It was nice to see a few OLED TV demos this year, but once again the technology just isn’t ready for prime time. Look for Samsung to show an OLED Galaxy tablet later this year, if for no other reason than to prove they can make one. But it will be a while before you can buy it. The rest of the tablet and smart phone crowd will stay with tried-and-true LCD technology for the time being.
Blu-ray disc and player prices will continue to plummet. I’ve predicted that major brands will stop making conventional DVD players altogether in 2011, moving to Blu-ray as their exclusive platform. While we didn’t see any BD players with internal hard drives like those sold in Japan, they’re not far off. Too many people are using Netflix streaming and would like to try a straight digital download for improved image quality. What better place to enable a DVR than in a BD multifunction media hub?
And get used to using your smart phone to do everything. Game console controls, TV remotes, autostereo displays, even diagnostic tools to use with connected major appliances – all of these smart phone applications were shown at CES.
So was a iPhone case with a built-in bottle opener, which might turn out to be one of the most useful smart phone “apps” of all…
NAB 2010: A Show in Transition
- Published on Friday, 16 April 2010 19:40
- Pete Putman
- 21 Comments
Some of the big questions facing attendees as their flights landed in Las Vegas were these: Can NAB survive? Will it evolve into something different? Is it even that important to attend NAB anymore?
The answer to all three questions is “yes.” Even though attendance was still down from 2008 (NAB claimed 83,000 ‘officially;’ my guesstimate was more like 55,000 to 60,000), there were plenty of companies in attendance with lots of cool products to check out.
That said, the show is undergoing a rapid transformation away from a traditional ‘broadcasting’ show to a mix of InfoComm and CES – hot new products for professionals. Of course, 3D was all over the place. But so was networked video, which dominated the upper and lower South Hall exhibit areas.
Booths were smaller this year, and that’s not going to change any time soon…not when the typical booth is showing products that have price tags in the hundreds and low thousands. Contrast that with NAB shows 15 years ago, when most of the price tags had three and four zeros in them!
The smaller booths and lower number of exhibitors resulted in wider aisles and less traffic – a plus. But it also resulted in NAB placing the main registration area smack in the middle of the Central Hall, something I’ve never seen before. And there was plenty of wide-open space at the end of that hall, as well in the North and South Halls.
Can NAB be staged in three halls? Absolutely! And can you see everything you need to see in three days? Try two days. (Thursday has become ‘exhibitor bonding day,’ to quote a fellow editor.) I could have covered my beat in two days if necessary.
Not surprisingly, 3D was a big topic this year, although not to the same extent as it was at CES. The SMPTE/ETC/EBU Digital Cinema Summit focused entirely on 3D for both days, and I was fortunate enough to deliver one of the papers to a jammed room of 500+ attendees.
Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Canon, Grass Valley, AVID, Doremi, Harris, Evertz, and Ross Video were just some of the companies showing 3D products in Vegas. Those products ranged from 3D monitors and cameras to 3D workflow (acquisition, editing, post, effects, and playout) software and hardware.
Other specialized 3D brands were in attendance, too. TD Vision, Miracube, Mistika, and HDlogix had nice exhibits in the South Hall, down the street from Grass Valley. Smaller companies like Cine-tal occupied the 3D Pavilion nearby, while Motorola and Ericsson showcased 3D transport and format recognition products upstairs.
Although the consumer TV market is seeing a big push towards active-shutter 3D TVs and monitors, the emphasis at NAB was on passive 3D viewing (cheaper glasses, more expensive displays). JVC, Hyundai, and LG all manufacture them, and there were plenty of folks standing around with RealD X-pol eyewear watching the demos.
The projector guys were on top of things, too. projectiondesign showed a stacked pair of 3-chip 1080p lightboxes in the Mistika booth, using linear polarized glasses. HDI showed a 100-inch, 1080p LCoS rear-projection TV in the HDlogix booth, also using X-pol glasses. Christie also had suitable 3D projection systems out for inspection.
There were also some demos that left me scratching my head, such as Canon’s dual-projection X-pol 3D demo, using a pair of REALiS WUXGA (1920×1200) LCoS projectors. While it worked well, it requires two separate projectors and outboard 3D filter holders – too klunky! (A Canon rep told me that was because of the 60 Hz frame rate limitation on the internal video processor.)
Broadband video and IPTV were also big this year. This market for MPEG-4 AVC over Ethernet, fiber, or private data networks is exploding, and encoder companies such as Adtec, Vbrick, Harmonic, Ericsson, Harris, Motorola, and Digital Rapids were showing a full range of compatible products.
Sezmi also occupied a booth at the show. This company has a unique selling proposition – a set-top box that receives both terrestrial (read: free) digital TV and selected cable channels carried on secondary terrestrial channels. It also accesses a video-on-demand server through broadband connections (SDTV only) and has a customizable program guide for each user.
While not technically broadband, the nascent MH broadcast format was in abundance at NAB. MH uses MPEG-4 AVC coding in multiple streams with IP headers to send low-resolution video to handheld receivers, such as mobile phones and combo PDA/receiver products. MH is catching on in popularity with broadcasters, who see it as a more sensible alternative to simple multicasting of secondary channels that very few people may be watching.
After three days of walking around, I came up with a list of “finds” that I’ll share here. These are all products that represented clever thinking, breakthrough technology, and/or new price points. Some were easy to spot; others required quite a bit of digging. But they all made the trip to Lost Wages worth it (and that’s saying a lot, considering how airlines jam you in like sardines these days!).
TV Logic: This manufacturer of LCD broadcast monitor showed the world’s first active-matrix OLED broadcast monitor (unless you think Sony’s press announcement hit first, which it didn’t.) The LM-150 ($6,200) uses a LG Display 15-inch OLED panel with 1366×768 pixel resolution and come equipped with all the expected niceties including markers, crop marks, caption displays, over/underscan, and HD/SDI, HDMI, and analog video jacks. There’s also a 3D version in the works (TDM-150) that will sell for about $7,700.
Ericsson: In addition to a host of MPEG-4 and IPTV encoders, the ‘big E’ also showcased an innovative, iPad-like LCD touchscreen remote control/video viewer. Dubbed the IPTV remote, this product can dial up video from broadband, cable, satellite, and even your home network. Not only that, it can monitor weather sensors and your home security system. (Sound much like a Crestron product?) The IPTV remote will not be offered for sale at retail. Rather, it’s intended to be a content provider offering.
Christie: Have you seen their MicroTiles yet on the Colbert Report? These innovative ‘mini’ DLP projection cubes use LED light engines to power 800×600 DMDs (the actual working resolution is 720×540) and measure about 12” x 16.” They can be configured in just about any format you wish, including floor and ceiling projection, and up to 1024 can be driven at one time. The LED light source is specified to last over 60,000 hours. Think of LED-powered LEGOÔ blocks, and you’ve got the concept.
SmallHD: It wasn’t easy finding these guys behind the Sony booth, but they’d come up with a focus assist monitor for video and still cameras that they claim is the world’s smallest HD video monitor. The actual size is about 5.6 inches and the glass is WXGA (1280×800) LCD. It comes in two flavors – one for digital SLRs ($899) and one with SDI input ($1199). The monitors are an inch thick, weigh 10 ounces, and mount to hot shoes.
Z3 Technology: I found this booth on my last pass through the South Hall, and it was worth the stop. They showed the Z3-MVE-01 MPEG encoder, a compact box that codes HD up to 1920×1080 resolution using H.64 High Profile (up to 30Hz), with Ethernet and ASI outputs. Input compatibility includes composite, component, HDMI, DVI, and HD-SDI video…all for $5,000.
Adtec: I didn’t expect to see an HDMI-to-QAM modulator at the show, but that’s exactly what Adtec pulled out for me. The HDMI2QAM is a dual-channel design that encodes anything from the HDMI inputs (yes, they are HDCP-compliant) to a pair of quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) channels, using MPEG-2 encoding. The modulation format is selectable between 64-QAM (SD), 128-QAM (not widely use), and 256-QAM (HD). Bit rates are constant and optimized for each mode (i.e. 38.8 Mb/s for each HD channel).
Cydle: This new start-up demonstrated an app for iPods and iPhones that allows viewing of ATSC MH (A/153) video. Along with it comes the i30, a battery-powered docking station with built-in antenna (UHF). This means that your ‘i-whatever’ has two batteries to draw from, so if you run low on talk power, simply switch to the i30 battery. Both can charge simultaneously. Cool!
Panasonic: I’ve seen it before at CES, but it now has a model number. The company’s first production camcorder now goes by the moniker AG-3DA1 and is yours for the low, low price of just $21,000. (Well, all things are relative, I guess.) The camera weighs about 6 and a half pounds and uses a pair of 2.l07 MP sensors (full 1920×1080) to record 1080i and 720p HD content to SD memory cards. Convergence and horizontal and vertical displacement are fully adjustable.
Panasonic gets another mention for the AG-AF100, which they claim is the world’s first Micro 4/3-inch (1.33:1) HD camcorder. That’s a big deal because the 4/3” format matches the coverage area of 35mm film frames…which means you can use standard 35mm film camera lenses to get effects like shallow focus, soft focus, and vignettes. The camera records to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards using the AVCHD format and supports 1080i/p and 720p formats, including 23.98/24/25 Hz.
Sony gets extra credit for announcing the world’s second (or first) AM-OLED professional video monitor. The PVM-750 ($3,850) is a bit smaller than TV Logic’s offering at 7.4 inches (16:9), and is not quite full HD resolution at 960×540 pixels. (Not that you’d notice on such small screen!) The PVM-750 has 3G HD-SDI, HDMI, and composite video inputs, the full range of adjustments from tally and markers to blue screen mode and AC/battery power operation. No word on lifespan of the display, but Sony uses small molecule (SM) OLED technology, as does LG Display.
LP Technologies rounds out my list with one of those ‘too good to be true’ products: An LCD-based 9 kHz to 3 GHz spectrum analyzer with USB 2.0 interface, built-in preamp, and Ethernet connectivity for remote monitoring. Sorry, no internal battery pack!) The USB hook-up can be used to save data in the Excel format, while the internal memory can tore 900 different waveforms. The display is a 6.4” 640×480 (VGA) LCD type. And the cost? Just $4,500…
Product Review: Optoma HD8200 Home Theater Projector (August 2009)
- Published on Thursday, 08 April 2010 16:11
- Pete Putman
- 3 Comments
It’s funny how the fortunes of competing projection technologies have swung wildly over the past decade. Back at the turn of the century, most industry analysts (including myself) figured that Texas Instruments’ DLP technology had pretty much won the hearts and minds of CEDIA dealers, and that 3LCD didn’t stand a chance. LCoS? It was certainly out there, but mostly on the fringe.
Well, we sure got that one wrong. Three years ago, Mitsubishi pulled the rug out from under the DLP crowd with its eye-popping 3LCD HC5000, priced at $4,495 and completely upstaging new LCoS projector announcements from JVC and Sony. Epson and Panasonic also unveiled lower-price 3LCD chassis’ with great color, deep blacks, and plenty of contrast for similarly low prices.
Since then, 3LCD technology has taken mighty leaps forward, incorporating manual lens offset, dynamic irising, and improved black levels to become a can’t-miss value proposition. On the LCoS side of things, JVC’s DLA-series projectors are now the favorite of many prominent home theater enthusiasts and reviewers. So what’s happened to the DLP crowd?
One of the limitations with using single-chip DLP light engines is the difficulty in adding mechanical lens offset. Many early DLP lightboxes had a fixed lens offset and were intended for ceiling installation. But that severely constricted the installer’s choices when adding a projection system to an existing room, something the 3LCD and D-ILA camps were quick to point out.
Optoma, the US branding arm of Coretronics, is a leader in sales of DLP projectors for both consumer and professional use. They’re had a few previous entries into the CEDIA channel that have done well, but the long-throw zoom lens issue had to be sticking in their craw.
So they did the smart thing by not getting mad, but trying to get even. And the HD8200 is all about “getting even,” leveling the playing field with 3LCD and LCoS projectors in design, functionality, and hopefully, performance.
OUT OF THE BOX
The first thing that strikes you about the HD8200 is how much it looks like JVC’s DLA-series projectors, from the long, rectangular cabinet with smooth curves to the rich, gloss black finish, the lack of nomenclature around the housing, and the minimalist video input panel. It’s all about the quality of images, and not appearances.
As supplied, the HD8200 is fitted with a 1.5 – 2:1 manual zoom lens, and veteran projectionists know that longer lenses usually mean less problems with pincushioning, barreling, and other optical distortions. That in turn makes aligning the projected image to a screen a much easier task. And the longer lens provides more mounting distance options.
Of course, longer lenses also mean optically smaller lens apertures and dimmer images, unless a lamp with more horsepower is included. So Optoma has included a hefty 220W UHP lamp that can run in two modes – standard and bright. They’ve rated lamp life to half-brightness at 3000 hours in the first mode, and 2000 in the second.
The imaging engine uses a DarkChip3 DMD, combined with a Pixelworks PW9800 co-processor with DNX MotionEngine. Optoma claims the HD8200 uses 10-bit signal processing to correct for both motion judder and when deinterlacing and compensating 480i and 1080i content.
When it comes to input connections, you basically get one of everything – one composite, one S-video, and one analog component (YPbPr) input, plus one 15-pin RGB/SCART connector, and one DVI-D jack. The exception? Optoma has provided a pair of HDMI v1.3 input jacks and labeled them as being compatible with Deep Color spaces, a color gamut that no one currently uses for HD TV shows and movies.
REMOTE AND MENUS
The supplied remote control is also a departure from previous Optoma designs. It’s not all that large, but is very user-friendly with large, backlit buttons. Optoma has thoughtfully provided direct access to many menu adjustments, including brightness, contrast, lamp bright mode, digital image shift, aspect ratios, overscan, and edge masking.
You’ll also have direct access to any input, and you can set up the HD8200 to automatically detect active inputs or skip inactive ones. A pair of 12VDC screen triggers is yours for the asking on the IO panel, and you can operate a motorized screen directly from the remote with Screen Up and Down keys.
The operation and image adjust menus aren’t overly detailed, but get you to the critical adjustments quickly. Optoma has provided four factory image presets, labeled as Cinema, Bright, Photo, and Reference. There’s also a User selection, although you can recalibrate any of the settings for any preset.
In addition to basic image tweaks, you’ll find an Advanced menu that really lets you get to the nitty-gritty adjustments. There’s a ten-step motion adaptive noise reduction setting that’s intended to be use with interlaced content – separating noise from interlaced artifacts in 480i and 1080i content is a tough job, and you may find this control helpful in doing so.
Gamma is selectable over four presets – Film, Video, Graphics, and Standard. Note that these are all factory presets, which means you can’t go into a multi-step gamma adjustment menu and fine-tune RGB response as you can on JVC’s DLA-series projectors.
You’ll also find a black/white extension setting that’s ostensibly used to enhance contrast. Be careful – these settings usually play with gamma curves, often resulting in an unwanted S-shaped response (I’d suggest leaving this switched off).
There are three factory color temperature settings (Cold, Medium and Warm) that you can readjust, using the supplied red, green, and blue contrast (high) and brightness (low) controls. You’ll also spot a Dynamic Black mode in this menu, and it’s used to enhance deep shadow detail in low-level scenes. Again, caution is in order, as dynamic black enhancements will have an adverse effect on the projector’s gamma response.
In the press releases for the HD8200, Optoma made a lot of noise about its PureEngine imaging technology. (Shades of Pioneer plasma TVs!) The “pure” part has a few components to it, specifically PureDetail (multi-level selectable edge enhancement), PureColor (a color-enhancement mode that stretches the projector’s gamut), and PureMotion (affects 24p content transferred 3:2 to 480i, 720p, and 1080i formats).
Edge enhancement can make a difference with lower-resolution analog content, although it could also enhance unwanted compression artifacts from digital SD video sources. I’d avoid using this control at all with 720p, 1080i, and 1080p sources. I’d also leave PureColor off and stick to matching the color space in which the TV show or movie was encoded. (As you’ll see shortly, the HD8200 does a good job already matching up to the ITU BT.709 HD color space.)
PureMotion may be the most useful gadget of the three, particularly when correcting for 24p “judder.” If you’ve never seen a judder-correction processor at work, it can be a revelation as the “film look” gives way to a live video feel. Is this right or wrong? Well, some folks like it, and some purists don’t. You’ll have to experiment on your own to see which settings work for you.
As far as aspect ratios go, the HD8200 lets you select among 4:3, 16:9, Native (no image scaling at all), or LBX – short for “letterbox.” LBX mode lets you watch CinemaScope movies on a 2.35:1 screen with a companion anamorphic lens. According to the owner’s manual, LBX mode is also suitable for a “…non-16×9 letterbox source.”
Additional image tweaks include Overscan (eliminates noise and digital sync from appearing on certain TV channels), Edge Mask (basically a digital zoom function and not a left/right/top/bottom masking system), Vertical Image Shift (digital), and digital keystone correction.
My advice is to stay away from any digital image shift functions and instead use the H and V offset controls, large thumbwheels that are mounted under the lens along with the manual zoom adjustment. You’ll be able to shift images horizontally by ±15% and vertically by ±50%, which is quite a wide range for a single-chip DLP projector.
One last image adjustment bears mention. It’s called SuperWide, and requires the use of a 2.0:1 aspect ratio projection screen. With SuperWide on, both 16:9 and 2.35:1 programs will be displayed without any black bars. Of course, there is a slight amount of anamorphic stretching and compression in effect to pull this off, and that may go against your “purist” instincts.
There are a couple of useful tools in the operations menu. Not much mention is made of it, but the HD8200 has a two-position auto irising system to lower black levels, based on the average brightness of individual scenes. If you are familiar with auto iris systems, you know that they reduce brightness as well as deepen black levels, so I’d experiment with this setting to see if you can live with the results.
The other useful tool is Screen Trigger B, which can be configured to activate an external anamorphic lens assembly when 2.35:1 movies are being displayed. It can also be set to activate in 4:3, 16:9, Native, or LBX modes, although the utility of those selections isn’t as obvious to me as the anamorphic lens trigger.
ON THE TEST BENCH
So much for menus and features! How did the HD8200 do under fire? Not, bad, although there are a few areas where this projector could use further improvement.
I calibrated the HD8200 to light up a new, 92-inch Da-Lite JKP Affinity front screen (gain = .9) at a distance of 12 feet. After going through the menu to make sure all contrast, white level, and black level enhancements were switched off and that the auto iris was disabled, I adjusted the projector for best dynamic range and most accurate color rendering, using an AccuPel HDG4000 pattern generator and ColorFacts 7.5 software, plus a Minolta CL-200 colorimeter.
After calibration, I measured brightness at 364 ANSI lumens in Cinema mode. Readings in Bright, Photo, and Reference modes were 478, 468, and 449 ANSI lumens, respectively. Note that these were all taken with the projector’s lamp operating in standard mode – switching to bright mode results in a boost in lumens of about 15%.
Brightness uniformity calculated to 91% to the average corner, and 76% to the worst corner. These are excellent numbers for any single-chip DLP projector, some models of which have exhibited a 50% fall-off to the worst corner and noticeable hot spots in my tests.
Contrast measurements were comparable to some of the better 3LCD long-throw projectors I’ve tested, clocking at 559:1 ANSI (average) and 873:1 peak in Cinema mode. Black levels on this projector are higher than the best 3LCD and LCoS models – not substantially, but you can see a difference with low-light program material. The auto iris, disabled for this test, does improve blacks when active but also brings down white levels a corresponding amount.
Using the factory settings, I measured gamma response in Video mode at 1.82. That’s too shallow for video, and in fact the upper end of the grayscale was starting to flatten out at 80 IRE. Ironically, the projector’s Graphics gamma (measured at 2.21) was closer to ideal for video, except that this setting was also starting to flatline at 80 IRE.
Using a calibrated setting, I found the best gamma response (2.29) using the Standard gamma setting, resulting in a consistent climb out of black and not clipping at the high end. I also found this gamma curve provided me with the most consistent grayscale track, as seen in Figure 3.
Figure 4 shows the resulting grayscale track from 20 to 100 IRE. Maintaining a stable, consistent color of gray is a consistent attribute of the best DLP projectors, since the imaging devices have no inherent color bias. As you can see, the measured color temperature was consistent, varying by just 140 degrees in User mode and by 229 degrees in Cinema mode. That’s reference-grade performance!
I mentioned the HD8200’s color gamut earlier. As seen in Figure 5, it’s enough to cover 100% of the BT.709 standard, although the green and red pints are oversaturated and the cyan and magenta coordinates are shifted towards blue. Color management tools would help clean these up – the percentage of coordinate shift required isn’t enormous.
For this part of the test, I cued up a few Blu-ray discs on OPPO’s new BDP-83 player. The BBC’s Planet Earth has some great scenes for evaluating dynamic range, specifically Ice Worlds and Oceans Deep. Ice Worlds has clips with lots of different shades of “white,” something that will reveal subtle changes in color temperature and whether any white clipping is going on.
Image contrast and detail was excellent with these clips, although it appeared that blacks and low grays could have been deeper. Color saturation appeared normal, particularly with close-ups of monkeys, leopards, and eagles that were captured with the sun at a low angle. That could have resulted in exaggerated reds and warm tones, but it didn’t.
My next test was with the director’s cut of Ghost Rider, an exceptionally detailed and contrasty transfer on Blu-ray. This is a great BD to test out dynamic range performance, particularly with the nighttime confrontation between the police and the Rider as he roars up and down the Longhorn Insurance Company skyscraper, spewing orange flames in his wake. (Come to think of it, there’s a lot of blue and orange shading in this film…wonder if the director or DP was a Syracuse or Florida graduate?)
The earlier scene where Johnny Blaze leaps over six helicopters on his motorcycle has some great punchy reds, oranges, and yellows. Flesh tones in these scenes could have easily been overpowered, but weren’t. At times, I thought I saw an ever-so-slight slight magenta tint to flesh tones, but that may just have been the transfer as I also observed this watching the same clip on a 50” Panasonic plasma monitor.
Once again, it seemed like the blacks weren’t quite deep enough, particularly in the final confrontation in the abandoned church between Wes Bentley and Nicolas Cage. Turning on the auto iris circuit pushed blacks down a lot more, but didn’t help shadow detail. I could have enhanced black levels to recover the detail, but would have lost the clean gamma curve I originally plotted.
The HD8200’s PureMotion processor sure does work! You can apply a high level of processing and basically eliminate all 24p film judder from any movie, making it look more like live 60 Hz video. So I repeat – is that good, or bad? Some viewers will no doubt love it; others will surely rail against it. As for myself, a little bit of judder reduction is nice, but I don’t go for the “video look” when watching a movie.
That Pixelworks processor does an excellent job with interlaced content. The HD8200 had no trouble whatsoever with the video and film resolution loss tests from the Realta Blu-ray disc. However, I should mention that a quick test of frequency response, using a 1080p luminance multiburst pattern, showed some filling at 37.5 MHz. That would result in the loss of very fine picture detail, and it’s another thing Optoma may want to look at.
Optoma’s HD8200 does indeed break new ground and should help single-chip DLP technology recover much of the ground it has lost to 3LCD and LCoS projectors. The projector delivers sharp, contrasty images with good color saturation and great dynamic range, albeit with slightly higher black levels than the best LCoS/LCD designs.
Improving black levels could simply be a matter of refining the optical path to cut down on refracted light, and also using a projection lens with improved coatings. The auto iris is certainly fast, but not fast enough on some scenes – you’re better off leaving it disengaged more often than not. I do recommend using a gray screen with the HD8200 for best results, particularly if there is light reflecting around your theater environment.
But my hat’s off to Optoma for building in mechanical lens shift and a longer zoom lens at this price point. I would have a hard time justifying spending more money for any other single-chip DLP projector after seeing the HD8200 in action. Down the road, how about adding multi-level RGBW gamma correction and color management tools to the menu? Now, that would be a hot product!
Optoma HD8200 Home Theater Projector
Dimensions: 14.6” W x 7.6” H x 19.2” D (projector)
Weight: 18.5 lbs. (projector)
Imaging Device: 1x .65” DarkChip3 1920×1080 DMD
Lamp: 220W UHP
Lens: 1.49 – 2.0:1 manual zoom/focus
Inputs: 1x each composite/S-video, 1x RCA YPbPr, 15p VGA, 2x HDMI 1.3
Signal compatibility: 480i/p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p24/60, VGA-SXGA+, WXGA, HD
Optoma Technology Inc.
715 Sycamore Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035