Posts Tagged ‘DLP’

True Facts

A recent post on LinkedIn led me to write this, and it has to do with 4K video and imaging. Or, at least how marketing types have redefined it as “True” 4K or “Faux” 4K.

The post in question had to do with a projector manufacturer’s 4K offerings and how other manufacturers may not be offering a “true” 4K product by comparison, calling those other products “faux” 4K (or “faux” K to be clever). That prompted more than a few comments about what “true” 4K is in the first place.

One comment pointed out that the projector brand behind the original post doesn’t even have a “true” 4K imaging device in its projector, as it uses Texas Instruments’ .66” DMD with 2716×1528 micromirrors and requires image shifting to create an image with full 4K resolution. (Some irony in that?)

Now, I know more than a few marketing folks in the AV industry, and they work very hard and diligently to promote their company’s products. However, sometimes they step out of bounds and create more confusion, particularly with new technologies. Which, by the way, was one reason I started teaching technology classes at InfoComm and other trade shows two decades ago – as a way to counter marketing hype with facts.

What, exactly, is “true” 4K? If you use spatial resolution as your benchmark, then your imager must have at least 4000 horizontal or vertical pixels. The fact is, very few displays today have that much resolution, save for a limited number of digital cinema projectors, a handful of home theater projectors, and a small selection of reference and color grading monitors. All of which will set you back quite a few $$$.

Most displays that are lumped into the 4K category are really Ultra HD displays, having a fixed resolution of 3840 horizontal and 2160 vertical pixels. This would include every so-called 4K consumer TV, many digital signage displays, and production monitors. Are they “true” 4K? Going by spatial resolution, no.

What make things even more confusing is projection specsmanship. Sony’s original SXRD projectors had Ultra HD resolution. Although Epson has shown a prototype HTPS LCD chip with UHD resolution, they’ve never brought it to market. And the only DMD that Texas Instruments makes with 4K resolution is the 1.38” dark chip they sell into the digital cinema marketplace.

What projector manufacturers do instead to get to 4K is to use lower-resolution chips and shift the image with very fast refresh rates to effectively create 4K images. I’ve seen demos of the .66” DMD creating 4K images vs. a native UHD imager and you can see the difference between native and shifted images, particularly with fine text and detail. But it represents a low-cost way to get something approaching UHD resolution.

Panasonic also did this with their PT-RQ32U 4K DLP projector, using devices with 2550×1536 resolution and mapping quadrants to get to 5120×3200 total pixels. Presumably, they’ve retained this trick on their newer 4K models shown at InfoComm 2019.

Is that “true 4K?” Not when it comes to spatial resolution. But what if you base your claims on each finished frame of video, after all sub-fields are created? In that case, you could have an argument that your device is actually creating 4K video. Since our eyes can’t keep up with refresh rates much past 60 Hz, we’re not likely to see any flicker from this technique (also known as “wobbulation” and used by such luminaries as JVC and Hewlett-Packard on their display products in the past).

In fact, Digital Projections’ Insight Laser 8K projector employs three 1.38” dark chip DMDs and some clever image shifting to get from native 4096 x 2160 resolution to get to 8K (presumably 8192 x 4320 pixels in the finished images). Native 8K DMDs don’t exist, and like 8K camera sensors, wouldn’t come cheap if they did. Scaling down, it would make no sense financially to try and ship single-chip 4K DLP projectors with the 1.38” 4K DMD, not to mention the optical engine would have to be a lot larger, resulting in a bigger and heavier projector.

At this point, we should stop using the nomenclature “4K” altogether and switch to the more accurate CTA designation for Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) when we talk about the next generation of displays past Full HD (1920 x 1080) and 2K (2048 x 1080). Also, SMPTE designates two sets of resolutions that go beyond Full HD – UHD-1, or anything up to and including 3840 x 2160, and UHD-2, anything beyond UHD-1 up to 8K (7680 x 4320) and beyond.

From my perspective; if your imaging device can show me a complete frame of video with at least 3840 x 2160 pixels, refreshed at 60 Hz, then I’m okay with calling it UHD (NOT 4K). But there’s a catch: High frame rate video is going to be a big thing with UHD-1 and UHD-2 and will require refresh rates of 90, 100, 120 Hz, and even 240 Hz. Can your current projector show me a complete video frame with at least 3840 x 2160 pixels of spatial resolution when refreshed at 240 Hz? 120 Hz?

Boy, I can hardly wait for 8K projector marketing campaigns to start…

(This article originally appeared on 9/19/2019 in Display Daily.)

InfoComm 2012: Growth and Re-Invention, by Pete Putman

As InfoComm 2012 recedes into the rear-view mirror (along with Las Vegas, thankfully), I’ve had a chance to think about some of the more significant trends I spotted at the show. Some have been picking up speed for almost a year, while the others are still moving in fits and starts.

 

Amazingly, the show has managed to glide smoothly over every potential speed bump it has hit in the past 15 years (the demise of the Projection Shoot-Out, the 2007-2009 recession, collapsing retail prices and dealer margins on hardware, consolidation of brand names, and infiltration of consumer electronics into the professional space).

Prysm's laser-phosphor displays didn't generate quite as much 'buzz' this year. Maybe the large LCDs lurking nearby had something to do with it?

 

InfoComm absorbed its nearest competitor (the National Systems Contractor Association’s trade show) a few years back. It has expanded to Asia and Europe. Its education and certification program is second to none, with over 8,000 holders of Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) certificates out there – I’m one of ‘em – and ISO certification of their education process.

 

I started attending InfoComm in 1994 as a journalist. Over the years, I’ve become more intimate with the education side of things, and now about 60% – 70% of my time at the show is taken up with teaching classes. This year alone, I had nine hours of individual instruction to offer to a total of over 750 students during a three-day period. (And I once swore I would never be a teacher. Ha!)

 

In fact, class attendance this year was the highest I’ve ever seen it, and the attendees were predominantly end-users – colleges, hospitals, institutions, corporations, non-profits, churches, and government agencies. The transition from analog to digital has swept everyone up in its wake, and InfoComm attendees don’t want to be left behind.

 

As a result, I didn’t have a lot of time to walk the trade show floor. But the significant products were out there, if you knew where to look. I even managed to feature a few of them in my classes – I’m VERY big on ‘show and tell,’ rather than ‘death by Powerpoint’ – so that attendees could get more information on the hardware and software than they’d find in the average booth tour.

Sorry - there's just no way to fit this thing into a horizontal photo, it's just too darn big!

 

The first trend is ever-larger and cheaper LCD displays. You may have heard that Sharp unveiled a 90-inch professional LCD monitor in Las Vegas (1920×1080, no price yet, but probably under $10K) and followed that up with the announcement of the TV version (LC-90LE745U, $10,999) on June 19.

 

Don’t underestimate the significance of this product. Since its introduction last fall, Sharp’s $5K 80-inch LCD TV product has proven to wildly successful, but not necessarily in the home: No, AV dealers are installing them by the truckload in commercial AV projects, with a special emphasis on financial institutions and corporations who don’t want a two-piece projector/screen ‘solution’ that requires frequent lamp changes, filter maintenance, and ambient light control.

Samsung is ready to play as well with their 75-inch edge-lit LCD monitor.

And for those of you who like watching TV underwater, Panasonic's got the solution!

 

If the 80-inch is a projector ‘threat,’ then the 90-inch is a projector ‘killer.’ Maybe not at $10K, but you know that price will come down quickly as market demand rises – and it will rise – so expect it to be selling for $7,000 – $8,000 before very long.

 

You’ll know this trend has really picked up speed when Sharp’s nearest competitors (Samsung and LG) start pushing their big LCD screens aggressively. Samsung showed a 75-inch edge-lit LCD display at the show with the ominous caption: “Time to Replace Projector in Your Conference Room.”

 

Another trend is ‘ergonomic’ control systems. At CES, there were numerous demonstrations of gesture and voice control, and Samsung has already brought a TV to market (ES7500 series) that combines both with facial recognition. I didn’t see too many demos of either in Las Vegas, but Panasonic had an interesting demo that combined body recognition with gesture control to navigate a series of maps and locate yourself on a virtual campus.

Look, Ma - both hands!

 

The challenges to design such systems are clearly outweighed by the advantages. A conference room or classroom that can recognize a user, power itself up, and load and operate any preferences in hardware and software operation is a very attractive proposition. No doubt we’ll see some more stabs at this built around the Leap platform in the near future (Leap can detect hand motion as slight as .1 millimeters).

 

Wireless connectivity goes hand-in-hand with gesture and voice commands, and I’m not talking about WiFi-based solutions – they are generally the most unreliable choice, although abundant. No, I’m referring to a slew of proprietary technologies that run on separate but parallel highways to WiFi, free of bandwidth-hogging TCP/IP traffic.

Here's a plug for getting un-plugged...from Hitachi.

 

Right now, the most promising of these is the Wireless High-Definition Interface (WHDI), which operates at 5.8 GHz, has a range of several hundred feet, and can support dozens of discrete channels that carry 1920x1080p/60 video, multichannel audio, and data. Hitachi showed a six-port (two HDMI & two VGA) wireless projector switch at InfoComm, along with a super-tiny document camera that also has WHDI built-in.

 

During my Wireless AV class, we treated attendees to the first public demonstration of WiSA – a multi-channel (7.2) wireless audio system that requires nothing more than AC power for each speaker. The room size was 50’ wide, and the technology is scalable to larger rooms. Combined with a WHDI connection to the Blu-ray player and my Toshiba computer, we were able to cut just about every cord (except for power).

 

Projector manufacturers are well aware of the challenges posed by ever-larger and cheaper LCD displays. One way to fight back is to move away from traditional short-arc mercury vapor lamps to lampless projection engines employing LEDs, lasers, or both.

At BenQ, it's all done with lasers.

And at Casio, some of it is done with lasers.

 

Casio took a substantial lead in this market a few years back with its laser/LED hybrids, and finally plugged a hole in its line with the XJ-H2650, a wide XGA (1280×800) design with 3500 ANSI lumens brightness that made its debut at InfoComm. Now, BenQ has joined the fray with a pair of laser-only single-chip DLP projectors, both rated at 2,000 lumens (LX60ST, XGA, and LW61ST, WXGA).

 

But the bigger news came from Panasonic, who not only embraced hybrid technology but jumped all the way to 1920×1080 resolution while doing it. They’re rolling out two different versions – one for education, and one for commercial applications – and the PT-RZ470 is claimed to develop in excess of 3,000 lumens. There is a wide XGA version as well, known as the PT-RW430, and it’s also rated over 3,000 lumens. Both BenQ and Panasonic claim you’ll see about 20,000 hours of operation from the laser/LED light engine before it poops out.

 

Other companies showed ‘lampless’ projection technology at the show, including Optoma. But most of these demos were small, pocket-sized projectors that are good for a few hundred lumens at most. Digital Projection and projectiondesign also showcased LED-only offerings that can hit the 1,000 lumens barrier, but we still haven’t seen a ‘pure’ LED design that can beat the 2,000 lumens benchmark…for now.

 

Haptic control technology – i.e. touchscreen LCDs – was in abundance at the show. Samsung showed a demonstration of a large LCD touchscreen table that can be used to display images of retail merchandise. These images can then be ‘dragged’ onto a Windows 8-equipped smart phone and create a shopping cart, or even a checklist. Whatever is dragged into the smart phone is automatically mirrored to a nearby sales associate tablet, supposedly simplifying the shopping process for both parties.

 

There's probably a cool table hockey demo lurking somewhere in here...

136 60-inch monitors in five walls. You can count 'em.

And here's the videowall in action during the musical.

 

One of the more impressive demonstrations took place at Planet Hollywood, where a new musical was finishing up rehearsals. Based on songs by the Beach Boys (who are celebrating their 50th year with a nationwide tour) , ‘Surf: The Musical’ uses five walls of 60-inch Sharp LCD monitors for all of its scenic backdrops. The walls were designed and built by Adaptive Technologies and can slide in and out and raise/lower during the performance as needed to accommodate some real 3D constructed sets.

 

Each wall weighs about 8,000 pounds and it took some experimentation to figure out an adequate damping system to raise and lower the walls without any bouncing. Dynamic video processing keeps the displayed images static as the walls move up and down, creating the illusion of a curtain. If you get a chance to see the show, you will be impressed with the Ferris Wheel sequence – it felt real to me.

 

I can’t wrap up this piece without mentioning the absence of one of InfoComm’s largest members and long-time exhibitors, Extron Electronics. You’ve probably heard numerous reasons why they opted to skip the show (none of which made any sense to me, particularly since Extron did participate at NAB in April). Extron is a nearly 30-year-old bellweather interfacing company and without them, the Projection Shoot-Out wouldn’t have been possible.  (Neither would the annual Extron Bash party, now R.I.P.)

Kramer erected a new booth to showcase their CORE digital products.

 

Suffice it to say that there was plenty of chatter and speculation in my classes about Extron’s absence, along with more than a few delighted competitors who ‘stayed the course’ and reported strong booth attendance on the show floor. The enormous turnout for any classes that had the words “EDID,” “HDCP,” “HDMI,” or “digital video” in their titles and/or descriptions apparently also meant a tide of visitors to booths showing those products, such as Kramer Electronics.

 

So, there you have it – a quick fly-by of InfoComm. Next year, I’m going to try more ambitious wireless demos (including some products I just found out about at the show) and will expand my digital video curriculum with Web-connected TVs, if everything works out. Try and make it, we’ll be in Orlando a year from now. Should be fun!

 

See you there?

 

 

Pico Projectors: Cute, But Does Anyone Use Them?

You see them at trade shows and technical conferences. They’re available (by mail) from Staples and other retailers. Nikon has a digital camera (CoolPix S1000PJ, about $399) with a built-in projector, and Sony just announced three new models of camcorders equipped with projectors (HDR-PJ50V, $1000; HDR-PJ30V, $950, and HDR-PJ10, $750) at CES.

But who’s using them? Have you seen any in use for an office or classroom presentation? Do any of your friends and neighbors own a picoprojector? None of mine do, and I know a lot of ‘cutting edge’ techno freaks.

In my most recent Wake-Up Call e-blast for Pro AV magazine, I asked the same questions. Aside from trade show like CES and InfoComm and technology conferences such as SID, I have yet to see one of these little buggers in actual use.

Last night, on my way out of the local Giant grocery store, I passed by Larmon Photo, a regional camera retailer based in Abington, PA.  I’ve known the folks at Larmon for many years and have purchased quite a few digital cameras there.

Nikon's S1000PJ digital camera with built-in projector.

Larmon is an authorized Nikon dealer and sells a ton of Nikon digital SLRs and CoolPix point-and-shoot cameras. So that means they’d also carry the CoolPix S1000PJ in their line.

I asked my friend at the store if they carried the camera, and indeed they have since it was launched in the fall of 2009. But have they sold any of them since then? Not a one.

In fact, he said they had never gotten a single inquiry about the S1000PJ, but they have moved bucket loads of other, less-expensive CoolPix cameras in the past year and a half.

Last week, I had lunch with a client who works for a second-tier projector manufacturer. (His company doesn’t sell picos, by the way.)  His comment was that he regarded picoprojectors as ‘rebound’ products – that is, they are frequently returned to AV dealers after purchase. The most common reason was ‘it’s not bright enough.’ (In fact, one of his dealers reported he had customers trying to return more picoprojectors than he had originally sold!)

Picoprojectors have two things working against them. First, most of them are simply too dim. How big an image can you reasonably project with 10, 20, or 30 lumens? Even 50 lumens isn’t much to start with when you are making a small group presentation. You’d be better off using a larger notebook computer screen, as you wouldn’t have to dim the room lights.

Secondly, picoprojectors are EXPENSIVE. Really! Staples sells a few models of picoprojectors – all of which must be ordered by mail with a 5 – 8 day delivery cycle, no stores carry them – and they start at $300 (Optoma PK201, 20 lumens, 852×480 resolution). Staples also carries the Optoma PK301 (50 lumens, 854×480 resolution, $400) and the 3M MPro 150 (15 lumens, 640×480 resolution, $400).

3M' MPro 150 pocket projector.

Hmmm…For $360, you can buy an NEC NP115 (800×600 resolution, 2500 lumens) that weighs all of 5 pounds, and will project big images on just about any surface under full room lighting. It doesn’t fit in your pocket, but has three video inputs and varifocal lens.

See the problem here? $400 is a lot of money to spend on something that can barely light up a sheet of paper three feet away. And yet, numerous companies are spending lots of money to develop and bring these products to market, including Texas Instruments, 3M, Optoma, Vivitek, Syndiant, Microdisplay, and ViewSonic.

In my Wake-Up Call newsletter, I mentioned that I saw tablet computers as a direct threat to picoprojectors. And apparently a good part of the picoprojector industry agrees, according to a January 3 press release from Pacific Media Associates, which surveyed pico manufacturers and suppliers about the present and future market for picos. (Apparently, 70,00 of them were sold in 2010 – who knew?)

I noticed several negative user comments about picos, mostly focused on low light output and how impractical the projectors turned out to be.  Here’s one comment from the Staples Web site: “Performance leaves a LOT to be desired. Product says it has adjustable brightness, but was too dim to use in a room with any light what so ever, and brightness would not adjust. Might be a good item for a very small room with no light and limited attendees.” Here’s another. “No practical use for this product. Great for use in a closet!”

To be fair, there were also a couple of positive reviews of this particular pocket projector. But there are no user reviews of the two other picoprojectors on the Staples Web site so far, even though they’ve been available for over a year.

At CES, TI had a demo room full of picos – built-in to cameras and tablets, as well as stand-alone models with brightness ranges approaching a more practical 500 lumens. But 500 lumens isn’t a real pico; it’s just an underpowered ultraportable projector. Most of the demos were just too dim to be of any practical use.

So I repeat my question. Does anybody use picoprojectors? Does anybody even want a picoprojector?

How about you?

Product Review: Optoma HD8200 Home Theater Projector (August 2009)

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.

Figure 1. Now, here’s a different look for an Optoma projector!

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.

Figure 3. The HD8200’s gamma performance was most consistent in Standard gamma mode.

Figure 4. Once above 20 IRE, the HD8200 tracked an incredibly tight grayscale.

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.

Figure 5. The projector’s color gamut is large enough to cover BT.709. Color management tools would lock it in even closer.

IMAGE QUALITY

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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
MSRP: $4,999

Specifications:


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

Available from:

Optoma Technology Inc.
715 Sycamore Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035
408-383-3700
http://www.optomausa.com/