Posts Tagged ‘SXRD’

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.)

Life (and Death) Go On In The Projector World

Three news items in the past few days are all focused on front projectors (pardon the pun). And each of these news items has a decided air of uncertainty around it, which of course reflects the sluggish economy and a looming paradigm shift away from projected images to self-contained, larger-than-life display technologies.

 

The first item is courtesy of Engadget, who reports that Sony is getting ready to bring a $28,000 4K-resolution projector to the home cinema market. They won’t be the first (Meridian previously offered the JVC 4K D-ILA platform for about $200K), but they will be the cheapest.

 

This announcement, which will no doubt be one of Sony’s big PR blasts at CES 2012, raises a few questions. First, who needs 4K resolution? That represents four times the detail on a full 1920×1080 image, and there isn’t any content available to consumers (yet) that is authored at that resolution.

 

Sure, HDMI v1.4 supports 4K. And you could certainly master a 4K Blu-ray disc, although at current disc capacities, you’d be limited to about 30 – 45 minutes of content with aggressive MPEG4 compression. But for now, 2K (or, more accurately, 2,073,600) pixels represents the upper limit for home viewing.

 

That gives rise to the second question: How will Sony scale 2K content to fit the 4K imaging devices, which are almost certain to be SXRD LCoS chips? It’s not just a line-doubling job. No, scaling 2K to 4K is akin to scaling standard definition video to the 720p HDTV format. And what will 720p broadcasts look like on this projector?

 

Third, how big a screen would you need to actually see the difference between 4K and 2K source material? I’m thinking that the typical 92-inch 16:9 screen at 12 feet isn’t going to cut it.

 

The second news item comes from Quixel Research, who reports that USA sales of 3D projectors for home use increased by 121% between Q2 and Q3 of 2011. That number represents 16% of all home theater projector sales, which sounds pretty impressive.

 

Ahh, but the devil is in the details, as usual. Sales revenue for 3D home projectors grew by only 14% in the same time period, a trend Quixel attributes to a “recent onslaught of low-cost 3D models” in the channel. Not so impressive, and even less so when you learn that the overall home theater projector market saw a 7% decrease in volume from Q2 to Q3 2011, even though the category saw a 2% increase year-to-year.

 

The culprit? Look no further than plummeting prices on bigger and bigger TV screens. For less than $3,000, you can buy a Sharp Aquos 70-inch LED LCD TV with all the trimmings. And their newest model measures 80 inches diagonally, and will retail for less than $5,000. Who needs a projector when you’ve got a self-contained TV screen that large? (Betcha Sharp shows a 90-inch+ LCD TV at CES!)

 

My belief is that 3D front projection make a whole lot more sense at home than small 3D TVs (less than 55 inches). Most people sit too far away from 3D TVs to get the full effect, and they rarely pay attention to controlling ambient light spilling on the screen.

 

But 3D front projection turns that equation around. It’s easy to get a big 3D image and not spend a ton of money to do it, and screens tend to be placed in rooms where lights can be lowered or shut off altogether, just like in a movie theater.

 

The problem is that projector manufacturers have slashed prices too low, too quickly. Got $2,000 in your pocket? You have quite a selection of stereoscopic DLP and 3LCD front projectors to choose from; of which a few models are tagged around $1,500. That’s a lot less than a 70-inch LED LCD TV costs – for now. But margins are very thin on such products.

 

The last item comes by way of AV Interactive, the top pro AV publication in the United Kingdom. According to their Web site, Sanyo will cease to exist as a brand name by the end of the 1st quarter of 2012 (also the end of the fiscal year for Japanese companies).

 

How the AVI staff found this out is interesting: They got hold of a letter circulated by Panasonic to ‘business partners’ informing them of the decision. (I assume ‘business partners’ means dealers and distributors.)

 

Readers from the pro AV industry will of course recognize Sanyo as one of the top projector brands, fronting an amazingly-large lineup that ranges from ultraportables to 10,000-lumens behemoths for auditoriums and theaters. They’ve also done pioneering work with short-throw projection as well as LED-powered light engines.

 

For those readers who missed the headlines, Panasonic acquired Sanyo in December of 2008 for about $4.6 billon, primarily to scoop up the latter’s industry-leading battery and renewable energy technologies. Solar cell technologies were also in the mix. I found out about the acquisition while having dinner with several Sanyo executives in Osaka that night, which of course made for some very interesting conversations.

 

At the time, I assumed that the Sanyo and Panasonic projector business units could co-exist nicely. Panasonic does very well in high-brightness DLP projectors, while Sanyo projectors are ubiquitous in hotels, classrooms, conference rooms, and even home theaters. But it appears that’s not going to be the case, as Panasonic will instead pull a ‘borg’ move and completely assimilate its prized acquisition.

 

Ironically, the two companies have family ties that go all the way back to the period just after World War II. Sanyo was born when Toshio Iue, a former Matsushita employee and the brother-in-law of Konosuke Matsushita (the founder of Panasonic), began manufacturing bicycle generator lamps in an unused Matsushita plant in 1947.

 

What will happen to all of the Sanyo and Panasonic projector business unit employees is uncertain at this writing; although it’s likely there will be substantial staff reductions. No word yet on whether Panasonic will continue to offer Sanyo-designed appliances (possibly), LCD TVs (unlikely), and cameras and camcorders (also unlikely).

 

What we will see from Panasonic is a wider portfolio of rechargeable batteries and energy-efficient devices. That may be the only legacy of Sanyo to survive after April 1 of next year. Too bad, because I love my Sanyo Xacti 1080p pistol camera and my brother loves his Sanyo 32-inch LCD TV. And I’m sure many readers love their PLV-series Sanyo home theater projectors, too.

 

Tempus fugit…