Stewart Filmscreen and high end front projector vendor Digital Projection recently co-hosted dealer and installer trainings at Stewart’s Torrance California headquarters and manufacturing facility. Aimed at custom integrators, the event included multiple presentations covering a wide range of 3D-related topics, and featured two different session types—one covering commercial installations and the other covering residential installations, which is the one I attended.
Digital Projection kicked off the proceedings with a very thorough overview of 3D, including a rundown of events leading up to the launch of 3D Blu-ray in early 2010, and pointed out that there are still a number of challenges that can affect widespread 3D adoption in the residential front projection market.
Digital Projection had a quartet of projectors on hand at the event, including their high-end Titan 1080 3D DLP model (it’s priced in the “if you have to ask” range, as in mid five figures). One of the new models on demo at the event is the first to incorporate full native 2.40:1 “scope” widescreen presentation capability, via the latest Texas Instruments widescreen WQXGA DLP chip. The chip’s native resolution is 2560x1600 (WQXGA) and was developed after TI dropped plans for a 2560x1080 version. To project widescreen HD onto a 2.40:1 screen, the chip’s extra vertical resolution doesn’t provide any benefit, so the new projector is equipped with an optical letterboxing system that only lights up the chip’s middle 1080 pixel rows. That’s nifty engineering right there, and allows for a true widescreen “scope” presentation that dispenses with the need for an external anamorphic lens and motorized mount.
Moving on, the next topic covered in the training was the use of two or more projectors in a single-screen installation. That scenario allows for a very widescreen viewing experience, and the attendees were shown how to use “warp and blend” video signal processing to line up two or more projected images without any visible transitions between the displayed images. Sophisticated digital video processing is necessary of course, but the cost of very muscular DSP chips has dropped dramatically over the last two decades, and smart algorithms have been developed that allow for a fully seamless image using two or more projectors.
After the Digital Projection presentation and after a break, Stewart’s residential sales manager, Jim Groover, kicked things of by noting that in the earliest days of anaglyphic 3D back in the 1950’s, their company offered 3D-compatible screens, so they’ve been in the 3D projection screen business for decades, and are best positioned to provide 3D front projection screen solutions for the home market. As far as the home 3D market is concerned, Jim noted that 3D is now in its “terrible twos” phase, which got a chuckle from some of the fathers in the audience.
Jim pointed out that in many commercial movie theaters, the digital projector is usually set to run in the lowest lamp mode to save on bulb replacement costs, which can be substantial with xenon-powered projectors typically employed. Adding in the reduced overall light output of projectors when in 3D mode and factor in additional light attenuation that’s part and parcel of the 3D glasses, and in many cases, moviegoers are presented with a “dim and dingy” 3D experience.
Jim also noted that for the few exceptional modern 3D releases (Avatar), there were many more 3D movies that barely approached the mediocre level (Clash Of The Titans was but one of many upconverted or simulated 3D films that have disappointed movie-going audiences who paid extra for the 3D experience in recent years).