Usually, the video is standard NTSC, using a VGA-type projector or a standard-def playback unit, such as a VHS deck or DVD player (keep in mind that DVD players do deliver better-looking images, but are limited to 480 lines of horizontal, interlaced resolution). Projectors with other than 480 lines, such as those rated as SVGA or XGA, will have to scale up (to 576, 600, or even 768) electronically or digitally. Scaling is a job you can only hope is done well.
To make sure your scaling is accurate, you may want to invest in your own scaler, such as those from DVIGear, Gefen, Vydeo, and others. Depending on the features and functions, such devices automatically detect input video specifications (even from DV or HDV devices), and can output the desired resolution (including interlaced and progressive-scan formats). Some include image controls like contrast, brightness, color saturation, RGB levels, and H/V position.
But options for projecting true high-definition imagery are available now, with more on the way. Progressive-scan projectors in 480p and even 1080p do a much better job of scaling up standard-def video, or matching high-def precisely.
Digital Projection, for example, offers full 1920x1080 resolution using a new progressive scan DLP engine from Texas Instruments (it uses a DMD, or digital micromirror device).
DP's iVision HD-7 uses a native 16:9 DMD and produces 1000 ANSI lumens with a 3000:1 contrast ratio. Standard inputs include DVI, component, RGB, composite, and S-Video. The iVision HD also has a seven-segment color wheel for added color accuracy and uniformity; it all comes in a lightweight 6.5 lb. package with a somewhat heavy price of around $25K.
Marantz is also utilizing TI's DMD chips, such as in its newly developed VP8600 DLP projector, featuring 1280x720-pixel output with 800 ANSI lumens and a contrast ratio of 2500:1. The VP8600 is available for around $5,995; it has a DVI connection, so the unit can—according to the manufacturer—accept a signal from a DTV set-top box, DV camcorder, or other digital video source. More on this in a moment.
Other HD-native or progressive-scan projectors available now include the Mitsubishi HC3000 projector. Calling it the first high-definition projector to use TI's new DDP3020 DLP chipset, Mitsubishi also touts its TrueVision Image processing and BrilliantColor technology.
With 1000 ANSI lumens and 4000:1 contrast, the HC3000 is quite compact, measuring 3.9 in. high. Images are displayed up to 720p resolution in a selection of aspect ratios, including CinemaScope. The projector is priced below $3,000.
Canon's LV-X5 is a 1500-lumen, native XGA (1024x768) projector, but it does support SXGA (1280x1024) resolution through high-quality compression and progressive-scan circuitry that converts 480i, as well as a selectable preset video mode (with warmer flesh tones and color balance).
The LV-X5 is also compatible with NTSC, PAL, SECAM, NTSC 4.43, PAL-M and PAL-N signals, and offers two-way VGA connections and component, S-Video, or composite inputs. The lightweight unit (about 7 lb.) is priced at less than $1,500.
With an estimated street price of $999, the new Epson PowerLite Home 20 is an attractive, economical option. It has 480p native resolution, 1200 ANSI lumens, a 1000:1 contrast ratio, support for component video, VGA (for PC use) and composite-video input—as well as an 80 in. floor-standing 16:9 screen with case! With component, composite, and S-Video inputs, the unit is well-featured for its price.
DV and HDV, as you know, are transport protocols for digital video and audio (along with control signals) moving at about 25Mbps, or 3.5Gbps. The cable comes in either four- or six-pin configurations.
DVI also moves digital video (not audio) at around 3.5Gbps, but there are different connector types, as well as single and dual-link configurations. HDMI has a bandwidth of about 5Gbps, and carries digital audio and video.
Typically, the longest a normal VGA cable can run without loss of signal is about 30 ft. Even DVI and HDMI cables can run into signal integrity issues above 30 or 40 ft. Specially designed and constructed cabling, such as products available from Belden, can extend those ranges tremendously. Belden's Banana Peel component-video cables, for example, are designed for higher-frequency, longer-distance transmissions, and can extend the run to 300 ft. or more, depending on the product and application.
Active extender boxes can also do the trick, such as those from TV One. It offers systems that can encode and decode VGA signals up to 1280x1024, and then send them well over 300 ft. using CAT-5 cabling.
In many ways, what you are projecting on is as important as what you are projecting with. White walls just don't cut it, as the influencing factors for video projection can include surface type (matte, silver, high-contrast) and shape (just like TVs, there are standard and widescreen aspect ratios), even with portable screens.
Da-Lite's Insta-Theater screen weighs about 20 lb. in its case, but it can open up to a 90 in. diagonal 16:9 widescreen (4:3 screens are, of course, also available) fairly easily for location uses. Much lighter, more compact screens are also available. The large HD screen is priced around $535.
For even greater cinematic effect, Stewart's CineMask, with its slightly curved screen and electrically controlled side panels, can be set up for CinemaScope aspect ratio (2.35:1), 16:9 widescreen, and/or 4:3, when desired. The customized shape and attractive black border make this screen very suitable for high-impact presentations.
No matter what the screen type—or the projector itself, in some cases—maintaining color quality and integrity from original video to projected image can be a challenge.
Datacolor has a solution. Its new ColorFacts Pro 6.0 calibration tool is an integrated hardware-and-software bundle designed to calibrate and correct video-image color on projectors, plasma/LCD screens, and widescreen TVs. For about $300, it can bring consistency and precision to your video projection activities.
For a little more (about $500), JVC will perform professional optimization procedures on its D-ILA projectors. By applying a specific video-gamma profile (and other major image adjustments set to the SMPTE 240M spec), JVC can enhance its digital-cinema and video presentation products, such as its DLA-SX21UH projector, with 720p, 1080i, and 1080/24sF HD compatibility.
Whether you choose D-ILA, DMD, or LCD, professional video projection should not be smoke and mirrors. For around a thousand dollars, you can guarantee that your projection efforts are smoke-free by purchasing Proclenze's universal smoke-resistant system to protect your projectors from smoky or dusty surroundings. Inside its plastic casing, two internal fans push a continuous flow of fresh air, pre-filtered to remove damaging airborne particles.
HQV, or Hollywood Quality Video, is one of the newest developments in video display and projection, driven by Silicon Optix' 10-bit video processing chip, Realta. One of the hottest topics, projector-wise, at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, HQV promises superior-quality video imagery, using true 10-bit video processing and other advances to cope with the potential conflict of native pixel resolution and different pixel source material. In addition, the technology uses pixel-based (rather than frame-based) motion adaptation and detail enhancement to more accurately process de-interlaced images. New products incorporating HQV technology are anticipated this year from companies like Yamaha, BenQ, and more; many will add other unique features as well. One example is the new 3M DMS 700 projector, which boasts a built-in DVD player, 5.1 sound system, and super-close projection capabilities.
To read Part 1 of Lee Rickwood's Projectors series in Gear & Now, click here.