As with the past few NAB shows, the operative phrase with projectors and monitors this year is "Me, too!" Downward pricing pressure and competing distribution and sales chains mean there are plenty of companies looking for your business, whether you want to buy a $4000 hand-and-bang front projector or an $8000 plasma monitor.
Most of the growth in the front-projection business is at the low end, a market that usually isn’t addressed by NAB exhibitors. Even so, expect to see booths full of low-priced front projectors with XGA (1024×768) resolution using LCD and DLP technology, with brightness specs somewhere in the range of 2000 to 3000 lumens. You’ll also spot some super-cheap SVGA (800×600) models here and there, with prices hovering around $1K.
Check out the expanding category of wide XGA (1280×768) front LCD projectors. These models are intended for the low-end home theater market, but they can make some surprisingly good pictures. Sanyo, Panasonic, Sony, and Epson all have offerings here in the $2500 to $3000 price range, although it’s not certain which models will appear in Las Vegas. These projectors might not be good enough for critical post work, but are fine for general-purpose screening of SD and HD content in small groups.
In the $5K to $15K range, you’ll be able to scoop up 3000 to 8000 lumens in a variety of LCD projector configurations. These installation projectors will incorporate a wide range of input and output connections, including DVI and, in some cases, SDI/HD-SDI. Many of these products support LAN interfaces, which are best used for remote monitoring and diagnostics. You’ll also have a variety of short- and long-throw lenses at your disposal. Sony, Sanyo, NEC, ASK Proxima, Barco, and Christie are a few of the major players in this space.
The high end of the business is still dominated by 3-chip DLP technology, and the big news this year will be the introduction of 1920x1080p large-venue and digital cinema products. Digital Projection’s Lightning 35HD (18,000 lumens) is the first general-purpose 1080p three-chipper to market- snoop around the Barco, NEC, Panasonic and Christie booths and you’ll have a good chance of seeing more.
Watch carefully for a new category this year- compact, three-chip DLP front projectors. InFocus (777) and Digital Projection (Mercury) have already shown prototypes with 1024×768 resolution, while Panasonic has been shipping both XGA and SXGA versions for about a year. There are also designs in the works with 1280×720 digital micromirror devices (DMDs), and you may find them in the Barco, Christie, DP, and Panasonic booths.
The interest in 2K imaging is such that you may see 1920×1080 DMDs in other display products at NAB. Samsung has already shown a single-chip rear-projection TV using this DMD at CES, and it may also pop up in prototype datawall cubes made by Synelec, Mitsubishi, Samsung and Christie.
It’s possible to achieve 1920×1080 resolution with polysilicon LCD technology, although only one company- Sanyo- has done so to date. Sanyo’s PLV-HD10 large-venue projector will be on display along with UXGA (1600×1200) and Wide XGA (1366×768) models. All three are complemented with a bevy of interchangeable lenses and analog/digital interface cards.
There’s another way to achieve high resolution, and that’s with reflective LCD- Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS). The market leader here is JVC, which offers D-ILA projectors with SXGA (1365×1024) and SXGA+ (1400×1050) resolution plus a 2K design, the DLA-QX1. JVC has also rolled out a new widescreen model, the DLA-HX1. It uses 1400×788 widescreen panels.
Sony’s also got LCoS. The Sony Qualia front projector is also capable of 2K resolution and, like JVC’s models, uses a xenon lamp for more accurate colorimetry. The Qualia is intended primarily as a home theater product, but it would find plenty of interest from the NAB crowd. Don’t be surprised if one shows up at the show.
Questions You’ll Want the Answers to This Year
- Which flat panel monitors offer custom interface card slots?
- Which projectors and monitors support SDI and/or HD-SDI? Ethernet?
- Which LCD monitors are good, enough for post work?
- Which manufacturers will support native 1080p imaging?
Over in the monitor world, the buzz is all about flat-panel displays. Plasma prices are falling, and LCD is coming into its own as a serious competitor. The issues with LCD imaging remain, such as black levels, color saturation, and viewing angles. But the products are getting better, particularly the new 1080p panels that debuted at CES 2004. At present, manufacturers are only announcing support for DVI interfaces- no specialty connections like SDI or Ethernet.
You may see one or more larger LCD monitors with 1920×1080 resolution from Sharp (37-inch and 45-inch), LG (52-inch), and Samsung (54-inch), although it’s a bit early to expect these as mainstream products. LCD displays in sizes up to 42 inches are now shipping, and many have wide XGA (1280/1366×768) resolution.
Smaller-size LCD monitors are popular for post work. ViewSonic and Apple both offer high-resolution models in the 20-inch range with QUXGA (3840×2400) native resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio, and they will be on display in Las Vegas.
Plasma continues to draw crowds. Check out the new 55-inch models from Hitachi and Fujitsu. These panels offer native 1366×768 resolution and a color gamut that is claimed to be 95 percent that of SMPTE C standard phosphors. Samsung, LG, JVC, NEC and Panasonic will all have new models from 42 inches to 63 inches with improved brightness, contrast, and color reproduction.
Alone among plasma manufacturers, Pioneer and Panasonic have adopted expansion slot architecture for custom I/Os. Pioneer’s 43-inch and 50-inch PDPs work with several aftermarket interface cards, while Panasonic has chosen to bring out its own line of interfaces. You’ll be able to connect via SDI/HD-SDI, DVI, and even Ethernet to these 42-inch and 50-inch monitors.