It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m catching up on post-InfoComm paperwork, sorting through press kits and flash drives and editing the many photos I shot last week in Las Vegas.
This year’s show was characterized by a strong move to widescreen imaging, digital infrastructure (including lots of fiber optic transport systems), and more support for digital TV and RF than I’ve seen before. Notably, several NAB stalwarts like Harris and Tandberg made an appearance, which shows you just how much crossover there is between the professional AV and broadcast worlds these days.
One highlight of the show for me was the continuing battle between Texas Instruments and the 3LCD Marketing Group over color - at least, 3LCD’s emphatic proclamation of the need for a color brightness standard, and TI’s emphatic and contrary position that such a metric is flawed and isn’t really needed.
I moderated a panel last Monday at the Projection Summit where Tim Anderson of 3LCD and Pete van Kessel of TI went back and forth at it over this very issue. To be sure, there’s merit in both arguments: Certain professional customers will be very fussy over the quality of color in a projector, and I listed packaging and industrial designers as strong examples. (Anyone who’s tried to match projected (additive) colors to the Pantone Color Matching System for surface (subtractive) colors, knows exactly what I mean!)
On the other hand, there are many people engaged in the presentation of numbers and words (Excel files, Powerpoints, Word documents) who I think just aren’t that concerned with colors as much as they are the data being shown. Yes, an argument can be made in favor of reproducing a company’s logo in the correct colors to please the corporate identity police (as we used to call them at American Express, many years ago).
But I suspect neither side will completely win this debate. Color, and the accuracy and saturation of it, is not equally important to everyone in a visual presentation, especially those folks who project on walls with off-white paint schemes. Unlike home theater enthusiasts, corporate projector buyers tend to focus on (1) brightness, (2) resolution, (3) size, and (4) price when making their decision. Color has not been part of the decision process, but the 3LCD group would like it to be.
Ironically, in the midst of this debate, Sanyo unveiled a 4LCD projector design at their InfoComm booth that adds a fourth panel to provide a yellow spectral "boost" as needed or desired. (The technique is very similar to what TI accomplished previously with BrilliantColor by adding a yellow segment to its color wheels, although there’s plenty of contention that TI’s resulting color gamut isn’t as wide as would be expected.)
What does 4LCD do to the 3LCD color brightness argument? Does 4LCD reinforce TI’s approach with extra yellow (and even cyan and magenta) color segments? Could Sanyo achieve better color simply by selectively tuning its dichroic filters and prism components? Will we see more projector manufacturers jump on the 4LCD bandwagon?
All good questions, none of which have answers right now. To start with, 4LCD technology is only available in Sanyo’s 7000-lumens PLC-XP200L, a 25-pound medium/large venue projector that will retail for just under $10K - so it’s not a mainstream product by any means.
I hope to have a sample on hand for an extensive evaluation and review later this summer (the PLC-XP200L ships in September) to see what, if anything, the extra yellow control does to conventional 3LCD color mixing.
In the meantime, you can expect to hear lots more from 3LCD and TI as these color skirmishes continue throughout the rest of 2008. Never a dull moment…