miniLED and Cinema

Last week, I wrote a couple of articles about miniLED and microLED. () At the time, I was working on the concept that the only difference between the categories was the size of the devices. However, we had some interesting comments on the website that helped. Bob O’Brien of DSCC thought that the range of 100 microns to 200 that I suggested was too tight and that 50 to 300 microns might be better, on the basis that the category, otherwise, is just a ‘notch’ in a wide range of possible sizes from 1 micron to a millimetre.

A second point was made by Ronn Kliger who is CEO and Co-Founder of Uniqarta, a company that is working on chip assembly techniques for microLED, based on laser techniques, so he is in a good position to have a view on the topic. He also thought that 300 micron is a better cut-off as 125 x 225 um miniLED devices are being frequently considered. He also made a point that I hadn’t seen so far and that is that, in his experience, those talking about microLEDs for sparse distribution use the term to refer to devices that consist only of epitaxy layers, without the substrate beneath. On the other hand, miniLEDs do have substrates (typically sapphire).

Clearly, if you can avoid consuming the substrate, and can reuse it, you can save cost. Sapphire wafers cost less than you might think, but microLED is going to be challenged for cost if it is to compete with LCD and OLED.

The other recent article that got a number of comments was the article ‘RIP for Home Theater Projectors?’. One of the interesting point about the comments was that there was a really strong reaction from some 3D fans that really believe that 2D cannot compete with good 3D. They might be right, but, of course, very little of the 3D content that has been produced over recent years was good in the way that it exploited 3D. The other point made is that the cinema experience is very different from TV because of frame rates, aspect ratios and image size.

There was a time when having a home cinema projector might be an issue of cost. However, we report that Optoma now has an LED projector for home cinema with UltraHD support and an LED image source for $1,500. That’s really not a lot (although, of course, you need to allow for a screen and some audio). In the UK, the average cost of a cinema ticket is around $10, but average spending on ‘sundries’ such as drinks and popcorn, add up to around another $13. That’s about $22 for each person. If we add some cost for getting to and from the theatre, it’s not at all unreasonable to assume that the cost of a family visit to the cinema will cost $100 or more. So after saving ten trips per year for a couple of years, you are going to be ‘in profit’ from owning a projector.

That is, of course, one of the reasons that we have reported recently on a company in France going all in on laser, on Samsung’s activities in LED cinema and the entry of Sony into that category. The cinema owners know that the experience has to be better than watching at home, if they want to keep taking revenues.