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Large-venue Display Systems

Feb 16, 2010 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

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The Draper StageScreen in use with a Panasonic PT-DW7000U-K projector at the Montgomery Peforming Arts Centre.

The Draper StageScreen in use with a Panasonic PT-DW7000U-K projector at the Montgomery Peforming Arts Centre.

As the size of a venue or the amount of ambient light in a venue increases, so does the demand for ANSI lumens, the accepted measure of projector brightness. It's exceedingly simple: A bigger room demands a projector with a more powerful light engine. Unfortunately, there's not a linear increase in the price of a projector as its brightness notches upward. As you go up, each additional jump requires a bigger investment. There's a supply and demand explanation: the brighter the projector model, the fewer units manufactured. For this article, we've defined large-venue projectors as those models rated at 6000 ANSI lumens or greater.

But the good news is that the manufacturers are saying that sales of their high-brightness models are staying strong in an extremely tough economic environment. That's probably because even though large-venue models remain expensive relative to less-bright choices, the entire projector market has enjoyed a precipitous drop in prices over the past decade. As usual, we have technological progress and fierce competition to thank for that.

"While the basic physics behind producing light from a light source and putting it on a display device is still the same, the efficiencies, power levels, and display device capabilities have steadily improved," says George Tsintzouras, director of product management for business products at Christie Digital Systems. He says that a projector that could output 10,000 lumens five years ago would weigh at least 120lbs. Now, Christie offers a 55lb. projector that puts out 11,500 lumens.

Rob Manfredo of Sony charts the progress of projector energy efficiency. "Several years ago, it would have taken a 200W lamp to get 2000 lumens on the screen," he says. "Now the same size lamp can produce nearly 4000 lumens on screen. This has been achieved by improving optical components in the light engines, especially the imagers."

This article surveys the choices available to systems integrators who need to specify a large-venue projector. Of course, a projection screen stands (or hangs) at the end of any projected video signal chain. With that in mind, we share the perspectives of several manufacturers of projection screens: How big do their big screens get, and what types of screen materials are buyers of large-venue projectors selecting?

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