The Art of Home Theater Projectors

From Infocomm: 3D Projectors and 3D Challenges

3D Projectors were in abundance at Infocomm.  Most of these were small “business” projectors aimed, first at the K-12 Classroom market. Although most of the new 3D projectors announced were XGA or WXGA or  (including 720p) there was plenty of talk about higher resolution projectors coming, including 1080p home theater projectors, even if specifics were almost non-existent.

I did attend a few seminars, in an effort to get a handle on all the 3D related issues.  I finally feel like I’m starting to at least get an idea of some of the limitations, and issues that have to be worked out.

I’ll be doing a piece for the main website, shortly, but I thought I’d mention a few of the things that have come to light.  Some of you may know most of this, but I might have something to surprise you guys too.  Almost all of these issues should work out, but there are some challenges along the way. Consider:

1. HDMI 1.4 – It’s been known a while, but HDMI 1.4 is the standard for the new blu-ray movies that will come out.  That’s right, time for a new, HDMI equipped blu-ray player.  If you are running a blu-ray player through your computer, I imagine there are ways to get those blu-ray movies out, but your 2009 blu-ray player hooked up to your AV receiver, or right into your projector isn’t going to cut it.

The only 3D projector I’ve seen so far with HDMI 1.4 is the LG CF3D, which I’m working with right now, and it works fine with a Panasonic 3D blu-ray player (with 1.4), on the LG demo disc.  However, to give you an idea of the headaches involved, the Panasonic provided demo disc won’t work with either primary 3D methodology used by projectors. I tried it with the LG, and also with a BenQ W600, a typical 720p type DLP, 3D ready projector.

Apparently Panasonic only put on the disc, the content that plays only on Panasonic 3D LCDTVs and Plasmas.

Talking to DirecTV today, after I came to quickly realize that the first ESPN HDTV 3D broadcast (World Soccer, last Friday), wasn’t going to work on any projectors.  In fact according to them, there were only about 16 total 3D LCDTVs and Plasmas, that could work in 3D (with glasses of course).

Those consisted only of models from Mitsubishi, Samsung, and Panasonic.

Ultimately, all the drivers, etc. will be in place and broadcasts will end up encoded to support the various models and 3D types that they intend to support.  Things just might be a little slower for us projector folks, and maybe for some of the LCDTV brands as well.

As I write, other aspects that I learned, must be dealt with:

Sports – those long shots and even some close shots of football games are going to be a problem. When they do the distant shot of the teams lining up, the players are so far away, that there’s virtually no 3D effect.  And when they zoom in from those long angle cameras, the 3D becomes real, but flat, suffering from the fact that zooming in, isn’t being compensated for, so the depth is being compacted, and looks a bit unnatural.  No doubt those long angle 3D cameras will likely need optics that adjust the distance between lenses to compensate for these “issues”.

I’ll be set up for gaming shortly, with a fairly decent computer coming my way, set up for moderately serious (but not the real, 12 red bull a day hard core gamers – more of the 2 mountain dew a day types).

Sure, we will definitely see 1080p 3D home projectors this fall, at CEDIA. Whether it will be the right time to buy them (1st gen…), or not, will be different for everyone.  I’ll do my best to put all the key issues in perspective, so that we can determine whether to wait, to buy 2D today, and plan to switch in 2-3 years… start with a basic 3D system in addition to what you own…, and other scenarios.

There’s a product called Depth-Q which you can place in front of any projector and get 3D.  I have one inbound. It’s a very serious product, and may be the “intermediate” type solution.  I believe it will work with most projectors that support 120 hz (fps).   If true, then you could put one in front of your 8500UB, PT-AE4000, JVC RS20, or InFocus SP8602.  (Ok, that covers all three technologies.)

That’s today’s taste.

More in the article I’m writing for the main site.  -art

PS, neighbors, friends, and my 18 year old daughter’s friends, so far have all been rather blown away by the 3D I’ve been showing on the LG CF3D projector and my new 92″ Da-Lite Silver Screen – for 3D.

News And Comments

  • Julian Scott

    I must say I’m not particularly excited by 3D. I’ve yet to see any movie where I felt it really made a difference, in fact I find that it’s more of a distraction to the narrative – yes, that includes Avatar. From my cinema experience I’d say that 3D kills brightness and contrast and washes out colours. While I don’t think that 3D should become the dimension of choice for movies, I’m willing to concede that it may add something to watching sports and playing games. I used to do a lot of gaming with Edimensional glasses and found this added a great deal to the experience. Also, having shelled out over the last couple of years for new home cinema kit to accomodate HD-DVD and then Blu-ray, from several of the players themselves to a new HDMI 1.3 receiver and a number of projectors (I currently own a JVC HD750) the idea of having to shell out yet again for new equipment for something that is questionable as to whether it enhances movies at all is hardly appealing. For this reason I think 3D will find a hard time getting a real foothold once the novelty factor of its latest iteration wears off (as it has done before). That said, if in the unlikely event that 3D takes over the world of cinema, the DepthQ Modulator does look interesting as a compromise for those of us who don’t want to buy new projectors. Much will depend on its cost of course, but seeing as you mention the RS20 Art, would you say that the RS20 has enough lumens for 3D projection? Would a change of screen also be required? If HDMI 1.4 is required won’t we also need 1.4 equipped receivers?

    • Lisa Feierman

      I don’t think we’ll watch a lot in 3D, but there will be times it’s awesome. Be it sports, or movies. I can’t wait for the discovery HD content type stuff in 3D. We hope to move this summer. Most likely I’ll have a smaller wall to work with making my 128″ a tighter fit. As someone mentioned, it’s not clear if projectors like my RS20 will work with something like the Depth-Q, the projector has to accept 120 hz source material. I’m more concerned with my “next” projector. Brightness is a definite issue, which means manufacturers have to recognize that 3D projectors as a group are going to need to have about twice the raw lumens available as traditonal projectors. Hopefully we’ll see bright enough LED or hybrid lighting systems that can deliver projectors doing 1000+ lumens in “best” mode, so we can get at least the equivalent of 500 lumens in 2D.

  • Ron Jones

    I believe you will find that the Depth-Q product will only work to provide 3D if the connected projector supports a 120Hz input and home theater projectors such as the Epson, Panasonic, JVC, etc. while offering a 120 Hz display mode will not accept a 120 Hz input. This generally limits candidate projectors to those that are already claim to be “3D Ready” such as the 720p DLP models from several companies. In a related point, it really needs to be clearly pointed out that these existing 720p DLP “3D ready” are not directly compatible with the current home cinema 3D standard and are not really “3D ready” in this context. Rather, their 3D compatiblity is limited to PCs equipped with specific video graphics cards and software.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Ron, I do believe you are right, about the 120 hz input. I have already inquired if that is something achievable via various firmware. No answers yet. I suspect it’s easier to launch new models than to retrofit, regardless. Too many issues, including HDMI 1.4…
      Yes I do believe I have mentioned a number of times that most of these 3D ready projectors are not ready for traditional home theater – no blu-ray, not (so far) compatible with HDTV 3D broadcasts. Yes they work with a large number of games in conjunction with Nvidia and ATI cards including hundreds of games re-rendered on the fly into 3D. There’s also a fair amount of educational 3D content out there that can run on these projectors.

      I expect we’ll see some serious first gen 3D solutions at Cedia. This LG CF3D does some nice 3D, is Blu-ray compatible but is large, and it’s black level performance is weak. In 3D it still managed a reasonably bright image at 92″ diagonal. -art

  • Jay


    Sorry this is off topic.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Iam finishing out my theater room. The room is 19 long by 21 feet wide. We will place the screen along the wide wall. The room can be made dark with no to very little ambient light. We want 2 rows of seats, 11 and 15 feet of viewing distance to the wall. I am going to get either the JVC 950 or the Sony VPL-VW85 PJ. I can get both for the same price at about $5000 which I think is a good price for either.

    I really want the look of a huge plasma or LED TV and the immersive experience that goes with it. The wall where the screen can accommodate up to a 142″ diagonal 2.39:1 screen or a 120″ diagonal 16:9 screen. I plan to watch Blu-Rays and HD sports on TV.

    Which projector do you think I should get?
    Which screen brand do you like or suggest? My dealer likes Black Diamond from SI
    Which size/aspect do you suggest? Any other thoughts?

    • Lisa Feierman

      I’m working with the Black Diamond 1.4 right now. That should do the trick. It doesn’t seem to “reject” as well from the sides, but better from the top or bottom. As such, it’s picking up more of my rust colored walls than the firehawk, but that can be dealt with, when calibrating. STill, the Firehawk will have that advantage if your walls are neither extremely dark nor color neutral. Conversely, at night, in my room, the SI appears darker – better blacks, when I’m using small amounts of recessed ceiling lighting. I’m still sorting out the differences, but while a lot of different technology, these two are fairly similar in performance. I’ve only got a smaller one (SI) for review but I’ve overshot the screen to get the feel for projecting a larger image. Like my Firehawk, the SI should work well with the JVC, until that lamp starts getting old. (I’m at 1500 hours and about to replace, as I’ve run out of lumens for movies – it’s starting to feel a bit thin… Mind you I”m shelf mounted, about half way between mid-point and tele on the zoom, so I have less lumens to start with, compared to those ceiling mounting closer in.
      As to aspect ratio, it’s about what you watch – if mostly movies, if you go with a 2.35:1, then you are spending for an anamorphic lens, or limiting your placement flexibility and using the zoom function to reduce image size when you want 16:9 or 4:3 images. What I call pseudo-anamorphic emulation). -art

  • Julian Scott

    Art, you comment that brightness is an issue in 3D projectors and in fact this hits on one of my main concerns. What’s going to happen to black level performance in new 3D ready projectors if manufacturers have to put in more lumens? There’ll surely have to be a trade off somewhere and I’d frankly rather not have to sacrifice many of the gains in projector performance (principally black levels) that we’ve seen over the past few years for the dubious benefits of the occasional bit of 3D viewing.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Rabbi! Shalom! I’m not sure what we’ll see for black level performance. The LG, a 6 panel projector has pretty entry level blacks for a $10K projector that’s shipping, but it’s the first 1080p 3D projector under $10K to my knowledge. I’d be very disappointed with those blacks, far worse than their CF181D which has merely good blacks for a $2500 projector, but not great ones.

      Ultimately, I don’t know enough yet, and do realize that polarization schemes are involved, with both 3D and the inherent workings of 3 chip LCD and 3 chip LCoS projectors. I know that LCD relies heavily on polarization to achieve their good blacks so there is significant potential loss. Still that doesn’t mean we should see more than a halving of contrast – I don’t know.

      Brightness is a bigger concern. If you stack 3LCD or LCoS projectors for 3D, then you get the brightness back by having 2 projectors. Not so the alternatives for DLP, or single projectors like the LG I just mentioned – the CF3D projector. I think the manufacturers are going to have to move up from lamps ranging from 170 watt to 250 watt lamps, and instead move to 250 to 500 watt lamps…

      Unless they can find ways to recover lost light, and the way both methods work – shutters, or polarization, inherently cost you a minimum loss of 50% brightness.

      Bottom line, I think we’ll get what we want, but it may be a while – for quality 3D, that’s bright enough, and hasn’t overly compromised black levels, etc. -art

  • Claus Wiebe

    Art, RE: HDMI 1.4.

    Are you saying that all new BD discs (movies) will require HDMI 1.4? Or does that apply to 3D movies only. Based on the context of this blog, I believe you meant for 3D movies. However, your statement sure didn’t come across that way.

    If all new movies (in the 2D format) require HDMI 1.4, then, IMHO, the Blu-Ray format is dead, and the manufacturer’s and studios have just “shot themselves in the foot”. Requiring everyone to purchase an entirely new system just to watch new 2D Blu-Ray movies, is totally asinine and ridiculous. I can see that for 3D movies, but for 2D, no way!

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Claus,

      I was talking about 3D movies, my apologies if I failed to make that clear. Obviously there are plenty of Blu-ray movies (in 2D, currently playing on millions of Blu-ray players that have 1.3 hdmi.

  • Ron Jones

    Actually the minimum light loss is a lot more than 50% when the display is alternating the right and left images. With shutter glasses the 50+% light loss due to the duty cycle is just the start and this must be added to the light loss thru the LCD shutter glasses (approx. 60% loss). With polarized glasses there is a similar light loss and in either case the net light level to each eye is only 15% to 20% of what could be achieved in standard 2D mode (no glasses, no loss dute to 50% duty cycle, etc.).

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Ron,
      Ahh, most of that makes perfect sense. I had just trying to make the point that we were going to need a “whole lot more lumens” for 3D, establishing the losses as a minimum of 50% plus. I’m not sure what the total loss is with either basic technology, but I’m not sure about your logic regarding the passive polarized glasses. At this point, I have no idea how much the glasses lose, but, I didn’t think it was that much beyond the “duty cycle”. True, only half the projector output will be coming out, ready for the left lens, half for the right lens. However, I cannot find anything so far, which says that the left lens, say, loses more than a few percent of the properly polarized signal aimed for that eye. Let’s say the amount of additional loss by the polarized glasses lens, is 10% when fed a matching polarized signal. Then, 50% makes it to the lens from the projector, and 90% of that makes it through the left lens. Same thing for the right. Add it up and you get 45% overall brightness… That also explains why the passive glasses don’t appear really dark, which one would expect, if they were passing a lot less than 40 or 45% of the full 2D brightness.

      Anyway, I’m talking to folks, like my contact at XPand, who makes “most” of the LCD shutter glasses out there. He’s got far more understanding of the glasses (both types) and their issues, than I do…

      I’m really hoping to be able to do something like an “Art’s Unified Theory of 3D Projection that encompasses, home, biz and schools, as well as movies TV, sports, static content, courseware, etc.

      As of right now, it seems that compatibilities are in far worse shape than the public would believe, based on current advertising. Hey, most folks would probably think that all these 720p 3D projectors will be compatible with 3D blu-ray players (not likely, of course), etc.

      It’s a true mess. I’m dying to have 3D in my theater, but I’m not sure that we really will be “ready for primetime” by the Cedia show in Sept, even though I expect to see “tons” of 3D announcements at the show. -art

  • Darryl Lowe

    Hi Art

    Regarding the challenge of 3D projectors & lumens, vs black levels, if a projector is pushing out x% more lumens, and the 3D glasses shade it x% lumens, thus making it appear the same as a 2D movie, if the 3D projector has the same contrast ratio as the 2D projector, then wouldn’t the glasses bring the black levels back down to the same as the 2D projectors?

    I know increasing the lumens hurts the black levels, however if the contrast ratio remains the same, wouldn’t the shaded glasses bring the black levels back down equally?


    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Darryl,

      Hmm let’s see about the logic…
      your 2d comment confuses me so I’ll take it from the top.

      yes, if glasses cost you 50% of lumens, then the blacks will drop 50%, but so will the bright areas – that’s no gain, contrast remains essentially the same. “White is always the brightest gray” as I like to say, that is, when you are watching a movie, and you see a bright white on your screen, you call it white. But, turn on all the lights, shut off the projector and put up an object that reflects back the same amount of lumens, and it appears light, medium or dark gray, because ultimately a ft-candle is a foot candle. In other words, shine a 1000 watt light on your screen, and that white will measure far, far brighter than the amount of “gray/white” you considered white.

      OK, that probably wasn’t very clear. The problem is that 3D projectors so far don’t have good contrast – not even as 2D projectors – the LG CF3D at $15K had blacks when watching 2D that were comparable to $999 home theater projectors and perhaps not even all of those. (but, another way of looking at it, would be that the LG has blacks that were considered pretty impressive just 4 years ago). The other area of contrast loss is in the 3D polarization process – that’s over my understanding, but, it too seems to be taking some toll.

      Don’t worry, other than that LG, all we have so far are some entry level “biz/crossover” projectors that have been given some firmware and 120 hz input abilities. Perhaps we’ll see a couple of serious LCD or LCoS 3D solutions at CEDIA next month, and best I can tell, we’ll at least see prototypes of a few 1080p DLP single chip projectors. (and some high end 3 chip DLP’s that are 3D ready, and claiming 15K:1 or better contrast…

      For 3D this is the “early adopter” year. Next year, “enthusiasts and recommenders” 2012 – 3D should make up a decent portion of the home projector market. Next spring summer should see some small but significant 3D in education (there’s some early adopter” going on right now. Gamers will likely be the biggest buyer of 3D projectors on the home side for the next year, but we shall see. – I’m trying to sort all that out, and I’ve got 4 3D projectors here, two coming, and an assortment of software.

      Look for my first 3D report and 5-6 reviews (covering biz edu, gaming sports/HDTV and HD movies) to publish early-mid september – before Cedia. My big focus is being able to put all this in perspective for all of us… It’s a massive learning experience, lots of new standards, few implemented, etc. -art

      That is to say, while many of us are dying to have 3D capabilities

  • Martin Sams

    My Epson Home 1080UB 2yr warranty will expire this December so I need to resolve this soon. This unit replaced an old Sharpvison 37U and of course I was blown away by the huge improvement in overall picture quality, but then after the initial uphoria subsided I noticed something odd about the picture geometry, particularly when viewing “Fifth Element”. Bruce Willis’s head looked overly elongated, then I checked scenes showing circular objects and they were slighlty eliptical (stretched up) as opposed to being truly circular as I was accustomed to seeing them. I have a 19″ flat screen monitor I use in conjunction with the Epson and the images look fine on that. Images from my old VHS tapes also exhibit the same stretched look through the Epson, but still look correct on the monitor. It seems as though the Epson video processor is picking up very slight more image detail on the left and right sides and squeezing it into the same width with no compensation for picture heigth resulting in many dvds looking slightly distorted. Actors with normally thin looking faces now look more like “Idaho Potato Heads”. Some of my friends say it isn’t that noticeable to them. Epson Tech support is mystified. This is driving me bonkers. I suggested to Epson that a scaling control for vertical height would solve the problem if that would be cost effective in production. Epson said they are not aware of anyone else having this issue.
    Did you ever encounter this in your testing? I love everything else about my 1080 UB and don’t want to risk switching it to a newer model and encountering the same issue.
    Will be eagerly awaiting your reply!

    • Lisa Feierman

      Hi Martin, I’m playing catch up, Just back from a 2 week vacation!

      Hmm, sounds fixable. Check the aspect ratio settings at your sources. DVD/blu-ray, cable/sat, and AV receiver, etc. I’ve got a PS3 and a DirecTV box feeding my own 1080UB (I have the original Ensemble, but separately upgraded from the original 1080 to the 1080UB). The geometry is perfect – no issues (other than of course the minor optical distortions associated with lenses, and lens shift.

      BTW, with my Ensemble, which comes with an AV receiver they call the AV Console (or something). will exhibit a geometry problem but it only occurs with some older discs – especially Superbit discs, but also some others. When the proper aspect ratio can’t be found on the 1080p, I grab the Ensemble’s remote (for the AV console) and change the console’s aspect ratio, and things are then again “perfect”. Best of luck… -art

  • Nate S.

    Hey Art

    Just curious if you have experimented or seen any of the solutions from Nvidia 3d vision using a HTPC and shudder glasses as another “intermediate solution”? I know the product has primarily appealed to gamers but apparently newer blu-ray play back software may support various types of stereoscopic or 120Hz displays. I’m curious also how your DepthQ solution works in the interim as well. I’m sure there will be plenty of 3d solutions that offer a bright high quality experience fairly soon; but I’m just not ready to part with my RS20 for any of the first generation solutions. I don’t mind watching less than stellar quality 3d once in a while (not going to lie its kind of a once in a blue moon gimmick for me), but I refuse to give up the standard I have become used to when watching 2d on the RS20. It seems that significantly brighter projectors with 3d capabilities and great color and 2d contrast could be prohibitively expensive for some time. Always love your blog and your reviews. Keep up the great work.


    • Lisa Feierman

      Not yet, but I have ordered a PC properly equipped, with GeForce card, etc… That part of the report (what little I can say about gaming) will get added later.. -art

  • Grant

    I’m seriously considering JVCs new “cheap” 3D ready projector (white case). With a Da-lite high power screen it could be the ticket for 3D especially with a 50,000:1 real C.R.! If the price is right I think it’s going to seriously curtail Epson’s projector sales, since Epson doesn’t off 3D.

    • Lisa Feierman

      Grant, you know more about it than I do, but that will change in 48 hours, when I meet with them, and see it…
      Look for my blogs from the show, starting with one next, about the new 3d Sharp (1080p) -a