The CEDIA Expo officially kicks off today, Wednesday Sept. 10th in Denver. However the manufacturers exhibit booths don't open until tomorrow. This is day for picking up badges, checking out the press room and talking to a few of the manufacturers representatives. This blog present a overview of the Day I activities and what is expected from Day 2. <some information below was updated 9/11/2014 and some editorial clean-up on 9/15)> Most of the projector manufactures will not be offering any press releases or meetings until the trade floor exhibits open on Thursday, Sept. 11th, while Epson is participating in a press event today with perhaps 40, or so, other companies, but no other major projector manufacturers. Therefore my Day 1 post is focused on what Epson is introducing plus a few other news items that have come out, mainly from European sources, over the past few days.
Pro Cinema LS10000 -
Epson is officially introducing their new flagship projector, model Pro Cinema LS10000, at CEDIA Expo and Art has posted a review (HERE) based on a pre-production units he received from Epson a few weeks ago. This is expected to be the most talked about projector announced at this year’s CEDIA Expo and as a few details started to leak out starting last week with the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin and Art’s preview of this exciting new model that was posted on Friday, Sept. 5th.
For today’s blog I'm starting off with a few observations and perhaps a few additional details and considerations not already covered in Art’s more detailed review that was posted earlier today. There are several things that make the new Epson flagship model very interesting and each represents a first for Epson. Check out the Epson promo video for the LS10000 below:
Laser Hybrid Light Engine – The LS10000 does away with the Ultra High Pressure (UHP) lamp used in the vast majority of home theater (also business and education) class of projectors. This projectors uses two blue light lasers one of which illuminates the LCD-Reflective display chip that produces the blue portion of the image. The blue light from the second laser illuminates a rotating wheel coated with a phosphor that is engerized by the laser light and glows brightly producing a yellow light. The projector then uses optical filters to separate this yellow light into its red and green component colors, which are then used to illuminate the LCD-R displays chips assigned to produce the red and green portions of the final projected image. Epson rates the life of this hybrid, laser plus phosphor wheel, light engine at up 30,000 hours of use in Eco mode but less in full power mode, which at least in Eco mode, is longer than the lifetime rating for most LED and LED/laser light engines used by a few other manufacturers in their projectors (mostly business-class projectors). Of course 30,000 (or even 20,000 hours) is equivalent to the lifetime of 10 to 15 conventional UHP lamps used in most home theater projector (with a typical rate life of 2000 to 3000 hours). Since such lamps typically cost $250 to $400 each, if you expect to either be using the LS10000 for many hours each year or keeping the projector for many years, then the expense avoided by not having to replace lamps could help offset the up front cost to purchase a LS10000.
You may be wonder why use a rotating phosphor wheel. First by having a rotating phosphor wheel rather than a stationary phosphor target, the wear on the phosphor is minimized. You may recall that both CRT displays and Plasma TVs use phosphors to generate the light you actually see and over time the phosphor on these displays could ‘burn in’ or become damaged due to repeated heating to a high temperature. The rotating phosphor wheel is intended to prevent damage to the phosphor.
You may also wonder why not just use separate red, green and blue lasers to illuminated the display chips for the three primary colors. There are two good reasons for avoiding this approach. First is laser light is coherent and the light from the laser produces ‘speckling’ or a ‘shimmering’ effect that requires optical elements be insert between the laser and the display chip to try and avoid this issue. It difficult to correct entirely, and is especially visible for the green and red colors. The eye is much less sensitive to blue light and it is less of an issue with that color. The use of a phosphor target totally eliminates the issue and in the case of the LS10000 this has been done for the red and green colors where it benefits the most. The other factor for designs that use directly laser illumination of the 3 display chips is the Federal regulations in the USA, and similar regulations in Europe and perhaps other countries/regions, prohibit use of laser light above modest power levels and this significantly constrains the lumens of light output from a projector using this approach.
LCD-R Display Technology – Epson first showed prototype projectors 3 years ago using this display technology, but due to manufacturing issues they were not able to bring their first production projectors to the marketplace until now. Epson describes LCD-R as being a reflective liquid crystal design on a quartz substrate as compared to LCoS display chips which use a reflective liquid crystal design on a silicon substrate (Liquid Crystal on Silcon = LCoS). However, from what information I read on the Epson design when first announced 3 years ago, the LCD-R displays consist of a liquid crystal layer on a reflective layer on a very thin silicon layer (where the switching transistors reside) on a quartz substrate. Thus the design, as I understand it, is really LCoSoQ (Liquid Crystal on Silicon on Quartz), so perhaps Epson’s shorter term LCD-R or 3LCD-R is easier to remember after all. In any case, the LCD-R technology is expected to have the same benefits as competing projectors using LCoS technology. Sony’s SXRD display chips are their variation of LCoS while JVC’s DiLA display chips are their own variation. The better LCoS based projectors generally have superior on/off contrast ratio and produce lower black levels than do LCD or DLP based projectors. LCoS display chips generally have a higher fill factor, with less space between adjacent pixels, than do LCD display chips and the best LCoS displays have a little higher fill factor than do the best DLP (DMD) display chips. This all but eliminates any visible “screen door effect” in the projected image even when viewed at relatively close viewing distances and can produce a smoother more ‘film like’ image and either 3LCD or DLP projectors. The Epson LS1000 with it LCD-R display chips gains these benefits over past Epson home theater models that used conventional 3LCD technology.
Pixel Shifting and 4K Enhancement – The LS10000 uses a pixel shifting technique that Epson refers to as "4K Enhancement" to produce a pseudo 4K/UHD image in a similar manner to what JVC has offered on many of their DiLA Home Theater projectors the past couple of years. This pixel shifting can be used when the projector receives a 1080p signal, such as from a Blu-ray Disc player. Taking this 1080 input, the projector then upscales this to a UHD format with twice the number of vertical and twice the number of horizontal pixels. Thus, the upscaled image now has 3840 x 2160 pixels, but since this is only an upscaled image the actual level or detail present in the image falls short of what you would have with a native UHD image captured at this same pixel count. The LS10000 can also accept an input signal that is at 4K (4096 x 2160) or UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution and in that case there is no upscaling required. Once the projector has either an 4K/UHD image that has been either upscaled or input in its native format, that's where the processing to use the pixel shifting begins. Note that the 4K/UHD images contain approximately 8M pixels. The projector processes this 8M pixel image to created a 4M pixel sub-sampled image. This 4M pixel image has twice the pixel count of an HD 1080p image but only ½ the pixel count of a true 4K UHD image. The projector this displays this 4M pixel image as a sequent of two 1080p sub-images with the second of these sub-images shifted ½ width horizontal and ½ pixel width vertical. If the size of the individual pixels were the same as used by a native 4K/UHD display chip, then the resulting displayed image (the sum of both sub-images) would appear as a checker board with half the pixels missing. However, the LS10000, as well as the JVC projector’s with ‘e-shift’, use 1080p display chips and as a result when the two 1080p sub-images are displayed the adjacent pixels overlap. In fact each pixel overlaps all four of the surrounding pixels. While this avoids a checkerboard effect in the projected pseudo 4K/UHD image, the overlapping of pixels does produce a slightly softer image. To its credit images produced by projectors using the pixel shifting approach produce an incredibly smooth, film like, image without visible pixel structure. So the bottom line is, especially with high quality native 4K/UHD video source, a projector using the pixel shifting technique can produce a more detailed image than a traditional 1080p projector, but still short of what is possible with a true 4K/UHD model.
Color Gamut/Color Space – It now appears that the upcoming Blu-ray 4K/UHD Discs will support use of an expanded color gamut (color space) that is larger than what is used with HD video. HD video use a color space defined by ITU Recommendation 709 while the commercial cinema industry uses a wider color space called DCI P3. ITU has published Recommendation 2020 for UHD that defines a color space that is wider still. Based on information provided last week by representatives of the Blu-ray Disc Association while at the IFA trade show in Germany, the Blu-ray discs will use an expanded gamut and, reading between the lines, that is expected to be perhaps the DCI-P3 color space or perhaps even the ITU rec. 2020 color space will be an option. In any case, I would expect all Blu-ray 4K players to be capable to performing the conversion from the extended color space used for the specific 4K/UHD disc down to the color space that can be supported by the connected 4K/UHD display. However, to gain the full benefit of the Blu-ray 4K/UHD system the display will need to be capable of accepting and actually displaying a expanded color gamut. This is one area in which the LS10000 appears to stand out as compared to the conventional lamp-based projectors. It’s spec’ed to support the DCI-P3 color space and based on Mike’s comments when calibrating the reviewed LS10000 (reported in Art's review of the LS10000), it appears the LS10000 is capable of displaying an even more extended color space (but probably not the full color space defined by ITU Rec. 2020). By comparison the current JVC projectors only support the smaller HD color space defined by ITU Rec. 709 and for the Sony native 4K/UHD projectors, the VPL-VW600es only supports Rec. 709 color space while the VPL-VW1100es supports both Rec. 709 plus DCI-P3. However the VPL-VW1100es achieves this wider DCI-P3 colorspace by inserting an additional internal optical filter into the light path, but this reduces the light output from the projector by a noticeable amount (I don’t have a measured amount, but it is perhaps in the range of 30%). Because the Epson LS10000 appears to have a very wide native color space, accommodating DCI-P3 should not introduce the light loss penalty experienced with UHP lamped based projectors, such as the Sony VPL-VW1100es.
4K/UHD Signal Input and Ready of Blu-ray 4K/UHD – We had a flurry of emails going back and forth between myself, Art and Epson over the past two days in an attempt to clarify what the LS10000 capability really is for supporting 4K/UHD video siginals. First the LS10000 does have HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 inputs and this will be minimum required for support connecting to a Blu-ray 4K/UHD player and then receiving the UHD signals. Right now only the Sony 4K/UHD projectors also have this capability while the current JVC projectors do not. Like the Sony projectors, it appears that Epson is using HDMI chips that are limited to 10.2 Gbps total data rate and not the maximum 18 Gbps allowed by the HDMI 2.0 standard. This limits these projectors for 4K/UHD signals at 50Hz or 60Hz to only supporting the 4:2:0 format with 8-bit pixel depth. However, with 4K/UHD sources providing signals at 24Hz, such as the signal from a movie being played on a Blu-ray 4K/UHD player, the 10.2 Gbps is adequate to support all of the 2D video formats expected from future Blu-ray discs. Why all of the recent emails mentioned above, you may ask. The initial info we received from Epson on the acceptable 4K signal formats was very vague. We requested more information and received a table that listed various refresh rates from 24Hz up to 60Hz and chroma sub-sampling schemes of 4:2:0, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4. However, the entries on this table were all listed at 8-bit depth, and that was the issue where there was a rather ambiguous statement that could be read to say the projector would only accept 8-bit inputs while the internal processing could handle 10-bit and 12-bit. This was of great concern, at least to me, because it was disclosed last week by a representative of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) that the upcoming Blu-ray 4K/UHD discs will use a baseline format of 4:2:0 with a 10-bit depth and future discs are expected to go beyond that (for example, I would speculate this could include discs using 4:2:2 and perhaps up to 12-bit depth). In the most recent input we received from Epson, they have confirmed that the LS10000 can support 10-bit inputs and will be compatible with the 4:2:0 10-bit format disclosed last week for the initial Blu-ray 4K/UHD releases (at least for movies shot at 24 frames per second), but it will still be limited to 8-bit depth for any video signals at 60Hz. . It's still not certain if 10-bit 4:2:2 or perhaps some 12-bit formats will also be supported. Hopefully, we will be able to get more information on the total set of 4K/UHD signal formats that can be accepted by the LS10000 by the time the production units begin shipping a couple of months from now, but for now the assurance of the initial Blu-ray 4K/UHD will be supported is a very good start.
Dynamic Iris ? - Does the LS10000 have a Dyamic Iris (DI), the answer is no. Instead the LS10000 offers what I will call Dynamic Laser Dimming (DLD), my own term, where the light output of the projector’s two lasers can be increased or decreased electronically to alter the image brightness. This has three potential benefits over a conventional DI and one disadvantage. For the benefits:
1. No mechanical noise as sometimes heard from projectors with DI’s;
2. The response time can be better controlled to increase or decrease the light output responding to changes in program content; and
3. The light level can be controlled from full brightness to totally zero light output.
Art's review of the LS10000 touches upon how well Epson has realized the potential benefits of DLD. Now there is only one negative that I can think of for using a DLD vs. a conventional DI. When a mechanical DI is placed within the projector’s lens, as the aperture is closed down the contrast ratio of the projected image increases. For example, when the JVC DiLA projectors are set to allow the lens’ iris be the manually adjusted the difference in on/off contrast ratio for the image with the iris fully open vs. closed down to the maximum permitted (perhaps somewhere between 1 and 2 ‘f-stops’) is something on the order of 2-to-1.
Epson's approach of using DLD makes getting meaningful measurements of on-off contrast ratio impossible with the traditional approach used for making such measurements. Normally the tester would display at 100% white test image and measure the projector's light output, then display a second image that is 100% black and measure that light level. This works since even with a 100% black input. a traditional projector will projector a dark grey image. The very best lamp-based projectors produce an image that is very dark, but never totally black. However, the LS10000 turns the laser full off when given a 100% black image and this is the basis of infinite contrast ratio claim. A modifed test for on/off contrast ratio is needed and perhaps instead of using a 100% black image the test image needs to include a few very dark grey pixels that must be visible near one corner of the image then the image brightness would be measured at the center of the screen (where the level is at reference black). That value would used as the black level in the contrast ratio calculation (just my idea for the moment). As Art noted in his review of the LS10000, it appears that its effective contrast and black level performance falls above that of the Epson 3LCD models (and probably also above that of the Sony VPL-HW55 and VPL-VW600es projectors, as well as the entry level JVC (non e-shift) models), but below that of the current JVC higher end models with e-shift, which are the best performing projectors in these specific performance areas.
Misc. Notes on the LS10000 The LS10000 uses 480Hz LCD-R display chips and in this respect they operate at the same 480 Hz. refresh rates as Epson LCD chips used in their 3LCD models such as the Home Cinema 5030UB. For 3D the LS10000 probably uses a scheme where on frame (e.g., for the left eye) is repeated 3 times followed by one black frame then by 3 repeated fames for the other eye. Thus in 1/60 of a second each eye is seeing video displayed 3/8 of the time while some schemes used in other brands of 3D projector only have video displayed 1/4 of the time. Everything else equal, Epson's approach can lead to brighter 3D images. Art noted in this review that the 3D crosstalk/ghosting performance is excellent on the LS10000 and noticeably better than the either the Epson 5030 or the JVC RS49 he reviewed a few months ago.
Zoom Lens characteristics on the LS10000 in terms of zoom range is similar to Epson's better 3LCD models of the past few years, but it is not the same zoom lens. It is physically larger and has a little shorter minimum throw ratio than the existing Epson 1080p models. It appears a new lens was used for the LS1000 because the LCD-R display chips are a little larger than the LCD chips used in Epson's 3LCD models such as the 5030UB, and also because higher resolution was desired. The new lens is an all glass design supplied by Fuginon, who supplies the lenses for Epson's other home theater projectors, such as the 5030UB and 6030UB.
The LS10000 comes with a 3 year warranty and is supplied with ceiling mount.
The fan noise with the LS10000 is low, even in its brightest mode, where it's 4 dB lower than Epson's popular 5030UB and 6030UB models. As a Pro Cinema projector these will not be sold on-line and must be purchased thru local dealers and custom installers. However, I was told by one Epson representative they are working to line up additional dealers.
Other Epson Models
Epson is also introducing a model Pro Cinema LS9600 that also offers a laser hybrid light engine, but unlike the LS10000, this is strictly a 1080p projector without any 4K enhancement capability or 4K video inputs. It does offer wireless HDMI connectivity. In other ways it is similar to the LS10000 and although it price has not yet been announced it is expected to be priced at perhaps $1500 less than the LS10000.
Epson is carrying over the Home Cinema 5030UB and Pro Cinema 6030UB models for next year, but there will be a firmware update available very soon that will had image enhancement improvements. Epson had an impressive demo of the improvements offered by this firmware update. The new firmware will be sent to Epson dealers very soon then made available directly to owners of 4030/5030/6030 projectors after that.
There will be new models offered in the lower priced 3xxx series.