I have resisted blogging simply because I am already so extended with publishing, editing, and contributing to two magazines and Webzines, the Home Theater Cruise, and the design and construction supervision of a high-profile national showcase home featuring leading-edge “green,” “biophilic,” and “universal design” attributes. Nonetheless, I am committed to our new blog.
While attendance at the recent CEDIA EXPO was down 14 percent compared to recent years, it appeared that the quality of attendance was widely praised. That was a comment that I heard often as I met with exhibitors throughout the four-day (actually five-day) event. It seemed that while most principles of custom installation companies and specialty dealers attended, fewer actual installers were present.
Wednesday was “press conference” day. LG Electronics, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sony, Sharp, and Stewart Filmscreen hosted presentations of their newest products.
I was impressed with the new product introductions at the CEDIA EXPO. Both large and small companies introduced numerous performance products. I will touch on what I perceived as the standouts.
JVC Professional and JVC Consumer both showed new D-ILA 1080p projectors with built-in color-management tools to achieve accurate color reproduction. The DLA-RS20 and DLA-HD750, respectively, feature exceptional picture quality that surpasses the DLA-RS2’s superb performance. We use an RS2 with JVC’s Professional outboard RSVP2 color-management processor and RSAL2 anamorphic lens in Widescreen Review’s Holosonic® Spherical Surround Home Theatre Laboratory. The new RS20 and HD750 exceed the groundbreaking 30,000:1 contrast ratio performance achieved by the RS2, (a remarkable achievement) and feature a built-in color-management system and new glass lens that deliver brighter and sharper images, and even deeper blacks. These projectors will be available in December or January at $8,000 MSRP. They offer outstanding performance and value. I know that Greg Rogers, our Video Technical Editor, is excited to be the first to review the RS20.
JVC Professional’s RS2 was also featured in a rear-projected SENSIO® 1080p high-definition 3-D presentation using a Stewart AeroView 200 screen. JVC and SENSIO demonstrated the same setup on the recent 2008 Home Theater Cruise to Alaska, except that on the ship the setup was front projection, using a Stewart “silver” screen. In the JVC Theater, two RS2s were double-stacked and connected to SENSIO’s S3D-PRO stereoscopic video processor. Clips from Paramount’s Beowulf and Warner Bros.’ Polar Express were shown. If I were to bet on what 3-D standard SMPTE will adopt, I would bet on SENSIO. The presentation is impressive and is assured to set a new quality 3-D standard! I personally can’t wait until 1080p 3D hits home theatre, when coupled with D-BOX Motion Code simulation, the immersive experience will be simply incredible!
JVC Professional also showcased the DLA-SH4K, a 4K2K D-ILA projector with 10-megapixel resolution. The native resolution of this projector is 4096 x 2400. A 825-watt Xenon lamp generates a light output of 3,500 ANSI Lumens. This same JVC engine is used in the new Meridian 810 Reference Video System. Both projectors are now available. They are expensive, but the image quality is exceptional! (www.jvc.com)
Meridian showcased the 810 Reference Video System in a private hotel suite, complete with a 7.1 audiophile surround system. The 810 system comprises a JVC D-ILA-based 4K2K digital projector and the Meridian Reference Video Scaler. This is an impressive projection system with interchangeable lenses in your choice of short-, medium-, and long-throw package systems, which include a motorized 2.35:1 CinemaScope® anamorphic lens. The system is priced at $185,000. This system, coupled with Meridian electronics and digital loudspeakers, is a no-compromise optimum performance home theatre system. (www.meridian-audio.com)
Wolf Cinema, a new high-end “cinema projection” company distributed by Sumiko, was a highlight of the CEDIA EXPO. Founded by Sumiko’s John Hunter and , and Jim Burns of Runco fame (see my interview with Jim in Issue 134, September), the company’s charter is to “deliver edge-of-the-art filmic experience for the discerning few.” In addition to a range of professional DLP projectors, the company offers custom 35mm film projectors. How about that? A system that includes two 35mm film projectors and one Reference DLP projector ($180,000) with Cinema Audio Processor goes for $300,000! For sure, the performance is there and is without peer in DLP projection systems available for the home cinema (a term increasingly used to distinguish no-compromise “home theatre” performance). Wolf systems are complete projector/processor/scaler systems that are well thought out, with installation and calibration features designed to ease installation and optimize operational performance. Two configurations were shown: a traditional stylish boxed version designed for in-room installation and an integration package version designed for installation in a soffit. The in-room DCX-500FD was demonstrated and features a full on/off 2,500 to 50,000:1 contrast ratio with 2,500 Lumens light output. The projector is equipped with a VariScope 2.35:1 constant-height lens system, which accommodates every motion picture aspect ratio. All the DLP projectors in the product range feature Xenon lamps rated at 500 to 1,225 watts. The projectors are optimized for custom installation, with promised reliability and service support. Pricing starts at $60,000 plus faceplate, VariScope 2.35 options! The analog 35mm film projector is priced at $55,000. Jim Burns has done a fantastic job of ensuring that this new performance line of projector systems is fully featured and delivers state-of-the-art DLP projection. Wolf Cinema is now positioned to be a leader, if not the leading innovator, in the all-out optimum performance front-projection category. Look for a review of the DCX-500FD in Widescreen Review. (www.wolfcinema.com)
Digital Projection showcased an impressive range of DLP Xenon-lamped projectors that employ DP’s innovative CoolTek technology that limits energy consumption, heat generation, and operating noise. This also is a line of leading-edge optimum performance front projectors that we will be reviewing. (www.digitalprojection.com)
Runco, now owned by Planar Systems, appears to be turning around, following a year of “drifting” and “pull-back,” resulting in an overall absence in promotion and marketing. The new direction was characterized by Planar’s CEO, Gerry Perkel, as “building the best damm Runco ever.” Interestingly, Planar will be phasing out the Vidikron brand, which previously was seen within Sam Runco’s company as on a path to stunning growth. The Planar brand will have a narrower focus, allowing “Runco” to be in the spotlight. A Runco self-contained VideoWall™ VW-100HD DLP-based rear-projection system was shown ($39,995). The 33-inch-deep in-wall unit uses a first-surface mirror to reflect onto a 100-inch diagonal hard-coated screen developed by Planar. The installation features the same black-brushed metal appearance of Runco’s plasmas and LCDs. A host of Runco technologies are featured, including Constant Contrast™ frame-by-frame contrast correction, WideVision™ aspect ratio conversion, SuperOnyx™ chipset, CinOptix™ lens system with O-Path™ light path enhancement, and ViViX II™ internal processing. This is a fixed 2.35:1 aspect ratio system with no anamorphic lens capability. Surprisingly, the only new projector to be introduced was the three-chip DLP 720p VX-8d. The projector features CorrectColor calibration for accurate Rec. 709 high-definition colorimetry and can accept 1080p24 signals over its HDMI inputs. A number of flat-panel models were introduced featuring the 70-inch CX-70DHD LCD ($34,995), the 65-inch CX-65HD ($14,995), and 47-inch CX-47HD ($4,495). The latter two include Runco’s RTR™ (Real-Time-Refresh) 120 Hz technology. Two plasmas were introduced—the 50-inch XP-50 ($6,495) and the 65-inch XP-65 ($12,995). (www.planarsystems.com)
projectiondesign exhibited static displays of their new Avielo projector line to be introduced to the market, and provided two outstanding projector demonstrations using Blu-ray™ as the source—the 1080p single-chip DLP Optix ($26,000) and the three-chip DLP Helios ($70,000). Color fidelity was excellent. (www.projectiondesign.com)
SIM2 showcased their next-generation Grand Cinema™ C3X 108024, the world’s smallest three-chip 1080p DLP-based projector. The projector features TI’s DarkChip4 for improved black levels, proprietary SIM2 Alphapath™ light engine, new PC-based color-management calibration, and 10-bit video processing, including 1080p24. Image quality was excellent.
SIM2 also announced a partnership with startup company, Entertainment Experience, to market what they call a "Better-than-Blu" and "Beyond HD" home theatre system. The system will incorporate the standard specified by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) to deliver full commercial cinema performance to the home, which translated means higher-saturated colors. The DCI specification is 12-bit encoding using the X’Y'Z’ color space. In addition, JPEG2000 encoding at the higher bit rate will eliminate the need for motion compensation for near-lossless compression, thus the absence of perceived compression artifacts. Entertainment Experience expects the service to have access to more than 4,000 library titles, plus many new movies that will be offered prior to the release of Blu-ray Disc and DVD titles. Expect title pricing to be at least $40. The system will feature the SIM2 Grand Cinema C3X 1080p24 projector, bundled together with an HP media server. Video Giants will handle content acquisition and distribution, which currently operates an HD Media Store that is integrated into home theatre media server PCs. Pre-packaged video collections are delivered on a hard drive for plug-and-play installation, and can be custom installed on any one of several compatible media servers. Soon, individual movie titles will be shipped directly to users on double-sided dual-layer DVD discs. At three times the bit rate of today’s digital transfers, 50-megabits-per-second encoding will easily eat up 40 to 50 GB of storage space per title, so the server’s hard disc drives will be available in different capacities ranging up to 4 TBs (or about 100 titles maximum per drive). Eventually, the Blu-ray platform should be able to deliver such capacity and at better than 1080p. AVC and VC-1 codec compression will be used. Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management technology will protect the content, together with the AES256 encryption standard. With this security, titles can be played back from and transferred to only the hard drive of authorized players. Whether this will take hold in the market is questionable. Even as a niche, there is the potential of fracturing the now-small Blu-ray market. (www.sim2usa.com)
Audio Plus Services, the North American distributor of Dream Vision projectors and other performance audio products, demonstrated the new DreamBee 2 1080p three-chip LCoS projector. The JVC-based D-ILA projector engine is complemented with a new full-glass multi-element lens, and achieves a native contrast ratio of 30,000:1. The built-in processor features Gennum’s Visual Excellence Processing (VXP) and supports any standard from 480i to 1080p, including 1080p24, with full processing. A PRO and Deluxe version is offered, with the Deluxe version able to accommodate the 2.35 THEATRE System for a true CinemaScope experience. (www.dreamvision.net)
While the Samsung SP-A800B ($10,000) DLP single-chip 1080p projector has been on the market for over a year now, it is mostly unknown, except for those in contact with Joe Kane personally. Samsung has not really marketed or promoted the projector. The projector was developed from the ground up as a home theatre video projector, not a modification of an IT presentation model. Joe Kane was instrumental in ensuring that the design delivers optimum video performance in every parameter. This is truly a reference projector, especially from the standpoint of color accuracy and resolution. Joe was personally demonstrating the projector in a blackened Samsung demonstration room using his co-developed new Da-Lite Affinity Screen. As was to be expected from Joe Kane, the image quality was stunning! This projector offers outstanding performance and value. (www.sea.samsung.com)
Pioneer introduced its first projector, the Elite Kuro PRO-FPJ1. Based on a JVC D-ILA (LCoS), the projector delivers 1080p resolution at a native resolution of 30,000:1. The image quality was fabulous. (www.seeingandhearing.com)
McIntosh introduced its highly-anticipated MDLP2 ($18,000) DLP front projector, featuring HDMI 1.3 connectivity and TI’s Dark Chip 4 chip set, which provides a brighter, higher contrast image than current DLP chips for richer colors and deeper blacks. (www.mcintoshlabs.com)
While I was immensely impressed with the JVC and Meridian 4K2K and the Wolf Cinema introductions from a performance standpoint, the pricing is prohibitive for my budget. For the money the JVC RS20 and HD750, the Samsung SP-A800B, the Panasonic, SIM2, Pioneer PRO-FPJ1, Projector Design, DreamVision, McIntosh, and the Marantz offer superb 1080p home theatre video performance.
Schneider Optics offered the Cine-Digitar Anamorphic 1.33x lens system, while Panamorph tooted its Model A480 anamorphic lens system. Both systems provide a professional-grade upgrade to 16:9 projection systems. These anamorphic lens systems offer the ultimate 2.35:1 widescreen home cinema experience. (www.schneideroptics.com)
Panamorph showcased its A480 professional-grade anamorphic lens system solution to restoring the lost 518,400 pixels of resolution when a 2.35:1 aspect ratio movie is squeezed onto a 16:9 (1.78:1) screen. Thus, only 810 rows of pixels from today’s 1080p projectors are used to show 2.35:1 movies. The remaining pixels are turned off, to produce the black bars. The A480 lens system restores the electronic vertical stretch scaling so that projectors can use all 1080 rows of pixels—an increase of 33 percent higher resolution. When properly implemented, the A480 lens systems effectively create a 2.35:1 image the same height as the original 16:9 image but also 33 percent wider. Always amazing and impressive! (www.panamorph.com)
I was really surprised by the strategic partnership announcement at the show by Da-Lite Screen Company and Joe Kane Productions. Why? Because Joe has been so closely associated with Stewart Filmscreen for numerous years. The new partnership will focus on the design, development, and manufacture of high-definition projection screens for the home theatre and film production markets. Joe, during the past year, has been marketing the Samsung projector that he helped to develop to the studio post-production community. Joe swears by the new Da-Lite screen he helped design. “Once we had developed the SP-A800B,” said Joe, “we realized that traditional projection screens were not able to display the incredible detail or uniformity of the image being produced by the projector”—thus, the genesis for the new JKP Affinity Screens from Da-Lite. Even though he helped design two reference screens for Stewart, Joe has turned to Da-Lite for his next-generation effort to perfect screen technology. The demonstration at the CEDIA EXPO was indeed impressive, with perceived resolution enhancement and wide-angle image uniformity. The first products are the Enhanced Video Matte White fabric and the HD Progressive material, which features a low gain for an incredibly wide viewing angle and an image uniformity that I have not seen in any other screen product. Joe will be writing an article in a future issue of Widescreen Review on the design approach to these new screens. (www.da-lite.com)
Speaking of screens, Screen Innovations (SI) demonstrated their new Black Diamond “black” (actually dark purple) screen, a good solution for rejecting light in high-ambient-light situations. This screen also performs well in the dark and exhibits a wide viewing angle with no apparent hot spotting. (www.siscreens.com)
Carada Screens, known for excellent projection screens, showcased their new Masquerade screen-masking system with motorized panels that eliminate the black bars when you view CinemaScope 2.35:1 movies on a 16:9 (1.78:1) screen. The system accommodates any projected aspect ratio between 1:78:1 and 2:70:1. And the lush Black Hole surround fabric trim provides better perceived contrast ratio performance and depth. (www.carada.com)
Elite Screens introduced its StarBright ultra-high 15-gain screen material, which absorbs ambient light, while boosting black levels. While not a dedicated performance home theatre screen material, StarBright provides a good solution for viewing movies in a living room or family room setting where ambient light is prominent. (www.elitescreens.com)
dnp denmark demonstrated its Supernova Flex Screen, which can be wall or ceiling mounted. The Supernova Flex is a retractable motorized version of the ISF-certified Supernova Screen that is designed to blend into any environment and disappear into a stylish wall-mounted enclosure when not in use. The dnp Supernova Screen was the world’s first optical screen that was designed to use front projection in high-brightness environments. The demonstration showcased a retractable curved 2.35:1 presentation. (www.supernovascreen.com)
CEDIA EXPO would not be CEDIA EXPO without Stewart Filmscreen. Stewart showcased its latest home theatre screen treatment innovations, including the contemporary Cabaret Screen, a sleek and attractive screen housing that wall mounts and integrates into existing interior designs for a simple retrofit screen solution. The other highlight that caught my eye was the new Stewart Media Décor, a new motorized art deployment system to conceal Stewart projection screens or flat panel TVs when not in use. One can choose from the Stewart Media Décor world-renowned art collection or have a custom artwork or photograph fabricated. Media Décor can be fabricated in enlarged sizes ranging from 92 to 110 inches diagonal, in a 16:9 aspect ratio. (www.stewartfilm.com)
As a footnote, Anthony Grimani is researching and writing an article on his findings on the video resolution performance of eight acoustically transparent screens. Read the full report and article in a future issue of Widescreen Review.
Sony Electronics showcased two 240 Hz high-frame rate BRAVIA LCD HDTVs, which are sure to appeal to the serious home theatre enthusiast. The BRAVIA KDL-52BR7’s Motionflow™ 240 Hz algorithm delivers outstanding motion detail. The Motionflow algorithm quadruples the frame rate of conventional LCD TVs and interpolates three new frames, producing remarkably crisp and natural motion. Inputs on the KDL-52XBR7 include four 1080/60 24p HDMI connections with HDCP, two 1080/60p HD component inputs, a 1080/60p-capable PC input, and an Ethernet (RJ-45) port. Also included is Sony’s Advanced Contrast Enhancer (ACE), which supports a dynamic contrast ratio of 80,000:1. The KDL-52BR7 is also compatible with Sony’s BRAVIA Link modules, providing the ability to seamlessly add new features. Optional expansion modules—which include the BRAVIA DVD Link, the BRAVIA Wireless Link, and the BRAVIA Input Lin—will ship later this year, and the BRAVIA Internet Video Link is currently available. The BRAVIA Internet Video Link module attaches to the back of a selection of Sony's 2007 and 2008 BRAVIA LCD flat-panel television models. The service seamlessly streams on-demand entertainment (standard-definition and limited high-definition format), including movies, TV programs, YouTube videos, and a variety of other content not found on network or cable/satellite TV, such as Yahoo!, Sports Illustrated, blip.tv, CondéNet’s Style.com, Men.Style.com, Epicurious, Wired.com and Concierge.com channels, Sony Pictures’ Crackle, The Minisode Network, Timeless TV, FEARnet, Ford Models, SingingFoo, and VideoDetective. Just added is the Amazon Video On Demand service, which offers tens of thousands of premium movies and TV shows. Once a BRAVIA Internet Video Link is registered with an Amazon.com account, programming can be purchased or rented directly from the TV or online at Amazon’s Web site. High-definition content is available on the service from Dailymotion at no charge. The service connects to the Internet via a broadband Ethernet connection and streams content, much of which is available at no additional charge. Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video Link module is available for about $300. It is important to note that your broadband Internet connection speed should be at least 2.5 Mbps.
Sony also showcased the 1080p KLV-40ZX1M, a revolutionary super-slim LCD display that measures just approximately 9.9 mm deep or about the depth of a Blu-ray Disc jewel case, and weighs about 26 pounds. (www.sony.com)
At Toshiba’s press conference, the theme was “breath new life into your DVDs.” The company showcased its new XD-E500 DVD player ($149.99) with XDE™ technology that upconverts DVDs up to 1080p. XDE is claimed to deliver a crisper, more vivid picture quality compared to other upconversion technologies. Look to a review in Widescreen Review soon. Toshiba also launched an impressive lineup of 11 new LCD TVs in four new series—AV502 (720p), RV525 (1080p), RV535 (1080p), and XV545 (1080p REGSA Cinema Series). The RV535 AND XV545 Series feature new SRT upconversion technology to improve image sharpness, brightness and color, and AutoView for enhanced image quality, no matter the surroundings. The XV545 Series also features 120 Hz ClearFrame™ technology to virtually eliminate motion blur, CineSpeed™ fast panel response times, DynaLight™ control for deeper blacks, and ENERGY STAR® compliance. The Toshiba line offers excellent performance and value. (www.toshibaxde.com)
Panasonic introduced its new Premiere Series home theatre plasma displays. The TH-65VX100U is a 65-inch 1080p plasma display targeting the high-end custom home theatre enthusiast. Featuring Panasonic’s new “Premiere Panel,” the unit produces an impressive 60,000:1 contrast ratio with an 18-bit processing gradation level of 7,160 steps. The image was indeed impressive. The newly designed phosphor material and optical filter delivers an expanded color range that covers 120 percent of the HDTV Rec.709 color standard. I found this to be limiting, as the set does not allow dead-on Rec.709 calibration or standard-definition calibration, both standards used in telecine to produce content. But the wider color gamut is indeed eye-popping, as well as imparting the blackest blacks. The unit also features customizable functions, including 16 adjustment menus covering items such as six gamma curve options and white balance settings, and an advanced memory function that makes it possible to name and save equalized data. This feature is impressive. Andrew Nelkin, President of Panasonic’s Professional Display Company, noted that a 50-inch Premiere Series model, the TH-50VX100U, will be introduced the first quarter of 2009, with a plan for additional screen sizes after that. I asked whether Panasonic is or will be producing Pioneer’s panel, but company spokesmen did not want to comment. (www.panasonic.com/proplasma)
Pioneer’s KURO® has set the performance standard for flat-panel television. And the new Pioneer Elite KURO 60-inch PRO-151FD and 50-inch PRO-111FD continue to raise the performance bar. These plasma displays are absolutely breathtaking in picture quality. Added to the KURO lineup is the Signature Series Monitors, designed for custom integration in 60- and 50-inch form factors. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.seeingandhearing.com)
Anchor Bay introduced a new affordable video processor, the DVDO EDGE™ ($799), and a new VRS ABT1030 HDMI 1.3 Deep Color™ video-processing chip for Blu-ray players and A/V receivers. The DVDO EDGE upscales all SD and HD video formats, up to 1080p output and includes the full complement of Anchor Bay’s Video Reference Series™ (VRS™) technologies. The DVDO EDGE is identical in performance to the professional VP50PRO, but with less calibration features in the Set-Up Wizard. The EDGE is equipped with six HDMI 1.3 inputs and two HDMI 1.3 outputs. Like the VP50PRO, the EDGE is a fully featured video processor that optimizes HD display performance and raises the level of quality from lower resolution sources. The EDGE’s on-screen Set-Up Wizard is designed to be easy for the end user to install and operate. The unit includes a backlit, learning Universal Remote control. (www.DVDO.com/EDGE)
The strategic partnership between Sencore and Lumagen was evident at the CEDIA EXPO. The partnership represents a pairing of Lumagen’s Radiance series video processors and Sencore’s calibration tools to enable custom installers to fully implement video systems and correct deficiencies in video displays. The RadianceXD video processor and switcher supports 18 video inputs, including six 1080p60-capable HDMI inputs, with two HDMI 1080p60 outputs. The processor uses 10-bit processing, per-pixel SD and HD video de-interlacing with adaptive filtering, and edge-enhancing scaling technology that does not add ringing. The unit also offers extensive calibration options. When teamed with the Sencore VideoPro generator and ColorPro color analyzer, the Radiance allows 11-step parametric gray scale and gamma calibration, and full color-space correction, independently, at all primary and secondary points. This is an impressive combination! Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.lumagen.com)
Well, I have written a lot, but to really delve deeper, I recommend that you explore each company’s Web site. And as always, look for new product reviews in upcoming Widescreen Review issues.
Editor-In-Chief & Publisher