Disclaimer : I do not work for Barco. I do not sell Barco. I am not paid or in any other way compensated from Barco. I happen to own, use, and test Barco projectors.
I had the privilege to be invited to a closed demonstration, workshop, panel discussion, and analysis of current and future top Barco DCI projectors. I can’t say anything about future products at this moment due to a Non-disclosure agreement, but I can say that future definitely looks promising.
Demonstration was held at Barco HQ, small town called Kuurne in Belgium, by invitation only sent to postproduction supervisors, color scientists, postproduction managers, ..., from leading European post companies. Working hours of demo were 10.00 to 17.30.
Since I can speak only on current brand new top product from Barco, I will give a short introduction to highest quality 4K DLP projector money can buy.
Barco DP4K-P is a 3rd generation of postproduction projectors (DP90-P 1st gen and DP2K-P 2nd gen),
and that means hand-picked DLP chip with best of the best measured native contrast, screen uniformity (center to edge, bottom to top), dE color uniformity, and most calibrated lumens.
Besides that, there is an ultra wide gamut “Kodak” filter, which provides widest color gamut not matched by any other currently available projector technology.
Also, there is a newly made high contrast lens, redesigned optical path, aperture plates inside the projector, and improved postproduction software for control and calibration of projector, and quad 3g sdi board.
Material presented in 4K was : three different 4K RED demos, 4K timescape trailer, 4K arri demo, 4K trailers (various), and 4K material brought by post houses. Also a bunch of 2K demos.
Ultra wide Color gamut is truly extra ordinary and way beyond current DCI spec, but since there is no current standard in use,
this wide gamut is used today for perfect calibration to DCI standard at any moment of life cycle of either lamp or the dlp chip.
Normal theater units have color gamut not much larger than DCI, and a lot of the theater DCI units I measured calibrated often do not fully cover DCI spec. The difference is about 0.005 on x/y axis for color primaries or in some cases even more,
which could be allowed for theater projection, but that big difference can be critical for a color grading / mastering / post production / screening room. Even if native color gamut of "normal" DCI theater is larger than DCI spec, when calibrated, it will often fall little bit inside of dci triangle, meaning not covering fully dci spec. Or due to a lamp age or chip age, the gamut can change, and at some moment you can't fully calibrate your unit to DCI. This is just one of the reasons why "kodak" wide gamut filter is installed to protect against this problem.
The trade off of "kodak" gamut filter is a huge light reduction, and combined with HC lens and aperture plates if I remember correctly around 50% light loss for 2K post model, and around 60% for 4k post model.
Convergence on DP4KP is really great, especially for huge 1.38" 4K (4096x2160) chip, which is much more difficult to produce perfect than 2K unit, and it was only about 1/2 pixel off. Convergence in a 1/2 pixel steps can be fixed by Barco certified engineer, but it needs hand work.
New postproduction software for control, calibration, settings, macros, 3d, ..., is largely rewritten,
and it includes new dark grey GUI design (instead of old flashing white one), with almost unlimited amount of projector settings.
A very brief explanation of new software functions took almost 60 minutes.
And it was really just a brief overview. Incredible part of software. Especially 3D (stereo) functions.
The new input board (comes included in the price) is Quad 3G SDI board to be used with post production systems
(mastering+color grading). Also You can have dual link SDI, DVI, and HDMI input. HDMI is not 4K. And IMB PCI-e link.
We had several servers, DOREMI DCP2000 and 2 x DOREMI ShowVault.
We had Photo Research 655 - 5nm, Klein K10a, and Truelight Projector Probe.
Screen was 1.0 gain solid white. Around 20 feet width.
Calibration was set as DCI P3 standard, with 14 ftL.
We were watching only DCP material in 2K and 4K.
The difference between early morning and later afternoon readings showed less than 0.001 variation on color primaries measurements,
which is inside the tolerance of the meters. So stability/consistency of projector was perfect.
Is 4K difference visible and is it worth it ? After watching 4K reels for many hours that day, the conclusion of almost all present people was unanimous, yes the difference of 4K projection was very visible and noticeable, BUT only if the material was shot with highest quality of lenses and cameras, and if the focus was really perfect. The moment a new shot comes with not perfect focus, it doesn't look much better than 2K projection. 35mm 4K test material showed inferior detail resolution than EPIC material or
4K Timescape material shot with canon still camera.
4K material from Timescape shot on red one 4k camera looked very bad compared to beautiful time-lapse material made from canon. 4K red one material from some other demo materials also looked not good, but Epic material looked really great in 4K.
Arri alexa and 4K scans from Arri looked very good, but some epic shots out-shined everything else.
4K upscale of 2K material looked sharper and more detailed than same material on 2K projector in split screen evaluation,
but mostly noticeable when big text or sharp animation were present. The processing of 4K upscale is very good,
and we could not see any visible artifacts in the upscale.
About picture quality : I have seen a number of Christie and Barco 4K installations (regular theater models), especially in postproduction environments, and except for resolution, the overall image quality was disappointing. Disappointing low contrast, lifted blacks, convergence issues, light uniformity issues, bigger color dE errors than 2K units, on some models issues with getting the full DCI gamut coverage, very high brightness levels which could be problematic for anyone except for very big projection rooms,
no factory aperture plates from Barco, some "improvised" aperture plates from Christie, ...
Not the perfect 4K solution you would say.
Although 4K DLP machines are light "cannons", most of the people here with high end theaters with 3chip 1080p 0.95" Titans,
Sim2, Runco, Wolf, ..., would not be satisfied with lifted black levels and inferior contrast which normal 4K dlp machine projects.
Barco DP4K is still not a perfect 4K machine regarding contrast and black levels but it is technologically huge step forward comparing to normal 4k machine. It provides 2100:1-2200:1 calibrated contrast, depending on unit to unit, (native is 2300:1-2350:1), which comparing to around or less than 1800:1 which people are having on the normal 4k dlp machine, could be a lot for someone.
Also you get newly designed HC lens, new light path, aperture plates, wider gamut and crazy control software.
And very important thing not to forget, fully calibrated it starts from only 4000 ANSI lumens !
So you can use it in your home theater with no problem.
DP2K-P is definitely better unit (and 2% cheaper) if you are looking only for top 2K/ HD machine. Contrast and blacks are visibly better.
On the other side DP4K-P will look sharper with same 2K/HD material, but you will sacrifice contrast.
If you go with mr Peter cineramax for custom modification of 2KP you will advance this machine even further,
and you really can't find anything better on the market.
But you need to know that it will not show 4K, and there is not an easy nor cheap path to DP4KP barco upgrade.
I will try to post more text and pictures, or answer any questions as soon as my health is little bit better.