Aside from shooting a ton of video interviews, Mark Henninger (imagic) and I managed to attend a few demos at CEDIA Expo 2013. On the video side of things, I was somewhat disappointed that there weren't more 4K/UHD projectors at the show, but I suppose it makes sense, since some standards of the new format (particularly color gamut, bit depth, and chroma subsampling) are not yet standardized, and there are no HDMI 2.0 chipsets currently available—notwithstanding claims of HDMI 2.0 capability by various manufacturers.
Sony's VPL-VW600ES brings 4K projection to the $15,000 level.
Even so, Sony demonstrated it's new VPL-VW600ES true 4K projector (4096x2160), which carries a price tag of $15,000—$10,000 less than last year's VPL-VW1000ES. In addition, the VW600ES is compatible with Sony's FMP-X1 4K server, while the VW1000ES is not. (At $28,000, the new VPL-VW1100ES is compatible with the server, and owners of the VW1000ES can upgrade it to become equivalent to the VW1100ES.) You can buy the VW600ES by itself or in a bundle with the server for $16,000.
The demo was in a more-or-less light-sealed room (there was a bit of light leakage from the double-curtain entrance) on a 179-inch-diagonal, 16:9 Stewart StudioTek 130 screen. It started with native 4K footage from Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, which looked fantastic with gorgeous colors and deep blacks. Also shown was upscaled 1080p from The Amazing Spider-Man and some concert footage by Billy Joel, which also looked great, though it was easy to see that it wasn't native 4K.
Display Development demonstrated a rebadged Christie 4K digital-cinema projector, but they had no native 4K content to show. Photo courtesy of Display Development
The only other true 4K (or even UHD) projector at the show was in the Display Development booth—a rebadged Christie digital-cinema projector that was firing onto an 18-foot-wide Stewart GrayHawk CineCurve screen. Using GrayHawk material made some sense in this instance, because the demo was not entirely enclosed, with lots of light leaking in from the show floor. Unfortunately, the company did not receive the native 4K content it was expecting in time for the show, so it was displaying upconverted 1080p—The Great Gatsby on Blu-ray, to be exact. The seats were way too close to the screen for its size, so the image didn't look all that great, though it looked a lot better from the aisle, which was a more appropriate distance to the screen.
Adjoining the main Display Development booth was a small, completely light-controlled room in which several companies were demonstrating a kick-ass audio system, which I'll discuss when I get to the audio demos I heard. I mention it here only because the video was provided by Display Development HD20 1080p projector on a 106-inch-wide Stewart GrayMatte 70 screen. The projector was calibrated by Jim Doolittle, a well-known ISF calibrator, and it looked fabulous playing a clip from Iron Man 3.
I had thought that JVC might show a native 4K/UHD projector, but no—its 2014 models use the company's eShift technology—called eShift3 in this generation—to produce what some jokingly call "faux-K" by rapidly shifting the pixels on a 1080p panel back and forth by half a pixel. Aside from the new models' ability to accept a 4K/UHD signal via HDMI, the big news from JVC this year is the addition of a dynamic iris—JVC calls it Intelligent Aperture—to increase the projectors' already industry-leading native contrast ratio.
The mid-line DLA-X700R ($8000) was being demonstrated in a semi-blacked-out area using a Nanotech Nuvola NP-1 Windows-based 4K server, and it looked pretty poor, with lots of artifacts that were attributed to the low bit rate from the server. So why not up the bit rate for the demo? Also, the screen looked like it had some schmutz on it.
JVC's new flagship DLA-X900R looked great playing native 4K from a RedRay server.
The demo of the flagship DLA-X900R ($12,000) was much better. Using a RedRay 4K server as the source and firing onto a 150-inch-diagonal, 16:9 Stewart Reflections 170 screen, we were among the few who got to see some footage that JVC thought it had permission to use at the show, but actually didn't. It was shot at 4K on Red cameras, and it looked spectacular—certainly sharper than 1080p—though we did notice a very slight, momentary judder every minute or two, which was attributed to beta firmware in the projector and player. We also saw the clips that had been approved for use at the show, also shot on Red cameras, and it didn't look quite as good, but still not bad at all. Blacks were super deep, and the dynamic iris wasn't even enabled.
Digital Projection showed a version of its Titan 3-chip DLP projector illuminated with LEDs.
One company I thought for sure would have a 4K DLP projector was Digital Projection International, but it didn't. The explanation was that Texas Instruments, the supplier of DLP technology, limits 4K systems to commercial-cinema products at this time. The big news at DPI was the Titan 1080p LED-illuminated projector ($79,000), which boasts a light output of 2000 lumens, more than twice what other LED-based projectors can pump out.
The demo was in a completely light-sealed, blacked-out room with a 12-foot-wide, 16:9 Stewart StudioTek 130 screen. First, we saw a bit of the smaller M-Cine LED projector, but the colors were off—in particular, skin tones were too red. When we asked about this, we were told that DPI wanted to show that the color gamut of the projector was wider than Rec.709. When the demo switched to the Titan LED, the problem got much worse, but again, the company rep insisted this was a good thing. It might well be a good thing when studios start mastering consumer content in a wider color gamut, but I wanted to see how the projector performed in a well-calibrated state for today's content. Alas, it was not to be at CEDIA. On the plus side, it was nice to see an LED-illuminated projector light up a screen that big with plenty of brightness.
The Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030 produced a beautiful picture with a Panamorph CineVista anamorphic lens. Photo by Mark Henninger
One of the most impressive demos—especially in terms of value—was Epson's new flagship PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030 ($3500). Calibrated by ISF wizard Kevin Miller in a blacked out room, the demo was presented on an 11-foot-wide, 2.35:1 Stewart StudioTek 130 using a fixed Panamorph CineVista anamorphic lens ($2000). That's right—a 2.35:1 projection system for $5500 (not including the screen). And the picture quality was superb. We watched a clip from Oz The Great and Powerful in 2D—skin tones were entirely natural, and shadow detail in Oz's black coat was excellent.