June 16, 2008
| by Arlen Schweiger
Really, how much better can video get? Do you wonder if there could be more than 1080p and 2.35:1 CinemaScope presentation for your home theater? The only thing better is what’s displayed in true movie theaters, and we’ve showcased some cool home theaters that have come pretty close.
Space may prohibit a 50-foot screen, but videophiles seeking the ultimate picture—and have the means to procure it—can own the same technology that’s serving up images in theater chains like AMC, Landmark and Muvico. It’s called 4K projection, and “it has as much impact as the leap from standard definition to high definition,” says Andre Floyd, Sony’s marketing manager for SXRD systems.
Simple math shows 4K digital cinema projectors, at 4096 x 2160 pixels like those from Sony, deliver images with more than four times the resolution of 1080p, at 1920 x 1080 (also called 2K). That’s almost 9 million pixels versus a little more than 2 million. Last year, JVC unveiled a 4K projector with a resolution of 4096 x 2400, which I got to see paired with a short called The Trident, which was filmed in 4K. The movie stars David Carradine as a shopkeeper, and the color and detail of every little shelf item in his shop was unlike anything I’d seen before.
Unfortunately, movies shot or post-produced and then released in 4K are scarce (Spider-Man 3, The Da Vinci Code and Ocean’s 13 are a few). So for the most part, we’re seeing the projector’s upscaling capabilities. However, more cinemas are converting to 4K projection systems or installing them upon construction, like the 18-screen Muvico Cineplex that opened last fall in Rosemont, IL.
Sony’s SRX-R105 consumer 4K projector, with accessories, will run you around $100,000, says Floyd. “Projection from a 4K system is so much brighter, cleaner and smoother if you put an HD image on the screen and compare apples to apples [against a 2K projector and screen],” he says. “If you take the 2K and 4K versions of the same movie, there’s so much more information on the 4K image, it’s like night and day.”
Screen manufacturer Screen Excellence has even developed a special material for 4K projection, though John Caldwell, whose StJohn Group is Screen Excellence’s North American distributor, thinks it will be 10 years before 4K makes its mark with anyone besides “the guy who just has to have the best.” I’ll be envious of that guy.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.