HOME ENTERTAINMENT 97

 BootLog.co.uk

HomeSoftwareArchiveTop TipsGlossaryOther Stuff

FEATURE

 

SUPERSCREEN SOLUTIONS

 

STANDFIRST

Fed up with staring at a squitty little TV screen? There is life beyond 33-inches, Big Rick Maybury says size does matter when it comes to recreating the home cinema experience in your living room...

 

COPY

Sometimes it can be a strangely unsatisfying experience, to be bombarded by dramatic floor-shaking surround-sound effects, when all of the visual action is concentrated on a titchy little TV screen on the other side of the room. Given half a chance anyone with an interest in home cinema would opt for a really big TV screen, but there’s a problem...

 

The cheapest and currently the most efficient video display is the direct-view cathode ray tube or CRT. They’ve been with us in one form or another for more than a century. The trouble is there’s a size limit. The largest mass-produced CRTs are 37 inches across, and they’re difficult to manufacture; a screen that big involves a lot of glass, a huge box to put it in, and deep pockets to acquire. In fact most TV manufacturers don’t stray much above 33-inch screens, well below what’s needed to recreate the kind of visual impact you get from a cinema screen. Even if it were possible to manufacture CRTs with screens larger than 40-inches, say, the electron gun behind the screen would make it so deep that it would be hard to fit both you and the TV into a normal-sized living-room.

 

For all practical purposes when you want a screen larger than 37-inches you’re into video projection territory. CRTs still have an important role to play, more than half of the video projectors on the market use high-intensity projection tubes. Three are required, one for each primary colour (red, green and blue), to produce a colour image.  There’s another alternative and that’s LCD projection. Cheaper models use a single colour LCD panel -- similar to the ones on pocket TVs. The panel works like a colour slide, with a bright light on one side, shining through the panel, into a lens system and then onto the screen. Single LCD projectors tend to produce a fairly grainy image, this can be overcome by using three panels -- one for each colour -- with the light split three ways using dichroic (colour filtration) mirrors or prisms, and then re-combined into the lens.

 

Video projectors come in two fairly distinct flavours. Rear-projection units are like huge TVs, with the projector and screen housed inside a large TV-shaped cabinet. The largest ‘domestic’ model has a 55-inch screen, however, most of them are in the 40 to 50-inch range, but even the largest sets take up less floorspace than 28-inch tube-based TV.  Most rear projectors have built in TV tuners and on-board stereo sound systems, a few have Dolby Pro Logic surround sound as well. Prices start at around £2,500.

 

Front projectors work pretty much like cine and slide projectors, where the screen is separate from the projector. These can be floor, stand or ceiling mounted, in front of (or behind a specially translucent) screen and can produce the largest image, current consumer models can project an image between 100 and 600-inches across! Basic single LCD units start at less than £1000, though you can expect to pay at least £2500 for an entry-level, triple-CCD or CRT-based home-cinema model. Front projectors rarely have a tuner or any audio facilities, apart possibly from a small mono monitor speaker or headphone socket. This means you will have to make separate arrangements for the sound, so remember to include that in the budget.

 

Another expense is the screen. There’s nothing to stop you projecting straight onto a blank white-painted wall, though you’ll have to live with it when you’re not watching TV. Retractable, ‘roller-blind’ type ceiling mounted screens are the neatest solutions,  manual ones cost from around £100 for a 6-footer; an electrically operated 10-foot screen, that can be set to drop down automatically when you switch on the projector or dim the lights, will set you back around £500.

 

There are other important differences. The cabinets on rear projection models are usually fitted with castors, so they can be moved around more easily. Front projectors are better suited to fixed locations. Rear projectors are normally a lot easier to set-up as the screen remains a fixed distance from the projection elements, they also tend to be more tolerant of ambient light, though viewing angles are generally quite shallow. All video projectors are at their best in total darkness or dimly-lit surroundings. In either case any direct light falling on the screen will wash out the picture. Another point to bear in mind with front projectors is the noise generated by the cooling fan, which can be quite distracting, if the projection unit is located close to the seating position.

 

The tubes in CRT projectors work very hard and have a finite life. Replacements can be expensive, worth bearing in mind if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in front of the screen. The projection bulbs in LCD projectors also fail and they’re not cheap either -- halogen types cost around  £15, you can pay £200 or more for metal-halide bulbs  --  most will last a year or two under normal conditions. 

 

Now we come to the tricky subject of picture quality. CRT projection tubes have the best contrast and colour fidelity, similar in fact to a conventional picture tube. LCD panels have a narrower contrast range and colours are not so well defined, but the gap is narrowing all the time; there’s not a lot to choose between the two technologies on high-end models. However, the most obvious problem with all types of video projector is the way in which the line structure becomes more apparent, when a TV picture is blown up beyond 40-inches or so. Various techniques can be employed to mask or even eliminate the effect altogether, (see ‘Line Doublers), if you have deep enough pockets, but its a fact of life that as video image is magnified, so too are the defects.

 

We’ve touched briefly on image brightness, but this can be a problem area when comparing specifications. Most manufacturers quote light output in ANSI lumens or lux (a lux is one lumen per square metre), which is confusing enough, but there’s a variety of ways in which it can be measured, to make the numbers look more impressive. The simple rule of thumb is the more lumens (or lux) the better, but in the end it’s usually better to trust your own eyes, and ask to see a projector demonstrated in a normally lit viewing room, preferably so you can make a side by side comparisons. 

 

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Direct-view screens over 40-inches across and just a couple of inches thick are due to come on to the market later this year. Several Europe and Japanese electronics companies are working on large gas plasma displays. Plasma screens between 25 and 33-inches are already being manufactured in volume, but at the moment retail prices of between £4000 to £6000 effectively rule them out as mass-market consumer products. Gas plasma is a hybrid technology, that uses a flat gas-filled glass envelope, with a phosphor coated faceplate, similar to a CRT.  Instead of an electron gun behind the screen, there’s a matrix of tiny elements, that generate an electrical discharge, producing a high-energy plasma; this excites the phosphor coating, which emits visible light. Whilst plasma screens are quite thin, they’re also very heavy, affordable hang-on-the-wall displays are still some way off.

 

Also lurking just over the horizon is the Digital Micromirror Device or DVD display. This is a projection system, that uses a set of three microchips, each measuring just 1cm x 1.5 cm, as the display elements. The top surface of the chip is covered in a layer of around a half a million microscopic mirrors -- each representing one pixel -- that can be individually flipped, to reflect a beam of light from a high-intensity metal halide lamp. According to Texas, who developed the chip, projected images have a ‘cinema-like’ quality as the gap between the mirrors is so small; individual pixels appear to blend together. Prototype rear-projection units capable of displaying images up to 50-inches across have been demonstrated, production versions are expected to go on sale, possibly by the end of the year. There’s no word on prices yet but they’re expected to be competitive with current back projection TVs.

 

BOX COPY 1

LINE DOUBLERS

One of the most successful ways of getting rid of TV line structure is a technique known as line-doubling, sometimes referred to as IDTV in the US. A line doubler works by filling in the gaps between picture lines with an extra set of lines. Clearly the new lines must match the lines either side, not only in colour and texture, but also in movement. This is accomplished using a technique known as interpolation. This is basically electronic guesswork, where the circuitry looks at the lines either side of the gap, and then has a stab at working out what should be there, to complete the picture. This requires a lot of very heavy duty digital processing, which makes line doublers rather expensive. The technology is being constantly refined -- one US company is even working on a line quadrupler! Whilst the results can be impressive on relatively static scenes, some first generation models had trouble coping with rapid movement, which resulted in a range of picture artefacts.

 

BOX COPY 2

SETTING UP

Unlike a normal TV a video projector (back and front) has to be set up before it can be used, moreover most models require periodic adjustment in order to maintain picture quality. LCD front-projectors are usually the simplest, once the focus has been set they’re ready to go. All others, which use three projection elements, have to undergo a process called convergence, where the three images from each LCD or CRT have to be precisely aligned with one another. Most projectors have built in set-up routines, some are automatic, but in almost all cases the heat generated by the lamp or tubes causes the images to go out of bonk. Changes in the output level of CRT tubes can also vary making it necessary to adjust colour balance from time to time.

 

BOX COPY 3

PROFESSIONAL HELP

Smaller rear projection TVs and portable front projectors are relatively easy to set up and use but if you’re planning a larger fixed installation it’s wise to have the projector, screen, sound system and possibly the seating and lighting as well professionally designed and fitted. This could mean a lot of disruption but it should be worth it in the long run. Ideally the screen and speakers should be flush-mounted to the wall; if you have the room, a false wall or panelling is the ideal solution. It will look a lot neater, by concealing all of the cabling, and creating storage space for AV components, tapes and discs.

 

Large front projectors can be floor-mounted, some models will fit easily under a coffee table, but overhead or ceiling mounting is preferable. However, with some models weighing 10kg or more, they require fairly substantial fixings, which again the professionals will be better equipped to supply and fit. It’s also worth seeking expert advice when it comes to choosing and locating speakers. If you’re going to be spending several thousand pounds on your home cinema it’s far better to plan the whole system from the beginning -- with help from a specialist company -- rather than tack on bits and pieces as you go, and hope for the best.  

 

BOX COPY 4

THE REAL CINEMA EXPERIENCE

Even the best video systems are still no match for film, so is it possible to go he whole hog, and install a 35mm projection system in your home? Projectors are not that difficult to obtain, ex-cinema models come up for sale quite regularly at specialist auctions for a few hundred pounds. You could even buy new, if you’ve recently come up on the lottery, but the main difficulty will be in obtaining movies to show on it. The problem is they’re not available legally to individuals outside of the cinema distribution system. However copies of recent films, that have come off general release, can be obtained by recognised film societies. There are film societies in all large towns, that operate from a variety of venues, including in some areas, members homes. You can find out more from the British Federation of Film Societies (BFFS) on: 0171-734 9300,  

 

WHATS AVAILABLE

FRONT PROJECTION

 

Make                          Marantz VP500

Price                            £700

System                        1 x LCD, 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp

Size                             50-inches

Contact                       Marantz, telephone (01753) 680868

Compact and affordable, for basic video displays only

 

Make                          Marantz VP600

Price                            £1300

System                        1 x LCD, 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             80-inches

Contact                       Marantz, telephone (01753) 680868

Moderately well specified but single LCD preclude serious home cinema applications

 

Make                          Philips Proscreen 3500

Price                            £5000

System                        3 x LCD, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, VGA, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             900-inches                         

Contact                                   Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone  0181-689 4444

Powerful, high-spec model, well worth considering for top-end installations; new low price

 

Make                          RCF LS-3001

Price                            £3995

System                        CRT 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video, RGB

Size                             120-inches

Contact                       Marata Vision, telephone 0181-348 1496   

Practical and well-featured, good home cinema performer

 

Make                          RCF LS-5001

Price                            £5170

System                        CRT 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video, RGB

Size                             160-inches

Contact                       Marata Vision, telephone 0181-348 1496   

Step-up model, for larger screens

 

Make                          RCF LS-5001 WS

Price                            £5499

System                        CRT 16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video, RGB

Size                             160-inches

Contact                       Marata Vision, telephone 0181-348 1496

Widescreen version of LS-5001

 

Make                          Sanyo PLC-400

Price                            £2467

System                        3 x LCD, 4:3, PAL/NTSC/SECAM, comp & S-Video

Size                             150-inches

Contact                       Sanyo UK Ltd., telephone (01923) 246363

Capable home cinema projector, sensibly priced

 

Make                          Sanyo PLC-250

Price                            £3407

System                        3 x LCD, 4:3, PAL/NSTC/SECAM, comp & S-Video

Size                             300-inches

Contact                       Sanyo UK Ltd., telephone (01923) 246363

Higher output, for brighter picture or larger screens                       

 

Make                          Sanyo PLC-550

Price                            £4106

System                        3 x LCD, 4:3, VGA/PAL/NTSC/SECAM, comp & S-Video

Size                             300-inches

Contact                       Sanyo UK Ltd., telephone (01923) 246363

Versatile all-rounder, VGA input for mixed-media presentations

 

Make                          Sanyo PLC-5505

Price                            £8224

System                        3 x LCD, 4:3, SVGA/PAL/NTSC/SECAM, comp & S-Video

Size                             640-inches

Contact                       Sanyo UK Ltd., telephone (01923) 246363

Top end video and data projector, very powerful, for larger auditoria

 

Make                          Seleco SVT-150Q

Price                            £4228

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Seleco, telephone (01825) 766123

Competent mid-ranger, well equipped for home cinema

 

Make                          Seleco SVT-195

Price                            £5130

System                        CRT, 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Seleco, telephone (01825) 766123

Good mid-range features, better than average performance

 

Make                          Seleco SVT-400HT

Price                            £7990

System                        CRT, 4:3/16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Seleco, telephone (01825) 766123

Top-end home cinema favourite, outstanding performance

 

Make                          Seleco SDG-700                                

Price                            £10350

System                        CRT, 4:3, VGA/PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Seleco, telephone (01825) 766123

Serious pro model with PC data input

 

Make                          Sharp XV-C1E 

Price                            £999

System                        1 x LCD, 4:3, PAL comp & S-Video

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

Good picture for a single LCD, simple and cheap

 

Make                          Sharp XV-370P

Price                            £2110

System                        1 x LCD, PAL, comp & S-Video

Size                             150-inches 

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

Borderline home cinema picture quality

 

Make                          Sharp XV-380H

Price                            £3871

System                        3 x LCD, PAL, comp & S-Video

Size                             200-inches 

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

Home cinema picture at a realistic price

 

Make                          Sharp XV-3410S

Price                            £5875

System                        3 x LCD, PAL, comp & S-Video

Size                             500-inches

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

Big-screen performer with a mid-market price tag

 

Make                          Sharp XG-378SE

Price                            £3525

System                        3 x LCD, VGA/PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             150-inches

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

High-spec video and data projector, very compact

 

Make                          Sharp XG-3795SE

Price                            £4700

System                        3 x LCD, SVGA/PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             150-inches

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

High-end video and data, highly portable, ideal for presentations

 

Make                          Sharp XG-3900

Price                            £9400

System                        3 x LCD, SVGA/PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             200-inches

Contact                       Sharp UK Ltd., telephone 0161-205 2333

All-singing, all dancing video and data model for serious users

 

Make                          Sony CPJ-200E

Price                            £1000

System                        1 x LCD, 4:3, PAL, comp

Size                             100-inches

Contact                       Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144

Neat design but not really up to home cinema use

 

Make                          Sony VPL-W400QM

Price                            £6461 

System                        3 x LCD, 16:9, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             200-inches

Contact                       Marata Vision, telephone 0181-348 1496

High performance middle-market projector, worth considering

 

Make                          Synlec EX2

Price                            £5869 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3/16:9, TV (NICAM) PAL/SECAM, comp & S-Video, RGB

Size                             240-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Plenty of useful features, big bright picture

 

Make                          Vidikron TGS-XP

Price                            £5400 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             240-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Popular home cinema model, price includes professional set-up and installation

 

Make                          Vidikron TGS-301

Price                            £5869 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             240-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Well appointed, ideal for home cinema, price includes set-up and installation

 

WHAT’S AVAILABLE

REAR PROJECTION

 

Make                                     Philips 46P912A        

Price                            £2200

System                        CRT, 16:9 100Hz, TV, NICAM, text Dolby Pro Logic, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             46-inches

Contact                       Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone  0181-689 4444

An old favourite, soon to be discontinued, loads of features and a very attractive price  

 

Make                          Pioneer SD-M1407

Price                            £3600

System                        CRT, 4:3, TV (NICAM), PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             40-inches

Contact                       Pioneer, telephone (01753) 789789

A consistent favourite table-top mode, excellent picture

 

Make                          Pioneer SD-T50W1

Price                            £4000

System                        CRT, 16:9, TV, NICAM, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             50-inches

Contact                       Pioneer, telephone (01753) 789789

Award winning performance, outstanding picture

 

Make                          Scorpion 46

Price                            £3166 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             46-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Encased Vidikron components, price includes installation

 

Make                          Scorpion 52

Price                            £3519 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             52-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Encased Vidikron components, price includes installation

 

Make                          Scorpion 60

Price                            £4341 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             60-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Encased Vidikron components, price includes installation

 

Make                          Scorpion 67

Price                            £6340 (includes installation)

System                        CRT, 4:3. PAL, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             67-inches

Contact                       Satvision plc, telephone (0161) 4068066

Encased Vidikron components, price includes installation

 

Make                          Sony KP-41S3        

Price                            £2000

System                        CRT 4:3, TV, PAL, comp & S-Video

Size                             41-inches

Contact                       Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144

Stylish good looks, excellent picture

 

Make                          Sony KL37W1

Price                            £3800

System                        triple LCD 16:9, TV, comp & S-Video

Size                             37-inch

Contact                       Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144

Compact back projection TV, when space is at a premium

 

Make                          Sony KL37W1

Price                            £5000

System                        triple LCD, 16:9, TV, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp, S-Video, RGB

Size                             50-inches

Contact                       Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144

The best LCD back projector on the market

 

Make                          Thomson RP46

Price                            £2500

System                        CRT, 4:3, TV, PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             46-inches

Contact                       Thomson Multimedia, telephone 0181-344 4444

Excellent value for money, good all-round performance

 

Make                          Toshiba 48PJ6DB

Price                            £3000

System                        CRT, 4:3, TV (NICAM and Dolby Pro Logic) PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video      

Size                             48-inches

Contact                       Toshiba UK LTD., telephone (01276) 62222

Big screen and a big sound in one very convenient package

 

Make                          Toshiba 55PJ6DB

Price                            £3500

System                        CRT, 4:3, TV (NICAM and Dolby Pro Logic) PAL/SECAM/NTSC, comp & S-Video

Size                             55-inches

Contact                       Toshiba UK LTD., telephone (01276) 62222

Larger screen variant of 48PJ6DG, great value

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1997 2006

 

 

[Home][Software][Archive][Top Tips][Glossary][Other Stuff]


Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.

admin@rickmaybury.com