Second post following the ISE show, I would like to present you a very interesting trend which I believe can reconcile home theater enthusiast and interior design lovers.
Ultra short throw video projection
Behind this barbaric designation hides a very promising technology which can bring spectacular entertainment into your living room without compromising on your room decoration. How is that possible? This technology simply allows a video projector to project a giant picture on the wall at only 20 to 40 cm from the wall. Let's see two examples from Sony and Optoma who where displaying this technology on their booth with fantastic demos as well as Screen Innovations a premium screen manufacturer who engineered a nice solution to enjoy the most out of these products.
Sony VPL-GTZ1 and LSPX-W1S
Although not new, this technology which was used in professional applications like the education market, has never really been associated with home applications until Sony released in 2014 their statement solution the LSPX-W1S. This 4K Laser projector was more a proof of concept and a vision has it retailed at a stratospheric $50K. Regardless the amount it proved that ultra short throw projection was a viable technology for the home and drew a lot of attention.
The VPL-GTZ1, a more compact version (same price) came out later and was presented at ISE this year. The demonstration was really impressive because not only the picture was gigantic but the sharpness of the image thanks to the 4K resolution and the brightness despite the high level of ambient light were really first class. Of course to maximise the brightness, a special screen was used which probably cost the price of a mid-range projector but when you throw 50K in a projector you might as well go all the way and get your self a proper screen.
Screen Innovations Zero Edge ST screen
As explained above, the use of a proper screen can help optimising your video projection with spectacular results. Screen Innovations has been a pioneer in what is called Ambient Light Rejection screens (ALR). The principle is to reject ambient light so that when looking at the screen the projected image is not washed out making it viable for bright living rooms and daylight projection. The second challenge of designing a screen specifically for short throw projectors is that the beam of light coming from the projector comes at a very wide angle and bounce towards the ceiling if placed on the floor or on a media unit. To compensate the screen has to correct the beam reflection in the direction of the viewers seating on the sofa. The video below shows a good example of the benefits of using this type of screens with a Sony VPL-GTZ1. The result speaks for itself.
Screen Innovations is really a premium brand and their product cost several thousand euros/dollars/pounds. Of course when comparing the cost of their screen with a good video projector against a jumbo size 100+ inches LCD or OLED TV, the price may still be in favour of the projection route but this remains a premium market. Don't worry though, read below and you'll find out that these technologies are coming to much more affordable price levels.
Optoma GT 5500
Optoma is known in the projection industry for being a value brand. You won't see them proposing statement solutions like the one from Sony above. What they offer instead is a very comprehensive range of projectors for all markets at very sensitive price points. They do offer innovative solutions though as last year they were the first to introduce a mid-range LED projector for residential applications. This year at ISE they where presenting their brand new GT5500 model, a Full HD (1080p) Ultra Short Throw projector retailing at 1,699 euros.
Although limited to Full HD resolution and traditional lamp technology, this solution displayed a very satisfying result that convinced me that this technology is now mature to enter our living rooms. At 50K the Sony projector is a dream reserved for the wealthiest, but at 1,699 euros, Optoma is entering mid to low budgets for home video projection making the dream much more accessible.
Optoma was also smart to boost the brightness of the projector up to 3,500 lumens which means that the projection should work fairly well in a bright living room with some controlled daylight or limited ambient light. If you want to go all the way though, Optoma was also presenting a prototype of their own ALR (ambient light rejection) screen, which will be launched later this year. Although the final price is not settled yet, my contacts at Optoma assured me that the screen would be much more affordable than the premium Screen Innovations product presented above.
Stay tuned on this topic as we may have more information coming up soon on the short throw projection and maybe a review of the Optoma GT5500.
Thanks for reading!
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