Last week's Integrated Systems Europe trade show in Barcelona was a high energy affair that left the pandemic-strained events of recent years in the dust. With just over 58,100 attendees making 133,606 show visits over the four exhibition days, the show fell short of pre-pandemic events, but still left exhibitors smiling over brisk booth traffic.
From our perspective wandering the floor, it was also a strong showing for the projection category. Despite an ever-growing presence for LED tile displays in recent years, projector makers put strong emphasis on showing off immersive and mapped applications that tiles and panel displays can't achieve. A few showed interactive projections that invited visitors to touch projected objects for a response, and several had immersive rooms you could walk into to enjoy moving images on the walls and floor.
New products also abounded, typically following the trends set forth in recent years, notably the squeezing of more lumens into smaller and lighter boxes. There was also a push to promote 21:9 aspect ratio capabilities in a variety of new models, mostly in reponse to this wide image format becoming part of the Microsoft Teams Front Row experience for hybrid work environments.
Here's the quick rundown of what we saw on the floor.
Barco. Two new projector models included the UDM-4K30, said to be the lightest 25,000 ANSI-lumen projector in its class. As with other UDM series products, it's a 3DLP with a laser-phosphor engine, but it comes in with essentially the same footprint as the 19,000 ANSI-lumen UDM-4K22 and weighs just 105 pounds. Key features include 4K resolution, Barco's PULSE image processing, and compatibility with the company's IMS fleet management platform including integrated cellular communication. A new model was also added to the G Series single-chip DLP line-up with the G62, a step up from the G60 chassis that adds internal warp and blend functions. The company claims tremendous success with the G Series, announcing just prior to the show that they had achieved 10,000 installed units in the field since launch.
Barco also took the opportunity of ISE to promote their often overlooked screen products and full-solution capabilities. An impressive, 5-meter wide curved display using their Rigiflex polymer fabric rear-projection screen material was driven by several of their UDX-4K40 projectors. This same material is utilized in the Museum of the Future in Dubai in a 20-meter wide by 4-meter tall install with 14 of their F90-4K projectors.
Christie. Christie was showing off its new 4K22-HS, announced on the eve of the show, which is said to be the first 4K, 1DLP projector to boast an output of 22,500 ISO (19,000 ANSI) lumens. It utilizes a 0.95-inch micromirror chip with a native 1080p array that benefits from four-phase/240 Hz pixel shifting to achieve the 8-million pixels required for 4K. It features Bold Color +, the company's dual blue-red laser system that touts deeper blacks, better color saturation, and more lifelike visuals than typical laser-phosphor systems. This addition brings the HS series to 11 models. Elsewhere in the booth, the company demo'd the Christie Intelligent Camera, or CIC, a new $595 accessory that's intended for use with GS and HS series projectors and Christie's free Mystique Light software. Placing one on each projector in a multi-projector setup allows for quick auto-focus, alignment and color-matching functionality.
Da-Lite/Projecta. Projecta is the brand used by Legrand in Europe for the screens sold in North America under the Da-Lite banner, and the company was highlighting the Sightline cable-drop screen system introduced last year. Restricted for now to a relatively svelt and easy-to-install in-ceiling cannister design (a flush-mount solution is said to be in the works), the Sightline's claim to fame is the elimnation of any need for custom-sized blackdrop at the top of the screen. Installers can literally just dial in the exact position they require thanks to an 80-inch (6.7-feet) aircraft cable system that provides a beautiful, floating-in-space cosmetic. For the European market, the max drop is now offered at 3 meters, or 9.8 feet. It was shown in Barcelona with the top-line, HD Progressive 1.1 matte white material.
Digital Projection. DPI continued to heavily promote its unique Satellite MLS (Modular Laser System) in Barcelona. This offers the option of three notably small projection heads tethered by fiber to rack-width, 10,000-lumen laser modules that, depending on the head, can be ganged to achieve up to 40,000 lumens of brightness. The small size and weight of the heads, coupled with their relatively quiet operation, makes them ideal for things like museums and planetarium dome installations, which is why they were demo'd on a mini-dome floating above the company's booth. These qualities also makes the system well-suited for Europe, where the need to protect historic architecture in many buildings prohibits the hanging of large, heavy projectors for high-brightness installs.
New on the DPI showfloor was the M-Vision Laser 27K, which adds another 4,000-lumens of brightness compared with the prior top-of-the-line M-Vision Laser 23K, while keeping essentially the same chassis size and weight. As with other M-Vision models, it's a single-chip DLP with WUXGA resolution with a blue + red laser phosphor engine and a full range of fixed and zoom lens options. It was demo'd with a new UST lens with 0.37:1 throw ratio. It actually looked pretty fabulous on a dnp Supernova One 120-inch ALR screen.
Epson. Epson had some impressive demos at its ISE booth, including an immersive room that used 15 of their top-line EB-PU2220 20,000-lumen projectors to create a virtual art gallery on the walls and floor. This remarkably compact piece is said to be the smallest 20K-lumen projector out there (though a new Panasonic model is challenging that claim as we report below.) Epson also had a huge, eye-catching projection-mapped wall display.
New product highlights included the recently announced EB-810E ultra-short throw, a commercial projector built on the same platform as the LS800 home theater projector, but geared for classroom and office environments. It offers an additional 1,000 lumens for 5,000 total, but the same tight 0.16:1 throw ratio lens for super-close placement to the screen wall. It also offers onboard Wi-Fi and a 21:9 aspect ratio option for mating up with the Microsoft Teams Front Row layout.
Other interesting news included the pending release toward year end of the EB-PQ2220B+, an optional step-up to the EB-PU2220B that offers full 4K resolution using the 4-phase, 240 Hz pixel shift technology Epson first introduced in the flagship LS12000 and LS11000 home theater projectors. The existing EB-PU2200B is a native WUXGA projector that offers the company's 4K-Enhancement system, which doubles the pixel count to approximately 4 million vs. the 8 million provided by the newer tech. Other models in the line at 16,000, 13,000, 10,000, and 8,000 lumens will eventually receive the same full-4K, 8 million pixel treament, which was promoted at ISE under the name 4K Crystal Motion. Meanwhile, the new PowerLite EB-L770U brings Epson's two-phase 4K Enhancement to a 7,000 lumen, WUXGA compact projector with an attached lens. It's due in March.
A final notable announcement is an update to Epson's free EPPT software that will allow simultaneous blending and stacking, even on curved surfaces, for the full EB-PU family. Available in February, the software will support blends using up to 15 projectors and stacked displays with up to 14 projectors.
Also being shown in Epson's booth was an all-in-one portable A/V projection solution from a European firm called Artome. Harkening to the projector-on-a-cart some of us recall from childhood school days, the X10 and new X20 include an Epson projector coupled with an easy-to-use proprietary interface box into which the user just plugs in their source component. The systems have a built-in audio system and rest on wheels so they can be moved around as needed for classrooms or meeting rooms. The X10 comes with an EB-800 projector with 5,000 lumens and a short throw lens that does a 150-inch image from about 2 feet from the screen, while the X20 can be outfitted with a variety of Epson projectors and lenses at different brightness up to 10,000 lumens.
InFocus. InFocus, which re-entered the projector market in late 2021 after a long absence, showed prototypes of a range of products it expects to roll out this year as part of a significant line expansion. The IN168 series planned for Q2 delivery will offer 1DLP laser projectors at 1080p, WXGA and XGA, with short-throw versions coming in Q3 and a 4K UltraHD model in Q4. Also, shown was a laser 3LCD model expected to appear in Q3 in the form of a 4,500 lumen short-throw and 6,000-lumen standard throw; these will join the brand's existing lamp-based IN1000 series 3LCD models. New Genesis Series entry-level lamp projectors are also expected this year.
Also possible in 2023 is the relaunch of the ScreenPlay brand for consumer lifestyle projectors. InFocus showed two interesting prototypes, including a new barrel-shaped 4K laser UST projector expected to deliver 2,000 lumens and featuring a Jamo branded sound system. Another clever little desktop UST boasts a stacked modular construction, with a 1000-LED lumen base unit housing the projector and optional battery and speaker layers; it'll feature an Android operating system.
Fujifilm. Nothing new from Fujifilm at ISE, but its existing series of UST projectors with their unique tri-axial, rotating lens is always an eye-catcher and crowd pleaser at these shows. The flagship FP-Z8000 was joined by the FP-Z6000; they offer 8,000 lumens and 6,000 lumens respectively with WUXGA resolution. Company officials say museums have proven to be a primary market for this design thanks to its ability to be hidden while projecting the image to a precise nearby location. Current research for new models under development continues to focus on the key needs expressed by customers, Fujifilm execs say: ever-higher brightness, higher resolution, improved color accuracy and ever-lower noise.
madVR. The madVR Envy video processor has garnered a solid reputation among serious projection enthusiasts for its proprietary HDR tone-mapping, aspect ratio management, and scaling. At ISE, the company previewed a new advanced frame interpolation feature it plans to roll out shortly in new models and via firmware update to existing users. The AI-based, machine-learned algorithm is being groomed over time with additional content that allows it to perform advanced motion correction that smooths remarkably difficult camera pans and moving objects without introducing any artifacts or soap-opera effect. The show demo, which included some ridiculously difficult animated Disney clips shown with and without the processing, was very promising, especially given the early state of development claimed for the technology.
Multivision Screens. European screen maker Multivision is a 21-year old firm that specializes in motorized screens of all sizes for A/V and cinema but currently has no presence in North America. They do screens up to 42-meters wide max and offer technology that can roll or unroll a screen at speeds of up to 1 meter/second. Their 8-meter wide (26.25 feet) main demo at ISE was impressive.
But what really caught my eye was the company's Anavision all-in-one ultra-short throw entertainment system. This is the best execution I've seen yet of the "instant UST theater" concept that I believe has strong potential, particularly for integrators seeking a designer-friendly solution to hiding the TV. The Anavision is a large, Scandanavian-styled custom console featuring a Samsung LSP9T top-line projector built into a hidden motorized drawer, along with a 120 inch floor-rising UST ALR lenticular screen that comes up from under a motorized flap at the back. The total system with projector goes for about 30,000 Euros, about $32,000 U.S.
Optoma. A key highlight of Optoma's booth at ISE was its immersive display dubbed Celebration of Color, featuring original content developed by Layers of Reality, a respected A/V producer specializing in immersive content. Starting with original still works of art by five fine artists including Cézanne, Bonheur, Gaugin, Seurat and Mondrian, the team's animations brought the works to life inside of an irregularly shaped space with projections on the multiple walls and floor. The combination of projectors to pull this off included several of Optoma's ZU920TST, a 9,000-lumen WUXGA short throw, and their ZH406, a 1080p conference room projector with 4500 lumens. The impressive result was a contributing factor in Optoma being recognized as a finalist in the show's annual Stand Design Awards competition.
Optoma also demo'd its flagship 22,000-lumen ZU2200 workhorse at the booth, but the new projection products fell into the more compact variety. The ZW350E, a fairly diminutive 3,500-lumen conference room projector, will be the first model in Optoma's new Eco-friendly product series. It's designed from the ground up to use less packaging, less energy, and more PCR (post-consumer recycled) materials.
Also small, and sort of cute, is a brand new UST laser TV model that will be formally announced for the U.S. soon and should arrive in Q2. The L1 is a step-down option from the existing D2 models, with a footprint that's 40% smaller and 40% lighter. It's being promoted as having 2,500 LED Lumens brightness (1,050 lumens ANSI) thanks to a RGBW LED light engine rated for 30,000 hours. The projector promises 100% Rec.709 color gamut, and multiple HDMI ports including one in a hidden compartment that will accept a dongle. There's no ARC or eARC HDMI connection, but there are optical and analog audio outputs, and a single built-in 15 watt speaker. Lag for 1080p/240 Hz gaming is spec'd at 15.7 ms, or 27 ms for 4K/60.
Panasonic. Panasonic chummed for passing showgoers with a three-sided walk-in display visible on the aisle that effectively used 11 projectors to immerse attendees in moving images.
Inside the booth, however, the big projection announcement was the new PT-REQ12 and PT-REZ12 series of 1DLP projectors. Due in July, the PT-REQ12 is the first single-chip DLP from Panasonic to feature 4K resolution via the brand's Quad Pixel Drive pixel-shifting technology. All prior models with QPD were 3-chip, so this brings 4K to a new low price point for the brand. Models will be offered at 12,000, 10,000, and 8,000 ISO lumens. There's also a new lens series being introduced for these that will feature Intelligent Zoom and Focus lens memory capabilities. The PT-REZ12 will offer a similar platform in WUXGA resolution and will be delivered a bit later in Q3.
Also new is the PT-CMZ50, a relatively compact 3LCD ultra-short throw being targeted at schools and meeting rooms. This WUXGA projector is rated at 5,200 ISO lumens and was cleverly displayed in an edge-blended pair in a 21:9 format to accommodate a Microsoft Teams-style Front Row layout, though the projector features its own support of 21:9 or 27:9 aspect modes for a single unit. Other features include instant 1-second power on to image, compatibility with HDMI CEC control protocols, and an HDMI output for daisy-chaining a second projector. It'll be available in June.
Finally, Panasonic has also announced the PT-MZ20K, a 3LCD WUXGA projector set to be available Q2 that is said to be worlds smallest, lightest and quietest 20,000 lumen (ISO) projector. This is a mantle that's been held for a while now by Epson's EB-PU2220, though Panasonic is quick to point out the PT-MZ20K can deliver full brightness with 120 volt AC power and doesn't require 240V. It measures approximately 25.5 x 8.25 x 17.25 inches (WHD) and weighs in at 50.7 lbs. Three other models on the same platform will be available at 16,500, 14,000, and 11,500 lumens. Delivery is scheduled for Q1.
As an aiside, projected images throughout the well-lit Panasonic booth were remarkably robust thanks to the use of Carbon Black ALR screen material, which we've reported on previously.
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Screen Innovations. Screen Innovations took the opportunity at ISE to call some attention to the recent update of its Maestro acoustically transparent material, which has been improved with a tighter weave. There's also a modest update to SI's standard black fixed frame design that provides a more streamlined cosmetic and allows the mounting of LED back lighting behind the frame.
On display was the Solo 3 motorized screen series announced last year, which offers an unusually small cannister design and SI's usual wide array of power choices, including a solar-powered option that's set for release toward end of Q1. A Solo 3 loaded with the firm's UST ALR material was demo'd with an Epson LS800 projector and looked great under the bright lights of the show floor, as did a nearby display of its Flexglass, flexible rear projection material.
Screen Research. Screen Research had no new product announcements and basically just highlighted their range of high performance products, with a focus on the XLR3 motorized masking system and their highly respected ClearPix woven acoustically transparent material. What was new, and announced on the eve of the show, was certification of their screens by the Professional Video Alliance, making Screen Research the first screen maker to have their performance spec's verified by the independent organization.
Sharp/NEC. Three new NEC projectors were highlighted in Barcelona, notably the PA1705UL 3LCD laser projector targeted at higher education with 17,000 center lumens (16,000 ANSI) and WUXGA resolution. Like other PA series models, uses a fully sealed, filter-free laser light engine and offers low-noise operation. It's compatible with NEC's Pro Assist software that assists with edge blending, geometric correction, color adjustment and general fleet management. This model ships in September with a 20,990 Euro MSRP. The PA1405UL, with 14,000 center lumens and 13,000 ANSI, will also be made available.
Two new PV series laser models are also 3LCD, WUXGA and include the PV800UL at 8,000 ANSI lumens (7500 Euros MSRP), and PV710UL at 7100 ANSI lumens (no pricing available yet). These use same NP series lenses used for the company's lamp models, making for easy lamp-to-laser upgrades. They're due in March. A final new model shown was the P627UL, a 6,200 ANSI lumen model added to NEC's line of affordable WUXGA conference and meeting room projectors; it replaces the P605 while adding a couple hundred extra lumens. It'll be joined by the P547UL, 5400 ANSI lumens, which replaces the P525. This line is know for its exceptionally quiet 22dB noise rating; both models are shipping now.
Sony. Sony's just announced new-gen Crystal LED tiles were the subject of a major push at the company's booth, and there was nothing new in projection following the annoucement last fall of the VPL-PHZ61 and VPL-PHZ51, touted as the world's smallest projectors at their respective 6,400 and 5,300 ANSI lumen ratings. Nonetheless, the company was highlighting interactive, immersive applications to highlight the viability of projection. The most eye-catching projection demo at the booth, however, was not interactive but came from one of the company's 10,000 ANSI lumen, GTZ-380 SXRD projectors, which is capable of achieving 100% DCI-P3 gamut at its rated output. Turned on its side to display in portrait mode, this sample showed gorgeous HDR nature images on a relatively small screen and easily mimicked the brightest LED tile images I've seen for color and vibrancy.
Vivitek. Vivitek had a limited projection display at its booth, but made a compelling presentation for its new DU775Z-UST classroom/conference room projector, it's first laser UST model. It uses a 0.25:1 throw ratio lens with a new proprietary Tele-Centric optical design developed in house, as well as a new concave reflective mirror, to reduce image distortion. Consequently, the projector is said to deliver up to a 150-inch image with 100% edge to edge, corner to corner focus, maintaining both perfect sharpness and geometry. That's counter to most UST projectors, which show some loss of focus and possibly geometric distortion at the corners when images get blown up. Advancements like this suggest a more promising future for UST laser TV projectors, though Vivitek wasn't talking just yet about a home theater model. Other features of this model include 5,000 lumen brightness, WUXGA resolution, and optional dual interactive capabilities for pen and finger touch.
Viewsonic. Viewsonic had a small static projector display at ISE in which they highlighted the new LS610HDH, said to be world's first 4,000 ANSI lumen projector driven by LEDs. Note that we said ANSI lumens, not LED lumens, which makes this an exceptionally bright LED projector. It uses ViewSonic's 3rd generation LED technology and achieves 125% Rec.709 color gamut while offering a 30,000-hour, maintenance-free lifespan. Resolution is 1080p, but the projector supports 4K signals and HDR/HLG content. It's available now in the U.S. at a street price of $1,100.