Why doesn't someone invent a filter that you can put on your projector's lens that makes all the pixels go away, leaving nothing but a smooth film-like video image? Oddly enough, someone did. Cygnus Imaging Corporation of Walled Lake, Michigan, markets a product called the IMX Image Processor. And while it is not right for every projector on the market, on some projectors it works wonders.
What is the IMX Image Processor? It is a multi-component, adjustable optical filter that attaches to the front of a projection lens of an LCD or DLP projector. As light rays travel through it they are refracted or bent just enough to soften the pixel structure, but not enough to blur the focus of the image. The result is a smoother video image on the screen. In addition to reducing or eliminating the screendoor effect, it has the additional benefit of taking the digital edge off the image, and making it look more like a continuous analog display. With the right projector, the resulting video image is beautiful.
What is the right projector?
Unfortunately, the IMX Image Processor is not compatible with every projector. You must be able to physically mount it onto the front of the projection lens. To accomplish this the projector must have a lens which protrudes from the casework at least 6 mm. Furthermore, the outside diameter of the lens housing needs to be at least 68 mm and not greater than 107 mm. If the projector in question meets these basic specs, so far, so good-at least you know you can attach the IMX to your projector.
The issue: how bad is your pixel "screendoor" effect?
The primary function of the Cygnus processor is to make the pixel structure invisible. The visibility of a projector's pixel structure depends upon several factors including screen size, normal viewing distance from the screen, the resolution of the projector, and its display technology (LCD or DLP).
As you increase the size of the projected image, the pixels will get more visible. As you move closer to the screen, the pixels will become more visible. If you have a low resolution VGA projector, the pixels will be very noticeable. If you step up to an SVGA resolution machine, the pixels get a bit smaller. And moving up to XGA and then to SXGA resolution, the pixels continue to get smaller and less apparent at any given viewing distance.
But there is no magic formula here. You can either see the pixel grid or you can't, and it either bothers you or it doesn't. If you can see it and it bothers you, the IMX Image Processor can help solve this problem.
LCD vs. DLP
The IMX Image Processor works with both LCD and DLP projectors. In general most LCD projectors have somewhat more visible pixel structure than DLPs of the same resolution. So the benefits of the Cygnus device will tend to be greater on LCD projectors than on DLPs. However, DLPs are not free of pixel grids. An SVGA resolution DLP will have about the same visible pixel structure as an XGA resolution LCD. So the IMX can be used to advantage on both types of display technology as long as there is a visible pixel grid that you want to eliminate from the screen.
Contrast and Lumen Output: the trade-off
While the IMX Image Processor creates a smoother video image, it does not do so without a little cost. First, it slightly reduces the overall contrast of the image. Second, it cuts the lumen output of the projector by about 4%.
This means that if you have a projector that is already marginal in either lumen output or contrast, the IMX may not be a good solution since it will aggravate these weaknesses. Conversely, the projectors that work the best with the IMX are those that have ample brightness and contrast, such that losing a little of each is not going to affect the overall enjoyment of the image.
There are a host of very bright LCD projectors that have recently appeared on the market (see The Arrival of the Portable Light Cannons.) Each of these 1800+ ANSI lumen machines has more than sufficient lumen output to overcome the 4% loss. We recently tested the IMX Image Processor with the 2000 lumen Mitsubishi LVP-X300 and found the results to be very exciting (see review).
Installing the IMX Image Processor
Setting up the device is relatively easy, but it's not just a snap on and play. You must take care to position the processor on the lens and adjust it to the point of its optimum performance. If you don't take the time to do it right, you will end up with (a) no diffusion whatsoever, in which case the pixels are as visible as ever, or (b) so much diffusion that the entire image goes soft. So make sure to take the time to do the fine-tuning adjustments. Hitting the sweet spot is vitally important for best results.
The Cygnus website has detailed instructions on how to install the IMX, and of course instructions also come in the box. Follow them carefully.
Buying the IMX
Many dealers carry this product, so you may be able to find one in your area that can demonstrate it for you. However, if you can't find a dealer, you can buy directly from Cygnus through their website. The transaction is return guaranteed for 30 days, so you can try it in your home or office, and if not satisfied with how it performs with your projector, you can return it.
The retail price of the Cygnus IMX Image Processor is $595. For more information, or to place an order, go to the Cygnus website at http://www.cgns.com. You can also email questions to Cygnus Imaging Corporation at firstname.lastname@example.org.