Goodwin's High End

 

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Home Theater Video Systems

 

Video Display Basics

Looking back over the past decade and seeing all that has transpired, one could conclude that the rate of evolution in video display technologies would have made Darwin's head spin!  Today's variety of different video display technologies offers a spectrum of choices, each with a unique set of advantages. To choose the best technology for your system, consider your priorities:

  • Price. Though the range among all technologies is quite broad today, some do have a higher entry level price point.
  • Size. Flat screens can run from smaller than 32" up to 150" (measured diagonally) and are almost all native 16:9 aspect ratio screens. Whereas a projection system can be just about any size you wish, usually they start around 6-8 feet wide  and go up from there depending of course upon such factors as your room size, wall/ceiling/floor colors, viewing distance, projector, screen material and gain, etc. [Note that with projection screens we no longer use diagonal measurements, rather we speak of three things: width, height, and aspect ratio.  (Note: aspect ratio is the ratio of width to height of the screen when unmasked).]
  • Picture quality. Different technologies will provide differing levels of quality, brightness, black level, color saturation, color accuracy, grayscale accuracy, uniformity, correct geometry, freedom from artifacts, freedom from visible scan lines or pixels, smoothness of motion, etc. No one technology is universally superior in all ways for all applications.
  • Your room and lifestyle. Some technologies require a completely dark room with special light control while others are more amenable to ambient room light.

Choosing the best product for your needs requires a familiarity with all the relevant technologies and all the latest product models. We recommend that you consult us early in your project. As a general guide, we've outlined some of the options below. Note that we are referring to higher performance equipment—as lower performance products have different profiles.

Technology Price Picture Size Width in 16:9 Room Lighting Picture Quality Advantages Drawbacks
Rear Projection $ typically 50"-100" quite of bit of ambient light is OK All-in-ones are pretty much extinct.

 

None Deeper dimensionally. Not as good as a plasma or OLED in picture quality which is why they are pretty much extinct.
High End Rear Projection $$-$$$$ typically 80"-192" quite of bit of ambient light is OK

Properly engineered high end installations can have excellent picture quality.

For high end installations, rear projection (utilizing a front projector with a high end mirror or separate projection room behind the screen) are more immune to high levels of ambient light than front projection High end all-in-one rear screen projection is expensive.
Direct-view Plasma Flatscreen $-$$ usually 50"-65" diagonal —although 103" & 150" have been made quite a bit of ambient light is ok Bright, very good blacks, very good color, great uniformity. Flat; only a few inches deep. Very good image quality when viewed off-center. Fixed resolution. A bit more expensive than LCD's.
Direct-view LCD Flat or Curved screen 1080p HD or 2160p UHD $-$$ usually 32"-84" although larger are available quite a bit of ambient light is ok Very bright, colors from LED-backlit, black levels are not as good as the best plasmas or OLED Less expensive than quality plasmas or OLED. Fixed resolution; black levels not as good as plasma or OLED; must be viewed on center to see accurate color as viewing angles are not as good in terms of color accuracy.
Direct-view OLED Flat or Curved screen 1080p HD or 2160p UHD $$$ usually 55"-77" quite a bit of ambient light is ok Very bright, colors from OLED. A substantial improvement in color accuracy and black levels. Flat or curved. Much better than any LCD whether it is backlit with LED or not. Even better than the best plasmas. Fixed resolution; more expensive.
LCD-based Front Projection $-$$ typically 72"-108" Complete light control preferred.     Superceded by the superior technology of DLP.
SXRD-based 1080p or 2160p Front Projection $-$$ typically 90"-150" Complete light control preferred. Good blacks, good color and uniformity. Can be relatively compact May require being built into a soffit or a projection room for fan noise isolation. Not as good as top DLP in terms of image quality.
DILA-based 1080p Front Projection $-$$ typically 90"-150" Complete light control preferred. Good blacks, good color, and uniformity. Can be relatively compact May require being built into a soffit or a projection room for fan noise isolation. Not as good as top DLP in terms of image quality.
Single chip DLP-based 720p Front Projection $ typically 72"-108" Complete light control preferred. Bright, the best can give good blacks, good color, great uniformity. Relatively bright. Relatively easy to setup. Projector is usually physically small to medium-sized. May require being built into a soffit in order to isolate any fan noise.
Single chip DLP-based 1080p or 2160p Front Projection $-$$ typically 72"-108" Complete light control preferred. Bright. The best which incorporate high end lenses can give very good blacks, excellent color, great uniformity, and excellent convergence. Relatively bright, though LED models can be somewhat limited in terms of brightness. Relatively easy to setup. Projector is usually physically small to medium-sized. May require being built into a soffit in order to isolate any fan noise. Some models use a color wheel the artifacts of which bother some viewers. High end lenses alone can be $5-10K.
3-chip DLP-based 720p Front Projection w/constant height masking screen $$-$$$ typically 90"-150" Complete light control preferred. Brighter, the best can give very good blacks, great color, great uniformity. Relatively bright. Best choice for front projection where picture quality is of foremost importance. Easy to setup. Projector is usually physically medium-sized, though some can be rather large. May require being built into a soffit in order to isolate any fan noise. High end models are expensive.
3-chip DLP-based 1080p or 4K Front Projection w/either constant height or four-way masking screen $$$-$$$$ typically 96"-192" wide with a 2.40 or wider native aspect ratio that can be masked down for smaller aspect ratios Complete light control preferred. Though high end models can perform admirably in daylight as they can produce up to 80 foot lamberts of brightness at the screen! Brighter. The best can produce very good black levels, accurate color, and great screen uniformity. Relatively bright. Best choice for front projection where picture quality and size is of foremost importance. The best exhibition grade projectors utilize a DCI-level DMD DLP Cinema® chip in the .98-1.4" range. Projector is usually physically medium-sized, though some can be rather large. With a 4-way masking screen the image can be adjusted for maximum size in different aspect ratios. In addition for different resolutions the image size can adjusted for optimal size to match. For instance watching a 1080P Blu-ray or 2160p image the optimal image size can be adjusted to be larger than for watching a DVD. May require being built into a projection port equipped soffit or mounted in a separate projection room in order to isolate any fan noise while still providing adequate cooling. High end models with exhibition grade or anamorphic lenses are expensive.

 

There are products in each of the above categories that have 1080P HD or 2160P UHD capability. However, the best of the above technologies eclipse the picture quality in important some important ways of a traditional and now obsolete standard definition device, such as an old-style TV.

For flatscreens in 2014 we have been recommending either 50", 60", or 65" 16:9 1080p plasmas as they offer very good picture quality at a reasonable price. However plasmas are steadily being discontinued so they may not be available for much longer. In any case, for the best quality picture OLED screens, both flat and curved, in 55" to 77" are available in either in 1080P HD and 2160P UHD resolutions.

For front projection we are usually installing single-chip or 3-chip DLP projectors along with high performance screens.

For sources Blu-ray or DVD—plus either HD cable, HD FIOS, or HD satellite along with HDTV over-the-air broadcasts are available. You might be interested to know that you can get the best picture quality for broadcasts from over-the-air HDTV broadcasts via an antenna. The reason that an antenna provides better quality over cable, FIOS, or satellite is that the signal is less compressed. One popular option for HDTV broadcasts via an antenna is to use a TIVO Roamio DVR model which incorporates an ATSC tuner section.

From both a picture quality and ease of use point of view, the ideal source is a movie server which can locally store movies and TV shows such as one from Kaleidescape. With a Kaleidescape movie server  you can download bit-for-bit HD 1080P Blu-ray quality files from the Kaleidescape Store. All of our clients who have had us install a Kaleidescape system in their home absolutely love it!

Recently streaming has become a popular option. Unfortunately streaming delivers a significantly lower level of picture quality due to so much lossy compression. It can also have freezing, stuttering, and picture break-up issuesthough in the future hopefully things will improve.

With regard to specific models of video components and displays, because there are so many models from so many companies coupled with the fact that the prices of video components change frequently we do not attempt to list them all on our website.


Aspect Ratios

Video Projector Resolution

Video Projector Lamp Types / Brightness Levels / Projector Light Output Relative to Ambient Light Levels

Video Projector Lens Quality / Anamorphic vs. Non-Anamorphic

Video Projector DLP Chip Quality

Projection Screens / 4-Way Continuous Masking Screens /  Perforated Screens vs. Non-Perforated Screens / Viewing Distances / Screen Height / Field of View

General Price Ranges of Video Projectors & Screens

UHD 2160P 4K

Installation, Set-up, & Video Calibration


Of Course That Isn't All There There Is To It!

There are other aspects to consider as well when planning, installing, and tweaking a home theater installation.

Suffice it to say that home theaters require carefully planning and implementation in order to fully realize the high performance levels that the equipment is actually capable of. And this is especially true with home theaters equipped with projection systems!

Product specifications, configuration, installation, and calibration can get quite technical and involved. Of course, if you visit our showroom, we would be happy to talk to you about your home theater design and show you the stunning picture quality that we can achieve. You don't have to be an expert, that's what we are here for. In the end, once it is installed all you have to do is sit back and enjoy your wonderful home theater!

For more info see:

Surround Audio Systems for info on the audio portion of a home theater system.

Home Theater 3D screens for info about new developments in 3D screens.

D-Box for Home Theaters for info on motion-controlled seating effects which are synched to encoded movies titles.

 

NOTE: While the current term for high end home theater is Architectural Cinema, regardless of what you call it, if you are planning on coupling a high end projector/screen type of system with a high performance surround sound system you are invited to call and speak directly with Alan Goodwin at 781-893-9000 ext 14. He will be happy to discuss your project with you and provide you with the latest thinking with regard to the design and implementation of your projectwhether it will be incorporated into an existing room or a new custom-designed room for your home.

 

 


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