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Image Is Everything: JVC Announces Super Contrast Projector

April 2001 | When specifying a display for digital cinema, one of the more critical elements is contrast ratio. In environments that are optimized for displaying video, rooms are darkened, which ups the ante for contrast requirements. With the surging market for professional, home, and theatrical digital cinema, JVC intends to offer a projector that features a contrast ratio of 1000:1–an enormous leap up from the company's closest offering, which provides a contrast ratio of 350:1.

Judging from the preliminary specifications for JVC's Super Contrast D-ILA digital cinema projector, the DLA-M5000SC, the company plans for the new projector to excel not only in just the contrast department. The specs for the DLA-M5000SC call for it to have the highest resolution of any matrix device: 2048x1536. According to David Walton, JVC's national marketing communications manager, many experts believe that the DLA-M5000SC produces an image that is superior to projected film. Walton says a single frame of film has a higher resolution, 4000x3000 or so, but because film goes through a mechanical device and moves around in the projector, the actual resolution is about a quarter of that. With JVC's D-ILA's Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) imaging technology, the contrast is increased greatly through the vertical alignment of the liquid crystals themselves, resulting in a higher contrast ratio projector. "This technology has the potential to make film obsolete," says Walton

Jack Faiman, VP of JVC's digital systems division says that the company's D-ILA projector products are intended for general purpose use, and the Super Contrast projectors are a subset of those, designed for more demanding applications, especially where the user is trying to recreate the appearance of film. "There are various arguments about how much contrast film has 600:1 to 1000:1," says Faiman. "Our super contrasts are speced at 1000:1 or greater to duplicate what you'd get from the very best film and projectors."

This higher ratio, according to Faiman, is achieved through various additive elements, such as fabricating a higher quality mirror or using higher efficiency polarizing elements. "One of the major differences is that we incorporate a unique optical element–a quarter-wave plate," he says. These projectors use a type of liquid crystal called "tilted perpendicular." Tilted perpendicular crystals are–as one might guess–slightly tilted. The reason for this is that when a voltage is sent across the crystals to polarize them, the crystals "know" what direction to tilt. "Our wave plate compensates for the tilt of the liquid crystal," says Faiman. "We get the response rate from the pre-tilt and then the improved contrast via the wave plate."

"We don't use this technology for everyone," says Faiman, "because on a white screen with lots of lights on, you wouldn't need Super Contrast and would be wasting your money." Faiman believes that the technology is not only ideal for digital cinema applications, but also for medical applications, "where you need all the resolution, detail, and color reproduction you can get... as close to reality as possible."

JVC's M5000SC began shipping in April at a list price of the base unit, without lens, of $75,000.

–Michelle Manafy

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