By Greg Jeffreys, Paradigm AV and InfoComm
Had I ever had plans to buy a Ferrari, this year I would have cancelled my order – some of my best friends are Skoda drivers anyway. Having a smaller and specialist business, I have long given up trying to read the tea leaves confidently as to our financial microclimate. However, being an old lag in this business does have some benefits as it seems that a longstanding outfit has some kind of momentum. Look: we’re still here!
In business the most interesting technology trends for us in the home market seem to rest in 3D. People now want to know which screens are good for active and passive stereo – Avatar and the imminent launch of 3D satellite channels have seen to that.
The nerd in me takes delight in seeing how much folk enjoy their 3D Avatar experience, barely noticing that the onscreen luminance is a fraction of the standard 2D movie experience. Image luminance can fall by over 80% and, to be honest, the contrast is not that hot either.
I’m on an InfoComm task group writing the new Projected Image System Contrast Ratio ANSI Standard. Our findings on required contrast ratios will generate some waves, I’m sure, but it is distinguishing between what we measure and what we perceive that speaks to a wider theme.
Measured versus perceived quality
It is vital to use the numbers and to validate with meters when doing something to a high level or when breaking new ground. But never forget the difference between what one measures and what one perceives. In the lab work we’ve done, the out-turns from that fact have been illuminating (pun intended) when observing such phenomena in controlled environments. If an image has good contrast yet has low luminance, it’s educational to witness how ‘bright’ the viewer observes the image to be. Conversely, a high-resolution image shown with poor contrast and good luminance is always perceived as being of decreased ‘brightness’ and, more interestingly, of lower resolution.
Let’s take this thought back to 3D, which adds another layer entirely to the subject of perception. It helps us to suspend our disbelief in ways that can often sidestep the ways we can intermediate the viewing experience in normal 2D scenarios, where we often leave a metaphorical foot on the ground – which inhibits us from giving up to the experience. So just think what 3D will be like when we get it back up to good 2D luminance and contrast ratios.
New viewing experiences
3D is also subversive in terms of the rigid confines of the 16:9 rectangular frames we watch our movies on. This has led Paradigm to start to work with projection domes, formerly the domain of high-level simulation training environments, for which we have a specific division. Domes are great for high-level gaming, and this is something we’re expanding out of training simulation and into advanced home systems.
It all makes us think of ‘surfaces’ as much as screens. The very notion of surfaces: what they comprise and what they can deliver, is now an intensive research field in itself. At the more prosaic level of using new small solid-state cold-lamped (e.g. LED etc) projectors, pretty much any surface can become a display – even an interactive display. And in these straitened times, it’s not about money as much as creativity.
3D and its associated uses beyond passive content watching, represent huge opportunities for the custom install industry. However, the general lack of clear technological leaders currently means that clients are inclined to hold back on actually spending money. Therefore, opportunities exist in relationship building: giving clients updates on new trends and products, for example, helping clients to future-proof themselves against investment in technological cul-de-sacs. As you find more products that you are confident in selling, you will hopefully find clients readier to take the leap.
Greg Jeffreys is a director and chairman of Paradigm AV Ltd, Bedford, UK, manufacturer of rear and front projection solutions and products and distributor of dnp denmark A/S optical projection screens, and GestureTek and Visual Planet interactive products. He also acts as specialist consultant advising on and assessing projected image quality, and is an officer on the Board of Directors of InfoComm. This year he is Secretary-Treasurer and during the four year assignment he will serve as President in 2012.
Copyright HiddenWires 2010.