Types of Laser-Illuminated Projectors – History, Evolution, Trends and Technical Glossary

Types of Laser-Illuminated Projectors – History, Evolution, Trends and Technical Glossary

The following article was written by Bill Beck, co-founder, past chairman and current Communications Consultant for LIPA.  It provides the reader with a structured history of the technical and then commercial developments that have brought Laser illumination from the R&D labs to its current position as the dominant new illumination technology.

The article includes the early history of Laser illuminated (LIP) prototyping; the evolution of both RGB Laser and Laser-Phosphor (La-Ph) illumination technologies; the two main application tracks of early commercialization and the current proliferation of optimized Laser and La-Ph technologies and LIP applications of all kinds. It also includes an extensive “LIP Glossary” with in -document links to the definitions of acronyms, technical terms and “buzz words”.

The purpose of the article is to provide LIPA Members – their Representatives and colleagues – with a common historical and technical framework from which to view and discuss the current-status and future trends of LIPs and their applications.  The author does not claim that the article is 100% accurate in all details; but rather, conceptually, and usefully descriptive of past developments and current trends. The author and LIPA welcome comments, corrections, additions, and clarifications and where material, will publish them from time to time in future Blog Posts.

The governing board of LIPA has reserved the use of this article for members only for the next 90 days (through the end of November 30, 2022) as a benefit of their paid membership.  During this time, LIPA Members and Representatives are encouraged to read, share, and discuss with colleagues, both to develop a consensus historical record and to educate their newer members who may not have personally “lived through” the long and complex development of this important new product category.

The article will be distributed to LIPA Members only on Wednesday, August 31, 2022.  We look forward to your comments and their contribution to a more complete and colorful understanding of the story of LIPs.

LIPA 1H22 Market Update Webinar

LIPA 1H22 Market Update Webinar

What:

An interactive Webinar to present and discuss 1H22 Global Sales, Revenue and Market Data for Commercial/Professional/Education (Non-Cinema) and Cinema/PLF market segments. The first hour will include interactive presentations, followed by a 20 to 30-minute, moderated panel discussion.

When: 

Thursday, September 29, 2022 

  • 22:30-24:00 (Tokyo)
  • 21:30-23:00 (Beijing)
  • 15:30-17:00 CET (Brussels)
  • 14:30-18:00 (London)
  • 09:30-11:00 EDT (New York)
  • 08:30-10:00 CDT (Texas)
  • 06:30-08:00 PDT (Los Angeles)

Who:

Rosemary Abowd

PMA Research

From the PMA website:

By any measure PMA’s team is by far the most experienced of any firm engaged in display market research today. The PMA team includes executives from Hitachi, Toshiba, and InFocus as well as other display-related manufacturers. And with offices in in Asia, Europe and the United States, PMA continually has a complete and balanced view of worldwide developments and trends in the display business.

David Hancock

Omdia

From the Omdia website:

Omdia unifies and harnesses the depth and breadth of expertise from Informa Tech’s legacy research brands: Ovum, IHS Markit Technology [Screen Digest], Tractica and Heavy Reading. We bring you unparalleled, world-class research and consultancy to navigate the now and create the future.

Both Rosemary and David have presented their data summaries and insights to LIPA members a number of times. They bring world class reporting and many years of experience tracking LIPA’s markets and Laser Projection in particular since its introduction more than ten years ago.

Why attend?

LIPA member Representatives and their Management, Marketing and Sales colleagues are invited and encouraged to attend this interactive Global Market Update.  It will cover quantitative analysis for the first half of 2022.  Unit sales and revenue by major categories, brightness levels, Laser vs. Lamp illumination and other useful metrics.  Audience members are encouraged to ask detailed questions during the presentations and then join Rosemary, David, and several LIPA “moderators” in a panel discussion of market, business and technical trends, new products, threats from other technologies and of course, thoughts on the mostly-post-Covid market situation.

Participants may send questions in advance to: billbeck59a2@gmail.com or ask them at any time during the 90-minute session, live or via the chat box. 

We look forward to an informative and thought-provoking session and to involving members of your organizations that don’t normally participate in our events and discussions. The session will be recorded if you cannot attend during the scheduled time slot.

We hope to see on September 29th.

CineEurope 2022 – Highlights and Trends

CineEurope 2022 – Highlights and Trends

June 20-23 at Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona (CCIB)

Highlights

  • Overall mood was upbeat and optimistic, buoyed by a (Helicopter) fly-in appearance by Tom Cruise in support of the industry and his record-breaking sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick. The recent release, having surpassed $1B in box office by June 27th, further supports already upbeat predictions for 2022 box office recovery. The audience greeted his arrival with a 5-minute standing ovation.
  • Avatar 2 and the resurrection of 3D were previewed, further pointing to “better days” and Box Office, ahead
  • Industry experts predicted that 2022 Box Office will finish at $31.5B, only about 20% off 2019’s record level of $42B. (Gower Street Analytics)
  • The conference itself was upbeat but still not quite back to pre-pandemic levels, especially attendance by smaller exhibitors and suppliers

Trends and Numbers

  • Global Screen Count, now at 213,000, has held up well despite 2 years of lockdowns, cost cutting and market uncertainties.
  • Recovery in Europe varies widely by country.  France is strong, aided by 40% locally generated content throughout the pandemic.  Germany and Spain lag in recovery.
  • Penetration of Laser Illuminated [Cinema] Projectors (LIPs) in Europe was reported to be only around 10%, suggesting that estimates of global LIP adoption in Cinema may not be as high previously reported.
  • One large “All Laser” (and all 4K) deal – PVR India – for a 1,000-screen buildout was announced.  New builds more often take advantage of All LIP technology conversions
  • 2K LIPs continue to be important as many customers seek ways to upgrade to Laser projectors but as economically as possible.
  • However, one Cinema projector maker continues to market Xenon projectors, even 4K models with advanced features alongside their RGBe and Real|Laser Ô projectors.
  • Sustainability is a strong trend, favoring the long-lifetime and near zero consumables of LIPs.  Easier maintenance with reusable filters was also pushed.
  • Exhibitors of all sizes are finding ways to “premiuminize” their offering, at the circuit – partnering with a branded PLF; multiplex – providing an in-house PLF offering and even within individual auditoria.  One exhibitor has been successful carving out 20-25% of seats per room for a premium experience – with seats, sound, 4D effects and other amenities supporting higher ticket prices
  • Business discussions reflected a focus more on traffic and attendance, driving number of visits per year vs. spend per patron.  This only makes sense for an effort to get patrons back into a cinemagoing routine rather than for once a year, expensive events.

Summary

From all reports, CineEurope 2022 continued the upbeat impressions from Cinemacon 2022, in both mood and numbers. There is ongoing growth in Box Office, from blockbusters and in the aggregate; manufacturer deals and new products; and with the continued progress of LIPs in supporting a better, more consistent Cinema experience while reducing total cost of ownership and improving long-term sustainability for exhibitors.

LIPA 2021 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

LIPA 2021 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – PRELIMINARY PROGRAM

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7 – 5:00-9:00AM PST

This year, LIPA’s Annual General Meeting will again, by necessity, be virtual.  We have assembled an outstanding mix of topics and presenters covering industry progress, challenges, and opportunities ahead. 

The program will run for about 4 hours and be divided into 4 sections: LIPA; Markets; Technology; BlueSky.

We will start with a welcome and introduction by our Chairman, Goran Stojmenovik from Barco; then review the progress of each of our major committees: Membership, Communications and Regulatory. We’ll conclude this session with a guest speaker, Dr. Karl Schulmeister, reviewing new European Laser Regulations for Consumer Products.

Rosemary Abowd of PMA Research will begin session 2 with Projection Market Overview – “Pandemic Chain Reaction”.  David Hancock, of OMDIA, will update all on the status and trends of the Global Cinema Market.  We’ll conclude the market session with a talk on the application of Laser Illumination to the rapidly growing Ultra-Short Throw 4K TV market.

Session 3 will include comprehensive updates on Laser Devices and Packaging by Brian Montalbano of Nichia; New Device Packaging, by prospective new LIPA member, Foxconn and a review of advances in LaserPhosphor + RGB Hybrid technology by Wei Gu of Appotronics.  The session will close with a talk on the applicatons of LaPh Hybrids and other advances to projection technology by Rich McPherson of LIPA founding member, Sharp/NEC.

We’ll conclude the presentations with a “Blue Sky”, forward looking session starting with LIPA-founder and past Chairman, Pete Ludé, entitled “Projecting the Future of Projectors”, a review of emerging technologies such as DVLED, that will compete with classical projection going forward. Next, Kristofer Oberascher of Texas Instruments, will preview work his team is doing on Phase Modulation, enabled by Laser Illuminations and its application to image projection.  Next, Alberto Alfier of LIPA member Osram/ClayPaky will present an update on Laser Illuminated Show Lighting and the impact of bright, controllable, and safe laser lighting for events. The program will close with a presentation by long time LIPA supporter and past Chairman, Greg Niven, of Kyocera-SLD.  Greg will review novel ways Lasers, fiber and phosphors are addressing specialty, high performance lighting applications.

Watch for detailed registration instructions in to be emailed to members this week.  Please invite interested colleagues from your team or other parts of your company.  Be sure they register individually.  New members will need to set up their own LIPA accounts.

We hope to “see” you all on TUESDAY the 7th of December.

For LIPA, Best regards,  Bill Beck – The Laser Guy

LIP Adoption/Market Update Fall 2021

LIP Adoption/Market Update Fall 2021

Introduction

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – October 30, 2021
The Laser Illuminated Projector Association (LIPA) reports that Laser illuminated projection supported 1H21 business recovery for the Worldwide Projector Market. This blog post/press release draws on inputs from major market research firms and LIPA members to provide market highlights, segment trends, observations, and future directions.

1H21 Market Highlights

The first half of 2021 was a watershed for Laser Illuminated projection.  The first 2 quarters of CY 2021 saw positive Y/Y revenue growth for the first time since the end of 2018.  For the first time ever, Laser illuminated projectors (LIPs) accounted for over 50% of projector revenue in 2Q21.

LIPs continue to take share in both high and now lower lumen categories, adding value in both.  The Cinema installed base is now over 50% Laser with 2Q21 showing growth Y/Y for the first time since 4Q19. Cinema/PLF continues to trend toward 100% Laser penetration, both in terms of annual sales and total installed base.

Laser illumination continues to improve projection in terms of image quality, operational efficiency, reliability, and lifetime.  Although Laser illumination is no longer being sold as a feature per se, the performance improvements Laser illumination enables are being optimized and leveraged in nearly all applications, lumen levels and resolutions.

LIPA continues to mark progress in its two key missions – to simplify and rationalize Laser Safety regulations and to promote the adoption of Laser illumination for projection and related applications.

Market Macros – Data and Trends

  • LIPs (RGB, LaPh, LaP Hybrids) share of the Worldwide mainstream and high-end Projector Market (including Cinema but not Pico) topped 50% on a revenue basis and now is the dominant illumination technology
  • Cinema revenues registered year over year growth in 2Q21 for the first time since 4Q19 (+51%) with most of the growth coming from LIPs
  • The worldwide Cinema installed base is now majority laser at approximately 110,000 of 200,000 total screens (55%); Laser share in China is even higher.
  • Cinema growth was led by Premium Large Format (PLF) and other high-end “entertainment venue” builds and upgrades
  • At the same time, Lamp illuminated cinema projectors saw some opportunistic sales during the Pandemic, but this is likely to be short-lived given more recent trends
  • LIPs generated over 50% of 2Q21 Y/Y revenue growth in mainstream/high-end segments with 1H21 Y/Y revenue growth of 27% to a total of $3.2 Billion indicating strong return from pandemic lows.
  • 1H21 saw 5 brands sell more LIP units than lamp illuminated units; most of these having made a strategic commitment to Laser. The rest of the market continued to show a gradual transition to laser illumination
  • The 1H21 China Laser Projection Market (excluding Cinema and Pico) grew 37% Y/Y on a unit basis vs 1H20 and a very strong 68% Y/Y on a revenue basis, to $960M (at 1$:6.45RMB)

Premium Large Format (PLF) and Cinema

  • Theater re-openings and new builds/upgrades are finally driving the beginnings of Cinema recovery – nearly all are Laser
  • Cinemark, the third largest US exhibitor, commits to conversion to all-laser; announces patron education program on benefits of LIPs for Cinemagoers
  • IMAX and Barco commit to conversion of remaining 1000 lamp-based IMAX theaters to high performance LIPs which will result in an ~1800 screen all-Laser circuit
  • DOLBY continues to promote it’s PLF format which showcases all the image quality enhancements enabled by Laser – high brightness, high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut (WCG) and high-performance 3D.

Application Drivers

  • Premium Large Format (PLF) Laser Cinemas show near and long-term growth as exhibitors seek to offer unique and differentiated experiences
  • LIP’s extended operating lifetimes (no lamp changes) are enabling permanent 24/7/365 Mapping installations not possible with Xenon lamps
  • Highly optimized R/G/B + Phosphor Hybrids are driving cost down, performance up
  • Evolution of RGB LIPs is enabling wider color gamut presentation for both cinema and non-cinema applications
  • LIPs seem to be holding the line against wide deployment of LED walls in Cinema
  • Competition from Ultra-Short Throw (UST) 4K resolution Laser illuminated projected TV against large FPD is growing rapidly in China and moving to other markets.  This application is potentially huge, combines Laser performance and 4K resolution and is technically aligned with a massive ongoing content source.
  • Worldwide UST 4K Laser TV volume doubled from 1H20 to 1H21.  99% of UST – 4K TVs sold were laser illuminated

Trends toward higher brightness supported by LIPs

  • RGB laser illumination now enables record brightness levels of 75,000lm, surpassing even the brightest flagship Cinema systems
  • Revenues by lumen level show strong growth ≥4000 lumen segments driven by higher performance levels and price points
  • Worldwide, all categories ≥4000 lm grew on both unit and revenue bases
  • In China, the ≥10Klm segments grew at 178% on a unit basis and are now 94% Laser
  • Worldwide 96% of all 10K lm projectors are laser, up from 92% in 1H2020

Laser Adoption for lower lumen categories

  • Despite a dominant trend toward higher LIP penetration of ≥ 5,000lm categories, LIPs are also increasing their share of 3,000 – 5,000lm models
  • Availability of both smaller DLP® and 3LCD chips and lower cost Multi-Die-Package (MDP) Laser diode packaging enable laser illumination to “prove-in” for smaller, lower lumen models

Trends toward higher resolution

  • The unique benefit of small etendue Laser light sources enable the use of much smaller chips/pixel formats
  • The emergence of nearly 100% Laser-illuminated 4K Ultra-Short Throw (UST) TV market in China is starting to impact the rest of the world and the Projection market in general.
  • The smaller étendue (source area x beam divergence) of Laser illumination enables the use of smaller DLP® or LCD chips for a given brightness level, further reducing projector cost and size, especially for >3,000lm segments

Trends toward longer operating lifetimes

  • Improvements in power management and cooling systems are extending operating lifetimes to 40- 50,000 hours for some models
  • Long operating run times enable use of projection in theme parks, museums, control rooms, multi-projector mapping and other applications where lamp changes are impractical, difficult or disrupt operations.

Regulatory Progress

  • LIPA’s continued regulatory efforts achieved FDA/CDRH approval for reduced separation height (SH) for Non-Cinema Risk Group 3 projectors from 3 meter to 2.5 meters  from the floor to the bottom of the output beam of the projector within the Hazard Distance (HD) where the beam is too bright for possible eye exposure.  This allows the use high brightness projectors in applications where viewers are closer to the projector and/or where the beam is closer to the floor.
  • IEC Regulation update – LAMP ILLUMINATED Projectors now must also conform to Risk Group Classification, putting them on equal footing with Laser illuminated projectors. New RG3 Lamp projectors will be subject to Hazard Distance (HD) and Separation Height (SH) limits just as LIPs are.  [See: LIPA Regulatory Bulletin “Harmonizing Lamp- and Laser-illuminated Projector Regulations” at www.LIPAinfo.org for more details]

Acknowledgements and Disclaimer

LIPA would like to acknowledge and thank the following companies and LIPA members for their contributions of data and insights:  PMA Research, OMDIA, Digital Cinema Report, Appotronics, Barco, Cinionic, Seiko-Epson and Texas Instruments.  Data and statistics are drawn from multiple sources and represent the author’s best judgement in support of trends and conclusions presented.

LIPA CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY – SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

Introduction

LIPA Celebrated its 10th Anniversary in May; having achieved much progress and many milestones.  As an in-person gathering was still out of the question, we held two, two-hour GoToMeeting sessions.  We enjoyed the inputs and memories of about 80 members, past and present; colleagues and friends.  We even had some surprise guests from the earliest days of Laser illuminated projection.

The idea was to bring together many of the industry’s pioneers, visionaries, technologists and LIPA members to review, acknowledge and reminisce about the history and progress, the challenges and future trends of this radically different lighting technology.

The Sessions

The two sessions were divided into 6 topics: The Early Days, Digital Cinema, Technical Breakthroughs, The Regulatory Story, Commercialization Progress, Status and Future Developments. 

We still don’t know for certain when the “first” LIP was contemplated or built, but we all learned a lot more about how early work began.  We had several pioneers from COLOR, an early R&D shop that built and installed demo LIP systems in museums, sports arenas and even to project images of tanks on “disposable screens” at the US Army’s gunnery range…all in the 1990s!!

We learned about the impact of the Cinema industry’s change from Film to Digital, that enabled the use of narrow-band RGB laser light to generate the millions of colors in the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) specified color gamut.  The DCinema conversion was both a blessing and curse. One the one hand, it provided a solid, if difficult to achieve, global specification and a huge (future) addressable market. This enticed a few intrepid investors to “go back into” laser technology shortly after the telecom bust of 2003. On the other hand, delays in the financing of the Digital Cinema conversion, (indeed, a global financial crisis in 2008-09), greatly delayed the expected time to market for DCinema LIPs.

The commercial availability of Blue Laser Diodes from Nichia and the extensive Laser-pumped phosphor technology from Appotronics both accelerated DCinema development and enabled a host of new, lower lumen LIP segments and applications.

Although the focus of the sessions was on Laser technology, LIPA founding members, TI and SONY provided the essential Spatial Light Modulator (SLM) technology that enabled the application of Laser illumination to high performance projection.

LIPA’s core mission, in fact its “raison d’être”, is to rationalize global Laser safety regulations to assure risk mitigation while not unduly impeding the adoption of the technology.  The audience learned what a great challenge this was for LIPA, that it took years of meetings and millions in dues and in-kind contributions from members and their expert staff to achieve what would be required for robust commercialization.  LIPA was able to contribute greatly to the understanding of optical hazard and risk; how to quantify it and to establish a global framework that now evaluates laser and lamp illuminated projectors the same way.

Given the magnitude of the challenge and the prerequisite of the US FDA/CDRH to start with a peer-reviewed article on the optical hazards of LIPs, it is (in retrospect), no surprise that it took so long to establish a new and more structured regulatory regime.  In fact, with the help of LIPA’s Regulatory team of member experts, laser safety consultants and yes, lawyers, LIPA adopted a strategy to utilize the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) regulatory framework and its updating opportunities to make progress much faster outside of the US. Eventually, with the IEC formally on board, it was much easier to convince the FDA/CDRH to “conform” to new IEC global standards than to start from scratch.  But it still took a long time, and success was never assured.


Ten years ago, high lumen “flagship” Cinema LIPs were demonstrated by several LIPA members. This really put the pressure on LIPA to establish a mechanism to bring these amazing systems into commerce.  Initially, “Laser Variances”, that is, individual FDA authorizations were required to deploy these specialized projectors in large screen, typically 3D-capable theaters.  These early variances provided the template for future global regulatory requirements.

The consensus is that commercialization of Cinema LIPs started with a series of demos and product introductions in spring of 2014 by several LIPA members.  At the same time, the brightness levels achievable with Laser Phosphor technology began breaking records every quarter. People wondered: would they every hit 10,000 lumens…? They did, and have gotten much brighter since.

As of now, LIPs are available at all brightness levels from “Pico” to 75,000 lumens; in nearly every category, from the classroom to the boardroom; from Ultra-Short Throw 4K Laser TV to gigantic, multi-projector mapping systems.  Laser engine architectures now include often complex hybrids of RGB diodes + custom phosphors, optimized for the required mix of image quality, color space, power efficiency and lifetime. 

Market data suggests that LIPs are now the dominant illumination technology on a dollar value (if not unit) basis.  Some major projector makers have moved to all laser or all solid-state illumination, eliminating lamp-based designs from their new product offerings. (Later this year LIPA will publish a formal update on LIP Market penetration.)

The sessions wrapped up with a view to the future.  The consensus was that as the global economy and in particular, Cinemas, “open up”, LIPs will lead the charge.  Many multiplexes were built as or upgraded to “All-Laser” during the pandemic. And many LIPA members have developed new LIP products and product families during the past 18 months. 

LIPA still has much work to do.  As new designs are developed and brightness levels increase, new regulatory cases continue to emerge.  Our long-term mission to assure user safety and promote business success continues, and now that mission covers nearly all projection categories, not just the cutting edge of premium Cinema.

Session Takeaways

  1. The development and commercialization of LIPs …TOOK A LONG TIME – at least 30 years.  It took many visionaries, technologists, companies, investors, Hollywood gatekeepers…and LIPA to put all the pieces together.
  2. LIPA, founded in May of 2011, by about a dozen companies, developed and achieved a global regulatory rationalization strategy that has enabled very rapid adoption and no known injuries since commercialization of high brightness LIPs in 2014.
  3. As of 2020, all high brightness (Risk Group 3) projectors are regulated by the same standard, irrespective of light source technology – Laser and Lamp illuminated projectors are finally on the same footing
  4. Over time, LIPs have “paid off” all of benefits of laser illumination, predicted since the 1990s: higher brightness, better image quality, amazing color saturation, ultra-long light source lifetime, higher power efficiency (lm/watt), lower heat generation, quieter operation, remote light delivery via optical fiber and lower cost per usable lumen
  5. As a result of the above advances, LIPs have in ten years become the dominant projection illumination technology with a strong trend toward a fully “lamp-less” future.

Introduction to Laser Illuminated Projector Efficiency Metrics

Introduction

Laser Illuminated Projectors (LIPs) provide both image quality and economic benefits to a wide range of applications.  New laser packaging technology and more sophisticated thermal management subsystems continue to improve the energy efficiency of LIPs for both cinema and non-cinema applications. 

Part of LIPA’s mission is to establish best practices and to educate our members, purchasers and users of LIPs.  With the widespread and growing adoption of Laser illumination, our industry needs a consensus “Figure of Merit” (FoM) by which LIPs can be directly and accurately compared, “in use”.  The goal of this blog post is to propose a well-defined FoM that can provide the basis for comparing, tracking and continuously improving the efficiencies of this increasingly dominant, solid-state illumination (SSI) technology. Furthermore, it will touch on strategies to further increase base efficiencies and extend operating lifetimes.

LIP Overall Energy Efficiency

The Energy Efficiency of a LIP is simply the projector’s output in lumens divided by its wall-plug electrical power consumption. The metric is “lumens per wall-plug watt” or lm/WElectrical.  This is the most comprehensive and straightforward definition, as it is the measure of what the user “gets” for the quantifiable power utilized (and billed) – at the wall-plug (Mains) source.

This metric should be included on LIP data-sheets, so the customer does not have to calculate it.  It quantifies the efficiency of the projector per se, and allows the user to compare different models and to calculate the hourly power cost to operate the LIP for a given electricity price in $/kW-hr.

Simple yes, but…

This Figure of Merit becomes reliably comparable, when several consensus conditions are met and included in the definition of the proposed metric.

  1. The wall plug POWER in watts must include all requisite laser, optics, electronics and cooling, whether on-board (inside the projector) or off-board, in a chiller or radiator.
  2. The wall plug POWER in watts includes all the power needed for electronics, processing, fans, content interfaces and storage etc., not just the laser light source.
  3. The wall plug power is that which is required to deliver the specified lumens, with the appropriate definition. Examples:  Maximum lumen output; Typical lumen output, Maximum lumen output at calibrated white-point; efficiency at output and power level leading to maximum lifetime.

We see that for any given Projector, one may arrive at different efficiencies levels using the standard FoM [lm/W]. All efficiency values can be valid, comparable and useful if they are clearly defined.

To illustrate how the FoM can be used to compare LIPs in several different modes we can take a hypothetical LIP that delivers a maximum of 20,000 lumens and consumes 2,000W (2.0kW) of wall-plug power to do it.  FoM = 10 lm/W.  When the projector is calibrated for its intended White-point/color space, the output may drop to 18,500lm FoM = 9.25 lm/W.  If the projector is set for maximum operating life, it may produce 15,000 lumens at 1.8kW power consumption FoM = 8.33 lm/W.  The figure of merit is the same, but the value is different when measured and calculated under different operating conditions.

Finally, in comparing operating efficiencies of LIPs, one must also consider the power consumption of any HVAC cooling when the projector’s exhaust heat is “externalized” to the venue operating environment.  For example, the heat dissipation in watts of an operating projector if merely the difference between the wall-plug watt input and the optical power output in watts (not lumens) out of the lens. The design of the projector may seek to maintain a constant Laser (and optics) temperature via the use of a chiller or by air-cooling the whole projector to “the ambient environment”.  In either case, “the environment” still has to dissipate the heat.

In cases where the heat load is large, this cost must be borne either way, but it is NOT included in the Projector efficiency FoM.  Technically, this is true of all LIPs, but for most lower lumen LIPs, the additional HVAC power consumption is de minimis, so can be left out of the calculation.

In conclusion, the simplest efficiency metric, lm/Wwallplug can be used and compared, as long as its measured wall power consumption corresponds to the stated operating condition (maximum, typical, calibrated, average).  In some special cases – ultra-high lumen output and/or ultra-long operating lifetimes, external heat dissipation costs should also be considered in selecting the right projector and operating conditions for the most efficient combination of output level, lifetime and power consumption.

Future LIPA posts and articles will discuss the range efficiency levels and how they are measured and achieved.  

LIPA announces the Date and Time for its Annual General Meeting, aka “AGM”

LIPA announces the Date and Time for its Annual General Meeting, aka “AGM”


The meeting will be held virtually on Monday, December 7, 2020, from 8am-12pm EST (New York Time); 5am-9am PST (LA Time); 9pm-1am China time; 10pm-2am Japan time; 2pm-6pm Europe Time.

This year’s program is taking shape with the following confirmed speakers/topics

·      Dr. Karl Schulmeister – Standardization Update
·      David Hancock, OMDIA – Global Cinema Market update and trends
·      Rosemary Abowd, PMA Research – Global non-cinema Market update and trends
·      Michael Cummings, TKArchitects – Cinema and Entertainment Venues – Market trends and the impacts of Laser Projectors on Cinema operations
·      A panel discussion on changes and opportunity in Cinema and Non-cinema markets due to Covid and other trends (Hancock, Abowd, Cummings)

We are still seeking additional speakers in the areas of technology and application trends and opportunities and will announce them as they are confirmed.  Suggestions and referrals are welcome, for speakers as well as new members.  [billbeck59a2@gmail.com]

Finally, the AGM will include our committee reports and a report from our chairman.

We all look forward to a productive and informative meeting and a more prosperous new year.  

Laser Projectors Go to the Drive-In

The International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA), in conjunction Box Office Pro magazine, presented a webinar entitled “Back to the Future – How Drive-Ins and Pop-Up Cinema Complements the Movie Going Experience in the Covid-19 Aftermath.”  Moderated by Frank Tees, VP of ICTA, the group presented five “interviews” describing innovative approaches to exhibiting movies…outdoors.  Yes, ‘Back to the Future’ is right.

I logged in for two reasons:  first, I wanted to see how the exhibition business is finding new (or dare I say “re-imagined”) ways to get movies on the screen for its patrons in the “time of Covid” lockdowns – and second, to see if high brightness Laser Illuminated Projectors (LIPs) are playing an enabling role.  I was not disappointed in either case.

Some background for the youngsters in the audience:  Drive-in Theaters were all the rage in the 50s, peaking at 4,063 outdoor screens in 1958.  Yes, with film projectors and those tinny speakers you hung on your partly rolled down window.  Due to factors both cultural, competing entertainment options and economic, increased real estate values for alternative land uses, screen counts declined continuously from the peak leaving only 549 screens at 305 locations last year. 

But then along came Covid and the lockdowns.  Exhibitors went from a record-breaking start in the first two months of 2020 to dead stop by the end of March.  But then some enterprising exhibitors looked back and decided they could update 50s Drive-ins, build new Pop-Ups or hang “parking lot screens” on the sides of their now-closed multiplexes, keeping their brands alive and patrons happy.

The 5 presenters ranged from seasoned Drive-in owners to “indoor theater” managers desperate to stay connected to their loyal local and summer tourist patrons to a creative neophyte who had never himself been to a Drive-In as a kid.  Lots of cleverness and “learn as you go” – but all animated by the love of Cinema and the spirit of “can do”.  Even new, “inflatable screens” (Yes, big ones! Even two-sided ones) have been deployed to bring outdoor Cinema to some unlikely places – like this one in Venice for the VFF. Not your backyard cinema!

Photo courtesy of AirScreen

But what about Lasers at the Drive In?  Joe De Meo of Cinionic interviewed Rick Cohen, CEO of Transit Drive-In Theatre in Lockport, NY, near Buffalo, a five screen multiplex run by his family for 3 generations since they acquired it in 1957.  No amateurs here!  All the time I spent pushing laser cinema (since 2003), I always thought that Drive-Ins could profit from the benefits of Laser Projection:  Double the brightness of the best Xenon PJ; better color and contrast, power savings – the best for the biggest big screen. But it took a while.

Rick described how they “saw the demo in Rochester ten years ago and wanted laser”.  They held out until 2012, hoping they could go digital and laser at once, but they ultimately decided to convert to digital and wait a bit longer to go Laser.  They “pulled the trigger on Laser this year and installed a 60L in May”, just in time for the lockdown. 

The results?  “Phenomenal.  Unimaginable brightness – on a 100’x41’ screen”.  So, his first laser screen, the biggest of the 5, went from being the dimmest to being the brightest.  Patrons that used to compare pictures for years – the biggest Xenon screen had the dimmest picture.  Laser has flipped this and now the expectation is set.  Transit will soon be the first “All Laser, Drive-In Multiplex” – bringing the benefits of Laser Illuminated Projectors to all 5 screens.  Back to the Future, indeed.

LIPA and Lasers at the EDCF Annual Meeting

LIPA and Lasers at the EDCF Annual Meeting

This year’s annual European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF) Meeting -– like so many 2020 annual get togethers, was virtual this year.  And LIPA and Lasers were on the program.  LIPA’s Chairman, Dr. Goran Stojmenovik, Barco’s Sr. Product Manager for Laser Projection, updated the audience on the latest applicable IEC regulations for EU deployments of High Brightness (HB) Laser Illuminated Projectors (aka: LIPs).  Though largely focused on LIPs for Digital Cinema, Dr. Stojmenovik explained that nowadays, all LIPs are subject to IEC regulations governing audience and employee exposure.  Furthermore, since the IEC has moved to regulatory criteria based on what radiance comes out of the lens and not the power of the Laser Light Source (LLS), regulations apply to Lamp-Based projectors as well.  If they have high radiance and fall into “Risk Group 3”, both Laser and Lamp illuminated projectors are subject to the same safety regulations. 

Dr. Stojmenovik focused on Risk Group 3 (RG3) projectors as they are the brightest and thus have the most complex and stringent regulations, use conditions, training requirements and documentation needed – for manufacturers, distributors/dealers, owners and operators.  He explained that eye hazard is a function of radiance, that is, the projected optical Power (watts), cross-sectional area of the projector’s illumination “pupil” and the beam divergence (throw-ratio) of the lens.  That is to say, not lumens, which is related to the eye’s sensitivity to different colors.  This is why the hazard level is the same for both laser and lamp illuminated projectors of equivalent radiance, spot size and beam divergence (solid angle).  This has been the contention and basis of LIPA’s successful regulatory rationalization efforts since it was founded in 2011.

After explaining the scientific rationale for the new regulations, Dr. Stojmenovik described the impact of these regulations on both Cinema and non-cinema applications.  The key figures of merit are the Hazard Distance (HD) – the point at which the light intensity drops to a non-hazardous level; Separation Height (SH) the distance above the floor (within the HD) that the bottom of the beam must be for patrons to be able to sit under it.  In Europe, this distance is 2 meters; in the US, 2.5 meters.  These “guard bands” around the lens are calculated based on radiance and lens throw (divergence) and determine if a Restricted Zone (RZ) is required. For more details, access the full presentation here.

Bill Beck, The Laser Guy

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