Welcome to the Era of the Laser-sharp 3-D Movie

Of all the things Marty McFly and Doc Brown revealed in Back to the Future, the one thing they skipped was the future of showing movies. Oh, they knew about laser projection and stuff like that but they sure didn’t see how that would help get us to 3D movies. Well, here are some coming attractions for tomorrow’s cinema.

Marrying laser technology and projector technology has been around since well before Doc and Marty set off on their time trek. It was actually invented in the 1970s. The problem until now has been laser projectors have still had to rely on a combination of a lamp to provide illumination and some sort of digital processing technology to translate the image you see on the screen. The lamp also needs a spinning color wheel to generate different colors that can create distortions. Eventually, the color wheel breaks down, and the lamp fades. The lamps emit lots of heat and are reliant on mercury, a substance known to be environmental unfriendly to say the least.

Solution? A new way to project called Laser/LED Hybrid technology. This form of illumination is a solid state, so the color wheel is gone, and so are the ghostly distortions. Solid state also means no heat-producing, energy-sucking lamp made of environmentally toxic mercury is necessary.

The real surprise is that the Hybrid LED laser projector is brighter. Old laser projectors needed as many as 30 lasers to reach 3000 lumens. The new solid state laser projectors require far fewer lasers to provide the same brightness.

Okay, so movie houses are about to replace their bulb-based laser projectors with new fangled solid state laser projectors – what’s the big deal?

The big deal is more than lower operating expenses and higher energy savings. The big deal is image quality and the next step in image projection – 3D movies! 3-D requires higher levels of light and color precision than any bulb-based digital projector can handle.

New Hybrid LED laser projectors use light modulator chips, one for red, green and blue beams, the colors necessary for digital projections. This allows precision color beams to be created for each pixel which allows for more subtle images and far more subtleties in light projection.

There are currently two competing technologies doing this: one from Texas Instruments, the other from Sony. Either are capable of projecting colors at over 4000 different brightness levels per pixel.

By broadening the spectrum of the light bandwidth, the projectors of the future will be able to drive more shades of color onto the screen. They’ll be able to provide levels of brightness and darkness the human eye is naturally capable of detecting. They’ll be able to make 3-D more lifelike and 2-D more dynamic. All with cool precision-regulated laser light.

In the end, it is a big deal because it will allow us to make movies that are even more real to us than they already are. Something Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s future never saw.

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