Velvet projectors from Zeiss
- I started posting questions about projection technology several months back. We may have an opportunity to improve our theater in the next couple years, and I thought it would be good to start by becoming more informed about projection technology.
I chose to go with the CRT projectors in 2004 primarily for the black levels, knowing this would mean more maintenance in terms of alignment, color balance, etc. Also, at that time the LCD and DLP projectors were just giving off to much glow. Our primary function was (and is) our daily constellation show, so we chose to live with the 'pie wedges' you see in bright scenes vs. the slight hint of them during a dark sky.
Laura Misajet from Seiler Instruments called and offered to bring two of the Velvet projectors from Zeiss by and I took her up on it. I blocked off the theater for a day, and we were able to sit in the theater and do some very thorough side-by-side comparisons with our CRT projectors.
The Velvet projectors were easy to set up and align and tune, and the craftsmanship and quality of the projectors was literally artistic.
The quality of the imagery was exceptional as well. They are marketing the fact they go completely black (and they do), but at 1900 lumens, they also put out an amazing color spread through the blues and reds, and white was brilliant. They ran their 'Black' demo for me as well as a few clips. While they were Ooohing! And Aaahing! Over our sound system, I was being floored by the seamlessness of the imagery.
They really do go completely black. I had tuned the theater before they arrived, so we were able to turn the CRT and Velvet projectors on and off together. There was no glow, even after I covered the exit lights.
The graphics cards on our Digistar 3 system have 2 DVI outputs. To get to the CRT projectors we have to use a series of adaptors. The Seiler tech. brought a DVI fiber cable, so we were able to send the image from 1 PC to both projectors and do the side-by-side, and the Velvet was receiving a direct DVI signal. The first thing I learned was that what I perceived as white was actually, well, purple. That has as much to do with me not realizing I had been favoring red and blue when I tuned as it did with the age of the tubes (I did a tube replacement 2 years ago).
We discussed what they were developing in terms of resolution, and I asked if they were looking into being able to use those LED\Laser Diode light sources that have been coming out with the 20,000 to 30,000 hour guarantees on them. They said they have been looking into it. I hope it happens.
We all know the Velvets come with a high price tag, but if you look at the support package they come with (like the 10 year warrantee), and the ease-of-maintenance, you really should give them serious consideration if you are planning a new facility or a major upgrade.
Still brings a tear to my eye when I think about watching them getting loaded back into the van (sniffle!).
SCISS sent a representative along as well (hey Marcus). It was a nice opportunity for a little one-on-one time with them as well. They were asking for feed-back, but my 'focus' was the projectors so there wasn't enough time. I do look forward to an opportunity to dig into what they are developing a little more at some point. I tend to be biased toward our Digistar software because that is what I know. I keep asking for one of everything, but management isn't listening.
A couple months ago I was invited to Adler to see their new theater design, and since they had installed 'Zorro' projectors, which was a name that had popped up I took the opportunity to go. Thanks for the invite Mark and Company, in retrospect I apologize for not returning the favor, the visit from Seiler happened on fairly short notice.
Unfortunately, there were so many other things at Adler to ask about in a very short time that I got a bit off track and didn't spend enough time trying to find out more about the Zorros. I know the image quality was impressive, but there was no chance for the kind of side-by-side we did here. I'm hoping for a second road-trip to see a finished, polished presentation now that the doors are open to the public.
All that said, I have not yet had the opportunity to see the latest and greatest from Sony or JVC, and have not heard any other suggestions. I have looked a little into projectors using LED\Laser light sources. The idea of only having to change a bulb every 5(-ish) years makes practical sense both in terms of maintenance and cost. The only two I have seen of the kind of quality we would consider is Vivitek and Wolf Cinemas, but they are designed more for home theater use.
I'd love to see a space set up at IPS for a 'projector shoot-out', where the room could be completely controlled light-level wise and we could just take the time to dissect and compare the different machines side-by-side.
If Zeiss continues to explore the possibility of marketing the projectors to other vendors, it is my hope the larger market will allow them to bring the price down. Combine that with a long-life light source and we could finally be looking at a manageable projector that has some legs on it in terms of sustainability.