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Video Maven John Bishop: MicroLED Claims are ‘Fake News’

Video geek John Bishop says MicroLED and Directview LED displays have nothing on two-piece video projection systems, and claims of superior uniformity, black levels and light span are overstated.

Video Maven John Bishop: MicroLED Claims are ‘Fake News’
Independent rep John Bishop says the Times Square Dolby Vision theater has a video-projection set-up that cost maybe $350,000 vs. a much-smaller MicroLED solution that might cost $1 million.

John Bishop · November 8, 2018

MicroLEDs, direct-view LEDs, small-pitch LEDs ... whatever you call the new breed of large-screen, high-resolution displays, the category is hot. So hot that it was going to be a shoo-in for CE Pro's Top 5 Home Tech Trends and Opportunities for 2019. But it's not.

Gorgeous and exciting as Sony's CLEDIS and Samsung's The Wall are, we still have a couple of years until they are ready for the two-percent, and not just the one-percent of households. Integrators steered us away from the category for 2019's Top 5 class, hoping that 2020 will be "the year."

During a CEDIA Expo Tech Talk, presenters gave a compelling case for the new large-format displays, noting their potential to displace big two-piece projector systems in the future. 

We received several responses on Facebook and Twitter about the talk and our related story, and one particularly long-winded comment on cepro.com. Not surprisingly, the comment came from John Bishop, video maven and owner of the rep firm b/a/s/ Bishop Architectural-entertainment Services in the Northeast.

While he sees potential for MicroLEDs in the consumer market -- some day -- he says they're a long way off from projection systems.

Related:  Invasion of the Giant MicroLEDs

At a recent SMPTE video-geek meeting, he says he saw the next-generation crystal LED 4K display from Sony. He says the second-gen 4K version, with a 1.2mm-pixel pitch, is vastly improved over the first, which had a higher-gloss finish that wouldn't work well in real-world conditions.

"It looked good, better than any TV," he tells CE Pro; however, the 9 x 16-foot panel would have a retail price of $1.4 million.

"Price is a pretty important factor," he says.

Meanwhile, Bishop just attended a showing of Bohemian Rhapsody at the Times Square Dolby Vision theater. Besides having "probably the best ATMOS mix I’ve ever heard," Bishop says, "the image was superb."

He estimates the projection system cost about $350,000 for a screen size of about 30 x 65 feet.

Direct-view LED "is not yet ready for the scale of cinema," Bishop says. "In residential environs it’s getting there, but only for those in the 1% class right now."

Here's Bishop's full remarks on the state of MicroLEDs and related large-display formats.

A MicroLED Rebuttal: 

Great topic!

But not so fast on the demise of projection or the perhaps dubious advantages of MicroLED elicited by the panelists.

MicroLED is a coming technology and even Hollywood is working on new standards for it related to the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCi) to bring this display technology into technical and artistic compliance with the creative community’s expectations. And by the way, they can run at 100 nits (the Dolby Vision Luminance standard) as well as 1,000 nits!

But microLED is not considered a replacement for projection in cinema in part due to LED's performance and economic disadvantages, which are largely missed when discussing this topic. Of course, the panelist is from a company that only makes TVs (Samsung), so they have a bias, and perhaps a lack of understanding of projection in cinema. But in any case, let’s not impugn the undisputed king of cinema displays today, and into the foreseeable future: video projection.

1. First and foremost, don’t forget about the economics.

The 146-inch "The Wall" from Samsung was quoted at CEDIA to be a $380,000 retail item. That’s about $2,600 per diagonal inch! You can easily match that size with a projector and screen using products available at Best Buy starting at $20 per diagonal inch! The Samsung CinemaWall deployed in a couple of theaters in South Korea, and one experimental location in SoCal, is an 18-foot x 33-foot screen using 2.5mm dot pitch panels to yield a 2160 x 4096-pixel image. Its cost is also in that $300K to $400K range. Even if the price drops to half that over time, that’s double the cost of projection for a screen half the size of many cinema screens. These are important economic barriers today and for some time to come.

2. Performance is the next issue.

Samsung's comment about microLED’s superior uniformity is factual, relative to all LCD TV’s which have horrible white field uniformity, and even OLED which struggles with dark field issues. However, no display technology (yet) can match the superior uniformity and white field purity of a cinema-grade DLP image projected onto a reference post-production quality screen, like the Stewart Filmscreen's SnoMatte (tested to resolve better than 16K on screens as small as 10-feet wide). Barco is a vendor that makes all of these technologies and they are quick to recognize that the reference in cinema today is DLP in general, with the 6P laser being today’s "best of the best."

3. "There isn’t a projector on the market that can do that"

This segment from the article refers to image performance in high ambient light. The very premise is a false one. No director wants their art viewed in high ambient light on a giant TV. The willing suspension of disbelief is a core principle in cinematic story-telling, and the escapism for a couple hours into a world created by Hitchcock or Tarantino depends on it. A lit room is the antithesis of that, and if it weren’t, you might see cinema projection on high ambient light rejection "conference room" screens where they would compete with direct LED in that environment. But the uniformity problems of those screens would cause Hollywood to reject them as well.

4. The last items in Samsung's pitch relate to black levels and the economic value compared to projection.

First, black levels in cinema are a function of the environment more than the technology, and to that extent TV tech that turns black into a glossy monolith is not considered to be good in cinema circles. It looks like a TV, not a cinema image. Barry Sonnenfeld referred to this in his talk at CEDIA and said specifically, "I wouldn’t want to watch a movie on any big (85-inch) TV on the market today." Regarding lifespan, the 100,000 hours of LED is theoretically true but doesn’t by any means eclipse the lifespan of laser light sources. And ultimately the LED’s failure will be either an individual pixel, dead or stuck on, or a panel failure of which there are 100’s in a typical screen. Lifespan benefits are fake news.



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at jjacobson@ehpub.com

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · Projectors & Screens · News · MicroLED · Projectors · Samsung · Sony · Stewart Filmscreen · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

(the post below was cutoff, by a symbol I believe…so to follow the text following ‘those annoying projectors…

And those ‘annoying projectors’ (again your words, not mine) typically fit nicely in the back of screening rooms, out of the way; or even better, they’re located out of the room entirely firing through a port window that completely isolates any noise or heat from the viewing environment. M-LED is the equivalent of placing dozens of TV’s on a wall in the viewing room.

The heat, noise, and power factor were barely mentioned in the M-LED panel discussion. Some have fans, and all generate heat, and a lot of it! They suggested otherwise, but like the life span claims, a lot is left out. The heat & power for a single 20” panel is one thing, multiply it by 50 or 100 and it’s quite another.

I specified a 7’ x 16’ M-LED display for a recent proposal using Planar/Leyard’s 0.9mm technology that yields a 5K native scope image. Like the Barco 5K CinemaScope projectors, it is a 2160 x 5120 pixel-array for a 16’ wide scope image. Very cool! But this wall weighs over 1,000 lbs, needs 10kW of power, and is comprised of 48 panels with a total cost of around $500K. The Sony panel mentioned above is the same width in a 1.78:1 video format (9’x16’) using 72 panels at $20K msrp each; about $1.5 million for a 1.2mm dot pitch wall.
It better last 20 years! That’s $75,000/year. The Samsung Wall is a 146” display whose cost over the life span mentioned is about $25,000/year. Price; when they won’t talk about it, it may be an issue!

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

Julie, thanks for picking up on my post and generating this nice article.
I hope the topic gets the attention of some of the very high-end dealers in the market today.

The headline sounds a little anti Micro-LED, which I’m not. 
I do respect and sell video wall tech when I get the opportunity. I have even developed a spread sheet tool as a dealer guide for design issues like dot pitch, pixel counts that adhere to video standards & film formats, as well as the viewing geometry issues. I don’t see M-LED as a replacement for projection for the reasons I cite above, and add to here. But in the right application, it can be the coolest of video tech.

The reason I responded to the Samsung/Harman article was because it implied things about projection versus M-LED that are debatable. And it concludes that M-LED will someday (soon perhaps?) replace those ‘annoying’ 2-piece projection systems. Not likely, even in the next decade if you ask me.

Scalability was mentioned many times, and yes, they are constructed from small building blocks to create any size or shape. But that’s a Times Square solution. In video and cinema, the pixel structure must hit a standard for video and cinema formats to look good enough for the close viewing we enjoy at home. In that context, the locked down pixel structure of M-LED presents a tough challenge. Only projection is truly scalable while still maintaining the requisite video standard (& film formats with devices like Barco’s native CinemaScope 5K projectors). With projectors, the ‘scaling’ is electro-optical, and maintains its native video structure over a wide range of sizes, luminance levels, and viewing distances. Projection is far more scalable, and adaptable to residential and commercial cinema’s requirements. Now and forever.

And those ‘annoying projectors’ (again your words, not mine

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

Part Duex

Finally, there is the audio question. Where do we put the center channel?

I’ve always tried to keep speakers from going behind screens if possible because of the significant image degradation and light loss of AT screens. The immersive audio world makes it even more defendable to put speakers around a screen, not behind it.

Don Stewart told me of a time when they got a cinema screen project for a European exhibitor for 150 opaque screens (Stewart makes a reference microperf with higher resolution than any other AT screen, but opaque ST100 is far higher resolution than MP). The exhibitor was a high-end operation and designed the sound system to locate speakers above the screens for better performance of both image and sound.

Today, as Jim Garrett mentioned, you want a good height delta between the main speakers and the elevation speakers. In fact, the minimum audible angle for distinguishing sound position in the vertical plane is about 15 to 20 degrees (from Blauert, ‘Spatial Hearing’). That mandates that kind of delta, and it also justifies positioning the center channel above or below the screen even in the absence of 3D audio.
Jim emphasized placement above the screen, but that can compromise hemispherical sound.

I have a James Loudspeaker design in process that creates a perimeter frame for LCR placements above, below, and on the sides of a Stewart VistaScope or a Planar Direct LED wall, both in a narrow bezel design only a custom JLC metal fabrication could accomplish. That may be a part of the future in high end cinema sound design, where dynamics and localization are far from what a conventional hifi sound system design can achieve.

Thanks for your comments as well Mr. Nemesh & Sipe.
I agree, the market will decide, and based on the factors cited, high end projection will not be impacted by M-LED anytime soon. And the TV tech comparisons may not apply here at all. Plasma changed the TV world 20 years ago; and made it flat. But LCD’s killed plasma, with an inferior technology that was cheaper to make, and it drove the 4K market trick to high volume sales, partly by killing 1080p as well.

Large cheap flat panels do impact low end projection systems significantly. But cinema grade performance in rooms with screens 10’ wide and up, will not be hurt by a tech not likely to scale economically to the real world any time soon. It’s not for the masses, it’s for the classes.
It doesn’t match the image quality of projection yet (for projos starting at around $10k msrp), in cinematic terms, and it is an order of magnitude too expensive today, and without a high-volume market driver to bring it down.

I love M-LED, for art, and high ambient light environs, but that’s not cinema, where projection is king, and I expect will live long and prosper.

Here’s to better cinema experiences at home!
Cheers,

Posted by Mark Sipe on November 9, 2018

I remember selling 50” displays for 50k that would stand up to any cheap TV today.  Whichever is better or worse one is just a lot easier to sell and set up. While not gone yet 2 piece projection can see the writing on the wall and its written on flat panel displays.  So far as price we will see it drop like a rock when the next new technology shows up.  People will still buy projectors but flat panels are cutting into that business and it will only grow until that fateful day when that business dries up.

Posted by John Nemesh on November 8, 2018

I think the market will decide the issue.  Everyone who has seen the Samsung “Onyx” cinema screens seems pretty impressed…and directors and theater owners both have already stated that home viewing on a modern HDR set with a 4k source gives a better picture than the best laser projectors available.

$360k for “The Wall” is going to limit it’s deployment to the richest of the rich for now…but I remember selling 85” plasma TVs for $50k too…now you can get a 4k 82” LED TV for $2500…at COSTCO!  What is high end today will be commonplace tomorrow.  I can also see this technology evolving quickly, with higher and higher pixel densities.  Eventually, we will probably see this modular approach come home…start with a 65” kit, expand later to an 85” by adding extra panels, and eventually upgrade again to 100” or 160”, or whatever size you want.

We have a FEW more years where projectors are going to be the preferred option, mainly due to cost vs. size…but I wouldn’t count on projectors being used in even 10 years, as micro LED technology matures.  Certainly not in commercial theaters, and probably not in the home either.

Posted by John Nemesh on November 8, 2018

I think the market will decide the issue.  Everyone who has seen the Samsung “Onyx” cinema screens seems pretty impressed…and directors and theater owners both have already stated that home viewing on a modern HDR set with a 4k source gives a better picture than the best laser projectors available.

$360k for “The Wall” is going to limit it’s deployment to the richest of the rich for now…but I remember selling 85” plasma TVs for $50k too…now you can get a 4k 82” LED TV for $2500…at COSTCO!  What is high end today will be commonplace tomorrow.  I can also see this technology evolving quickly, with higher and higher pixel densities.  Eventually, we will probably see this modular approach come home…start with a 65” kit, expand later to an 85” by adding extra panels, and eventually upgrade again to 100” or 160”, or whatever size you want.

We have a FEW more years where projectors are going to be the preferred option, mainly due to cost vs. size…but I wouldn’t count on projectors being used in even 10 years, as micro LED technology matures.  Certainly not in commercial theaters, and probably not in the home either.

Posted by Mark Sipe on November 9, 2018

I remember selling 50” displays for 50k that would stand up to any cheap TV today.  Whichever is better or worse one is just a lot easier to sell and set up. While not gone yet 2 piece projection can see the writing on the wall and its written on flat panel displays.  So far as price we will see it drop like a rock when the next new technology shows up.  People will still buy projectors but flat panels are cutting into that business and it will only grow until that fateful day when that business dries up.

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

Part Duex

Finally, there is the audio question. Where do we put the center channel?

I’ve always tried to keep speakers from going behind screens if possible because of the significant image degradation and light loss of AT screens. The immersive audio world makes it even more defendable to put speakers around a screen, not behind it.

Don Stewart told me of a time when they got a cinema screen project for a European exhibitor for 150 opaque screens (Stewart makes a reference microperf with higher resolution than any other AT screen, but opaque ST100 is far higher resolution than MP). The exhibitor was a high-end operation and designed the sound system to locate speakers above the screens for better performance of both image and sound.

Today, as Jim Garrett mentioned, you want a good height delta between the main speakers and the elevation speakers. In fact, the minimum audible angle for distinguishing sound position in the vertical plane is about 15 to 20 degrees (from Blauert, ‘Spatial Hearing’). That mandates that kind of delta, and it also justifies positioning the center channel above or below the screen even in the absence of 3D audio.
Jim emphasized placement above the screen, but that can compromise hemispherical sound.

I have a James Loudspeaker design in process that creates a perimeter frame for LCR placements above, below, and on the sides of a Stewart VistaScope or a Planar Direct LED wall, both in a narrow bezel design only a custom JLC metal fabrication could accomplish. That may be a part of the future in high end cinema sound design, where dynamics and localization are far from what a conventional hifi sound system design can achieve.

Thanks for your comments as well Mr. Nemesh & Sipe.
I agree, the market will decide, and based on the factors cited, high end projection will not be impacted by M-LED anytime soon. And the TV tech comparisons may not apply here at all. Plasma changed the TV world 20 years ago; and made it flat. But LCD’s killed plasma, with an inferior technology that was cheaper to make, and it drove the 4K market trick to high volume sales, partly by killing 1080p as well.

Large cheap flat panels do impact low end projection systems significantly. But cinema grade performance in rooms with screens 10’ wide and up, will not be hurt by a tech not likely to scale economically to the real world any time soon. It’s not for the masses, it’s for the classes.
It doesn’t match the image quality of projection yet (for projos starting at around $10k msrp), in cinematic terms, and it is an order of magnitude too expensive today, and without a high-volume market driver to bring it down.

I love M-LED, for art, and high ambient light environs, but that’s not cinema, where projection is king, and I expect will live long and prosper.

Here’s to better cinema experiences at home!
Cheers,

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

Julie, thanks for picking up on my post and generating this nice article.
I hope the topic gets the attention of some of the very high-end dealers in the market today.

The headline sounds a little anti Micro-LED, which I’m not. 
I do respect and sell video wall tech when I get the opportunity. I have even developed a spread sheet tool as a dealer guide for design issues like dot pitch, pixel counts that adhere to video standards & film formats, as well as the viewing geometry issues. I don’t see M-LED as a replacement for projection for the reasons I cite above, and add to here. But in the right application, it can be the coolest of video tech.

The reason I responded to the Samsung/Harman article was because it implied things about projection versus M-LED that are debatable. And it concludes that M-LED will someday (soon perhaps?) replace those ‘annoying’ 2-piece projection systems. Not likely, even in the next decade if you ask me.

Scalability was mentioned many times, and yes, they are constructed from small building blocks to create any size or shape. But that’s a Times Square solution. In video and cinema, the pixel structure must hit a standard for video and cinema formats to look good enough for the close viewing we enjoy at home. In that context, the locked down pixel structure of M-LED presents a tough challenge. Only projection is truly scalable while still maintaining the requisite video standard (& film formats with devices like Barco’s native CinemaScope 5K projectors). With projectors, the ‘scaling’ is electro-optical, and maintains its native video structure over a wide range of sizes, luminance levels, and viewing distances. Projection is far more scalable, and adaptable to residential and commercial cinema’s requirements. Now and forever.

And those ‘annoying projectors’ (again your words, not mine

Posted by jrbishop on November 11, 2018

(the post below was cutoff, by a symbol I believe…so to follow the text following ‘those annoying projectors…

And those ‘annoying projectors’ (again your words, not mine) typically fit nicely in the back of screening rooms, out of the way; or even better, they’re located out of the room entirely firing through a port window that completely isolates any noise or heat from the viewing environment. M-LED is the equivalent of placing dozens of TV’s on a wall in the viewing room.

The heat, noise, and power factor were barely mentioned in the M-LED panel discussion. Some have fans, and all generate heat, and a lot of it! They suggested otherwise, but like the life span claims, a lot is left out. The heat & power for a single 20” panel is one thing, multiply it by 50 or 100 and it’s quite another.

I specified a 7’ x 16’ M-LED display for a recent proposal using Planar/Leyard’s 0.9mm technology that yields a 5K native scope image. Like the Barco 5K CinemaScope projectors, it is a 2160 x 5120 pixel-array for a 16’ wide scope image. Very cool! But this wall weighs over 1,000 lbs, needs 10kW of power, and is comprised of 48 panels with a total cost of around $500K. The Sony panel mentioned above is the same width in a 1.78:1 video format (9’x16’) using 72 panels at $20K msrp each; about $1.5 million for a 1.2mm dot pitch wall.
It better last 20 years! That’s $75,000/year. The Samsung Wall is a 146” display whose cost over the life span mentioned is about $25,000/year. Price; when they won’t talk about it, it may be an issue!

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