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Invasion of the Giant MicroLEDs and the Pesky Question of LCR Speakers: CEDIA Tech Talk

During a CEDIA Expo 2018 Tech Talk, Samsung and Harman discuss video walls, including 'The Wall' and other MicroLEDs, in residential applications, plus challenges of LCR speaker placement.

Invasion of the Giant MicroLEDs and the Pesky Question of LCR Speakers: CEDIA Tech Talk
CE Pro's Jason Knott moderates a CEDIA Expo 2018 Tech Talk on video walls and MicroLED displays with Samsung's Christopher Simpson and Harman's Jim Garrett.

Julie Jacobson · September 24, 2018

Video projectors and screens, beware. There’s a new big-screen display in town that could someday replace annoying two-piece projection systems in the home. Imagine “video walls” built with modular LED panels that piece together with virtually no visible seams.

These “MicroLED” panels were the hit of CEDIA Expo 2018, pitched by several manufacturers including Samsung, whose 146-inch “The Wall” enthralled tens of thousands of CE pros for the first time at CES 2018 in January.

MicroLED panels comprise an array of LEDs – red, green and blue diodes – that are not just small, but “very, very, very small – microscopic in size, in some instances,” says Christopher Simpson, senior business development manager Samsung Electronics America.

In video renderings, blacks are true blacks because the individual diodes turn off – “black is the absence of light” – when the image calls for it. With that, “you get much higher contrast, much better color, and it also lends itself very well to scalability,” Simpson said during a CEDIA Expo Tech Talk moderated by CE Pro’s Jason Knott.

It’s not just image quality and scalability that make MicroLEDs so appealing. It’s that they can go anywhere, including brighter spaces where traditional projection systems fall flat – seriously flat, like washed out. On the other hand, MicroLEDs pop in ambient light, even off-angle.

"There isn’t a projector in the market that can do that."
— Samsung's Christopher Simpson on MicroLED lifespan

Calling the picture quality “exceptional” and “in a league of its own,” Simpson says, “You don’t get traditional degradation of image quality from left to right or top to bottom.”

Imagine, then, the places these displays can go in the luxury residential market – outside of the dedicated home theater and into the living room, say, for showcasing digital artwork on a large scale and in custom “canvas” sizes, Simpson explains: "Because it’s modular, it doesn’t have to fit the traditional [TV] form factor.”

Not every masterpiece, after all, comes in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Even if the client does opt for Samsung’s standard 146-inch rectangle, the software can right-size a virtual frame for any “artwork,” and oglers will swear they’re viewing the real thing with a custom-made cardboard matte.

It’s the same stunning feat Samsung performs with The Frame, a gorgeous LCD that can blend right in with a wall full of framed family portraits or artsy prints. Simpson revealed during the CEDIA talk that Samsung would indeed incorporate some of The Frame’s digital magic into The Wall’s feature set.

Where do the Speakers Go? Center Channels, Anyone?

While big MicroLED arrays – Samsung’s or otherwise – can shine in applications outside a dedicated home theater, they can still rock the dedicated cinema room. The challenge is: Where do you put the speakers?

Joining Simpson on the Tech Talk stage was Jim Garrett, representing the Luxury Audio division of Harman International, a Samsung company. While he gushed about the art-and-architecture potential of The Wall, he acknowledged that many of the products would end up in traditional home theaters with cushy chairs and black-out shades and the finest surround-sound processors … and not a lot of places to put the front speakers.

“All the integrators are typically used to putting the speakers behind the screen – so a perforated or woven screen,” Garrett says. “Obviously now, with a solid surface, it kind of precludes you from doing that.”

The side channels, height channels and rear surrounds should be OK, but when it comes to L/C/R placement, says Garrett, “That’s the aspect of the system that really has to change.”

During the Tech Talk, Garrett runs through a number of options for L/C/Rs, including positioning them across the top of the screen. The problem there is that they get pretty close to the height channels.

Starting at 6:04 in the recorded presentation, Garrett illustrates some of the speaker-placement options for ultra-large displays, and explains pros and cons of each scenario. He continues at 12:00 with more discussion on how to match appropriate speakers to a big wall of video.

What Price MicroLED?

When Jason Knott asked about the price of Samsung’s The Wall, Simpson demurred – let’s face it, the product is expensive – but he did highlight some of the extra features that make MicroLEDs a good “value.”

 For example, the LED diodes have a 100,000-hour lifespan to half-life.

“In a commercial application, where you’re running it 10 hours a day, you’re looking at 17 to 20 years before you even reach half your brightness,” says Simpson. “There isn’t a projector in the market that can do that. Even laser projectors don’t have that kind of longevity.”

Furthermore, MicroLEDs don’t consume lamps and filters like projectors do. Simpson suggests you might replace a projector and screen two or three times during the lifespan of a MicroLED display.

For some other interesting highlights of the Tech Talk, skip to 22:50, when Knott imagines the displays as something out of Fahrenheit 451, and Simpson points out some viable and interesting scenarios that would actually “make sense.”

The audience Q&A starts at 23:45 and includes some more technical discussions about Dolby Vision and HDR10, MicroLED and fine-pitch displays in commercial cinemas (15 of them), the “monumental task” of solving audio in these venues, scalability and pixel count, and this: What about glare?

The Wall is on display at Samsung’s East Coast experience center; a West Coast showroom will open in Irvine, Calif. in November. Simpson says Samsung will then look for demo locales between the coasts.

Check out all of the CEDIA Expo 2018 Tech Talks powered by CE Pro.


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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · Speakers · Loudspeakers · Object Based Surround Components · Events · CEDIA · News · Products · CEDIA TechTalk · Harman · MicroLED · Samsung · Video Wall · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by jrbishop on October 9, 2018

And if I may continue in summary;
Sonnenfeld’s talk provides a good overview of this entire issue. He described his personal theater, which he loves; It’s a 16’ wide scope screen with a cinema technology based projector. This is about a $100K display for projection and screen, assuming a side masking system like VistaScope. By the way he’s shooting his current Netflix show in the 2.0:1 ratio known as Univisium, interestingly enough.

His same image size and format can be displayed with direct LED, like the 0.9mm pitch from Leyard/Planar.
I worked up a chart of cinema formats using direct LED options from Planar, and organized it in a spread sheet specifically because direct LED is NOT scalable as claimed in the article. But projection certainly is, and infinitely scalable at that. You can’t zoom your way to an image size requirement with micro LED. You need to hit cinema/video pixel counts and aspect ratios in order to avoid dramatic processing problems and aesthetic issues for example.

So, in my chart I have a display that measures 7’ x 16’ with a pixel structure of 2160 x 5120. It is a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with a 5K pixel structure that is identical to the Barco Loki CinemaScope. The LokiCS projector would be a great upgrade to Sonnenfeld’s theater if he wanted the 5K UHD HDR benefits from a 10,000 Lumen laser projector. But in his room, micro LED would offer no real benefit over the Loki/Vistascope package. Not performance, or lifespan. Yes, he could watch TV with the lights up, but for that benefit he’d pay about $500K today. It just doesn’t make sense.

In our CEDIA centric world micro LED at given sizes, for specific viewing distances, has real potential. Especially for high ambient light spaces. But for theater applications, nothing performs better, lasts longer or is more scalable than laser driven DLP on reference grade screens.
Nothing at least when the metrics are cinema based.

Thanks again for continuing the conversation in our industry on topics as timely as this one.
Cheers,

John Bishop - President; b/a/s/ Bishop Architectural Entertainment Services
                Founder; TASoPCA The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects
                Director: Architectural Audio Services & Architectural Cinema for the James Loudspeaker Co.

Posted by jrbishop on October 9, 2018

Hi Julie,
Great topic;
But not so fast on the demise of projection, or the perhaps dubious advantages of Micro LED elicited by the panel. Micro LED 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 100nits (the Dolby Vision Luminance standard) as well as 1,000nits!

But micro LED is not considered a replacement for projection in cinema in part due to LED’s performance and economic disadvantages which are largely missed in this article. Of course, the panel is from a company that only makes TV’s, 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, and that is projection, and here’s why;

1. First & foremost, don’t forget about the economics. The 146” Wall as Samsung calls it was quoted at CEDIA to be a $380,000 retail item. That’s about $2,600 a diagonal inch! You can easily match that size with a projector & screen using products available at Best Buy starting at $20 per diagonal inch! The Samsung CinemaWall deployed in a couple theaters in South Korea, and one experimental location in SoCal is an 18’ x 33’ 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 it 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. The Samsung comment about micro LED’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’ 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 6P laser being today’s ‘best of the best’.

3. ‘There isn’t a projector on the market that can do that’ – This ‘headline’ 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 environ. But the uniformity problems of those screens would cause Hollywood to reject them as well.

4. The last items in the Samsung pitch relate to black levels and economic value compared to projection. First, black levels in cinema are a function of the environment more than the technology, and to the extent TV tech 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”) TV on the market today’. Regarding life span, the 100,000 hours of LED is theoretically true, but doesn’t by any means eclipse the life span 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.

Thanks for bringing us the latest news on the latest technologies, as things are changing fast!
Cheers,

Posted by jimnoyd on September 25, 2018

Great application for the Trinnov Altitude 16 or 32! From their website, “Thanks to the 3D measurement capabilities of our microphone, each speaker’s actual placement can precisely be localized in the room regarding distance, azimuth, and elevation. Knowing the intended placement of various sounds within the soundtrack (since we decoded it), we can then “remap” the sound objects from the theory of the soundtrack to the reality of your particular room, using the closest two or three speakers to create a phantom image of the sound where it should be. While 2D remapping deals mainly with the horizontal plane, 3D remapping will manage both azimuths and elevations.”

Posted by jimnoyd on September 25, 2018

Great application for the Trinnov Altitude 16 or 32! From their website, “Thanks to the 3D measurement capabilities of our microphone, each speaker’s actual placement can precisely be localized in the room regarding distance, azimuth, and elevation. Knowing the intended placement of various sounds within the soundtrack (since we decoded it), we can then “remap” the sound objects from the theory of the soundtrack to the reality of your particular room, using the closest two or three speakers to create a phantom image of the sound where it should be. While 2D remapping deals mainly with the horizontal plane, 3D remapping will manage both azimuths and elevations.”

Posted by jrbishop on October 9, 2018

Hi Julie,
Great topic;
But not so fast on the demise of projection, or the perhaps dubious advantages of Micro LED elicited by the panel. Micro LED 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 100nits (the Dolby Vision Luminance standard) as well as 1,000nits!

But micro LED is not considered a replacement for projection in cinema in part due to LED’s performance and economic disadvantages which are largely missed in this article. Of course, the panel is from a company that only makes TV’s, 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, and that is projection, and here’s why;

1. First & foremost, don’t forget about the economics. The 146” Wall as Samsung calls it was quoted at CEDIA to be a $380,000 retail item. That’s about $2,600 a diagonal inch! You can easily match that size with a projector & screen using products available at Best Buy starting at $20 per diagonal inch! The Samsung CinemaWall deployed in a couple theaters in South Korea, and one experimental location in SoCal is an 18’ x 33’ 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 it 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. The Samsung comment about micro LED’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’ 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 6P laser being today’s ‘best of the best’.

3. ‘There isn’t a projector on the market that can do that’ – This ‘headline’ 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 environ. But the uniformity problems of those screens would cause Hollywood to reject them as well.

4. The last items in the Samsung pitch relate to black levels and economic value compared to projection. First, black levels in cinema are a function of the environment more than the technology, and to the extent TV tech 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”) TV on the market today’. Regarding life span, the 100,000 hours of LED is theoretically true, but doesn’t by any means eclipse the life span 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.

Thanks for bringing us the latest news on the latest technologies, as things are changing fast!
Cheers,

Posted by jrbishop on October 9, 2018

And if I may continue in summary;
Sonnenfeld’s talk provides a good overview of this entire issue. He described his personal theater, which he loves; It’s a 16’ wide scope screen with a cinema technology based projector. This is about a $100K display for projection and screen, assuming a side masking system like VistaScope. By the way he’s shooting his current Netflix show in the 2.0:1 ratio known as Univisium, interestingly enough.

His same image size and format can be displayed with direct LED, like the 0.9mm pitch from Leyard/Planar.
I worked up a chart of cinema formats using direct LED options from Planar, and organized it in a spread sheet specifically because direct LED is NOT scalable as claimed in the article. But projection certainly is, and infinitely scalable at that. You can’t zoom your way to an image size requirement with micro LED. You need to hit cinema/video pixel counts and aspect ratios in order to avoid dramatic processing problems and aesthetic issues for example.

So, in my chart I have a display that measures 7’ x 16’ with a pixel structure of 2160 x 5120. It is a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with a 5K pixel structure that is identical to the Barco Loki CinemaScope. The LokiCS projector would be a great upgrade to Sonnenfeld’s theater if he wanted the 5K UHD HDR benefits from a 10,000 Lumen laser projector. But in his room, micro LED would offer no real benefit over the Loki/Vistascope package. Not performance, or lifespan. Yes, he could watch TV with the lights up, but for that benefit he’d pay about $500K today. It just doesn’t make sense.

In our CEDIA centric world micro LED at given sizes, for specific viewing distances, has real potential. Especially for high ambient light spaces. But for theater applications, nothing performs better, lasts longer or is more scalable than laser driven DLP on reference grade screens.
Nothing at least when the metrics are cinema based.

Thanks again for continuing the conversation in our industry on topics as timely as this one.
Cheers,

John Bishop - President; b/a/s/ Bishop Architectural Entertainment Services
                Founder; TASoPCA The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects
                Director: Architectural Audio Services & Architectural Cinema for the James Loudspeaker Co.