This past fall at the 2015 CEDIA Expo in Dallas the commercial video equipment manufacturer Barco surprised many attendees by participating in the annual residential market event. Showcasing what it could do given the opportunity, the company demonstrated a 6P laser projector that highlighted the absolute performance limits of 1080p content in a stunning presentation that included a trailer from what was then the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens epic.
Making a full commitment to the residential market Barco is set to announce its 4K Loki projector to U.S. dealers during an event scheduled to take place in New York on April 6-8.
Tim Sinnaeve, managing director, high end residential, Barco, says the soon-to-be-released projector is expected to carry an MSRP of approximately $60,000, and he points out the product is much different than the 6P laser product the company showed at CEDIA.
“It’s a 4K DLP projector for theater, but if you look at our range, it is in the lower range of what we offer that includes the Orion and Optix,” says Sinnaeve. “What’s exciting about the projector is that it’s the first one takes the Orion and Optix to 4K, and even in the theater version it provides the light output of 8,500 lumens without compromising image quality in its theater version. We will have options to convert it to media versions for the ability to produce up to 12,000 lumens.”
Hamish Neale, business development manager, high end, residential, Barco, says the Loki will employ a trickle-down laser technology for a light engine. Neale points out the company through its engineering experience already knows how to produce, “punchy well-saturated images from lasers,” and he says the Loki’s light engine will employ two banks of lasers with each laser shot through a combiner as part of the light path, including a blue laser that will pass through the optics like a 6P, while the colors hit a cleaner on their way to the DLP chip.
“We are huge fans of DLP because of its natural image,” comments Neale. “We’ve combined all of this with new electronics—Platinum—to develop a new standard, which is a collaborative effort of our R&D [research and development] teams.”
A key component of the Loki will be its use of a .9-inch DLP chip that Sinnaeve and Neale say isn’t new, but a solution that is unique to Barco. Neale adds the projector is expected like other solid-state light engines to provide installers with years of maintenance-free operation to satisfy demanding customers.
“We are looking at 20,000 to 40,000 hours of product life,” says Neale. “This is beautiful engineering to see two banks of lasers.”
Some of Loki’s other features will include a choice of six lens options for installations that cover everything from long throw to wide angle, and zoom options that will fully support the reproduction of anamorphic content. Explaining further, Sinnaeve says part of the Loki’s lens system will include an algorithm that monitors where the black bars are and it will move the lens into position based on that aspect ratio the movie is formatted.
In order to support dealers’ residential sales in the meantime Sinnaeve says that Barco is setting up a special program in which dealers will receive an Optix projector and they can use these products until the Loki becomes available, which he expects sometime during the fourth quarter of the year.
“From a business perspective we don’t want to miss opportunities,” he states. “The Optix is a great projector, and dealers can keep the Optix for demos or whatever. The Orion [another Barco product] and Optix are both impressive. The thing that impresses me is that the Orion offers fantastic image quality. It’s not 4K, but I would put it next to most 4K projectors—4K is only one aspect of the equation. I would take the Orion over 4K projectors, and the Loki takes it to the next level without sacrificing color performance or anything else.”
Neale adds that another compelling factor that dealers will appreciate about the Loki is that Barco produces the product in its factories. This he says allows the company to maintain quality throughout the entire manufacturing process unlike companies that contract overseas manufacturers to produce their products.
Summarizing what installers can expect from Barco and residential products like the Loki, Sinnaeve emphasizes that dealers should view the company’s products in the same way auto enthusiasts evaluate manufacturers such as BMW.
“When dealers see the family and see what goes into it, they will see that our projectors are related like a BMW 7 series is related to a 3 series,” he comments. “That makes you feel good about the technology and value the products offer, and it’s a similar situation to us. That’s what we want to bring home to integrators at these events. We’ll also be spending time on something close to our heart, and it’s the content side. Not only are we trying to build the best projector, but you need to make sure you have the proper content. Like audio with MP3, it’s garbage in garbage out. In our seminars we’ll cover the differences between a 4K Netflix stream and an Ultra Blu-ray disc. Eighty percent of 4K Blu rays are upscaled 2K. Having this knowledge in turn can help them create the best experience for their customers.”