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Photonics Brings the Big Screen to Life

Photonics Spectra
May 1999
Kevin Thompson, Optical Research Associates, and Matthew Bone, S-Vision

The market for data projectors has grown rapidly in the past few years because of dramatic performance improvements coupled with steadily decreasing unit price. For example, several products deliver high-brightness (1000 lumens), full-color, SVGA (800 x 600 pixels) output for about $5,000. Advances in two photonic technologies - high-intensity lamps and spatial light modulators - have been the primary factors in enabling manufacturers to achieve this level of price/performance.

However, beyond the business market for data display lies digital projection for theaters and the potentially vast consumer home projection television market. The large-scale development of these applications will definitely require further improvements in system cost, brightness, size, weight, contrast and resolution. While some of this can be accomplished through further progress in sources and spatial light modulators, much of it will have to be achieved through better optical designs. This includes illumination optics that make more efficient use of the source output, and less expensive projection lenses.

Optical Research Associates recently worked with S-Vision, a maker of digital display components and subsystems, to develop the optics of a digital projector. This design is an excellent illustration of the design issues involved in maximizing the price/performance ratio of a projector.

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