in December 2004 IT/AV Report
These are key to our business success going forward.
|Monitor calibration is only accurate
more of our current and future business depends on display
technologies than on any other category of equipment we
install. Why? As prices go lower and sizes get larger for
today’s popular technologies (plasma, LCD, LED, DLP,
LCoS, etc.), flat-screen availabilities are driving new
sales into current applications, and, far more important,
driving many new applications that will make our fortunes.
But, from the point of view of the traditional systems-integration/reseller
business model, flat-screen cost reductions are a huge challenge;
many readers make less money every few months when screens
sell for thousands of dollars less per unit every few months.
You can either look at the trend as an opportunity to explore
new display-systems business models, or as another source
of fat profits going Squeezeville.
There is, alas, another way
to lose money on big flat displays: choosing the wrong technology
for the job. As in most hot new product areas, the many
competing display technologies being rushed to market offer
a confusing set of different capabilities, limitations and
CRTs: Old But…
Clearly, the old-fashioned
CRT (cathode ray tube) is being replaced in many applications.
Because of this, however, there are now stunning deals available
on CRTs, with image quality and dependability also now more
rock solid in the category than ever before. In fact, CRTs
offer better quality per square inch of picture than any
other technology at present, as well as outrageously better
quality per dollar.
Still, CRTs have that clunky
and viewing-size-limited form factor. Customers are likely
to demand any display but CRT, but what exactly are they
demanding? Do they—or their vendors and integrators—understand
the tradeoffs per technology between color balance, brightness,
contrast ratios, lifespan for each of the mentioned factors,
overall durability and size…or do they just understand
tradeoffs in cost vs. screen size? And how about future
cost and quality tradeoffs: Which technologies are growing
cheaper and better the fastest? Which new technologies that
customers haven’t started asking for yet are likely
to change everything?
In fact, the best estimates
by a number of researchers are that forthcoming technologies
including OLEP, OLED and GLV will find huge markets for
their really great image qualities. But, at the same time,
existing technologies surely will continue to dominate certain
markets. Huge fixed investments are now being made in LCD
manufacturing by Samsung, NEC, Sony, LG, Philips, Matsushita,
Fujitsu and others for screens with diagonal glass sizes
of 60 inches and larger; these factories will be able to
turn out millions of screens at very low incremental cost
per screen for years to come.
Relatively Small Output Today
Compare that to actual output
today, which market researcher iSuppli estimates at only
a few thousand large-panel screens in 2003, vs. about 500,000
large-panel plasma screens. Meanwhile, electronics and software
are rapidly improving their capacity to control color balance
on those screens. And plasma in the future? A real question
mark. But, for now and certainly at least through 2005,
it’s the flat-screen technology with the best color
iSupply expects 6.2 million
large-panel plasmas to be built in 2006. No wonder many
observers expect prices to drop radically, but rapid take-up
of consumer HDTV could keep pricing steadier.
The following stories focus
on what we all need to know about each technology. And the
market for them all is clearly enormous: According to iSuppli,
flat panels were a $40 billion market in 2003 and should
grow to $70 billion in 2007. About $10 billion of that,
in 2007, will be in large TVs and commercial displays, up
from about $7 billion in 2003. Clearly, there’s money
to be made here. Let’s figure out how.
Which Display is
Right for the Job?
Bocchiaro III,PhD, CTS-D, and Neal Weinstock
CRT, LCD, Plasma, PDP, LCoS, DLP, LED and more
all vie for placement.
Display technologies are now available
in dizzying variety, some familiar, some new, some just
on the horizon. Accompanying articles in this issue discuss
the wave of future technologies. Meanwhile, currently used
technologies range from the familiar to the not-so-familiar,
perhaps. They include CRT (cathode ray tube), LCD (liquid
crystal display), PDP (plasma display panel), LCoS (liquid
crystal on silicon), DLP (digital light processor) and LED
(light emitting diode). Any of these might be built for
displaying standard-definition analog or digital TV, one
of the several HDTV resolutions, RGB computer display in
one or more resolution choices or, of course, other TV standards
(PAL, SECAM and the digital, but not hi-def, DVB being most
This is not even to mention
the many forthcoming technologies. Even with today’s
display products, the complications don’t end yet.
Specialized versions of LCoS, such as JVC’s D-ILA,
and LCDs make claims of higher performance. (In the case
of LCDs, Sony has a new system using LEDs, instead of with
the usual fluorescent light, to back-light the LCD image.
Sony claims—and it seems very sensible—that
this results in far more stable color, better lifespan,
greater brightness and goodbye to those fluttery intensity
changes that affect fluorescents.) Displays, which can be
connected with an expanding variety of interfaces such as
Firewire, HDMI, DVI, RGBHV, VGA, CV, Y/C, IP, etc., come
in widescreen, flat screen and touchscreen. Many commercial
system designers will choose to work with high-end consumer
displays, which may include integrated sound systems offering
many more choices. The set of possibilities is mind-numbing,
and it’s growing.
What do you use where? By
now, audiovisual and IT professionals have grown accustomed
to many of the distinctions and features of these options,
but are we really implementing them in their optimal settings?
|Intel's implementation of an LCoS
chip, a project now canceled.
||Sony recently demonstrated its Image
Pro plasma monitors in a pseudo game-show setting.
Let’s start at the large
end of the display continuum, because “bigger”
is really most of what the display revolution is about to
the average viewer. We’re talking LEDs here for most
outdoor uses, plus a few technologies competing in digital
cinema display applications. To start with the biggest of
the big, however, implies only LEDs just now. The tiny red
displays that watches and clock radios featured 20 years
ago have grown up. Way up.
LEDs offer the brightest light
output of any display, they’re more efficient in power
usage than all other established display technologies, and
they are getting brighter and more power efficient. (Much
of the credit for recent brightness improvements in LEDs
is due to advances in blue diode production; the other primary
colors have been capable of brighter output for years.)
As LEDs come to be used for consumer lighting everywhere
an incandescent bulb might go, they surely will continue
to ride a steep cost curve downward.
LED displays are arrays of
relatively large components, with each pixel being one LED
and each LED as large as an inch in diameter…and no
smaller than about a tenth of an inch. (There’s nothing
inherently quite so large about LED technology, but LEDs
are not as well suited for smaller sizes as the newer technologies
of OLEDs and OLEPs, so LED advances clearly are moving in
directions other than miniaturization.)
Unique among display options,
LED arrays can be built easily into different screen sizes
and even customized shapes. LEDs also feature excellent
color balance and stability; because they are so bright,
they also give a good sense of blackness, which is key to
producing full imaging dynamics. Their transient response,
too, is better than all other current flat displays, so
they do very well at depicting motion. The upshot: LEDs
are not well suited for close viewing, but they are excellent
for outdoors and for very large halls; they’re uniquely
capable of being customized into different shapes and of
displaying bright images in daylight; and they’re
coming down in price rapidly.
Not Quite As Big…
Competing with LEDs for some
applications are the projection technologies: DLP, polysilicon
LCD and LCoS. They’re also known as “microdis-
plays” because they use semiconductors to create a
projected image; earlier video projectors use CRTs or similar
analog “light valves.” Although all of these
touch on the market for LEDs, all are mostly focused on
other apps, such as digital cinema and home theater. Where
they overlap is in commercial displays in large convention
halls and meeting facilities, and in some unusual advertising
situations such as the eerie-looking signage we’ve
seen projected occasionally onto the sides of buildings.
DLP was developed by and is
sold only by Texas Instruments (TI) and then resold in projectors
made by several companies. It uses a type of optical semiconductor
called a digital micromirror, sometimes referred to as a
DMD or digital micromirror device, that contains millions
of tiny mirrors. Electronic circuits swivel each mirror
so it either does or does not reflect light. The mirrors
switch on and off thousands of times per second, directing
light to the screen or away, creating a monochrome image
with high enough precision for three or more times the accuracy
needed for HDTV or even “2K” digital cinema
resolution. That is, it resolves at about 6000 lines, at
least; TI claims up to 10,000 lines. TI uses a color wheel,
spinning in front of the chip in precise time alignment,
to tint pixels that should appear as green, red or blue.
First brought out for cinema
and industrial use, DLP is used today in home TVs, with
a 50-inch HDTV set costing about $3500. The technology probably
is inherently less expensive than plasma or any other current
large flat-screen system, although pricing is roughly equal
now. It is also capable of higher resolution when, instead
of that color wheel, three DLP chips are used for constant
projection of each primary. In fact, even a four-chip system
seems likely eventually, with one just dedicated to light-to-dark
dynamics (“luminance,” in the NTSC world). In
this manner, DLP seems likely to arrive at true 4K or 8K
film equivalence. It would do so at low cost, if it also
becomes widely used in consumer TVs.
There are some problems with
DLP, however. The color flywheel can cause a shimmering
“rainbow effect” on certain kinds of fast-moving
images. DLP also is solely a TI product, meaning that its
lone supplier may have difficulty ramping up huge volumes
as manufacturers are loathe to allow one core component
supplier to own them.
LCoS has long been presumed
to be the likeliest competitor to DLP, but LCoS suppliers
keep stumbling. The biggest stumble: Intel announced at
last January’s CES that it would enter the market,
building $2000 big-screen HDTV sets around an LCoS chip,
in a model similar to its PC business; Intel canceled the
project in October. Still, there are several other LCoS
The technology features a
liquid crystal sandwiched between a glass plate and a silicon
substrate containing the circuits that form the image. Light
comes from some other source—a plain old projector
lamp—and bounces off of the centimeters-large image
on the chip. As with DLP, three chips or more, one for each
primary color and perhaps one for brightness values, could
create a high-resolution image. But LCoS efforts have been
aimed mostly at home TVs; manufacturers generally see the
technology as a low-priced substitute for flat panels, much
like any other rear-projection set.
One LCoS product most definitely
not only aimed at the home has been the Hughes and JVC co-venture
called D-ILA (digital-image light amplification). Most people
who have seen large theater projection probably have watched
a D-ILA. In the early race for digital cinema projection,
D-ILA and DLP have been the leaders by far.
The problems for LCoS are
those of LCDs in general (we’ll talk about that next),
plus those caused by the extremely tight manufacturing tolerances
that can be seen easily when magnifying an image thousands
of times from a small display. Also, the fact that light
reflects off the picture, instead of shining through it,
means that power efficiencies can never be as high as with
other projection techniques.
Polysilicon LCD (PLCD) is
similar to LCoS, but does allow light to shine through the
image for direct, rather than reflected, projection. Instead
of glass on one side and silicon on the other, PLCDs use
special high-temperature quartz glass on both sides that
is imprinted with the chip’s circuitry, so light actually
shines through it. If that sounds even more complicated
than LCoS, it may explain why not too many of these displays
are around. Yet. In fact, PLCD may be much of the future
for large flat-panel LCDs, too, thus pushing down costs
and pushing up reliability.
Finally, front-projected active-matrix
LCD is the technology most often seen in company meetings,
education and other commercial venues. It has come down
in price radically, so $1000 or so can buy a good portable
device. But these projectors essentially are small LCD computer
monitors with projector lights shone through them. They
display most of the good and bad characteristics of a small
computer display, but with faults magnified to full-screen
Image line counts are usually
in the 300 to 400 range, not even matching analog NTSC video.
Response times are slow, so motion looks smeary. Brightness
dynamic range is narrow. Often the devices don’t even
accept video input, or else may put video through a conversion
process that makes it look even worse than the pixel count
may otherwise indicate. Images don’t tend to be very
bright, either, because the light must shine through a fairly
opaque image on the LCD. For showing a PowerPoint presentation
in a meeting, these devices are just fine; for showing video
meant to entertain or convince viewers emotionally, they
leave much to be desired.
But they do share the benefits
of LCDs in general these days: relatively low price, long
lifespan, image stability and excellent contrast. And they
share the main flaw of all LCDs: low color reliability and
not very bright color output. Color in LCD displays can’t
be well calibrated, and can’t be expected to hold
to a calibration once set. But many of these issues are
being addressed in the newest generation of LCDs, especially
in flat panels. And the good news for LCD projectors is
that, with LCD flat panels not yet booming in the home TV
market quite as much as predicted, lots of displays are
available for incorporation in projectors and other commercial
Plasma display layers.
Bigger is always better, is
the usual American mantra. In video displays, it seems,
bigger and flatter are better—at least according to
The vast marketplace for displays
in the 40- to 80-inch diagonal range is being filled by
a bevy of LCD and plasma “direct-view” devices.
These are displacing some of the market for LCD front projection,
and especially for the CRT-based rear-projection rooms popular
only a few years ago. This is an area of tremendous competition,
with crossover between corporate, educational and residential
markets. Subtle yet important differences between products
can make all the difference to a product’s success.
Incremental technological developments are pushing this
segment into a high-quality imagery not imagined only a
few years ago.
Each display technology in
this arena has cost/benefits suitable for different applications
that may not be immediately obvious.
Take, for example, a 63-inch
LCD versus a 63-inch plasma panel: Plasma is less expensive,
but still darn pricey at up to $14,000 versus less than
$3000 for many projectors and ceiling screens. The even
higher price—and, especially, the higher cost structure—of
LCD panels has limited their market appeal even as supply
has increased…because that high cost structure hasn’t
allowed LCD prices to come down much. Instead, now manufacturers
are pushing their LCD panel factories into different applications
such as PC monitors and cell phones.
Still, besides the obvious
differences in the cost and physical dimensions of any particular
LCD or plasma screen, there are numerous other quality differences
between the different technologies. Some of these are familiar
to nearly everyone, particularly brightness and contrast.
Although it is well understood how increasing or decreasing
the levels of these “looks,” it is not commonly
understood how important issues such as “black background”
can change the viewing experience. The ability of a display
to reproduce black may be more important than the ability
to produce pure white.
In the same manner, the ability
of a screen to consistently reproduce saturated colors will
be evident to a viewer of a film in a dark room. Motion
artifacts, the irregularities in moving objects on a display,
are particularly distracting to a movie viewer, but may
not bother the work of a static-image graphic artist. Phosphor
persistence, LCD switching times and other issues affect
the perception of resolution, of motion and of color. In
all of these areas, plasmas have been superior to LCDs.
The better plasmas can be calibrated for precise color (though
not as well as CRTs, which remain best at displaying exactly
the image the filmmaker saw), while LCDs are hopeless in
Meanwhile, LCDs have been
superior to plasmas in contrast and long-term reliability.
And their color and black performance are likely to improve
now that Sony and others are using LED panels in back of
the LCD to push light through the image, rather than the
fluorescents commonly used today. But this probably will
also increase the price differential between LCD and plasma,
There are many other important
technology class distinctions between display types. Energy
efficiency and the related issue of heat output are particularly
important in settings with numerous displays and in locations
where displays are mounted in enclosures. The noise level
of devices such as projectors and plasma displays must be
considered whenever the display is in close proximity to
the audience, or in a quiet setting such as a studio or
hospital operating room. The weight of different displays
varies greatly, too.
Plasmas are at a general disadvantage
in all these issues compared with LCDs, though some particular
plasmas are lighter, more power efficient and quieter than
several LCD models (and, again, LCDs backed by LEDs are
going to be hotter than fluorescent-backed models, though
probably less noisy). Incidental but important issues such
as shipping fragility, physical durability, expected lifetime,
serviceability and others should be considered whenever
display types are compared.
Wide, Narrow, Weird
Finally, virtually all big
flat screens deliver a 16:9 aspect ratio. With plasmas,
there has long been a case for viewing 4:3 aspect material
horizontally stretched so displays will not “burn
in” gray or black areas on the sides of the picture.
This is unnecessary with any of the other technologies,
but many people have become so used to stretched images
they think they’re called for with all big displays.
It is even common to find
viewers who say they prefer stretched images. Does this
drive image creators and perfectionists batty? You bet!
What are most system installers and administrators doing
about it? As far as we can see from signage viewed in hundreds
of locations, we’re mostly displaying 4:3-originated
material at 16:9, whatever the display technology. This
sure can be a weird business….
Organic Light Emitting
Bocchiaro III, PhD, CTS-D
The promise of portability.
Anyone who has lugged
any type of notebook computer or tablet PC wishes that it
was still lighter, still thinner, still brighter. Although
LCD technology has been developed to an astounding level,
a limiting factor of these devices is that they must be
backlit, requiring significant power and thickness to operate.
On the technology horizon
shines the OLEP, or organic light emitting polymer display.
Also known as PLED (polymer light emitting diode) or polymer
OLED, these devices promise to overcome some of the limitations
of the LED, while offering physical flexibility and affordability.
A close cousin of OLED (see the article below "Image
Tech: The Next Generation"), OLEP holds the potential
for simpler manufacturing and even higher brightness than
the devices of today.
How It Works
OLEPs operate under the principle
of organic electroluminescence, an electro-chemical reaction
similar to a firefly’s ability to glow. Unlike LEDs
and many other silicon-based devices, OLEPs are not crystalline,
but rather have an organic, amorphous structure. The electroluminescent
material is sandwiched between two electrodes, one of which
is transparent and allows the light to pass through to the
viewer. Engineers create color by “doping” the
organic structure with molecules of prescribed fluorescence,
usually in the familiar red, green and blue combination
to create a full spectrum of color. Alternatively, a white
emission compound may be used in conjunction with color
One of the promising features
of this technology is the way it can be manufactured using
simpler processes than those of traditional integrated circuits.
One manufacturing technique is to spin the uncured polymer
into a thin film, then allow it to dry by itself or cure
it with ultraviolet light. Another process uses inkjet printing
technology to place pixels in patterns of different fluorescent
colors. (Not surprisingly, Hewlett-Packard thinks it can
leverage this technology into becoming a power in the display
business.) This may be accurate to a pattern precision of
5 to 10 microns.
Yet another is to apply the
polymer with the sort of roll-to-roll process used in publishing.
The fact that there are so many options allows engineers
to apply the manufacturing technique most suitable to the
application for the display or light source.
According to Frost & Sullivan’s
report, Light Emitting Polymers—Global Developments,
OLEPs have many promising features. One is the strength
of the polymers themselves, composed of repeating molecular
structures strongly bound together. Unlike the fragile crystals
and glass or plastic capsules in an LCD, the self-supporting
OLEP can be applied to a variety of materials, rendering
them ultra-thin and flexible. Unlike crystalline structures,
amorphous materials such as OLEPs are less sensitive to
impurities during fabrication, allowing higher yields. Because
of their controlled flexibility and transparency, they have
many applications not possible for LCDs.
Once made into a display product,
OLEPs offer a wide viewing angle and better contrast ratio
than LCDs. Because of their quick response, they are well-suited
for video displays, which require rapid refresh rates. Inherent
image clarity, and increased readability and resolution
also make them suitable for static or dynamic images. Their
wide operating temperature range allows them to be used
in difficult environments. Finally, their low power consumption
makes OLEPs suitable for a wide range of portable devices.
Cells to Displays to Digital Wallpaper
Applications for OLEPs, as
for most new display technologies, start small and build
up to larger screen sizes. The initial commercial use of
OLEPs is in cell phone “sub-displays,” visible
on the outside of flip phones. This application takes advantage
of the OLEP’s ability to be incorporated into a very
thin, non-backlit cover, with the required low power consumption
of the cell phone. A related app is in viewfinders for digital
cameras and camera-phones. Next to come are larger displays,
for PDAs and notebook computers.
On the horizon are specialized
devices such as heads-up displays for windshields and helmets.
According to “Better Displays with Organic Films”
by Webster E. Howard, Scientific American, February 2004,
OLEPs are ideal in this application because they do not
have to reflect imagery onto the surface like an LCD: They
can be made semi-transparent and can be viewed directly
on the glass surface. Virtual reality displays, flexible
newspaper-like portable displays that can be rolled up and
placed in the pocket, and many other personal electronic
device applications have been proposed.
Although much attention has
been focused on OLEPs as display devices, there is also
potential to use them as solid-state lighting components.
LEDs have found wide use as illumination devices, particularly
in the automotive industry and, similarly, OLEPs can outperform
conventional light sources in terms of power-to-light-output
efficiency. Described features, such as manufacturability
and high operating temperature range, make OLEPs attractive
for these applications. Bring this capability back to the
display world and it’s reasonable to expect attempts
to use OLEPs to compete with LEDs for large-screen outdoor
Probably more than with many
new technologies, applications will be devised that we can’t
imagine yet, enabled by OLEP’s unique properties.
Digital signage in public spaces, possibly incorporated
into architectural elements such as wallpaper, is one possibility.
“Digital ink,” a concept applicable to a wide
range of products, includes digital “tagging”
for instantaneous price updating in the retail environment,
and electronic newspapers. We can be certain that, wherever
low cost, simplified installation and portability are required,
OLEPs will find a place in the near future.
III, Ph.D., CTS-D, is a Principal Consultant with Electro-Media
Design, Ltd., and manages the EMD Western New York office.
He is the Chair of the ICIA ICAT (Council of Independent
Consultants in Audiovisual Technology) and an Adjunct Faculty
Member of ICIA (International Communications Industries
Association), a member of AECT (Association for Educational
Communications and Technology), and a member of IACC (International
Association of Conference Centers). In addition, Bocchiaro
is a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical
Council and pens the “Consultant’s Corner.”
Image Tech: The Next Generation
studios light our way.
|A Silicon Light Machines engineer points out detail
in a projected GLV image.
||Sony's implementation of Cypress's GLV chip.
finally may be getting serious about digital theatrical
display, a development that may change just about everything
for all the rest of our display businesses.
For more than a decade, the
conundrum of digital cinema projection has been that theaters
must make the investment in new technology (an estimated
$100,000 per screen now), but that they would generate no
additional revenue or cost savings by doing so. Meanwhile
the Hollywood studios would reap huge cost savings from
digital distribution, because it now costs more than $1000
per print to release a film (plus shipping), and most films
now “open wide” to 1000 or more theaters. That’s
a million dollars per movie, and Hollywood makes some 500
movies a year. But the studios have not subsidized theatrical
investments, partly out of inertia (“let’s wait
for their film projectors to break down, then the theaters
will buy in anyway”) and partly out of fear that audiences
will miss the look of film. So they don’t make the
This last Election Day, however,
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Sony
Pictures, Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Co. had begun
talks to form a joint venture to install digital cinema
systems in theaters. The venture would, essentially, sell
off the future value of money saved by not making film prints,
and invest that money in digital projectors. After many
years of dithering, digital cinema finally seems to be moving
forward. As part of this move, the three studios are insisting
that all the projectors they fund be “4K,” or
4000 pixels per frame. No current digital cinema projector
offers such high resolution. Perhaps not coincidentally,
however, Sony has one under development.
The Color Blue
Let’s talk about the
color blue. Sony has long been leading the push for a new
Blu Ray rewriteable HD DVD standard, while just about everybody
else has backed a less radical and far less costly red laser
system. Sony has spoken of extending the market for Blu
Ray (the copyrighted name for the technology, but not for
Sony’s products) from professional disk camcord-ers
and disk jukebox servers we might use in installed video
systems, all the way to home VCR replacements. But blue
lasers are very expensive, compared to red and green lasers.
Sony’s rivals, such as Panasonic and Toshiba, are
saying, “Let’s use red lasers for all that home
video and jukebox stuff, and use solid-state media such
as Panasonic’s SD memory chips for camcorders.”
But Sony has other reasons
to push blue lasers into mass markets. Only by spreading
development across wide consumer markets will the cost of
blue lasers come down to roughly the level of green and
red lasers. Not too many other companies care whether this
ever happens. But Sony owns the exclusive rights to producing
video displays based on Cypress Semiconductor’s Grated
Light Valve (GLV) technology. (It is also used in the printing
industry by other companies.) GLV requires three lasers—one
for each primary color—to work. Assuming efficient
production of blue lasers alongside reds and greens, GLV
projectors can be churned out at a reasonable price. And
GLV projectors are expected to produce extremely bright
images at 4K resolution.
What’s a Grated Light Valve?
GLV is a technology developed
more than a decade ago by Silicon Light Machines, which
was bought by Cypress in 2000. Comprised of a series of
ribbons on the surface of a silicon chip, the GLV device
is a unique MEMS (or “micro-electro-mechanical system”)
that acts as a dynamic, tunable grating to precisely vary
the amount of laser light that is diffracted or reflected.
GLVs offer a relatively simple and cost-effective solution
for high-definition display products. As with Texas Instruments’
DLP technology (see “Which Display is Right for the
Job?” in this issue), the ribbons on a GLV act as
if they were thousands of tiny mirrors to bend the light
from a given source into images. But DLP uses a white light
source. GLV uses lasers. There may be more power, efficiency
and color fidelity in the GLV approach.
GLV uses a micro ribbon
array; that is, one-dimensional micro mirrors. This differs
from DLP, which uses a two-dimensional (vertical and horizontal)
structure. Thus, GLV is an inherently simpler device. Also,
by using RGB lasers for the light sources, it is possible
to obtain more than twice the color reproduction area of
a CRT. Even now, CRTs offer by far the highest color fidelity
of all electronic displays. But they aren’t perfect,
as anybody who compares a CRT side-by-side with a well-projected
and good-quality film print will attest, and can be improved
According to Suehiro Nakamura,
Sony’s deputy president, “We believe the GLV
technology has the potential to become one of the key components
for future large-scale projection displays that offer unprecedented
DLP may be ahead in this race,
but GLV not only offers Sony a strongly competitive point
of entry (and Sony does own a movie studio that can directly
benefit from the technology), it may offer greater benefits
for other devices down the road. For example, many visionaries
are forecasting that future generations of our cell phones
and digital cameras will include image projectors. This
would beat the problem of trying to view images on tiny
Although other image projection
technologies could make use of LEDs as light sources, laser
diodes can be even more efficient in power usage, and probably
cheaper to build, than LEDs. Many consumers may thus wind
up using GLV for home and portable projection, which is
probably a kind of mass market that is unavailable to DLP
or to the other projection technologies.
OK, GLV vs. DLP;but OLED, too?
My colleague Joe Bocchiaro
points out, “Aside from the need for group experiences,
the vast frontier in the IT/AV world is the desire for portability.
Applications for small displays abound now, from wristwatches
to handheld games to cell phones to PDAs to portable web
appliances! The quality of these displays is particularly
notable because their contrast, brightness and resolution
have improved so much as to make the devices they are in
truly useful. Some of the newest display technology appears
in these devices first. This is most notable in the OLED
(organic light emitting diode) displays available on some
cell phones. This technology, in its infancy, holds promise
for lower power consumption, low heat emission, low weight,
low cost and even flexible (you can bend it!) devices in
Oddly enough, while film-studio-owner
Sony works to replace film with GLV, film technology provider
East- man Kodak is the main patent holder behind OLEDs.
What’s the difference between an OLED and an LED?
Essentially, using the weird witchcraft of organic chemistry,
you can grow an OLED. Both (inorganic) LEDs and OLEDs eventually
are likely to offer the precise color reproduction and bright
display characteristics that users will demand in their
video imaging—and that will be superior to anything
attainable with plasma and LCD monitors.
But LED flat screens are power-hungry
and expensive. OLED technology promises less expensive production,
thinner (and thus lighter) and eventually even flexible
screens, along with all the benefits of LEDs (see “Which
Display Is Right For The Job?”). Eventually, we’ll
probably all use OLEDs instead of all the rest of the alphabet
soup of flat-screen displays. LCD, inorganic LED and plasma
will go away.
But they’re not going anywhere
soon! That’s because nobody can make an OLED for any
reasonable cost that is bigger than a couple of inches across.
So OLEDs have come to cell-phone displays. They’re
great for those phones with two displays, one on each side
of a flip cover, where the imaging devices have to be extremely
thin. They allow camera phones to go megapixel in quality
and to actually display such clear images that it is possible
to imagine such a combined phone/camera replacing standalone
cameras for most consumers. But an OLED display even large
enough for a laptop computer probably is still a decade
away, according to Kodak researchers.
But then, you don’t
need a display quite that big if you’re going to project
light through it and show movies on a reflective screen
on the other side of a room. Several OLED licensees are
trying to use the technology for just that application,
making OLED into a true competitor of GLV and DLP.
The GLV vs. DLP vs. OLED drama
now looks likely to begin to play out in 2005, as the film
studios’ new consortium either comes to life or falls
apart (as such efforts have in the past), and may make its
plans for recommended 4K projection systems.
May the battle go to