The first public screening of a film using a projector was in 1895. Now, well over a century later, most theaters are still using a version of this projection technology to show their films. Though the technology used in cinema projection has evolved and adapted over the course of its several decades of use, the problems that it faced at its inception have not been fully eliminated. Modern projection technology still sends content to the screen through a lens, which can result in a degree -albeit small- of optical distortion. Additionally, projection tech is limited with regard to its contrast ratio and color range. Blacks aren’t as deep as they could be, and edges aren’t as sharp, either. Colors can lack dynamism because instead of coming directly out of the screen, they are simply being cast onto it. And all this is without mentioning the fact that components within projection tech need to be regularly replaced to keep image quality constant. The lamps in lamp projectors need to be replaced every 800 to 2,500 hours, and while laser modules last a bit longer than that at 30,000 hours, they still have their limits. There are over 150,000 movie screens around the world right now, and that number is likely to hit 200,000 in the next decade. Shouldn’t we hold the future of cinema to a higher standard than what projection technology can offer?
Believing the answer to this question is yes, large-format direct view LED manufacturers have launched their first forays into the cinema space in recent years, and the advantages of using LED are already coming into focus. Right from the start, it is obvious to audiences and filmmakers alike how much more powerful LED display technology is than projection tech. Instead of casting light to fill a screen from a single projection source across the room, LED displays –which produce their own light- emit light from hundreds of thousands of sources to fill an entire room. Easily able to shine beyond ten times as bright as typical projection technology, LED displays also have much longer lifespans than rival technologies. Most diodes in an LED solution are expected to last over 100,000 hours. LED displays carry no optical distortion, can reach far wider color gamut, and have nearly unlimited contrast ranges. While projection technology often brings a decline in grayscale uniformity as brightness is increased, direct view LED eliminates that problem. There’s no need to strain a direct view LED display to the limits of its brightness because its standard level is already so high. This leaves content looking as realistic as possible, just as the creators intended. Off-axis viewing quality is also far better with direct view LED displays than with projection tech, so missing out on the choice seats in the middle of the row will no longer be an issue for the movie-goers of tomorrow.
For every lone researcher working on improvements to the traditional Digital Light Processing (DLP) model, there are over 10,000 working on enhancing some aspect of LED tech. Having driven the transition from film to DLP in the 1990s, NanoLumens leadership understands the need to consider the next generation of cinematic display solutions from the perspectives of directors and producers, as well as theatre owners and audience members. To that end, NanoLumens has already introduced game-changing LED display solutions that reset the boundaries of the modern cinematic experience. At the Telstra Customer Insight Center in Sydney, Australia, NanoLumens installed the world’s first native 4K LED display with a 2.5mm pixel pitch. This display more than exceeds the color gamut standard in the cinema industry, and easily matches the best resolution quality that projection technology is capable of. And, according to industry experts, from a total cost of ownership perspective, direct view LED is increasingly competitive and is only expected to become more affordable and accessible as the technology advances and proliferates. What the Telstra installation and others like it have proven is that direct view LED breaking into the cinema space isn’t some vague possibility in the distant future; it’s already here.
When creating their art, filmmakers consider every single detail, including the limitations of the technology used to showcase their final products. With that in mind, what LED displays in the cinema space ultimately offer is freedom to filmmakers. The message they send to these content creators is that if you can produce it, these displays will be able to showcase it, exactly as you intend. Once filmmakers realize this, the remainder of the film industry and the theatres that support it won’t be far behind. When that happens, the demand for direct view LED display solutions in cinema will ramp up dramatically.