The Same, Yet Different

From the time I got into this business, few things have been more hotly debated among stagers than projectors. I'm not sure we're allowed to wear clothing without the logo of a projection manufacturer on it. Heck, I even named my dog Barco.

In the early days, most of this contention was around whose projectors were biggest and brightest. The old Shootout at InfoComm was all about that -- big, bright images with very little consideration given to any other factors. There were no machines designed specifically for staging, and frankly we'd put up with almost anything (fragility, low dependability, etc) just to get a machine bright enough to handle large screens. So that's how staging machines were defined -- they were simply the brightest projectors available.

Then, almost everybody got good. Projectors became lighter, brighter, and more dependable. Staging projectors split off as a category from installation projectors. This was really a second generation of the development of staging projectors, where features like integrated rigging systems and image processing began to define each manufacturer's staging machines.

Now, we find ourselves in a world where LOTS of projectors have been created specifically for our use. In fact, there are not only a number of top-quality lines that aim specifically at the staging arena, but they have developed different design philosophies. And, as a group of users, that has not only allowed us more choice than ever before, it has allowed us to split into camps that follow different manufacturers -- and different reasoning's for our choice of projectors.

Currently, the camps include:

High Roadability, Low Feature
This is a class of staging machine that emphasizes durability, dependability, integrated rigging, high quality optics -- and usually a single input. This class of machine emphasizes picture output and extreme durability, allowing the stager to make external choices for processing, switching and effects.

High Roadability, High Feature
Of the two High Roadability camps, this one differs from the first in that the projector offers lots of internal electronics features -- enhanced scalers, switching effects, built-in image separation, blending, or windowing, etc. -- As well as a chassis designed for rigging and staging.

Low Roadability, High Feature
By Low Roadability, I mean that the projector was not specifically designed for staging -- these are the high-output conference room machines with lots of electronic features that many of us (especially those of us who work in mixed rental/installation companies) outfit for service in staging because we like the feature set. Normally, this involves the use of external rigging frames and some ruggedizing of the projector itself.

Low Roadability, Low Feature
These are the barn burner conference room machines that offer very high outputs at bargain prices. A lot of staging companies use them to round out the fleet, or use them exclusively because they allow us to acquire large numbers of them, and we can simply discard them when newer ones come along, rather than gambling on keeping higher cost machines around longer.
This is the camp that would rather buy 3 10k machines with frames, cages and lenses than a single machine from one of the top high roadability players.

Personally, I always fall on the side of preferring the low feature set machines. I want my processing and switching and blending to be external, and the projector to just project images. I prefer for my primary machines to be of the High Roadability, Low Feature type, but I've also been known to fill things out with some of the barn burner machines for specific purposes, such as backups or long-term in-place rentals. But I have a lot of friends who are really devoted to the High Roadability, High Feature machines. They swear by things like integrated image blending, integrated color matching, or integrated image windowing.

All I can say is, it's nice to have arrived at a time when stagers have such a variety of choices. Each manufacturer (and each stager) can make their own choices about which camp they belong to. And each of us has valid reasons for being there.

But we remain at war over the t-shirts.