When Barco acquired High End Systems of Austin, TX last summer, they got all that innovative lighting/video hybrid technology. The DL3 is the latest High End/Barco “digital lighting device” or, in other words, a video projector on a lighting yoke. The DL3 uses an LCD projector. OK, but Barco is in the DLP camp. So how long until the DL3 (or DL4 or whatever) switches over to DLP?
Good question. And remember that Barco developed on its own, prior to acquiring High End, its DLP-based DML 1200, a 10-12K lumen projector/ moving digital light. The DML 1200 is SXGA, compared to XGA for the DL3. We’re not talking about replacing a true high-lumen staging projector with either. That, of course, is not the point. These are tools for corporate stagers as well as entertainment side LDs to do incredible, out-of-the-box effects with both video and “liquid gobos” — in other words, unlimited digitally created gobos and other lighting effects. And some tricky video projection on odd surfaces, at odd angles, and moveable easily with DMX control or AV show control. (BTW, the DL3 also does image blending, so you cant tile images and have seamless edges.)
Intriguing idea: It’s not a secret that Texas Instruments is now heavily developing its new “lampless” projection. That is, LED-source DLP projectors that use one R,G, and B LED diode as the light source. No lamp and no color wheel. So this begs the question: if lampless, LED-based DLP projection is waiting in the wings, why not put a “lampless” DLP light engine on a lighting yoke? I have no doubt Barco is looking at this possibility, though it’s far down the road. Or is it?
When we hosted our Rental and Staging Roadshow at Techni-Lux in Orlando in
March, Tony Hansen of Techni-Lux showed me the Giotto 1500 from SGM. SGM is the Italian lighting manufacturer that Techni-Lux distributes, and the Giotto 1500 is an 18,000-lumen DLP lighting device. That’s not a typo — it’s 18K lumens. It’s a DLP-based lighting fixture, but it’s DLP with no color wheel, so it doesn’t do color video. It does grayscale video. So essentially, think gobos and other digital lighting effects. And, more interesting, it’s a “modular” unit, i.e., you can convert it in the field from a conventional light source to digital by inserting the DLP light engine module.
But the Giotto 1500 is part of an ongoing legal saga that began some years ago when LSD produced the Icon M, which was also a very early DLP-based lighting device (it debuted at LDI ’98). When LSD was acquired by PRG in 1998, the project floundered for both marketing reasons and technical reasons that essentially boiled down to just being too far ahead of its time. In the late ’90s, there was just no affordable way to get enough lumens out of any such device to please LDs. But importantly, PRG did establish patent rights, and in the lighting world we’ve seen decade after decade that patent wars often dictate the course of product evolution. Which brings us back around to SGM. SGM cannot market its Giotto 1500 in the U.S. today, because of PRG’s (soon expiring?) patent rights. Behind the scenes legal wrangling is going on, and various camps predict various outcomes.