As I began in early May to anticipate InfoComm and a new crop of 1080P projectors that waits in the wings to shake up the projector world, Norway was not the kind of place that sprang immediately to mind. The town of Fredrikstad, an idyllic spot that sits near the border of Norway and Sweden, would be, I thought, a welcome respite from the frenetic atmosphere surrounding the industry.
B�rd Eker, independent industrial designer, and majority owner of projectiondesign.
When I met Brd Eker, I understood why Fredrikstad deserves its place on the projection map. I've been to visit a few projector manufacturers in my day, but never have I have visited one with the unique genetic makeup of projectiondesign. In a nutshell: it's a projector company, started by a Norwegian industrial designer, who brought some of Europe's best projection engineers and marketers on board to launch products into one of the most competitive markets anywhere.
Brd Eker is an anomaly in this industry. He's the majority owner of one of the most advanced DLP projection manufacturers in the world; he's also the industrial designer of the world's fastest production sports car (the KOENIGSEGG CCR); he is the industrial designer and pilot and owner of the fastest boat in the Class One powerboat world championship (The Spirit of Norway). I could go on. But you get the drift. Don't think so much "design." Think speed. Speed to market. Performance. And just plain speed.
Eker doesn't talk that much about "form following function." He's too busy creating products that are all about performing, and that's why projectiondesign has been able to carve out a remarkably robust niche in high-resolution, high-performance DLP projection.
And they have done so manufacturing in a Scandinavian country where costs are not cheap.
When touring the projectiondesign factory in Fredrikstad, and then touring Ekerd's separate design firm, situated on a wooded campus some 10 kilometers outside Fredrikstad, it became clear that Eker is intimately involved in the "industrial" part of the equation, that's what makes him the "designer" he is. He is involved as much in the process of managing the assembly lines at the factory where circuit boards and light engines are put together as in the look and feel of the product. (I was told by a line manager that he once obsessed for weeks about how many screws went into a particular projector casing... he was determined to reduce the number by 50 percent over what anyone thought possible, to get the assembly line to move more efficiently.) Designing products that are elegant, reliable, ergonomic... those are table stakes for Ekerd. His real goal is to create high-performance products that-through meticulous "design" of the down-to-the-circuit board elements-can be manufactured efficiently in an environment where most manufacturers would never dare to set up shop: an ostensibly high-cost country that while having superb engineering and design capabilities is according to conventional wisdom not "cost-efficient" for manufacturing.
Well, there is nothing conventional about this company.
J�rn Eriksen, president & CEO of projectiondesign, showed Rental & Staging Systems their new 3-chip DLP projector in prototype form at their factory in Norway in May. projectiondesign will be demonstrating the completed unit at InfoComm.
Most of you will never go to Norway to check this all out for yourself. Industry veteran Gary Plavin, anchoring down projectiondesign in the U.S, may be your only face of projectiondesign, and you won't meet Eker, or Jrn Eriksen (president & CEO) or Sture (pronounced "studer") Berg (who deserve a story of their own...they bring decades of experience in the projector wars to the table). But you don't have to venture to Norway to realize that this nimble shop in Fredrikstad has been bringing to market some of the most interesting new DLP projectors in recent years.
In Fredrikstad, I saw a demo in May that is the most impressive development I've seen in DLP this year: the new projectiondesign F1, to be called the M25 when it's launched at InfoComm, a new generation 1080P one-chip that is a step beyond anything I've seen. This new unit uses a 7-segment color wheel (R-G-B-R-G-B-neutral density) combined with a unique and pd-patented version of TI's "Brilliant Color" to achieve an imaging speed that eliminates any vestiges of color breakup or artifacting you saw in any previous DLP one-chip system. Speed, indeed. I guess that's what you learn by producing the world's fastest sports car.
Second-generation1080P single-chip DLP, with more color wheel options and new software drivers, is evolving at a rapid pace in the hands of cutting-edge manufacturers like pd.
(And the M25 is just one of the single-chip DLP's pd will show at InfoComm.)
But the company has something even more surprising in store for Anaheim.
They will be showing a prototype of a totally new 3-chip DLP 1080P projector-the first ever from them. I saw this unit in Fredrikstad, and, yes, the image was everything you'd expect. But what's intriguing was the small footprint of the unit (it is not based on the usual Philips architecture). They achieve this by placing the DLP chips at the top of the unit, in a configuration that allows more filters, if needed, to be placed in the light path. So those of you who may have been waiting for projectiondesign to enter the market with a more-horsepower, higher-end product... it looks like the wait is about over. For more information: www.projectiondesign.com