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The Dying Art of Projection
The experienced opinion of an AV expert in finding the right place for projection in the modern day events industry.
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 by T Jacques

There have been massive steps forward in big screen technology over the past 20 years and it is no wonder that many are predicting the death of the early innovations in the field. It begs the question as to how long it will be before we see LED screens replacing projectors in our movie theatres? But we're not convinced that projection, (if used in the right applications) is dead just yet.

It was a long discussion with a client which has led to this school of thought. Our client was hosting a technology show within the context of our own sector; the UK events industry. For this reason, I can understand their hesitation when we informed them that we would supply a big screen projection for the main stage. Our client was nervous, and stated that they'd be much more comfortable with an LED screen, after some toing and froing we discussed the options and the location of the screen would not accommodate a ground support system and the venue's roof structure had insufficient capacity to take the weight loading of a sizeable LED screen.

"You have actually restored my faith in projection. It just goes to show you if its done right, there is still a place for this technology."

With our client nervous about the bright environment in which the screen was going, we specified a 15k lumens projector on a 12ft screen. Incidentally, we were using a Christie 4-lamp unit, and decided that we would turn off 2 of the lamps during rehearsals making the effective power of the unit half of its capability. The client was blown away. His exact comment was "You have actually restored my faith in projection. It just goes to show you if its done right, there is still a place for this technology." He also later commented, "The projection is actually brighter than the plasma screens!"

"The projection is actually brighter than the plasma screens"

However, this episode got us questioning the technology back at Novum HQ. Is projection dying? Is it on its way out? Will everyone switch to LED screens? When I started in the industry over 15 years ago LED screens were restricted to 12mm dot pitch, had a lot of issues with power supply failure, and were extremely heavy. Plasma screens were much better in terms of resolution, again were very heavy, but were restricted in size. I remember seeing the first 60" plasma screen on a show, and it took about 8 crew to lift it into place. But now, the consumer flat screen TV market has driven the price of the screens down, the weight down, but still go above 80" screen and the price still rockets as the demand in consumer world is limited.

Even with the latest 3.9mm dot pitch LED screens starting to become an affordable technology, it isn't going to replace the projector and screen in the corporate conference across the board just yet. If you're sat close to the screen, not only will the pixels be a little on the large side compared to the smartphone's, computer screens and home TV screens we've become accustomed to, but sat too close you may start wishing you'd brought a pair of sunglasses.

So if you need a big, high resolution screen in a corporate setting, then so long as the specification of the projector is appropriate to the size of the screen then projection could well be the way to go.

Its not just as screen technology though. We're finding more and more of our clients are interested in using projection to creating eye-candy and visually stimulating experiences as part of their events. We are all familiar with the projection mapping used on Buckingham palace at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics ceremony. Following that, we had on average a call a week from existing and prospective customers asking about projection mapping. In recent times that has died down, although for those with some creative ideas, its still a really effective way to wow your audience at your event. We are finding now that more clients are wanting to involve their audience more in their event in more immersive and experiential events. This has created a trend in using projection mapping, media servers and customised content for many more indoor events. Projecting around a room can help create a 360 degree experience, and allows events to be designed in a much more creative manner that does not simply depend on us all looking at the same stage. If more conventional stage set up is desirable then projecting onto your stage set, dance floor, or stage can really bring life to the traditional corporate event where we are used to simple up lighting and breakup lighting effects.

The introduction of these media servers and image processors combining with the projection technology has meant that our projectors are now being used as much as lighting effects as they are for screens, and for now, it looks like they are here to stay.

I think it will still be a long time before we see an LED screen replace a carefully calibrated cinematic projection in our movie theatres as it is vital that we continue to use the right technology for the right application. The major consideration here is not which technology is the better technology, you can't use LED screens for mapping over buildings and objects, and likewise you are not going to see a projector used outdoors in the daylight at a football stadium. Literally, you wouldn't see it! The danger with the new emerging technology is that because it is new, it is better, and in many cases it is, but only when used with the right application.

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Where Projection fits in our Modern Events World.