Posted on December 1, 2020 By Phil Jones
In this month’s article sponsored by Sony, we explore the challenges of projecting HDR. Higher-end projectors like Sony’s newly introduced GTZ380 utilize new features and technologies to improve the picture quality of HDR content dramatically.
Whether you’re a professional trying to recreate the experience of flying in a flight simulator or you’re a consumer looking to extract all of the contrast and color volume found in HDR content, most projector’s capabilities fall short of your needs.
For example, better video processing, which includes dynamic HDR tone mapping, helps extract the most from a projector’s limited brightness capabilities.
In 2017, Art reviewed Sony’s amazing VW5000ES projector and said it was easily the best home theater projector he had ever reviewed. Over the next several years, the VW5000ES reigned supreme as the “King of Home Theater Projector.”
However, many professionals and hard-core enthusiasts that loved the picture quality of the VW5000ES and its highly-rated professional twin brother, the VPL-GTZ270, desired an even brighter, higher performance unit. That is where the VPL-GTZ380 comes in. Compared to its predecessors, the new GTZ380 delivers much higher brightness, a massive increase in color volume, and a huge boost in video processing power.
The new VPL-GTZ380 projector is intended for applications where the highest image quality is critical, for example, film festivals, private screenings, and wherever there is a need to wow an audience with absolutely stunning imagery.
The VPL-GTZ380 is designed to entertain large audiences, produce realistic training simulations, and help make important design decisions. The unit is also available for consumers looking for the ultimate HDR home theater projector.
Yes, a huge amount of brightness is overkill when viewing SDR except on an absolutely massive screen. However when viewing HDR content, 10,000 lumens of brightness may seem extreme, it really is not.
SDR content is mastered with a max brightness of 100 nits (29fL) which all flat panels TV and most projectors can easily deliver on-screen. A huge amount of brightness will elevate the average picture level of SDR content so much that it can become uncomfortable to watch. This why many users reduce a projector’s light output by setting the lamp/laser setting to LOW when displaying SDR content in a darkened room.
However, HDR consumer content (4K, Blu-ray, and streaming) is mastered at a much higher brightness range for playback on a flat panel display monitor, not a projector. To generate over 1,000 nits on a 100-inch screen would require approximately 8,700 ANSI lumens. On a 100-120” screen, most home theater projectors can only deliver between 100 nits (29 fL) and 200 nits (58 fL).
It is a fact that 99.99% of HDR-compatible home theater projectors can’t reproduce all the brightness found in consumer HDR content. The goal of tone mapping is to squeeze as much of the HDR brightness information into the limited brightness range of a projector. Higher brightness reduces the amount of tone mapping that is required to maintain highlight information. This will result in a brighter overall image with better contrast and more saturated HDR colors.
The GTZ-380 is one of the first projectors available for home theater applications that is bright enough, with a wide enough color gamut, to faithfully reproduce HDR content mastered at 1,000 nits on a 100-inch screen with zero tone mapping. On my 120” Screen Innovation Slate Screen (1.2 gain), the onscreen brightness should easily exceed 900 nits, which is brighter than most HDR OLED flat-panel TVs.
If you search for a 3-chip, Native 4K, Laser, 10,000 lumen HDR compatible projectors for a home theater, you will see that the GTZ380 has very few direct competitors. Native 4K resolution and ultra-high brightness combined with great optics mean that the GTZ380 can fill even the most gigantic home theater screens with a crisp, vibrant HDR picture.
Many projectors that offer high brightness deliver poor black levels. Higher quality micro-display chips ensure that as the brightness of projectors increases it is not at the expense of high contrast and deep blacks.
While there are different types of micro-display chips on the market, including LCD and DLP. While the performance of those chips continues to improve, LCoS (Liquid crystal on silicon) chips are the best still the best at delivering both high brightness and high native contrast.
Higher-end Sony projectors have been utilizing SXRD (Silicon X-tal (crystal) Reflective Display) chips, which is their proprietary version of LCoS technology, for years because they deliver higher contrast and deeper blacks than traditional LCD and DLP chips (panels).
Even though LCoS based chips, like in Sony’s SXRD devices, deliver an outstanding picture manufacturers, like Sony, are still working to improve the design and overall performance of their micro-displays. So while the ability to produce 10,000 lumens from such a compact package is amazing, there is more to the VPL-GTZ380 than just brightness.
The Sony 0.74” SXRD panels utilized in the VPL-GTZ380 are not only significantly smaller and denser than those found in competing 3 chip DLP and transmissive LCD projectors, but they can also deliver a much higher native contrast ratio of 16,000.1.
For comparison, the DLP chips used in professional 10,000 lumen Native 4K DLP projectors are not only up to 75% larger, but they can only have a native contrast ratio of 2,000:1 which is 8x less.
While the GTZ380 has a native contrast rating of 16,000:1, its dynamic contrast is nearly infinite due the projector’s ability to precisely modulate its laser light source.
There are few other projectors that can deliver that massive amount of brightness while maintaining deep blacks, which is why the GTZ380 is so special.
The GTZ-380’s high brightness and high native contrast allow the projector to be used in bright spaces as well as dark environments, including professional screening rooms and home theaters.
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