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Are you ready for wall-sized home movies?

india Updated: Oct 06, 2008 21:34 IST
N Madhavan

So you are doing the numbers on that large-sized LCD television? Or are you headed for the multiplex to watch some movies this festive season? I would urge you to consider a third option: a digital home projector. It could make you feel like the multiplex at home --in a substantial way, though you may have to make or buy your own popcorn to complete the picture.

While much of the market hype has been around LCD televsions, increasingly cheap DVD players and fancy audio systems and digital players, the quiet march of projectors from the corporate domain to home use has been substantially ignored.

Brands like BenQ, Acer, Hitachi, Epson, Dell and Hewelett-Packard make digital home projectors, and the entry-level prices have dropped to below Rs. 35,000. With a decent set of audio speakers and a good screen, it can elevate home videos or what I call movie parties to a new experience. The best part is that you get to choose your own movies. A friend in Delhi has painted a sitting room wall in a DDA flat in sheer white, and we plan to view some old classics like "Lawrence of Arabia," the kind of movie best screen on large screens with good sound -- and no ads! The new models come with a zoom lens and USB ports, which make them more adjustable than ever before.

A fierce debate over the DLP (digital light processing) projectors, accused by critics of projecting too bright images, or the "rainbow effect" that shows colours in an unnatural way seems to have been addressed, but much of the focus is on the rival standard LCD projectors, which are said to have a 65 percent market share. Some question marks have been raised on DLP gear's after-sales service, but I am not getting into that game. Best to ask your dealers.

Choose a good model by looking at the resolution and also apply your mind to installation details for best results. The current entry-level standards are at 800x600 (representing the detail in pixel terms of the horizontal and vertical lines on the screen). This approximates to good DVD quality. Standard models give a maximum of 300 inches in terms of screen size. The brightness of bulbs (in lumens) and lamp-hours are also critical in terms of how the picture looks and how long the equipment will last—it is important to check out replacement costs for bulbs to take a long-term view. Replacement bulbs could cost quite a bit, maybe even half of what it costs now to buy a new projector!

One more word of caution: Having watched this industry, I believe things could get even better next year. I just read about an unknown Korean company showcasing a miniature projector. It is only a question of time before we see smarter, cuter and stronger models. Still, it is time to think of home movies in literally a new light.