I've got to admit that today is a day I've been looking forward to for a very long time. For it marks the arrival on our test benches of the first true second-generation incarnation of JVC's startling D-ILA Wire Grid projection technology - a technology which caused one hell of a stir among high-end cinema aficionados and custom installation engineers when it debuted to stunning effect two years ago in the shape of the DLA-HD1.
The thing - or at least, the main thing - that makes D-ILA Wire Grid technology so intriguing to movie fans is the way it can deliver truly cinematic contrasts and black levels without the need for a dynamic iris of the sort required by LCD projectors, Sony's similar SXRD projectors, and even one or two recent DLP projectors.
In other words, the new DLA-HD350 doesn't need to reduce the brightness of the image to produce convincing, grey-free blacks during predominantly dark scenes, and so can produce images that look much more consistent and dynamic.
What's more, not needing a dynamic iris also aids the image's stability, since you don't have to worry about seeing obvious brightness ‘jumps' as a dynamic iris tries to adjust the light output in real time in response to the image content being shown. A further fringe benefit still is the lack of any mechanical noise that might be caused by a dynamic iris constantly opening and closing.
The strange thing about all this, in some ways, is the fact that it's JVC's D-ILA technology that's delivered such a contrast coup. For while D-ILA has in fact been round for quite a number of years now, prior to the HD1 it had always looked like an over-priced ‘also-ran', particularly because, ironically, it lacked the black level response of rival technologies.
The thing that changed with the HD1 was the addition of the Wire Grid optical system to the DLA spec. Trying to keep an explanation of this as simple and brief as possible given that we've covered it in previous reviews, the Wire Grid Optical Engine is effectively an ultra-efficient replacement for the normal glass prism polariser/multi-layer interface optical system. It works by placing aluminium ribs with precise spacing onto a flat glass substrate mounted on an inorganic reflective polarising plate, producing a grid effect that hugely reduces the angle dependency for polarised light. The result is a substantial drop in light leakage within the optical array, and much better black levels during dark scenes.
It's worth saying, too, that further light efficiencies have been delivered by improvements in the manufacturing process of the D-ILA chipsets, with new ultra-smoothing technology reducing irregularities in the liquid crystal alignment. And all the projector's 1,920 x 1,080 pixels are fitted onto a tiny 0.7in D-ILA device with a gap between each crystal of just 2.3 microns - yet another fact that helps keeps more light focussed onto your screen and less bouncing around inside the optical engine, polluting black levels.