We’ve had a sneaking suspicion for some time now that the next big thing in video home entertainment will have more to do with extra pixels than extra dimensions. And our suspicions appear to have been borne out recently by the announcement of a series of ultra high resolution displays – commonly dubbed ‘4k2k’ devices by us catchphrase-loving journalist types.
On Wednesday (October 5th) we got the chance to have our first truly in-depth hands on with the first of these supposedly 4k2k displays: JVC’s new DLA-X70 projector. And during our afternoon spent at JVC’s north London UK HQ, we found out three crucial facts. First, that there are basically different ‘levels’ of 4k2k. Second, that everything we thought we knew about the X70’s 4k2k system before we got to JVC’s demo room was more or less rubbish. And finally, that while it might not deliver a 4k2k experience in quite the way we expected, the X70 is still looking set to be one heck of a projector.
Starting at the beginning, arriving at an eerily deserted JVC HQ (a grim reminder of just how hard the brand has been hit in the UK in recent years) we were first led into a presentation room for an introduction on how JVC’s new projectors – there are X30 and X90 models as well as the X70 we’ve already mentioned – improve on last year’s already very impressive X3, X7 and X9 models.
And it was early on in this presentation that we finally got a handle on what JVC’s somewhat confusing take on ‘4k2k’ actually entails.
Prior to this presentation, we – and seemingly every other journalist we’d spoken to following JVC’s announcement of its new projectors at the CEDIA Expo in America – believed that some sort of upscaling processing was being employed by JVC’s new projectors to convert normal HD sources into 3840×2160 (4k2k) resolution images. Even though the D-ILA chips inside the projector remain resolutely 1920×1080 in resolution.
In reality, the ‘4k2k’ system on the X70 – and the step up X90 – has precisely zero to do with upscaling. And as a result is actually much more promising.
Using a technology called ‘e-Shift’ that JVC has developed in conjunction with the research arm of Japanese broadcaster NHK, what really happens is that a little computer-controlled device between the main optical array and the lens produces a slightly offset copy of an HD source image that’s positioned half a pixel upwards and to the right of the original. Combining these two images effectively doubles the pixel count of the picture that emerges through the lens, with the only bit of processing required being some low-level stuff aimed at removing any jaggedness that might appear in edges as a result of the diagonal shift of the second image.
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The reality of how the e-Shift system works explains why the final resolution of the images on the screen is 3840×2160 rather than the 4096×2160 resolution employed by ‘true’ 4k2k devices like Panasonic’s 152in plasma TV and Sony’s upcoming VW1000ES projector.