Kodak announced the development of a laser projector this month, and its intent to license the technology to others. On September 30, Kodak demonstrated its technology at its facilities in Rochester, NY. Barry Silverstein, the researcher behind Kodak’s laser projection technology, dressed in a tuxedo, humorously noted that the day was not only the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser, but also the 50th anniversary of the Flintstones, a popular TV show.
Kodak’s development, however, while not as revolutionary as the invention of the laser itself, was also certainly a lot more exciting than the Flintstones. Kodak did what others have only talked about: it developed a light engine optimized for laser light. The specific light engine that was developed utilizes DLP chips, either 2K or 4K. The one prototype projector developed lights a 40-foot screen using three discrete lasers. Each primary was created from 12 x 3W lasers. The laser primaries, however, were not “DCI,” meaning that they did not match those used in available digital cinema projectors.
Images were viewed on-screen from the laser projector alone, and in a butterfly test with a xenon-driven DLP projector. For this viewer, the laser images had a noticeable blue cast. This cast was attributed to metamerism, where the narrow distribution of wavelengths for each primary leads to a different interpretation of color among viewers. Barry said that they chose their primary intensities based on measurements made of 20 viewers, and noted that even his own perception of color fell outside of the norm. (I.e., he wasn’t satisfied with what he saw, either.) The question remained, however, as to whether the problem arose due to the variance in primaries from those used in the “standard” projector.
Metamers issues aside, the brilliance of Kodak’s work is that they threw out the prism-based light engine common in all projectors today, and started from scratch. With xenon lamps, the prism assembly is necessary to separate white light into primary colors. With laser-driven primaries, the prisms are no longer needed, saving substantial cost. The optical light engine that Kodak developed (no photos allowed) is elegant, and relatively inexpensive. The use of lasers allows slower optics to be used. Barry quoted that the light path of the laser projector could have an f# of 6, while a xenon-driven light engine has an f# of 2.4. The higher f number further reduces the cost of the light engine. To illustrate, with a Kodak light engine, a standard 35mm film lens can be used.
The pièce de résistance, however, was the light efficiency possible with 3-D. Laser light is inherently polarized, and the polarization can be switched at the laser in synchronization with the flash rate. No Z-screen