It’s time for digital cinema server companies to think differently.
In the DCI Digital Cinema System Specification, version 1.0, released July 2005, bottom of page 8, are the words “Note: Integrated projector and Media Blocks are strongly recommended.” (Those words are still there, in the current version 1.2, only now on page 22 – just to show how a little “errata” adds up.) But the message was clear. How the market will react, though, is less clear.
It took until 2011 for in-projector media blocks, or IMBs, to appear on the market for DLP projectors. There are many reasons for the slowness of this development. It’s enough to say that TI had its issues, projector companies had their challenges, and server companies were chasing their tail to keep up with evolving specifications and interoperability. But things have changed. Specifications have settled, and the technology is easier to come by. IP cores for FPGAs (code words for intellectual property logic for semiconductor devices known as field-programmable gate arrays) are now offered by Intopix that implement decryption, de-compression, forensic marking, and other functionality necessary for media block implementation. Christie was able to utilize this innovation to build its own media block in about a year’s time, short-cutting years of work put in by established server companies. The media block was publicly announced the week prior to ShowEast. The media block is not listed as yet as FIPS 140-2 compliant, and cannot be submitted for DCI compliance until so listed.
Christie, of course, is not the only projector company that has crossed into the product pen of its partners. Barco and NEC have been less brash about their moves, but they are each making moves nonetheless. Barco acquired the software assets of XDC, taking it into the server software business, and is also taking significant steps into audio. NEC has its own media block and software, although the company has been purposely shy of promoting these in the US market. Brash or shy, breaking out of one’s corral appears to be the new game. It follows, then, that if I were a digital cinema server company, I would build a projector.
Such discussions drifted through the backrooms of ShowEast. Certainly, third-party projector engines have been considered before, and would have emerged on the market, had TI had not withheld its 2K/4K chip license from anyone but its three DLP Cinema