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"Eigentlich wollte ich einen Fotokopierer erfinden"

Interview mit Larry Hornbeck von Texas Instruments, dem Mann, der die DLP-Technologie entwickelt hat.


Dieses Interview entstand anlässlich der Einweihung des ersten elektronischen Kinos (natürlich mit DLP-Projektion) in Berlin am 28. Juli 2000; allerdings per E-mail, er war zu diesem Zeitpunkt im Labor in Dallas. Auszüge daraus werde ich in diversen Publikationen verwenden, doch der ganze Text im englischen Original steht nur hier. Für Alle, die im Englischen nicht ganz sicher sind: "weird" steht hier für absurd, bizarr; "dinky" könnte man im Text mit Spielzeug übersetzen - ich hab's nachgeschaut.

Inhalt:
1: Wie die Revolution aus Versehen geschah
2: Wer ihn für verrückt erklärt hat
3: Warum DLP besser ist als Film
4: Was die nächsten Schritte sein werden
5: Wie Larry Hornbeck fernsieht

1: Did you think about revolutionizing the cinema when starting the development of the micromirror display?
Larry Hornbeck: No, I didn’t. When I invented the DMD(tm) microchip technology in 1987, my intent was to produce a chip-based digital light modulator for electrophotographic (or xerographic) printing applications. The first experimental chip contained 512 pixels (digital micromirrors) and the first production version contained 840 pixels. The number of pixels required for DLP Cinema(tm) projectors is more than 1000 times greater, i.e. millions of pixels are required.
Although I had thought about the possibility of using the DMD(tm) microchip for display applications, it was beyond my imagination to conceive that we would ever be able to manufacture the number of pixels or achieve the image quality needed for digital cinema applications. Of course thirteen years of intense development by Texas Instruments transformed the inconceivable into a practical reality.

2: Didn’t people say you were crazy making a projection system out of millions of moving mirrors?
Larry Hornbeck: Yes they did. The most interesting example of this occurred in August 1993 by an editorialist writing in a well known PC magazine. He had discovered that Texas Instruments was developing a new display technology based on tiny, movable mirrors. He described the ”dinky mirror” technology as ”the weirdest technology every invented.” He went on to say ”I found the whole thing so bizarre and weird that, to me, it proves that what the nutballs have been saying is true: The U.S. government has captured some bug-eyed aliens. We are using them to design this stuff.”
Needless to say, I found his article very stimulating and posted it outside my office in hopes of creating even more determination by our engineers to bring to market the first ever, all-digital, projection display products.

3: Is a DLP(tm) projector superior to 35 mm film in any respect or are there some points where film is better?
Larry Hornbeck: In terms of image quality, DLP Cinema(tm) projectors have been described as having an image quality as good as film. We are delighted with that appraisal, but our goal is to continue to develop the technology such that the DLP Cinema(tm) projector image is superior to film.
There are two areas where DLP Cinema(tm) projectors are superior to film projectors, mechanical registration artifacts and film degradation. Let me elaborate.
a) The DLP Cinema(tm) projector image is free of the mechanical frame-to-frame registration artifacts inherent in a film projector. These artifacts include jump and weave, resulting in an image that moves erratically on the screen. (Remember, the basic projection mechanism for film was developed in the 1890s and has changed little over the course of the last 100 years!). This film-projector mechanism, operating at 24 frames-per-second, uses a mechanical shutter & pull-down assembly to spatially locate each image of the perforated film stock to a fixed position on the screen.) Translated into audience experience the DLP Cinema(tm) projector image has no registration artifacts so the image has a natural look to it with no extraneous motion.
DLP Cinema(tm) field trials are currently being conducted in thirty-one theaters around the world, including one in Dallas. One of the things I like to do is to watch the digital version of a movie first and then for a short time, immediately afterwards, watch the film-based version. As soon as I enter the theater with the film version, I am always startled by the erratic motion of the image on the screen. I guess in the past I had no basis of comparison, so I got used to this fundamental film limitation.
b) The DLP Cinema(tm) projector image is stable with time. The first showing looks as good as the last. Because the projector is all-digital from the digital master all the way to your eye, whatever the colorist sees in the digital mastering studio is what the audience sees, again and again. How many times have you been to see a movie two or three weeks after opening night only to be disappointed by faded colors, scratches and other marks on the film? I remember seeing a block buster movie last year where the film was badly degraded. One of the emotional highs of the movie occurred at night and you could see in the dark sky, thousands of tiny white specks moving through the scene. My wife, who usually ignores film artifacts, commented to me later that the condition of the film really ruined the emotional impact for her.

4: What are the next big steps in DLP technology - daylight projection, Imax, laser, 3D, near-to-eye-displays?
Larry Hornbeck: DLP(tm) projectors are uniquely adaptable from ultralight applications to ultrabright applications. The near term ”next big steps” are direct results of this adaptability. In the near future we will continue to see DLP (tm) projectors lead the way in mobile applications. DLP(tm) projector technology has driven the definition of two new classes of mobile products within the industry, first the ultraportable and recently the microportable class, projectors weighing under three pounds but having the brightness of heavier projectors. Only four years ago, portable projectors weighed more than 20 pounds! The trend to ever lighter DLP(tm) mobile projectors will continue, bringing more and more business travelers into the ranks of the so-called ”road warriors.”
On the high-brightness end of the spectrum, DLP Cinema(tm) field trials are under way to aid the movie industry in establishing standards, technology and business models for digital mastering, distribution and exhibition of movies. The next big step for Texas Instruments and its three partners who will be manufacturing the cinema projectors will be the gradual process of replacing in theaters around the world, a more than one-hundred year old technology. This to me is the most exciting, next big step that we could ever take, dramatically improving the entertainment experience for the movie-going audience.
In between ultralight and ultrabright, the next big step is high-definition TV. DLP(tm) high-definition rear projection displays will be introduced by three manufacturers later this year. The advantages of superior image quality compared to CRT-based rear projection displays and a thinner cabinet profile, will bring the all-digital advantage to home viewers.

5: Do you have a DLP(tm) projector at home?
Larry Hornbeck: Well ... no!
But I do have a 19-inch CRT television made in 1980 by one of the companies that will introduce DLP(tm) high-definition TV projectors to the market later this year. My 1980 TV has an analog tuner, the brightness and contrast controls hardly work, and the colors are never quite right. If this sounds strange that the ”father of DLP(tm) projection technology” doesn’t even have a ”modern” TV, let me just say that my personality is as digital as the micromirrors I invented. I stick with the old for a long time and then suddenly switch to the new. Maybe it’s time to switch?

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